Stanley Eric Mossburg lived among Greeneville residents for weeks before he allegedly murdered Christopher Scott Short outside an East Andrew Johnson Highway laundromat, police Chief Tim Ward said Wednesday.
Ward said Mossburg, 35, lived in a camp in woods behind the 100 block of Serral Drive “anywhere from two to four weeks” before the death of Short, who was accosted late on the night of Oct. 1 as he was doing laundry in the Celebrity Coin Laundry at 2055 E. Andrew Johnson Highway. Mossburg was later identified as the suspected killer.
Short’s body was found the morning of Oct. 2 beside the laundromat as customers arrived at the business.
Ward said Mossburg’s camp was discovered in the course of the investigation after be became a person of interest in the brutal killing of Short.
Why Mossburg, a 35-year-old native of the Spartanburg, South Carolina area, came to Greeneville “is still kind of undetermined,” Ward said.
An unidentified person staying in the camp provided police with information that helped further their investigation, he said.
The police investigation led them to the camp, Ward said.
“No one called us with that information. We developed that on our own before that,” Ward said.”We followed that lead up.”
By the time police went to the camp where Mossburg had been staying, he was already on the way to Spartanburg in Short’s car, stolen from where it had been parked in front of the laundromat.
Short went to do laundry about 11 p.m on Oct. 1. By 2 a.m. on Oct. 2, his wife Heather became concerned Short had not returned home. She had received a suspicious text message from his cellphone and called police, who went to the laundromat. Ward said neither Short nor his car were there, nothing appeared out of the ordinary, and they left.
‘WELFARE CHECK’ CALLS
The manner in which Greeneville officers answered the call is consistent with “welfare check” calls the police department frequently responds to, Ward said.
Such calls can take the form of a concerned person whose relative is not answering the phone, or someone who has not returned home when they were expected.
“We responded to the laundromat. He was not there and his car was not there,” Ward said.
Greeneville police issued a “be on the lookout” alert to other law enforcement agencies for the Buick Regal sedan driven by Short. Later investigation showed the car was sold at a scrapyard near Spartanburg, where it was discovered on Oct. 5.
Sheriff Grady Judd, of Polk County, Florida, provided a chronology Tuesday during a news conference of the travels of Mossburg, also known as “Woo Woo,” in the hours and days after the homicide in Greeneville and leading up to his arrest early Tuesday in Winter Haven, Florida.
Mossburg allegedly killed a man and woman in Winter Haven Sunday night and took an elderly man who lived in the house hostage after he returned home. Mossburg eventually left Monday in the female murder victim’s sport utility vehicle, but later returned to within several blocks of the crime scene and barricaded himself in a nearby house.
Mossburg allegedly fired gunshots at sheriff’s deputies trying to take him into custody during the night and was eventually neutralized by a police dog about 5 a.m. Tuesday in the garage of the house and taken into custody.
FLORIDA COURT APPEARANCE
Mossburg had a first appearance hearing Wednesday afternoon in a Polk County court. He remains held without bond in jail there pending a second appearance scheduled for Nov. 19 in Bartow, the seat of the Central Florida county.
Mossburg asked for and was assigned a public defender. He was denied bail, said John Chambliss, a spokesman for the Office of the State Attorney, 10th Judicial Circuit, that includes Polk County.
Court documents state the Mossburg case is a “Capital Case.” Florida has the death penalty, but the direction of the case has not yet been determined by Florida prosecutors, Chambliss said.
“Any announcement regarding the death penalty will be made in the coming weeks,” he said.
A mental health evaluation for Mossburg was not ordered by the judge, Chambliss said.
Judd said Tuesday that Mossburg told the man he reportedly held hostage in the Winter Haven home that the man and woman killed there were his seventh and eighth victims. Only three victims, including Short, are known, Judd added.
“(He) told our live victim, ‘I want to be a serial killer. I like killing people,’” Judd said.
Mossburg told the hostage his “goal was 11” victims, Judd said.
As Mossburg was walked to a Polk County Sheriff’s Office patrol car Tuesday for the ride to jail after his arrest, he made several statements to reporters there.
He claimed to be on the side of God in a conflict with “angels and demons.”
Mossburg shook his head negatively when asked about the statement he allegedly made about killing “seven or eight people.”
“I’m a prophet, not a serial killer,” Mossburg said.
He expressed no regret for the alleged murder of Short in Greeneville and the two victims in Winter Haven.
“Not when you’re doing it for God,” he said. “I’m going to heaven. I’m already a prophet.”
Asked about the Greeneville homicide and Short, he replied, “God needed him … God wanted him.”
LIKELY TO REMAIN IN FLORIDA
Mossburg is charged in Florida with two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, two counts of armed false imprisonment, two counts of assault and armed burglary of a dwelling, tampering or fabricating physical evidence, grand theft of a dwelling, grand theft of a motor vehicle, resisting an officer with violence, resisting arrest, burglary and being a fugitive from justice.
The fugitive from justice charge stems from Mossburg’s flight from Tennessee, where he is charged in connection to the Greene County crimes with first-degree felony murder, especially aggravated robbery and especially aggravated kidnapping.
It’s possible Mossburg may never set foot in Tennessee again.
“Florida has him in their custody and we won’t be able to extradite him until Florida has finished their proceedings with him,” said Ritchie Collins, a 3rd Judicial District assistant attorney general who prosecutes serious crimes in Greene County.
“We have a hold on him and we have sent copies of our warrants to them. We’re not going to be entitled to get him,” Collins said.
Collins said that Mossburg can request extradition to Tennessee to face charges in Greene County, but only after he has been sentenced for his alleged crimes and is in a Florida prison or if his case is resolved otherwise.
“We may never get him back to Tennessee,” Collins said. “We have done all we can do, which is place a hold on him in Florida. They’re not going to give him up.”
Ward said a Greeneville police detective went to Florida to interview Mossburg.