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Mississippi Police Chief Says Missing Student Ignored Due to Race

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Missing Student Latasha Norman (AP)

The newly named chief of Mississippi's largest police force says race is among the reasons the case of a missing Jackson State University student hasn't received national media attention.

Latasha Norman, who is black, was last seen Nov. 13 in one of her classes. Her car was left on the campus, but she never returned to her dormitory room when the afternoon class ended.

"As far as the interest by the national media in the story, I think race probably had an impact," said Jackson Police Chief Malcolm McMillin, who is white. "It's a small college in the South. It's the daughter of simple people who maybe are not important outside of their circle, and maybe we don't attach the same importance to them that we do for other people."

McMillin said the nation's eyes have been on a Chicago case in which a former police officer, Drew Peterson, is suspected in the disappearance more than three weeks ago of his wife, Stacy. The couple is white. Since Stacy Peterson disappeared, authorities have said they believe the death of the former officer's third wife three years ago was a homicide staged as a drowning accident.

"We need to show the same kind of concern for this," McMillin said of Norman's disappearance, adding that heightened exposure could help develop leads in the case.

Police have no suspects in the disappearance of Norman, a 20-year-old junior accounting major from the Mississippi Delta city of Greenville. Her ex-boyfriend and her current boyfriend are among those police have questioned, said Luther Samuel, a detective with the campus police.

"We haven't ruled anyone out," Samuel said.

Norman's ex-boyfriend, Stanley Cole, was arrested Thursday on charges stemming from an incident last month. Cole was charged with simple assault after being accused of striking Norman with his fist Oct. 9 as the two argued in a restaurant parking lot in Pearl. Cole, who is a student at Jackson State, is free on bond.

Samuel said investigators have combed the campus and have been searching all over the state. He said police haven't received any sightings of Norman. He declined to elaborate on details of the investigation.

Norman's father, Danny Bolden, held his wife's hand tightly as he discussed his daughter. He said the last time they talked to her was the night of Nov. 12 as she traveled from her job at a craft shop in Jackson.

"We're not going to stop until we know something. We're going to be relentless," Bolden said. "I'll ask that God may touch whoever ... may have done this, that they may come forward and bring Tasha back to us because we love her very much."