Top 10 stories of 2017

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Over the past year, Pearl River County was witness to a number of stories, some good and some bad. Below are the top ten stories of the year listed in order based on publication dates.

On March 8, 55.1 percent, or 1,254 residents, voted against a $17 million bond proposed by the Pearl River County School District. The bond would have been used for a series of upgrades and additions at all campuses in the district, including construction of a performing arts center at the Carriere campus, new and improved classroom facilities at both the McNeill and Carriere campuses to alleviate the need for mobile units, restrooms and repairs to the concession stand at the varsity football stadium and renovation of outdated classrooms across the district.

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Two months later on May 23, the Pearl River Central High School baseball team claimed the MHSAA Class 5A State Championship after defeating Oxford 7-3. Head Coach Neil Walther said receiving the title was huge part of the school’s history.

Several murders occurred this year but no arrests have been made in the case that began on Aug. 7, when the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department was alerted to the body of a woman found in a pond off of Bennett Apartment Road. The woman was later identified as Jodi Wilson and an autopsy revealed her cause of death as being due to blunt force trauma and or drowning. On Sept. 15, investigators with the Sheriff’s department drained the pond where she was found in order to search for clues. At press time, no arrests had been made regarding this case.

The beginning of the 2017 school year in August marked a new first for all three high schools in Pearl River County, as Courtney Dossett, Rebbecca Ruckes and Melissa Loewen became the first full-time athletic trainers this year at Poplarville, Picayune and Pearl River Central respectively.

All three can be found on the sidelines of every varsity sport helping student-athletes recover from injuries.

On August 21, a total solar eclipse made its way through the United States. Unfortunately for Pearl River County residents, this area was only given a glimpse of a partial solar eclipse until cloud cover obscured the view. Regardless, many children, adults and families purchased solar eclipse glasses or made viewers to witness the rare event.

During a Picayune City Council meeting on Sept. 16, Councilors Larry Breland and Lynn Bogan Bumpers left the meeting early after the Council approved a 2018 budget that did not include their request for a fence at the cemetery on Eighth Street. The two Councilors did not return to regular meetings until Nov. 8 where Breland said he and Bumpers were absent due to a perceived lack of a working relationship with the other Councilors.

On Oct. 17, three suspects were arrested after an alleged attempt to intentionally set a home on fire. After receiving a community tip, investigators with the Sheriff’s Department,  State Fire Marshal’s Office, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Lamar County SWAT team staged up in the woods near the home where the arson was going to take place. After the family that lived in the house left, 43-year-old Mikell Milling emerged to climb to the roof, kick off a vent pipe and poured flammable liquid into the attic. Milling was arrested before the rest of the plan could be carried out, saving the home and possibly Milling.  The two other individuals were arrested in the following hours, including Don Osbourn, 54, of 3624 Highway 43 N. and 43-year-old Joseph Gilley of 43301 Gator Lane, Slidell.

During the first week of December, snowfall made its way to Picayune and Pearl River County for the first time in years. The inclement weather caused Pearl River Community College and the Poplarville and Pearl River County School Districts to cancel the school day. The winter storm also led to dozens of vehicle accidents throughout the county.

Right before Christmas, Poplarville High School’s Honeybees won the 2017 MHSAA State Championship on Dec. 15. The school’s dance team finished in first place in the small varsity 1A-4A Pom division after competing against 10 other dance teams from across Mississippi.

On Dec. 16, the efforts of Matt Ladner to get Gilbert Pfisterer, a 92-year-old former Merchant Marine, into a Habitat for Humanity home before Christmas became a reality. The effort began in August when Ladner stopped to help Pfisterer, who was having car trouble. Afterwards, Ladner saw Pfisterer’s subpar living conditions and contacted Habitat for Humanity Bay-Waveland to help him find a new home for Pfisterer.