Family, friends mourn death of ‘Teak’ Gates

Published 2:48 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Body was found last Wednesday in the Tallahatchie River

Investigators are awaiting toxicology and autopsy reports from the State Medical Examiner’s Office to learn more about the death of a Batesville man, whose body was pulled from the cold waters of the Tallahatchie River last Wednesday, Jan. 26.

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Panola County Sheriff Shane Phelps this week said investigators have received dozens of phone calls and statements from a number of people in their efforts to determine what happened to Carl “Teak” Gates, 56.

“We are running down leads and have interviewed some people, but so far we haven’t detained anyone in this case,” Phelps said. “Because of the circumstances investigators will know more when we get those reports back.”

Gates was missed by family and friends beginning Monday, Jan. 24. Investigators are working closely with his family to determine a timeline for Gates’ last days in hopes of solving the case.

Gates’ vehicle, a Lexus, was found later that day near the boat ramp located under the Tallahatchie River bridge just north of Batesville on Hwy. 51. A search of the area was conducted Tuesday, including along the banks and in the river, to no avail.

On Wednesday of last week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that controls the Sardis Lake flood control program, closed some of the floodgates at the reservoir causing the Tallahatchie to lower considerably.

With the water level significantly lower in the river the Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance from the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, conducted another search and found Gates’ body about a mile downstream.

Phelps would not comment about the condition of the body because of the ongoing investigation, but did confirm that investigators saw no obvious wounds that would indicate the cause of death.

Temperatures were below freezing early last week and the river water was very cold when the body was found. Further tests and a forensic examination will help determine whether Gates’ body entered the water before or after his death.

Gates was well-known in Batesville and was employed at Winchester in Oxford.

Gates began working at The Panolian while in high school and continued part-time for several years. Former newspaper owner Rupert Howell said news of Gates’ untimely death was a shock and painful to think about.

“Of all those years we published the newspaper, Teak was one of only three employees that we could turn loose and let him work,” Howell said. “He would do a better job than what we asked of him every time. He called me Rupe, and he was one of my best friends in this world.”

Gates had also worked 15 years at the Panola Country Club, drove limousines, and was considered to be among the finest of vehicle detailers in the city.

Batesville alderman Stan Harrison, who employed Gates for many years, said, “There was no finer person in this city. I can’t think of one person who didn’t like him. He was just the kind of person who would do anything for anybody.”

Carlos Robinson, son of the deceased, said his family will have a memorial service at a later date. Cooley’s Mortuary will have charge of arrangements.

Gates had another son, Demario Robinson; a daughter Latoria, who preceded him in death; and four grandchildren.

He is also survived by his stepfather, Larry Battle, who now lives in Texas, but remained close to the Gates family and visits often.