What mattered to you? The most-read stories of 2022

Published 11:02 am Wednesday, January 4, 2023

What were the biggest stories of 2022?

Obituaries are typically the most-read entries for any news reporting source, and this past year saw the deaths of many famous and influential people, such as Sidney Poitier, Michael “Meat Loaf” Aday, Bob Saget, Madeleine Albright, Queen Elizabeth II, soccer great Pele’ and Pope Benedict XVI.

Locally, however, the following were the top 10 most-read stories on DailyLeader.com for 2022.

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Blackout license plates now available in Mississippi

July 1

Beginning July 1, Mississippi’s newest license plate — the “blackout” tag — is available.

The tag has white text on a sleek black background and is available as a vanity tag only. A portion of the sales of the tag will go to benefit families of fallen law enforcement officers and fire fighters.

The legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Fred Shanks and in the Senate by Sen. Scott DeLano.

“This will be available for specialized or vanity tags only. A majority of the fee collected goes to the Fallen Officers benefit fund that goes on to help the families that have lost tragically in law enforcement communities across the state,” said Sen. DeLano.

In addition to the regular cost of your vehicle’s tag (your ad valorem taxes), the tag will cost $53 per year, plus a $10 registration fee if it is not time to renew. Of this, $36.25 will go to the State Law Enforcement and Firefighter Death Benefit Trust Fund.

The tags are available for cars, light-duty trucks, motorcycles and non-commercial trailers. Current tags must be surrendered to the tax collector’s office if a tag is being swapped for a blackout plate.

Lincoln County Tax Collector Blake Pickering said his office has had multiple inquiries about the new tag option.

“Based off just the response we have had thus far,” he said, “it seems like it will easily be the most popular specialty plate we have ever had.”



Three strikes and he’s out: Brookhaven man gets life under habitual offender law

June 23

A Brookhaven man has been sentenced to life in prison under the state’s habitual offender law. Otherwise known as the “three strikes” law, Mississippi Code of 1972 section 99-19-83 dictates that a person sentenced under the law receive life in prison to serve day for day “and such sentence shall not be reduced or suspended, nor shall such person be eligible for parole or probation.”

Tony Dasmond McGee, 45, received the sentence at the conclusion of a two-day jury trial Lincoln County Circuit Court before Judge David H. Strong Jr.

McGee was arrested in 2021 on charges of possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of a stolen firearm, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The State chose to prosecute the firearm counts.

The jury found McGee guilty on both counts, and he was sentenced to a period of life in prison for each of the counts, to run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $5,000 and court costs of $429.50.

McGee was handed over to the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Mississippi is one of 28 states with a three-strikes/habitual offender law. The State Code reads, “Every person convicted in this state of a felony who shall have been convicted twice previously of any felony or federal crime upon charges separately brought and arising out of separate incidents at different times and who shall have been sentenced to and served separate terms of one (1) year or more in any state and/or federal penal institution, whether in this state or elsewhere, and where any one (1) of such felonies shall have been a crime of violence shall be sentenced to life imprisonment, and such sentence shall not be reduced or suspended nor shall such person be eligible for parole or probation.”

McGee’s prior convictions were for sale of controlled substance and manslaughter, according to Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield.



2 arrested in connection with shooting at FedEx driver

Feb. 1

Two arrests have been made in connection with a recent shooting in Brookhaven.

Gregory Charles Case of Brookhaven and his son Brandon Case each surrendered to Brookhaven Police Tuesday in the presence of their attorneys, BPD Chief Kenneth Collins said.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24, a delivery driver for FedEx was exiting the Case’s driveway on Junior Trail after making a delivery when Gregory Case used his pickup truck in an attempt to block the vehicle from exiting the drive, according to Collins.

The driver — who was in a FedEx uniform, driving a Hertz Rental truck with a FedEx vehicle magnet on it — maneuvered his vehicle through the grass onto the road to pass Case. Brandon Case was standing in the roadway with a handgun pointed at the driver of the vehicle. The FedEx employee continued past the younger case and fled the area, calling his manager as he did so.

Brandon Case then allegedly joined his father in the pickup and the two chased the delivery truck, with Brandon firing repeatedly at the truck. They pursued the truck until it entered Interstate 55 headed north toward the FedEx distribution center in Jackson.

The following morning, the driver and his manager — who said she heard the gunshots over the phone — filed a complaint with BPD.

Officers opened an investigation, working with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and contacting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to see if federal charges would be pending.

“An investigation like this takes time,” Collins said.

Collins denounced the idea that Brookhaven is a racist city, as he said some have claimed on social media. The Cases are white and the FedEx driver is black.

“We’re not going to have outsiders coming in trying to stir that up,” he said. “Brookhaven is not a racist, prejudiced town. You can’t judge a town by the actions of two individuals.”

“People need to be careful what they post on social media,” Collins said. “If somebody is killed or hurt because of what you post on social media, you will be charged, too.”

The chief thanked MBI for processing the vehicle and for those who have worked together with BPD on the investigation.

The elder Case has been charged with conspiracy and is being held on a $75,000 bond. The younger Case has been charged with shooting into a motor vehicle and is being held on a $150,000 bond. Both men were booked into the Lincoln County Jail.



Brookhaven woman airlifted to UMMC after golf cart wreck

July 12

A Brookhaven woman has been airlifted to Jackson after a Tuesday wreck.

About 2:50 p.m. Tuesday, Mississippi Highway Patrol responded to a wreck on Hwy. 583 near Shell Oil Lane.

Patricia Douglas, 75, had entered the northbound lane of Hwy. 583 from the road shoulder, in her golf cart.

A 2011 Honda Odyssey, driven by 77-year-old David Williamson of Bogue Chitto, collided with the golf cart. Douglas was ejected.

Douglas was transported via ambulance to King’s Daughters Medical Center, then airlifted to University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The wreck remains under investigation by MHP.



Former Brookhaven officer killed in line of duty

June 9

A former Brookhaven police officer was killed in the line of duty Thursday in Meridian.

Currently serving with the Meridian Police Department, Kennis Croom was fatally shot in the head while responding to a shots fired call.

Lauderdale County Coroner Clayton Cobler said a woman was also dead on the scene.

Sheriff Billy Sollie said they are searching for Dante Marquez Bender, a former Newton Police officer who was fired in January.

Law enforcement officers in Meridian reported Bender had allegedly killed the woman on the scene and was allegedly about to kill four children as well when Officer Croom stopped him. Croom was fatally shot and Bender fled the scene.

Bender, 31, is believed to be driving a 2004 black Nissan ARMADA with a tag reading “IMANI.” He is believed to be armed and dangerous. Bender is described as black male 31 years of age, five feet eleven inches tall, weighing 299 pounds, with brown eyes and short black hair. He was last seen at 2408 51st Avenue in Meridian, on June 9, at approximately 5:36 pm and was wearing a purple sweatshirt and purple sweatpants.

Officials say around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, scanner traffic indicated officer down on 51st Avenue. An ambulance transported a Meridian officer in critical condition to a hospital, where he was airlifted to another hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has issued a statewide emergency bulletin for Bender. Anyone with information on Bender or his whereabouts is asked to call 911 or 1-855-485-TIPS (8477) or email MBITIPS@dps.ms.gov. All tips are anonymous.



2 men shot Christmas Eve in Brookhaven

Dec. 26

Two men were shot late Christmas Eve on North Second Street in Brookhaven.

A Brookhaven man and a Port Gibson man told police they were backing into the Bicentennial Park parking lot at approximately 11:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022 when someone began shooting at them.

Chief Kenneth Collins said both men received gunshot wounds. Both were taken by paramedics for emergency treatment.

The men told police they did not see who shot them.

The incident remains under investigation.

Some vehicle burglaries and attempted burglaries were also reported in the two days prior to Christmas.

“Most of the cars were unlocked, and had items visible inside that the thieves wanted,” said Collins. One vehicle had a broken screwdriver stuck where the thief had attempted to break in.

“We have a suspect in custody, who was arrested on a felony shoplifting warrant,” Collins said. “We’re looking for a couple of others.”



1 arrested in large drug bust; 2nd suspect asked to surrender

March 8

Brookhaven police made a large drug bust Tuesday, resulting in one arrest and pending charges on another suspect.

At approximately 8 a.m., a Brookhaven Police Department officer made a traffic stop on Drury Lane for careless driving, according to Sgt. Jonathan Hart.

After the driver of the Chevrolet Suburban pulled into the parking lot of La Rue’s Discount Drugs, the officer spoke with driver and passenger Charles Edward Thomas and Miranda M. Wilson.

Thomas told the officer that Wilson had a dental appointment at Dr. Baker’s office next door. The officer allowed her to exit the vehicle and enter Baker’s office to keep her appointment, but instructed Thomas to remain in the vehicle.

The officer smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and asked permission to search the SUV. Thomas agreed, but when the officer asked him to step out of the vehicle, Thomas drove off at a high rate of speed, fleeing west on Hwy. 550.

Pursuing officers lost sight of the vehicle and returned to Dr. Baker’s office to talk with Wilson.

When officers opened the door of the dentist’s office, they smelled marijuana and asked Wilson to step outside. Wilson had a black bag in her hand, which officers searched with probable cause due to the strong smell of marijuana coming from the bag, Hart said.

Officers found a large amount of marijuana in the bag, along with methamphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine. More cocaine and pills were located in Wilson’s purse, and a small bag of ecstasy was in her pocket.

Wilson, 41, of 900 Williams St. Apt. 29, was arrested and charged with felony possession of controlled substance with intent to sell, and processed into the Lincoln County Jail.

Thomas has charges pending, including felony fleeing. He is asked to turn himself in to BPD.

Chief Kenneth Collins expressed his thanks to the officers “for coming into work and doing their job by serving and protecting the City of Brookhaven.”



Brookhaven woman killed in midnight shooting

Sept. 14

A Brookhaven woman was killed Tuesday around midnight when she was struck by gunfire while driving on South Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins said Mashonna Shunta Dunnigan, 44, was found in her vehicle with an apparent gunshot wound.

Collins said police received a call of shots fired around midnight, then another call about 14 minutes later that a woman in a car had been shot. The car had come to rest on South MLK on the side of the C-Store at East Monticello Street.

“We’re presently working a homicide. We contacted the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and will be working with them,” Collins said.

The Mississippi Crime Scene Unit was requested to assist, as well, he said.

“I know this is a devastating time for the family, and I’m asking that they talk to the young people in their family and keep them calm,” Collins said, “because the last thing we need is retaliation, for somebody else not involved in anything — some innocent person — to get hurt or killed. When you indiscriminately fire a weapon, you have unintended consequences.”

Collins asked for members of the family or community with any information to come in and give statements to officers.

“Let’s handle this the right way. Street justice is no justice,” said the chief.

Collins said he is praying for the entire Dunnigan family.

“I know them. I pray that God will be with them and guide them through this terrible time.”



Pike County men charged with murder in Bogue Chitto music studio shooting

Aug. 22

Two suspects have been arrested in connection with a Friday night homicide in Bogue Chitto.

Dantez J. Frith, 22, was arrested Saturday and charged with first-degree murder. Camron Cardell Stewart, 19, was arrested Sunday and also charged with first-degree murder. Both Frith and Stewart are from Pike County.

“We want to thank Pike County Sheriff’s Office and McComb Police Department for their assistance in capturing the suspects,” Lincoln County Chief Deputy Johnny Hall said. “Also, the investigators of Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office worked tirelessly all weekend to apprehend these two suspects.”

On Friday, Aug. 19, at approximately 5:30 p.m., LCSO dispatch received a call of a shooting at a residence on Mill Creek Road, Hall said.

Summit resident La’Curtis Hackett, 22, and two other people had been in a music studio in that residence when two assailants kicked in the door and shot Hackett several times. Hackett was transported to King’s Daughters Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Three weeks ago, a Pike County grand jury declined to indict Hackett for the 2020 shooting death of Austin Wanzo. Wanzo, 20, also of Summit, was shot in the back with a Springfield XD .45 ACP semi-automatic handgun near the intersection of Summit Street and Higgins Drive in McComb.

Hackett said he had accidentally shot Wanzo as they sat in another man’s car.

According to The Enterprise-Journal, Police Chief Garland Ward said at the time that Hackett was charged with murder because the handgun has a system of four internal safeties that would not allow it to misfire. Hackett was arraigned in June on the charge of manslaughter, which was upgraded to murder in July.

Hall said the case remains an ongoing investigation.



Body of missing man found after truck located near New Hebron

Sept. 8

The body of a missing man has been found after his cell phone was pinged at a location in New Hebron.

Carson Sistrunk, of Pearl, was reported missing Monday. A report was filed with the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department and listed on NCIC.

In addition to his cell phone pinging, Sistrunk’s debit card was also used at a store in the New Hebron area, according to a family member.

Sistrunk’s truck was located hours after the missing report was filed, with a woman driving it in the area of New Hebron and Jefferson Davis County. Lawrence County Sheriff Ryan Everett said when it was found by investigators, it appeared to have blood in it. The woman was taken into custody for questioning.

A body was found Wednesday in Jefferson Davis County, officials said. Members of Sistrunk’s family posted on Facebook that the body was his.

Family posted he had met a woman on Snapchat and had gone to meet her Sunday. His truck was taken, and he was allegedly shot and his body dumped.

The case is under investigation.