BREAKING NEWS Remains found inside crawl space in Fulton Full Story

Top 2018 Mississippi stories include Senate race, road money

(L-R): Hyde-Smith, Espy

Mississippi elected a new senator while wrestling with its old ghosts, lawmakers approved a new funding stream to improve transportation after Gov. Phil Bryant was forced to close hundreds of bridges, and Mississippi saw the biggest expansion of gambling since casinos were legalized. Those were among Mississippi's top news stories in 2018

Posted: Dec 30, 2018 12:02 PM
Updated: Dec 30, 2018 12:04 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi elected a new senator while wrestling with its old ghosts, lawmakers approved a new funding stream to improve transportation after Gov. Phil Bryant was forced to close hundreds of bridges, and Mississippi saw the biggest expansion of gambling since casinos were legalized.

Those were among Mississippi's top news stories in 2018 - a year that also saw the death of two police officers and a state trooper as well as a baby who died in an oven in the Mississippi Delta.

There were new installments in long-running sagas, as well. Four hospitals declared bankruptcy, punctuating Mississippi's health care funding struggles, investigative reporters brought out new questions about a man who's been tried six times in a quadruple murder, and lawmakers again sparked litigation after they sought to restrict abortion.

A look at the top 10 stories this year in Mississippi:
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U.S. SENATE RACE
Cindy Hyde-Smith became the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi, but only after a divisive runoff shaped by the Republican's video-recorded remark about "public hanging." Gov. Phil Bryant chose Hyde-Smith in April to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Thad Cochran. That launched her into four-way special election, from which she and Democrat Mike Espy emerged into a late November runoff. Espy, a former U.S. agriculture secretary, was trying to become the state's first African-American senator since Reconstruction, ran as a bridge-builder, while Hyde-Smith ran as a supporter of President Donald Trump. Mississippi's history of lynchings and violent suppression of black voting rights became a theme in the runoff after the remark became public.
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ROAD AND BRIDGE MONEY
After years of fruitless discussion, Mississippi's transportation funding needs came into clearer view when federal inspectors ordered hundreds of county bridges closed, including some that were barricaded at Gov. Phil Bryant's order over local objections. Bryant called lawmakers back into session in August and they passed bills to divert some online sales tax revenue to cities and counties for local needs, as well as to finance state needs by borrowing money and creating a state lottery. One issue in the background? Disputed allegations that Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves had manipulated road funding to build an access road to his subdivision.
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MORE GAMBLING
Mississippians started placing bets on sporting events at casinos in August after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on sports betting most states. That month, lawmakers approved plans for a state lottery . Most of the taxes on betting — likely to be less than $5 million a year — as well as the larger proceeds from the lottery — a projected $80 million a year — will go to pay for roads and bridges. It's the largest expansion of gambling in the state since casinos opened in 1992. Bryant in October appointed a board to start setting up the lottery.
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ABORTION WRANGLES
Lawmakers moved in March to ban most abortions after 15 weeks, and the state's only abortion clinic sued within hours of Gov. Phil Bryant signing the law. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves blocked the measure the next day, and in a more extensive Nov. 20 ruling , found the law "unequivocally" violates women's constitutional rights. The state is now asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn that decision. Proponents viewed the law as a way for a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court to alter abortion law, so extensive appeals were always likely.
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POLICE SHOOTINGS AND AFTERMATH
State leaders and communities mourned after Brookhaven officer James White and Cpl. Zach Moak were fatally shot Sept. 29 while answering a call of shots fired. A day later, a state trooper was shot while off duty in still-unexplained circumstances in northern Mississippi. But it was the Brookhaven shooting that stayed in the spotlight after Jackson's Forest Hill High School performed an Oct. 5 football halftime show in Brookhaven depicting police officers held at gunpoint. The band director says he was unaware of the shooting but was fired by the Jackson school district. The band was sanctioned and the director is appealing.
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HOSPITAL BANKRUPTCIES
Four rural hospitals filed for bankruptcy, underlining the financing difficulties that rural health care providers face, in part because Mississippi has declined to expand Medicaid. Hospitals in Amory, Batesville and Clarksdale had been owned by Curae Health and all are in line for new owners or operators . A hospital in Magee is reorganizing. Curae threatened to close the Clarksdale hospital during bankruptcy, forcing Coahoma County to chip in $2.5 million to cover a month of payroll.
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PHARMACY FRAUD
Criminal proceedings in a $400 million fraud in Mississippi history netted a series of convictions in 2018, with more court action to come next year. So far nine people have pleaded guilty. Prosecutors say pharmacies figured out how to hand-make medications with a list of ingredients for which insurers would pay big money, making each prescription very profitable. At the same time, prosecutors allege the pharmacists hired marketers to seek and sometimes pay off physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists and others who could prescribe the drugs.
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MORE QUESTIONS ON CURTIS FLOWERS
Reporting by American Public Media brought a rash of new questions about a death row inmate who was tried six times in a disputed murder case. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal over whether District Attorney Doug Evans improperly struck black jurors in the last of Curtis Flowers' trials. He was convicted of killing four people at a Winona furniture store in 1996. In the meantime, a separate state appeal says Flowers deserves a new trial because of new evidence, including a star witness who recanted in a recorded phone conversation with reporters.
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BABY DIES IN OVEN
A 20-month-old girl found stabbed and burned to death inside an oven in a Mississippi Delta home in October led to a murder charge against the child's grandmother. Carolyn Jones, 48, was charged with murder after her brother found Royalty Marie Floyd in the oven in the kitchen of a Shaw home. Bolivar County Sheriff Kelvin Williams Sr. and others struggled to explain why Jones would have killed her granddaughter.
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SHERIFFS ARRESTED
Sheriffs in two rural Mississippi counties were arrested on charges that they were hiding behind their badges to facilitate crime. Federal agents arrested Tallahatchie County Sheriff William Brewer in August on charges that he had been sheltering a drug dealer for 15 years in exchange for bribes and kickbacks. Brewer pleaded guilty in federal court in November. In December, state officials arrested Webster County Sheriff Tim Mitchell on charges involving guns, drugs, sex with inmates and threatening sheriff's department employees if they told anyone about the crimes.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 256827

Reported Deaths: 5638
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17257180
Hinds16331322
Harrison13567194
Rankin10804212
Jackson10453184
Lee8864141
Madison8314164
Jones6434112
Forrest6009120
Lauderdale5902186
Lowndes5405116
Lafayette499193
Lamar488565
Washington4803124
Bolivar3997109
Oktibbeha395381
Panola372379
Pontotoc367853
Monroe3558105
Warren354898
Union345960
Marshall344066
Neshoba3396152
Pearl River3301100
Leflore3041107
Lincoln298085
Sunflower286671
Hancock274459
Tate273162
Alcorn265453
Itawamba263759
Pike263778
Scott248046
Yazoo247056
Prentiss246552
Tippah243050
Copiah242749
Coahoma241054
Simpson236467
Leake231765
Grenada219471
Covington214672
Marion213073
Adams207070
Wayne202932
Winston201666
George199839
Attala194259
Newton193444
Tishomingo189361
Chickasaw185044
Jasper172736
Holmes168767
Clay159833
Stone144721
Tallahatchie141934
Clarke139862
Calhoun136521
Smith121424
Yalobusha117834
Walthall112336
Noxubee110822
Greene110429
Montgomery109834
Carroll104821
Lawrence102917
Perry102631
Amite98426
Webster92824
Tunica87321
Claiborne86625
Jefferson Davis85326
Humphreys83124
Benton82023
Kemper77620
Quitman6968
Franklin66715
Choctaw60913
Wilkinson58725
Jefferson54919
Sharkey43117
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 426543

Reported Deaths: 6126
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62752920
Mobile30551554
Madison27303186
Tuscaloosa20835267
Montgomery19192305
Shelby18693114
Baldwin16513183
Lee12603101
Morgan12321113
Etowah11805168
Calhoun11206200
Marshall10236107
Houston8681148
Cullman8094105
Limestone807474
Elmore7923101
DeKalb771597
Lauderdale763183
St. Clair7599120
Talladega6224108
Walker5930174
Jackson583741
Colbert535473
Blount532083
Autauga522755
Coffee446256
Dale399781
Franklin368148
Chilton337865
Russell335910
Covington330168
Escambia321342
Dallas305196
Chambers288669
Clarke283133
Tallapoosa2630107
Pike251329
Marion247350
Lawrence245247
Winston229035
Bibb217047
Geneva203335
Marengo200829
Pickens196931
Hale177442
Barbour173836
Fayette171226
Butler170758
Cherokee160930
Henry155021
Monroe147317
Randolph141535
Washington138326
Clay127045
Crenshaw120244
Cleburne118423
Lamar118419
Macon116835
Lowndes111535
Wilcox103621
Bullock99728
Perry98219
Conecuh95120
Sumter89526
Greene76223
Coosa60515
Choctaw51524
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