Murders, growth and closures dominated headlines of 2018

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Now that Pearl River County has moved into 2019, it’s time to review the top 10 stories of 2018

Over the course of the last year, there were three murders reported within Pearl River County.

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The top story of 2018 involved several suspects being arrested as a result of an investigation into the body of a man being found in the backyard of a Picayune home. It began back on February 28, when residents in a Picayune neighborhood reported the finding. The investigation later determined that the deceased, 28-year-old Justin Nixon of Picayune, allegedly died of a gunshot wound.

Detectives would later gather enough evidence to arrest the victim’s cousin, Malcolm Nixon, Malcolm’s mother, 65-year-old Mahala Burkett and Malcolm’s girlfriend, 21-year-old Ashlyn Cherarmie, for their alleged part in the crime. Malcolm was arrested for first-degree murder, Burkett was arrested for accessory before the fact of murder and Cheramie was arrested for hindering prosecution. Those arrests were the result of evidence pointing to Malcolm shooting Justin after the two engaged in a physical altercation. After the altercation, Justin fled on foot, only to be followed by Malcolm carrying a gun that was handed to him by Burkett.

The second top story of 2018 also involves a murder, this time by a man who allegedly stabbed his grandmother to death in August so he could use her car. Detectives with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department were sent to a home in the county after medical personnel in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., reported that they had 30-year-old Thomas Crawford in their care, and he allegedly told them that he just killed his grandmother. A welfare check conducted by local law enforcement officers found 71-year-old Sharon Lee Crawford dead in her home. Thomas was arrested and later extradited back to Pearl River County for the murder of his grandmother.

Our top three story is about the recent graduating class of the Mississippi Highway Patrol. This year, the MHP academy graduated 57 cadets, three of which are women. One of those graduates was Pearl River County native Christa Groom. She began her law enforcement career back in 2001 as a reserve officer with the Picayune Police Department, later attending the police academy and becoming an officer with the Bay St. Louis Police Department, a detective with the Pearl River County Sheriffs’ Department and a detective with the Picayune Police Department before becoming a trooper with MHP.

The fourth story involves another murder. This case began in late June when the family of the victim called the Sheriff’s Department to report they had not heard from their mother since Mother’s Day. A welfare check found the husband, 61-year-old Charles Bowman at home, but no sign of his wife, 61-year-old Kathleen Bowman. A search warrant of the home was later secured, but Charles had fled before it was served. Remains found in the search were later determined to be Kathleen’s. Charles remained on the run until he was found in a Utah campground and arrested for the murder of his wife by U.S. Marshals on July 12.

Our fifth top story of 2018 involves Pearl River County voters choosing to support the growth of the Pearl River County School District. For the second straight year, a bond was proposed by the District and voted on by taxpayers concerning the establishment of a multi-million dollar bond to build new facilities at the District’s two campuses. The bond proposed in 2018 was for $18.5 million, about $1.5 more million than the one voted down the year prior. Through a number of public meetings and generation of public support led to the bond passing, allowing the District to move forward with plans to build new classrooms at both campuses, an administration building and several other additions or improvements.

The sixth top story involves additions at the Pearl River County Courthouse. This year the Board of Supervisors moved forward with establishing a $12 million bond to build additional facilities to add to the cramped and aging courthouse. The Annex will house the County Administrator, court clerk’s office and several other county offices.  Construction of those facilities is underway and the Board states that ad valorem taxes will not increase as a result of the bond.

Pearl River County residents have been promised that Highway 11 would be widened for years, and now it appears to be a reality. The seventh top story involves a bit of growing pains as a result, however. With additional right of ways being purchased as part of that project, and the Mississippi Department of Transportation making use of existing right of way, several businesses along the busy roadway will have to close, or make significant adjustments in parking space to remain open. Work to build the roadway is expected to begin next year. But business owners in the path of the work are now concerned for their livelihood.

The eighth top story involves growth taking place in Poplarville. Within the county seat, the Board of Aldermen built a new park along Main Street that draws in new events and the town also saw the grand opening of a new shopping center anchored by a Ramey’s grocery store across the street from Pearl River Community College. The College Square Shopping Center has attracted new businesses and provided additional jobs.

The ninth top story is about business closures in the city of Picayune. Several businesses and a utility office have closed their doors within the southern most city of the county. The first was Winn Dixie. Both locations of the long-time grocery store in Picayune closed in February, one of which was replaced with Shoppers Value a short time later. Rite Aid in Picayune closed its doors in April, but was not replaced with another business. In October of this year, the Mississippi Power office on West Canal also closed its doors.

The tenth top story deals with bridges. Earlier this year, several bridges in the county had to be closed, forcing residents to take detours due to the timber piling supporting them succumbing to deterioration. All of those bridges have since been replaced and the roads reopened, but the Board of Supervisors is still working to repair or replace all existing timber piling bridges at risk of closure.

Through the work, very few of those bridges now remain.