By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
COLUMBUS – Tyler Edmonds looks very much like that skinny kid who spent four early-teen years serving a life sentence for murder.
But today, he’s pushing 23 and lovin’ life back in Mississippi with a new business and a new dog.
“It was time to come home,” he said Tuesday in the comfortable waiting area of Simply Tobacco, just off Highway 45 in Columbus.
Edmonds, a West Point native, shows no outward signs of those terror-filled days in a state youth prison, hoping and praying he’d have a change of fate.
He’s happy, says he feels lucky and wants a good outcome with the female English bulldog-boxer mix he adopted Monday from the local shelter.
“I just call her Fat Love, but maybe she needs a more normal name,” he laughed as the 64-pounder licked his hand and tried repeatedly to climb into his narrow lap during a work break.
Edmonds was 13 when he was arrested in the shooting death of his half-sister’s husband, Joey Fulgham, in the Longview community of Oktibbeha County almost nine years ago. A jury convicted him, and later his half-sister. He was sentenced to life in prison and she to death, later changed to life without possibility of parole.
But after the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered Edmonds a new trial because of serious errors in the 2004 proceeding, he was found not guilty.
“That’s when my life began,” he recalled soon after the 2008 verdict.
Since then, he’s graduated from EMT school and worked in Arizona, where he learned he had a youth-related bone cancer.
“If it had been lung cancer, I would have felt like it was my fault,” he said about being a smoker.
Edmonds went into remission late in 2011 after radiation and chemotherapy. That’s when he decided to come back home to the Golden Triangle.
He goes in for tests every three months to check on his health.
“They’ll watch me closely for five years,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty good – maybe 95 percent back.”
These days, he’s getting his first experience with private enterprise with the roll-your-own tobacco shop he’s partners with longtime friend, Columbus businessman Carl Hogan.
“It’s really a learning experience – the whole business end of it,” he notes, saying he’s been surprised at how the store’s traffic has grown since it opened March 1.
Working six days a week is pretty demanding and there’s not much time for fun, Edmonds adds. His off-time focus is his new dog and her training.
As for anyone who thinks they’d like to bring anything illegal into the store to roll into cigarettes, he laughs but warns he’s fielded a few calls to that effect.
“I’ve already been to jail once,” he said with a little sarcasm in his voice. “I’m not going again.”