Thursday, August 9, 2007
Suspects face charges in separate assaults
By SUE WATSON
A woman from the Battle Road area in Byhalia was in St. Francis Hospital Monday in critical condition following an aggravated assault that occurred Wednesday, Aug. 1, according to sheriff Kenny Dickerson.
Willie Taylor, 51, of the 1000 block of Battle Road, was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault following an investigation that began Friday afternoon after hospital authorities notified Memphis police, who in turn notified Marshall County to look for a suspect.
Dickerson said Wednesday night or in the early morning hours Thursday, Taylor allegedly beat his girlfriend Audrey Tunstall, 27, in the woods on Battle Road near a mobile home the two are believed to live in together, then moved her to the Byhalia area.
“We believe the suspect carried her to his mother’s house in the early morning (Thursday),” he said.
Taylor is believed to have called the Byhalia Fire Department late Thursday afternoon to ask for an ambulance and he reported that the victim fell in the bathtub and had a stroke, Dickerson said.
Tunstall was transported to St. Francis Hospital in Memphis where she was discovered by hospital employees to have severe injuries while being transferred into a hospital gown, Dickerson said.
“She was discovered to have numerous bite marks and evidence of having been severely beaten,” he said.
In cases where a person has unexplained injuries, hospital authorities notify local law enforcement, Dickerson said. The Memphis Police Department notified Marshall County Sheriff’s Department to be looking for a suspect sometime Friday afternoon, he said.
Taylor was identified as a suspect and officers with the Byhalia Police Department and sheriff’s department found a pickup, believed to have been driven to Mt. Pleasant Road by the suspect, parked in the driveway of a residence around 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Law officers said a Crime Stoppers tip helped locate the pickup.
Law officers conducted an extensive search from the house along Mt. Pleasant Road to the dead end and found Taylor in the woods, Dickerson said. He was taken into custody without incident.
Dickerson said sheriff’s department investigator Kelly McMillen visited the victim at St. Francis Monday.
“No doubt, this beating is the worst case of physical beating and abuse he’s ever seen,” Dickerson said. “We hope and pray for her recovery.”
If Tunstall fails to pull through, charges against Taylor will be upgraded to capital murder, Dickerson said.
A Crime Stoppers tip that Taylor had driven a pickup and parked it at a house on Mt. Pleasant Road near Highway 72 then went into a wooded area, helped pin the search for Taylor down, Dickerson said.
Law enforcement had looked for the suspect and could not find him so they ran his photo on Memphis television and put out inquiries, Dickerson said.
In arraignment proceedings Monday afternoon with Judge Ernest Cunningham presiding, Taylor was advised of his right to have an attorney appointed if he could not afford one.
The aggravated assault charge holds a maximum penalty of 20 years in the state penitentiary, Cunningham said.
After Dickerson recommended Taylor be held without bond due to the violent nature of aggravated assault and severity of the victim’s injuries and Taylor’s prior criminal offenses, Cunningham set bond at $3 million. A preliminary hearing for Taylor was set for August 20.
Taylor is also being held on a probation violation arrest warrant issued by Mississippi Department of Corrections, Dickerson said.
In a separate incident Saturday afternoon, law officers were called to a convenience store in Barton where a man was reported bleeding from a chest wound.
Investigator Randy Harper said the victim told officers he had been stabbed by his wife and she was still at home.
The victim, Bunner McElhaney, 46, of 3840 Highway 309 North was in stable condition at the Memphis Med after being airlifted, Harper said. Tina Chandler, 44, of the same address, was arrested and charged with one count domestic violence aggravated assault of McElhaney. She is being held under $25,000 bond with a preliminary court hearing set for August 20, Harper said.
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