By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
MANTACHIE – When Dick Erickson started as Mantachie’s police chief, he was handed faded Polaroids and a newspaper article and asked to solve a cold case.
Erickson said when he took office in 2009, replacing Terry Jones, residents began asking if he was ever going to figure out what happened to William White, who was killed on Easter Sunday – March 26, 1978.
The only evidence Erickson received from the murder were four Polaroids from former Chief Horace Ray McFerrin and an Itawamba County Times newspaper article.
Family members have told Erickson that White came home from the Watering Hole, a small bar on the Itawamba-Lee county line north of the Skyline community that Saturday night. He received a phone call, grabbed his wallet and his gun and left the house late that night and never came back. The faded Polaroids show White lying outside the passenger side of his truck next to some empty beer cans with his .30-06 rifle on the seat of the truck. The truck was backed into the parking lot of Mantachie City Hall. White died of a gunshot wound which an autopsy showed was not self-inflicted.
Family members said White had been paid that week and also sold a truck to his son Jerry White for around $700. Erickson said the large sum of money he was carrying was most likely the motive for the murder.
Erickson said multiple community members drove past the scene that Easter Sunday and remember it differently.
“I was told the truck was alongside the road facing north with White laying out on the driver’s side of the vehicle and the scene was very bloody,” Erickson said. “According to a now-retired district attorney investigator, the truck had been washed out upon his arrival.”
Erickson said he has identified four people in the community he needs to get statements from to carry his investigation forward and is still looking for anyone who has information about the reported murder.
“I have identified four total persons of interest for tampering with evidence and a crime scene and two persons of interest as possible shooters,” Erickson said.
He has constructed a narrative from talking to community members who had driven past that morning or been at the bar the evening before.
The narrative, if corroborated in a few places, could lead to convictions, he said.Erickson said he has checked with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, FBI and District Attorney’s office and none of the agencies have a record of the case. He has taken it before MBI representatives for assistance now.
Jerry White, White’s son, said while he doesn’t want to keep talking about the murder all the time, he and his family do want to know what happened to William White and who killed him. He said over the 34 years since the murder they have heard many rumors but received no real answers.
Erickson was accused of opening old wounds by the Mantachie mayor at a recent Board of Aldermen meeting. Mayor Jeff Butler and aldermen Tim Jones and Matt Fletcher questioned him about why he would reopen the case and who asked him to do so.
“There is no statute of limitation on murder and it’s a crime against the state,” Erickson said.
Erickson plans to move forward with the cold case investigation in spite of the bumps he has encountered along the way. He encourages anyone with information about the case to call his office at (662) 282-7936.