Mar 1, 2017

Yoknapatawpha murder victim laid to rest in Pittsburgh

Wendy Holloway laid to rest in Pennsylvania
Mourners gathered yesterday for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania funeral of murder victim Wendy Pane Holloway, whose body was found south of Oxford on February 17.

Holloway was preceded in death by her father, Richard Pane, and is survived by her mother, Elizabeth Austin Pane of Pittsburgh and her brother, Peter Pane, of Memphis, Tennessee.

Many friends, former classmates, and colleagues attended the funeral service at White Memorial Chapel, offering condolences to the bereaved family of the young woman whose life was cut short so tragically. The pall on her white coffin was made using her favorite flower - 28 blue irises, one for each year of her life.

Holloway's long-time friend, Anil Virani, delivered the eulogy, and her cousin, Valerie Cooper, read a psalm. Relatives Steven Austin, Brett Collins and Jason Harding; former co-worker Daniel Courrier; and friends Greg Becker and Jake Winslow served as pallbearers.

The bereaved mother was supported by a large group of friends from her Red Cross activities and her volunteer work as a mathematics tutor.

Other mourners included Holloway's former roommate, Jenny Sadlier of Seattle, Washington; Stanford University Computer Science Professor Reginald Thorne; TechnoStar Chief Executive Officer Joshua Griggs; and relatives and friends Ashley Davies, Dexter Davies, Laura Pane Harding, Amanda Hansen, Audrey and Harold Pane, Myra Pane, Louisa Pane, Holly and Lou Sinclair, Sasha Sinclair, Morgan Sinclair.

'She had a big heart'

In his eulogy, Mr. Virani described the young Wendy Pane as a true friend, one with whom he had a friendly rivalry. She was the only person in class who ever beat him in math and science, he said, and she did it consistently every year they were in high school.

"I always admired Wendy's brilliance and talent," he told the congregation. "She was not one to mess around. She knew when she was right. She wanted to achieve, she had ambition, and she had the will to win."

He recalled how she had volunteered to help children with math and computing skills while she was in the final years of high school and later when she was at Stanford University.

"She had a big heart, especially when it came to helping people show their talents," he said.
Mr. Virani described how the two had stayed in contact over the years despite moving into different fields.

"We always kept in touch, being there for each other through life's ups and downs, celebrating each other's victories and easing each other's heartaches.

"The last time I saw her, back in August, she was full of enthusiasm, invigorated after her vacation in the Far East, and eagerly anticipating her new direction in Oxford. At the end of her life, she was looking forward to a future full of love, joy, and success. We'll never get to see what that future would have looked like, but I take comfort in the knowledge that I was her friend to the end. And she was mine."

After the interment at Homestead Cemetery, a reception was held at Mrs. Pane's home.

The Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department's investigation into Holloway's murder is ongoing, and Detective Ted Armstrong is in Pittsburgh to speak to family members and friends.
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Feb 20, 2017

Jackson psychic contacts sheriff's department

Claims visions may be connected to mystery woman's death

Sister Susannah, Jackson (MS) psychic
Jackson psychic Sister Susannah has notified the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department of a vision she believes is related to the discovery of a woman's body south of Oxford on Saturday.

When Sister Susannah saw news reports about the body of an unidentified woman with head injuries found Saturday afternoon in Kelly Woods, she had an overwhelming feeling that her vision was about that crime. She called the sheriff's department yesterday, but she does not believe they're taking her seriously.

"They were polite but did not seem all that interested in what I had to say. I have relayed my visions to police in other jurisdictions in the past, and they have followed up on what I've said in a murder investigation. I am convinced that what I saw relates to this death."

After getting what she felt was "the brush-off" from the sheriff's department, Sister Susannah contacted Crime Beat Sunday and described her disturbing vision.
"I was feeling uneasy Friday night. Before I went to sleep, I saw a vision of the letter W and wine bottles. I felt a message in my head: 'this is the place.' It was something to do with what I was seeing, but what exactly, I don't know.

"I sensed that it was something to do with Oxford. I've done some readings there recently. There was an Oxford 'feeling' about it. I can't explain how I know this. It took me a while to get to sleep after that.

"Then I woke up during the night feeling terrified. It was as if I'd been hit on the head with a heavy object. I've had this type of warning before when something bad is about to happen, but I couldn't figure out what this one meant in time to save that poor girl."
The Jackson psychic has been in business as a clairvoyant since the early 1990s. Among the many investigations that Sister Susannah claims to have assisted with is a 2014 Oregon case where she helped local police locate the bodies of two murder victims in a forest.

Sheriff's spokesperson Elizabeth Jones confirmed that the department is seeking the public's help to identify the woman whose body was found in Kelly Woods Saturday. Jones emphasized that all leads will be considered during the investigation process but said she could not comment on individual tips.
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Feb 19, 2017

Stained clothing may link to dead woman found yesterday

Authorities seek public's help to ID unique shirt

Shirt found off MS-6
Opal-Marie James, 13, of Sardis and her dog, Lester, unearthed a potential clue today in the death of a woman found yesterday in Kelly Woods, south of Oxford. The pair discovered a plastic bag in a ditch near MS-6 around 2:00 p.m., while walking to a nearby store.

The teenager said she became frightened when she saw what looked like bloodstained clothing inside the bag and ran home to tell her mother what she had found. Her mother, Natalie James, then called 911 to report her daughter's discovery.

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officials have not disclosed the contents of the bag but did say one of the items inside was a torn and stained woman's long-sleeved top, pictured at right.

Sheriff's Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones said she could not confirm whether the stains on the shirt were blood until official test results are received.

Jones acknowledged that the items in the bag could be linked to the partially nude body of an unidentified woman found yesterday near the Kelly Green housing development, but said there was no known connection at this stage.

According to Jones, forensic testing will be performed on the contents of the bag to determine whether any relationship exists between the woman's body and the shirt or any other items found in the bag.

If you recognize the shirt pictured here, the YCSD asks that you contact them immediately.
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Feb 18, 2017

Mystery woman found dead near housing development

No ID found on partially nude body; officials suspect foul play

Body of unidentified woman found at Kelly Green development
The Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department is appealing to the public for help in identifying a woman whose partially nude body was found yesterday hidden by thick kudzu in Kelly Woods off MS-7, south of Oxford.

The dead woman, believed to be in her late 20s, was approximately 5'8" and 130 pounds with dark brown hair and blue eyes. She was wearing only faded blue jeans and undergarments but no shirt.

Authorities declined to specify the cause of death but said the woman likely died late Friday night or early Saturday morning.

An equipment operator working on an adjacent construction site discovered the body and notified the site supervisor, who in turn alerted the sheriff's department and the property developer Michael Robbins.

In a statement released late this afternoon by Robbins Developments, Mr. Robbins said,
"While today's tragic discovery was on an adjacent property with no connection to Robbins Developments or our Kelly Green development, we are deeply saddened by this young woman's death and pledge to do everything we can to assist the sheriff's department in their investigation."
The body was found in a secluded area of Kelly Woods that is sometimes used as a lover's lane. Residents in the area say cars have occasionally broken down and become stranded overnight. However, no one reported seeing a stranded vehicle this morning.

Yoknapatawpha Sheriff's Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones said investigators believe the woman may have been killed elsewhere and her body dumped in Kelly Woods, but Jones declined to specify what evidence led them to that conclusion.

Jones said investigators are checking missing persons reports in Yoknapatawpha and surrounding counties for any missing women that fit the dead woman's description and will expand the search nationwide, if necessary.

The Sheriff's Department is asking anyone who believes they might have information about the woman's identity to contact them immediately.
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Jan 17, 2017

Two arrests in Stover case

Investigators: Plots converged in ex-con theatre director's death

Two arrests in death of Oxtales director
Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the death of controversial theatre director Andrea Stover, who investigators say was the victim of separate murder plots in the hours before her death on January 2nd.

Romantic jealousy

Detectives arrested Ursula Raines, a physical therapist, earlier today on murder charges. She is currently being held at the Yoknapatawpha County Detention Center.

Raines, 31, allegedly argued with Stover at Oxford Centre on N. Lamar Blvd. shortly after midnight on January 2nd, according to Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones. Investigators believe that confrontation led to Stover’s fatal plunge from a skywalk in the office complex’s atrium.

Jones would not comment on Raines’ possible motive, but sources familiar with the investigation claim Raines resented Stover’s close friendship with Gretchen Doyle, Raines’ partner. Doyle could not be reached for comment.

Professional jealousy

Yesterday, investigators arrested Dale King on attempted murder charges. He was released this morning after posting bail of $15,000 and is scheduled to be arraigned February 7th.

King is assistant director of Oxtales Theatre, where Stover was the director, and reportedly was unhappy about being ousted from his position as leader of the theatre troupe by Stover’s return.

An employee of the Garden Center, King is charged with using home-grown rhubarb to poison a dessert he served to Stover at an Oxtales rehearsal the evening of January 1.

Although rhubarb leaves are toxic when ingested, King likely had not used enough rhubarb to cause Stover's death, said Jones.

Not guilty pleas expected

King did not respond to requests for comment, but his attorney, Rex Mickles, said his client will fight the charges.

"The DA is going way too far," said Mickles, himself a former assistant district attorney. "Dale was nowhere near the crime scene, and what he did wouldn't have resulted in anything more than a bellyache."

Pam Sutler, president of the Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Action Committee of Mississippi, said the group will fund Raines' defense, claiming Raines is the victim of discrimination and has been wrongly accused.

"Ursula Raines' only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Sutler said.

Activist group denies responsibility

Stover, 29, first made headlines in February 2015, when she was arrested for disseminating sexually oriented material to minors after parents objected to their teens’ involvement as stage crew volunteers for a sexually explicit Oxtales production. Stover was convicted in May 2015 and served an 18-month sentence at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, MS.

Since Stover's release in December, Concerned Oxford Parents (COP), a community watchdog group that works to protect local children and monitors local sex offense cases, has been distributing flyers about Stover to neighbors and local parents.

Despite the publicity, COP president Ben Morgan said the organization is blameless in Stover's death.
"We did what we had to do to keep our community safe," Morgan said. "We never promote violence, but do promote citizens' awareness."

While she refused to comment directly about the COP organization, Jones confirmed that investigators are not searching for additional suspects in the case.
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Jan 2, 2017

Controversial artist found dead in office complex

Foul play suspected in ex-con's death

Oxtales director found dead at Oxford Centre
Andrea Stover, whose 2015 theatre production "Snopes" resulted in a prison term on sex crime charges, was found dead this morning in an atrium at Oxford Centre on North Lamar.

Initial indications suggest Stover fell 25 feet from the skywalk connecting the buildings of the office complex, according to Yoknapatawpha Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones.

Sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene shortly before 8:30 a.m. in response to a 911 call from an office worker who discovered the body on the way into work.

Jones said the death is being investigated but declined to disclose any details about the circumstances surrounding Stover's death, citing the ongoing investigation.

Jones would not say whether Stover's death is thought to be an accident, a homicide or a suicide. However, a source close to the investigation told Crime Beat that detectives do believe foul play was involved.

Victim courted controversy

Stover, a Taylor performance artist, was released on December 5, 2016, after completing an 18-month sentence at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, MS.

She was convicted in June 2015 of disseminating sexually oriented material to minors after parents of three teenagers who volunteered as stage technicians for "Snopes" saw a video of the production and filed charges.

The production was one of several controversial works masterminded by Stover, who colleagues say tackled difficult issues through her choice of sexually explicit works.

"It wasn't about the controversy," said Dale King, assistant director of the Oxtales Theatre. "Andrea was taking on huge issues — rape, interracial romance in the Jim Crow era, gay rights, sexual taboos. Sometimes they aren't pretty to look at, but she brought them out into the light."

King, who served as acting director during Stover's prison term, said she was working on a new piece when she died. The group has put production on hold temporarily, he added.

"It's a huge blow to us and to the artistic community as a whole," King said.

But Stover's critics say her productions were the sign of a deranged mind at work.

Critics voiced strong opposition

"Anyone who would expose teenagers to sex acts like she did was clearly a dangerous psychotic," said Ben Morgan, president of Concerned Oxford Parents (COP), a community watchdog group that works to protect local children and monitors local sex offense cases.

COP, which was headed in 2015 by current Oxford Mayor Claire Windham, advocated the maximum sentence of a 3-year prison term and $15,000 fine for Stover. Since her release, COP has been distributing flyers about Stover to neighbors and local parents in what Morgan describes as an effort to keep the community safe.

"People need to know when sex offenders move into their hometown," said Morgan. "The information is public. We just help get the word out."

Morgan denied that his group's work might have incited someone to an act of vigilante justice against Stover.

"We don't advocate violence," he said. "We do advocate putting pressure on local authorities to protect our citizens. To my mind, we had the right to let her know she wasn't wanted here."

Stover is survived by her parents, Abbeville residents Jerry and Irene Stover. They declined to speak about their daughter's death. Funeral services will be held in private, with a memorial service planned for later this month.
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