Threat on life of Panola County supervisor under investigation

Published 12:50 pm Thursday, August 18, 2022

Panola County investigators on Thursday continued their questioning of residents in and around the Enid Shores area, after District 3 Supervisor John Thomas was threatened in a letter received at the Batesville Courthouse by mail Tuesday.

Sheriff Shane Phelps confirmed that investigators have a person of interest in the case, but have made no arrests. Phelps declined to release the suspect’s name or say if the person was a resident of Enid Shores.

Other sources said the person is a resident of the area. The same sources said the person was involved in an accident and is currently hospitalized in Memphis.

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Thomas, who was re-elected to a third term in 2019, represents Enid Shores located in south Panola County, near the Yalobusha County line.

A letter addressed to Panola County Courthouse, Batesville, MS, was opened by a county employee as part of the regular mail Tuesday. Inside was a letter, written in large block-style print threatening the lives of Thomas and his family.

The county employee immediately contacted law enforcement and the Thomas family was notified.

Phelps said Thursday his office was taking the matter very seriously and hoped to have whoever sent the letter in custody soon.

The intent of the letter was to complain about the condition of the roads at Enid Shores, a community of houses near Enid Lake, and set a deadline of Sept. 1 for Thomas to make improvements.

The letter reads:
John Thomas,

If you do not start working on the roads in Enid Shores by Sept. First I will kill your entire family and then you.

It was not signed, and the envelope’s postmark was stamped in Memphis at 4 pm on Aug. 12, meaning the letter was likely put into the postal system last Wednesday or Thursday.

Several citizens from Enid Shores were at this Monday’s meeting of the supervisors at the Batesville Courthouse, but none spoke to the board in open meeting. It was still unclear to county officials if the person considered a person of interest was one of those attendees. Courthouse video footage is being reviewed.

Authorities at the school the Thomas’ son attends were made aware of the threat on Wednesday, as were all Panola County deputies and Batesville Police Dept.

The Thomas family farms land around the county and has headquarters on Hwy. 6, near the city limits in an area that is regularly patrolled by multiple law enforcement agencies.

Enid Shores has long been a sore subject for the Board of Supervisors, the current members and those before them. All of Enid Shores, including the roads, are privately owned by the association of residents, who have petitioned the county on many occasions over the years to take over the road system.

The county has always balked at taking over the area, mainly because it would add several miles of roads to the county’s already stretched upkeep budget.

There is currently a lawsuit against Panola County filed by a small contingent of upset residents in the area. Because of the pending litigation, no supervisor or county employee may discuss the Enid Shores problems with roads and other services.

Anyone who has information about the matter should contact the Sheriff’s Office at 662-563-6230 or Crimestoppers at 662-209-2011.