|Bondsman charged in weekend slaying
|By Billy Davis
A Sardis bail bondsman has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a Panola County man.
Panola County Chief Deputy Craig Sheley confirmed Monday afternoon that investigators have charged Johnny Green, 59, with the murder of Ricky L. Taylor II.
Taylor, 33, was found dead Saturday morning near the intersection of Hwy. 315 and Old Panola Road.
Sheley said Taylor’s body was lying in the road when a passing motorist spotted him. The sheriff’s department received a phone call about the body at 6:19, he said.
An autopsy performed in Jackson Saturday concluded that Taylor had been shot twice, once in the left leg and again in the head, said Panola County Coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge.
Green is a longtime bail bondsman and past candidate for Sardis mayor and alderman. He lives at 319 Water Street in Sardis.
Green, who was arrested at his home, was added to the Panola County jail docket at 11:30 Saturday morning, the docket shows.
He was "being held for investigation," the jail docket read.
Sheley would not comment on Green’s motive for the alleged murder.
Services for Taylor were yesterday at Wells Funeral Home in Batesville.
Taylor was married and was the father of two children.
A roofer for Otis Wolfe Roofing, he lived at 136 Oak Grove Road, located east of Sardis on Hwy. 315.
Taylor had not been arrested over the weekend and was not found in handcuffs, Sheley said, refuting a pair of swirling rumors.
"Mr. Taylor was out on bond, but he had been arrested a while back on possession of a controlled substance," Sheley said Monday morning.
Taylor’s recent arrest was not made in Panola County, Sheley said.
| 20,000-plus Panola parcels top $246 million in assessed values
|By Billy Davis
Panola County’s total assessed value grew more than $10 million over 2004 figures, according to figures gathered by Panola County Tax Collector David Garner and his office.
The 2005 figure was $246,318,402, a 4.5 percent over the 2004 figure of $235,566,015.
Garner presented the 2005 tax rolls earlier this month to the Panola County Board of Supervisors.
The 2005 figures include $190,791,484 in total assessed value in the county, $8 million for school millage (tax-exempt businesses and industries still pay public school millage), and $47.5 million for the assessed value of the LS Power Plant.
The tax breakdown for the $190.7 million includes:
– Real taxes: $111,592,313
– Personal taxes: $22,566,302
– Public utilities: $16,843,288
– Mobile homes: $1,876,598
– Automobiles: $37,912,983
Hearings begin this week for taxpayers who want to contest the value of their property.
"If anyone believes their taxes should be lower, they need to contact us and schedule an appointment," Garner said.
Taxpayers should have received notification of the tax assessment and the opportunity for a hearing, he said.
The tax collector’s office is (662) 563-6270.
The county tax collector’s office inspected 20,828 parcels of property, according to deputy tax assessor Sandra Copeland.
"We added 187 parcels since last year," she said.
New construction in the non-municipal areas of Panola County amounted to $1,090,623 in assessed value, Copeland said. Improvements in the county accounted for more than half of that amount at $579,921.
In the municipalities, Como was second behind the county with $262,455 followed by Sardis ($125,809), Batesville ($106,408), Courtland ($12,804), Crowder ($3,187), and Pope ($241).
The 2004 figure for new construction was about $2.8 million, Copeland said.
| City cracks down on junk;
violators will face judge
|By Jason C Mattox
The battle against junk cars has cranked up and is going full throttle in the City of Batesville, according to Code Enforcement Officer John McCollum.
McCollum said he issued 23 citations for various infractions to the city’s junk car ordinance in April, and all of them were cleaned up or brought into compliance.
"Once a citation is issued, the owner of the vehicle has seven days to either tag and sticker the car if it will run, or remove it from the property," he said.
McCollum said the issue with that group of offenders was that 20 of them are repeat offenders from last year’s clean-up effort.
"I have several pictures of trucks and cars that I wrote up last year," he said. "And I am having to write them up again this year for the same things."
Following the April round of citations, McCollum said his focus shifted to different areas because of grass season. It wasn’t until last week that he revisited the city’s junk car problem.
"Wednesday through Friday of last week, I issued approximately 50 citations to people with junk cars," he said. "I would say those 50 citations covered 75 or more cars."
McCollum said he determines which areas to check based on complaints lodged at the office.
"Once I get three or four complaints about junk cars in one neighborhood, I will go ride the neighborhood," he said. "If there is a basis for the complaints, I will get a police escort and issue citations to the property owners."
McCollum said he will return to the locations of the offenses this week to see if they have remedied the reasons for the citations.
"If they have not gotten the car tagged and stickered or moved, we will take them to city court," he said.
Once the matter goes to city court, a daily fine of $325 can be assessed until the problem is rectified.
"We all want to see Batesville look as neat as it can," McCollum said. "We had 350 cars removed from the city limits last year, and we will continue in our efforts to have as many removed this year as possible."
To report a junk car, call 563-6621.
| Foreman Ronnie Bennett (left) and Louis Seyes of Accurate Roofing say they have it easy compared to the workers on top of the roof at Batesville Junior High School where the roof is being replaced.
Bennett said that the work on the classroom portion of the building should be completed by the time school starts and the crews will adjust the hours on the other parts of the building that may be completed at night after school begins.
Bennett says extreme heat slows the pace as workers are nearly exhausted before the end of the day.
| Turn-arounds approved, bus driver restrictions revised
|By Rupert Howell
Over 200 bus turn-arounds may seem like a lot, but South Panola School District Transportation Director Robert Chapman doesn’t seem bothered by the number.
Last week Chapman submitted the list of bus turn-arounds to the school board, which accepted them and will pass them on to the Panola County Board of Supervisors, which will pass them on to Panola County Road Manager Lygunnah Bean, whose job it is to see that those turn-arounds, and the roads of Panola County, are properly maintained.
Bean is also president of the South Panola School District Board of Trustees.
Chapman said he added about five to the list this year and took off approximately five from last year, stating, "The number is pretty consistent.
Bean and the supervisors think the number of turn-arounds could be less compared to North Panola, according to Chapman. But Chapman explains South Panola has 67 buses compared to approximately 25 for the district in North Panola.
Of the 67 buses, Chapman explains, five are handicap buses which pull up to the front door of 10 to 15 houses each.
Also, the name turn-around may be misleading. Some of the listed turn-arounds are actually spots maintained for drivers to park the buses at their homes. Other turn-arounds may be at the end of a dead-end road.
The law allows county road departments to maintain private drives for school buses to turn-around. The school district must request that a particular drive be maintained.
Chapman also received approval to add using a cell phone as grounds to terminate or suspend bus drivers.
The transportation director said although it has previously been discouraged, he added, "Refusing to park bus while using cell phone," to this list of 16 other violations that may lead to termination or suspension.
"At no time should a person be on a cellular phone while the bus is moving," Chapman stated.
Also added to the list was leaving bus with students asleep in it.
Presently the bus driver is required to walk to the rear of the bus and hang an "empty" sign at the rear window.
Other violations that could cause a school bus driver to be terminated or suspended include: theft, dishonesty, reporting to work or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, failure to report an accident, failure to stop at a railroad crossing, failure to turn in lost and found items, carrying unauthorized passengers, using bus for unauthorized purposes, being convicted of traffic violations, insubordination, negligent driving, excessive absences, repetitive tardiness or tobacco use on bus or school grounds.
| Poynor trial headed toward August date
|By Billy Davis
When the expected jury trial for John Poynor Sr. begins next month, his defense attorney expects to beat the charges and clear his client’s name.
Poynor, 60, faces two counts of statutory rape and one count of fondling, all felonies. The three charges involve three different girls, all minors, who are also sisters.
Poynor was indicted in April by a Panola County grand jury.
The circuit trial will be held at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville.
A former Justice of the Peace, Poynor has hired attorney Jay Westfaul to defend him in the trial, scheduled for Monday, August 15.
Contacted Monday morning by The Panolian, Westfaul called the charges against Poynor a "big black lie."
"The charges against Mr. Poynor are totally without merit and his name will be cleared," Westfaul said.
Although Westfaul said his client is prepared for the August trial, the district attorney’s office could reschedule the trial date if it wishes, he acknowledged.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly would not comment about the pending trial.
According to court files, Westfaul is building a case against the mother of the girls, contending that the charges are "all about money."
Court records also state the mother is an ex-girlfriend of Poynor and rented a home from him.
A private investigator hired by Westfaul has interviewed more than 10 witnesses to lay Poynor’s defense, the court records show.
Court records also show graphic, detailed interviews with the girls by Sheriff’s Department investigators.
| Fatality reported in Friday wreck
|An automobile accident on Old Panola Road Friday morning left a 2004 graduate of South Panola High School dead.
Karen Denise Kuykendoll, 19, was pronounced dead at Tri-Lakes Medical Center by Panola County Coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge.
Gulledge said the death was a result of massive trauma caused when Kuykendoll was ejected through the windshield of her vehicle while it was rolling over.
"From what I was told at the scene (Kuykendoll) was passing another vehicle when hers rolled over and she was thrown from the car," Gulledge said.