Headlines Cont. – 11/22/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – November 22, 2005


Bazaar shopping
     Marcus Smith (left) and Adam Contreras were among the shoppers who took advantage of the pleasant weather over the weekend to converge on artists and crafters offering their wares at a Christmas bazaar sponsored at the Batesville Readiness Center by the Answered Prayers organization. Proceeds from booth rental fees and concessions will go to aid three local children who have severe medical conditions.
Board denies reimbursement for city road improvements
By Jason C. Mattox

A request for reimbursement was denied by the Batesville Board of Aldermen during its meeting last Tuesday.

Kem Davis who owns and operates a trucking business located on the unpaved portion of McMahan Drive appeared before city leaders for a response to a claim in excess of $1,800 he submitted for gravel placed on the road.

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"I just want to know why I haven’t been paid," he said.

Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell said the city has no legal obligation to pay the claim due to the lack of a contract.

"With no contract, legally the city cannot pay this claim," he said. "This board is limited to how they can spend the money, and this is not allowed by law. It could be viewed as a donation rather than a payment for services since there is no contract."

Davis said had he known the entire street was city property, he would not have put gravel down.

"I spoke with [Street Department Superintendent] Teddy Austin and [Ward 3 Alderman] James Yelton and was told this was a private drive," he said.

Mitchell said Davis should have gone to the Panola County Courthouse to research land records rather than asking personal opinions on the street.

"You asked laymen for what is essentially a legal opinion," he said. "The best way for you to have answered your question would have been going through the public records."

Davis then asked Mitchell to explain the difference between his procedure and the city’s normal procedure.

"For one, we would have had to get two quotes for the work," Yelton answered.

Mitchell said the board has to follow legal procedures set forth by the state and federal government to spend money.

"This is not like the board of directors of a private corporation," he said. "The law tells us very clearly what we can and cannot do when it comes to spending funds."

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said she was sympathetic to the situation, but was unsure what the city could do.

"I do understand that he used his materials and labor based on information he gained from Teddy, Mr. Yelton and [former Mayor] Bobby Baker," she said. "I wish there was something we could do."

Mitchell said research into the matter led him to believe it would be illegal for the city to repay Davis for the work.

"I just wish he had come to the board and asked us to help with the work before he proceeded," Yelton said. "At least then, we would have been able to do something for him."

Fire department gets approval for ‘mule’ to haul equipment
By Jason C. Mattox

Batesville city leaders at their meeting last Tuesday approved the final payment for the construction of Tiger Drive, but only after some discussion as to whether the bill was really owed.

Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger said he thought the board made the final payment some time ago.

"Are we sure we owe this?" he asked.

City Clerk Laura Herron told the board she had looked into the matter and the city did owe the money.

"Well, is this going to be the final, final payment?" Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton asked.

The board voted unanimously to pay the final bill.

In other board business:
Engineers informed city leaders that the striping of the Downtown Square will be completed soon. It is approximately 95 percent completed now.
Aldermen set clean-up hearings at the request of Code Enforcement Office Administrator Pam Comer.
Board voted to pay Benson Roofing Company for work done in connection with the Batesville Public Library and the historic "Little Church" building on Panola Ave. The latter is owned by the city and used for a variety of public meetings.
Aldermen gave Fire Chief Tim Taylor permission to submit a request for advanced funding from Homeland Security for the purchase of a Kawasaki Mule ATV.
     The Mule would be used by firefighters to haul equipment rather than carrying it in on foot.


Child abuse nets Panola woman prison term

By Billy Davis

A year after Tri-Lakes emergency room personnel witnessed the burns and broken bones of an infant girl, the mother of the child has been sentenced to prison for felony child abuse.

Cassandra Daugherty, 26, was sentenced to a 10-year prison term Thursday, November 10 at a sentencing hearing at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville.

Circuit Judge Ann Lamar handed down Daugherty’s sentence, giving her 10 years for each of the three counts of felony child abuse.

A Panola grand jury indicted Daugherty in September on three separate counts of abuse, each count indicating a separate injury to the child: a broken left leg, a broken left arm, and burn marks on the fingers.

"Ms. Daugherty received a sentence of 30 years, 10 years per count, and each count runs consecutively," sheriff’s investigator Mark Whitten explained Monday. "She must serve the first 10 years while the remaining 20 years is suspended."

Daugherty could have received a maximum of 20 years per count under state law. She pleaded guilty to the charges in October.

The defendant was represented in court by attorney Tony Farese.

The child, now two years and five months old, has since been adopted by a Panola County family. (The Panolian does not identify victims and families in circumstances such as this).

"The child went to a good, loving home, and the family is trying to put this behind them and move on," Whitten said.

Law enforcement officers arrested Daugherty’s boyfriend, Randall Yancey Jr., during their investigation but later cleared him of all charges.

"Mr. Yancey not only cooperated with us but was helpful in the investigation," said sheriff’s investigator Barry Thompson.

The infant was 16 months old when Yancey’s sister, Stephanie Poynor, took the child to Tri-Lakes on Thanksgiving Day, 2004, court records show.

Family members witnessed the child’s injuries, including a severely swollen arm, when they gathered for the holiday. In order to take the child to seek medical care, however, Daugherty made Poynor promise she would tell hospital staff the child had been injured that day.

The story quickly fell apart, however, after x-rays showed one of the broken bones was already healing, indicating the injury had occurred weeks earlier.

Due to the injuries, the child was transported that same day from Tri-Lakes to LeBonheur Children’s Medical Hospital in Memphis.

Daugherty was arrested November 30. Yancey was arrested December 1.

In a jailhouse interview with Whitten, Daugherty said the child was burned with a "flat iron" after accidentally touching it, according to a transcript of the interview.

Asked by Whitten about the child’s broken bones, the mother said she had no explanation for the injuries.

"I don’t have one," she said. "I can’t explain it."

"Now is the time for the truth to come out," Whitten eventually told the defendant during the interview.

As part of Daugherty’s guilty plea, Lamar allowed Farese to utilize a rare court ruling, North Carolina v. Alford, as part of his client’s plea.

Similar to a no contest plea, the ruling argues that Daugherty could have been mentally impaired when she injured her daughter.

"It basically means she could have committed this crime in a certain state of mind but doesn’t remember what state of mind she was in," Whitten explained.

Neither Lamar nor Farese returned phone calls seeking comment about introducing the North Carolina v. Alford ruling to Daugherty’s sentencing.

Whitten said courtroom testimony suggested that Daugherty had a substance abuse problem, which could have factored into the abuse.

Whitten, a veteran law enforcement officer, said he had never witnessed a defense attorney utilize the North Carolina v. Alford ruling before.

Crenshaw church suffers vandalism; reward offered for information
By Rupert Howell

A $500 reward is being offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of person(s) responsible for kicking in the doors at Sought Out Ministry at 3165 Armistead Jones Road in Crenshaw.

According to Pastor Catherine H. Buck, although nothing was taken from the church building, approximately $500 worth of damage was sustained to the doors that were knocked open Thursday, November 17.

Pastor Buck said, "I have a strong idea of what happened, but I can’t prove it."

She said names of any informants would be kept confidential and person(s) with information should call the Quitman County Sheriff’s Office at 326-3131 or Buck at 382-5085.



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