Vandiver inches closer toward murder trial date

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

IUKA – In the four years since 91-year-old Hezzie Whitlock of Iuka was shot and killed in his home, suspect Joshua Dale “Josh” Vandiver has remained in jail.
Vandiver, the grandson of Hezzie Whitlock’s widow Jean Whitlock, was ordered to undergo psychological evaluation in December 2008. No motive for the shooting has ever been given, though Jean Whitlock was home at the time of the shooting.
Hezzie Whitlock was the father of Tishomingo County Sheriff Glenn Whitlock and Tishomingo County Tax Collector Paul Whitlock.
Vandiver’s case has been continued in Tishomingo County Circuit Court seven times, the most recent on May 15, 2012.
“The court ordered further evaluations for an opinion as to Vandiver’s future danger to other persons should he be released,” said Assistant District Attorney Richard Bowen.
When clinical psychologist Criss Lott, Ph.D., of Jackson, submitted his first psychological assessment of Vandiver in February 2009, he found Vandiver “paranoid, illogical” and “acutely mentally ill.”
Judge Thomas Gardner, in agreement with Vandiver’s attorneys, Ronald Michael and Daniel Tucker of Booneville, ordered that Vandiver be transferred from the Lee County jail to the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield for treatment until he was judged competent to stand trial.
The court received reports on Vandiver’s treatment at least every four months, and in May 2011, Dr. Reb McMichael of the state hospital informed the court of Vandiver’s competency for trial.
The delays and continuances since that time included a request by defense attorneys for Tishomingo County to pay $5,000 for a clinical and forensic psychologist to perform the risk assessment that Bowen mentioned. However, prosecutors objected on the grounds that if an outside expert were used by the defense, the defendant or his family should pay as they are paying for his private legal representation.
In September 2011, Gardner approved an order for Lott to conduct the risk assessment, which may soon be available to the court.
No further court dates have been scheduled, and Vandiver remains jailed in Alcorn County, where he was transferred from Lee County in November 2011.
lena.mitchell@journalinc.com