| Young drivers hear plea from teacher:
| By John Howell Sr.
When Billy Kemp polled a classroom of tech prep students Wednesday, asking how many did not use the seat belts in their vehicles, over half the hands shot up.
Then he asked for their reasons.
Responses ranged from "scratches my neck" and "wrinkles my shirt" to "I don’t like the way it feels stretched across my chest."
Kemp then spent most of an hour trying to help the students consider their responses into perspective against statistics which indicate the probability of their being involved in an auto accident.
Kemp, a Franklin, Tenn., high school teacher, developed the program "Be in the ‘Click’ " after auto accidents claimed a number of students’ lives in his area.
The program promotes seat belt use among all ages but targets young drivers in schools.
Prompted by a number of deaths from auto accidents among young people in the Panola County area, Batesville Fire Department Fire and Life Safety Officer Rip Copeland brought the program to South Panola this week.
Batesville Allstate agent Eddy Stokes joined Copeland’s effort as sponsor to help provide informational materials
Kemp uses audio-visual material, incentives, awareness campaigns, peer pressure, surveys and anything else he can think of to convince students to utilize their seat belts.
"High schools across Williamson County had an average increase of 12 percent in seat belt usage the first year of county-wide implementation," he states.
By the end of 2002, the percentage among school age drivers in the "Click" program had grown to 85 percent, 10 percent higher than the national average and 25 percent higher than the average for Tennessee, he said.
Stokes admitted that he was initially a reluctant seat belt user.
"I was one of those guys who got mad when they passed laws making it mandatory," he said.
Since then he has become a believer in seat belt use, placing the resources of his agency in support of the local "Click" efforts just as Allstate has thrown in support for the program in Tennessee.
On Thursday, representatives of the Mississippi Department of Transportation brought in an unexpected adjunct to the "Click" program: A specially-constructed pickup which allows the cab to roll in a simulation of a 35 miles-per-hour crash.
Crash dummies placed inside were consistently thrown from the revolving cab; belted crash dummies stayed inside.
Copeland and Batesville Police Department School Resource Officer Karen Stewart surveyed for seat belt usage on Monday and observed 57 percent unbuckled as they drove into the school parking lot.
Another survey will be conducted following this week’s "Be in the ‘Click’" program.
| Jury convicts man for 2003 shooting
| By Billy Davis
A Panola County circuit jury this week found a Senatobia man guilty of aggravated assault during a fight in the Fred’s parking lot in Batesville in 2003.
After nearly a half-day of deliberation Tuesday, the jury of seven men and six women agreed that Alex Dewon Bradley, 24, shot and wounded Clifton Jackson, apparently disagreeing with Bradley’s contention that he acted in self defense.
Aggravated assault involves the use of a deadly weapon. The maximum sentence is 20 years in state prison, state sentencing guidelines show.
Court testimony that began Monday included both Bradley and Jackson, supposed witnesses of the shooting, and an emergency room physician who treated Jackson.
Bradley used a semi-automatic pistol to shoot Jackson in the left shin.
Circuit Judge Ann Lamar presided over the two-day trial, which was held at the county courthouse in Batesville.
The shooting occurred December 27, 2003, when Bradley and Jackson met at Fred’s prepared to fight, court testimony revealed. The argument was over Bradley’s girlfriend, who had once dated Jackson.
"This was supposed to be a fistfight, but a shooting broke out," Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday morning.
Bradley’s court-appointed attorney, David Walker, told jurors that Bradley had feared for his life when the towering Jackson, a former South Panola football player, charged at him.
"Mr. Bradley had a weapon, his gun," Walker said. "Mr. Jackson had his own weapon, his hands."
Walker suggested to jurors that Bradley "had a right to stand his ground that day. That’s what he did."
Kelly reminded jurors that Bradley was known to carry a firearm, describing him as "armed and dangerous."
Also see for these articles:
| Townsend Visits
| Breanna Bland of Jackie Johnson’s class at Batesville Elementary School wrote in her journal about Deshea Townsend’s visit to school Thursday morning then read it to him. He autographed the journal entry for her. Townsend, cornerback for the Superbowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, was in town this week and decided to visit the school. More information on C1.
| Fender bender led to high-dollar find
| By John Howell Sr.
Officials with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN) are seeking the owner of $236,434 seized in Panola County last week.
The guy in whose car it was found said it wasn’t his. He said he didn’t even know it was there.
The sequence of events that leads to a summons "To unknown owner(s)" in today’s legal section began March 15 when Ricardo B. Lopez of Brownsville, Texas was involved in a minor traffic accident on Interstate 55 just north of its intersection with Highway 6.
"He was trying to brush it off, acting real nervous, didn’t want an accident report," the investigating officer said.
Lopez was driving a Ford Focus. As the officer examined the vehicle, he found a false compartment. "There’s a real big area under the windshield; they take the airbag out and alter it," he said.
"When I found the money, I thought it was dope," the officer continued. Pulling open the compartment further for a closer look, he recognized cash.
"He acted like he didn’t know it was there," the officer said. "He’s probably just a mule; he’s been busted before for drugs and money."
"If you are the owner of the defendant’s money and you wish to contest the forfeiture of said money," the summons on page C9 states, "you need to get in touch with Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics senior attorney Brad Henry."
The local officer turned the money over to MBN agents. Of course, attorney Henry may have a few questions for the owner.
The local officer who made the arrest that resulted in the confiscation would rather remain anonymous.
After all, there’s somebody out there who is not real happy about the loss of almost a quarter million dollars.
| Supervisors hope letter will stop cake-and-eat-it-too jobs
| By Billy Davis
The municipalities of Batesville, Sardis and Como will soon receive a letter from Panola County reminding them that the county road department isn’t obliged to fix their streets so long as they hold onto road maintenance funds that once went to the county.
Panola County supervisors voted unanimously Monday at a recess meeting to send the letter to the three municipalities, citing repeated requests for street projects.
According to supervisors’ account Monday, the three municipalities approached the county in the past and requested that they keep their allotment of millage monies that are designated for road maintenance.
Crenshaw, Pope and Courtland are still allowing the county to keep their funds as part of the maintenance agreement, supervisors also said.
Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean broached the subject Monday when his report turned to Como’s recent request for a donated tractor and cutting equipment.
The suggestion for a letter came from Bill McKenzie, board attorney for the board of supervisors.
"Right now we’re looking at this tractor, but every month or every six weeks it seems like there’s some request coming from these cities," McKenzie told the supervisors.
District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant agreed with McKenzie’s idea to address the situation with a letter, saying any county work done for Sardis, Como and Batesville is unfair to the smaller municipalities.
"I think we should just cut it off," Avant said, referring to street work.
District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup noted that Batesville and Sardis are operating under new leadership, wondering aloud if the new mayors are aware of what their predecessors did in past years.
Waldrup made a motion to send a letter to the three cities, which was seconded by District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins.
|In other county business:
||Supervisors instructed county engineer Larry Britt to work at a quickened pace to make improvements to the Panola County Airport.
The project, which Britt inherited as county engineer, calls for electrical and telephone wires to be placed underground around the runway.
The vote Monday officially put the project under Britt’s supervision.
||Supervisors voted to accept the preliminary development of the Amberly Cove subdivision on Cottonplant Road.
Supervisors voted to accept developer Robert Chapman’s preliminary plat because of past engineering problems beyond Chapman’s control, also telling him that the next phase of development will go before the Panola County Land Development Commission.
||Bean advised supervisors that he would like to place a receiving clerk at the courthouse in Batesville in the same office used by Chancery Court Judge Mitch Lundy.
Supervisors asked County Administrator David Chandler to talk to Lundy about the request.