Even beautiful places can have dark pasts and Mississippi is no exception. While these times can be hard to remember, it is also important to never forget the victims. Listed below are 10 infamous crimes that have taken place in the state.
1. The Frierson Family
In September of 1990, the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department received a call requesting a welfare check on the Frierson family who lived in the small town of Nicholson. At around 9:00 pm, officers arrived at the eerily quiet home. As soon as they entered the home, police found the bodies of Ray and Mollie Frierson. After searching the other rooms in the house, police found the bodies of two of the Frierson’s relatives – Joshua A. Morrell and Pamela Ann Howard. All victims had died due to gunshot wounds. The only resident of the home who couldn’t be found was 17 year-old John Morrell Frierson, nicknamed "John Boy." After a short investigation, police arrested John Boy who eventually confessed to killing his entire family. The teenager, under the influence of drugs at the time, claimed to have committed the murders because he was "mad at the world" since Ray Frierson wouldn’t allow him to go raccoon hunting.
2. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner
In the summer of 1964, the three men were working to register black voters in Mississippi. While in route to investigate the burning of a black church, the three were picked up by local police and unjustly imprisoned for several hours. After being released, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were abducted and subsequently murdered by the KKK. This sad turn of events inspired the movie "Mississippi Burning."
3. Atira Hughes-Smith, Laterry Smith, and Jaidon Hill
In 2013, Atira Hughes-Smith, her husband Laterry Smith, and her 7 year-old son Jaidon Hill were found shot to death in Copiah County. Police knew something was amiss when the family’s car was found flipped and on fire. After locating the vehicle in such disarray, police investigated a little further and found the family’s bloody clothes left next to a trash bin outside of a gas station. Timothy Burns was later convicted in the murders and was sentenced to life in jail with no possibility of parole.
4. Daisy Keeton
After the mysterious death of her husband John Monroe Keeton, Daisy and her daughter Ouida chose to move from McNeill to Laurel. For reasons still not known, Ouida murdered her mother and chopped her body into pieces. Ouida then disposed of her mother’s remains by burning them in the fireplace and flushing them down the toilet. Eventually, the only part of Daisy left was her legs, which Ouida disposed of by wrapping them in cloth and leaving them on the side of the road. The legs were ultimately discovered by a hunter who reported his findings to police. He also informed police that he had seen Ouida in the area earlier in the day. Ouida pleaded insanity but was still charged with the murder. Daisy’s legs have since been buried in the McNeil cemetery. After her death in 1973, Ouida was buried next to her mother.
5. Reverend George Washington Lee
A longtime citizen of Belzoni, Lee was well-known and liked by most in the area; however, as an advocate for voting rights for African Americans, he had several enemies. As a reverend, Lee used his pulpit as a way to reach others about the importance of voting. On the night of May 7, 1955, he was shot and killed while driving his car on a neighborhood street.
6. Jessica Lane Chambers
In December of 2014, 19 year-old Jessica Lane Chambers was found by first responders engulfed in flames walking down a Courtland road not far from her vehicle which was also engulfed in flames. Seen alive just ninety minutes before, authorities weren’t exactly sure of what had happened but they did know one thing, it was horrific. Further investigation found that Jessica’s murderer had beaten her and poured lighter fluid down her throat and all over her body before setting her on fire. This murder still remains unsolved.
7. Kathy Mabry
In 1997, the body of 39 year-old Kathy Mabry was found in a vacant home. Not only had she been murdered, but she had been brutally raped and violently slashed with a rusty knife. Despite police efforts, the investigation came to a halt. Fifteen years after the murder, new evidence was obtained but the murderer has still not been caught.
8. Kimberly Rowell
In August of 1993, the naked body of Kimberly Rowell was found on the playground of Columbia Primary School with her clothes folded and placed neatly in a pile beside her. Kimberly’s body was riddled with 9 gunshot wounds. The case remained cold for nearly 20 years until the arrest of James K. Polk.
9. Vincent and Margaret Sherry
In the late 1980’s Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret were found murdered in their home. And while the murders alone were shocking, the manner in which the couple was murdered was even more shocking – each was shot in the head four times. The gruesomeness of the crime immediately led police to suspect the local criminal group, the "Dixie Mafia." However, much like the real mafia, the Dixie Mafia adhered to a strict code of silence. Eventually, with the help of a private investigator, several were charged with the murders of the Sherrys.
10. Emmett Till
Coined one of the state’s "most infamous murders," the killing of 14 year-old Emmett Till took place in August of 1955. While the African American teenager was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, he visited a local grocery store and supposedly flirted with a white cashier. As a result of this minute act, he was kidnapped by two white men who beat and shot him. The two men who committed the crime were tried, but an all-white, male jury acquitted the pair.
Were you surprised by any of these? Which infamous homicide would you add to the list? Tell us in the comments section below.
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