Officials hopeful recent Olive Branch arrest will open doors in Mississippi woman’s 2007 missing person case

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VERONA, Miss. — Deep inside the small city of Verona, Mississippi, lies a deep, dark secret.

In 2007, 26-year-old Demakia Phinizee disappeared after leaving the alternative school where she worked in Tupelo, Mississippi. Her sister reported her missing when she didn't pick up her three kids after school, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS).

That same day her car was found at an apartment complex just 10 minutes away.

The young mother was never seen or heard from again. No arrests were made and the case went cold.

Thirteen years later, WREG reported the arrest of Robert Phinizee in Olive Branch after he was accused of trying to kill a woman he described to one of our reporters as his soon-to-be ex-wife.

"She came around the corner. I could see her hands like this. It was dark she couldn't see me. I hit the floor," he told us as our cameras were rolling. "When I hit the floor I grabbed the gun like this and I grabbed her by the throat and wrestled her down. She said 'No, no, no Tre' and when I fell on the floor with her, fell on the floor, I laid on top, the gun went off. Boom."

The man was later cuffed by Olive Branch police and charged with attempted murder. His bond was set at $1 million.

Shortly after the arrest, the Olive Branch Police Department reached out to Verona Police Chief Marsenio Nunn.

Nunn confirmed that Robert Phinizee was married to Demakia Phinizee at one time, they had two children together, and that he was initially a suspect in her disappearance.

"I do know that he was a suspect at the time here, but I don't think it was ever presented to D.A.'s office."

Nunn never clarified why the information was never brought forward.

Now, all these years later, Robert Phinizee's arrest in Desoto County has Nunn's department taking a second look at Demakia Phinizee's disappearance.

"We're going to be contacting police officers that were employed here at the time and were investigating that case at the time to try to get the family some closure," he said.

Nunn said he wants to compare the two cases with hopes they'll have enough evidence to make an arrest in Demakia Phinizee's disappearance.

He said since her disappearance, the department has gone through four police chiefs, and he's only had the title for about a month. However, he's hopeful the recent arrest will continue opening doors and solve one of Verona's mysteries.

"To give them some type of closure, to let them know that hey he's going to pay for it," Nunn said.

WREG was able to get in contact with Demakia Phinizee's family, but they declined to speak on camera.

Robert Phinizee's current wife is still in the hospital in critical condition.

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