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Wilkinson County Sheriff appoints felon as warden of jail

Editor’s note: This story has been modified to add that a Jefferson County jury found Dr. Brian Stretch not culpable in the civil suit filed by Frye’s mother. Stretch said no medical proof has been found indicating drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can serve as gateway drugs for illicit substances.

WOODVILLE — A man who as a teenager pleaded guilty to stabbing a boy to death on a school bus is now apparently serving as the warden and chief operations officer at the Wilkinson County Jail.

In an Aug. 1 news release in the Woodville Republican — Wilkinson County’s official journal — Wilkinson County Sheriff Reginald Jackson announced that Roderick M. Frye had been appointed to the position.

Jackson was quoted in the news release saying, “Frye had all the training experience and credentials needed to bring the Wilkinson County Jail up to higher standards to meet the required American Correctional Association Standard Procedures and Guidelines.”

Frye, who received law enforcement certification from the Mississippi Office of Standards and Training in December, pleaded guilty in June 1999 to the November 1998 fatal stabbing of 14-year-old Kenneth Grayson. Frye was 13 at the time.

The two were on a school bus on their way home to the Stampley community on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 1998, when they apparently got into an argument that escalated into the stabbing. Almost 30 students were on the bus at the time of the attack, and Jefferson County Sheriff Peter Walker later said Frye — who was charged as an adult — confessed to the killing.

Frye was indicted on and pleaded “not guilty” to a charge of murder, but later withdrew that pleading and pleaded “guilty” to manslaughter. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with seven years suspended, and the court ordered that during his prison sentence he receive GED training and psychological counseling.

Frye was discharged from the Mississippi Department of Corrections Dec. 19, 2005. His discharge certificate indicates he did not have to serve any time on probation.

While he was in prison, Frye’s mother Brenda Doss filed a lawsuit against Natchez pediatrician Brian Stretch, alleging he misdiagnosed Frye with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in 1996 and prescribed him Ritalin without warning of the side effects of stopping the drug suddenly. During the trial, it was alleged Frye had become addicted to crack cocaine in an attempt to simulate the effects of Ritalin. A Jefferson County jury later found Stretch was not responsible for the reported addiction.

Before Frye became a deputy in Wilkinson County, he was reportedly a sheriff’s deputy in Jefferson County, though when asked if Frye had ever worked for him, Walker — who was sheriff at the time of Grayson’s killing and still holds the office — declined to comment.

The victim’s brother, Patrick Grayson, said he first saw Frye in uniform at a roadblock in Jefferson County in January. The encounter, he said, left him “real angry.”

“He came up to my car and shined the flashlight in my eyes like I had done something wrong, but when he saw me and realized who I was, he just walked off,” Grayson said. “I don’t understand how someone who did something so wrong now has the right to lock people up.”

“I saw this guy stab my brother to death — I was 11 years old at the time, and I tried to help (Kenneth) but I was so little those older guys on the bus snatched me off the bus.”

An official with the Mississippi Office of Standards and Training said the office could not discuss the specific case but that while the office checks to see if officer candidates have certain qualifications, it is the role of local sheriff’s offices to run background checks on potential hires. The official said the office would be looking into the matter.

Jackson did not return a request for comment.

Mississippi Code section 45-6-11 states that the training board reserves the right to suspend or revoke an officer’s certification if the holder has been convicted of a felony.

Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said background and criminal history checks and drug testing should be considered standard procedure for law enforcement hiring.

“If they have a major felony on their record, that would definitely be a no-brainer,” he said.

But for Patrick Grayson, no explanation as to why the man who killed his brother 15 years ago is going to be adequate.

“If he was so mental and he was so crazy then, how can he be a sheriff’s deputy now?” Grayson said. “You are going to let him sit in jail for eight years and then let him be a sheriff?”