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Saturday, March 28, 1998

Arrested man, victim had feuded

JACKSONVILLE, Texas (AP) -- Authorities have jailed a 30-year-old man in the slaying of a man missing for 34 days whose body has been found in brushy swampland in rural Anderson County.

Bobby Sexton, 38, had been missing since Feb. 20. Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell said Friday that an informant told sheriff's investigators where to find the body.

Michael Fielding, 30, who had been feuding with Sexton, was arrested Thursday night and held on $500,000 bond. Sexton and Fielding were arrested in January for fighting. According to court records, the two men have a history of confrontation and threats against each other.

Officials said the body was found Wednesday in a remote swamp on oil land that was the subject of an exhaustive manhunt on March 20.

The body was sent to Dallas for tests to confirm the identity, but Campbell told the Jacksonville Daily Progress, "It's got to be him."

Authorities interviewed Fielding a week after Sexton's disappearance. Fielding's mother had told police he knew someone had shot Sexton.

Sexton and his second wife, Patricia, 22, had been separated. Sexton was awarded custody of their three children -- ages 5, 4 and 3 -- following a December hearing. At the hearing, Ms. Sexton acknowledged Fielding as an acquaintance, but denied a romantic involvement.

Family members expressed relief Thursday at reports that Sexton's body apparently had been found.

"He's been missing for a month, so we pretty well satisfied ourselves he was dead," said Sexton's father, Dewayne. "We hope it's him so it will take the anxiety off us and we can take care of him properly."

Campbell said investigators received information last week to search the Neches River and creeks running into the river near the Cherokee-Anderson County line.

"We spotted him from a bridge about 70 feet away," he said. "It's real rough country with a lot of backroads and sloughs."

Until Wednesday, only the Chevrolet Suburban Sexton was last seen driving had turned up during the 34-day search. It was found the day after Sexton's disappearance in Dialville, a town eight miles southeast of Jacksonville.

Human blood was found on both the inside and outside of the vehicle and a section of carpet and a seat were also missing.

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