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Murders, mayhem and corruption top local news for 2016

Among many problems in the city of Moss Point in 2016 is a $3.4 million deficit in the Utilities Department.
Among many problems in the city of Moss Point in 2016 is a $3.4 million deficit in the Utilities Department. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

South Mississippi was marred by violence and public corruption this year.

Here are the Top 10 local stories of 2016:

1. The city of Moss Point has had more than its share of problems this year. First, Art McClung resigned as police chief, almost two months after he was stopped by police in Pascagoula who clocked him going more than 100 mph. In a video of the stop, officers are heard saying: “He’s obviously DUI” and “He’s toast.” Then separate investigations found dubious spending from the Police Benefit Account and what appears to be a scheme that allowed some residents to avoid paying water bills, leading to a $3.4 million deficit in the Utilities Department.

Moss Point Mayor Billy Bloomfield tells about uncollected bills and money believed to have been embezzled from the Moss Point Utilities Department. Two employees have resigned from the department and the State Auditor’s office is investigating.

Moss Point Mayor Billy Bloomfield tells about hundreds of dollars of questionable purchases made with money from the Moss Point Police Department Benefit Fund.

2. Four Coast men were charged with two counts each of second-degree murder and three counts each of aggravated assault after a gunfight that broke out after the Pass Christian Mardi Gras parade. Two people were killed and four wounded.

Pass Christian Chief of Police Timothy Hendricks gives a statement about what is known as of Sunday evening, Feb. 7, 2016, about a fight following the Pass Christian parade that lead to 2 dead and four taken to the hospital.

3. The Singing River Health System in November abruptly closed the office of longtime neurologist Dr. Terry Millette, laid off half his staff and took over his patient list. Many of his former patients are not happy.

William Deaton and his wife, Michelle, question why Singing River Health Systems removed Dr. Terry Millette from their practice and worry about what will become of the care for his multiple sclerosis.

4. SRHS reached a settlement with employees and retirees over its beleaguered pension plan. But not all of them are satisfied. Jackson attorneys Earl Denham and Harvey Barton are fighting the settlement for about 200 of them.

Among patients who spoke out on behalf of Millette, Gail Millette, a pharmacist and Terry Millette's sister-in-law, told county supervisors there are more problems with the way SRHS treats people and doctors.

5. Long before he was president-elect, Donald Trump told a packed Coast Coliseum in Biloxi in January, “There’s a lot of love in this room.” The Coast in November loved him back, voting overwhelmingly for him for president.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump berates a CNN photographer for not taking shots of the full house at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.

6. Three months after Gulfport sailor John Harrison Doucet was shocked and severely injured in an accident at the Gulfport Yacht Club, his parents said earlier this month he is getting stronger every day.

7. The whistleblowing Rigsby sisters, Cori and Kerri, will return to federal court to try to prove State Farm Fire & Casualty committed widespread fraud after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a verdict the insurer did just that in a Coast case brought by the former State Farm adjusters.

8 Gulfport in March revealed details of the $65 million Mississippi Aquarium planned for downtown. Construction is supposed to start in the spring on the aquarium campus, which will have four buildings with an outdoor exhibit as its anchor.

Officials gather to show plans for the Mississippi Aquarium to be located in downtown Gulfport.

9. Josh Vallum, a member of the Latin Kings street gang, pleaded guilty in July to the 2015 bludgeoning murder of Mercedes Williamson, a transgender teen. He is serving life in prison and last week pleaded guilty to a federal hate-crime charge, admitting he killed Williamson because she was transgender. It was the first hate-crime conviction involving a crime against a transgender person.

Josh Vallum admits to killing his transgender girlfriend, 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson. But he and Jackson County District Attorney Tony Lawrence tell different stories about the motive behind the killing.

10. Dwanya Porche Hickerson, 20, a sailor undergoing training at Keesler Air Force Base, was charged with murdering Dee Whigham, a 25-year-old transgender woman who was stabbed to death July 23 in a St. Martin hotel. He has pleaded not guilty.

Paul Hampton: 228-896-2330, @JPaulHampton

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