Year in Review: Unsolved murders top list of news in 2018


Unsolved murders in Yazoo County were the top news story of 2018 with three unrelated cases where no suspects have been charged.

In February Glen Renfrow was murdered in his home on Patterson Road.

Investigators said a man came to Renfrow’s home claiming to have car trouble and asking for help. When Renfrow went to try to help, he was confronted by a masked man with a gun.

Renfrow was shot and killed during the course of the robbery. The suspects fled in a silver car.

In June Billy Ray Peeples was found suffering from head injuries in his building on Jerry Clower Boulevard. He later died from those injuries.

Police first believed that Peeples had fallen inside the building and accidentally injured himself, but an autopsy revealed that he was murdered.

Two suspects were arrested, but they were later released and no charges were filed against them. No suspects have been identified.

In October King Ball, 79, was found murdered inside his home on East Seventh Street. Ball had been shot multiple times.

Rewards have been offered for information leading to an arrest, but no one has come forward with useful information.

No suspects have ever been identified.

Political change was in the air in February as two of Yazoo City’s incumbent aldermen were defeated.

Longtime Ward 2 Alderman Dr. Jack Varner was defeated by former police chief Andre Lloyd, and Ward 3 Alderman Rev. Gregory Robertson was defeated by Sir Jonathan Rucker.

Mayor Diane Delaware and Ward 4 Alderman Aubry Brent Jr. prevailed in runoff elections.

In February Yazoo native Fletcher Cox earned a Super Bowl victory as the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33. Yazoo City held a parade in Cox’s honor in March.

In April Yazoo native Mike Espy began his bid for the seat that became vacant when U.S. Senator Thad Cochran retired. Cindy-Hyde Smith, defeated Espy in the runoff election, but Espy carried Yazoo County.

In November Johnny Mack Brown, the man charged with the murder of Yazoo business owner Ricky Saxton, was originally expected to accept a plea deal that would include serving 26 years in prison. Brown changed his mind at the last minute, however, and after a week of testimony the judge declared a mistrial after the defense successfully argued that it had not been given some of the evidence being discussed prior to the trial. A new trial is expected to begin this summer.

There were also three murder cases in Yazoo City in 2018 where suspects were charged.

In June Railand Hucks and Kerril Ross were charged in the death of 19-year-old Tandre Weekly on Prentiss Street.

Osker Newton, 67, was charged with shooting and killing Stanley D. Washington at Delta Circle Apartments. Police chief Ron Sampson said there was a public altercation between the two men before Newton shot Washington.

Washington later died at University Medical Center in Jackson.

In October Caleb Bryant was charged with killing his own brother after James Bryant died from gunshot wounds.

Investigators believe the brothers got into a fist fight before the shooting.

Downtown landmark Cindi’s Gifts of Distinction closed in January. Mrs. Helen Nicholas first opened the store on Main Street in 1972, and it was a favorite shopping destination for many Yazooans over the years.

In June Yazoo native Rob Coleman was named CEO of Baptist Memorial-Yazoo.

Local business owner Dennis Vandevere survived a brutal attack after answering a wrecker call in March. Despite suffering significant injuries, Vandevere quickly returned to work.

In March Curtis Brown was sentenced to serve five years for shooting and killing his wife, Tiffany Brown, 31, after pleading guilty to manslaughter. Brown originally claimed his wife had committed suicide.

Many other notable events took place in Yazoo during 2018:


Bethel A.M.E. Church celebrated 150 years of ministry in Yazoo City in February.

June Crow was named the Boys & Girls Club Southeast Professional of the Year in April. That was a tremendous honor in itself, but in May Crow was named the National Professional Staff Member of the Year at the national conference in San Diego.

Longtime WLBT news anchor Maggie Wade was the guest speaker at the annual Chamber Banquet. Sedric Hudson was presented the Spirit of Yazoo Award for his efforts to revitalize our local parks.

C-Squared Event Center, owned by Rayna and Tilmon Clifton, opened its doors in May.

Yazoo County native Joanna King earned national recognition for her volunteer work in Senegal in May.

It was a sad site on Main Street in May when the historic Wash Rose and Henick building suffered a major collapse affecting the roof and the front of the building.

In late May Yazoo City Schools Superintendent Darrin Edwards departed. Dr. Georgia Ingram was named his replacement.

Love Your Health yoga studio, owned by Johanna Fassbender, was welcomed to the local business community in June.

Bruce Ruschewski, a veteran pharmacist with over 30 years experience, joined the staff of Yazoo Drug Company in June.

Betty Reed retired from the Yazoo Housing Authority in June after 33 years of service.

MEA opened a medical clinic on Fifteenth Street in July. Among those serving in the clinic is Certified Nurse Practitioner Carole Lynne Singleton, who is a familiar face in Yazoo.

Jana Bardwell was named High School principal at Manchester Academy. She previously served as principal of Yazoo County High School.

Downtown Yazoo lost another landmark when the former Marylena Shoppe burned in late July.

Former Major League baseball great Darryl Strawberry shared his testimony at a Back to School Rally encouraging faith in Christ and a drug-free lifestyle at Parkview Church of God.

Leslie Roark Scott was joined by members of her Ubon’s barbecue family, including her son Jacob Scott, as she served as head chef in a cooking showcase at the James Beard House in New York City.

Dan Bradshaw of Simmons Catfish was named Mississippi’s Catfish Farmer of the Year by the Catfish Farmers of America.

In September the Mayor and Board of Aldermen replaced three of the Yazoo City Housing Authority board members.

In October Sedric Hudson and Penny Jackson were chosen by readers of The Yazoo Herald as Man and Woman of the Year.

The first Yazoo Music Fest attracted an enormous crowd downtown for a day of live music sponsored by the Yazoo Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Nick and Ann King made big news in the Yazoo business community in October by purchasing Webb’s Pharmacy. Frank Webb, who followed in the footsteps of his father Ted Webb as the owner of the pharmacy, continues to work at the downtown business.

Yazoo native Viola Regan Dacus performed a concert at First United Methodist Church as part of the concert series sponsored by the Yazoo Arts Council on Oct. 19.

Black Jack Baptist Church celebrated its 175th anniversary in Vaughan on Oct. 21.

In November Tommy Irvine was elected Yazoo County Tax Collector in a special election following the retirement of Travis Crimm Jr.

Betsy Cotton was elected county judge, and John Donaldson was elected county prosecutor.

Bank of Yazoo City took a giant step forward for the local business community with the opening of its new bank on Jerry Clower Boulevard.

In December the Yazoo County Board of Supervisors landed a $150,000 grant to help with roof repairs on the AMCO manufacturing building in the industrial park.

The District 3 Fire Station was named in honor of volunteer firefighter Shayne Kirk just days before he passed away on Dec. 24.

Danny Miller retired as Yazoo City’s Public Works director in December.

Ellen Davis retired as administrator for the Yazoo County Soil and Water Conservation District. Kay Mills began her duties as the new administrator.

Fond Farewells

In January we said goodbye to local business owner Freddie Stevens and Homerline Clower, the wife of the late famous comedian Jerry Clower.

Longtime CPA and business owner Betty Quin died on Jan. 28 at age 67.

Susie Bull, a longtime librarian at Ricks Memorial Library and active member of Ellison United Methodist Church, died at age 88.

Beloved artist and teacher Sunny Kay Berry McGraw died on Feb. 1.

Hugh McLaurin Pepper III, a former professional baseball player and legendary high school coach, died on Feb. 4 at age 88.

Former Ward 4 alderman Joe Broadaway died on Feb. 20 at age 80.

Lamar Edmonds, who was wounded in combat in the Korean War while serving with the U.S. Army, died  on Feb. 27.

Longtime attorney Samuel Griffin Norquist died on March 7 at age 96. Norquist was a hero in World War II and was the longest serving county board attorney in the nation when he retired in 2010.

Benton farmer and retired postal carrier Hugh L. Mathews died on March 6.

Willie McCoy, a longtime instructor and media specialist for Yazoo City Schools who was active in numerous civic affairs, died in March.

Jerry Moses, who played for the Boston Red Sox and is remembered as one of the best athletes in Yazoo City history, died in March at age 71.

Longtime teacher Eugenia Walker died on April 10.

Mary Louise Cors, who served as director of nursing at the Care Inn and at King’s Daughters Hospital, and held other leadership roles in the local healthcare community during her career, died on July 5.

Lillian Davis, who helped raise children at First United Methodist Daycare for 25 years, died in May at age 85.

Retired teacher Leann Hardage died in May at age 64.

Jack Richardson a former co-owner of Dan-Jack Chevrolet in Yazoo City and manager of Yazoo Parts Company, died on May 26 at age 100.

Walter King Jr., retired director of transportation for the Yazoo City and Yazoo County school districts, died on May 26.

Margie Vaughan, the first female superintendent of the Yazoo County School District, died on June 3.

John Kelly Moore, whose military service in World War II included helping liberate a concentration camp before he enjoyed a long career in farming in the Vaughan community, died in June at age 101.

Audrey Pepper, who retired as head teller at Regions bank after over 20 years of service to the banking industry, died on May 30 at age 93.

Norman Damiens, former owner of Yazoo Tire Service and Korean War hero, died in July at age 88.

Bunny Albert Fields, 79, died tragically in June after drowning while fishing when his boat was overturned by the wake of a passing pleasure boat.

Harold C. Middleton, who led the effort to construct Yazoo County High School during his tenure as superintendent, died in August at age 82. Middleton began his career as an assistant teacher at Benton High School and advanced through the ranks as teacher, assistant principal and principal before being elected superintendent.

Riley Myers, a veteran high school football coach and former standout football player at Ole Miss, died in a tragic accident on Aug. 20. Myers served two tenures as head football coach at Manchester Academy.

On Aug. 27 our community and barbecue enthusiasts all over the nation mourned the loss of Yazoo barbecue legend and Ubon’s Restaurant owner Garry Roark. Roark took a family recipe and turned it into one of the most successful barbecue cooking teams in the nation. He shared his love for cooking and making new friends with his family, and they continue the tradition.

Randy Roe, owner of R&R Trucking, died on Sept. 18 at age 60.

In September many Yazooans grieved the loss of two young lives after Taylor Stevens and Hayden Whitworth were killed in a one-car accident on Fletcher’s Chapel Road.

Dicey Barbour, who was active in many local civic groups, died on Nov. 19 at age 94.

Marvin Terrell, an Ole Miss football legend who played professional football and coached many local high school athletes, died on Dec. 1.

Veteran educator Annette Fouche died on Dec. 4. She was an active member of St. Stephen United Methodist Church.

Sports Highlights

Manchester Academy’s junior high boys basketball team finished the season with a perfect 26-0 record to win the district title.

The MA junior high Lady Mavericks also made school history by finishing 24-2 and capturing the district title.

Darius Wright was named the SWAC Pitcher of the Week in late February for his win against Alabama State.

Yazoo City High School welcomed Gerald Peyton back home to lead the baseball program. Peyton previously had the Indians baseball program at the highest level it had seen in years. The Indans went on to win the district title under Peyton’s leadership.

Anthony Carlyle, a former star basketball player at Yazoo City High and son of coaching legend Archie Carlyle, coached Columbus to a state title to earn his fifth state title. Carlyle was later hired as athletic director and head boys basketball coach at Yazoo City High School.

Yazoo County’s baseball team finished district play undefeated to win the title under head coach Corbin Ellis.

Josie Coker improved to 13-0 by winning the No. 1 Singles North Half title for Manchester Academy in May. Manchester Academy continued its tradition of excellence in tennis as both the boys and girls teams won North Half titles.

Monica Morrison captured the No. 2 Girls State Title, Ann Hampton Wells and Reid Bain won the Mixed Doubles title and Matt Carroll and Will Peeler captured the No. 1 Doubles championship as the MA tennis dynasty continued with two more team state titles.

Yazoo native Tangela Banks was named the head women’s basketball coach at Hinds Community College’s Utica campus in May.

Skylar Singleton won a pair of state titles representing Manchester Academy at the state track meet. Stuart Hale and Will Fouche earned second place honors.

Archie Carlyle was inducted into the Mississippi Coaches Hall of Fame in June.

Yazoo native JJ Downs was named Track Coach of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Coaches for his work as track coach at Center Hill High School.

Manchester Academy football players took the field in August carrying blue smoke, which indicated that Coach Kyle Wever and his wife Jessica were expecting a baby boy. Wever has a lot of history on that field as it’s where he was a star football player for the Mavericks and later where he asked his future wife to marry him.

Yazoo City defeated Yazoo County 6-0 in the Battle of Yazoo. Jayden Stewart scored the touchdown that ended up being enough to secure the victory.

Merrell Nichols was named MVP of the All-Star Softball game in October. The Manchester Academy star was joined by Benton Academy’s Avery Eldridge, Madilyn Manor and Catie Merrell in the All-Star contest.

Benton Academy’s junior high football team captured the conference title in October.

Yazoo native Andrew Byrd earned a spot on the Division III Football Team of the Week for his performance as kicker and punter at Millsaps College.

In October Manchester Academy finished the regular season undefeated with a 30-12 win over Desoto Academy. Hayes Bardwell and Dylan Dendy were named the Players of the Game.

Manchester earned a shot at the state title in an exciting rematch with Humphreys Academy in the playoffs. The Mavericks won the game 42-6 in what started out as a competitive game, but lost star senior wide receiver Blake Coghlan to injury. Hayes Bardwell and Michael Williams were named the Players of the Game in that contest.

Yazoo County native Mike Kinnison, longtime Delta State University baseball coach, was named the university’s athletic director in November.

Manchester Academy fought to the finish, but in the end Tallulah walked away with the 40-34 win and a state title. Parks Poe, Micheal Williams, Jon Riley Poe and Dylan Dendy were named the Players of the Game. 

Bad News

The year began with arrests made in a strange murder case where a man was found dead in staged ATV accident. The last suspect arrested Stephanie Denise Ward, 42, of Clinton was orignally booked into the Yazoo County Jail as “Jane Doe” until her true identity was uncovered. Ward used several aliases. Also charged were Dr. Larry Cooper and John May, both of Jackson.

Former Yazoo City police officer Kenneth Hampton caused quite a stir in January when he directed his anger toward city officials after being terminated from the department. Hampton began attracting a large following on social media for his unfiltered commentary.

In February Benton Academy said goodbye to Callaway, a dog that freely roamed the school’s hall for years and was loved by both students and staff for years.

Becky Fisher retired as superintendent of the Yazoo County School District on June 30. Dr. Ken Barron was chosen to be the district’s next leader.

Former Yazoo County Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tom Taylor was later named headmaster of Tri-County Academy.

Richie Moore was named the new director of Yazoo City’s Public Service Commission. He follows in the footsteps of Jimmy Wever, who guided the PSC for years.

BankPlus held an open house in April to showcase its newly renovated building on Jerry Clower Boulevard.

In April the city dedicated Charles E. Fulgham drive to the former Yazoo City mayor who turned 90 this year.

In April the Chamber of Commerce welcomed The Pointe, an event center owned by Doug and Michelle Andrews, to the business community.

News at the Newspaper

2018 was also an eventful year for The Yazoo Herald.

In June Herald Publisher Jason Patterson earned the Bill Minor Award for General News Coverage. Managing Editor Jamie Patterson won the top award the previous year.

Cathryn Cartwright earned her first First Place awards for journalism and photography at the Mississippi Press Association’s annual convention in New Orleans.

James Patterson, 10-year-old son of Jason and Jamie Patterson, became one of the youngest people to ever win a journalism award with a second place award for Best Use of Social Media. James provided video for The Yazoo Herald social media pages during football season.

Jamie Patterson became the new president of the Yazoo City Rotary Club. She succeeded Jason Patterson.

Sheila Trimm-Young marked her 20th year at The Yazoo Herald.

Jamie Patterson was chosen to speak on a panel including Louisiana Health Secretary Rebekah Gee and Maria Clark with The Times Picayune newspaper about the effects of opioid addiction on communities during a conference in New Orleans.

Jamie Patterson, Yazoo native Austin Barbour and Yazoo native and Emmy award winning journalist Randall Pinkston spoke at the People, Politics and the Press summit at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson in July.