Headlines – 12/30/2003

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Panolian Headlines: December 30, 2003

For complete stories, pick up the 12/30/03  issue of The Panolian

Soldier’s Homecoming a Surprise
A Grandfather’s Holiday Prayer
     Becomes Reality


Private First Class Eric Darby (c) surprised his parents Lila and Rickey Darby when he showed up for the holidays. Darby is stationed in Iraq and will return to duty Jan. 3.

A.B. Darby of Courtland (l) proudly stands with his grandson Eric Darby who surprised his family with a visit home from Iraq over the Christmas holidays.
By Angie Ledbetter
Contributing Writer

Eric L. Darby, stationed in Iraq with the United States Army, returned home to Batesville for the holidays – a surprise gift to his family and friends.

Eric is the son of Rickey and Lila Darby of Batesville.

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Darby has been stationed in Iraq since March of 2002. He is with the Second Squadron, Third Armored Calvary Regiment Grim Troop.

Darby, who came home Dec. 19, was stationed in Fort Carson, Colo., before leaving for Iraq.

He received word about getting the opportunity to come home around the first of December but didn’t tell anyone because he wanted to surprise his family.

That is exactly what he did.

Darby boarded a Blackhawk helicopter in Alasad Airport, Iraq, and flew to Baghdad International Airport (BIAD) where he boarded a C-130 Military flight to Kuwait. He then caught a commercial flight to Cyprus. He went from there to Germany, on to Baltimore, Md., then flew to Atlanta, and to Memphis where he rented a car.

Eric had a plan for surprising his family. He hid his rental car in the woods and walked in the back door of one of his aunt’s houses where his mother was resting from the flu.

His mother looked up at him and looked back down before she even realized it was her son. She started screaming when she realized it was Eric.

His next stop was to see his dad at his grandfather’s house.

The soldier walked in the house and surprised the both of them. His grandfather, A.B. Darby of Courtland, had prayed so hard for Eric to get to come home.

Eric continued to shock his family making his rounds on that Saturday. One of his aunts was having her Christmas in Pope and a lot of his family was there. He drove up with his dad and grandfather to that house. There were a lot of tears shed that day and the entire family was so happy to see him. He finished the day by visiting all of his family on his dad’s and mom’s side.

Eric spent Christmas Eve at his grandfather Darby’s house, which has been the tradition for many years and this year would be no different. He enjoyed the night with about 60 family members, including aunts, uncles, and cousins.

He said he was in so many pictures that he felt like a celebrity but he was so glad to be able to be home with his family.

On Christmas Day, he spent the day with his other grandfather, Bobby Jaco and the Jaco family. It was another tradition for him and his family as he was growing up.

Both of Eric’s grandmothers have passed away.
Eric described his stay in Iraq as long. He knows that he is doing something good for his country but at the same time, he said life there can be repetitive and lonely.

He had been on the border of Syria for several weeks and had experienced few attacks. He will return there and the last word that he received was that he might return to Colorado in mid-April.

He will return to Iraq on Jan. 3.

Eric said that he is so thankful for his family’s support and the many people in his hometown who have sent words of encouragement to him. He has received packages from people in Batesville and other cities and he is very thankful to everyone for those and for everyone’s prayers.


Forensic Tests May Reveal Cause
     in Triple Fire Fatality
By Jason C. Mattox
Senior Staff Writer

The cause of a mobile home fire that claimed the lives of three Como children remains under investigation.

According to Deputy Gerald White of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, he and Deputy State Fire Marshall Chuck Moore have sent off evidence and are waiting for test results before making a determination of the cause of the fire that broke out in the morning hours of Sunday, Dec. 21.

"We can say that we don’t expect any foul play was behind it," White said. "That is one thing people can put at ease."

Although White would not disclose what evidence has been sent to Jackson, he did say there was "a good bit."

"We have spent so much time narrowing things down, that we don’t want to do any guessing as to what might have caused this unfortunate event," he said.


Tri-Lakes Makes $354,678
   Payment Toward Bond Debt

"The longer we go, the better off {Tri-Lakes Medical Center] gets financially."

That was the word Monday from the hospital’s interim administrator Dr. Bob Corkern who said another quarterly bond payment has been made.

The payment – $354,678.75 – was made Dec. 23, to First National Bank of Clarksdale, as trustee.

Jim Townsend, vice president and trust officer of the bank, verified in a memo that the payment was received three days ahead of schedule.

Townsend said the quarterly payment is being coupled with the previous quarterly payment on hand in order to make a bond payment due next month. He said the bank is holding $709,845.98.

Crowded Parking Lot in City
     Scene of Shooting
By Kate B. Dickson

A parking lot crowded with shoppers was the scene of a shooting that left a Batesville man wounded in his left leg.

"The [Western Auto] parking lot was full of people at the time," said Batesville Police Department Major Tony Jones of the incident at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. "Thank goodness no one else was shot."

Wounded with a small- caliber weapon was Clifton Jackson, 21, who was taken to Tri-Lakes Medical Center then was transferred to Baptist Hospital, Jones said.

Arrested later that night and charged with aggravated assault was Alex Bradley, 21, of Senatobia.

Panola Legislative
     Open House Set
The Panola County Open House honoring Senator Nolan Mettetal, and State Reps. Clara Henderson Burnett, Warner McBride and Leonard Morris is set for Jan. 12, from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. in Jackson at the Mississippi Trade Mart Building adjacent to the Coliseum. The event is sponsored by a host of businesses and the Panola Partnership.

Ole Miss Game Televised Friday
The No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels continued its preparations for the 68th SBC Cotton Bowl Classic with a physical, two-hour practice in full pads under cloudy, brisk conditions at Ford Stadium on Sunday. The Rebels face No. 21 Oklahoma State in the Classic on Friday, Jan. 2. Kickoff is slated for 1:10 p.m. and will be televised nationally by FOX Sports.