Saturday, January 28, 2023

Top Local Stories in the Second Quarter of 2022

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

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 second story in the series with the top stories from April, May and June.

The second Quarter of 2022 featured headlines that told stories about hope, heroism and grief.

April

April started off with the dedication of a memorial marker on the Lafayette County Courthouse lawn that honors the memories of seven lynching victims.

Descendants of at least three of the known men attended the dedication on April 2.

The memorial marker honors the memories of the local lynching victims and is part of the work being conducted by the members of the Lafayette Community Remembrance Project.

One side of the marker lists six of the men who were lynched in Lafayette County and the details surrounding the lynchings: Harris Tunstal, killed July 12, 1885; William McGregory killed Nov. 13, 1890; “unknown victim” killed Sept. 2, 1891; William Steen killed July 30, 1893; William Chandler killed June 19, 1895; Lawson Patton killed Sept. 8, 1908.

The other side of the marker speaks on lynchings in the United States and the history of Elwood Higginbottom’s, who was killed on Sept. 17, 1935, at the age of 28 while he was being held in the Oxford jail for the murder of landowner Glen Roberts.

*

In the first week of April, a 10-year-old boy helped save the lives of his family when he woke up and smelled smoke.

According to the Lafayette County Fire Department, the LCFD was dispatched to the 300 block of Deer Run North on April 5 after a 911 call came in saying the house was full of smoke.

At the time, there were nine people in the home, including four children.

Dan and Alison Doyle’s son woke up to the smell of smoke and alerted his sleeping parents.

*

On April 14, the University of Mississippi and Oxford communities mourned the loss of 21-year-old Thomas Hayes Mayo.

Thomas Hayes Mayo. Photo via Waller Funeral Home

Mayo graduated from Oxford High School in 2019 where he played soccer for the Chargers and served as a captain in his senior year.

Mayo was a junior at the University of Mississippi and a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity.

He was working on his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in finance and was a member of the Ole Miss Soccer Club when he died unexpectedly.

He worked as a delivery driver for Oxford Floral since August.

*

On April 24, members of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and of the LOU community gathered to honor Father Joe Tonos who was leaving the church after 18 years as pastor.

Tonos took a position as pastor at St. Richard Catholic Church in Jackson where he spent three years learning about the administration side of leading a church before coming to Oxford.

*

By the end of April, Oxford was starting to feel like pre-pandemic Oxford again with the return of the Double Decker Arts Festival on April 22 and 23.

It was the 25th anniversary of the popular arts, music and food celebration. About 112,000 people attended the two-day event, according to festival organizers.

*

However, April’s headlines would end on a tragic note.

Justin Maurice Morris, 33, of Oxford was arrested on April 29 after being charged with shooting and killing GreTeva Nicole Frierson, 29, of Oxford.

OPD received a 911 call from a neighbor in the 600 block of Saddle Creek Drive shortly after 1 a.m. stating they heard yelling and then gunshots.

Officers arrived and found Frierson suffering from a fatal gunshot wound.

Investigators said the shooting appeared to be domestic violence in nature.

Morris is awaiting trial.

May

The deadline to opt-out of the state’s newly instituted Medical Cannabis Program for cities and counties was May 3.

Oxford and Lafayette County chose not to opt out of the program, allowing medical marijuana growing and selling facilities to set up shop.

However, both Oxford and Lafayette County established zoning codes and Land Development Guidelines for new businesses in the medical marijuana industry.

In the 2020 election, 67 percent of Lafayette County voters voted in favor of the medical marijuana program.

*

Jo Ann O’Quin

On May 11, Jo Ann O’Quin was named the 2022 Citizen of the Year by the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce.

O’Quin started a support group for Alzheimer’s and related disorders in 1985 that continues to meet monthly. She created and organized the Caring for Aging Relatives Fair and Workshops in 2000 which led to the CARE Support Group.

She is Professor Emerita of Social Work at the University of Mississippi. She helped start the Memory Makers Respite Day program and the Caregiver Resource Center in Oxford.

*

The children of a woman murdered by her lover and former Oxford police officer Matthew Kinne were awarded $2.2 million by a federal judge on May 26.

District Judge Glen H. Davidson awarded the children of Dominique Clayton the $2.2 million after considering a civil lawsuit against Kinne that was filed last year after Kinne pleaded guilty to shooting and killing Clayton. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

According to court records, Kinne is liable for compensatory damages of $1.2 million with an additional $1 million in punitive damages to Clayton’s four children.

There are still pending lawsuits against the city of Oxford and the Oxford Police Department by Clayton’s family.

*

OxFilm headed into its 20th Anniversary year with new leadership. In May, the Oxford Film Festival announced its new Executive Director is Ox-Film veteran Matt Wymer.

Wymer is a filmmaker and comedian who moved from Canada to Mississippi at 5 years old. Since its founding in 2003, Matt has attended, volunteered and competed in the Oxford Film Festival.

The 20th-anniversary Film Festival will be held March 1-5.

June

Another domestic violence incident turned deadly as June was starting when Alexandria Griste, 29, of Oxford was arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of Corey Lyles of Abbeville.

On June 8, officers with the Oxford Police Department were dispatched to the 2900 block of South Lamar Boulevard for a report of a gunshot wound victim.

Lyles was pronounced dead at the scene and Griste was taken into custody. She is awaiting trial.

*

Another church said goodbye to its lead pastor in June.

Eddie Rester

Eddie Rester served as Senior Pastor for the Oxford-University United Methodist Church for more than eight years before announcing he would be moving to central Mississippi where he is now the senior pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson.

Rester moved back to Oxford in 2014 from Hattiesburg where he was a pastor at Parkway Heights for 17 years. Prior to living in Hattiesburg, he was in Oxford attending the University of Mississippi.

*

June was hot.

On the week of June 13, the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning for the week of June 13. Temperatures rose about 100 degrees with heat index values reaching up to 112 degrees. The extreme heat and humidity lasted most of the month.

*

After 40 years on the job, former Oxford Municipal Court Clerk Donna Fisher-Driver retired from the city of Oxford in June.

Fisher-Driver has worked for the city since she was 17 years old.

She started working at City Hall in 1981 as part of the Vocational Office Training Class offered at the B&I Complex while she was a senior in high school. After graduating from Lafayette High School in 1982, she continued working for the city and enrolled at the University of Mississippi.

She was hired in 1985 to serve as Municipal Court Clerk under the late Mayor John Leslie. Judge Dwight Ball was the presiding municipal judge.

*

Cases of COVID-19 surged again in Oxford in June with 427 new cases reported in the first three weeks of the month. The increase was in line with the upward trend for new cases across the state.

However, cases were less severe and no additional deaths were reported due to the virus since March.

*

An Ole Miss football player was shot in Omaha, Nebraska on June 27 after celebrating the Ole Miss baseball team winning the national championship.

According to his family, Andrew “Drew” Burnett, 19, was shot in the leg. His wound was not fatal and was expected to make a full recovery.

Wearing No. 23, Burnett was a walk-on freshman who joined the Ole Miss Rebels in 2022 as a wide receiver. He attended and played football at Memphis University School before coming to Ole Miss.


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