County puts Rice to rest

Published 5:37 pm Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jeffery Rice has been put to rest more than a year after his death. The only people to attend his funeral were county and city emergency personnel and officials.

With no next of kin to claim his remains or his belongings, the county took the responsibility to give Rice peace after life at the Palestine Cemetery. About 16 people attended the service, three of those people included the pastor, local media and a representative of the funeral home.

Rice died on Nov. 25, 2008 from a cardiovascular disease, found unconscious on the sidewalk of Bruce Street. A passerby spotted him on the sidewalk and called 911. After responding emergency personnel took him to the local hospital, he was pronounced dead.

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Pearl River County Coroner Derek Turnage said since that time he has made numerous attempts to find next of kin for Rice. After a year of searching, the county took responsibility to put his cremated remains to rest.

The ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Wayne Wilson, who, along with some Pearl River County correctional officers also in attendance, were some of the only people at the service who knew him. Wilson said he first met Rice in 2007 while Rice was serving time in the county jail. Wilson helps inmates who opt to participate in the jail’s ACTS class, a program that helps inmates overcome addiction.

In that time Wilson said Rice shared a number of writings with him that held great meaning. Once such writing stated “Rationalization is the art of working something wrong through your mind until it comes out right.”

Another writing read, “Only a person who is empty on the inside would fear losing things on the outside.”

One other writing by Rice that Wilson shared at the service dealt with living in the present, instead of the past or future. “Remember to deal with today. If you have one foot in the past and one in the future you don’t have a leg to stand on.”

Rice passed away about a day after being released from a two-year sentence at the county jail. Wilson said when Rice knew he was about to be released he called Wilson for help to cope in the outside world. Since the county does not have a halfway house and Rice’s previous home burned about two weeks before his release, Wilson did not have any other ideas other than to pick him up.

The day Rice was released, he got a ride into Picayune from a deputy before Wilson arrived to pick him up. Rice then went to his previous place of residence, now destroyed by fire. Wilson later found him at the house attempting to clean a spot on the wet and smoke-damaged couch for a place to sleep.

Instead, Wilson gave him a place to stay, washed his clothes and offered Rice some of Wilson’s own clothes while the others were cleaned.

The next day Rice was found on the sidewalk and pronounced dead.