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Stories Written by Stephanie Rebman

A Byhalia woman has been charged with possessing nearly 15 pounds of meth. (Courtesy photo)

A Byhalia woman has been charged with possessing nearly 15 pounds of meth. (Courtesy photo)

By Stephanie Rebman

Daily Journal

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Eagle Pass, Texas, arrested a 37-year-old Byhalia woman Thursday after allegedly finding her in possession of more than $200,000 worth of illicit drugs.

“Our CBP officers’ training and experience are invaluable in detecting contraband in any form,” said Cynthia O. Rodriguez, CBP Port Director, Eagle Pass. “They are our first line of defense against illicit narcotics entering the country.”

Border officers, working the pedestrian lane at the Camino Real International Bridge, encountered the Byhalia woman as she arrived from Mexico, early Thursday morning. During inspection, officers reportedly discovered packages inside the linings of two coolers she was carrying. CBP officers recovered a total of 14.65 pounds of a methamphetamine, worth an estimated $219,780, from the packages.

The woman was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations for federal prosecution.

djournalcrime-news_v2By Stephanie Rebman

Daily Journal

TUPELO – A Pontotoc County resident has been arrested for selling and producing counterfeit DVDs in the Tupelo area.

Mildred Jones, 49, was arrested earlier this month after a traffic stop on McCullough Boulevard led to discovery of a large stash of allegedly counterfeit CD/DVDs. She is alleged to have been selling counterfeit goods across Lee and Pontotoc counties.

Investigators said they seized about $50,000 in alleged counterfeited copyrighted material.

If found guilty, Jones faces up to eight years in prison.

Mississippi_Highway_PatrolBy Stephanie Rebman

Daily Journal

The Mississippi Highway Patrol responded to 363 calls in the past two days due to winter storms.

According to spokesman Ray Hall, every trooper in the northern region worked during the time frame to ensure public safety. The region includes Starkville, Greenwood, Batesville and New Albany districts. The most calls were recorded in New Albany’s Troop F, which responded to 124 service calls.

The icy roads were to blame for two fatalities. Both were recorded on Tuesday. One in Troop D on Mississippi Highway 35 and one in Troop G on U.S. Hwy. 45. Troop F recorded no fatalities.

Troopers worked around the clock, worked overtime and had troopers from other parts of the state brought in to help provide assistance during the storm.

“We used all the resources available and made sure we responded to each call quickly and efficiently,” said Troop F Commander Capt. Chad Moore. “We prepared for this storm and made sure public safety would be our top priority. Considering the amount of crashes recorded, no doubt the efforts of our men and women contributed to saving lives.”

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Aelisha McDonald pets Mo and Minnie, two dogs she is fostering at her house in Prentiss County, on Tuesday afternoon.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Aelisha McDonald pets Mo and Minnie, two dogs she is fostering at her house in Prentiss County, on Tuesday afternoon.

By Stephanie Rebman

Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE – Aelisha McDonald’s mission began when she met a dog riddled with mange, starving and being eaten alive in a soybean field.

Now, McDonald is committed to helping the hurt, abandoned and neglected pets of Prentiss County and has saved roughly 35 dogs and 12 cats since October, when a neighbor introduced her to Lucky in that field roughly a quarter mile from her home.

Some of the cases the 30-year-old Booneville native has taken on include at least one dog left behind when its owners moved, one so matted it could barely function, one attacked by another dog, one that had been run over and a cat that was dyed red and dumped.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Aelisha McDonald shows a picture of Lucky, who she fostered back to good health and got adopted. Lucky was found near death in a soybean field, and he sparked McDonald into working with others to establish the Prentiss Booneville Animal Shelter.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Aelisha McDonald shows a picture of Lucky, who she fostered back to good health and got adopted. Lucky was found near death in a soybean field, and he sparked McDonald into working with others to establish the Prentiss Booneville Animal Shelter.

Her mission goes above and beyond just helping a couple here and there. She wants to start a movement for a no-kill shelter and is in the process of starting a nonprofit, Prentiss Booneville Animal Shelter.

“We don’t have anything here except the city shelter,” she said. “Dogs have seven days, and the adoption fee is $15, and they don’t get shots or get spayed or neutered. That’s something we want to change. It’s a revolving door and somebody’s got to step up and help these poor babies out. We’ve been like this for years in our county.”

She has a petition that will be delivered to the mayor that is currently circulating at eight businesses in town, and signatures are quickly filling up the pages.

It states, “We the undersigned concerned citizens, of Prentiss County/Booneville. Recognize the abundant need for an animal shelter, to assist with the care and control of the sick, needy and stray animals of our county.”

Until enough support isgarnered for a building and the nonprofit forms, McDonald keeps the animals at her home and works with Booneville Veterinary Medical Center as well as two loyal volunteers, Sheila Luff and Charlotte Adkins.

They work together to get the animals adopted, with some winding up on transports headed north. Lucky was one who went on transport after his 31⁄2 month recovery process. A vet in South Carolina was going to foster him, so he wound up on transport, and a man running the transport immediately fell in love with him and adopted him.

“It was so easy to find him a home when he was better,” McDonald said. “He was something special to me. I told my husband, ‘the change had to be here. If I could do this for one dog, why can’t I help the rest of them?’”

Right now, she and the other volunteers have seven dogs up for adoption, and they are hitting the pavement, soliciting donations and having yard sales to generate funds for vet bills. Sunshine Mills already has gotten on board, donating food, and people regularly call the vet to donate directly to them for animal care.

McDonald’s husband, Geoffrey, is on board with the effort, and “has always had a passion for animals,” she said. And, she is excited to teach her three sons, who are 5, 8 and 10, about animals and the importance of spaying and neutering. McDonald is committed to sparking the change in Prentiss County, and said, “I don’t give up.”

“The out-of-sight, out-of-mind with people has got to end,” she said. “A lot of people find it hard to look at Lucky. But when they see it, they understand why I do what I do.”

stephanie.rebman@journalinc.com

Roy White with his family, from left, daughters Brittany and Brianna and wife Jean. (Courtesy photo)

Roy White with his family, from left, daughters Brittany and Brianna and wife Jean. (Courtesy photo)

By Stephanie Rebman

Daily Journal

Roy White can remember playing in the parts department at Ford Motor Co. at age 8. Now at 50, he’s still got his hands in the business.

Growing up with a family in the auto industry set White’s career path, and a visit 19 years ago to see a relative in Tupelo yielded White a job offer on the spot and a home move-in ready. For the past nine years, he’s been a service adviser at Blackmon Chevrolet, building a bridge between customers and the mechanics.

“I meet and greet customers,” he said. “They come in and tell me what’s wrong with their car. I translate what you tell me to what a mechanic would understand. I try to treat all my customers the way I want to be treated. I try to put myself in their shoes at all times. I’m a strong believer of building trust with all customers.”

His gentleness and quiet, caring demeanor puts customers at ease, and that interaction is his favorite part of the business, and he wants them to go home happy.

“They’re there for a reason,” he said. “Our cars are an extension of us and who we are. Without it we feel lost. If I can’t satisfy you, I take it personally, especially if there’s a need and I can’t help.”

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com Roy White talks with Master Technician James Johnson about an O2 sensor to order for a customers car.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Roy White talks with Master Technician James Johnson about an O2 sensor to order for a customers car.

He and the service team at Chevy did have a pretty foul case to solve with a newer car recently. White said a bad odor was coming from the new car, so they replaced the carpet, then the upholstery, then the headliner. But the horrible smell still wouldn’t go away. One of the mechanics started investigating the trunk, and turns out the culprit was Chinese takeout left in the wheel well where the spare tire goes.

Another customer of White’s kept something else in his trunk – money, thousands of dollars, in fact because he felt that was the safest place.

Yet another customer owned a strip club in Panama City, Fla. and kept polariods of his dancers hung up in his car.

While the auto shop atmosphere is prone for colorful stories and language, White would rather not repeat those; however has gotten kicked out of places for witnessing his faith.

On Dec. 13, 1998, he was saved at Open Door Baptist Church, and has “not been the same since,” he said. “I take my Christianity seriously and always put God first.”

Now, White and wife Jean and daughters Brittany, 14, and Brianna, 9, are members of Chesterville Baptist Church, and it was that faith that got them through hard times when Brianna was born.

Jean developed a life-threatening condition while pregnant, flat-lined and had to be brought back. Brianna was born at 2 pounds, 8 ounces and had a stroke. She had a brain bleed and had to have surgery.

“We spent four months in Birmingham with Brianna,” White said. “Out of all the babies at the time in the unit, she was the only one to come home. I truly attributed that to God.”

White said even the doctors weren’t optimistic and told them the odds of her living were not high.

“The doctors just didn’t understand why she was still with us. I said I did. ‘God’s still got her. He’s still in control.’”

White recently took some control over life and the past 14 months has lost 142 pounds. He takes advantage of every moment with his family, whether it’s hunting with his daughters or jamming to Journey driving down the road.

“Family comes first,” he said.

stephanie.rebman@journalinc.com

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com Chris McKnight has been the CVS store manager in Pontotoc since the store opened in April 2010. He recently received the company's 2013 Paragon Award for his excellence in leadership.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Chris McKnight has been the CVS store manager in Pontotoc since the store opened in April 2010. He recently received the company’s 2013 Paragon Award for his excellence in leadership.

By Stephanie Rebman

Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – Chris McKnight goes into work at CVS every day ready to do the right thing, even if it isn’t the popular thing.

But by doing the right thing, he has become popular, and the company has noticed his leadership.

McKnight, 31, grew up in Pontotoc, graduating from South Pontotoc Attendance Center in 2000 and started his retail career while in high school. After managing stints with South Gloster Auto Sales in Tupelo and at Fred’s, he started with CVS and opened the store in Pontotoc in April 2010 as its manager.

He said he enjoys the retail world and getting to see his customers, which turn into neighbors and friends.

“I feel blessed, whether it be with CVS or Fred’s, working retail and seeing the same customers day in and day out,” he said. “You really don’t look at them as customers – you look at them as neighbors. You try to build that relationship.”

It’s not just helping a customer find the proper cold medication, it sometimes gets intense. Once a customer walked in and said his car was on fire. Another time a car drove into the wall of the store. He also has run next door to help his store’s neighbors before.

“I feel like every day if I come in with the intentions of helping people, that makes my job rewarding,” he said.

CVS corporate recently recognized him for his efforts with the 2013 Paragon Award for his excellence in leadership. He was named the top manager in the district, which includes central and northern Mississippi, and then named the second-best manager in the region.

“I just come in every day to do my job,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to think about getting the award. I feel like you get out of something what you put into it. I was surprised and humbled at the same time.”

CVS sent him to Florida for a few days for a reception, but he was eager to get home to Pontotoc and his family – wife Chastity and 22-month-old daughter Miranda, and his church family at West Heights Baptist Church. He also was ready to get home and root for his favorite Mississippi State Bulldogs.

He’s now getting ready for another leadership opportunity with CVS sending him to learn material and come back and teach it to the district’s managers. He’ll also be ready to bring whatever he learns to help his customers and friends.

“I like being that guy people can walk in and ask, ‘where is Chris at?’” he said.

stephanie.rebman@journalinc.com

By Stephanie Rebman

Daily Journal

The Mississippi Highway Patrol is still investigating a morning crash in Prentiss County that has left an infant in critical condition.

Troopers responded to Mississippi Highway 4 near New Site about 9 a.m. Upon arriving it appeared Matthew K. Mathis, 25, of Booneville, was traveling west on Hwy. 4 when he apparently lost control of his 2000 Lincoln, ran off the road and collided into a tree.

An infant in the vehicle an Mathis were both transported to NMMC. The infant was later transferred to Le Bonheur in Memphis with serious injuries.

The condition now is unknown at this time.

The child was properly restrained.

FBI wanted poster

FBI wanted poster

Daily Journalfriday conference

TUPELO – FBI and local law enforcement held a news conference on Friday night and announced the following:

The FBI upped its portion of the reward money from $50,000 to $100,000 on Friday. That brings the total amount to $202,500 for information in the armed robbery and shooting of two Tupelo police officers Monday.

The FBI also announced investigators believe the same person involved in the incident is also responsible for an attempted armed robbery at a Bank of America in Atlanta on Monday morning.

New photos are available on the FBI website and a wanted poster is now available.

Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer, 38, was killed, and Officer Joseph Maher, 27, was injured and is slowly recovering at North Mississippi Medical Center, according to Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre. They were shot Monday around 3:15 p.m. after an armed robbery at the BancorpSouth branch at 430 S. Gloster St. The shooting took place near Crosstown while traffic was halted for a train.

Daily Journal

djournal-crime-news3Media outlets are reporting leads in Chicago related to Tupelo’s bank robbery and police officer shooting.

According to WMC – TV in Memphis, several law enforcement agencies have received tips that led investigators to the Chicago area to question a person. WMC-TV also said an NBC affiliate reported an all-points bulletin was put out in the city.

Locally, Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Ray Hall said there is nothing to release on the Chicago report, but he said, “I can say we are following some good leads but there has been no formal charges filed and we are still running leads.”

Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer, 38, was killed, and Officer Joseph Maher, 27, was injured and is slowly recovering at North Mississippi Medical Center, according to Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre. They were shot Monday around 3:15 p.m. after an armed robbery at the BancorpSouth branch at 430 S. Gloster St. The shooting took place near Crosstown while traffic was halted for a train.

Stauffer’s funeral is at 11 a.m. Friday and the community is lined up throughout downtown in support.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal The hearse carrying the body of Sgt. Gale Stauffer makes its way down Woodlawn on Friday for burial at Tupelo Memorial Gardens.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
The hearse carrying the body of Sgt. Gale Stauffer makes its way down Woodlawn on Friday for burial at Tupelo Memorial Gardens.

TUPELO – Citizens turned out in a massive showing of support for the family of deceased Tupelo Police Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer Friday by lining the streets from First United Methodist Church to the Tupelo Memorial Park Cemetery on Joyner Avenue.

The funeral procession left the church, where funeral services for the 38-year-old officer were held, just before noon and was greeted residents holding black and blue and American flags along the way.

Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said he estimated more than 1,000 people lining the streets during the procession.

Hundreds of law enforcement cars from as far away as Florence, Ala. Jackson and Memphis, as well as local law enforcement filled the processional, guiding Stauffer’s family and friends to the internment.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal Residents lined the streets along the route to pay their respect and show support for the family of Sgt. Gale Stauffer.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
Residents lined the streets along the route to pay their respect and show support for the family of Sgt. Gale Stauffer.

 

The route passed Stauffer’s Woodlawn Street home where officers were standing at parade rest in watch over his family’s home. Officers have stood guard over the home since Sauffer’s passing.

Tupelo’s First United Methodist Church was the site of the funeral for Stauffer. He was killed responding to the armed bank robbery at 430 S. Gloster St. near Crosstown. The community was out in force to show support.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed an executive order authorizing flags in the state to be flown at half mast today.

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton also is pleading for the public to come forward with information, and he encouraged anyone who is unable to attend Stauffer’s funeral service to show support by lining the route of the funeral procession at 11:45 a.m.

The procession left First United Methodist Church on Main Street going west to Gloster Street where it will turn north on Gloster Street, west on Jackson Street, north on Clayton Avenue, west onto Woodlawn Street and then north onto Joyner Avenue.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal Tupelo Police Officer Rob Edwards and his team wait to deliver he 21 gun salute during Friday's service for Sgt. Gale Stauffer.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
Tupelo Police Officer Rob Edwards and his team wait to deliver he 21 gun salute during Friday’s service for Sgt. Gale Stauffer.

Main Street was be closed from Front Street to Madison Street from 8 a.m. until after the procession.

During the memorial, Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office will handle law enforcement duties inside the city of Tupelo.

“I hope everyone can line the procession route in a show of patriotism and support for Sergeant Stauffer’s family,” Shelton said.

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