Sunday, January 23, 2022

Top Local Stories in the Third Quarter of 2021

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

This week, Hotty Toddy News is covering the top stories of 2021 for each quarter of the year, ending on Friday with the Top Story of the Year. Today is the second story in the series with the top stories from July, August and September.

Mykki Newton

The third quarter of 2021 started off on July 1 with the city of Oxford swearing in its Mayor and Aldermen in front of City Hall.

However, just two days later, Oxford mourned after resident Mykki Newton – videographer, journalist, ailurophile and lover of all things purple – died from natural causes at her home.

July

Newton, originally from Huntsville, Alabama retired earlier in the year from the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media where she wore many hats as a producer, director, writer, videographer, editor and camera equipment manager. She ran the video department and assisted students with their work.

On July 13, three years after a former Lafayette County High math teacher was charged with enticing a student to meet for sexual purposes, a Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge retired the case.

Molly Wray was indicted on Sept. 5, 2018, by a grand jury for allegedly enticing a 17-year-old male, an LHS student, to meet for sexual purposes in November 2017.

Judge Kent Smith signed the order to retire the felony case subject to Wray remaining on “good behavior” for five years.

Two weeks later, on July 30, a local family received some justice when Matthew Kinne, a former Oxford police officer, pleaded guilty to murdering his lover, Dominique Clayton.

Matthew Kinne

Kinne, who was married while involved with Clayton, was arrested two days after Clayton was discovered dead on May 29, 2019. She died from a single gunshot to the head. A grand jury indicted him on capital murder in August 2019.

He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Clayton’s family has a pending civil lawsuit against the city of Oxford, the Oxford Police Department and Kinne.

August

Headlines in August started out on a more positive note when Ole Miss professor Nancy Maria Balach would be the Oxford celebrity dancer in the upcoming Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi’s Dance Like the Stars Event in Tupelo.

The fundraiser was held on Aug. 21 at the BancorpSouth Arena. She and her partner, Andrew Davis of the Dance Studio of Tupelo, performed the popular 1980s dance from the movie, “Dirty Dancing,” set to the song, “Time of My Life.” Balach was awarded the first place Judge’s Choice Award at the annual Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi’s Dance Like the Stars event.

The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors approved a request to have County Road 103 renamed in honor of John W. Shaw, a World War II soldier who grew up in Lafayette County and died at the age of 19 while fighting at the Battle of the Bulge.

On Aug. 6, ESPN named Oxford as America’s Best College Town.

In a video segment released in early August, ESPN tweeted, “The Grove is an unbelievable Game Day atmosphere. What is your favorite college town?” with a video and graphics proclaiming Oxford as its top college town.

“With this ranking, ESPN has confirmed what thousands upon thousands of Ole Miss students, alumni, fans and visitors have passionately believed for many years: Oxford, Mississippi is America’s greatest college town,” said UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce after learning about the ranking.

With the Delta variant of COVID-19 wreaking havoc in Mississippi in August, on August 24, the Board of Aldermen reinstated a mask mandate after Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi reported its rooms were full and staff was short. The mask mandate would end in late September.

On Aug. 21, John Arnil Adams II, was shot and killed at The Links apartment complex. Keith Lamont Harmon Jr., 19, of Batesville was charged with first-degree murder the next day. Bronjase Robertson, 25, was later arrested and charged with a felony for allegedly being an accessory after the fact. They are both awaiting trial.

Adams attended Oxford schools and earned an associate degree from Northwest Mississippi Community College. He graduated from the University of Mississippi in May, 2021, with a degree in mechanical engineering.

August ended much like July, with another murder case coming to a close.

On Aug. 27, Brandon Theesfeld pleaded guilty to killing 21-year-old Ally Kostial in July 2019. By pleading guilty, Theesfeld was spared the death penalty and life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under the first-degree/simple murder charge, he can petition the court for patrol once he turns 65 years old.

Kostial was found dead near Sardis Lake on July 20, 2019. Theesfeld was arrested just days after Kostial’s body was found. He was charged with capital murder and kidnapping.

Brandon Theesfeld

According to court records, Kostial and Theesfeld met while they were both attending the University of Mississippi and started dating on and off.

Kostial was picked up by Theesfeld around 1 a.m. on July 20, and the two drove to Harmontown and sat at a bench near the lake.

It’s there that Theesfeld shot Kostial several times. Prosecutors said there were 11 bullet casings from Theesfeld’s gun found at the scene.

Tropical Storm Ida made its presence known in Lafayette County on Aug. 30 with rain and blustery winds occurring throughout the night. Several power lines were knocked down; however, the county was spared any severe aftermaths from the storm that devastated parts of the Gulf Coast, particularly in Louisiana.

September

A local firefighter was injured on Sept. 1 while fighting a full-engulfed home on East Wind Drive.

The Lafayette County Fire Department was called out at 6:02 p.m. on Wednesday to a 5,000-square-foot home that had smoke showing from the eaves. Crews continued to fight the multilevel fire until 12:30 a.m. Six hours later, firefighters were dispatched to the same home for a rekindling of the fire. The firefighter was injured during the second fire and was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Residents who took part in Oxford’s curbside recycling program received good news in early September when the Board of Aldermen voted on Sept. 6 to reinstate the program. Oxford began offering curbside recycling again in the first week of October.

Central Elementary students got to play on a new playground in September.

Oxford began a curbside recycling program in 2008; however, it was stopped in April 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the city to furlough more than 100 people due to a decrease in revenue coming into the city.

During the same Board of Aldermen meeting, city officials announced that Oxford received $250,000 from a bond bill passed by the state Legislature to create a park that will be located between City Hall and Square Books Jr. The 7,600-square-foot lot is currently used as office space for the city’s Parking and Code Enforcement departments. The building will be demolished to make way for the park.

On Sept. 9, Cedar Bucket owner Rickey Dean Britt Sr., 67, died from injuries he sustained in a wreck at the intersection of County Road 421 and Highway 6 East.

Britt was traveling north on CR 421 when he entered into the path of a pick-up truck that was traveling east on Highway 6.

Britt owned several businesses, including Britt Mobile Homes, The Cedar Bucket and Britt Trucking.

On Sept. 17, the 86th anniversary of the lynching of Elwood Higginbottom, a Lynching Memorialization marker was placed on the east side of the Lafayette County Courthouse.

On Sept. 17, the 86th anniversary of the lynching of Elwood Higginbottom, a Lynching Memorialization marker was placed on the east side of the Lafayette County Courthouse.

One side of the marker lists six of the men who were lynched in Lafayette County and the details surrounding the lynchings and the other side speaks on lynchings in the United States and the history of Higginbottom’s death, who was killed on Sept. 17, 1935, at the age of 28.

Oxford schools had some celebrating to do in September.

On Sept. 21, Della Davidson Elementary was named a National Blue Ribbon School and Central Elementary students got to play on a new playground that was built with funds raised by the school’s PTO fundraising committee.

While not necessarily a local headline, Eli Manning flipping a “double bird” on television certainly caught a lot of attention nationally and in Oxford.

During the Peyton and Eli Show on ESPN 2 on Sept. 27. Eli recounted a story about when a 9-year-old Eagles fan welcomed him to Philadelphia with a double middle finger and made comments about Eli’s family.

While retelling the story to his brother and former Eagles defensive end Chris Long, he himself, made the “double bird” hand gesture.

He apologized for his actions afterward.


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