Two fired after sexual misconduct claims

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

CORINTH – The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations is investigating allegations that two female employees of the Alcorn County Sheriff’s Office engaged in sexual misconduct with an inmate.
Dispatcher Christy Peterson and part-time correctional officer Amanda Kuykendall were fired Monday in connection with alleged incidents, said Sheriff Charles Rinehart.
“I’ve turned everything over to the MBI because I don’t want a sheriff’s office employee investigating another sheriff’s office employee,” Rinehart said. “That’s more fair to everyone.”
No charges have been filed against the former employees, but the cases will be presented to a grand jury if the MBI investigation develops enough information, the sheriff said.
The inmate named in the incidents is Benjamin Howard Puckett, sentenced in Tishomingo County on burglary and drug charges. Alcorn County was housing Puckett while he was awaiting transfer to a state facility, Rinehart said.
On Monday, the Mississippi Department of Corrections picked Puckett up and transported him to Rankin County.
The sheriff confirmed that MBI also is investigating whether either or both of the employees may have provided cell phones to Puckett and other inmates, a felony under Mississippi statute.
“A cell phone is considered contraband, and we’re very concerned about whether this happened,” Rinehart said.
Mississippi law addresses the sex act between incarcerated offenders and law enforcement officers or employees. It does not penalize the inmate, but the officer or employee could be charged with a felony if the sex act occurred, whether or not it was consensual and regardless of where the act happened.
“We don’t want anything that will bring shame and disgrace on the Alcorn County Sheriff’s Office,” Rinehart said. “We’re going to do what’s right.”
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.