Headlines – 8/20/2004

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 20, 2004

Panolian Headlines: August 20, 2004

For complete stories, pick up the 8/20/04  issue of The Panolian
Accused Murderer Bound Over
DNA Evidence to Be Presented
     to Panola County Grand Jury
By Jason C. Mattox
News Editor


Following a preliminary hearing before Justice Court Judge James Appleton, a Lambert man has been bound over to the Panola County Grand Jury.

Demetrius Smith, who stands accused of murdering Ole Miss entering sophomore Carnesha Nelson, will face the grand jury despite both District Attorney John Champion and defense attorney Jamie Howell stating that all evidence presented during the hearing was purely circumstantial.

Investigator Mark Whitten of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department was the only person to testify during the hearing.

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Whitten said on May 29, he was called out to Sardis Lake because a body had been found floating in the water during the annual St. Jude bass tournament.

"I received a call at approximately 5:57 a.m. and arrived at the scene at 6:18 a.m.," he said.

"The body was face down in the water and clothed," Whitten continued. "I could see that one arm had been tied with what we later discovered to be a cell phone charger cord."

Whitten said he and Marion Pearson of the Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks retrieved the body from the water using a boat.

While the body was not immediately identified, Whitten said a ring on the body allowed them to discover the victim’s identity.

"We found a class ring from Moss Point High School with the year 2002 on it and the name Carnesha engraved in it," he said.

Whitten said he started by contacting the Moss Point Police Department to inquire about a possible missing person’s report about anyone named Carnesha.

"At this time I received a fax from Ole Miss with a photo and name of Carnesha Nelson," he said.
Once the body was identified, Whitten traveled to Oxford to investigate Nelson’s apartment at The Cove.

"The inside of the apartment was immaculate," he said. "It was probably the neatest place I had ever been in this line of work.

"The bedroom on the other hand was a completely different story," Whitten said. "There was no doubt there had been a struggle."

Whitten said it was in the bedroom that he found clear packing tape with black hairs on it, a bent over screen from the window and a sheet bound up with a belt.

"It looked as if someone had been tied up," he said.

Whitten said there was also seminal fluid on the bed.

"Something had definitely taken place in that bed," he said.

Following an investigation of the apartment, Whitten began questioning residents from the apartment complex about what might have taken place.

Community Comes Out
     for Fun Day
By Frederick Cosby Jr.
Contributing Writer

The sounds of the bat as it hits the softball, the squeaking of basketball shoes and the sound of the basketball as it floats through the nets, the laughter of children playing on the playground, the smell of hamburgers and hotdogs roasting on the grill, and the gathering of friends, neighbors, and visitors are all a part of a community coming together.

The board of the Patton Lane Community Center (PLCC) and supporters came together Saturday Aug. 7 on Patton Lane Park to raise funds to help furnish the newly renovated community center.

Melissa and Pacely Cooper came up with the idea to give the event. The center received a self-help grant through the city and the Cooper cousins took the initiative to come up with a plan to raise funds to help the center to get tables, chairs, and other furnishings for the center.

"The board worked hard and diligently to get the self-help grant for the community center," said Melissa Cooper, graduate of Ole Miss (bachelor in political science) and daughter of Otis ( PLCC board member) and Diane Cooper. " I mean they really did a great thing by getting the grant and it’s up to us, the community, to give back also," she added.

One resident said that a tremendous amount of help came from the community today by them just coming out to support a good cause and have some good clean fun at the same time. Patton Lane Park and Patton Lane Community is not about gangbanging, violence, and drugs.

"I can remember when parents could feel safe about their children playing on the park and the way the community showed their support today shows we are trying to support our children by providing them with a safe environment to learn and play. Also the park and the community center is not just for people who live on Patton Lane and in the surrounding neighborhood; it’s for everyone in the community, that means even our neighbors in the rural areas. It’s up to us, the community, to keep our children safe.

"There wasn’t any ruckus or violence and we as the people of this community need to help keep it that way. Everyone came out and had a really great time."

Softball and basketball tournaments for the children and adults were some of the events that took place Saturday.

Also, for children’s fun, face painting booths were set up, the children played game such as target toss, tic-tac-toe, balloon toss, and hoolla-hoop contests at which they could win tickets to receive prizes at the prize booth such as notebooks, pencils, and loose-leaf paper which will become very useful in the next several weeks as school explodes back into session.

The winners of the adult basketball tournament were: Chris Herring, George Williams, Justin Bobo, and Chris Bobo. In the children’s division the Lil’ Ballers, Lailo Cooper, Gervacus Keys, and Antonio Conner took home first place medals.

Also, in the adult softball tournament, the first place honors went to the Sardis Angels and Senatobia’s Still Hustlin’ took the second place slot. In the children’s division of the softball tournament the Church of God of Batesville took home the first place victory, and the Lady Eagles of Pope took second place. Among the other adult teams that entered the tournament were the Willie Earl Clark All-Stars of Batesville, Pope’s B.B. and Dennis’s Players.

"We wanted to do something positive and constructive for the community plus, we wanted to have fun doing it," said Pacely Cooper, Ole Miss student majoring in computer technology and daughter of Richard and Rose Co0per. "We didn’t wait for the board to do something to raise money to help the center.

We just took it upon ourselves to do something to show that the younger adults can also support the community," she added.

B & G Club Asks City for Armory
By Jason C. Mattox
News Editor


With most Batesville National Guardsmen heading out for Iraq in the near future and the remaining few occupying the new readiness center on Keating Road, the future of the old armory is up in the air.

The groups lobbying hardest to make the building their new home are the Batesville Boys & Girls Club and the Boy Scouts.

Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Dennis Hoskins appeared before the Batesville Board of Aldermen to inform them of the club’s desire for the building.

"We are simply here to let the city know we want to occupy the old National Guard Armory," he said.

Hoskins informed the aldermen that club representatives have already spoken with the Panola County Supervisors who are co-owners of the building.

Alderwoman Bobbie Jean Pounders told Hoskins she didn’t think the board could do anything until the guard released the building to the owners.

"Basically, we have to have a letter from the guard telling us they have moved out of the building and that is is now the city/county’s responsibility," Mayor Bobby Baker said. "But we have received no such notification as of yet."

Alderman-at-Large Hudson Still said once the city and county regain control of the facility the board will have to agree on its future.

"We are all going to have to make a decision that will work out for all of those involved," he said. "But, again, we can do nothing of the sort until we are in charge of the building again."

Hoskins said he had recently spoken with Sgt. John Ard and was told the guard would be sending a letter to the county once they were completely moved out.

Baker told Hoskins that the Boy Scouts had requested use of the hut behind the armory for its meetings.

"I think having both groups right there at the same location would be good for everyone involved," he said.

"I wish I could go ahead and tell you to move in, but, the truth is, I don’t feel comfortable," Baker added. "I do feel comfortable telling you that the Boys & Girls Club will get fair consideration when it comes to the future of the building.

"We aren’t trying to run you around, but we can’t do anything with the building yet," he said.

The matter was taken under advisement and will be discussed at a later date.

Local Girl Braves Hurricane Charley
Amanda Ledbetter and her friend Nathan Stamper of Mississippi State were out in 78 mile per hour winds. It looks like he was giving her a big hug, but in reality he was keeping her grounded in the high winds.
Uprooted trees were a sight all around the Orlando area following the hurricane.
By Myra Bean
Sports Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. – Hurricane Charley blew in and around Florida with 165 mile per hour (mph) winds but left Mississippi relatively unscathed – unless one was in the "eye of the storm."

Amanda Ledbetter of Batesville was, unfortunately, in Orlando, Fla. when the storm took a turn for the worse.

Ledbetter was in Orlando by invitation to the HOBY National Convention. She was in the Orlando Marriott Airport Hotel, about five miles from the airport.

She arrived in Orlando Thursday and there were a reported 14,000 hotel rooms available. The hotel filled up really fast with people from other areas. When the coastal towns were evacuated, everyone headed to Orlando because Charley was not expected to hit that area.

As hurricanes and tornadoes do, Charley turned without warning and headed straight for the Orlando area.

The town got the news Friday afternoon that it was in the direct path of Hurricane Charley.

"They didn’t say we couldn’t get on the roads," Ledbetter said. "They had out an advisory for us not to get on the roads. They closed the airport around 5 o’clock."

Ledbetter said they were asked not to use cell phones because they wanted to leave the lines open for emergency personnel.

"We knew it was coming. We just couldn’t do anything about it," she said.

Thus, Ledbetter called home and told her parents, Angie and Jamie, that she was not able to get out of Orlando and back to Batesville before the storm would hit.

Her mother had her put on a prayer list in several different states so everyone could pray for her to be safe. Her mother was glued to the weather channel, CNN, and the internet with a live satellite that showed regular updates of the storm’s path for two days.

Ledbetter related what she and the other convention goers and hotel guests did while waiting out the storm.

While tracking the storm on television, Ledbetter said the winds picked up around seven o’clock and got rougher. Her fifth floor window started to vibrate.

The next day that window was gone.

"From 7:30 to 8 o’clock I was literally watching transformers blow in Orlando. We were the last ones with power because we were on the same grid with the airport. I was watching everything go pitch black dark," she said.

The barometric pressure dropped so low, that the water was literally pulled down the toilet, according to Ledbetter.

"It was so weird watching this," she said.

Before the lights went out in the hotel, Ledbetter and crew headed down to the first floor. When the lights went out, the hotel evacuated the guests to the first floor conference room.

Before the winds reached the 100 miles per hour mark, Ledbetter and others went outside to take photos of themselves in winds around 78 mph.

"I had so much trouble standing up," she said. "The wind was blowing so hard I had to follow a wall. If I had stood up, it would have blown me away."

The hotel lost power around 8:45 p.m. and the storm hit around 9 o’clock. The hotel ran on emergency lights all night. The next morning the hotel had power by generator. All the guests had were lights in the room and one elevator was working. They could not drink the water either.

Ledbetter said she knew the storm was getting progressively worse because the hotel staff was "antsy."

"The entire hotel staff was there to help out during the storm. They were really prepared for it," she said.

"The computers were up so they knew what was going on," she added.

"We could hear the winds, even in that interior room. The walls were creaking and buckling. The chandeliers were swinging. I was sitting at a table waiting for it to blow over. I was poised to get under the table."

Ledbetter said there was a noise that kept scratching across the roof of the 10 -floor hotel that they think was the air conditioning unit.

Immediately following all that noise, it got deathly quiet, according to Ledbetter.

"You could hear a pin drop," she said. "It was so calm. There was no noise at all. We were in the eye of the storm."

They were watching the rain come down horizontally one minute and the next minute the flags, trees and rain were going the other way. A tornado came right after the hurricane.

When they went to inspect the damage Saturday morning, they found a parking lot with eight inches of rain and every other car was windowless, according to Ledbetter.

"We couldn’t see the pavement," Ledbetter said. "Uprooted trees were laying on their sides and sticking up in the air. Even the hotel’s satellite was wrapped around a pole.

"I felt like I was in a movie," she said. "When I saw the trees bending in half, it was like it was not real."

The airport was closed on Saturday, so Ledbetter was able to get out on Sunday. Her plane was delayed only an hour. Orlando had severe weather on Sunday which delayed flights even more.

Getting to the airport was an adventure in itself. The driver of the 15-passenger van took the guests to the airport through all the uprooted trees and damaged areas.

"We had to go through the parking lot. The guy just went straight through. It was a two or three minute ride to the airport," she said.
The palm trees withstood the storm better than the others, according to Ledbetter.

When she got to the airport, she went to terminal 36. Terminal 34 was totally damaged and closed to airport passengers.

Lunch Time
The Batesville Bridge Club had their annual benefit luncheon at Mrs. Melanie Yelton’s home Wednesday. The bridge luncheon proceeds go to the Batesville Humane Society. Pictured participating in the luncheon benefit are Mrs. Dorothy Bogue (front) and Mrs. Mary Lou Evans.