Dec 8, 2016

Christmas killer captured

Christmas killer captured
Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officials this morning arrested an employee of Santa's Toy Shoppe in connection with the death of Caroline Jordan, her co-worker.

Nancy Lee Ford, 26, was taken into custody this morning around 9:30, according to Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones.

Jones said the district attorney's office will seek murder charges in connection with Jordan's December 5 death.

Jordan was found dead after a neighbor called 911 to report seeing someone run over Jordan's mailbox and flee the scene. While investigating that incident, a YCSD officer discovered the body.

Morgan Pierce, owner of Santa's Toy Shoppe, later confessed to hitting the mailbox. Pierce, 35, was also a suspect in Jordan's death before Ford was arrested.

Ford is an Oxford native and a longtime employee of Santa's Toy Shoppe. Jones would not comment on a motive in the murder, but people familiar with Ford say she resented Jordan because of events in the workplace.

"Nancy's always been wound tight," said a co-worker of the two women who asked not to be identified. "It was just a matter of time before she did something crazy, but I never thought she'd go this far."

Ford is currently being held at the Yoknapatawpha County jail and is expected to make her first court appearance tomorrow.

A person answering the phone at Ford's residence declined to answer any questions or comment on the arrest.

Friends and neighbors are still struggling to cope with their loss as well as the shock of the murder and learning the identity of the accused killer.

"This is a terrible tragedy for everyone involved," said Bonnie Duncan, Jordan's neighbor. "But this was Carly's favorite time of year, so we'll all try to focus on the joy of the season as much as we can. It's what she would want."
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Dec 6, 2016

Mailbox mishap leads to murder

Santa flees scene

Mailbox mishap leads to murder
A simple 911 call reporting a knocked-over mailbox late Monday night eventually led to a gruesome discovery and a homicide investigation.

Pearidge Road resident Bonnie Duncan reported seeing a black Chevrolet SUV back into her neighbor's mailbox before speeding away. She claims the driver was dressed as Santa.

When a Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officer attempted to contact someone inside the 107 Pearidge Road residence where the mailbox had been damaged, he received no response.

Concerned for the occupants, YCSD officers conducted a well-being check of the residence and found the body of a young woman lying on the floor. Within minutes, detectives and other investigative personnel were on the scene.

YCSD Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones said it appears the woman was the victim of foul play, but she declined to specify how the victim was killed.

"We are treating this case as a homicide," Jones told reporters. "We're not prepared to name a suspect at this stage of the investigation, but we are looking into some significant leads."

Neighbors said they had seen a number of vehicles parked at the house earlier that evening, and they believed the homeowner had been hosting a party.

According to Jones, no one else was at the residence when YCSD officers arrived, but she confirmed that indications of a recent party were present inside the residence.

Authorities are not yet releasing the victim's identity, but neighbors say she was the owner of the house where her body was found.

"She was a good neighbor and a great friend," Duncan said. "I just can't believe she was murdered."
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Dec 1, 2016

Lamar Park neighbors celebrate kid heroes

Kudzu Kids Melody, Emma, Zach and Rachel
The neighborhood clubhouse was filled to capacity with both people and their pet dogs when the residents threw a Thank You party for the Kudzu Kids, who reunited them with their beloved pets.

The clubhouse was dressed up to the nines. The decorating committee even included Frisbees in the centerpieces to welcome the dogs back home.

The kids — Zach Burgess, Melody Cheever, Rachel McGowan, and Emma Wooten — spent most of the party mingling with the rescued dogs and their owners.

“Lucky is my partner. He’s much more than just a dog. I missed him terribly,” said Ophelia Rickard with tears in her eyes.

Ms. Rickard wasn’t the only one teary-eyed at the party. She is just one of many neighbors who were fortunate enough to have their dogs rescued by the Kudzu Kids.

Franklin Guyton sat outside while his dog, Champ, snoozed next to him. “I knew something was wrong when I didn’t hear my Champ barking,” he said. “He’s never wandered off.”

Nearby, Andy Osborne watched while his dog, Butch, played on the lawn with the Kudzu Kids. "Butch is a member of our family. My wife and I are forever grateful for the Kudzu Kids and their amazing efforts to return him and all the other dogs.”

Mayor Thomas Winfield was also in attendance. “What these kids did for the neighborhood dog owners was extraordinary,” he said. “I can only hope other children strive to follow in their footsteps and be a contributing part of this wonderful community.”

The community caters

Furthering the community spirit of the event, the neighborhood committee had the party catered by local restaurants The Red Fern and The Sweet Shoppe.

Angela Donalson, owner of The Red Fern, said, “I was honored to be asked to cater for the party. As a dog owner myself, I can only imagine what these families went through with their dogs missing.”

Chloe Morgan, owner of The Sweet Shoppe, was so impressed with the Kudzu Kids, she not only made her famous red velvet cupcakes but also baked and donated special doggie treats for the dogs.

Remarkable rescue rewarded

The neighbors chipped in and had a special Thank You plaque made for the Kudzu Kids. The plaque had a paw print and the names of all the dogs they helped save.

The kids attributed their success in locating the missing pets to their teacher, Dr. William Lamar, and what they learned from him at CSI camp.

The Kudzu Kids would not accept a monetary reward for their efforts, so the dog owners have started a scholarship fund for local kids to attend CSI camp each summer.

Kudzu Kid Zach shrugged off the accolades. “This party was a big surprise for us. We were only doing what was right. We're just happy the dogs have been reunited with their families.”
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Local man nabbed in dognapping scheme

Something was wrong in this affluent neighborhood in Oxford. Dogs were going missing. So many that it caught the attention of a group of local kids, who took the initiative to investigate and forward their findings to the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.

Local man Carl Asher was arrested earlier today and charged with the dog thefts. He could be fined up to $500 and face a maximum of two years in jail for each count if convicted.

As the investigation continues, he may be charged with additional crimes.

Asher allegedly was a brazen thief, taking many of these pets directly from their owners' yards while they were at home.

Once he had the dogs in his possession, Asher reportedly took them to a vacant house where he would keep them until he could return them for a cash reward.

“We’ve never seen so many missing dogs in such a short amount of time,” said Elizabeth Jones, the YCSD Public Information Officer.

Rachel McGowan, one of the local youths responsible for helping crack this case, seemed unaffected by the praise that she and her friends got for helping solve the case.

“We saw something was wrong, and we investigated it,” said Rachel about her and her friends' heroic actions. “It’s what we do.”

All of the dogs have been recovered and returned to their rightful owners.
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Nov 28, 2016

Mysteries abound

The Face in the Mirror has all the dish!

In this edition: missing mutts… bogus bingo… and student sleuths

Greetings, peeps!

The View from the Behind the Chair is the only place you'll hear the things women only tell their hairdressers.

And in this chair?
In the first chair, a woman distraught over her missing dog. This isn't the first I've heard about pets that have strayed this summer. If you're a dog owner, please take extra care. If you see a dog that doesn't belong where you see it, please contact our local animal control officer at 662-232-XXXX. If you're a local animal control officer, please get on top of this.

And in this chair?
In the second chair, another mystery. Apparently, someone has been having an unusually long lucky streak at Second Avenue's Bingo Night. Numbers (and letters) don't lie, but neither do the odds against winning fifty-four games in a row. With only a jarful of pennies at stake, wouldn't you rather play fair?

And in this chair?
And in the third chair, a young lady belies our impression of a generation that's always connected. Kids who attended CSI camp this summer are setting up a shoeprint stand to collect samples in order to continue their extra-curricular educational activity. Go on down to the Square this Saturday to help these future crime fighters!

I'm just hearing, and I'm just saying.
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Mar 20, 2016

How did the Tyler Ave double murder happen?

Authorities, experts share theories of the crime

When local attorney Robert Pruitt hired an exterminator, he probably never suspected that the company owners, Wayne and Ned Fisher, meant to commit a burglary that would ultimately lead to Pruitt's death.

"You see it all the time," says veteran police observer James Woodrow. "If a crime wasn't committed by a loved one or close business associate, it can probably be laid at the door of someone on the periphery."

Local psychologist James Raymond added, "The people whom we treat as if they are invisible often begin to feel that way. They not only resent the situation but often come to see their invisibility as a secret power, as it were."

Whatever the theories, the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney say they have little doubt as to what transpired on the evening of February 19, 2016.

What do authorities believe happened?

Investigators allege that Ned Fisher, 30, and his father, Wayne Fisher, 57, used their pest control business as a means to scout potential burglary targets.

Believing that Robert and Vanessa Pruitt were away that weekend, the Fishers entered the Pruitts' home with the intention of stealing any items of value.

But the father-and-son burglary team was only half-right.

Vanessa Pruitt had gone out of town, but her husband stayed home — a last-minute decision that would prove fateful and fatal.

According to the sheriff's department, Robert Pruitt was brandishing a gun when he surprised the thieves as they were gathering the entertainment electronics they planned to take.

Ned Fisher, under arrest for the two murders
Ned Fisher, under arrest for the two murders
With Wayne Fisher dead and Ned Fisher exercising his right to remain silent, exactly what happened next is unknown, but it resulted in Pruitt shooting and killing Wayne Fisher.

Ned Fisher then allegedly fatally shot his father's killer before fleeing the scene in the Fisher Pest Control van.

The bodies remained undiscovered until the following afternoon, when Pruitt's wife, Vanessa, returned from an out-of-town trip.

"I'm not sure I'll ever be comfortable allowing strangers into my home again," says Vanessa Pruitt, now widowed for the second time. "There's a basic level of trust that I think I've lost."

Not an isolated crime?

Sources close to the sheriff's department say the father-and-son Fisher team may have been responsible for several unsolved burglaries in Yoknapatawpha County.

According to YCSD Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones, Ned Fisher has only been charged with any crimes directly related to the Pruitt-Fisher homicides. However, Jones would not rule out the possibility that Fisher may face additional charges in the future.

Ned Fisher's attorney, Robert Hawkins, said, "My client's father was a victim of this tragic double killing, and now my client is a victim as well."

Hawkins added that Fisher is not responsible for the homicides or for any other crimes, vowing "if the District Attorney does not see the error of his ways and drop all charges against my client, we will prove Ned Fisher's innocence at trial."
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Mar 17, 2016

Suspect arrested in double homicide

Investigators not yet commenting on the how or why of what happened

A pest control worker was arrested this morning in the shootings of Oxford defense attorney Robert Pruitt, 38, and exterminator Wayne Fisher, 56, in a fatal encounter February 19.

Ned Fisher, 30, was taken into custody at his residence without incident, investigators say.

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officials say Ned Fisher is facing murder charges in connection with the deaths of his father, Wayne Fisher, and Robert Pruitt as well as other charges related to the incident.

Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones declined to provide specifics of what investigators believe happened that night or whether anyone else was involved, saying additional information will be released at a later date.

A mystery from the start

On February 20, Robert Pruitt's wife, Vanessa, returned from an out-of-town trip and discovered the two men dead in the basement rec room of the Pruitt home.

Wayne Fisher was not immediately identified at the scene of the crime, and initially investigators struggled to find a connection between the two men.

Several former clients of attorney Pruitt confirmed that they were questioned closely about the killings.

"It was like the Keystone Kops," said Jackie Woodruff, who Pruitt unsuccessfully defended in a 2014 assault case. "You could tell they were fishing for anything and everything. I hated Rob Pruitt, don't get me wrong — but I'm not dumb enough to go back to jail."

Jones declined to comment on whether investigators blundered in their pursuit of leads.

Forensic evidence played a key role in the case, according to Jones, both in identifying Wayne Fisher and in determining that the men were shot with different weapons.

"Science doesn't lie," Jones said. "This was truly a team effort between our investigators in the field, our crime lab and the coroner's team."

The Fisher family reacts

Wayne Fisher's ex-wife, Christine Fisher, of Pontotoc, MS, was distraught and refused to comment on the case. But her son, Oxford resident Joel Fisher, said he hopes the arrest will bring closure to a tragic chapter in the family's history.

At times becoming emotional, Joel Fisher said that he had been estranged from brother Ned and father Wayne Fisher following his parents' acrimonious divorce nearly 20 years ago.

"This is a sad bookend to a painful situation," he said. "I only hope the best for my mom at this point."
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Mar 6, 2016

Why no leads in double murder?

On February 20, 2016, local attorney Robert Pruitt, 38, was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home. Also in the Pruitt residence was the body of exterminator Wayne Fisher, 56. Fisher was also killed by a gunshot wound.

Initially, no reason was given for why Fisher was in the Pruitt residence. Now, weeks after the discovery of the two bodies, no arrests have been made and sources close to the investigation claim the police are floundering.

All these bodies, just piling up, is unacceptable in this community. Every couple of months, there's another murder in this town, and our sheriff's department seems unable to stop it. Sure, they eventually solve the case, but that's not slowing down the homicide rate.

Oxford City Councilman Keith Palmer
I don't see how they're going to solve this one, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.

A former member of the YCSD told me, "They're struggling. I've heard they don't have a link between the two victims, much less any suspects. They don't even know why Fisher was in the house."

Just talk to anyone on the Square, and you can uncover a number of possible suspects.

Fisher went through a very acrimonious divorce and was estranged from his ex-wife and elder son. He co-owned Fisher Pest Control with his younger son, Ned, and both men had criminal records.

Sheriff's department officials would not tell me whether the evidence indicates any possible involvement by members of Fisher's family but did say that they had spoken to the ex-wife and children as part of the routine investigation.

My question is: have they talked to them enough? Have they pressed hard enough? How hard is the YCSD really trying to solve this horrific double murder?

And the potential suspects don't stop with people connected to the Fisher family. Attorney Robert Pruitt is also said to have had enemies.

Defense attorneys who knew Pruitt told me, "I don't know about any specific troubles Robert might have been having, but in my own practice, I know people get mad. I've had a few people come to me looking for revenge."

If a mere civilian like me can identify so many potential suspects, why is the sheriff's department having so much trouble?

The Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department continues to refuse to discuss the case in detail.

Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones issued a statement that read "we are going through our normal investigation procedures, and we are confident that we will clear this case. The people of Oxford can rest assured that the killer or killers will be brought to justice."

Unfortunately, many in the community don't share the department's confidence. Even if this particular case is solved, there seems to be no slowing down of the murder rate.

"We consistently have several homicides every year for what seems like the last 20 years or more. In a town this small, that has to mean something," Reverend John Martin of Calvary Baptist Church told me.

Sheriff Taylor Sheldon and Mayor Claire Windham should step forward and publicly answer for their actions — or lack thereof — taken to solve this multiple homicide and to reduce the overall murder rate in Oxford.

They are accountable to the citizens of Oxford and are responsible for guaranteeing our safety, and we have a right to know what is being done on our behalf.

Mayor Windham and Sheriff Sheldon must take immediate, effective steps to resolve these critical problems plaguing our city. If they cannot, they should resign their offices and let Oxonians replace them with someone who can.

Keith Palmer
Oxford City Councilman
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Feb 21, 2016

Local attorney and unknown victim found shot in Taylor Ave home

Investigators search for identity of mystery body

Oxford attorney Robert Pruitt, 38, was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound in his home last night.

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones said that Pruitt was found by his wife when she returned from out of town.

In addition to Pruitt's body, Jones said an unidentified man was also found dead in the Pruitt home.

"There was another, unidentified individual in the residence, also dead from an apparent gunshot wound," Jones said. "We are attempting to identify of this man and the reason for him being in the Pruitt residence." Jones would not comment on whether the incident is believed to be a double murder or a murder/suicide.

Jones declined to offer any more details about the deaths and requested that anyone who might know anything about this incident to please contact the Sheriff's Department.

Sources with the Sheriff's Department predict that this will be a difficult case for the already overworked department to solve.

"Two bodies, apparently unrelated, with no witnesses will be a tough nut to crack," said one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Former prosecutor now a successful defense attorney

Law Offices of Pruitt & Rayburn
Robert Pruitt was a 1999 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where he went on to earn his law degree. He passed the bar in 2003 and went to work for the Yoknapatawpha County District Attorney's Office.

He left the DA's office in 2006 to form a private practice with fellow ADA Gary Rayburn.

"We built a business together and helped a lot of folks," said Rayburn. "I can't believe he's gone. This is just a terrible tragedy."

Since turning his attention to criminal defense, Pruitt represented a number of high profile murder defendants in Oxford and most recently took over the defense of accused killer Dudley Brinkman after Brinkman's attorney was critically injured in a car accident on the eve of trial last fall.

"[Pruitt] was a great attorney and an even better person," said UM law professor Dwight Barlow. "We'll all miss him."

Robert Pruitt is survived by his wife, Vanessa. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
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