Thursday, March 16, 2006

Two in custody on murder charges

Staff Writer

The man who is being held in the Federal Detention Center in Oxford awaiting trial on charges of holding up Citizens Bank Barton Branch in 2004, and his wife, have been arrested and charged in connection with the disappearance and death of an Olive Branch man a month prior to the bank robbery.

Derrick Darnell Payne, 32, and LaKentra Payne, 20, are being held without bond on kidnapping and murder charges in the death of Reginald Walls, of Olive Branch, on May 14, 2004, according to Sheriff Kenny Dickerson.

Derrick and LaKentra Payne made separate initial appearances in Benton County March 10, according to Justice Court Clerk Kathy Graves. Derrick Payne is also charged with witness intimidation, she said.

Dickerson said information that seemed to link Derrick Payne with the disappearance was received within days following Payne’s arrest in connection with the Barton bank robbery.

Payne, who allegedly used a bicycle as an initial getaway vehicle in the armed holdup of the bank, has been held at the Federal Detention Center in Oxford pending trial on the bank robbery charges.

“Within days following the arrest of Derrick Payne, I received information that he could be involved and have knowledge of Reginald Walls disappearance,” Dickerson said. “Information and details at the time were not factually complete, but I did confirm that Walls was and had been missing and no one seemed to know what possibly could have happened to him. Foul play was suggested.”

In the following months, information and investigative facts revealed that Walls was possibly in the company of Derrick Payne on or about the time of Walls disappearance from the Olive Branch area, he said.

Over the last 60 days investigative data and information was more factually connected in the murder case, he said.

“The information indicated that Walls was most likely in the company of Derrick Payne and his wife, LaKentra and was probably the victim of a homicide near the Benton County/Marshall County line in Benton County,” Dickerson said.

“I called Sheriff Arnie McMullen and we narrowed the area of search down to four or five rural roads leading off to the south of Highway 72, starting at the Marshall County line and proceeding east into Benton County.”

Many hours of search along rural right-of-ways and wooded areas yielded no results.

Dickerson said some information he believed to be factually correct - that Walls was shot and killed along a dirt road in Benton County - some what confused the search effort, which took place on and off over a three day period and not in the best of weather conditions.

Helping in the search for Walls remains were officers with Marshall County and Benton County sheriff’s departments, volunteers with Search Dog South, volunteers with Mississippi Game and Fish from Benton County, and search and rescue volunteers from DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

Search efforts were honed in on Sexton Road near the intersection of Highway 72 and Highway 7. The road is paved now, but Dickerson said he later learned the road was not paved at the time of Walls disappearance.

Human skeletal remains, clothing, pants and shoe articles and an identification card with Reginald Walls name were found by search teams March 2. Days later the skeletal remains were positively identified as those of Walls from dental records, Dickerson said.

“We have reason to believe Walls was shot several times in the upper body with some type of small handgun and his body was dragged up the road bank within 20 feet of the road ditch,” Dickerson said.

Derrick and LaKentra Payne were arraigned in Benton County Justice Court last week and ordered held without bond, Dickerson said. A hearing has been set for the two on murder charges for April 24 in Benton County.

Dickerson said Lakentra Payne was being held in Marshall County on charges not related to homicide at the time Walls remains were located.

“Finding Walls remains brings some closure to his family and also lead to the arrest of those highly believed to be responsible for their deaths,” Dickerson said.

He thanked all agencies and individuals who participated in the search for Walls remains and for the many hours of investigative work and gathering of factual data put in by law officers.

“Sheriff McMullen and I, and the staff of both our departments have worked closely in collecting information and searching of the area in weather conditions other than ideal,” Dickerson said.

Drug arrest

In an unrelated investigation, Dickerson reported the arrest of Keffer Faulkner, 28, of the Byhalia area on drug-related charges.

Officers of the 3rd Judicial Narcotics Unit of Mississippi Department of Corrections and Marshall County sheriff’s investigators made the arrest March 7, he said.

Seized at the time of Faulkner’s arrest were about $2,000 in cash, a 1998 Ford Expedition and a 1990 Ford Crown Victoria, he said.

Faulkner was arrested and charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to sell and distribute, possession of power cocaine with intent to sell and distribute, with the manufacture of a controlled substance, and with possession of marijuana, Dickerson said.

Faulkner is being held by Mississippi Department of Corrections at the Marshall County jail on probation violation charges. The felony drug case will be presented in the next term of grand jury, he said.

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