Man loses appeal in girlfriend’s death

Billy Jack Williams (pictured) is charged with the sexual battery of a girl under the age of 14.

News Briefs From Across The State

By Monica Land

Tied up girlfriend’s legs with tow chain

The state Court of Appeals has upheld the 25-year sentence given Jerry D. VanWagner for the death of his girlfriend in a 2009 accident.

However, the Appeals Court on Tuesday threw out VanWagner’s kidnapping conviction. He had been sentenced to 25 years on that charge.

VanWagner was convicted of aggravated DUI in 2010 in Pearl River County in the April 26, 2009, death of his girlfriend, 27-year-old Crystal Brasher.

Prosecutors say Brasher was thrown from a vehicle and killed in an accident on Interstate 59. They say VanWagner was intoxicated. He was charged with kidnapping because an unlocked tow chain was wrapped around Brasher’s legs.

VanWagner said there was never any evidence to support the conviction of kidnapping.

Appeals Court Judge T. Kenneth Griffis Jr. said prosecutors failed to show that VanWagner forced Brasher into his car on the day of the accident. Griffis said there was no evidence that Brasher was being forcibly held against her will.

However, Griffis said there was ample evidence to support the aggravated DUI charge, including the results of a blood alcohol test that showed VanWagner with a BAC of 0.11 percent, over the state limit of 0.08 percent.

OSHA cites Franklin Lumber

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a Bude company for 22 safety violations and has proposed penalties of $103,356.

OSHA officials say in a news release that it cited Franklin Lumber Co. for, among other things, failing to prevent accumulations of combustible dust, to provide guardrails around equipment, to cover live electrical parts and failing to properly label hazardous chemicals.

Franklin Lumber is a division of Cortez Byrd L.P., which is located in Brookhaven.

The company has 15 days to appeal.

Man charged with phone line theft

A 38-year-old Carriere man is facing charges in multiple jurisdictions for allegedly stealing telephone lines.

Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Chief Investigator Donnie Saucier tells The Picayune Item Richard Anthony Hemphill was arrested after a search warrant was secured for his home.

Saucier says the case could expand to include cable thefts from a number of jurisdictions, including Pearl River County; Pearl River, Slidell and St. Tammany Parish, La.; Hancock County, Harrison County and possibly areas in Alabama.

Saucier said investigators found evidence of what appeared to be thousands of phone lines and cable stolen from wire lines and substations at Hemphill’s home last week.

Man faces charges of sexual battery

A Tillatoba man faces charges of sexual battery in Calhoun County.

Sheriff Greg Pollan tells Billy Jack Williams, 29, was arrested earlier this week. Pollan says his office was notified by the father of a girl after she told him she was assaulted while visiting relatives in the Slate Springs area.

Billy Jack Williams (pictured) is charged with the sexual battery of a girl under the age of 14.

The victim is under the age of 14.

Pollan says the incident happened at a home around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, but was not reported until the girl returned to her home in Desoto County.

Williams in being held in the Calhoun County Jail on a $200,000 bond.

Coyote sighting confirmed in Pascagoula

Pascagoula officials confirm that a coyote has been seen in Pascagoula, and say they suspect there are at least two adult coyotes in the area.

The Mississippi Press reports that traps have been set to try to capture and remove the animals.

Officials said Wednesday that anyone sighting a coyote should call Animal Control at 228-762-2211.

People should keep garbage in tightly sealed containers and make sure there’s no pet food, fallen fruit or birdseed spilled from feeders in their yard, authorities said. Bird feeders may attract animals that coyotes eat, in turn attracting a hungry coyote.

They also urge people to keep pets on a leash, behind a fence or in a covered kennel.

Other tips: Don’t turn your back on a coyote or run away from one. If approached, make loud noises and make yourself look big. If this fails, throw rocks or other objects.

Keep yourself between the coyote and small children. And never feed or try to tame a coyote.

Yard lights or motion detectors may scare off coyotes.

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