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Three Okolona men linked to beer theft case

TUPELO – What began as a Lee County investigation last month into the years-long theft and sale of large quantities of beer quickly came to include Chickasaw County, law enforcement officers said this week.

Seven people, including one Okolona man and several employees at Mitchell Distributing Company in Tupelo, are accused of stealing the beer.

Authorities said investigation began after employees noticed 90 cases of beer were taken from a warehouse on two nights in June. Surveillance footage indicated two other employees were involved; the investigation grew from there.

The case expanded to Okolona after investigators learned large quantities of the stolen beer were being sold illegally there.

The theft of beer, light wine and energy drinks from the Tupelo beer distributorship has been going on for years. The loss may top $180,000, investigators said. They believe men hired to load beer trucks at night would load cases of beer into personal vehicles, then transport them other places for sale.

Employees were stealing the items and selling them to at least two Chickasaw men in Okolona, which is wet for beer, wine and liquor, according to Chickasaw Sheriff Jimmy Meyers.

The case is being worked by the Chickasaw and Lee County Sheriff’s Departments, Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control, and Okolona Police Department, which helped with running the search warrants.

Investigation led to the following developments in the case:

--On June 28, authorities executed a search warrant at the residence of Jason Lakale Foulks, 45, of 124 Triplett St., Okolona. Meyers said authorities confiscated several cases of stolen beer, about a pound of marijuana, about 7 grams of powder cocaine and about $1,380 in cash.

Foulks is now charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, and possession of beer with intent to sell without a permit, according to Chickasaw County Jail records. He is out on $20,000 bond, records indicated this week.

“He is charged with intent because he had the marijuana divided and packaged to sell. The cocaine was divided into gram packages,” Sheriff Meyers said.

--On June 21, authorities searched the Happy Mart at 401East Monroe Street in Okolona.

As a result, Mohamed Mohson, 23 of Okolona was charged with the misdemeanor of possession/sale of beer not obtained from a wholesaler. Conviction could also bring the loss of his state beer sales license, the sheriff said.

According to published reports, others in custody in connection with the case include Travares Brown, 38, of Tupelo; Quintel Montgomery, 23, of Tupelo; Isaac Morgan, 50, of Columbus; Devonta Orr, 27, of Verona; Darius J. Pack, 26, of Okolona; Benji D. Williams, 37, of Baldwyn; and Jasper Williams, 27, of Shannon.

The case remains under investigation; more arrests are possible, investigators said this week.

Rhodes Chapel is a small, viable house of worship

Those names in early Rhodes Chapel records are repeated for many years in church history and many, of course, permanently appear on the tombstones in the church cemetery.

They came into the church by experience and by letter. Nine new members were welcomed on the same day in August of 1885. Twelve came on the same day in 1887. Nine more came into the church within a two-day period in August of 1890. Other groups of people joined on the same day down through the years. These dates are all most likely when a revival was being held in the church. Early pastors at Rhodes Chapel include R. C. Calloway, W. C. Lester, Thomas J. Lowry, A J. Foster and B. P. Fullilove.

Rhodes Chapel’s interior is beautiful in its simplicity. Behind the pulpit area is an oil painting of the Christ painted by a local lady, Lucille Kendall Betts. It came via the little Methodist church in Pyland some years ago. The pulpit, altar and communion table are made of beautiful wood. They have the same warm feeling the outside of the church displays. An interesting item on the wall of the sanctuary is the foot pedals and part of the board that would appear above the piano keys on a piano.

Further research reveals this was an old player piano that could also be played manually. The label proclaims that it is a “Dulcitone Player Piano” made by the Cable Nelson Piano Company of Chicago, Ill.

Cable-Nelson Piano Company was quite proud of these pianos. Their brochure tells us that it enables anyone, “whether musically educated or not to play any musical selection in a manner that rivals the performance of the world’s greatest pianist.”

The piano probably dates from the twenties and was given to the church by Mrs. Sibil Walters Pettit. Her daughter, Loudean Pettie Vaughn thinks it would have been given to Rhodes Chapel around 1954.

I was surprised to learn there is a Rhodes Chapel Methodist Church in the towns of Fredericktown, Mo., Greenville, Ala., and El Dorado, Ark.. All of them have small congregations.

At our Rhodes Chapel, services are held each Sunday morning at nine. The requisite small, country church’s Memorial Day with Sunday dinner is held in May.

A novel idea I read about in this regard was that in years past when this ‘dinner on the ground’ was actually held outside was that the table tops were constructed – not with wood surfaces, thank you, but chicken wire! This enabled the ladies of the church to simply rake the scraps right through the wire and onto the ground. Smart thinking! And I would guess that the aforementioned method of disposing of scraps was also suitable to the birds and dogs of the area.

A prime example of the dedication and fortitude of the members of this small church was their response to a most destructive act of vandalism perpetrated on a Thursday night in September of 1979.

It is hard to imagine that anyone, no matter his or her age, could justify such a vicious act on a rural church building. Entry was probably gained by breaking out a window, then both doors were broken in, every window in the building was broken, all the tables were ruined, the glassware was broken, the flower stands ripped apart, church pews overturned and many lights were broken out.

Thankfully, the piano received only minor damage. What did the members of Rhodes Chapel do? They had church the following Sunday. And in their church building. It took a while, but the few members at that time came together – and the community helped – and local churches helped.

Monetary help came from as far away as Birmingham, Ala. Someone writing an earlier recap stated it like it really was “A new determination to keep going became evident. Most of all, we learned the truth of Romans 8:28 which states that all things work together for good to them that love God. You see, the windows were about to fall apart, the floor was in need of refurbishing and the walls needed painting.

Most of all, our spirits at Rhodes Chapel needed to be lifted and the generous response of persons to our need has encouraged our faith and deepened our commitment.” What a testimony to faith!

Rhodes Chapel, though small in size, is today a strong, viable house of worship, 136 years young and destined for many future years of offering a place for worship and fellowship.

Mounce chosen as principal at Houlka Attendance Center

HOULKA – The Chickasaw County School District School Board recently approved Willie Mounce – who has a broad background in education in this area – as the new principal for Houlka Attendance Center.

He replaces Anthony Golding, who is going to Milam Elementary School in Tupelo as an assistant principal. He had been with HAC two years.

Mounce was an elementary principal from 2018-19 and instructional coach from 2017-18 at Okolona, but was released from his contract there. He began work at Houlka July 1.

“We were fortunate to be able to find Mr. Mounce, who has a year’s experience as principal at Okolona, and has also been an academic coach there.

“We wish Mr. Golding well as he continues his career and welcome Mr. Mounce on board at Houlka,” said Chickasaw Superintendent Dr. Betsy Collums.

His salary will be $65,000 annually.

Although he officially started work July 1, he’d been meeting with Golding to make the changeover since the week of June 10, he said this week.

The new principal will be 43 in August. For now, he’ll be commuting from Ecru, where he and his wife Yolanda have a house. They have children 18, 17, 15, and 8. The oldest starts Mississippi State this fall; the others will continue to attend North Pontotoc. Yolanda Mounce works in healthcare at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. The family attends Ecru 2nd Baptist Church.

He’s well-known in the area. His mother is Shirley Mounce, his dad Marcus is deceased. His uncle, known throughout the town as Barber Bill, cut hair in Ecru for many years. Another uncle, Noah, was a long-time merchant who ran a cotton store in Ecru.

The Ecru native graduated from North Pontotoc in 1994. He worked for Wal-Mart Distribution Center in New Albany for about 10 years.

“I have a brother, Tim, in education. He kept telling me to go back to school, and I finally did,” Mounce recalled.

He earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Ole Miss in May, 2008. He earned his master of education degree from Delta State in June 2017, majoring in K-12 administration and supervision, and graduating summa cum laude.

Before working in Okolona, he was an elementary teacher at Lawndale Elementary in Tupelo from August 2009- June 2017.

Prior to that, he was an elementary teacher at Holly Springs Intermediate School, in Holly Springs, from August 2008- May 2009.

His hobbies include gardening, fishing, and generally being outdoors, he said.

He was never in the military, and doesn’t belong to any social clubs.

He sought the principal’s job at Houlka because it’s a “great opportunity for growth and experience in all facets of K-12 administration,” he said this week.

His philosophy of education is simple, he said.

“I believe that all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, or any other differences that they may have, should be awarded the same quality and consistent education.

“Our goal as educators is to make sure the school is a welcoming environment for everyone to succeed.”

He said the most important things he wants to have accomplished by the end of his first year at Houlka “is to raise the academic achievement for all students, and close some of the academic achievement gaps that exist between different subgroups of students.”

He concluded: “I am excited to be given the opportunity to serve the students, parents, community, and school board of Chickasaw County.

“I have already received a very warm welcome from many of the staff, the school board, and members of the community. Go Wildcats!”