Mississippi Archives:

PARCHMAN, MISSISSIPPI (BNO NEWS) — A Mississippi man who was previously convicted of brutally murdering his four young nieces and nephews at his mother’s home in 1990 was executed on early Tuesday evening, despite pleas from his two sisters and brother-in-law to spare his life, officials said.

Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Commissioner Christopher Epps said Henry Curtis Jackson, 47, was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. local time after being given a lethal injection at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP) in Parchman. He said the execution marked the close of Jackson’s case.

Jackson was sentenced to death in September 1991 for the November 1990 murders of his nieces Shunterica Lonnett Jackson and Dominique Devro Jackson and his nephews Antonio Terrell Jackson and Andrew Odutola Kuyoro, Jr. at his mother’s home near Greenwood in Leflore County.

Investigators said the four children, ages 2 to 5, died of stab wounds to the throat while Jackson’s mother was at church. Jackson also stabbed his 1-year-old niece, leaving her paralyzed and in a critical condition until she died in 2009. His 23-year-old sister and an 11-year-old niece were also stabbed but survived without serious injuries.

Jackson surrendered to authorities four days after the brutal murders and confessed. Investigators believe Jackson carried out the killings in order to take money from a safe belonging to his half-brother who was in jail at the time on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and a probation violation.

But despite the horrific nature of the crimes, two of Jackson’s sisters and his brother-in-law asked Governor Phil Bryant for clemency. One of these sisters was a stabbing victim herself, and both of the sisters are mothers of the murdered children.

“I have reviewed the facts of this case and the applicable law. There is no question that Mr. Jackson committed these heinous crimes, and there is no clear and convincing evidence that compels me to grant clemency,” Bryant said. “As governor, I have the duty to see that justice is carried out and that the law is faithfully executed.”

Epps said the department executed Jackson as ordered and noted that he had more than two decades to fight the death sentence. “Through the course of nearly 22 years, death row inmate Henry Curtis Jackson was afforded his day in court and in the finality, his conviction was upheld all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said.

Jackson, dressed in a red prison jumpsuit, did not make a final statement before he was executed.

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MONROE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI (BNO NEWS) — Rescue workers found the wreckage of a small plane in northern Mississippi on late Tuesday morning, several hours after the accident happened, local media reported. The pilot was seriously injured.

The small single-engine aircraft was being piloted by Florida resident Greg Huggins to the city of Olive Branch in Mississippi when it disappeared from radars at around 7 a.m. local time. Reports indicate that the aircraft ran out of gas and crashed in a forest near Carolina Road in Monroe County, Mississippi.

Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson told WTVA-TV that Huggins was able to contact 911 dispatchers shortly before 10 a.m. local time. Despite search operations beginning at around 7 a.m. local time, it was not until around noon that emergency teams were able to locate the wreckage.

Aerial searches in the region were not conducted for several hours because of poor visibility, and ground teams had difficulty locating the crash site because of the thick forest.

Huggins was rushed to Northeast Mississippi Medical Center where he was said to be in a critical condition as a result of a cut to the head. Nonetheless, authorities said he was able to remain conscious to call emergency numbers through his cell phone.

The plane was owned by Buccaneer Aviation of Wilmington, Delaware.

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JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI (BNO NEWS) — A Mississippi man convicted of killing two men during a robbery spree in December 1995 was executed on early Wednesday evening, officials said. A U.S. Court of Appeals declined to halt the execution based on claims he was mentally ill.

Edwin Hart Turner, 38, was convicted of killing Everett Curry and Eddie Brooks during the robberies of Mims One Stop and Mims Turkey Village Truck Stop in Carroll County during the early morning hours of December 13, 1995. His partner Paul Murrell Stewart confessed and testified against him and was previously sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Commissioner Christopher Epps said Turner was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. local time after being given a lethal injection at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP) in Parchman. He said the execution marked the close of Turner’s case.

“The State of Mississippi – Department of Corrections has carried out a court order issued by the state Supreme Court. The role of the MDOC is to see that the order of the court is carried out with dignity,” Epps said during a press conference. “Through the course of nearly 15 years, death row inmate Edwin Hart Turner was afforded his day in court and in the finality, his conviction was upheld all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The cause of justice has been championed.”

During his final hours, Turner met with his attorney, a spiritual adviser, his mother, two aunts and two cousins. Officers described Turner as being talkative and he took a final shower after his last meal. At the request of Turner, none of his family members witnessed the execution.

“I ask that you join me in prayer for the Brooks and Curry families. The entire MDOC family hopes the families of each of the homicide victims may now begin the process of healing. Our prayers and thoughts are with you as you continue life’s journey,” Epps added during the news conference.

During the investigation in 1995, investigators discovered in Turner’s car a mask reportedly used at the crime scene, as well as Turner’s fingerprints upon a weapon used at the scene. Additionally, the state’s firearms expert determined that shell casings found at the murder scene matched weapons in Turner’s home, and a cashier at one of the crime scenes identified Turner.

Turner was convicted on February 13, 1997, and sentenced to death on two counts of murder the following day. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence on February 2, 1999, denied rehearing on March 31, 1999, and denied Post-Conviction relief on January 4, 2007.

Lawyers for Turner argued that he suffered from a long and extensive history of mental illness, leading U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves to postpone the execution until at least February 20 to determine whether the state had improperly kept him from getting a psychiatric evaluation. But the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned the stay, and the U.S. Supreme Court failed to halt the execution.

Turner was the first person to be executed in Mississippi this year.

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NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — The death toll as a result of severe weather and resulting tornadoes across the southeastern United States on Wednesday and Thursday has risen to at least six, officials said. Dozens more have been injured.

In South Carolina, at least three people were killed and five others were injured in York County when a severe storm hit. Two others – an adult and a child – were reported dead in Davidson County, North Carolina after their house collapsed. A sixth person died in Forsyth County, Georgia when a tree fell and crushed a vehicle.

The storms resulted in a number of tornadoes across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina, destroying dozens of buildings and leaving thousands of people without power. It was the worst storm for Alabama since a tornado outbreak in April left nearly 330 people killed and more than 2,000 others injured.

Clean-up and some search-and-rescue operations were still ongoing on late Thursday, and officials said the death toll could still rise. This week’s storms left at least 15 people injured.

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JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI (BNO NEWS) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a stay of execution for Mississippi death row inmate Benny Joe Stevens, who has been convicted in the slaying of four people, including two children.

Stevens, 52, was found guilty of four counts of capital murder in the October 1998 shooting deaths of his ex-wife Glenda Reid, her new husband Wesley Reid, Glenda’s 11-year-old son Dylan Lee and and a neighbor’s son Heath Pounds, who was 12. It happened at a mobile home in Marion County.

Stevens’ 16-year-old daughter, Erica, was also shot but managed to escape to a neighbor’s home despite being shot in the back. Stevens has attempted to overturn his conviction and subsequent death sentence ever since he was convicted in December 1999.

Numerous appeals have previously been rejected, and a last-minute effort to block Tuesday’s execution was rejected by the U.S Supreme Court. “The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Scalia and by him referred to the Court is denied. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied,” a statement said.

The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court means Stevens’ execution at the State Penitentiary at Parchman can go ahead as scheduled at 6 p.m. local time. “The United States Supreme Court has just denied the stay for Benny Joe Stevens and, therefore, the execution will go forward,” Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said. “Our prayers are with the victim’s family and the defendant’s family.”

Stevens received a number of visits on Tuesday, including from his father, mother, brother, sister-in-law, and a chaplain. Correctional officers posted outside his cell described Stevens as having an ‘upbeat attitude’ and being ‘very talkative’.

For his last meal, Stevens requested four whole fried catfish, eight hushpuppies, French fries, coleslaw, hickory smoked barbeque beef ribs, hot peach cobbler, Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream, cokes, ketchup, whole red tomato, and salt and pepper.

The execution, which will be by lethal injection, will be witnessed by Stevens’ father and brother as well as eight members of the victims’ families. Three spiritual advisors, eight members of the media, two Sheriffs, and Stevens’ two attorneys, will also witness the execution.

After his death, Stevens’ body will be released to Hathorn Funeral Home in Columbia, Mississippi.

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BIRDS POINT, MISSOURI (BNO NEWS) — Despite the Ohio River level dropping after the Army Corps. of Engineers breached the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, Missouri, record-setting levels and flooding are still threatening communities along the river valleys.

The Army Corps. of Engineers late Monday night breached the first section of the Birds Point levee to avoid further flooding, and save the town of Cairo, Illinois, which is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and has been in danger of being wiped out by the flooding. Most of its 2,800 citizens have been evacuated.

Immediate reports after the initial levee breaching indicated that the Mississippi River dropped several feet after the explosions, but, even after the Ohio River dropped to 60.62 feet early Tuesday, it remained well above the 1937 record of 59.5 feet.

On Tuesday afternoon, a second section of the levee was breached at New Madrid, Missouri, while the third and final blast is planned to be carried out on Wednesday near Hickman, Kentucky.

The controversial decision would send a tremendous amount of water through approximately 130,000 acres of farmland in southeast Missouri.

Mississippi County Coroner Terry Parker later told KFVS that due to the breaching several cemeteries and grave sites in Mississippi and New Madrid Counties would be flooded, creating the possibility that caskets, burial vaults or skeletal remains may be uncovered and float or be washed along with the current.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and other government offices have been coordinating to handle the possibility and recover any remains found in the water. Identification and re-internment would also be handled by the government.

In addition, a group of attorneys later filed a class action complaint on behalf of farmers whose land was flooded when the levee exploded.

The complaint filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers argued that the property rights of the farmers and landowners under the 5th Amendment to the Constitution were violated when a 15 foot high wall of water was released and flooded their property.

The complaint charges that the action violated the “takings clause” of the 5th Amendment which bars the government from taking private property without due process of law. The complaint asserts that the Corps did not have easements over property in the floodway that are required before the Corps could be allowed to breach the levee at Birds Point.

The complaint was filed on behalf of 14 farming operations and their owners as plaintiffs, but it is seeking certification as a class action on behalf of all individuals and entities affected by the flooding.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday signed disaster declarations for the states of Georgia and Mississippi as the death toll from Wednesday’s violent tornado outbreak continues to rise.

Obama had already signed a disaster declaration for the state of Alabama, which has suffered the most damage and casualties from what is now the most deadly tornado outbreak since 1925.

The presidential disaster declarations for Georgia and Mississippi allow Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and associated flooding this month.

“We appreciate the prompt response by President Obama and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate as we begin the arduous process of recovery,” said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal in response to the declaration. “Georgia’s entire congressional delegation jumped into gear on the federal level to seek aid for their constituents, and their diligence has paid off. This assistance will be of great help to the survivors who are reclaiming their lives.”

As of Saturday afternoon, a BNO News count confirmed at least 249 fatalities and 1,730 injured in Alabama alone from the tornado outbreak. In addition, local officials are reporting that hundreds more remain missing, although a part of them could just be with family or friends.

In addition, there are at least 34 fatalities and 163 injured in Mississippi, 34 fatalities and 107 injured in Tennessee, 15 fatalities in Georgia, five fatalities and 50 injured in Virginia, one fatality in Kentucky, two fatalities in Louisiana, and one fatality in Arkansas.

As the combined death toll has now reached 341 as a result of the storms, it is the deadliest tornado outbreak since the 1925 Tri-State tornadoes which killed 747 people. At least 695 of them were killed by a single tornado.

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OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI (BNO NEWS) — At least 3 people were killed after an 18-wheeler crashed into a Mississippi school bus carrying a group of seniors after a campus visit of Ole Miss, local media reported Tuesday.

Calhoun County Coroner Jerry Fleming told WKRG News 5 that two teachers and the driver of the 18-wheeler died, and at least 10 students from Ackerman High School, located in Choctaw County, Mississippi, were injured during Tuesday’s crash.

Gary Bailey, 54, who was driving the 18-wheeler that crashed into the school bus head-on, died. Teacher and Assistant Football Coach Steven Moss, as well as teacher Phyllis Graham were also killed during the accident.

The accident occurred on Mississippi highway 8, around 40 miles south of the University of Mississippi at Oxford.

As investigations into the incident are being conducted, the injured students were transported to local hospitals, and one was airlifted. Their injuries have been reportedly non-life threatening.

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JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI (BNO NEWS) — Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a man in Mississippi who was thought dead since 1994 on charges of kidnapping, officials said on Monday.

Thomas Steven Sanders, 53, was arrested Sunday morning at Flying J Truck Stop in Gulfport, Mississippi, after a nationwide manhunt took place to capture the man who is suspected of kidnapping Lexis Roberts, 12, from Las Vegas, Nevada, whose body was found in October by hunters in the woods of Harrisonburg, Louisiana.

According to reports, Sanders abandoned his family in 1987 and was declared dead in the state of Mississippi in 1994 by his family members.

Sanders is thought to be missing most of his teeth and has changed his appearance on several occasions. However, he has been reportedly arrested on numerous occasions, but his identity had not been connected with the man who was declared dead 16 years ago.

Numerous investigative agencies, including the Louisiana State Police, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Postal Service, the Office of Louisiana Attorney General, the LSU Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services and law enforcement throughout the country have been involved in the case.

The girl’s mother, Suellen Roberts, 31, remains missing.

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JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI (BNO NEWS) – A Benton County, Mississippi supervisor on Thursday was found guilty of committing voter fraud, prosecutors announced.

Tate King was found guilty of one count of voter fraud. He will be sentenced on October 8. King faces a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment and a fine up to $5,000. He was indicted along 15 other co-conspirators.

King was arrested as part of an investigation on vote buying conducted by the Attorney General’s Public Integrity division. The case stemmed from the August 7, 2007 primary election and the August 27, 2007 runoff elections in Benton County.

So far, two people have been convicted, nine others have pleaded guilty and five defendants are awaiting trial for their involvement in the voter fraud case. Former schools Superintendent Ronny Wilkerson is among those charged.

According to the investigation, King paid people to vote for him on two separate elections. The defendants got involved in a scheme where they paid $40 and a case of beer to as little as $10 per vote to get people to vote for certain candidates.

The five individuals that are awaiting trial are Kenny Ray Bowen, Billy Street, James Bullock, Ronnie Wilkerson and Jasper Buggs. The five co-conspirators were charged with voter fraud offenses.

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