Headlines Cont. – 2/17/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2006

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – February 17, 2006


Panther spotter has photo to back up his sighting stories
By John Howell Sr.

Roy Durham has been seeing panthers near his home in the Enid Dam backwaters for over 20 years. This week he produced a photo that he said proves it.

Officials of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks are skeptical.

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That’s been the official position of the state’s wildlife experts for years. And for years people all over the state have claimed to have seen the elusive creatures.

"We get reports of panthers all year, ever since I was a kid", said Conservation Officer Supervisor Charlie Ingram. "We’ve never had any legible tracks or photos."

Durham took his photo last summer "when the ground was so hard that you’d have to put his paw down on the ground and hit it with a mallet to get a track," he said.

"I took one (photo) and then was going to make him look at me, so I whistled, and when I took the picture he was gone; I snapped the shot and got nothing." The tail of the feline in question is not visible in the photo, but it appears to drape over the opposite side of the limb over which its body is stretched. Durham said that when he has seen the cats at other times, a long tail has been visible. Once he saw the feline in his back yard, sitting on its haunches "like a little puppy."

"We’ve seen him a bunch of times," Durham added. And heard him. "When it screams it sounds like a woman, then kind of trails off," he said. He described the feline as "black as tar" and about 34 to 36 inches long.

That raises a flag for Richard Rummel of the Mississippi Museum Natural Science who said that the variety of panther that was once native to this part of Mississippi was a variation of the Florida panther. "There’s never been a black one in North America," Rummel said.

There are some black variations among leopards and jaguars, Rummel said. "I’ve been checking on cat sightings for years," he added. The last sightings of Florida panthers in most southeastern states came around the beginning of the 20th century with some isolated sightings as late as the 1920s, Rummel continued.

John Audubon during his float trip down the Mississippi River to study and draw the flora and fauna wrote of encountering the panthers in the Coldwater River bottom.

"I feel like if we have any (panthers) in this state, somewhere somebody would have run over one, Ingram said.

Payment plan approved for county garbage service customer
By Billy Davis

Panola County’s solid waste department has worked out a payment plan with a county resident who owed about $1,400 in overdue bills.

Susan Hyde’s overdue garbage fee is now about half that amount after she showed proof a county garbage can was unnecessary, County Administrator David Chandler said Monday.

Hyde operated a business from her home and used a BFI dumpster to toss her trash, Chandler told The Panolian following supervisors’ "second Monday" meeting in Batesville.

"From September of ?04 she didn’t have (a container), so we’re charging her from that date on," Chandler said.

A payment agreement was set up between Hyde and the solid waste department, he said, and she will pay $33 a month until the bill is paid.

"If she violates the agreement, she goes straight to justice court," the county administrator said.

Hyde pleaded with supervisors at their February 7 meeting to work out a deal, saying her family is in financial distress and she had no way to pay.
Supervisors took no action on the matter, telling Hyde they would look into her situation and contact her later.

After The Panolian included Hyde’s story in the Tuesday newspaper, Chandler said the solid waste office was flooded with phone calls, faxes and e-mails from customers, most of them demanding that the county require Hyde to pay her garbage bill.

The Panolian also fielded several phone calls from customers demanding the same thing.

Panola county’s monthly solid waste fee is $11 for a weekly pickup.

When the bill reaches $44, it is considered delinquent and the matter is turned over to a collection agency. The customer’s car tag is also "flagged" in the county tax collector’s office until the bill is paid or payment is arranged.

In other county business:
Supervisors voted to write a check to the City of Sardis for its share of property taxes on the old North Panola Hospital.
     Sardis Mayor Rusty Dye made the request formal. The three-year total was $34,911.56.
Supervisors voted to name road department employee James Wilbourn shop foreman on a trial basis. He replaces Charlie James, who is leaving.
     Road manager Lygunnah Bean made the request. Wilbourn’s monthly pay was set at $3,155.
Supervisors approved the hiring of a solid waste driver at $1,700 at the request of solid waste manager Dean Joiner.
Supervisors approved two separate bids for a tar tank pad and electrical lines at the Courtland shop.
     Custom Building beat out two competitors with a bid of $1,490 for the pad. Beard Electric won the bid for wiring with a bid of $2,294.98.
Sheriff "Shot" Bright informed supervisors the department is hiring Billy E. Lambert as a sheriff’s deputy to replace a deputy who is leaving.
     Lambert is a Batesville police officer.
Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock sought to remind the public that the county courthouses and other county offices will be closed Monday, February 20 for President’s Day.
Memorial fund grows with donations to honor memory of Brandon Presley
The fund to build a new athletic facility at North Delta School is growing as friends of the late Brandon Presley send memorial donations to his memorial fund.

Marine Corporal Brandon Presley, a 2002 North Delta graduate, died in Iraq December 14 when a suicide bomber detonated a bomb near his truck.

Presley played football and basketball at North Delta and was a member of the 2000 AAA championship team.

"Brandon made some of his best memories playing sports at North Delta, said his grandmother, Mary Frances Woods.

The school plans to build a new facility that will serve the football, baseball and girls softball fields with a concession area, restrooms, and a pressbox-style upper observation area.

"North Delta School wants to honor the memory of this special graduate with the project," North Delta Headmaster Herman Coats said. "We will share with our current and future students the story of Brandon’s service to our country."

A special account has been established at First Security Bank. A contribution can be made by making a check out to the Brandon Presley Memorial Fund and sending it to North Delta School, 330 Green Wave Lane, Batesville, MS 38606.

Free trees available today at USDA center
The Panola County Soil and Water Conservation District will give away trees in observance of Tree Planting Week. The trees will be given away on Friday, February 17 at 8 a.m.

Varieties available include Loblolly pine, Bald Cypress, Cherrybark Oak, Sawtooth Oak, Willow Oak and Redbud. The trees will be given away at the new USDA Service Center at 175 Broom Ridge Road in Batesville. (Turn left just west of the Amerihost Inn. The center is located in the large red brick building.) For more information call 578-8045 ext. 3.

Cold Case Unit commended
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s Cold Case Unit in Batesville has again "played a significant role in helping to solve" truck stop serial killings, MBI head Lt. Col. Michael Berthay said.

An investigation in which two suspects were detained in connection with a 2004 murder case involving a 25-year-old Memphis woman whose body was discovered in Mississippi was announced this week.

Memphis police have charged Clara Diane Lincks of Lafayette, Ind., for her role in the murder of Misty Ann Nelson, whose body was dumped alongside U.S Hwy. 78 in Union County, near Myrtle. Police are still questioning a second suspect.

The Union County Sheriff’s Department and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, along with the MBI’s Cold Case Unit, got their break in the case last week when authorities received information that led to the detention in Lake Station, Ind., of Lincks along with a male suspect who is a truck driver.

"We’re acting like a clearing house for these serial killer investigations," MBI Cold Case Unit Director Steve Chancellor said. "We get all the information and put it into a time line."

Cold case investigators gathered tracking data from trucking companies and combined it with other information to create the time lines, Chancellor said.

The Cold Case Unit has also handled DNA testing during the investigations. "We were able to expedite DNA testing using a federal grant, the director said, receiving test results back in about a week.

"We are allowing detectives to get out and walk and talk," Chancellor said. The Union County murder is the third truck stop murder investigation for the Cold Case Unit.

"These include the cases on Jennifer Hyman, whose body was discovered in 2003 in Lafayette County, Miss., and Samantha Patrick, whose body was discovered in 2002 in Yukon, Okla."

MBI agents are cooperating with Memphis authorities in the investigation of Nelson’s murder.

Steelmatic moving toward March opening
By Jason C. Mattox

With new equipment for Steelmatic Wire on order, the City of Sardis expects the company to hit its projected opening on March 1.

Steelmatic will employ 10-15 skilled laborers and will manufacture zinc-coated wire.

Chad Wages of Mendrop-Wages Engineering of Jackson, told Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye and the Board of Aldermen of the progress during a meeting last Tuesday night.

"They have some equipment in the building already, and more on order," he said. "But they are looking at potential expansion in the future and may need more."

Wages said alterations to the building could begin soon.

"They know they may have to pay for further modifications to the building," Dye explained. "But they are still hoping to open the doors by March 1."

In other board business:
Aldermen adopted a resolution to present to the Mississippi Department of Transportation to allow the repositioning of the "Welcome to Sardis" sign on Interstate 55.
Lindel’s Furniture owner Delores Hignight was granted permission to put an apartment in back of her store on Main Street provided she will be living in it.
Board members adopted a resolution to present to the Panola County Board of Supervisors asking for city taxes on the North Panola Hospital Building out of the hospital fund.
     "The county got its tax money out of the hospital fund to keep the building from going into the tax sale," Dye said.
Dye informed aldermen the Panola County Narcotics Task Force expected to move into a building on the North Panola Hospital property in the near future.




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