Man found dead in his car was the happiest he’s been in years, family says

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BYRAM, Miss. (WJTV) – Anthony Joel McCrillis’ mother and brothers said he moved back to Mississippi from Arkansas on Labor Day weekend and was the happiest they’ve seen him in over 15 years.

The 34-year-old was last seen alive on Friday September 17, 2021 around 9:00 p.m. when he left his brother’s home, where he was living on Old Byram Road in Byram.

McCrillis’ brother, Ashley, said, “He looked at me when he left out and said, ‘I’ll be back in 20 or 30 minutes,’ but we never in a million years dreamed this would happen.”

His car was spotted on Old Byram Road Saturday morning by an employee of a nearby Starz Auto Parts shop.

The car was later taken by two men and driven to Copiah County. The men told the Copiah County Sheriff’s deputy that there was a “free car” sign on the vehicle and the keys were inside. The man called the sheriff’s office after finding McCrillis’ body inside the trunk.

The family has concerns about this statement. They said McCrillis experienced many traumatic events in his life, which eventually led him to a rehabilitation program in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. After completing the program in may, he worked hard to buy his 2002 Acura RSX two-door hatchback.

“We can speak either way because we don’t know, but it seems very unlikely that he would do that himself because of the simple fact that he had just worked on his car two days prior,” said Ashley.

His mother, Angie, added that for Anthony, “It was all about starting over. He wanted to be able to say that he did it for himself because when he bought the car, he said, ‘I just wanted you and daddy to see that I’m on the right track.'”

After being gone for about 10 years, the family said McCrillis moved back to Mississippi Labor Day weekend to be with family. 

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with funeral expenses. In the description, the family wrote, “He was a kind and gentle soul who wouldn’t hurt anyone or anything. He moved home Labor Day Weekend and did get some quality time with his brothers Ashley and Phillip. He said he just wanted to live a simple life by working and coming home everyday and to spend time with friends and family.”

Phillip McCrillis, Anthony’s brother, said the family is staying strong through the strength of God.

“The whole world’s eyes are on this case right now because God wants everyone to see his power; what he can do through people and even through death there is still light,” said Phillip.

Byram Police Chief David Errington said in an interview on Tuesday that it hasn’t been confirmed if a “free car” sign was on the car. Both men who took McCrillis’ car were interviewed by the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office and released. Chief Errington said Byram police interviewed one of the men, and they are looking to interview the other. At this time, they are not suspects. 

As of Thursday, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) is now helping with the case. Errington said he’ll meet with detectives on Friday morning for more updates.

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