| The Moby Dick ride at Batesville’s SpringFest provided amusement for up to 25 riders at a time, swirling around and around to create a centrifugal force that most thoroughly enjoyed.
| Bobby Caldwell parole hearing
a concern for victims, families
|By Billy Davis
A convicted murderer whose 1983 execution order was overturned by the United States Supreme Court is eligible for parole next week.
Bobby Caldwell, 49, was 24 years old when he gunned down Sardis Lake bait shop owner Elizabeth Faulkner two days before Halloween in 1980.
He is presently a prisoner at the Miss. State Penitentiary at Parchman.
Caldwell’s parole hearing is scheduled for either May 24 or May 25, parole board chairman Glenn Hamilton told The Panolian last week.
Caldwell was a state parolee on work release when he killed Faulkner while she worked at the family store on Hwy. 315 near the dam.
Panola County law enforcement officers caught Caldwell hours after the crime, arresting him at his father’s home in Curtis.
In addition to a capital murder conviction, Caldwell was also convicted of robbing two more stores, Rex’s Package Store and Tippett’s Grocery, in the weeks leading up to Faulkner’s murder. He had also burglarized Bland’s store in Quitman County, where he stole the pistol used to shoot and kill Faulkner.
Caldwell was originally sentenced to prison, and later paroled, after the robbery of Overall’s store near Marks.
Judy Faulkner, daughter-in-law of the late Elizabeth Faulkner, said more than 10 members of the Faulkner family will attend the parole hearing.
"I hope that with the letters we’ve sent and the petitions we’ve started that man never sees the outside of those prison gates," said the daughter-in-law, whose family lives in DeSoto County.
When her mother-in-law was slain, Faulkner was nearby at home. She was on the phone calling the store when gunshots rang out.
"Those shots could have been from Caldwell or from my husband’s father, who was in a back room and shot at him with a shotgun," Faulkner said.
In addition to tracing the murder weapon to the burglary at Bland’s, investigators pulled bullet fragments from Caldwell’s car, matching them with a pistol fired at Caldwell by Carl Irwin at Bland’s.
A glove left behind at one of the robberies matched another one found in Caldwell’s car.
And robbery victims later identified Caldwell in three separate lineups.
After the circuit trial was moved to DeSoto County, a jury there convicted Caldwell of capital murder and two counts of armed robbery. He was set to be executed on December 21, 1983, but the execution was reversed after the defense complained about closing arguments from then-District Attorney Bobby Williams.
"Mr. Williams said something like, ‘Don’t let his blood be on your hands,’" Faulkner recalled. "I didn’t have a problem with that. I thought he did an excellent job."
Judy Faulkner said she learned of the upcoming parole hearing from Joy Tippit, whose husband Gary was robbed by Caldwell at Tippit’s Grocery in Yalobusha County.
Joy and Gary Tippit declined to talk about Caldwell, but Faulkner credits Joy Tippit with alerting her family and others about the hearing.
"Our family is laying the groundwork for our children and grandchildren," Faulkner said. "When the rest of us are dead and gone, we plan on our children and grandchildren still being at the parole hearings."
| June job fair coming to BCC
|By Jason C. Mattox
Citizens of Panola County who are unemployed or looking to change careers will have the opportunity to speak with several potential employers in late June.
The Batesville Civic Center will host the Northwest Mississippi Area Job Fair on Thursday, June 23. The job fair is being sponsored by the Governor’s Job Fair Network, Mississippi Department of Employment Security and Mississippi Development Authority.
The job fair is scheduled from 9 a.m to 2 p.m.
"This event is open to job seekers from the general public as well as well as college graduates," job fair director Joe Buckner said.
Any company interested in participating can call Buckner’s office at (601) 321-6154.
| Darby says changes needed at
Sardis Lake campgrounds
|By Jason C. Mattox
Sardis Mayor Richard Darby is hoping a meeting with the Mississippi River Commission (MRC) in Vicksburg will benefit both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with which the MRC is affiliated, and the Sardis Lake Marina.
Darby said he was asked to appear before the commission to offer his opinion on needs of the lake.
Current activities of the MRC are in three broad categories: general investigations to determine needed improvements, construction of new facilities, and maintenance and operation of existing systems.
Included in its responsibilities are the main river from Cairo, Ill., to Head of Passes, and the basins of the St. Francis, Tensas, Yazoo, Atchafalaya, Lower Red, Lower Arkansas, Lower White, and west Tennessee rivers.
Authorizations for the projects have been established by the various Congresses upon the recommendations of the MRC and the Chief of Engineers as changes to the basic policies of the Flood Control Act of 1928.
"We have campgrounds that need to be upgraded," he said. "There are still areas down there that are just tent ready, and not many people camp in tents anymore."
Darby said Oak Grove and Pat’s Bluff Campgrounds need a facelift along with an upgrade of utilities.
"In this day and age you have a lot of the RV campers," he said. "The campsites need to have electrical, water and sewer hook-ups to accommodate the modern camper."
Another area in which the mayor said Sardis Lake needed upgrades was interior roads.
"The roads and parking areas inside of Sardis Lake need work," he said. "The roads need to be overlaid and more parking needs to be created."
Darby said the biggest reason he was asked for his input on the lake was the Sardis Lake Marina.
"The whole pitch behind this was the marina," he said. "The city spent millions of dollars out there to enhance their property, and we would like to see them make the needed upgrades."
The mayor said he is of the belief that the Mississippi River Commission was unaware of how much work has been done at the marina property.
"We already have Skipper Marine out there, and we are just waiting to find the right developer for the next phase of the project," he said.
The next phase would be the construction of a hotel/conference center, a phase that might have been completed if not for the September 11 attacks.
"We were in talks with developers that were waiting to do their due diligence work," he said. "But after the 9/11 thing happened, the chain put a freeze on new development."
Darby said he thinks the river commission was receptive to his input, and said he hopes the upgrades will come soon.
"Those upgrades will be an asset to the city and those who use the marina," he said. "You could have someone who keeps their boat at the marina that would come RV it for a few weeks if the campgrounds were properly equipped."
| Runoff today for at-large hopefuls
|By Billy Davis
Alderman-at-large candidates J. Boyd Ingram and Teddy Morrow have spent two weeks beating the political bushes for voters and urging their supporters to return to the polls for today’s runoff election.
The runoff is necessary after the candidates tied 883-883 in the Democratic primary.
"What do you say to people?" Ingram, 65, asked. "I’m telling (the voters) the election is a tie and the turnout this time will determine the winner."
Morrow, 35, said a campaign veteran offered him similar advice. "He said don’t worry about the people who didn’t vote, that you need to get the same voters back out."
Both candidates expect a lower turnout this time, however, saying separately that each voter who casts a ballot could decide the runoff winner.
The winner between Ingram and Morrow will face Republican Ed Allen in the June 7 general election.
Fixing voting problems is another factor in determining the winner.
Batesville voters complained of voting troubles on election day, some saying they had to visit two or three voting places before finding their name on the correct voter rolls.
The election day mix-ups played a role in the dead-even outcome after the Democratic Executive Municipal Committee sorted through 129 affidavit ballots, tossing out 66 it declared invalid and counting 63 more that were later run through the voting machine.
One of those affidavit ballots belonged to Ward 1 resident Vicki Blair, who said she has been a registered Batesville voter since 1982.
On the day of the primary, Blair said, she went to vote at the Extension Service building. When her name wasn’t found on the voter rolls, she was sent to city hall, where she voted by affidavit ballot.
"I thought my vote counted until someone contacted my mother and said the ballot had been thrown out," Blair said. "When I went to city hall, they couldn’t explain what happened.
"Somebody told me this happened to a lot of folks, that I shouldn’t feel alone, but I feel pretty strongly about voting."
Blair said she was told she can’t vote again until the 2009 municipal election.
The most important advice for voters is to vote in the ward where they live, said City Clerk Judy Savage.
"If they’re not on the book, they should vote affidavit ballot," Savage said. "If you know you’re in the right place and you’re told to go somewhere else to vote, say, ‘This is my ward,’ and don’t leave that place until you vote."
Unofficial results from the May 3 primary showed that Ingram and Morrow were evenly matched in Ward 3 and Ward 4, where only seven votes separated the two candidates.
Elsewhere, however, Ingram led by 50 votes in Ward 2 while Morrow led by 49 votes in Ward 1.
Ingram and Morrow are both stressing economic development and job growth in their campaigns.
Ingram owns the county’s only country music radio station, WBLE FM 100.5, as well as an oldies station, FM 106.9, known as COOl 107.
Morrow and his family own two downtown department stores, Stubbs and Williams.
While he’s on the campaign trail, Morrow said voters are making note of his relatively young age. If elected to a seat, he would be the youngest city alderman by about two decades.
"I’m telling people, ‘Where will we be eight years from now if there’s nobody young on the board who can learn from the older ones?’ " Morrow said. "If the older ones are gone and are replaced by all new aldermen, that would be a mess."
Ingram said he’s talking to voters about "getting people back to work" and smarter economics at city hall.
| Legislators will tackle state budget
in special June session
|By Billy Davis
Panola County legislators are heading south to Jackson this week to tackle the state budget and other issues during a special legislative session.
Gov. Haley Barbour announced the special session last week. The session will start at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
Rep. Warner McBride is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, where he expects to stay busy during the special session.
"It will be some busy times," McBride said. "We can expect to start early and stay late."
Barbour has said the session will last about three days, McBride said, but the legislator expects it will drag on farther than that.
The special session comes after the state legislature ended its regular 90-day session in May without agreeing on a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
The state faces up to a $500 million budget shortfall for the new fiscal year.
The Democrat-controlled House is pushing for new sources of tax revenues, but the governor and a Republican-controlled senate are holding the line on new state taxes.
The Mississippi governor sets the agenda for a special legislative session.
According to press reports, Barbour plans for legislators to review his "Momentum Mississippi" economic package, a Military Family Relief Fund, the no-call telemarketing law, which is set to expire July 1, and numerous other initiatives.
The state budget, however, will be a main priority as the House and Senate tackle budget priorities.
Despite the state’s financial shape, new monies will play a factor in the upcoming session. Barbour and the legislature will wrangle over spending a $100 million lawsuit settlement against MCI, and another $28 million is available following better-than-expected tax revenues from April.
Barbour wants to put $50 million of the $100 million back into the Miss. Department of Transportation, which had its budget raided this year to pay for other needs across the state.
McBride said he agrees with putting the monies back into MDOT "at some point," but his main priority during the session is protecting state funding for public education.
"I want to see the teacher pay raise fully funded and Adequate Education fully funded, at least to last year’s levels," McBride told The Panolian.
Barbour wants the second $50 million to pay for for the ill-fated beef plant in Oakland.
Rep. Leonard Morris, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he is anxious to tackle several initiatives that will aid the state’s economic development.
Among those objectives, Morris said, are a new loan program for existing industries and proposed legislation that will allow counties to exempt high-tech companies from ad valorem taxes, a practice already done for other industries.
Morris said he, too, expects the session will last longer than three days.
"That’s a misnomer to think it’ll be over in three days," Morris said. "I don’t see anything that’s not important. This is going to be interesting."
Sen. Nolan Mettetal could not be reached by press time for this story.