Latest Mississippi news, sports, business and entertainment

SIGNAL INTERNATIONAL

Oil rig repairer files bankruptcy, aims to end worker suits

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Oil rig repairer Signal International of Mobile, Alabama, is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company blames a downturn in oil exploration, combined with millions it could owe to Indian guest workers suing the company.

The Retirement Systems of Alabama, a public pension system that already owned a minority of the company and was a lender, has agreed to buy the company and lend it money while in bankruptcy. Signal says it has agreed to settle the Indian workers’ claims for $20 million as part of the bankruptcy.

Signal says it will keep operating shipyards in Mobile and Pascagoula, Mississippi, with about 300 employees.

In court papers filed Sunday in Delaware, Signal says it has more than $100 million in debts, but less than $50 million in assets.

INMATES ESCAPE

1 of 4 escaped inmates back in custody at Mississippi prison

RAYMOND, Miss. (AP) – Authorities Monday recaptured one of four inmates who escaped from the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond.

The Clarion-Ledger reports Jermaine Wilson, 19, was arrested in Jackson about 6:45 p.m.

Wilson and three others escaped from the jail about 12:45 a.m., the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office tells WAPT-TV.

Still at large are 25-year-old Montreal Damon Anderson; 23-year-old John Rollins and 18-year-old Kevin Holmes. They were discovered missing during a midnight bed check, authorities said.

Wilson was being held on a charge of capital murder. He is accused in a 2012 rape and killing of a Jackson woman.

Holmes faces three counts of armed robbery, and Rollins is charged with auto theft and false pretense. Both men also face charges of malicious mischief.

Anderson is charged with recovered stolen property and is jailed on a felony hold.

“Based on our preliminary investigation we are inclined to believe that this was a prearranged and preplanned escape,” Hinds County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Othor Cain said.

The escapes follow last week’s mistaken release of two prisoners from the Raymond jail. Officials blamed the release of Tyrone Gardner and Raphael Graves on a paperwork error. Both men are back behind bars.

DPM FRAGRANCE

Candle maker to add 100 jobs in Starkville with $5M building

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) – A maker of scented candles plans to expand in Starkville, nearly doubling its employment.

DPM Fragrance will invest $5 million to build a 100,000 square-foot building in the Cornerstone industrial park on the western edge of Starkville, consolidating five current locations. The company plans to add 100 workers to its current 135. Construction is supposed to begin late this year.

Starkville-based DPM will get more than $3.5 million worth of incentives and tax breaks as part of the expansion. After seven years, the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Association will also give DPM the 25-acre site where the new building will be constructed.

The company makes products under the Aspen Bay, Capri and Found Goods Market brands.

Owner Tom Reed says the company wanted to continue its growth in Starkville.

SCHOOL PRAYER

Judge finds school district in contempt over school prayer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A federal judge says the Rankin County school district is in contempt of court for continuing to promote Christianity during school hours after it agreed to stop.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, in an order filed Friday, fined the district $7,500 and again ordered it to stop sponsoring prayers at graduations, assemblies, athletic competitions and other school events.

The district first got into trouble when a Northwest Rankin High School student sued over having to attend a school assembly that promoted Christianity. The district agreed in 2013 to settle the suit, and was supposed to implement a policy that activities during school hours would not advance, endorse or inhibit any religion.

However, in 2014, the same student attended an honors assembly that was opened by a minister’s prayer.

METH INDICTMENT

Alleged meth distributor from Texas indicted in Mississippi

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) – A federal grand jury in Mississippi has indicted a Texas woman in a conspiracy to distribute meth.

The Sun Herald reports 50-year-old Rachel Esparza Saenz, of Channelview, Texas, is accused of providing meth to 38-year-old Joseph Moran Jr. and 51-year-old James Byrd, who were stopped in May in Harrison County.

Sheriff’s deputies had stopped Moran and Byrd for littering and another unspecified violation when they searched their vehicles and seized 485 grams of meth stored in a black bag in the console of the vehicle. Records say a flashlight in the car also contained a glass stained pipe and another small bag of meth.

Saenz is being held at the Stone County Regional Jail.

Her arraignment is Tuesday before Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker.

FONDREN HOTEL

Construction to start on 100-room boutique hotel in Fondren

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Construction is scheduled to start this year on a 100-room boutique hotel in Jackson’s historic and popular Fondren neighborhood.

Developer Roy Decker of Eldon Development Group tells The Clarion-Ledger that the hotel should open in mid-2017.

Decker says it will have meeting and conference space, lobby and rooftop bars, an amphitheater and festival space.

He says developers are talking with area residents and business owners to ensure that the hotel blends in with the neighborhood.

Jim Wilkirson is executive director of the Fondren Renaissance Foundation. He says developers have really listened.

He says the location on the west side of State Street will expand development to the area’s western border.

Wilkirson says that shows how strong Fondren’s economy is and how important it is to the city of Jackson.