- Associated Press - Thursday, January 5, 2017

COLUMBIA, Miss. (AP) - A 42-year-old man suspected of devising the murder-for-hire plot of a wealthy businessman who serves on the state College Board has been denied bond and the case will go before a grand jury for consideration of an indictment.

Victor Mitchell, of Sumrall, appeared Thursday before Lamar County Justice Court Judge Denton Plumlee for a preliminary hearing where additional details of the case came to light. WDAM-TV reports (https://bit.ly/2iGv2y3 ) Mitchell is facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to kidnap, attempted kidnapping, conspiracy to commit sexual battery, attempted sexual battery, conspiracy to commit extortion and attempted extortion - all in connection to the plot against Thomas “Tommy” Duff.

Mitchell’s co-defendants, 46-year-old Glen Evans, of Gulfport, and 47-year-old Howard Cameron, of Biloxi, are also facing the same charges.

In Thursday’s hearing, testimony by Lamar County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Jack Rayner revealed what authorities believe is the starting point of the plot.

“There was a wreck involving one of the victim’s (Duff) vehicles with Mr. Mitchell,” Rayner said.

That truck was described as a business truck by Mitchell’s attorney, Michael Reed.

“I believe that’s where it started,” Rayner said.

No other details were given regarding the wreck. Authorities said information including location and when it occurred would be provided in discovery when the case moves forward.

Rayner testified to law enforcement conversations with a confidential informant that included text messages and audio recordings with Mitchell which is all related to the alleged plot. “The plan was to kidnap the victim and carry him to an undisclosed location and extort him for money,” Rayner said.

Once investigators had the phone calls and the informant, they set up a location for the suspects to meet, he said.

“Cameron, Evans and Victor showed up with items to carry out the crime,” he said.

Those items included, zip ties, duct tape masks, and a sex toy.

“They were going to sexually assault the victim (Duff) and record it and threaten to put it in on social media to embarrass him and get money,” Rayner said.

During a brief cross examination, Mitchell’s attorney, Michael Reed, questioned when aspects of the case first transpired.

“There was contact with the confidential informant and Mitchell a couple of weeks prior, and they had met in Lamar County,” said Rayner.

Law enforcement officers did data dumps on at least four phones gathered at the scene, but the results have not been returned.

Reed questioned the overall plan, and the cooperation of Evans and Cameron.

“Glen said Victor came up with a plan and his job was to carry out the sexual battery side of it, he was going to sexually assault the victim,” said Rayner. “For Cameron, Victor talked to them and their plan was to assault the victim and get it on video.”

Testimony revealed the men were being paid, but an amount wasn’t disclosed.

Duff, who is an Institutions of Higher Learning board member, was appointed to the board by Gov. Phil Bryant in May 2015. He is also a co-owner, along with his brother, of Duff Capital Investors.

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Information from: WDAM-TV, https://www.wdam.com

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