May 18, 2021

…And they lived happily ever after?

It looks like some good things are rising from the ashes of the recently incinerated 2021 Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival Beauty Pageant.

Despite being canceled on the eve of the final event following the brutal murder of finalist Barbara Dubois, the pageant may not be permanently destined for the junk heap after all.

Pageant officials have expressed hope that next year's pageant will be conducted in honor of the young woman who lost her life on May 1.

Two suspects have been arrested: Erma Webb for attempted murder and Allie Lamar for the murder of Barbara Dubois.

The children of the women in custody are working to ease the heartbreak of those who knew Barbara Dubois and anyone who struggles with life challenges.

Barbara's old flame carries on her legacy

The Afterschool Alliance works to ensure all children have access to affordable, quality afterschool programs
Bill Lamar, acting head of Lamar Cosmetics, has established the Barbara Dubois Foundation in honor of his high school sweetheart.

The first recipient of a Foundation grant will be Ms. Dubois' favorite cause, the Afterschool Alliance. The Alliance provides communities with after-school activities for at-risk children and was the subject of Ms. Dubois' pageant platform.

Tuttle Confections, former sponsor of Barbara Dubois, has pledged an initial contribution of $20,000 with substantial yearly contributions to follow.

"Barbara was a fine young woman. It is tragic her life was ended. We are committed to helping continue the work she felt so strongly about." — Sam Tuttle president of the company.

Barbara's fellow finalist honors their friendship

Rachel wants to help the many people struggling with eating disorders like Barbara helped her
Avoid Yo-Yo Dieting by o5com
is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Rachel Webb, another finalist in the 2021 pageant, has pledged to tour the country, speaking at high schools and colleges about her ongoing battle with bulimia.

She recently revealed her illness publicly, saying she will spend the next year devoting herself to this task in honor of her friend Barbara.

"Had it not been for Barbara's urging, I would never have sought help. She made me realize I had a disease, to confront it, and to seek treatment. She saved my life!

"Now I want to repay her and her memory by telling of my battle and bringing the dangers of bulimia to the attention of young people across the country."

Bill Lamar reaches out to his lost love's biggest fan

Bill Lamar is taking Barbara's beloved 7-year-old friend under his wing
Another beneficiary of Barbara's legacy will be her seven-year-old friend, Billie Jo Jones. Bill Lamar is establishing a trust in the child's name to be used to further whatever training or education Billie Jo desires.

Mr. Lamar spoke warmly about both young women.
"Barbara loved this little girl and thought of her as family. Billie Jo lost her father last year, and now she's lost her dear 'Auntie Barbara.'

"I hope I can be a part of her life and make up for some of that loss. In return, she will help heal the hole that has been in my heart since I left my love seven years ago.

"I did not know then that I was leaving Barbara to face a crisis and heartbreak of her own. Had I known, I never would have gone. I have seven years of wasted time and heartbreak to make up for."

Too good to be true?

If it sounds like a fairy tale with a "they all lived happily ever after" ending — it isn't. It's real life, where there are never any guarantees.

But then again… truth is stranger than fiction.

We'll just have to wait and see.
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May 17, 2021

Beauty queen killer arraigned

Pageant Sponsor Charged in Brutal Killing

Allie Lamar was arraigned in the Yoknapatawpha County Court
The tragic story of murder and beauty queens came to a conclusion today as Alexandra "Allie" Johnson Lamar was arraigned on homicide and aggravated assault charges in Yoknapatawpha County Court.

The cosmetics magnate, clad in a prison jumpsuit, appeared subdued and dispirited. She did not speak except to plead not guilty to all charges.

Lamar, 58, is accused of killing Barbara Dubois, one of three finalists in the Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival Beauty Pageant that Lamar Cosmetics sponsored.

A trial is expected to follow as quickly as court schedules allow.

Slain beauty queen Barbara Dubois
Dubois, 23, was found dead early in the morning of May 1, 2021, at the Yoknapatawpha County Conference Center where the pageant was being held.

She was a lifelong resident of Oxford and a veteran of the beauty pageant circuit. Friends said that she entered this pageant as a springboard to the Miss Mississippi competition.

As authorities investigated the Dubois murder, Oxford learned more than anyone could have ever dreamed about the beauty pageant business. Rumors spread throughout town as residents speculated on the identity of the murderer.

Many people thought a jealous competitor could have been behind the killing. Other people guessed that an obsessive fan could have been the murderer.

Erma Webb was the first suspect arrested in the Dubois case
The investigation took a strange turn on May 8 when Erma Webb was arrested and charged with what the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department described as "offenses related to the Dubois investigation."

Webb, 52, is the mother of another pageant finalist, Rachel Webb. Faced with the news of Webb's arrest, many Oxford residents assumed that the motive for the Dubois murder was an obsessed stage mother.

Webb was charged with attempted murder, and oddly enough, poisoning, but sheriff's department officials have not released more specific details about Webb's involvement in this case. The District Attorney's office has also refused to comment.

Allie Lamar has been charged with murdering Barbara Dubois
The news of a second arrest in the case spread throughout town quickly. "I just couldn't believe it when I heard," said ballet teacher Rhonda Specht. "I know all those girls — and their mothers. This is just incredible."

Those associated with the pageant were particularly puzzled about why Allie Lamar would do anything that could ruin the event she and her company were counting on as a lifeline.

"I don't know how this could happen. I mean, even if we can somehow get over the idea of the murder, it still just doesn't make any sense," said pageant judge Frank Margold.

"This pageant was Lamar Cosmetics' last hope from a business perspective. They were just barely keeping their heads above water. Allie seemed to have such high hopes for this pageant. Why bring such bad publicity?"

Less than a week before Allie Lamar was taken into custody, Lamar Cosmetics filed for bankruptcy protection. Lamar's son, Bill, who is expected to take over the family business, painted a rosy picture of the company's future despite the current money problems — but that was before the founder and president was arrested for murder.

Repeated calls to the offices of Lamar Cosmetics since the arrest on Thursday have gone unreturned, and attempts to locate Bill Lamar for comment have been unsuccessful.

Check back for updates on this developing story.
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May 10, 2021

Fading beauty

The rise and fall of a financial empire

Lamar Cosmetics, a company which successfully catered to dreams of Hollywood glamour, filed for bankruptcy protection late this afternoon amidst allegations that rival the wildest stories to ever appear on the silver screen.

According to a statement released by the law firm representing the besieged company, this step was necessary "to provide a safety net while Lamar Cosmetics adjusts to recent changes in the global marketplace."

There is no mention in the one-page document of the canceled beauty pageant that Lamar Cosmetics sponsored, the murder of front-runner Barbara Dubois, or the rumors swirling around top Lamar Cosmetics executives regarding their relationships with the late beauty queen.

Lamar scion reacts

During an exclusive interview, Bill Lamar shared his struggle with what he called "this unfortunate situation."
"Since I arrived in Oxford a few weeks ago," Lamar said, "I have been forced to face some difficult truths, both business and personal. I knew some of them were possible, but others have completely blindsided me."
However, Lamar dismissed concerns that this could be the end of Lamar Cosmetics.
"There are times when forces beyond our control compel a business to change. We've done it before, and we'll do it again. It's just going to take a little time to make the adjustments, and that's what the bankruptcy protection provides."
When asked if Allie Lamar, founder and president of Lamar Cosmetics and his mother, is to blame for the bankruptcy, Bill Lamar declined to pin the responsibility on any one person.
"This company has always been a team effort, and my mother's contributions to the business since its inception have been invaluable," he said. "She has never hesitated to do everything possible to ensure Lamar Cosmetics' success."
Lamar would not comment on speculation that his mother would be forced to resign in the wake of this setback.

Company troubles connected to pageant murder?

Lamar Cosmetics once had high hopes for the pageant they sponsored and how it would raise the company's profile and its revenues.

When the pageant ended prematurely with a brutal murder, it was more than just a tragedy for Lamar Cosmetics — it was a financial and PR disaster.

In the weeks since Barbara Dubois was killed, it has emerged that she had close ties with the Lamar family when she was younger. Whether those ties still existed at the time of her death seems to be a matter for debate.

Bill Lamar refused to discuss his relationship with Dubois. When asked about his mother's relationship with the slain beauty, Lamar said, "You'll have to ask her."

Allie Lamar declined to comment for this report.

Sources familiar with the Dubois investigation say both Lamars have been questioned by detectives, Allie once and Bill several times.

However, the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department would not comment on whether either or both of the Lamars are considered persons of interest or suspects in the crime.

Pageant mom arrested

Earlier this week, pageant finalist Rachel Webb's mother, Erma Webb, was taken into custody on what the sheriff's department called "charges related to the Dubois homicide investigation."

A person with knowledge of the case told Crime Beat that Erma Webb allegedly poisoned the food of Barbara Dubois and others at the pageant. The sheriff's department would not comment on the claim.

Ingrid Freeman, the third pageant finalist, bristled when asked about rumors that she was one of the only ones whose food was untainted.
"I can't explain the reasoning of an old lady who's obviously not in her right mind," Freeman said. "Poor woman, you just can't believe anything she says." 
She then immediately terminated the interview.

Pageant killer still on the loose?

When Erma Webb was arrested, many Oxonians believed the investigation was complete, the murderer caught.

But after the arrest, the detectives continued to execute search warrants, including one at the Lamar residence, and interview witnesses, including Bill Lamar.

With tongues still wagging and suspicions still building, Lamar Cosmetics — and the Lamar family — will be lucky if they manage to come out of this unscathed.

Perhaps Wendy Kullman, the animal rights activist arrested for the vandalism aimed at Lamar Cosmetics, summed up the situation best.
"The people who abuse animals rarely stop there."
Then again, an employee of the sheriff's department just might have the right idea.
"If they ever do have another beauty pageant here in Oxford, perhaps the Mississippi Department of Corrections would be a better sponsor."
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May 8, 2021

Surprise arrest in beauty queen murder case

Early this morning, an arrest was made in conjunction with the investigation into the murder of Barbara Dubois.

Sources say that Erma Webb, 52, of Oxford was taken into custody at her home by members of the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's department officials would not confirm nor deny that Webb had been arrested, and they refused to comment on any charges that may have been filed.

Barbara Dubois was found murdered on May 1. The body of the 23-year-old beauty queen was discovered in the Yoknapatawpha County Conference Center. She was a finalist in the Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival Beauty Pageant.

Webb's daughter, Rachel, was also a finalist in the pageant.

Details regarding the arrest and Webb's possible involvement in the murder are sketchy at this point, but sheriff's department spokesperson Elizabeth Jones said investigators plan to issue a statement in the coming days.

Pageant judge Frank Margold was stunned at the news of Webb's arrest. "She was very driven," he said when contacted by phone. "And Rachel was always very driven. But this is just hard to believe."

Calls to the Webb residence were unanswered.

Check back for updates on this developing story.
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May 1, 2021

Pageant headquarters defaced night of murder

YCSD mum on connection to murder

YCCC vandalism associated with pageant
As if to add insult to injury, on the same night Barbara Dubois was killed at the Yoknapatawpha County Convention Center, someone maliciously damaged rooms associated with the pageant.

The vandals spray-painted the Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival Pageant office and hung pictures of maimed animals in the stage room, both located at the YCCC.

"Nothing like this has ever happened here before," says Yvonne Boyd, Events Manager at the convention center. "It's important for people to remember, however, that the attack was aimed not at the YCCC but at the pageant itself. No guest rooms were in any way disturbed."

Pageant controversy

The pageant has been under sharp criticism from both those who would rather not see a beauty pageant aligned with the literary festival and those who fault the planners for allowing Lamar Cosmetics to sponsor the event.

Lamar Cosmetics, owned by Allie Lamar, has been accused by animal rights activists of conducting unnecessary product tests. The pictures hung in the stage room reportedly depicted this type of animal abuse.

Sources say swirls of blue and red spray paint covered bulletin boards, computer equipment, and papers spread across the desk of the pageant office.

Norm Resol, custodial engineer at the YCCC, said that no paint supplies were missing from the maintenance room. "And I didn't see nuthin'," Resol said.

Capturing the vandals

"No suspects in the vandalism incident are in custody at this time," said Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones, "but the investigation is ongoing."

YCCC lounge bartender Bob Niwachee noticed nothing out of the ordinary last night. "The mood was festive and the tips good. As best as I can recall, I didn't serve anybody wearing a ski mask."

Johnson refused to speculate whether the vandalism is linked to the murder of Barbara Dubois, the pageant finalist whose body was discovered at the YCCC early this morning.

Pageant unbowed

Lamar said that the show will go on. "We can not allow violence to dictate our actions. We must bring the pageant to its conclusion, if only to honor the memory of Barbara Dubois."
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Likely pageant winner slain

Beautiful victim mysteriously dead

The career of a rising beauty pageant contestant ended tragically today when she was the victim of an apparent homicide.

Investigators reported that the body of Barbara Dubois, 23, of Oxford, was found near her room in the Yoknapatawpha County Conference Center (YCCC) hotel, where she was one of three finalists in the first annual Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival beauty pageant.

Sources say that when Barbara Dubois did not respond to knocks on her door, her mother contacted YCCC management and obtained access to Barbara's room, where she found her daughter gone and her bed reportedly not slept in.

Barbara's lifeless body was discovered just yards away a few moments later.

"It appears that Ms. Dubois was brutally attacked while en route between locations within the YCCC complex," said Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones.

Jones would not disclose further details of the case pending ongoing forensic analysis and investigation, but said the department was pursuing several leads.

YCCC guests and employees react with shock and sorrow

"This is a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Barbara's family and friends," said Yvonne Boyd, YCCC Events Manager.

"She was a real sweet person," said Sam Tuttle, owner of Tuttle's Confections and Barbara's sponsor in competition until last year. "We're all at a loss as to who might have wanted to hurt her."

Ms. Dubois' longtime coach Marty "Slim" Rutgers said, "I loved her more than any man could love a daughter."

"I didn't see nothing," said Norm Resol, YCCC custodial engineer. "But I saw her before. Very pretty young lady. Prettiest of all them that's here. It's a shame, a real shame."

Victim a pageant veteran

Barbara Dubois had a lengthy career in the pageant circuit and had been entering the competitions since the age of five. Other pageant contestants described her as an accomplished dancer who often performed complex routines for her skills competition.

A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Dubois had no siblings and is survived by her mother, Susan Dubois of Yoknapatawpha County. Mrs. Dubois, 43, was not available for comment.

Some observers had predicted that Barbara Dubois would win the pageant and are now wondering what will happen.

The show must go on?

Walbert Dopelson, director of the Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival, said that he hoped this tragic event would not cause people to shy away from the festival's many activities.

Allie Lamar, owner of Lamar Cosmetics, the pageant's official corporate sponsor, agreed. "I knew Barbara," she said. "She believed in the pageant and in competitions like it with all her heart and soul.

"Barbara would want us to continue, even in the face of tragedy and adversity. That's what she did, and that's what we'll do."
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