By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
VERONA – Two men are in custody in connection with a Friday morning fatal car crash, and police expect to formally charge them on Monday.
Verona Police Chief Leo Mask said Brandon Beckley and Takei McFarland, 21, are being held in the Lee County jail. The two men are suspected to have been involved in an accident on Raymond Street that claimed the life of 61-year-old Paula Hester of Nettleton.
According to Mask and several witnesses at the scene, two men in a Pontiac Grand Prix collided head-first with Hester’s Ford Probe about 10:30 a.m. The men then jumped out of the car and ran away. Before coming to a stop, the car the men were in hit several vehicles in a nearby parking lot.
Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine-Green said Hester was taken to North Mississippi Medical Center were she was pronounced dead.
Mask said the Grand Prix had been reported stolen.
About an hour after the accident, McFarland was arrested by Lee County Sheriff’s deputies at an apartment complex in Verona. Beckley turned himself in several hours later. Mask said Beckley’s grandmother picked him up after the accident but later drove him to the sheriff’s office so he could turn himself in.
Mask said it is unclear what caused the accident.
“We are still investigating the accident and interviewing the suspects, so we are not ready to say what caused it,” said Mask. “It was a terrible accident.”
Mask did not say what the men could be charged with because he hadn’t determined which suspect was driving. But, according to authorities, the charges could range from felony fleeing the scene of an accident, vehicular manslaughter or DUI manslaughter if the suspect who was driving is found to have been impaired.
Firemen at the scene of the accident described it as the worst they’d seen. Both vehicles were mangled. Hester’s car was missing the driver’s side door because she had to be cut of the vehicle.
Hester was headed north on Raymond and the other vehicle was headed south when the accident occurred, police say.
Hester was a 1968 graduate of Tupelo High School who worked for Tupelo Manufacturing and H.M. Richards Furniture. Her funeral will be Sunday at Holland funeral home and visitation is today.