Feb 29, 2020

Victim's parents refuse to cooperate in murder investigation

Cite disrespectful treatment and slander

Laurie Daniels
The parents of Laurie Daniels have declined to give further aid to the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department in the ongoing investigation into the murder of their daughter Laurie.

According to a statement released today, Bart and Bonnie Daniels will answer no more questions from detectives.

Bonnie Daniels read from a prepared statement at a small press conference outside the family home this morning.

"Because of the disrespectful treatment we and our friends and neighbors have been subjected to during the course of this so-called investigation, we can no longer in good conscience be a part of it.

Laurie Daniels
  • Killed and dismembered four to six weeks ago
  • Head found in Taylor, MS, on February 22
  • Other body parts found in surrounding counties over the last month
  • Last seen in Oxford in 2013
"We simply feel that this is not a serious investigation into the death of our daughter. We have opened our home and our privacy to the detectives, and they return these gestures with slander.

"Instead of catching the murderer, the sheriff's department is digging up vicious rumors and hearsay regarding our daughters' and our own personal life. It's an insult to our daughter and to justice itself, and we will not cooperate any longer.

"We would rather go on in the dark about our daughter's killer or killers than face the daily barrage of insults and accusatory remarks made by the police and the public. Any further correspondence will be done through our attorneys."

Bart Daniels was an attorney himself until a cancer diagnosis forced him to retire. The family has hired the firm of Frye & Pierson to represent them.

Heard it through the grapevine

Both the Daniels family and the sheriff's department declined to comment on the details of the "vicious rumors and hearsay" Mrs. Daniels referred to in her statement.

Witnesses familiar with the location where the head was found say a strange ritual site was discovered nearby. That evidence reportedly has investigators seeking information as far away as the New Orleans voodoo district, where it's believed Laurie Daniels lived for several years.

Sources close to the investigation say that just prior to her death, Laurie Daniels is thought to have been in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Friends claim she had gone there in hopes of reuniting with her younger sister, Melanie, who walked away from her family and her life in Oxford in 2012.

YCSD "disappointed" by the family's decision

The Daniels parents have not been named as official suspects, according to Sheriff's Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones, who added that investigators are disappointed by the family's decision to withdraw their assistance.

In a statement, Jones responded to the Danielses' remarks. "It is in the best interest of Mr. and Mrs. Daniels to continue their participation in this investigation. Their goals and the goals of the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department are one and the same—to bring Laurie Daniels's killer to justice."
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Feb 28, 2020

Daniels burial draws emotional crowd

Bishop Hill chapel where Laurie Daniels' funeral was held
Bishop Hill chapel (File Photo)
A dark cloud of anguish and bewilderment still hovered over the town here as Laurie Daniels was put to rest in Bishop Hill Cemetery this afternoon.

Friends, relatives and other saddened townsfolk turned out en masse to offer their grief over the former Oxonian's horrifying death.

Nearly 300 mourners arrived at Bishop Hill's tiny chapel for the funeral. The crowd spilled into the parking lot, and those who could not find a seat inside waited until the service moved outside to the grave site.

Reverend Jonathan Everett gave a poignant service, and Daniels' former fiancé, Forrest Burgess, delivered a moving eulogy.

A gruesome death

Daniels, 25, was the victim of a brutal killing that has terrified the town. The Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department discovered her head in a bucket near Taylor Creek on February 22.

Throughout April, several other body parts, later identified as Daniels', were found as far away as Toccopola, Bruce and Batesville.

An investigation into Daniels' death is currently underway, and the sheriff's department maintained a visible presence at the memorial services, though whether it was to provide security or keep an eye out for possible suspects is unclear.

Remembering Laurie

A former prom queen and local teenage favorite, Daniels had been away from Oxford for seven years in various parts of the country before her ill-fated return.

Friends and family who tried to catch up with her over the years were met with disheartening news. Some heard she had abused drugs and alcohol, while others had reason to believe she was involved in bizarre religious sects.

Yet these rumors did not deter the people who loved and remembered her fondly from paying their final respects.

"We are all shattered and sore to the pit of our souls over the violence of Laurie's departure," said Burgess in his rousing address. "We yearn to know what drove her away from us and what led her to her end. Yet also we are afraid to seek answers to these questions."

A life cut short

Daniels was born on February 22, 1994. She grew up with her family in Oxford and graduated from Oxford High School in 2012. She then briefly attended Northwest Community College before leaving town in January of 2013 on a journey that reportedly led her all over the country.

She is survived by her parents, Bart and Bonnie Daniels of Oxford, and a sister, Melanie, 24, who also left town suddenly several years ago.
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Feb 24, 2020

More body parts found

Body parts found in and around Yoknapatawpha County
Locations in and around Yoknapatawpha County
where dismembered body parts were found

Are they related to head found in Taylor?

Following on the (ahem) heels of the discovery of a severed head in Taylor on February 22, the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department confirmed today that four more body parts have been discovered in adjoining counties.

Sheriff's Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones said the body parts were found over the last several weeks.

On January 30, a severed arm was found in a gravel pit in Toccopola in Pontotoc County, east of Oxford.

Twelve days later and 45 miles west, another arm was discovered in Enid Lake between Batesville and Water Valley in Panola County.

Two feet were found 24 miles south-southwest of the Toccopola location and 55 miles southeast of the Batesville location in a Bruce cotton field in Calhoun County.

The feet were found on February 18, just four days before the severed head was discovered near a possible ritual site in Taylor.

Locals shocked

Trevor Gibson, who found the arm in Enid Lake while on his lunch break, was understandably disturbed after making the discovery.

"At first, I thought it was a big snake," the 52-year-old described. "It wasn't moving, so I thought it was dead. I went up to it, and then it was pretty clear that it wasn't no snake. I said to myself, 'Why, that's some fella's arm there.'"

While the YCSD has not publicly confirmed the gender of the head found in Taylor, Jones said the other body parts are believed to be from one or more females.

Jones said that DNA tests are being conducted to determine whether a link exists between any of the body parts.

Serial killer?

While some people have wondered whether these gruesome discoveries are indications that a serial killer is at work in North Mississippi, law enforcement officials across all the involved jurisdictions discount the suggestion.

"If you ask me, this is the work of one sick individual," said Pontotoc County sheriff J. A. Drexel. "Serial killers are for movies and television. We don't have that kind of thing around here."

Sheriff Drexel said no evidence of occult activity was found at the Toccopola scene nor, to his knowledge, at the scenes in Panola and Calhoun counties.

If Sheriff Drexel is correct, what does that say about the rumored evidence of voodoo rituals found in Taylor?
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Feb 23, 2020

Severed head found in Taylor

Evidence at the scene points to occult influences?

Crime scene location south of Oxford
When local farmer Tucker Allison contacted the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department to report vandalism on his Taylor property, he never imagined what that might lead to.

According to Allison, his 11-year-old son and a friend were playing Saturday morning when they stumbled upon what Allison described as a strange ritual site in a clearing beside a creek.

"There's kids that come out here cow-tipping from time to time. Sometimes they spray-paint something, but I've never seen anything like this around here," Allison told Crime Beat. "I knew as soon as I seen it something wasn't right about it, and I called 911 right off."

Responding to the father's 911 call, sheriff's officers investigated the reported vandalism and discovered a secondary scene where reportedly they found a bucket containing a human head floating in an unidentified chemical solution.

The vandalism scene, which was the subject of the initial report, offered its own unusual evidence, including the remains of a campfire, a burned wooden box, empty rum bottles and a dead chicken among other evidence.

Whitehead told said he told police that the chicken most likely came from his coop. "I recall missing a chicken several weeks back, but I thought it was coyotes," the Taylor farmer said. "In a situation like that, you never consider that a crime is involved."

Similar incidents nearby?

The finding of the head comes amid burgeoning rumors that other body parts have been found this month in the neighboring counties of Calhoun and Panola.

"I think the cops just don't want everybody to get keyed up over this so they're not talking," said Tim Hillman, a Batesville resident. "But there comes a time when we need to know whether or not we should keep our kids locked up in the house."

PIO Jones would not comment on the alleged discoveries of other body parts, saying only, "the department has mounted an intense investigation into this matter and will release more information as it becomes available. We must balance the public's need to know with the department's need to solve this case."
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