Roses and thorns 10/14/18




A rose to the Starkville Police Department and, in particular, Sgt. Bill Lott whose determination to solve a 28-year-old murder case paid off last week with the arrest of Michael Wayne Devaughn, now 51. Devaughn was identified by DNA evidence as the suspect in the 1990 Labor Day murder of Starkville resident Betty Jones, 65, and the rape and murder of Kathryn Crigler, 81. Both crimes were committed in Crigler's Starkville home, according to the SPD. Lott had worked the case for 14 years. The DNA profile from Crigler's rape kit was matched to DNA from a cigarette butt on Devaughn's person, according to information read during his initial Monday evening appearance in Starkville Municipal Court.  


We applaud the SPD and Lott for keeping this case active over the years. For the family of the women, their persistence is another step in the path toward justice. 




A rose to the team of Mississippi Historians, including students from Mississippi State and Ole Miss, who spent the weekend examining historic Friendship Cemetery in an effort to discover the unmarked graves on an unknown number of Union soldiers thought to be interred there during the Civil War. Local historian Rufus Ward, backed by the Garth-Billups Foundation in Columbus, has led the project to have a group of archaeologists from the University of Mississippi survey an unmarked section in the southwest corner of the cemetery to determine if there are any graves in the section, and if so, whose graves they could be. Ward, alongside University of Mississippi archaeologist Tony Boudreaux and Mississippi State University's John Marszalek -- executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Library -- all announced the project this spring.  


During the weekend, a team of archeology students used ground-penetrating radar and a magnetometer, which detects and differentiates between magnetic signatures in different types of soil, in their bid to identify the remains of those soldiers. 




A thorn to Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Cherie Labat, whose refusal to confirm the firing of a top school administrator is inconsistent with her pledge to manage the district in an open fashion. The Dispatch confirmed that Labat had recommended the termination of deputy superintendent Craig Shannon more than a week ago after she declined to confirm the decision.  


We understand that these types of personnel decisions can be sensitive -- in fact, Shannon has asked for a termination hearing before the school board. Even so, confirming Shannon's termination is a reasonable request. Taxpayers have the right to know when a high-ranking administrator is terminated, even if other details cannot be shared. Keeping the public informed of a governmental body's actions is a key part in building trust with the community. We hope this is an isolated case. 




A rose to Brenda Lathan, who was appointed this week to the Mississippi Economic Development Council Board of Directors. It's yet another milestone for Lathan, who began her career in economic development as an administrative assistant 19 years ago and has risen through the ranks to the position of Senior Vice President for the Golden Triangle Development LINK. Over that tenure, she has played a prominent role in helping the LINK recruit numerous manufacturing and industrial companies. MEDC is a professional association of economic development, chambers and associated stakeholders who work together to advance the profession and to advance economic development efforts in Mississippi through advocacy, collaboration, education and by providing resources to its members. MEDC is the voice of the economic development profession in the state.



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