Entries in Mississippi (50)


Ricin Letter Suspect Identified Using Earlier Letters

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(CORINTH, Miss.) -- Investigators trying to determine who sent ricin-tainted letters to President Obama and other officials quickly traced the messages and signature of the letter to Paul Kevin Curtis, an Elvis impersonator who had written to officials in the past and consistently signed his letters "I am KC and I approve this message," according to an FBI affidavit.

Curtis, 45, was arrested at his home in Corinth, Miss., just a day after a letter laced with the poison arrived at the office of Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. A second letter was sent to President Obama and a third letter was mailed to Sadie Holland, a justice of the peace in Lee County, Miss.

Curtis was formally charged on Thursday with sending mail that contained a threat to kill or harm the president and with sending mail containing a threat to injure the president.

He was arraigned in federal court in Oxford, Miss., where he arrived in court wearing shackles and a Johnny Cash T-shirt.

Court affidavits claimed that investigators quickly matched the verbiage used in the ricin tainted letters to Curtis' online posting and previous letters to government officials.

Investigators particularly focused in on the signature, "I am KC and I approve this message," and his mention of "Missing Pieces."

According to the affidavit, the letter sent to Wicker and Obama read:

No one wanted to listen to me before.
There are still 'Missing Pieces'
Maybe I have your attention now
Even if that means someone must die.
This must stop.
To see a wrong and not expose it,
Is to become a silent partner to its continuance
I am KC and I approve this message

The FBI asked Wicker's office to see if they had any prior correspondences with constituents who had the initials "KC," which revealed multiple letters previously sent by Curtis to Wicker's office, according to the affidavit. All of the letters ended with a variation of the same signature, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Curtis also frequently wrote about an alleged black market for the illegal sale of human body parts, which he believed the government was covering up, the affidavit states. He wrote about the allegations in an unpublished novel called Missing Pieces, which he discussed on his Facebook page and in the letters to government officials, according to the FBI.

Curtis had previously written an e-mail to Congressman Alan Nunnelle of Mississippi in which he also mentioned "Missing Pieces."

The ricin letters and Curtis' Facebook page contain identical refrains: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance."

Wicker acknowledged Thursday that in addition to the letters Curtis had sent him, the two had met once. Wicker hired Curtis, an Elvis impersonator and entertainer, to perform at a party Wicker threw, he told reporters in Washington.

Curtis made a living impersonating music stars and putting on shows. He dressed up as Elvis, Hank Williams, Jr., and Prince, according to his Facebook profile and YouTube videos.

"I have worked tirelessly to perfect an art form & unique show for all ages with ...authentic costumes songs, gimmicks & props," he wrote on his Facebook page, noting that he had developed a Tribute to the Stars show featuring Elvis, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and others.

"Complete with authentic Costumes, lights, lasers, Strobes & plenty of audience interaction!" he wrote.

Curtis believed in cover-ups, according to his ex-wife who reported him to police in 2007 for being "extremely delusional, anti-government, and (for feeling) the government was spying on him with drones," according to the affidavit.

He wrote on his Facebook profile that if the federal government were "using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, (they) do NOT have permission."

After two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, Curtis addressed the crime on his Facebook page.

"This world is not what it used to be and the hopes of all are not what they 'USED' to be. We have let God down. We removed prayer from schools in 62....we have staged wars simply for profits in oil and drugs....we have lied our way from the capitol to the pulpit. We the people should be ashamed. I weep for the future of our children. God bless."

Curtis's family did not return messages left seeking comment. His brother said in a written statement Wednesday that the family had "no reason to believe Kevin would be involved," but that they knew "very little" about the case.

"Until my family gets some answers and we have a chance to talk to my brother, I can't comment further," Jack Curtis wrote.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mississippi Mayoral Candidate, Marco McMillian, Found Dead

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(CLARKSDALE, Miss.) -- A mayoral candidate in Mississippi has been found dead, and his death is being investigated as a homicide, authorities said.

The Coahoma County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday in a news release on its Facebook page that the body of 34-year-old Marco McMillian, a Democratic candidate for mayor of Clarksdale, Miss., was found in Coahoma County earlier in the day.

The body was found in the woods near the Mississippi-Yazoo levee, about 30 miles away from a roadway where McMillian's car crashed while being driven by another person, County Coroner Scotty Meredith said.

Meredith added that investigators were treating the case as a homicide until they could prove otherwise.

A person of interest was in custody, but had not been formally charged, Will Rooker, a spokesman for the Coahoma County Sheriff's Office, told ABC News.

Police did not identify the person of interest.

Rooker would not confirm or deny whether the person of interest was the injured person found crashed in McMillian's car on Tuesday and airlifted to a Memphis, Tenn., hospital.

Jarod Keith, McMillian's campaign spokesperson, told ABC News Radio he did not think McMillian's death was politically motivated or a hate crime.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute tweeted: "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly #LGBT candidates in Mississippi."

As of now, McMillian's death is not being investigated as a hate crime, Rooker told ABC News affiliate WPTY in Memphis, Tenn.

Meredith said on Wednesday he could not yet comment on cause of death.  An autopsy was to be conducted later Thursday in Jackson, Miss.

Meredith told ABC News that McMillian's body was in good condition, but would not say if there were any signs of trauma.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mississippi Officially Abolishes Slavery, Ratifies 13th Amendment

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(JACKSON, Miss.) -- Two medical school colleagues, one an immigrant from India, the other a life-long Mississippian, joined forces to resolve a historical oversight that until this month had never officially been corrected.

The oversight was no small one either. Until February 7, 2013, the state of Mississippi had never submitted the required documentation to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, meaning it never officially had abolished slavery.

The amendment was adopted in December 1865 after the necessary three-fourths of the then-36 states voted in favor of ratification.  Mississippi, however, was a holdout; at the time state lawmakers were upset that they had not been compensated for the value of freed slaves.

Dr. Ranjan Batra, professor of Neurobiology and Anatomical Sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, told ABC News he was inspired to investigate the history of the Thirteenth Amendment in his state after a viewing of the film Lincoln.

“At the end of the story there was an open question about how the ratification process proceeded,” he said.  “Living in the South as I do, I found that a pretty big open question.”

So Batra proceeded to do some investigating of his own, noticing on the website that there was an asterisk next to the state of Mississippi in connection with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

“Mississippi ratified the amendment in 1995, but because the state never officially notified the U.S. Archivist, the ratification is not official,” reads the statement on the website.  Batra felt compelled to act to rectify the clerical oversight.

“Mississippi gets a lot of bad press about this type of stuff and I just felt that it is something that should be fixed, and I saw every reason that could be done,” he said.  “Everyone here would like to put this part of Mississippi’s past behind us and move on into the 21st century rather than the 19th.”

So Batra enlisted the help of University of Mississippi Medical Center colleague Ken Sullivan, who took an immediate interest in the story, calling the national archives to confirm that they had in fact never received the proper paperwork.  Sullivan then took a trip to the state archives to acquire a copy of the bill.

“The last paragraph [of the bill] directs the Secretary of State of Mississippi to inform the national archives of the law of the ratification which is exactly the way ratification is supposed to proceed, but that hadn’t been done for whatever reason,” said Batra.

Sullivan took his family to see Lincoln and told ABC News the film inspired him further to correct this historical oversight.  “I had that information when I went to see Lincoln that weekend, I knew really what I was fixing to be a part of and it was overwhelming,” he said.  “It was humbling to know that such a big part of the nation’s history and a huge part of my state’s history was involved in this, people stood up and applauded at the end of the movie, the first time I have ever seen that for any movie,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan then contacted the office of the Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who quickly agreed to file the required documentation to the National Archives and make the ratification official.  On February 7, Director of the Federal Register Charles A. Barth wrote that he had received the notification. “With this action, the State of Mississippi has ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” he wrote.

“For me it was just important that this part of history was done from our state,” said Sullivan.  “I know we have some dark spots in our history through the South, it still affects people’s opinions about Mississippi today.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Tropical Storm Isaac Causes First Death as Tornadoes Ravage Region

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As Tropical Storm Isaac moves away from the Gulf Coast and into the country's interior, spinning off tornadoes across two states, the storm has caused its first death in Pearl River County, Miss.

A tow truck driver was killed on the job by a tree that fell around midnight, Pearl River Emergency Management Deputy Director Amanda Harris told ABC News on Thursday.  The man's name and age has not yet been released.

"[The county] is completely flooded.  And it's only going to get worse," Harris said, adding that rivers and creeks along the county near the Louisiana border will not crest until midnight Thursday night through 4 a.m.

"The worst is yet to come," Harris said.

Pearl River County conducted four search and rescue operations and it is believed there are no more residents holding out in their homes, Harris said.  The county is receiving assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state agencies and neighboring counties.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for intra-coastal city Louisiana to the Mississippi-Alabama border, including Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas.

Lt. Vernon Smith of the Pascagoula, Miss., police told ABC News that a tornado touched down at 8:20 a.m. Thursday just south of town that sits 28 miles from Biloxi.

"It landed right on top of a house, just sat on it," Smith said, adding that people were believed to be inside.  "There are people injured."

Smith said the tornado was now off the ground and moving through the main part of town, having traveled about a mile since touchdown.  

Officials are mobilizing emergency crews, but the torrential rain has made roads impassable.  The two to three feet of water flooding the area is too much for emergency vehicles to handle.

"We can't get through and we are scrambling," said Smith.

A tornado that touched down in Gulfport, Miss., has caused the most damage, where significant destruction to homes has been reported.  Carlos Redmond, a spokesman for Harrison County Emergency Management, said it's assessing the damage.

"We're looking for daylight.  That's what we're looking for.  We'll be able to tell a lot more at that time," Redmond told ABC News Thursday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tropical Storm Isaac's Slow Pace Makes It More Dangerous

NOAA-NASA GOES Project(NEW ORLEANS, La.) -- Tropical Storm Isaac's plodding pace through the Gulf of Mexico means the slow-moving storm could punish coastal areas with up to 36 hours of tropical winds and 10 to 16 inches of rain, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned Monday.

Isaac, which is packing winds of 65 mph, is expected to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane with winds of at least 74 mph by the time it reaches land late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Jindal said the threat that New Orleans would be inundated on the seventh anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina was lessening.

FEMA director Craig Fugate and the National Hurricane Center's Dr. Rick Knabb say there has been too much focus on New Orleans bracing for Isaac on the anniversary of Katrina.

"I think people need to understand this is not a New Orleans storm. This is a Gulf Coast storm," Fugate said today.

Fugate and Jindal warned people in low lying areas to get out of Isaac's way.

"Today is the day," Jindal said. "Today is the final day you should be taking any final precautions. If you want to evacuate, today is the day to do that."

Overnight, 50,000 people had already evacuated from southeast Louisiana's St. Charles parish. In addition, 2,000 jail inmates have been moved out of Isaac's expected path.

Jindal said over 4,000 National Guardsmen will be mobilized in case of emergency, but said he does not anticipate having to activate contraflow highway rules for evacuation purposes.

While not packing winds of some stronger hurricanes, Isaac's slow pace means it "could actually cause more damage," the governor said.

He said the storm could batter areas with tropical winds for up to 36 hours and could dump more than a foot of rain while lingering over some areas.

Jindal said he is skipping the Republican National Convention in Florida where he was expected to speak because of Isaac. "I will not be speaking or attending the Republican National Convention in Florida. There is no time for politics here in Louisiana," he said.

Fugate warned that Isaac's biggest punch may land in Alabama or Mississippi. The National Hurricane Center said to expect a storm surge of at least six feet with the possibility it could reach up to 12 feet.

Alabama and Mississippi have already joined Louisiana in declaring states of emergency. A tropical storm warning is in effect along the Texas and Louisiana border.

The storm is currently off the west coast of Florida and is moving in the direction of the northern Gulf Coast.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Feds: Authorities in Meridian, Miss. Violated Rights of Black Children

File photo. James Woodson/Thinkstock(MERIDIAN, Miss.) -- The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has released investigative findings determining that children in predominantly black Meridian, Miss. have had their constitutional rights violated by the Lauderdale County Youth Court, the Meridian Police Department, and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services (DYS) in what civil rights investigators allege is a school-to-prison pipeline with even dress code violations resulting in incarceration.

The Justice Department has been investigating the agencies since December 2011 and found that the police department arrests children without probable cause, violating the children’s Fourth Amendment protections of unlawful search and seizure.

Also in the findings letter the Civil Rights Division alleges that “Lauderdale County and the Youth Court Judges violate the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments by failing to provide children procedural due process in the youth court.  Lauderdale County, the Youth Court judges, and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services violate the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments by failing to provide children procedural due process rights in the probationary process.”

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments protect against abuse of government authority in legal proceedings and fairness of due process rights, respectively.

“The system established by the City of Meridian, Lauderdale County, and DYS to incarcerate children for school suspensions ‘shocks the conscience,’ resulting in the incarceration of children for alleged ‘offenses’ such as dress code violations, flatulence, profanity, and disrespect,” the Justice Department findings letter noted.

Describing the “school-to-prison pipeline” the Justice Department findings letter noted of the alleged abuses by the police, “By policy and practice, [the Meridian Police Department] MPD automatically arrests all students referred to MPD by the District. The children arrested by MPD are then sent to the County juvenile justice system, where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate. The Youth Court places children on probation, and the terms of the probation set by the Youth Court and DYS require children on probation to serve any suspensions from school incarcerated in the juvenile detention center.”

“The systematic disregard for children’s basic constitutional rights by agencies with a duty to protect and serve these children betrays the public trust,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.  “We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if necessary.”

About 62 percent of Meridian’s population is African-American, and the Justice Department alleges that mostly Africa-American children and children with disabilities are impacted by the unconstitutional policies.

The Justice Department alleged in its findings letter that two Youth Court Judges have consistently denied civil rights investigators access to information about the policies and practices of the Youth Court.

The Civil Rights Division is seeking to negotiate with Meridian officials on the findings and if an agreement is not reached, the Justice Department can sue them.

When contacted by ABC News, the Meridian Police Department declined to comment. ABC News is also awaiting comment from the Mississippi Division of Youth Services, the county court and an attorney representing the city of Meridian.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Baptist Leaders Criticize Church that Refused to Wed Black Couple 

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CRYSTAL SPRINGS, Miss.) -- Southern Baptist leaders on Monday urged a Mississippi church that refused to wed a black couple to reject racial discrimination.

Just one day before Charles and Te'Andrea Wilson were set to be married at the First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Miss., the pastor there told them they would have to find another venue because congregants were uncomfortable with a black wedding ceremony.

After outrage mounted locally and the Wilsons' story went viral online over the weekend, officials at the Mississippi Baptist Convention chastised the Crystal Springs church for its refusal to marry the pair.

"Our entire country, and especially here in Mississippi, has been on a long journey for right racial relationships," said Mississippi Baptist Convention Board executive director Jim Futral in a statement.

Since its founding in 1883, the church, in a Jackson suburb of about 5,000 people, has never been the site of a black wedding. Pastor Stan Weatherford said congregants felt so strongly that the Wilsons' wedding should not be the first that he feared he would lose his job if he went forward with the ceremony as planned. Instead, Weatherford, who is white, performed the marriage at a black church down the road.

"My 9-year-old was going to the church with us. How would you say to your 9-year-old daughter, 'We cannot get married here because guess what sweetie, we're black'?" said Charles Wilson in an interview with ABC's Jackson affiliate, WAPT-TV.

Most Crystal Springs residents, both black and white, were "blown away" by the church's decision, according to lifelong resident Theresa Norwood, 48.

The Wilsons were not members of the church, though they often attended services there. Te'Andrea Wilson's uncle is an employee of the church, and her father is a member. Charles Wilson told WAPT that the couple had planned to join as members after their wedding, which was planned for July 20.

The church leaders will now meet to determine how to handle future requests by black couples to be married there, Weatherford says.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Survives, For Now

Esme E. Deprez/Bloomberg via Getty Images(JACKSON, Miss.) -- A federal district judge in Mississippi prevented the state’s only abortion clinic from being shut down on Sunday by putting a temporary restraining order on a law that would require the clinic’s doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

If the law, which passed the state Legislature in April, would have taken effect as scheduled on July 1, Mississippi would be the only state in the country where women would not have access to abortions.

The only abortion clinic in the state, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has two OB-GYN doctors who perform abortions, both of whom applied for admitting privileges at area hospitals “months” ago, said the clinic’s owner Diane Derzis. None of the hospitals have responded to those requests.

“We can’t do anything else; we are waiting for the hospitals,” Derzis told ABC News. “I’m sure those hospitals are going to be threatened and harassed just like we are.”

U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan wrote in the court opinion that there was no evidence against the clinic’s claims that “law’s purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi” and that “no safety or health concerns motivated its passage.”

Jordan will decide at a July 11 hearing whether to grant a permanent injunction against the law to keep the Jackson clinic open.

When the bill passed in April, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant heralded it as “the first step” to making Mississippi the first abortion-free state. Bryant accused the bill’s Democratic opponents of having one goal: “to abort children.”

“Their one mission in life is to abort children, is to kill children in the womb,” Bryant told conservative radio host Tony Perkins in April.

Following the court’s restraining order Sunday night, Byrant’s spokesman Mick Bullock said the governor was “disappointed” but will work to “ensure this legislation properly takes effect as soon as possible.”

Mississippi already has one of the lowest abortion rates in the country, with a mere 0.2 percent of all the abortions given in the United States in 2008 taking place in Mississippi, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual health research group.

Similar laws were passed in Arizona and Tennessee that require abortion-performing doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


No One Wants Body of Adam Mayes, the FBI's Former Most Wanted

ABC News(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The Mississippi state crime lab is trying to figure out what to do with the body of Adam Mayes, the man who allegedly murdered a mother and daughter and kidnapped the woman's two other daughters before shooting himself.

The lab has had Mayes' body since mid-May, and doesn't know what to do with it.  Mayes' family won't accept his body.  If no one takes the body after six months, it has to be returned to Union County, where he died.

According to Mississippi state law, if there are any living relatives, it is the family's responsibility to take care of the body.  But Mayes' wife and mother are behind bars in connection to the two murders and kidnappings.  Mayes' brother refuses to accept the body.

Police believe Mayes killed Jo Ann Bain and her daughter, Adrienne Bain, 14, in their home in Whiteville, Tenn., on April 27, and then fled with Bain's two other daughters, Alexandra, 12, and her sister Kyliyah, 8.

The two girls were rescued after a nearly two-week ordeal.  On May 10, Mississippi state highway troopers spotted a small blonde child peeking over a ridge, police said, which led to the girls' rescue.

Moments later, Mayes shot himself as he knelt in the grass next to the children, in what his mother-in-law called the "coward's way out."

Mayes is suspected of killing the girls' sister and mother in order to kidnap the younger girls, whom he thought were his children, relatives have said.  The girls had been living with Jo Ann and her husband, Gary Bain, and the family was planning to move to Arizona at the end of the school year.

When Adam Mayes went on the run with the girls, he was put on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted List.

His wife Teresa Mayes is charged with murder and especially aggravated kidnapping for her role in assisting Mayes.  She is being held in a Tennessee jail.

During the investigation, police also arrested Mayes' mother, Mary Mayes, in connection with the murder and kidnapping.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mississippi Highway Shooting Suspect Caught After Rape and Kidnap

Tunica County Sheriff's Office(TUNICA COUNTY, Miss.) -- The man arrested in connection with two Mississippi highway murders was linked to the crimes after he allegedly kidnapped and raped a woman who managed to get away and contact police.

James D. Willie, 28, was arrested Tuesday morning on rape and aggravated assault charges when Tunica County police responded to an apartment where a disturbance was reported. When they arrived, a woman said that Willie raped her.

Police found a Ruger 9mm, semi-automatic handgun in his possession during the arrest, which investigators later determined matched the weapon used in last week's shootings.

The motive for the alleged shootings were "drugs and robbery," authorities said at a news conference Friday. Cops would not confirm or deny if Willie was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crimes.

Willie was charged with kidnapping, rape, felony possession of a firearm and the murder of Lori Carswell, police said. Charges for the murder of Tom Schlender are still pending.

Authorities initially thought the shooter was posing as a police officer to get people to stop on highways on the northern part of the state, but have since backed away from that theory.

"We can't confirm or deny if the car was already parked, if he ran across her or if he flashed her [with lights] to get her to pull over," Tunica County Sheriff K.C. Hamp said referring to Carswell.

Schlender, 74, from Nebraska, was found in his car on Interstate 55 in Panola County on May 8 about 1:30 a.m. Three days later, Carswell, 48, from Mississippi, was found near her car on Highway 713 in nearby Tunica County about 2:15 a.m.

"We did interview [Willie] last night and in the early morning hours," Hamp said. "He's been cooperative to a certain extent. We didn't get a confession directly, but we got a lot of information."

Schlender's family told ABC News that his wallet was missing. Police will not say whether Carswell was robbed, but said her purse, cell phone and wallet were in her car, but the wallet was empty.

Willie, who has an extensive criminal record, has previously spent eight years in prison for burglary charges.

The fear that a killer was posing as a cop to get his victims to pull over had prompted police in Mississippi to warn motorists to not stop if being flashed by police late at night. Instead, the department advised they call 911 to help decide whether the call behind them was really a police car.

If it wasn't a police car, the cops would send help.

Willie is being held in jail without bond and is expected to make his first court appearance on Monday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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