2021: The year in news

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 31, 2021

Editor’s note: The year of 2021 was a mixture of hope, loss, joy, change and wondering how the year would differ from 2020. Below is a sampling of the some of the year’s top-read stories in The Daily Leader, in no particular order.


Walmart’s computers shut down nationwide

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Published May 12

Shoppers should plan for a longer than usual wait at Walmart this morning as computer systems for the company have been down across all its retail stores.

No debit or credit cards can be used — only cash — until systems are back online.

Walmart employees at Brookhaven said they had not been told when that would be or the cause of the outage.

Employees were not named because they did not have authority to speak on behalf of the company.


COVID causes Walmart to close down

Published Aug. 20

Walmart in Brookhaven will close temporarily today at 2 p.m. as part of a company-wide deep cleaning effort.

Third-party cleaning crews will thoroughly clean and sanitize the building. Walmart will remain closed Saturday and reopen at 6 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 22.

“As an essential business and member of the Brookhaven, Mississippi, community, we understand the role we play in providing customers with food, medicine and other essential items, especially at this time,” said company spokesperson Tyler Thomason.

“As you know, several areas across the country have begun seeing a renewed increase in positive COVID-19 cases, and we want to assist health officials working against the pandemic,” Thomason said. “In support of this effort, we have chosen to temporarily close our Brookhaven store location.”

“Everything we’re doing is for the well-being of our associates and the thousands of customers we serve daily, and in consideration of guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and health experts,” he said.

“Given the rise in positive cases through the Delta variant, we will follow CDC guidance, which includes fully vaccinated people wearing masks in public indoor settings in counties with substantial or high transmission.”

Thomason said Walmart will continue working closely with elected and local health officials, adjusting how the company serves the community while keeping the health and safety of customers and employees in mind.


Fourth suspect arrested in connection to recent homicide

Published Sept. 29

A fourth suspect has been arrested in connection with the recent murder of Tarvauirs Lyons in Brookhaven.

Okeria Aerion Combs, 23, of 1010 North Jackson St., was arrested by Brookhaven Police Department officers and booked into the Lincoln County Jail Tuesday just before 7 p.m., according to the jail docket.

Combs was wanted for electronic harassment amounting to witness intimidation, according to BPD Chief Kenneth Collins.

Combs’ arrest is the fourth in connection with this case.

Zayrick Taylor, 23, was arrested Monday, Sept. 20, after a high-speed chase led multiple law enforcement officers from Pike County through Lincoln and into Walthall. Taylor was charged with murder in the Sept. 19 shooting death of 23-year-old Lyons.

Alisia Sims, 28, was arrested and charged with hindering prosecution and rendering assistance to a felon, Collins said.

“It was her car Zayrick was fleeing in when he was arrested, and she was with him in the car,” Collins said.

Chase Anthony Wallis, also 28, of Youngsville, Louisiana, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and intimidating a witness, according to Collins.

“I will not let anybody in my city intimidate witnesses or make threats to any family members,” Collins said Monday. “The only way we in Brookhaven are going to keep our town safe is by people coming forward and helping us to keep our community safe. Any time I’m aware of people trying to intimidate witnesses, we are going to get warrants and make arrests.”

The Lyons homicide case is ongoing.


Police: Love triangle leads to stabbing

Published May 20

A Crystal Springs man was airlifted to Jackson and a Brookhaven man arrested following a fight that ended when one man was stabbed multiple times.

At 11:50 a.m. Wednesday, Brookhaven Police officers responded to a report of a fight in progress at 317 East Congress St.

Officers found two men — Aza Banks of Brookhaven and Nicolas Greer of Crystal Springs — had been engaged in an altercation, during which a knife was introduced.

Greer had been cut and stabbed several times. He was transported by ambulance to King’s Daughters Medical Center emergency room, then airlifted to University of Mississippi Medical Center for further treatment, according to BPD Chief Kenneth Collins.

Banks, 39, was arrested, charged with aggravated assault with extreme indifference to life and booked into the Lincoln County Jail.

“Charges could be upgraded, depending upon if the victim’s medical status changes,” Collins said.

The men were fighting over a woman — Letha Gordon of Crystal Springs — in an apparent love triangle, Collins said. Gordon and Greer had been traveling together, staying in abandoned properties prior to Gordon staying with Banks at his home. Collins said Greer went to Banks’ home and confronted him, resulting in the altercation.

The case remains under investigation.


A trio of stories about a shooting at Waffle House

Published Nov. 1, 4

Two shot at Waffle House

Two people have been shot at Waffle House in Brookhaven.

Brookhaven Police officers are working an active crime scene at the 24-hour restaurant on Brookway Boulevard following a double shooting around 3 a.m. Monday. At least one of the victims has been airlifted to University of Mississippi Medical Center, according to BPD Chief Kenneth Collins.

Police arrest alleged Waffle House shooter

Law enforcement officers arrested a suspect in a double shooting that took place Monday morning at Waffle House in Brookhaven.

Brookhaven Police Department received a call at 1:59 a.m. that someone was shooting at the 24-hour restaurant on Brookway Boulevard. Two people were transported by privately-owned vehicles to King’s Daughters Medical Center. A female victim was then airlifted to University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, according to BPD Chief Kenneth Collins.

The suspect was captured on Loyd Star Lane without incident, Collins said. Willie Walker III was booked into the Lincoln County Jail shortly after 10 a.m., Collins said.

Walker has been charged with one count of attempted murder, one count of aggravated assault and two counts of shooting into a motor vehicle.

“Charges may be upgraded to murder if the young lady doesn’t survive,” Collins said. “I’d like to thank Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and all the police officers and deputies. Our prayers go out to the families of the victims.”

Charge upgraded to murder in Brookhaven Waffle House shooting

The suspect arrested and charged with attempted murder after a shooting earlier this week in Brookhaven has now been charged with murder.

Willie Ray Walker III, 31, of 2814 Loyd Star Lane in Wesson, was arrested Monday morning after a double shooting that took place at approximately 2 a.m. at Waffle House on Brookway Boulevard.

The charge was upgraded Thursday to murder after victim Myrtessia Kemyah Catchings died at University of Mississippi Medical Center, according to Brookhaven Police Department Chief Kenneth Collins.

Thursday afternoon, Collins said Lindsay Marie Schmidt, 30, also of 2814 Loyd Star Lane in Wesson, was wanted for accessory after the fact.

Schmidt was taken into custody at approximately 6 p.m. Thursday.

A second victim of the Monday shooting was injured in the arm and is doing OK, Collins said.


Police arrest two for human trafficking

Published Oct. 8

Two New Orleans men have been arrested in Brookhaven on human trafficking charges.

Police received a call at 3:04 p.m. Thursday reporting an attempted vehicle theft at Murphy USA gas station on Brookway Boulevard. Several officers responded, said BPD Chief Kenneth Collins, including some who were off duty at the time of the call.

The suspects were detained and after some investigation, officers discovered they were not dealing with an attempted vehicle theft, but a more serious crime involving two men and a female.

“When we got there and started investigating, we realized what we had,” Collins said. “She was trying to escape.”

Donald Williams, 41, 2817 Dante St., New Orleans, and Kenneth R. Turner, 34, 8520 Chef Menteur Hwy., New Orleans, were taken into custody and charged with human trafficking.

Williams and Turner had come from New Orleans to retrieve a rental vehicle and the female with them attempted to escape from them at the gas station, Collins said. BPD contacted the Jackson office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, who sent agents from their Human Trafficking Task Force to Brookhaven to assist.

Collins said he is grateful to the witnesses who reported what they saw happening, as well as to his officers and the FBI.

“I want to thank my police officers for everybody responding so quickly — even some of the ones off duty heard it and put their vests on and showed up — and the task force,” Collins said. “It’s only by all of us working together that we can keep our town safe.”

Body found at McComb attorney’s home, attorney arrested

Published March 31

A woman was found dead at the home of attorney Robert A. Lenoir on Hope Drive in McComb around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, McComb Police Chief Garland Ward said. Multiple law enforcement sources have confirmed the woman was Wendy McMahan or Wendy Dansby, according to McComb news source The Enterprise-Journal.

MPD has turned the case over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.

Lenoir, 45, was arrested Tuesday and charged by Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and MBI with tampering with physical evidence and possession of a Schedule II controlled substance.

18-year-old killed in shooting

Published July 8

An 18-year-old 2020 Brookhaven High graduate has died from gunshot wounds.

At 9:13 p.m. Wednesday, officers from the Brookhaven Police Department responded to a call of shots fired on Hines Street.

Officers arrived at 704 Hines St. and found a man in the back yard of the home who had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. He was later identified as Kemon Funchess, 18, of 216 Lumber St., according to BPD Chief Kenneth Collins.

After King’s Daughters Medical Center EMTs arrived, Funchess was pronounced dead on the scene.

Funchess’ body has been sent to the state crime lab in Jackson for an autopsy, according to Lincoln County Deputy Coroner John Riggs.

Kentory Benson Jr., 18, who was fitted with an ankle monitor, was arrested at the scene and charged with violation of the restrictions of his parole, Collins said.

A Lincoln County Justice Court representative confirmed an ankle monitor in such instances is used by parole officers to keep tabs on someone convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor crime.

“To the Funchess family, I know your pain and sorrow is immeasurable and words cannot ease that pain. Only God can,” Collins said. “I want you to know we’re doing our best (and) we’re going to continue to do our best.”

The investigation is ongoing.


Suspect on the run in Brookhaven

Published June 4

A suspect driving a gray Nissan sedan ditched his vehicle on Walnut Street just before noon Friday, and fled law enforcement officers on foot.

After an apparent high-speed pursuit into the city, officers with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Brookhaven Police Department, Mississippi Highway Patrol and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics conducted a search of the abandoned vehicle as other officers attempted to locate the driver.

A witness told an MBN officer she saw the suspect flee toward Main Street when he jumped out of his car and bumped into hers as she drove by.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


1 dead, 1 charged with murder after shooting

Published June 9

One man is dead and another has been arrested and charged with murder after a Tuesday night argument in a parking lot turned deadly.

Randy Williams and Alonzo Haines became involved in a verbal altercation around 11:23 p.m. Tuesday in the parking lot of Stop & Shop Grocery and Market on East Monticello Street, Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins said.

At some point in the argument, Haynes was shot in the chest area and pronounced dead at King’s Daughters Medical Center. Williams was arrested and booked into the Lincoln County Jail on murder charges.

“I pray to God for both families, for peace of mind and wisdom during this time amidst sorrow,” Collins said. “This does not make any sense. We as children of God have got to learn to solve our problems in a different way.”

Investigation into the matter is ongoing.


COVID-19: Delta symptoms changing

Published Aug. 31

Symptoms are changing with the Delta variant of COVID-19.

What may seem like a common cold or allergy could be the dangerous new strain, according to a public announcement by King’s Daughters Medical Center.

COVID can now present itself with a runny nose, headache, sore throat and fever. Persistent cough and loss of taste and smell are not as prevalent with the Delta variant.

As of Monday, KDMC had 34 hospitalized patients. Twenty was the normal daily average prior to the pandemic. Eighteen of the 34 were COVID-positive. Seventeen of those were unvaccinated.

KDMC’s eight-bed intensive care unit had 15 patients, 11 with the coronavirus. Thirteen of the ICU patients were on ventilators, including all the COVID-positive patients.

In the previous 24 hours, 54 patients had been seen in the emergency room. Precisely half were COVID-related.

KDMC had administered 568 monoclonal antibody infusions across August to combat the effects of COVID. In July, the hospital administered 203 infusions.

The State Department of Health reported 1,111 new positive cases of COVID Tuesday and 48 deaths.

The case numbers reported are impacted by reduced staffing due to Hurricane Ida, however.

Twenty-one of the reported deaths occurred Aug. 25-30, and 27 were identified from death certificate reports Aug. 12-26.

Mississippi has now had 436,722 cases and 8,409 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thirteen additional cases have been identified in long-term care facility residents and three additional deaths. MSDH reports 170 ongoing LTC outbreaks.

MSDH vaccination and testing sites remained closed Tuesday in all but north Mississippi counties.

Lincoln County has reported 205 new cases over the past week and one new death in that period, bringing county totals to 4,813 cases and 122 deaths. Just more than 14% of COVID-19 tests have returned positive results during that time.

The county has seen 199 positive cases and 40 deaths in LTC facilities.


Mother, child die in Labor Day crash

Published Sept. 7

A Brookhaven woman and her 3-year-old child died from injuries sustained in a Labor Day crash in Lincoln County.

At approximately 7:20 p.m. Monday, Sept. 6, the Mississippi Highway Patrol responded to a traffic crash on Hwy. 84 near Lower Meadville Road.

A 2003 Nissan Altima, driven by Megan E. Burr, 28, of Brookhaven, was traveling westbound on Hwy. 84 and a 2010 Nissan Titan pickup driven by Bolton A. Billiot, 18, of Kentwood, Louisiana, was traveling eastbound.

The Altima left the roadway, crossed the median and traveled into the eastbound lanes of Hwy. 84, colliding with the pickup.

Burr and rear passenger Travis Burr, 3, received fatal injuries from the crash and were pronounced dead on the scene, according to Lincoln County Coroner Clay McMorris. Another child, approximately 1.5 years of age, was transported to University of Mississippi Medical Center with critical injuries.

Four additional fatalities were reported by MHP statewide as the result of other crashes across the holiday weekend.

On Saturday, Sept. 4, at approximately 5:47 p.m., MHP responded to a crash at the intersection of Hwy. 7 and County Road 333 in Grenada County.

A 2011 Toyota Sequoia driven by Abigail Branch, 37, of Holly Springs, was traveling northbound on Hwy. 7. A 2007 Nissan Altima driven by Ladarrius Campbell, 21, of Grenada, was traveling westbound on CR-333.

The Sequoia collided with the left side of the Altima. Campbell received fatal injuries from the crash and was pronounced dead on the scene. Janie Branch, age 3, of Holly Springs, was transported to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, where she later succumbed to injuries sustained in the crash.

On Sunday, Sept. 5, at approximately 5:54 a.m., MHP responded to a traffic crash at the intersection of Hwy. 61 and Green River Road in Tunica County.

A 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt driven by Nrsimha Broomfield, 30, of Memphis, Tennessee, was traveling southbound on Hwy. 61. A 2014 Nissan Versa driven by Chad Little, 64, of Southaven, was traveling eastbound on Green River Road and proceeded into the intersection of Hwy. 61 and Green River Road.

The Cobalt collided with the left side of the Versa. Little and rear passenger Brett Little received fatal injuries from the crash and were both pronounced dead on the scene.

Across the Friday to Monday Labor Day Travel Enforcement Period, MHP issued 6,635 citations, including 186 DUI arrests, 330 seatbelt citations and 113 child restraint citations. MHP also investigated 146 motor vehicle crashes with 54 injuries and six fatalities.

Troopers also assisted with heavy traffic issues throughout the enforcement period as a result of Hurricane Ida recovery efforts.

All crashes remain under investigation by MHP.


Brookhaven Municipal Election results

Published June 8

The mayor’s race was almost too close to call.

At 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, incumbent Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox had 1,476 votes to challenger Larry Jointer’s 1,456 — a difference of only 20 votes. Seventeen votes were still out — 16 mail-in absentee votes and one affidavit vote still needing verification.

“It was a great run. I did my best,” Jointer said. “I tried to reach every door, tried to reach every person. I was honest in what I said and very transparent. That’s what we need in our city.”

Jointer also said he would not contest the vote, but work for unity in Brookhaven.

“We need to be united in our city, and some areas of the city need to be brought up to standard,” he said. “Best of luck to Mayor Cox.”

“I would like to express my gratitude to the citizens of Brookhaven for electing me to serve a third term,” Cox said. “I remain humbled by your support and honored to represent my hometown.”

“I look forward to working in union with our new Board of Aldermen in bringing viable solutions to the place we call home,” he said, “and continuing to move Brookhaven forward for all residents.”

Police Chief Kenneth Collins kept his leadership role with 76% of the vote over challenger Mike Milholen.

“I want to thank the citizens of Brookhaven for believing in me,” Collins said. “We’re going to continue to keep everybody safe because we are all God’s children. Thank you to everyone and their families.”

Other results


Don Underwood (R) — 1459 (50.12%)

Marilyn Dow-Harris (D) — 1447 (49.71%)

Ward 1 Alderman

James Magee Jr. (D) — 384 (97.46%)

Ward 2 Alderman

Shannon Moore (D), incumbent — 311 (98.42%)

Ward 3 Alderman

Charles J. Caston Sr. (D) — 400 (77.67%)

Troy Douglas (R) — 112 (21.75%)

Ward 4 Alderman

Jeff Henning (R) — 820 (98.2%)

Ward 5 Alderman

Fletcher Grice (R) — 334 (98.82%)

Ward 6 Alderman

Andre’ Spiller (D) — 265 (60.09%)

Shelley Harrigill (R), incumbent — 176 (39.91%)


Sunday night crash in Lincoln County claims life of woman

Published Feb. 8

A Hazlehurst woman was killed when her vehicle collided with another on I-55 Sunday night in Lincoln County.

At approximately 10:29 p.m., Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop M troopers responded to a traffic crash on the southbound side of I-55 near exit 48, Mt. Zion Road.

Troopers learned that a 2015 Chrysler 200, driven by Shamekia L. Bridges of Hazlehurst, was traveling south when the vehicle collided with the rear of a 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe, driven by Nicholas C. Lacking of Clinton, also traveling southbound. The collision caused the Chrysler to overturn and travel into the media. Bridges, 21, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, according to Lincoln County deputy coroner Ricky Alford.

Lacking, 22, was not injured.


Many students will receive P-EBT funds for 2020-2021 school year

Published Oct. 15

Parents of public school students in Mississippi who met certain requirements are beginning to receive food assistance payments from the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Department of Education.

MDHS and MDE have been authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) payments to eligible families for the 2020-2021 school year and Summer 2021. These benefits are intended to help families with additional food costs their household may have experienced due to school closures during the past school year.

Brookhaven School District Superintendent Dr. Rod Henderson called the program “a tremendous benefit to students who are eligible to receive it.”

Around $246 million will be dispersed by late October, according to MDHS. About 345,000 students will qualify for the Summer 2021 benefit of $375 per child.

Only children who were eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches under the National School Lunch Program are eligible to receive P-EBT benefits.

Benefits are calculated for each month of the school year based on the mode of learning used by the majority of student sin that child’s school during that month. For instance, if an eligible student was under a hybrid schedule for one month, he or she would receive $61.38. If the student was under a virtual-only schedule for one month, he or she would receive $122.76 for the month. If the child was enrolled in a school with a majority in-person learning schedule for the month, no benefit will be paid for that month.

All monthly amounts the child is eligible to receive will be added together and issued as a single lump-sum payment for the 2020-2021 school year. Each child will receive his or her own card with their name on it specifically for P-EBT.

Area schools

Students meeting the above requirements in the following area school districts will receive P-EBT cards.

Henderson said he hopes the P-EBT program will continue.

“It would be great if another round of funds would become available so that they could receive the benefit of the program once again.”