Lowndes County Deputies were dispatched to Jemison Mill Rd. shortly after 6:00am last Thursday after a passerby had called 911 to report a woman bleeding from a gunshot wound. Deputies arrived on scene to find 36 yr-old Sharon Beard laying in a pool of blood about 30 ft from the road on a gravel driveway.
Neil Cole told officers he was driving west on Jemison Mill Rd. on his way to a doctor’s appointment in Tupelo when he happened upon another man trying to waive him down near the Steens Rd. intersection. Gene Lawlar flagged Cole down after discovering the body moments earlier. Lawlar, who works in the maintenance department at BMH-GT , said he had just left the Steens Superette headed westbound en route to work when he saw Beard’s body out of the corner of his eye.
“I stopped and turned around- and I saw all the blood. I beeped my horn to see if she’d move…but she didn’t” Lawlar told deputies. Lawlar said her body was on the ground about 20 ft. from a locked gate and she was laid out “like an angel”.
Lawlar then drove back towards Steens Rd in hopes of finding someone to call for help. He knocked on the door at a home that belonged to a Wildlife and Fisheries employee (believed to be Game Warden Darren Coggins). Lawlar said as soon as he started knocking he saw Cole turn onto Jemison Mill and was able to get his attention.
Lawlar led Cole back to the crime scene as Cole phoned E-911. Deputies were dispatched to “The driveway of John Holliman’s old feed mill” off of Jemison rd. Lieutenant Willie Jones and Deputies Paul Greggs and Lloyd Lash quickly made their way to Jemison Mill while Deputies Scott Glasgow and Jason Humbers searched the area of Lagrone Rd. [There was a very brief moment of confusion when “John Holliman’s Feed Mill” was mentioned, thus causing the expanded search area. John Holliman said that he does own about 65 Acres down the driveway where the victim was found, but he had no knowledge of a feed mill nearby. Holliman said the land closer to the road is owned on one side by David Owen and the other by “Donnie” Speed. The gate used to be up on the road, but was moved about 50 ft. further up three years ago when Holliman allowed the driveway to be used to move generators for the power plant up on Seedtick rd. The driveway crosses the railroad tracks and provided a perfect unloading spot for the oversize generators Holliman said-CK.]
Around 6:20am, deputies approached Beard’s motionless body and quickly radioed to cancel all other emergency responders. Greggs, Lash and Jones taped off the driveway and called investigators to the scene. Neil Cole and Gene Lawlar were asked to sit on the tailgate of Lawlar’s truck while deputies secured the scene.[It had not occurred to me until that very moment that both men- as a matter of protocol- would be considered suspects simply for being the first to find the body-CK] Lawlar told The Packet that he barely noticed Beard as he drove by: “No telling how many people passed her by. I nearly peeled out when I went for help..I had seen all I need to see.” [Lawlar has become a well-known man during his 29 year career at Baptist, having been named the hospital’s first quarter “champion” for his service-CK].
Cole said he was going to a back specialist in Tupelo before driving all day to Orlando, Florida to surprise a relative who had been down on his luck with a new Ford pickup: “Plans change sometimes…this is heartbreaking to see. I gotta say you don’t expect to see this sort of thing everyday” Cole said.
Around 6:40am, Investigator James Faris arrived on scene and began to gather evidence. Faris was joined minutes later by Investigator Tony Perkins. Several other Lowndes County authorities arrived over the next 20 minutes, including Eli Perrigen, Tony Cooper, Ryan Rickert and Joe Young. Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant arrived at 7:05 and, after taking several pictures and measurements, placed Beards body in his truck around 7:30am.
Lowndes County Sheriff Butch Howard and Chief Deputy Greg Wright arrived shortly after to work with their team on any possible leads. Authorities told The Packet yesterday that evidence gathered on scene indicates that Beard was shot “multiple times” and they believe she was shot at the same location her body was found.[Lawlar and Cole remarked that morning that they thought she had been shot twice-CK]
Investigators went to Beard’s last known address later that morning on 7th Ave. N to speak with her grandmother, Willie Mixon. Mixon was reportedly so overcome with grief that she was admitted into BMH-GT with high blood pressure. Mixon told The Packet yesterday that Beard had been staying with the her on and off for several years. Sharon Beard had lived on Northside her entire life and attended Lee High. Beard was well-known to local authorities having numerous drug related charges. Family members said she had “been lost to the street” the last ten years, but that her family always loved her and she will be missed. Helen Beard, the victim’s mother, said that her daughter leaves behind a 20 yr old son and two teenage daughters. The funeral service will be at Carter’s funeral home Saturday at 11:00am.
Investigators believe that someone in Beard’s circle of friends knows something about what happened that morning and are asking for information in the investigation. Anyone who may be able to help is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Dept at 329-5817 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-530-7151.[Commercial Dispatch News Editor Garthia Elena Burnett reported on cdispatch.com Friday that this was the seventh murder in Lowndes County this year. According to numerous law enforcement officials, Beard’s death is the fifth in Lowndes County this year. The first murder this year was of Christopher George on Hwy 50 in February, second and third were Mark Caudill and James Bennet Mann at The Elbow Room two weeks later, the fourth was William Stallings on Harrison Rd three weeks ago and the fifth would be Sharon Beard last Thursday. Authorities have suspects in custody and awaiting trial in the previous four murders. Lowndes County Deputies shot and killed John Montgomery in a shoot out in early May. That shooting would be qualified as a homicide, but not a murder-CK] 0