CBSN
crimesider

Legally Dead Man Now a Wanted Man...for Murder

Thomas Steven Sanders
KLAS
Thomas Steven Sanders (KLAS)

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Thomas Steven Sanders was declared legally dead in Mississippi in 1994. Sixteen years later, authorities in Nevada say that Sanders is very much alive, and he's wanted in the murder of a 12-year-old girl named Lexis Roberts.

Sanders, authorities say, has been living in Las Vegas for the past few months, with the mother of the murdered child.

Lexis disappeared from Las Vegas in September, having last been seen Sept. 4 with her mother, Suellen Roberts, and Sanders, at the Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams, Ariz. They were driving a 2001 Kia Spectra with Nevada license plates. Investigators say security tapes at a Wal-Mart in Las Vegas show Sanders buying ammunition the previous day.

A month later, hunters in Louisiana found Lexis' remains; she'd been shot several times with ammunition investigators say is the same type that Sanders bought from Wal-Mart.

Relatives of Lexis and Suellen Roberts told investigators Sanders had met the pair a few months ago in Las Vegas, according to Louisiana FBI agent Robert King, who's heading up the investigation.

Lexis' great aunt, Pati Cloutier, told CBS affiliate KLAS that while she feels a strange kind of closure now that her great niece's body has been recovered, she is overwhelmed with unanswered questions.

"There's a void wondering what happened, where is Suellen?" Cloutier told the station. "[Lexis] was just full of joy and inquisitiveness, and she had so much. She brought light to her whole entire family."

Investigators are looking for Suellen Roberts, along with Sanders, but did not say what role, if any, she played in her daughter's death.

Sanders is also wanted for a string of other violent crimes, Catahoula Parish Sheriff James Kelley told KLAS, including crimes against children.

Authorities said Sanders was declared legally dead in Mississippi in1994 after relatives there had not heard from him for seven years. Investigators are now trying to solve the murder mystery, and piece together Sanders' trail for the last 16 years.

Sanders is said to be missing his upper teeth and has only two lower teeth; he also has a tattoo on his chest. Sanders is 53, five-feet- eight-inches tall, at least 200 pounds, and has brown eyes.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.