Headlines – 3/25/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 25, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – March 25, 2005

  From the 3/25/05 issue of The Panolian :             
  

     A steeple high enough in the sky to be seen on Hwy. 51 was placed on the top of Calvary Baptist Church Tuesday. The church, located on Keating Road, is being rebuilt after fire ravaged its large red brick facility two years ago Easter Sunday night. See additional story and pictures on page A6.
    
Ward 1 candidates: Big changes coming to city
By Billy Davis

In Batesville’s great swath of eastern city limits known as Ward 1, Keating Grove resident Ameen Adieh knows very little about a city election.

To his credit, he’s the first to admit it.

"Hasn’t the election happened yet?" Adieh, 34, asks outside the two-story home he shares with wife Mimi and their three children.

No, it hasn’t. But it will.

In Ward 1, the candidates for alderman are Democrat incumbent Bill Dugger and his Republican challenger, Danny Jones.

Dugger, a two-term alderman, is breezing through the May 3 Democrat primary without an opponent.

Jones didn’t draw a primary opponent either, meaning the two candidates will face off about a month later in the June 7 general election.

Because its population density is small and must equal that of other wards, Batesville’s Ward 1 stretches across roughly half of the city limits.

Ward 1 territory stretches south past Pine Lodge Road, east to the city limits, and north past the I-55/Hwy. 35 interchange.

Farther into the city, the ward splits areas of Keating Road with Ward 4 and part of Dogwood Hills with Ward 3. It also encompasses older sections of the city, including Harmon Circle and the Pollard St. area, and the north side of Baker St. and Atwell.

Dugger, who is retired from Tennessee Gas, lives at 422 College St.

Jones works as a salesman for Dunlap and Kyle in Batesville. He lives at 106 Hickory Lane.

Neither candidate has officially hit the campaign trail, and neither predicts a mud-slinging campaign once they start courting Ward 1 votes.

"I’ve never heard anything bad about Bill, and I can’t see where he’s done anything wrong that I would jump up and down about," said Jones.

Dugger voiced similar sentiments about Jones.

According to Jones, Dugger and his city colleagues voted on difficult issues in recent years. Too often, he said, candidates are too quick to criticize the decisions of the incumbents.

"I don’t think I would have voted for the civic center, but you don’t know what you would do until you’re in that position," Jones, 55, said.

Jones said his biggest factor for jumping into the Ward 1 race is the apparent change coming to Batesville.

"There’s a tremendous amount of change: a new police chief, new city clerk, new mayor and new alderman-at-large," Jones said. "With all of that change coming, it seemed like now was a good time to get involved."

Regarding the search for a new police chief, Jones said the replacement for Chief Roger Vanlandingham could come within the department, namely Deputy Chief Gerald Legge or Major Tony Jones.

"They have the respect of the officers, but they might be close to retirement and don’t want it," Jones said.

Dugger said he, too, is excited about the change coming soon to Batesville city government.

"It’s a new era," Dugger said, "and I’m excited about all the possibilities."

Dugger, 62, is running to keep the alderman’s seat formerly occupied by his cousin, the late Bobby Carlisle.

Carlisle chose not to seek re-election in 1997 due to health problems, and Dugger ran for the open seat and won it. It was his first time to run.

"For a while I was thinking about running for office, and Bobby said, ‘You ought to run.’ But I waited until he stepped down," Dugger said. "I would never have run against Bobby. He was the best man for the job."

Once Dugger hits the campaign trial, he expects to hear voters talk about the future of Tri-Lakes Medical Center, the success and operation of the Batesville Civic Center, and the overlaying of city streets.

Dugger said he expects to field questions about the amount of city funds spent for new roads at and around Wal-Mart and Tri-Lakes.

His answer? Grant monies paid for most of those projects.

Jones has his own opinion about the city’s use of grant monies.

"If the funds are available, I agree we should try to get our fair share," Jones said. "But a city should make its plans without depending on grants."

Regarding the civic center, Dugger hopes the public will support the family-friendly events at the BCC over similar events in Memphis and Tunica.

Regarding the money going into the BCC’s operation, Dugger said it should be declared a success if it at least breaks even.

"In most other places those types of facilities are not the type of thing you make money on," Dugger said.

"The civic center’s got to make it," Jones said. "It’s too late to ask whether it should have been built. It’s there now, and it needs to succeed."
   

 


    
 
Woman, 38, found dead in home
     Batesville Police Detective Michael Downs investigates the death of Annie Baker at her home Tuesday afternoon in west Batesville. Autopsy results of Baker found no signs of trauma. A toxicology report is pending.
    
By Billy Davis

A pending toxicology report may shed more light on the death of a Batesville woman whose body was discovered Tuesday afternoon.

Batesville police found the body of Annie Baker, 38, in her trailer home after family members reported her missing.

"(Baker) had been missing for three days, and the family informed the police department today," said BPD Major Tony Jones, speaking at the scene of the investigation Tuesday.

About mid-afternoon on Tuesday, Jones said, a maintenance man let Sgt. Terry Smith into the residence, where the officer discovered the body.

Police would not say where in the home her body was discovered.

Baker’s trailer home, No. 110, is clustered among others in the rear of Still Trailer Park in west Batesville.

An autopsy performed Tuesday night showed no signs of trauma to the body, said Panola County coroner Gracie Grant Gulledge.

Following the autopsy, the toxicology report is now pending and could take up to three weeks, Gulledge said.

"Until we receive that report we can’t rule on the cause of death, whether natural causes, suicide or homicide," Gulledge said.

Jones said Baker’s death remains under investigation while the department awaits the toxicology results.

Eddie Robinson and Son is in charge of funeral arrangements for Baker. Her obituary is listed on A2.
   

Father, son will both serve burglary time
By Billy Davis

A Panola County man received a 25-year sentence for burglary Tuesday morning, a throw-the-book sentence handed down after he racked up a lengthy criminal history.

Barry Joe Tutor, 44, was sentenced in circuit court after pleading guilty to burglarizing the Pope home of Ben and Tammy Germany last August.

The Germanys live at 3576 Pope-Water Valley Road.

"I came home from work, and the back door was kicked in and glass was everywhere. I was terrified," Tammy Germany recalled.

Tutor had an accomplice in the burglary of Germany home, his son Cody. The son pleaded guilty to the burglary charge two weeks ago, receiving a 10-year prison sentence.

The father and son fled the Germany home with tools and construction equipment, a firearm, and a strong box that contained sentimental items such as family photos and the Germanys’ marriage license.
Sheriff’s?Department investigator Barry Thompson investigated the burglary to the Germany’s home.

Told of Barry Tutor’s sentence, Tammy Germany said, "He deserves what he got. It’s not quite long enough in my opinion."

Barry Tutor knew her husband but was not a family friend, she said.

The father had several prior felony convictions and had served time in prison before, Sheriff’s Department investigator Mark Whitten said.

The 25-year sentence handed down Tuesday includes a 15-year mandatory sentence and 10 years post-release supervision, Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker told Tutor at the hearing.

"This means no parole, no probation, no early release for good behavior," Baker told the defendant.

Tutor was represented in court by public defender David Walker.
    

Jones guilty of abuse and rape
By Billy Davis

A circuit court jury has found a 58-year-old man guilty of sexually abusing a pre-teen girl.

The jury found Tommy Lee Jones guilty of one count of statutory rape and one count of sexual battery.

The trial was held over two days at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville.

Jones could receive a maximum life sentence for the first count, statutory rape, and a maximum of 30 years in prison for sexual battery, District Attorney John Champion told The Panolian after Jones’ trial.

Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker, who presided over the trial, did not set a date for a sentencing hearing.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly prosecuted the case against Jones, who was represented by public defender David Walker.

According to court testimony, the girl was 11 when Jones repeatedly assaulted her, beginning in September 2001 and continuing through the summer of 2002.

During the trial, the girl testified against Jones during the first day of court testimony. She was also present on the second day when the guilty verdict was read aloud by Circuit Clerk Joe Reid.

Jones also testified in his own defense, taking the stand on the second day of the trial in a white shirt and black tie, a thick gold necklace with a cross draped around his neck.

Jones testified that he did not abuse the girl. Under cross examination by Kelly, however, he stumbled when asked if he would ever admit to such an act.

After several seconds of hesitation, Jones answered, "Probably not."

In closing arguments, Kelly reminded jurors that laws against statutory rape and sexual battery are "designed to protect children," pointing out the alarming age range between Jones and his alleged victim.

When Walker spoke to jurors, he suggested "contradictions" and "credibility problems" with the girl’s court testimony the day before.

In addition to giving various numbers of times Jones assaulted her, Walker said, she alleged that the defendant once assaulted her in a truck in the Kroger parking lot.

"That defies believability, ladies and gentlemen," Walker told jurors.

"It doesn’t matter if it was two times, three times, four times….eight times or 108 times, it only takes one time," Kelly answered back.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for about 40 minutes, working through the lunch hour to do so. The trial had resumed Tuesday morning about 9:30.

After the verdict was read and the jury dismissed, Panola County Sheriff’s investigator Mark Whitten and Deputy Mack Morris took Jones into custody. He showed no emotion.

Before handcuffing Jones and securing him in leg shackles, Whitten and Morris collected his personal effects, including a wad of cash and the thick cross necklace.

Jones is being held at the Panola County Detention Center while he awaits sentencing.
   

 

                                         
                         
 

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