Jackson County

Ocean Springs lawyer had ‘horrible headaches and felt dizzy’ after assault, assistant says

Attorney Earl Denham met with his staff a day after his alleged assault to explain his injuries.

His assistant, Kathie McCormick, listened as her boss and friend explained how his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend had “punched him and knocked him down and his head bounced off the pavement.”

“He had a knot on the back of his head,” McCormick said, “He had a black eye. He had bruising down his legs.”

Before long, she said, Denham was complaining of “horrible headaches and felt dizzy.”

The alleged Oct. 10 assault occurred at Denham’s girlfriend’s home at Brightwater Apartments on Big Ridge Road in west Jackson County.

According to a report from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Denham and his girlfriend were hanging out on the patio of her home when her ex-boyfriend walked up.

Denham said he had his back to the man, McCormick explained, when the guy walked up and said, “’Hey, how are ya’ll doing this evening?’”

Denham told his staff the guy jumped over a fence and came onto the patio and “hit Earl on purpose,” McCormick recalled.

The report said the man reached over a railing and hit Denham in the face.

After meeting with his staff the morning after the assault, McCormick drove Denham to his doctor, where a CAT scan did not reveal any brain injury.

But Denham didn’t feel right, McCormick said, even telling another employee he felt like his head was bleeding before he left the office that Friday afternoon, she said.

Denham’s family said he later fell and hit his head while walking on his property at Saint’s Retreat in west Jackson County.

Six days after the assault and four days after the fall, Denham was taken off life support and died.

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His death is the subject of ongoing criminal investigation.

Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus said the results of an autopsy are pending.

Sheriff Mike Ezell said the evidence in the case, which includes a deputy’s body camera footage of Denham reporting the assault, will be presented to a Jackson County grand jury to determine if any criminal charges will follow.

Documenting the injuries

McCormick and others saw firsthand the injuries Denham suffered in the assault.

“He had a knot on the back of his head,” she said. “It was about halfway down the left side of his head toward the middle. He had bruising on his legs. He wanted me to document every injury because he planned to go after the guy (who assaulted him).”

Denham also took blood thinners and had Parkinson’s disease, his staff and family said.

McCormick took pictures of Denham’s injuries.

Before Denham left the law office that Friday, his staff said he was feeling worse, complaining of intense headaches and dizziness.

“But, you know, Earl thought he was 6-foot and bulletproof,” McCormick said.

Before he left the office early the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 12, Denham told McCormick to call and find out if the sheriff’s office had picked up the man who allegedly assault him.

He also showed his assistant the criminal statute he felt applied to his assault. The charge was a felony and it applied to anyone who assaulted a person who is elderly or handicapped, which is also referred to as a vulnerable adult.

At 2:12 a.m. that Saturday, Oct. 13, Denham called McCormick for the last time.

He needed an ambulance right away to get him to the hospital.

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He lost consciousness

McCormick followed the ambulance to Ocean Springs Hospital and spoke to her boss and friend the last time he was able to respond.

“I was looking at him,” she said. “I was asking him, ‘Did you fall again?’” and he shook his head, nodding to confirm the fall.

“I just touched him,” she said. “I didn’t want to upset him. I kept talking to him because I wanted him to relax. I just put some ChapStick on him and he nodded, yes. And put his lips together.”

From there, she said, doctors determined Denham needed to go to Memorial Hospital at Gulfport .

“Somewhere between Ocean Springs and Gulfport, he lost consciousness,” said McCormick, who is still trying to deal with loss of the boss and friend.

She doesn’t know what to expect as far as criminal charges, but she wants the man accused of assaulting Denham held accountable for what he did.

“I’m not indicating he is the cause of his death, but he needs to be charged with what he did,” she said. “You can’t just assault somebody. It’s not allowed.”

His death has affected McCormick greatly.

“I’m still in a cloud,” she said. “The part of meeting him at the hospital is traumatizing. I wouldn’t change it for anything, but it was the last time I was able to talk to him. We were pretty close, but he was close with a lot of people.”

Margaret Baker 228-896-0538, margar45