Latest Mississippi news, sports, business and entertainment


Trial set for man accused of killing and dismembering dancer

Terry-Christopher-SpeaksGRETNA, La. (AP) – Trial is set to open Monday for a man accused of killing a New Orleans’ French Quarter stripper, dismembering her, and dumping body parts of the woman into the Gulf of Mexico.

Terry Speaks is charged with second-degree murder along with former girlfriend Margaret Sanchez in the death of 24-year-old Jaren Lockhart, a Bourbon Street dancer whose remains washed ashore in Mississippi after her June 2012 disappearance.

A suburban New Orleans judge in Gretna is first expected to consider Speaks’ request to fire his public defender, John Benz, and consider what defense lawyers can say about two prosecution witnesses set to testify.

Benz’s pretrial motion said prosecutors have no evidence to show Lockhart was in Speaks’ apartment before her death.

Speaks and Sanchez have pleaded not guilty. Sanchez’s trial hasn’t been scheduled.


Branch kills boy as storm forces baseball teams from field

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) – Authorities say a falling tree branch killed a 10-year-old boy as baseball teams were leaving the field because of a storm.

Multiple media outlets report the accident happened Saturday evening during a baseball tournament in Tupelo.

Tupelo Parks and Recreation Director Alex Farned says players were being called off the field at Ballard Park because of the weather when the tree limb snapped and hit the child in the back of the head.

The boy, from Byhalia, was taken to North Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. The remainder of the travel baseball tournament has been cancelled.


Ex utility head: I was FBI informant, shouldn’t be charged


BILOXI, Miss. (AP) – The former head of Harrison county utilities says charges against him should be dismissed because he was promised immunity as an FBI informant in a federal corruption case.

Kamran Pahlavan is accused of taking cars, NFL tickets, and other bribes from a contractor to steer business his way after Hurricane Katrina.

The Sun Herald reports that federal prosecutors say the agreement is not binding because Pahlavan lied to investigators.

He’s charged with conspiracy to defraud the government, bribery involving federal programs, obstruction of justice, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden will hear arguments on Pahlavan’s motion July 2 at the federal courthouse in Gulfport.

The trial is scheduled July 13.

The contractor and another utility official have pleaded guilty.


Guajardo named new Journal editor, others promoted


TUPELO, Miss. (AP) – The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal’s reporter for local government and politics is being promoted to editor.

The Daily Journal reports that 26-year-old Rod Guajardo will succeed Lloyd Gray, who’s been editor for 23 years.

Gray is leaving to become executive director of The Phil Hardin Foundation in Meridian.

Guajardo grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and was news editor of The Natchez Democrat before joining the Tupelo newspaper.

Daily Journal publisher and CEO Clay Foster announced his appointment and three other promotions.

Education reporter Chris Kieffer will become managing editor for multimedia and enterprise reporting.

Monroe Journal General Manager Charlie Langford will become the Daily Journal’s managing editor for production, responsible for the print newspaper’s design and visual presentation.

Regional editor Stephanie Rebman will become news editor.


2 say man to be tried in Aug talked about killing 1st wife


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Two men have told a Mississippi newspaper that a man scheduled for trial in Louisiana this summer on charges that he killed his first wife told them about killing her.

A man whose half-sister married Felix Vail tells The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson that he didn’t believe Vail. The other says he was in denial. That man says he bicycled across California with Vail as a young teen in 1969 or 1970, and hopped freight trains in Mexico on another trip.

Vail is scheduled for trial Aug. 17 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on a second-degree murder charge accusing him of drowning Mary Horton Vail in the Calcasieu River in October 1962.

He has pleaded innocent, saying the charges are fabricated.


Lee County Schools, ICC announce vocational partnership


BELDEN, Miss. (AP) – Lee County School District students in vocational and technical classes this fall can also earn college credits from Itawamba Community College.

The program takes effect this fall.

The students will attend classes at Itawamba’s Belden campus.

They can enroll in one of five clusters and will earn both high school and college credit for each course they complete.

Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks says available courses will be law enforcement, marketing, advanced manufacturing, welding and health sciences.

Students can complete four courses in any one cluster, possibly earning as many as 12 community college hours.

Participants must meet Itawamba’s dual enrollment guidelines, which includes having previously earned at least 12 high school credits and having either a grade-point average above 2.5 or an ACT score above 16.


USM spending $2.5M to repairs administration building

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) – The centerpiece of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus will undergo major repairs later this year.

USM officials say in a news release the $2.55 million project for the Aubrey K. Lucas Administration Building will begin after Sept. 8 and is scheduled for 600 days.

Work will- among others things – stabilize the foundation and replace about 72 pieces of deteriorating terracotta.

The building was constructed in 1929. The offices of President Rodney D. Bennett and others will be relocated.

The building is named for Lucas, who was president from 1976-1996 and again as interim president from 2001-2002 and from 2011-2012.

The most recent major work on the building was done in 2006, when the copper cladding on its dome was replaced because of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.