A look back at most-read stories in 2020

Published 8:49 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2020

NATCHEZ — The year 2020 has been on for the history books.

Not only was there a historic pandemic, which continues to plague us in 2021, but the Miss-Lou communities rallied behind new leaders and found creative ways to get by and enjoy day-to-day activities while many services and events came to a screeching halt.

For many, 2021 is the light at the end of a long dark tunnel with the potential to be a much better year than the last — especially with new COVID-19 vaccines close at hand.

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However, even in the darkest year, some positive moments have shined through.

Here is a look back at The Natchez Democrat’s most-read stories in 2020.


A Natchez man said he woke up on the morning of March 7 feeling as though he had a common cold and wound up feeling the sickest he had ever felt in his life in a matter of days.

The man, whose identity was kept anonymous, tested positive for COVID-19. Dr. Blane Mire of Internal Medicine Associates prompted the man to tell his story, which was The Democrat’s most-read story of 2020.

His story was followed by many other top stories related to COVID-19: the first COVID-19 death at Merit Health Natchez, Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten testing positive and former Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell testing positive.

In another top story, New Hope the Vision Center Missionary Baptist Church in Adams County held a Palm Sunday worship service while all gatherings in the state were restricted to fewer than 10 people by an executive order from Gov. Tate Reeves.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Stanley Searcy, was later invited to a press conference in Jackson during which Reeves said he would not press COVID-19 limitations on worship services.

On Sunday, Dec. 6, in-person person worship services at New Hope the Vision Center were canceled due to a local surge in COVID-19 cases.

Searcy and other church leaders announced the cancellation in a press release, which said, “You and your family’s health is our number one concern. … Please continue to follow CDC guidelines. Let’s be wise so that once again we can gather again safely. Keep one another in prayer.”

Many Natchez businesses and churches persevered through the pandemic using tactics like curbside service and online streaming.

Turning Angel

In June, the historic Turning Angel monument at the Natchez City Cemetery was found toppled off her pedestal and with wings broken on the ground.

The monument was ultimately restored with help from numerous community supporters who contributed more than $17,000 to a GoFundMe account for its repair.

The Turning Angel is a Natchez landmark, which commemorates the lives of five girls who died in an explosion at the former Natchez Drug Company in 1908.

The angel statue was named “Turning Angel” because it appears to turn at night as cars drive past it along Cemetery Road.

Natchez Police arrested Austin Petty, 20, from Crosby after obtaining camera footage of the statue being knocked over.


Several shooting deaths also made the top stories list for 2020.

Lieutenant Troy Morris, a Mississippi State Trooper, was killed on U.S. 61 North in Jefferson Count on Friday, Aug. 7, while working a second job for the United States Postal Service.

According to a news release from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Mississippi Highway Patrol, law enforcement agencies arrested and charged Treyon Washington, 24; Cdarrius Norman, 17; and Damion Whittley, 25, with murder in connection to Morris’ death.

Colton Prescott, 34, is charged with two counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault manifesting extreme indifference to human life in connection to the shooting deaths of his parents, George Prescott Jr., 63, and Cathy Prescott, 62, in their home on North Hampton Road in February.

Law enforcement officials said they believe Colton Prescott shot both his parents and abducted his 9-month-old daughter from the residence.

Law officials said Colton Prescott and the baby were found at a house in Sibley.

The baby was not harmed.

Two teens, 18-year-old Jamesia Brown and 16-year-old Cameron Jones, were shot to death on May 1 while sitting in a parked car outside the Kenny Graves Apartment Complex, located just off of U.S. 61 North in Adams County.

No arrests have been reported in connection with the shootings, however, law officials said there could have been multiple shooters involved.

Frederick Hunt Jr., 26, was killed in an apparent drive-by shooting at approximately 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, on Lamar Street.

No arrests have been reported.

Authorities believe former Natchez High School band director Omar Cavazos, 61, took his own life after shooting a 15-year-old in the arm and torso on Friday, July 31, on the 800 block of U.S. 61 North in Adams County.

The unnamed 15-year-old was airlifted to a hospital in stable condition.

Three men were arrested in the Dec. 17 death of Bralon James, 22, who was shot multiple times in the vicinity of Minor Street and Brenham Avenue, law officials said.

Law officials said Reginald Tyrone Butler, 26, turned himself in after the incident and was charged with murder.

Police later arrested Tyran Jabari Newman, 24, and Eliegrel Quartez White, 31, and charged them both with aggravated assault in connection with the shooting.

Celebrity visit

Another top story emerged when “American Pickers” star Mike Wolfe visited Natchez in November to film interview segments for an upcoming season of the show.

Wolfe encountered several fans during his stay and complimented how well he was received as he frequented area restaurants and spent time in the city.

Wolfe said he is a history buff and southerner by choice and has always had a fascination with Natchez’s historical connections for years.

“Natchez has always had a little piece of my heart,” Wolf said during his November visit.

Human remains

A boot containing human remains was discovered on the coast of the Mississippi River near Anna’s Bottom in July.

The remains were sent to a forensics lab and showed DNA belonging to Timothy Howell Hearn from Vicksburg.

Hearn had been working as a deckhand on a towboat when he fell overboard in St. Joseph, Louisiana, in November 2018.

A search by the U.S. Coast Guard, law enforcement officers and wildlife agents ended after days without success.

Plane crash

Local veterinarian and pilot, Thomas Borum, 62, was killed in a Sept 1, plane crash in Minnesota.

Borum’s plane went down in Leech Lake near Walker, Minnesota as he was on his way to start a new job as a veterinarian in Bemidji, Minnesota, family members said.

Borum was active in the community as a volunteer with a local Boy Scout troop.

In addition to being a pilot and a veterinarian, Tom Borum also had worked for the Natchez Police Department and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

Bishop Gunn breaks up

Many fans of the Natchez grown rock and soul band Bishop Gunn were dismayed to learn that the band was breaking up in February.

The popular Natchez music concert, Bishop Gunn Crawfish Boil, was canceled along with all of the band’s other appearances.

No specifics were given for the band’s decision to suspend all activity.

On Valentine’s Day, however, guitarist Drew Smithers announced on social media that he was leaving the band.

The break-up did not prevent lead singer Travis McCready from rocking on with solo appearances.