Headlines – 3/13/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – March 13, 2007

  From the 03/13/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Truck driver not in Tennessee but in big trouble
BPD finds drugs after 18-wheeler hits concrete post
     The search of an 18-wheeler (background) at Maggie T’s Saturday yielded a roll of cash, apparent crystal meth, pills containing controlled substances and three pistols, including the Tec-9 in officer Scott Cagle‘s left hand. Cagle (front right) and Sgt. Kerry Pittman (second from right) were at Maggie T’s when the truck collided with a post. They were assisted by officer Charlie Tindall (from left) and Detective George Williford.
By John Howell

For the driver of an 18-wheeler who first attracted attention at Maggie T’s Saturday morning by colliding with a concrete-filled post protecting the fuel pump, the mishap was not his biggest miscalculation.

Later, as arresting officer Scott Cagle transported the driver to the Panola County jail to be held for investigation of firearms and drugs violations, he told the officer, "’Y’all keep telling me I’m in Mississippi; I’m in Tennessee,’" Cagle said he insisted.

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The incident was as bizarre as the driver’s miscalculations. Two guys in a late-model Freightliner pulling a flatbed trailer, empty except for the folded tarpaulins strapped onto the bed, pulled off for fuel at the intersection of Interstate 55 and Highway 35. They then drove onto the Maggie T’s lot, circled to the back for access to the series of fuel pumps at the north side of the building.

The truck struck the guard post with enough force to cave in the left corner of the truck’s bumper and to attract the attention an employee inside, who alerted Cagle and Sergeant Kerry Pittman. The driver then "backed up and pulled back," Cagle said, with enough room to clear the guard post on his second try.

"They saw him do it. He ran into one of the poles and pulled back, parked and kind of lurched forward," after they got the truck aligned with the pump, Pittman said.

The officers walked to the truck, if for no other reason than to convey the store policy that drivers aren’t allowed to sleep in trucks on the lot, much less so while their vehicles are parked at the fuel pump.

Pittman said that when his knocking on the cab door aroused the driver aroused sufficiently to open it, he spotted a small plastic bag that contained an apparent drug, giving the officer sufficient probable cause to search the vehicle.

"It was in plain view," Pittman said.

Assistant Police Chief Don Province later said that once the driver had stopped, he apparently "leaned over the steering wheel, passed out."

Province, Police Chief Tony Jones, Detective George Williford and other officers joined Pittman and Cagle at the scene.

The officers said that the drug and the smell of fumes inside the cab appeared to be "crystal meth," the drug methamphetamine hydrochloride.
Users of crystal meth often stay awake for long periods. Pittman said that the two men were possibly coming down from a sustained period of methamphetamine use when they slumped forward in the cab.

"Just imagine him going down I-55, and he’s asleep," Jones said.

The initial search of the truck cab and the two men yielded several small plastic bags that appeared to contain crystal meth, assorted pills, three pistols, a small quantity of marijuana and a roll of cash of sufficient size to fit the "big enough to choke a goat" clich? – about $2,000, Province said later.

The passenger, John Michael Dishroon of Palmer, Tenn., has been charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, one count of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to Province.

Past charges lodged against Dishroon include reckless endangerment with a firearm, possession of a controlled substance, use of firearm in commission of a felony and possession of explosives, Province said. The information about previous charges was obtained on the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC), he added.

The driver, David Levon Byers Jr. of Monteagle, Tenn., has been charged with driving under influence of a controlled substance and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. No prior criminal history was indicated on NCIC for Byers, the assistant chief said.

"He’s not a convicted felon so there wouldn’t be any charge for the guns on him," Province said.

After the initial search of the cab, the truck was pulled to the side of the lot to allow drug dogs to sniff the vehicle. Batesville Police Sgt. Ruby Meyers waited with her newly-acquired dog in her car while state trooper Dennis Darby allowed his dog to sniff the truck from bumper to taillight.

"My dog won’t be certified until April," Meyers said. "It will be his first 18-wheeler."

Darby brought his dog out of his vehicle, let him get acclimated to the surroundings and then brought out the tennis ball that serves as the dog’s reward and incentive to go to work.

Meyers dog barked furiously from inside the vehicle in which he was confined while Darby’s dog worked.

"He hit on that door panel," Darby said when his dog had walked the perimeter of the truck and trailer.

Meyers then brought out her dog which also indicated a "hit" in the same place. The dogs indicated the hit by sitting at the spot, Darby said.

Officers then combed the interior of the cab and sleeping confines of the truck, locating additional pills and tablets that ultimately proved to be an assortment of pain relievers and anti-depressants, Province said.

When officers had searched Dishroon, they found a Walther .380 caliber pistol in his right boot, Province said.

A Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 magnum revolver was found in a zipped case in the cab, and a "Tec-9" was also found in the cab. With the Tec-9 was either a barrel extension or a silencer, Province said.

Province said that BPD officers would contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms whose agents will determine if federal charges are warranted. Dishroon and Byers are held in the Panola County Jail.

Supervisors hear request for upgraded computers
By Billy Davis

The computer systems at the county courthouses in Batesville and Sardis are overdue for an upgrade that will cost about $100,000, Panola County supervisors learned Monday.

The urge to improve the IBM computers came from county purchase clerk Carolyn Mills, whose request was seconded by Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock.

"When I run checks for payroll, everything else in the courthouse slows to a crawl," Pitcock said. "It’s really gotten aggravating."

Mills said the computer memory is at 70-percent capacity.

Mills told supervisors the current computer system is now in its seventh year, two years more than the typical system is expected to perform.

Supervisors agreed to bid for a new system if Mills would gather the needed specs for a replacement. Board president Robert Avant suggested a three-year lease purchase.

"One stipulation of the bid is that they must make an on-site visit," Mills told supervisors.

Dog-gone stories aplenty in Panola
(Editor’s note: this story is the first in a series).

By Billy Davis

Like any good employee who’s mindful of keeping his job, Benji Caine can rattle off his canine-related contributions to the City of Batesville.

"I’ve caught 3,000 dogs in almost 12 years," said Caine, the city’s animal control officer.

The City of Batesville is finally responding to its stray dog problem by budgeting $175,000 this year to construct a city-owned animal shelter.

Panola County government is partnering with the city on the project, though details must be addressed on that partnership.

If there’s any job in Panola County that comes with built-in job security, it must be rounding up dogs, since scrawny, scrounging dogs and a trail of pups seem to be everywhere.

On Lucius Taylor Road, residents in that community want the county to require a leash law in order to control the number of wandering dogs.
Lucious Taylor resident Kim Talley, speaking for the West Como Neighborhood Watch, surprised county supervisors at their "second Monday" meeting with the suggestion of a leash law.

"There are a lot of vicious dogs roaming the neighborhood," Talley told the board yesterday.

After the meeting, Talley told The Panolian that her community boasts "an unusually large number of pit bulls" who are often seen dragging chains behind them.

The mention of "vicious dogs" brings up another subject, the illegal so-called sport of dog fighting.

Panola Chief Deputy Sheriff Otis Griffin acknowledged last week that the sheriff’s department has seen an increase in dog fighting, specifically using pitbull terriers.

"The worst part is that, not only are we talking about using these dogs to hurt each other, but the winning and losing is often times tied to trading drugs," Griffin told The Panolian.

The dog fights are often related to thefts of pit bulls and other dog breeds that are used as "bait dogs," used to help the pit bulls train for fighting.
Eureka Road resident Marla Barnett knows firsthand about "bait dogs," since a search for her missing Boxer ended with her finding a bleeding, battered Boxer at a trailer home on Earnestine Turner Road.

"It wasn’t even my dog, but I paid them the $500 reward money to get that dog out of there," Barnett said.

Barnett’s personal story, told to The Panolian weeks ago in a letter to the editor, has somehow flourished into other dog stories, with subjects ranging from animal shelters and dog fights to bait dogs and leash laws.

Watch The Panolian in coming days for more stories about "our" dogs, the good and the bad.

SP board must fill empty seat
By Rupert Howell

Trustees of the South Panola School District are expected to accept the resignation of State Representative Joe Gardner and discuss the appointment of an interim school board member as his replacement at the monthly meeting Tuesday, March 20.

Gardner recently won a special election to fill the unexpired term of the late Leonard Morris, who served as the District 11 Mississippi representative. State law prohibits the two positions being held by the same person and as expected, Gardner submitted his letter of resignation prior to taking the oath of office March 5 at the state capitol.

District Superintendent Keith Shaffer said he assumes that school trustees will accept the resignation and discuss interim candidates at the March meeting.

The term for the trustee position previously held by Gardner has less than two years remaining. Remaining school trustees are responsible for appointing an interim until a special election can be held on the general election ballot in November of 2007 to fill the remainder of the unexpired term.

Another election will be held for the full five-year term in November of 2008, meaning that elections could be held for the same position in two consecutive years.

To qualify, a candidate must come from the sub-district in which the candidate will represent. The sub-district roughly includes area bordered on the west on Macedonia Road to Highway 6 West into Batesville. Parts of College and Broad Street are included to the north in Batesville. Highway 51 is the east boundary running back to Barnacre Road which serves as the northern boundary.

Specifics of the sub-district’s boundaries may be obtained at the Circuit Clerk’s office in Batesville.

Child was kidnapped, claims mother of teen
By Billy Davis

The mother of a teenage girl who went missing last week claims the child was kidnapped and says she may file charges that reflect that crime.

The mother told The Panolian last Friday that her daughter was kept in a locked room by a 15-year-old boy who forced the girl to leave her home in Batesville early Wednesday morning. A 24-year-old male was also involved, she said.

"She could not get out. There was no food there and no bathroom, and she urinated on herself," said the mother, who also took a swipe at the Batesville Police Department for its handling of the case.

The Panolian is not identifying the child nor her mother to protect the teenager’s privacy.

The police department is refuting the mother’s story, however, and says the girl told a detective that she left home willingly and was not harmed.

"She said nobody made her leave. Nobody hurt her or touched her or did anything to her," said BPD Detective George Williford. "There’s really no criminal case there."

In fact, Williford added that the family who brought the girl to the police station was concerned about the environment at her home.

The girl had run away from home twice before, the detective said, and after the latest incident, the Department of Human Services has been notified about the family’s situation.

"They have responded to that home before," the detective said.

The mother, who is 28, said she is the mother of six children ages 13, 12, 10, 8, 5, and 4. A handicapped child prevents her from working, she said.

The 13-year-old girl walked into the Batesville Police Department Thursday afternoon, March 8, after leaving her home on the night of March 6.

At the request of the Batesville Police Department, The Panolian was set to report the missing child in its March 9 newspaper. Police Chief Tony Jones contacted the newspaper Thursday evening, however, to report that the girl had arrived at the police department, and the story was updated to reflect the change of events.

Jones said in the March 9 story that friends of the teenage girl brought her to the police station.

Following publication of the story, a relative of the child contacted The Panolian Friday via e-mail and complained that the newspaper story implied that the child had run away from home. The Panolian actually described the child as "missing," not a runaway, at the request of Jones.

The relative, who gave the phone number to contact the child’s mother, suggested that the teenager had been taken from the home and kept against her will, and announced that the mother would be pursuing charges.

Asked Friday if her daughter had run away before, the mother said the child had sneaked out of the home a week earlier, which is why she checked on her daughter at 2:30 a.m., but added that she has never run away from home.

"She didn’t take no shoes or none of her belongings," she said. "My daughter’s never run away – never."

Asked if she planned to pursue kidnapping charges, the mother said she is "waiting to see what the law is gonna do."

The mother also complained that the detective, Williford, had been rude to her during the police investigation but admitted to cursing the detective.
"I did raise my voice a little bit," the mother acknowledged. "I said one cuss word."

"She blew up and said, ‘You’re going to do something about my g-damn daughter,’" Williford said. "I said, ‘Hey, you will not use that kind of language and you will not cuss me.’"


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