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Top Local Stories in the First Quarter of 2022

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor


This week, Hotty Toddy News will be covering the top stories of 2022 for each quarter of the year, ending on Saturday with the Top Story of the Year. Today is the first story in the series with the top stories from January, February and March.


When 2022 arrived, Lafayette County was still dealing with high numbers of COVID-19, in particular, the Omicron variant.

On January 25, the Mississippi Department of Health reported 251 new cases in Lafayette County – the biggest one-day jump since the virus found its way into the county in March 2020.

Area schools also saw a big increase in cases including the University of Mississippi which reported 140 new cases from Jan. 22-25.

However, by February the number of new cases started to decline.

On Jan. 3, the qualifying period for the first County Judge election opened and by the end of the first week, three candidates had thrown their hats into the ring.

By the deadline, there would be a total of eight candidates who ran for the position. Tiffany Kilpatrick would win the election in a run-off against Carnelia Fondren in November.

Tiffany Kilpatrick will serve as Lafayette County’s first County Judge. File photo

The county was approved for a County Court after the 2020 Census showed the county’s population was more than 50,000.

The city of Water Valley woke up in the dark on a chilly January morning after a city-wide power outage occurred at about 3 a.m. When a major transformer blew.

An emergency transformer from Bowling Green, Kentucky was hooked up to provide power until other emergency efforts and repairs could be completed and more residents had power by 4:30 p.m. that day

In the middle of the month, David and Susan Shaw announced that they would be changing the name of Sneed’s Ace Hardware to Shaw Ace Hardware.

The store originally opened on the Square in 1951 and David’s grandfather, Parham Shaw, was one of the co-founders.

It was originally called Shaw and Sneed Hardware. It eventually became an Ace Hardware store in 1963.

A couple of years before David’s grandfather passed away in 1967, he sold his part of the store to Sneed and the name was changed to Sneed’s.

Later in the month, the city of Oxford was rocked by the news of a double fatal wreck that claimed the lives of an Oxford couple.

The wreck occurred on Highway 7 near the Serenity Funeral Home and involved three vehicles.

The driver and a passenger, Maggie L. Keller Jones, 40, and Tyrone L. Jones, 42, were both pronounced dead at the scene.

On Jan. 24, the Oxford School District Board of Trustees approved the realignment of all elementary grades and which schools students will attend starting in the 2022-23 school year during their regular meeting Monday evening.

•   Pre-K classes will be held in the old Oxford Elementary building on Highway 30.

•   Kindergarten and first grade will be at Bramlett.

•   Second and third graders will be at Della Davidson.

•   Fourth and fifth graders will be at Central Elementary

•   Sixth graders will be at Oxford Intermediate.

At the end of January, a Corinth man was arrested in Oxford for molesting a minor in 1988.

Wade Holland, 60, was charged with touching a child for lustful purposes. Later in the year, in December, Holland pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison; however, the sentence was suspended and he will be on unsupervised probation for five years. He must immediately register as a sex offender and pay $50 a month toward fines and court fees for the duration of his probation.

According to court records, Holland touched a 17-year-old girl around May 1988 for lustful purposes while he was a youth pastor.

There is no statute of limitations for sex crimes involving minors.


February started off with some good news for residents who receive their water from the Punkin Water Association.

Residents receiving water from PWA have been issuing complaints to the PSC for several years over the quality of the water and poor management of the water association. Customers often complain about discoloration of their water and have to replace water filters almost weekly.

On Feb. 1, the Oxford Board of Alderman approved an agreement for the transfer of service and dissolution of the PWA and a resolution in support of local and private legislation authoring the city of Oxford to expand its water system within a certain distance outside the corporate limits.

In February, the Board of Aldermen approved plans to take over the PWA. File photo

However, as of Dec. 27, the transfer had not yet been completed.

After 27 years, Dr. David Coon announced in February that he would be retiring from the Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford and taking on the job of staff physician at UM Student Health Services as of April 1.

Urgent Care opened in Oxford in 1995. Later, Dr. Will Dabbs joined Coon at the clinic.

Dr. Larken Ware, a local emergency room doctor, joined Dabbs at Urgent Care.

Lafayette County, Oxford and University of Mississippi leaders banded together in February to form a transportation commission aimed at getting more state and federal funding to improve local roads and highways.

The Lafayette-Oxford-University of Mississippi Transportation Improvement Commission is comprised of the Mayor of Oxford, or his or her designee; the president of the Board of Supervisors, or his or her designee; and the Chancellor of UM, or his or her designees.

The Transportation Commission was formed to establish a single organizational entity to coordinate the planning, assessment and implementation of those improvements and to seek funding as a joint effort.


March started off with encouraging news when the University of Mississippi announced that face masks were now optional at its Oxford campus with the decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases.

Face coverings are now only required in healthcare settings such as University Health Services and University Counseling Center.

A week later, tragedy struck at Oxford High School when a student was killed in a vehicle crash.

Jaden Taylor, 16, was an 11th-grade student at OHS when he died in the wreck that happened on County Road 103.

The Oxford School District is mourning the loss of a student who died in a wreck this weekend.

Two other students were injured.

Mid-February, Oxford residents learned that a new Dunkin’ Donuts would be coming to Oxford.

Oxford mom Tara Denevan was named the 2022 Mississippi Parent of the Year by the Mississippi Department of Education.

The site plan for Dunkin’ was approved by the Oxford Planning Commission on Feb. 14. Located in the University Shopping Center, the new coffee shop opened in November.

An Oxford mom was named the 2022 Mississippi Parent of the Year by the Mississippi Department of Education.

Tara Denevan, the mother of two OSD students, was nominated by the school district and is described as an “amazing overcomer, innovator and a strong supporter of education for all students and teachers.”

Denevan’s participation in various service-oriented activities and organizations has led to student success. Serving as fundraising chair in 2017-2018, she led a team of parents with ticket sales of $55,000. A portion of the proceeds were used to purchase STEM bins for all classrooms for Bramlett Elementary.

Just as March started it ended with more encouraging news about COVID-19 when Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi announced zero patients with the virus were in the hospital for the first time since the pandemic hit Lafayette County.

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