| Lunsford buried with honors, flags waving
| Batesville firefighter William Johnson offers a crisp salute as the hearse carrying Guardsman Daron Lunsford passes through the downtown Square. Lunsford was killed May 23 in Iraq.
|By Billy Davis
and Emily Darby
Mississippi National Guardsman Audrey Daron Lunsford, who was killed in action last week, was laid to rest yesterday morning east of Batesville near his mother’s home.
Lunsford, 29, and three other Guard soldiers were killed May 23 in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee. The ambush occurred south of Baghdad during a patrol.
Lunsford became the first Panola County soldier to die in combat since the Vietnam War. He would have turned 30 on Tuesday.
The funeral service was held at the First United Pentecostal Church, where Lunsford attended with wife Vangi and their nine-month old daughter, Paris-Audrey McKaLyne.
The graveside service was held in Forrest Memorial Park. The soldier’s mother, Susie Lunsford, lives nearby on Central Academy Road.
First United Pentecostal pastor and the soldier’s father-in-law, Steve Cannon, officiated at the church service.
"It’s a great honor I can be here. The man in front of me was a part of me," said the minister, who read from the New Testament books of John and Acts.
Music at the funeral service included the classic hymn, "In the Garden," and praise songs "We Lift You Up" and "Shake it Loose."
Lunsford’s mother had requested "In the Garden" for her son’s funeral.
"I sang that song to him when he was a baby," she told The Panolian Wednesday.
The funeral procession carrying Lunsford’s body proceeded from the church down Van Voris Street through the downtown Square, where a 26-foot American flag hung between ladder trucks from the Batesville and Senatobia fire departments.
Batesville and Senatobia firefighters saluted the slain Panola County soldier as the white hearse carrying his body rumbled over the railroad tracks.
Batesville resident Normand Cote, who said his children grew up with Lunsford as teenagers, was also present for the funeral procession.
"The average person doesn’t know what that flag means. It stands for what Daron died for," Cote said.
A former U.S. Army soldier, Lunsford re-enlisted in the Miss. National Guard in January. He was a member of the HHC 2/198 Armor from Senatobia and was attached to the 155th Infantry from McComb.
Lunsford had worked as a Sardis police officer and an EMT with the North Tunica Fire Department. He attended South Panola schools and later earned his G.E.D.
A Guard corporal upon his death, Lunsford was promoted to the rank of sergeant posthumously.
Lunsford also posthumously received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, and the Mississippi Medal of Valor, said Lt. Colonel Tim Powell, a spokesman with the Miss. National Guard.
He leaves behind wife Vangi Lunsford, daughter McKaLyne, mother Martha "Susie" Lunsford of Sardis, father Jason Daniel Lunsford of Etowah, Ark., three brothers, a sister and a grandmother.
| Paraphernalia, precursors found in misdemeanor bust
| By Billy Davis
A husband and wife from Brinkley, Ark. are facing misdemeanor charges after a narcotics stop Tuesday afternoon in Batesville.
Batesville police officers arrested husband James Grammer and wife Dorothy Grammer on Hwy. 6 East, later charging the couple with possession of drug paraphernalia after finding a pipe used for smoking meth.
The husband was also charged with driving with a suspended license and driving without a seat belt.
Both the husband and wife have extensive drug convictions and both are on probation for those crimes, said Major Tony Jones with the Batesville Police Department.
"My understanding is that Arkansas will likely revoke their probation," Jones said.
Jones said Sgt. George Williford and Lt. Clyde Estridge made the initial stop on the Grammers’ vehicle.
In Batesville, undercover officers had witnessed the couple leave Super Wal-Mart after buying two boxes of Sudafed. Officers then stopped their truck on Hwy. 6 east near Lowe’s.
Cold medicines such as Sudafed contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, which are used in mass quantities to manufacture meth.
Local authorities were acting on a tip from Tate County law enforcement. In Senatobia, the couple had reportedly bought every box of Sudafed available at a Fred’s store there before continuing south to Batesville.
At the stop in Batesville, special agent Jamie Tedford said he counted at least 188 Sudafed tablets that were found inside a Renu contact lense solution bottle. That bottle was hidden inside a McDonald’s cup.
Officers also found $800 in cash in addition to the Sudafed tablets and meth pipe, said Tedford, a Batesville police officer attached to the county’s narcotics task force and DEA.
A search of the vehicle by Miss. Highway patrolman Sgt. Dennis Darby and his drug dog, Algo, failed to yield any more narcotics.
The Belgian Malinois "hit" twice on the passenger’s side door, but officers said the canine may have picked up the residue from the pipe.
After questioning the couple and searching the vehicle, Tedford and other officers were visibly disappointed at the misdemeanor charges filed against the Grammers.
According to Tedford, meth producers seem to be stocking up on cold medicines in anticipation of the coming state law that restrict the purchase of the medicines.
The new state law, which takes effect July 1, requires photo identification and limits the amount that can be purchased. The products will also be placed closer to the cash register.
A drug bust in Batesville on May 17 led to two arrests and yielded 1,500 pills and other meth ingredients, Tedford said. That bust occurred at the Ramada Limited, he said.
"I feel like (the Grammers) were going around trying to get a stash of pills," Tedford said. "I’m thinking that maybe we caught them too soon."
Jones said the meth producers and other drug dealers should be wary of law enforcement in Panola County.
"We’re working hard to get the drugs off the street and the drug dealers behind bars," Jones said. "We want them to go somewhere else because they know they’ll get caught here."
"We want the drug dealers to have to look over their shoulder," Tedford added.
| Hospital meeting is today
|By Billy Davis
City of Batesville officials and the Panola County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to meet today at 2 p.m. to decide their next step in the sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center.
The city/county meeting will take place at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville.
The lead bidder for the public-owned hospital is its administrator, Dr. Bob Corkern.
Per the owners’ instructions, Corkern was to make a $500,000 earnest money deposit toward his purchase by 1 p.m. today.
| Municipal election to be decided Tuesday
|By Billy Davis
The election of Batesville’s first new mayor in 29 years tops the municipal contests slated for next week.
The Batesville mayoral candidates in the Tuesday, June 7 general election are Democrat Jerry Autrey, Republican Dr. Richard Corson and independent candidate Gary Kornegay.
Autrey defeated Alderman-at-Large Hudson Still in the May 3 Democratic primary to advance to the general election. Still had given up his at-large seat to run for mayor.
Neither Corson nor Kornegay drew primary opponents.
The other contests are:
||Ward 1 Democratic incumbent Bill Dugger and challenger Republican Danny Jones
||Ward 4 Democratic incumbent Bobbie Jean Pounders and challenger Republican Michael Harbour.
|| Alderman-at-large candidates Ed Allen, a Republican, and Democratic candidate Teddy Morrow.
Morrow defeated J. Boyd Ingram in a runoff to advance to the general election.
Six-term mayor Bobby Baker did not seek re-election this year, creating an open challenge for the mayor’s office for the first time since 1979.
The longtime mayor edged past a challenge from Autrey four years ago, slipping into office with 14 votes.
Baker told The Panolian Thursday he is not publicly endorsing any of the mayoral candidates.
"I know who I’m going to vote for, but I haven’t put out any yard signs or anything like that," Baker said.
Jerry Autrey, 56, is a longtime car dealer with his brother Jeff, who owns Wheels and Deals in Batesville.
The Democratic nominee also owns Mid-South Floor Mats, which manufactures vehicle mats.
Autrey is running a folksy political campaign, which observers would call a populist campaign. If elected, he promises to be the "people’s mayor" and is championing campaign themes such as "help me help you" and "home grown and Batesville proud."
In recent weeks, Autrey has said his plans as mayor would include the building of a youth center, a long-range plan for street repair and paving, and the creation of a mayor’s advisory board. He will also order an audit of the city’s fiscal condition.
According to Corson, 73, he, too, is stressing job creation and economics as the main issues facing Batesville.
Corson, a retired OB/GYN, said Batesville is poised to be the "queen city of North Mississippi" if its potential for growth and expansion can be tapped by the right leadership.
According to Kornegay, 54, economics and quality of life are the main issues facing Batesville and Panola County.
A CPA, Kornegay said his knowledge and business skills would help pull the city from its budget woes.
"The voters are looking for better fiscal management, and that’s where my expertise lies," Kornegay said.
Kornegay is also active in the county’s Industrial Development Authority, an economic development organization that recruits industry. He currently serves as president.
In addition to past interviews with The Panolian, each of the three mayoral candidates participated in a brief question-and-answer story for the newspaper. (See page A12 for their interviews).
The general election follows two earlier decisions in Batesville’s alderman races. In the Democratic primary, voters re-elected Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley and Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton to office.
Polling places for the general election in Batesville are:
Ward 1: Fire Station No. 2
Ward 2: Patton Lane Community Center
Ward 3: Panola County Extension Building
Ward 4: Batesville City Hall
For information about voting, call city hall at 563-4576.
The polls in Batesville are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
| Three more qualify for sheriff
|By Jason C. Mattox
The field for the November special election to fill the unexpired term of the late David Bryan has nearly doubled in the past week as three new candidates have qualified to seek the position.
Antonio Daniels, Kelvin Taylor and Jamie Tedford will join a group of candidates that already consists of Hugh "Shot" Bright, Steve Chancellor, Craig Sheley and Gary Thompson.
Daniels presently serves as assistant chief of police for the Town of Como. He has worked with the department since 2001.
Taylor is a full-time officer with the Sardis Police Department and a part-time patrolman with the Como Police Department. He has also worked with the Crenshaw Police Department and the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.
Tedford has been employed with the Batesville Police Department since October 1997 where he serves as a special agent. Tedford also represents the BPD with the Panola County Narcotics Task Force.
The deadline to qualify is September 8.
| Sardis voters to pick mayor next week
|By Jason C. Mattox
When the dust of next Tuesday’s general election settles, the City of Sardis will have a new mayor.
The race has come down to a one-on-one battle for votes between Democratic nominee Alvis L. "Rusty" Dye and independent candidate Ernest L. "Lit" Scruggs.
Dye turned back the challenges of Lula Palmer and Johnny Green with approximately 58 percent of the vote during the May 3 Democratic Primary.
He has served as Ward 4 alderman for the past two terms.
Scruggs held the city’s top office from 1997-2001 before losing his bid for re-election to outgoing mayor Richard Darby.
No matter the winner, one of the top priorities of the new mayor and board of aldermen will be to hire a new chief of police.
"We have a pool of nine candidates," Dye said. "I think we have some qualified individuals, and whoever the board decides to pick will be capable of running the department."
Scruggs said he feels like the current board’s decision to postpone the hiring was a good one.
"The new chief is going to have to work very closely with the new mayor and board," he said. "There will be three new aldermen and a new mayor and they need to have input on who is the next chief."
The new board of aldermen will be comprised of Rufus "Bill" Smith for Ward 2, Mike Wilson for Ward 3, Rivers McArthur for Ward 4 and the winner in Ward 1 between incumbent Joseph "JoJo" Still and Boots Still and the alderman-at-large winner, either Roy Scallorn or Donald Russell.
"We have a lot of people out there that don’t have a job," Dye said. "Then we have a lot of people that have to drive to Oxford or Memphis to work.
"It is important that for us as city leaders to go out there and try our best to recruit some industries that will bring jobs," Dye added.
"We don’t need to just focus on the big employers," he continued. "We need to look for the people that can bring in 15 to 20 jobs. A job is a job."
Scruggs agreed with the need for new jobs in the area and said he would personally go out and meet with as many companies as possible.
As for other big issues facing the candidates during the final week of campaigning, Scruggs said he wants to see the town cleaned up.
"The clean-up days used to happen every two weeks," he said. "Since I left office it seems like there hasn’t been an effort to keep the city clean.
"I want to see the community come together and work to restore a sense of pride," Scruggs added.
Dye said one of the biggest goals of the next four years will be the expansion of the Sardis Lake Marina.
"The people look out there and all they see is a marina," he said. "They don’t understand the investment the city has made in that property.
"The next mayor needs to know the ins and outs of the project when a developer comes in to look at constructing the hotel or golf course," Dye said.
Scruggs said he, too, wanted to see the marina project expand.
"There is no reason the marina can’t be one of the top tourist destinations in the state," he said. "But the city is going to have to work with developers to make it the best it can be."