|Mother says son was slain over bond money
|By Billy Davis
The shooting last weekend that took the life of Ricky L. Taylor II might have happened over bail money, the mother of the slain man has said.
Barbara Taylor said her son owed about $200 to Johnny Green, a Sardis bail bondsman, who had demanded the payment in recent weeks.
Green, 59, was charged Monday by Panola County sheriff’s investigators with fatally shooting Taylor, 33, early Saturday morning, July 23.
According to the mother, Green came to their home late Friday night, July 22, and talked to her son for two hours outside the home.
The family lives at 136 Oak Grove Road, located at Hwy. 315 east of Sardis.
"Johnny had quit coming (by the house) to collect his money about three weeks ago until he showed up Friday night," Barbara Taylor said.
The next morning, she said, Green arrived at the home about 5:30 and rousted her son from bed, asking the 33-year-old to help him visit the home of another client who owed money.
Green had a pistol stuffed into the front of his pants when he came into their home, the mother recalled.
"Ricky said, ‘I love you mama,’ when he walked out the door, and about 30 minutes later he was dead on Old Panola Road," the mother said.
The Panola County Sheriff’s Department received a phone call at 6:19 a.m. about Taylor’s body, which had been spotted by a motorist.
An autopsy of Taylor performed Saturday reported two gun shots, one to the left leg and a fatal gunshot to the head, county coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge had said.
Panola County Chief Deputy Craig Sheley arrested Green in Sardis late Saturday morning and interviewed the suspect throughout the weekend.
Monday afternoon, Sheley reported that Green had been charged with Taylor’s murder but did not elaborate on a motive for the shooting.
Sheley said Green has since hired a defense attorney, Tony Farese.
Barbara Taylor also disclosed that her son had a history with illegal drugs and that he had been a confidential informant (CI) for the sheriff’s department and its drug task force.
On at least two occasions, the mother said, the department "wired" Ricky Taylor with a tape recorder to set up other people for drug busts.
Asked Wednesday about Barbara Taylor’s statements, Sheley said any details of Taylor’s murder would be held for the pending circuit trial.
"We don’t give out details before a trial because that could easily taint the jury pool," Sheley said, noting that law enforcement commonly keeps its investigations secret prior to a trial.
While not acknowledging that Taylor had been a CI, Sheley said the murder investigation hasn’t shown any connection between Taylor’s death and his involvement in drug dealing or secretive work.
Sheley also had no comment about reports that Green had circulated the news that Taylor had a murder contract on him because of his involvement as a drug informant.
"We’ve heard anything you can possibly hear, but the sheriff’s department is not going to be part of the rumor mill," Sheley said.
"We’re running down every lead we can get and we’ll follow it as far as we can, and wherever it leads, it leads," the chief deputy added.
Barbara Taylor did dispel the rumor that someone beat law enforcement to her home to report her son’s death, also reporting to the family that the son had been been found in handcuffs.
"Craig Sheley and the coroner came and told me about Ricky, nobody else," the mother said. "Mr. Sheley told me he wasn’t wearing handcuffs."
Asked if she thought her son’s secretive drug work could have factored in his death, the mother said she believed the shooting happened over money, not drugs.
| Shoplifting cases show ‘foolishness’
| With a stolen shoe on display, Batesville police officer Brad Shackleford arrests Michael Ballentine for shoplifting at Rack Room Shoes. Ballentine later pleaded guilty in Batesville Municipal Court.
|By Billy Davis and
Whether they shoplift for the thrill of the soul or the lack of matter between the ears, some people have sticky fingers – and bad judgment.
After Michael Ballentine stole a pair of $35.99 tennis shoes from Rack Room Shoes last week, he was fined $610 this week in Batesville Municipal Court.
Ballentine, of 201 Clairmont, Sardis, pleaded guilty to the charge.
In Batesville, the city court fine for shoplifting begins at $610 for a first offense and jumps to $1,050 and 30 days in jail for a second offense, said court clerk Renee Hubbard.
The third offense is a felony, Hubbard pointed out, and failure to pay a fine results in a contempt charge, an arrest warrant, and a $15 late fee on top of the fine amount.
As if the shoplifting fines weren’t enough of a deterrent, city court fines across the state rose on July 1.
Why risk an arrest and a hefty fine, and humiliation in a newspaper story, to shoplift?
"They do it because it’s something for nothing," said BPD Detective Sgt. George Williford.
"It’s the thrill of it, at least for the younger shoplifters," said Hubbard. "I’ve seen some steal because of a college initiation. Whatever their reason, it’s just foolishness."
Thefts at the Wal-Mart Supercenter are the most common shoplifting cases in city court, Hubbard said.
At the Batesville Wal-Mart, Williford said, thieves routinely try to steal "unnecessary things" such as electronics and CDs, not staples such as food.
"The thought process is that Wal-Mart is a big company so it won’t miss this CD or these clothes," Williford explained. "They think there is no victim in what they’re doing."
And the thieves use a variety of methods – and excuses – to do their deeds.
In a June 29 shoplifting case, Donna L. Smith was found guilty in city court of stealing several items at Wal-Mart.
Speaking in court, Smith, of 791 Enid Dam Road, Pope, blamed her four-year-old granddaughter for putting sunglasses, skin cleanser, eye make-up and other items in her purse.
After Smith was stopped by Wal-Mart employees, she offered to pay for the items, she told Municipal Court Judge William McKenzie.
The judge fined Smith $595, the former fine amount, for shoplifting.
The items Smith stole totalled $27.42.
Williford said he once witnessed a 300-pound woman trying to steal a VCR from Wal-Mart. She tried to hide it up her skirt, he said.
"She had on a long skirt, and she pulled that VCR right off the counter, stuck it between her legs, and walked out the door," Williford recalled.
The detective did not say what Wal-Mart did with the recaptured VCR.
Although Wal-Mart leads in shoplifting cases, Hubbard said outlet mall stores Factory Brand Shoes and Rack Room Shoes round out the top three targets in the city.
| Protest draws attention to
| "Not an angry protest, just a sad goodbye," was the message from four people who showed up Tuesday morning to protest the razing of the old Vance home at 121 Panola Avenue.
Erika and Amy Lipe (from left), and Laura and Eric Swindoll each bore signs with drawings representing their questions and concerns.
The Batesville First United Methodist Church is removing the structure to build a new facility on the property.
|By John Howell Sr.
"This is not an angry protest, just a sad goodbye," said Amy Lipe Tuesday morning as she and three companions arrived with picket signs at 121 Panola Avenue where the former Vance home is being dismantled.
Lipe and her daughter, Erika, were joined by Laura Swindoll and her son, Eric, on the sultry July morning. Before hoisting their signs at curbside they walked through the old home for a final look.
The once-fine staircase has been stripped of its balustrade in recent days. The curved wood banisters were gone and the balusters were strewn in a pile on the second floor like kindling.
"This just breaks my heart," Lipe said as she viewed what had once been a fine home.
Fire in 1912 had destroyed both the home of Civil War veteran C. B. Vance and the adjacent Methodist Church. Both were rebuilt in the following years.
The home that "Captain" Vance built as a replacement was "probably the best-built home in Batesville," Vance’s granddaughter, Margaret Vance O’Keefe, had said in an earlier interview.
While Amy Lipe was the unofficial spokesman for the small group, Erika Lipe was identified as organizer of the protest and also creator of the unusual picket signs drawn for the occasion.
Instead of slogans, the four protest signs each bore different images, the first a bold question mark, the second a broken heart, the third a shedding tear and the fourth an exclamation point.
"We wonder why; it’s breaking our hearts; it makes us cry, where does it stop," Amy Lipe said, explaining the sequence of thoughts the signs represented.
George Caffey, who is dismantling the structure for Batesville’s First United Methodist Church, arrived during the four protesters walk-through tour and talked about the uses of the materials being removed from the building.
"Y’all look like a bunch of hippies," Caffey said, grinning broadly when they walked back to the curb and picked up their signs.
"Thanks, that’s a compliment," Amy Lipe responded.
The Lipes live in Panola Avenue’s next block and are concerned about the razing of Batesville historic structures, she added.
Swindoll said she once lived in the structure when her father, Jimmy Gray, worked for Moore Funeral Home owned by the late Jolly Mack Moore. The building was converted from a private residence into a funeral home during the 1950s and used as such by a succession of owners until the late 1990s.
The Methodist Church has purchased the property to allow the construction of a Christian Life Center, said the church’s minister, Russell Fletcher.
Fletcher walked up on the hot morning with two glasses of cold water for the demonstrators.
"We looked at restoration, and the estimate was over $600,000," Fletcher said. A $4 million Christian Life Center is being designed by an Oxford firm to complement the present church building.
"The sanctuary is so historic" that the new building will be recessed to emphasize the older structure, Fletcher said. The church undertook an extensive renovation and restoration to the historic church building in 1997, he added.
The site on which the Vance home stands will be utilized for parking, Fletcher said in reply to questions from Lipe.
"The pecans are probably going; we’re going to save as much as we can," he added, referring to the trees and shrubs on the property.
After Fletcher left, Swindoll noted the efforts at historic renovation of the Downtown Square.
"They’re breaking their backs to redo the Square to hold on to history," she said.
"Progress scares me sometimes," Amy Lipe said.
| School bells will ring early August
|Students in the South Panola School District will start to class on Wednesday, August 10 – except for seventh and eighth graders at Batesville Junior High School. BJH sixth graders only come to school on August 10.
On Thursday, August 11, sixth graders stay home and seventh and eighth graders at Batesville Junior High attend, along with students at all other schools in the district.
On Friday, August 12, everybody goes to school, according to Mitzi Hardy of the South Panola District office.
South Panola High School students may pick up their class schedules next week, using the following schedule: Monday, seniors; Tuesday, juniors; Wednesday, sophomores, Thursday, freshmen; Friday, new students may register. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Parents of students at Batesville Middle School may visit the school on Monday to find class rosters posted and supply lists available.
North Delta School begins Friday, August 12 for a half-day of school.
In the North Panola School District, the first day of school for all students is Monday, August 8.
| Back-to-school section inside
|By Billy Davis
Inside this issue of
The Panolian you should find a special supplement including all the back-to-school information you need to know.
Included are supply lists, South Panola bus routes, and interviews with school administrators throughout the county.
Also you will find advertisements from very special businesses who made this special section possible.
| Kuykendoll remembered for her smile
|By Billy Davis
Family and friends will remember Karen Denise Kuykendoll as an upbeat and friendly young woman when a service is held today at the church she attended in Batesville.
Kuykendoll, 19, died seven days ago from injuries sustained in an automobile accident on Old Panola Road.
"My sister got along with everybody. You never could catch her in a bad mood," said sister Kenya Shegog, who lives in Argyle, Texas.
Karen Kuykendoll is survived by two sisters, Shegog and Keyana Kuykendoll, a brother, James M. Scott IV, and mother, Loretta Kuykendoll.
Karen Kuykendoll had completed her freshman year at Northwest Mississippi Community College. She was taking business classes at Northwest and wanted to be a cosmetologist, her family said.
A 2004 graduate of South Panola High School, she played basketball and ran track during her early years as a high school student.
SPHS biology teacher Michelle Toles said she counted Kuykendoll as a close friend, including the student in her wedding as a junior bridesmaid.
Kuykendoll was active in the Science Club and served as vice president her senior year, Toles said.
"She loved people and was devoted to her friends," Toles added.
SPHS English teacher Chanda Lantern said Karen often stopped by her classroom to say "Hello" and ask how her day was going. The pair were distant relatives, she said.
"Karen was a wonderful person. She had this big smile every time you saw her," Lantern said.
Services will be held at St. Paul United Methodist Church, where Kuykendoll sang in the choir.
Burial will be in New Bethlehem Cemetery in Batesville.