Making the News in 2013, Part 1

Meridian, Miss. Armed robberies and shootings were a major concern for Meridian residents and those visiting Meridian as the city's ongoing crime problem spilled over into 2013. There were plenty of other major stories as well.

In January, federal authorities raided several local businesses belonging to longtime businessman Bill Gordon as part of an alleged illegal gambling investigation.

On the night of January 8th, flames could be seen shooting from the 12th floor of Meridian's Threefoot building after a fire somehow started there. Fire Chief Anthony Clayton says the investigation is ongoing.

In mid January, parts of East Mississippi and West Alabama saw a mini winter wonderland as snow closed some school districts for a day.

February started with a farewell to a legend. Longtime Meridian Little Theater director Jimmie Pigford died on February 4th after undergoing surgery from a fall.

Then there was the surprising revelation that Meridian's police chief at the time was not a certified law enforcement officer in the state of Mississippi. Mayor Cheri Barry said a clerical error kept Chief James Reed's paper work from being filed. Reed ended up resigning for what he said were personal reasons.

The February 10th tornado that hit the Hattiesburg area prompted people in our area to lend a helping hand as the city of Hattiesburg attempted to recover from the storm.

In late February, flames could be seen shooting from Choctaw County High School in Butler. The fire caused significant damage to the campus and classes were cancelled for a period of time. Arson was ruled out as a cause of the fire.

In late March, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited the Queen City for the Easter holiday. Hagel spoke with Newscenter 11 about the concerns surrounding threats from North Korea.

April was a big month in Kemper County. It started with a tornado that caused damage to areas hit hard by the tornadoes that swept through the county in April 2011. One man was killed while working at a plant on Highway 493 at the time of the storm.

Later in the month, Kemper County made national news once again when Sheriff James Moore says Jesse Mae Pollard conspired with several others to kidnap 6-year old Jashayla Hopson from East Kemper Elementary School. The child was located safely a day later in southern Lauderdale County. Sheriff Moore says it was all over a land dispute.

April also saw some big name Hollywood stars make their way to the Queen City for the 10th anniversary of Hope Village for Children, founded by Meridian native Sela Ward.

The 2012-2013 school year ended on a sad note for Clarkdale High School where 11th grader Dylan Mabry was killed after injuries he suffered in a car wreck on the way to school on April 25th.

After years of working in deplorable conditions, officers at the Meridian Police Department were finally given a new home in late May. The department moved from its longtime headquarters on 6th Street to its new home on 22nd Avenue.

Perhaps one of the biggest events of the year took place on the night of June 4th when Meridian voters elected Percy Bland to be the city's new mayor. Bland beat incumbent Cheri Barry by more than one thousand votes.

Rainy weather forced Lauderdale County's Relay for Life to be rescheduled for early June. The event was moved from Meridian's Ray Stadium to the Lauderdale County Ag Center.


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