Headlines – 11/25/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 25, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – November 25, 2005

  From the 11/25/05 issue of The Panolian :                    

Bright takes office after narrow run-off win
Griffin will be No. 2 in department   
     Hugh "Shot" Bright takes the oath of office Wednesday morning for Panola County sheriff as wife Mary Nell looks on. Bright narrowly defeated Craig Sheley to win the public office, emerging the victor in a field once crowded with 11 candidates.
By Billy Davis

Twelve hours after winning the sheriff’s race with a razor-thin victory, Hugh "Shot" Bright raised his right hand Wednesday morning at 10:05 and took the oath of office.

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"I thank all y’all for your support, and I’ll be there if you need me," Bright told more than 100 supporters in the county courtroom in Batesville.

During a break in a chancery court session, Judge Melvin McClure administered the oath of office to Bright in a five-minute ceremony.

Bright was sworn in immediately to complete the remaining two years in the term of the late Sheriff David Bryan, completing a race crowded with 11 candidates.

In a run-off election that was expected to be close, Bright defeated opponent Craig Sheley by 385 votes of 8,140 ballots cast.

The unofficial vote tally was 4,229 votes for Bright, the jail administrator, and 3,844 for Sheley, the chief deputy.

Sheley could not be reached by press time for comment regarding the outcome of the election.

Asked about his immediate plans for the department, Bright told The Panolian that he planned to address Wednesday two issues of the campaign: complaints of poor work by sheriff’s deputies and poor coverage in the county.
"We’re going to get these deputies out in the county and rolling, and taking care of business in a proper way," Bright said. "There will be more vehicles in the neighborhoods."

Bright said the department would also divide the county into four patrol areas Wednesday, utilizing an idea that surfaced among candidates during the race.

"It may work and it may not work, and if it don’t it won’t," Bright said. "But we’re going to at least try that."

Bright said deputy sheriff Otis Griffin would serve as chief deputy.

The new sheriff said department employees who were candidates in the sheriff’s race, namely Mark Whitten and Jamie Tedford, would remain with the department if they wished.

Tedford was picked by the late sheriff to serve on the county drug task force through his job with the Batesville Police Department. He works with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Oxford.

Whitten is an investigator with the sheriff’s department.

Bright said he also intends to retain investigator Barry Thompson, whose father Gary ran for sheriff.
Also following the ceremony, sheriff’s employee Robbie Willis handed Bright the keys to a white Suburban, the department vehicle he parked in August when interim Sheriff Ida Bryan put him on administrative leave amidst a state investigation of the jail.

After remaining neutral in the race, the interim sheriff publicly backed Sheley in the final weeks, saying he was her late husband’s pick for sheriff.

Bright agreed Wednesday that the suspension helped portray him as the victim of politics, which in turn swayed voters to back him in the race.

"I just think that the administrative leave was against me in the political race," Bright said. "I just don’t like dirty politics and a lot of people don’t like it either."

Last week, during an election eve interview, Bright said he expected the investigation would die away due to its political motivations.

Bright remained on administrative leave from August until the Wednesday ceremony, where he switched from a suspended sheriff’s department employee to the leader of the department with the oath of office.

With the keys in hand, Bright jumped in his Suburban after the courtroom ceremony and headed north to the department to start to work.

Blood drive planned at Parker
Parker Hannifin will be holding a blood drive on Wednesday, December 7. The blood drive will be held from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mississippi Blood Services will have a donor coach in the parking lot. All donors will receive a T-shirt.

All donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and have a valid ID.

"Mississippi Blood Services appreciates all of the caring individuals who are dedicated to helping save lives by donating blood," said Wendy Copeland, MBS public relations manager. "Please help Mississippi Blood Services by donating blood every 56 days."

MBS offers a "mini physical" before each donation to ensure the process is safe for the donor and the recipient.

Trial date set in case of accused murderer

By Billy Davis

A trial date for Sardis bail bondsman Johnny Green has been set for March 6 of next year, court documents filed last week show.

Green is accused of murdering bail client Ricky Taylor Jr. in the early-morning hours of July 23.

A Panola County grand jury indicted Green, 59, in October for the murder of Taylor, 33.

The defendant is represented by Ashland attorney Tony Farese.

Farese filed a plea of not guilty on behalf of his client November 16, court filings show, after first inquiring about a plea offer from the district attorney’s office November 9.

Green has been out on bond since a September bond hearing in which Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker reduced the defendant’s bond from $1 million to $100,000.

Farese had requested the hearing almost immediately after Justice Court Judge James Appleton set Green’s bond at $1 million at an August 2 preliminary hearing.

Baker set the new bond with restrictions that Green have no contact with the Taylor family and not perform his duties as a licensed bail bondsman.

Baker ruled on the lower bond over the objection of Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly and testimony from Taylor’s family, including his mother, father and an aunt.

In an interview earlier this summer, Barbara Taylor said Green came to their home and left with her son shortly before he was found dead on Old Panola Road.

"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.

At the August preliminary hearing, Farese used the opportunity to hammer away at the prosecution’s case, building both a self-defense case and a conspiracy case over numerous objections from Kelly.

Then-Chief Deputy Craig Sheley acknowledged in court that Taylor had been a confidential drug informant and Green had fingered a suspected drug dealer, Ricky Nelson, in Taylor’s murder during a jailhouse interview.

BPD: bad guys merry at distracted shoppers
By Jason C. Mattox

For most, Christmas is a time of giving. For some, unfortunately, it is also a time of taking.

According to Lt. Col. Tony Jones of the Batesville Police Department, Christmas shopping doesn’t always happen in stores and shopping malls.

"Every year, it is common to see people who had their cars broken into while they were shopping," he said. "The bad part about it is they could have prevented it."

Jones said purses are big targets for people who might be doing their illegal shopping during the holidays.

"Women need to keep a close eye on their purses," he said. "The smartest thing to do is make sure the purse is on your body."

Jones said in the case a person decides to leave their purse in the car, it should never be left in the front seat.

"If you are going to leave the purse in the car, it needs to be out of sight," he said. "The best place to put it would be the trunk."

As for packages, Jones suggests putting them in the trunk as well.

"If people come along and see all the packages in the car, it won’t even matter what it is," he said. "They can just take it and throw it away if they don’t like it."

In addition to using extra care during shopping trips, Jones said people should also be aware of several scams they could fall victim to.

The three main scams Jones warned about were:
  – Door-to-door salesmen
  – Home repair scams
  – Pigeon drop scams

"The biggest of these is the pigeon drop scam where people will think they are holding onto a lot of money and find out they are holding a wad of paper," he said.

Jones did say some people are beginning to wise up to scam artists.

"You are starting to see people who think they are being taken advantage of call the police," he said. "People should remember, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is."

If anyone believes they are being scammed, they are encouraged to contact the Batesville Police Department at 563-5653.

Brush fire embers set pasture, barn ablaze
By Billy Davis

Embers from a brush fire were carried uphill by blustery winds Tuesday morning, leveling a shed before spreading to a barn and pasture land.

In the Sherwood Forest subdivision southwest of Batesville, the blackened brush fire was still smoldering as nearby firefighters filled up their trucks at a Nottingham Drive fire hydrant.

Up the hill, Batesville firefighters doused the remains of the old barn, pulling back pieces of twisted tin to drown the remaining hot spots.

Over the hill, brush trucks from Bynum and Mt. Olivet fire departments beat back a pasture fire that was gobbling up the dry grass.

As the brush trucks worked their way around a black semi-circle, Batesville firefighters used "flappers" to knock back the spreading grass fire.

The call for help came from Larry Beard, a Tri-Star Mechanical employee who had cleared the house site and set the brush on fire earlier that morning.

"I was working on the trackhoe and looked up and saw the shed on fire," said Beard.

"The weather report said the wind was going to be calm today," Beard continued. "I didn’t think it would do what it did."

The morning winds were strong, however, gusting enough to keep firefighters attacking the grassfire from attacking the flames head-on. The firefighters instead attacked the fire at its left flank, ensuring they could escape if the wind shifted direction.

Landowner Kenneth Brasell said the barn was a total loss due to the fire. The structure dated back to the ’20s or ’30s, he said.

"I’ve got photos of my grandfather standing in front of it," Brasell said.

Brasell’s wife, Teresa, said she was angry that Beard had set the fire despite high winds and dry weather.

"The weather report I saw said wind gusts of 15 to 20 miles an hour," she said. "It was ridiculous, just ridiculous."

Panola County was not under a burn ban at the time of Tuesday’s brush fire, said Daniel Cole, assistant fire coordinator for the the county civil defense office.



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