| Ford pickup gets bath in Sardis lake bottom
| By Billy Davis
Four members of the Panola County Dive Team performed a rescue mission Saturday morning at Sardis Lower Lake, where they recovered a water-logged Ford F-250 pickup about 75 yards from the shore line.
Panola sheriff’s deputy Clint Roberson, who participated in the dive, relayed the incident to The Panolian Monday morning. He also provided photos of the scene.
Roberson did not name the owner, citing the obvious embarrassment of the incident.
At about 10 p.m. Friday night, the truck’s owner parked at a boat ramp near the state campgrounds to get a good look at the lake, Roberson said.
"He said he wanted to look at the water, and he thought he put the truck in park," Roberson said. "He was standing on the boat ramp when his truck rolled right past him."
About 12 hours later, diver Daniel Cole swam into the muddy waters of the lower lake to search for the vehicle. He found the truck about 25 minutes later in about 25 feet of water.
"Visibility is very poor. There is actually no visibility," Cole said of the dive. "You stay close to the bottom and feel around, and you work in a pattern."
Cole said he found the front bumper of the truck first, then felt around the grill, antenna and a front tire. At the back of the truck, he tied a search rope to the towing ball.
Roberson dove in next, Cole said, bringing a tow truck cable with him as he followed the rope to the truck.
While Cole and Roberson searched the dark waters, divers Mark Whitten and Justin Maples assisted from shore in the search of the vehicle.
The driver has only liability insurance on the vehicle, the deputy also said.
"He couldn’t watch it come out of the water. He asked us to take him back home," Roberson said.
The eight-member Panola County Dive Team is part of the Panola County Search and Rescue Team.
| Tractor Supply will build in Batesville
| By Billy Davis
A Batesville family has sold property in east Batesville to Nashville-based retailer Tractor Supply Co.
Joyce Whitaker confirmed last week that the Nashville-based farm and ranch retail store purchased four acres of land from her family.
The acreage is located east of the Harry B’s convenience store along Highway 6, Whitaker said.
A farm supply store, Tractor Supply stocks items such as work clothing, equine, animal and pet supplies, fencing materials, seasonal products, and various tools and hardware.
TSC started as a mail order tractor part business in 1938. Yearly revenues are now topping more than $1 billion from nearly 600 stores in 34 states.
A TSC spokeswoman, Susan Morgenstern, confirmed the purchase of the property Friday, saying a 19,000-square-foot building should be ready to open on the site by September.
A Nashville-based company actually purchased the property from the Whitaker family, and TSC is leasing the site from that company, she said.
The Batesville location will be the third TSC store in Mississippi, coming after locations in Horn Lake and Tupelo. It will employ 12 to 14 full-time and part-time employees, the spokeswoman said.
"When TSC begins hiring, it will be looking for experienced horse owners, welders and farmers," the spokeswoman said. "The store wants experienced people who can help customers with any needs they have."
Morgenstern had said last month that the company is "very interested in" opening a store in Batesville but had not inked a deal to locate here.
The coming Tractor Supply store will be the latest commercial growth in east Batesville, coming barely a month after DeSoto County developer Alvan Kelly announced plans for the Covenant Crossing development.
The Mi Pueblo Mexican restaurant chain announced last week that it has purchased one and a half acres at Covenant with plans to build a new restaurant in about two years.
The announcement from Tractor Supply shows that Batesville can attract large retailers, Mayor Jerry Autrey said Monday.
"What these people are looking at is your population and how you pull people from other towns," Autrey said. "What Tractor Supply shows is that they believe we have the population and the pull."
| Tardy trustee holds up meet
| By Jason C. Mattox
After waiting for more than an hour to assemble a quorum Friday morning, the North Panola School District Board of Trustees met to conduct 11 disciplinary hearings.
As many as 30 people present for the hearings were forced to wait for District 3 trustee Tracy Thompson, who was tardy for the meeting.
Confusion apparently stemmed from a misprint on the agenda that board members had received which stated the meeting would begin at 10 a.m.
"We set the time (9 a.m.) at our regular meeting on Monday (March 20)," Board president Cecil Dowden said as he and trustee Billy Russell waited patiently for a third board member.
Once the meeting began, the board unanimously approved pay claims for March.
With that item of business concluded, the board moved into executive session for several hours to conduct student disciplinary hearings.
Board attorney Alix Sanders of Greenwood told The Panolian Monday the hearings ended with two students being expelled and nine being moved to the North Panola Alternative School.
| North Panola High will seek new head after Carter jumps to new job
| By Jason C. Mattox
For the second time in as many years, North Panola High School will be looking for a new principal for the upcoming school year.
The opening was created when current principal Lucinda Carter accepted the position of assistant superintendent for the North Panola School District.
Carter will assume the duties of her new job, left vacant when Glendora Dugger was named Superintendent, on July 1.
Dugger said the district would begin advertising for a new high school principal in the near future.
"It is very important to us in the district to find the best administrators we can," she said. "Lucinda Carter has done a wonderful job for us this year, but we see her playing a larger role in the district next year."
Calls to Carter were not returned by press time.
| Roofers continued removing damaged shingles from the First Baptist Church in Sardis on Monday. The roof was damaged when a tornado moved through town earlier this month. Upon completion, the church’s topper will have a new look for the first time in decades as the new shingles will not be green.
| Service Wed. for murder victim
| By Billy Davis
A funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday for a man who was killed in a brutal slaying last week in Midtown Memphis.
The service for James "Jamie" Smith is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Wells Funeral Home in Batesville. Burial will be at Chapel Hill Cemetery in Pope.
Smith has relatives from Pope and Courtland that include his father, Ricky C. Smith, of Pope.
Tim Ellis, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, will officiate the service.
The bodies of Smith, 23, and his wife Stephanie Smith, 21, were discovered last Thursday, March 23, in the attic of their suspected murderer, Larry Mosely of Memphis. They had been missing for more than a week.
Mosely and his father, Frank Mosely, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., were killed last Friday in a gun battle with police near Coldwater, The Commercial Appeal reported over the weekend.
Mosely, who is Jamie Smith’s uncle, would have been charged with the double murder, press reports state.
Money could have been a motive, a police spokesman told the newspaper.
Stephanie Smith withdrew "a large sum of money" from the bank on March 16, the spokesman said.
The couple lived in a duplex next to Mosely at 767 East Parkway South, which is located near the Mid-South Fairgrounds.
Any funeral arrangements for Stephanie Smith were not received by The Panolian by press time Monday.
See page A2 for a full obituary.
| ‘Dust on the Bottle’ crooner will be
| By Jason C. Mattox
This year’s SpringFest headliner will be looking for a party crowd when he rolls into Batesville Saturday, May 20.
David Lee Murphy, fresh from completion of his fourth album, will bring his high-energy stage show to the Downtown Square as he performs hits like the rowdy anthem "Party Crowd," the stirring "Dust on the Bottle," the hokey "Every Time I Get Around You," and the soulful "Road You Leave Behind."
"Dust on the Bottle," arguably the biggest hit of Murphy’s career, spent several weeks on the country music charts and on the CMT Top 10 Countdown. It also led to an Academy of County Music Award nomination for New Male Vocalist.
Murphy’s new album is "Tryin’ To Get There."
Batesville Main Street Manager Colleen Clark said David Lee Murphy should put on a show that will satisfy the SpringFest crowd.
"We are excited about having David Lee Murphy in town," Clark told The Panolian early last week. "He has had a strong radio presence in recent years, and should really put on a good show for the crowd."
Past SpringFest headliners have included Cheley Wright, who played last year, and Steve Azar.
SpringFest is the city’s annual two-day festival that features a variety of musical acts, a carnival for children and concessions prepared by local churches, businesses and civic clubs.
Other bands and performers are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Murphy’s show time has not been announced.
| Yearly ritual at SP includes 307 rehires for teaching slots; 950 on district payroll
| By Rupert Howell
South Panola School District trustees approved Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer’s recommendation to rehire 307 certified district personnel during the monthly meeting held Tuesday, March 21.
That number does not include 22 administrative staff members and district directors who were recommended for hire during the February meet.
Nor does it include non-certified positions such as office and maintenance workers, bus drivers and substitute teachers or teaching assistants.
District Finance Director Suzanne Covington told trustees that she provides approximately 950 W-2 forms which represent the total number of all employees, full and part time, who work in the school district during a calendar year.
While the majority of the 307 teachers recommended for employment hold the A-license,
a minimum requirement for a certified teacher,
97 hold an AA license or above and 30 of those recommended are nationally board certified teachers.
The board certification is awarded after successful completion of rigorous national board requirements.
Although the teachers were recommended for re-employment, contracts will not be ready to sign until after the Mississippi Legislature approves a funding package, probably in early May, according to the finance director.
While approving the personnel package during the monthly meeting, trustees also accepted the resignation and retirement notices of nine district teachers.
Resignations accepted included Virginia Estes, Reagan Johnston and Virginia Mills from Batesville Junior High School, and Pat Hendren and Karla Hayne from South Panola High School.
Retirement notices included: Vernetta Price, Becky Cox and Susan Roberson of Batesville Middle School and Norva Kitchens from South Panola High School.
Dr. Joe Gardner, who serves as the vice president of the trustee board, presided during the March meeting as President Lygunnah Bean was absent. Parker Still served as legal counsel in the absence of attorney Colmon Mitchell.
Other members of the board include Dr. Carlock Broome, Kim Renfroe and Sarah Dell Gray.
Others attending the meeting were school principals and transportation director Robert Chapman.