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A male who Starkville Police Department believes is behind the "Owens" graffiti that has sporadically appeared in the city over the past several months confessed to authorities Wednesday and has been charged with 18 counts of misdemeanor malicious mischief, SPD Detective Scottie Carrithers confirmed Thursday.
Colton Jackson Stephens, 20, a Mississippi State University student majoring in architecture, was confronted by authorities at approximately 5 p.m. Wednesday at Giles Hall on the MSU campus, SPD Chief David Lindley said. After an interrogation, Stephens cooperated with the investigation and identified sites he had vandalized.
Stephens, whose home address is 2117 Dogwood Estates Cove in Germantown, Tenn., resides at 308 Montgomery St. in Starkville, according to an SPD release issued Thursday.
Carrithers said Stephens was released from Oktibbeha County Jail Thursday afternoon on a $9,000 bond.
Lindley said the most helpful of clues which lead to Stephens' arrest was a tip implying he went under the "Owens" moniker.
"'Owens' was a nickname he had," Lindley said. "One of the leads came from the fact that some people knew him by that nickname as far back as high school."
Lindley said Stephens was hard to track down because he had not completed university forms with information regarding his home address or where he lived while attending classes.
"It was quite an ordeal just to find out where he stayed here in town so we could find him," he said.
While Stephens was responsible for a "vast majority" of the graffiti which had appeared on garbage cans, buildings, utility poles and electric boxes, Lindley said he did not know information regarding another individual SPD says is also marking similar city property with the phrase "No Heroes," in some instances on top of Stephens' "Owens" tags.
The yet-to-be-apprehended culprit is known to paint a six-point star in contrast to Stephens' markings, which in some cases included a five-point star under the name.
The first instances of the "Owens" taggings were in all capital letters and much more detailed and larger than the more recent instances, which were smaller and simpler. The latter taggings differed in the earlier ones in that only the "O" and "S" were capitalized.
Lindley said anyone with information about the individual responsible for the "No Heroes" markings or any others is encouraged to call SPD at 662-323-4135 or North Mississippi Crime Stoppers at 1-800-530-7151.