Jeffery Rice’s next of kin steps forward after eight years
Published 7:00 am Saturday, December 3, 2016
It’s been just more than eight years since 53-year-old Jeffery Rice was found on the side of Bruce Street, a death later ruled as being due to natural causes. And now, next of kin has stepped forward.
Previous coverage states that Rice was found on the 200 block of the road in Picayune just after 5 p.m. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful; his cause of death was later ruled as being due to cardiovascular disease.
A year of searching to find next of kin proved unsuccessful, leaving the county to inter his cremated remains through a county funded funeral. That service, held at the Palestine Cemetery in 2009, was attended by county and city law enforcement personnel and Rev. Wayne Wilson, the only people in the area who knew him.
Wilson said he met Rice through the ACTS class he teaches at the Pearl River County jail, while Rice was serving a two-year sentence. The day before Rice’s death, he was released from jail, given a ride to the Picayune area by a deputy where Wilson met up with him to give him a ride to his home, which was set ablaze a couple weeks prior.
Rice took some time to rummage through his things that remained, and then spent the night at Wilson’s home, where Wilson loaned him some clothes. The next day, Rice wanted to work on the damaged home, so Wilson dropped him off while he prepared for the next ACTS class, promising to pick him up beforehand.
But Wilson said when he returned, Rice was gone, leaving only a note to say he would return shortly. Wilson headed for the jail to conduct the class, which is where he said he heard the sad news, Rice was found on the sidewalk, dead.
The story would remain without closure until early September of this year; Wilson said he got a call from Rice’s son, Jesse, who started the conversation by expressing doubt as to whether he had the right number. The man explained he had been looking for his dad for years, every so often searching the name on Google. But nothing turned up until that September. During the conversation with Wilson, Rice’s son would go on to say he lost touch with his father about 17 years prior, when he was 17-years-old. The man, now in his 30’s, said that he met up with his father in Florida after his father was released from a prior stint in jail. Rice’s son stayed with him for a time to help out, but when Rice fell back on the wrong path, Wilson said the son felt it was time to leave. After that, they lost touch.
“Jesse and I talked for quite a while on the phone,” Wilson said.
Wilson wanted to take a picture of the marker the county installed at Rice’s gravesite to send to Jesse, but found it was missing due to an act of vandalism. But Wilson has a few mementos he plans to send to Jesse, including the items found on his father upon his death.
An attempt to contact Jesse Rice for comment was not returned at press time.