03/26/2001

Officers bid their farewells to slain sheriff, Tenn.

By John Porretto, The Associated Press
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
March 24, 2001

(Memphis, TN) - Hundreds of law enforcement officers, many in uniform, stood with family and friends Friday to remember and bid farewell to a slain Mississippi sheriff.

Mourners gathered in groups in and around the century-old Simpson County Courthouse, recalling Sheriff E.C. Mullins's years as a county supervisor and, like his father before him, its top law officer.

"He was dedicated to public service and he was dedicated to law enforcement, " said Deputy Grover E. Bridges, who had earlier served Sheriff Lloyd Jones, who was murdered six years ago.

"This is tough, it's getting too regular for me," Bridges said of the slain sheriffs.

Mullins's body was found Tuesday morning, hanging out of his car, less than a mile from the rural home of Kristopher Durham, the man accused of capital murder in his death.

Authorities said Durham, 20, got into Mullins's car and assaulted him, drove away in the sheriff's car and stole two six-packs of beer. Investigators believe Durham later abandoned Mullins's vehicle and returned to his home several miles east of Mendenhall.

An autopsy concluded Mullins died of sudden cardiac arrest due to blows he received.

Visitation at the courthouse, which ended shortly before the body was moved two blocks to First Baptist Church for the funeral, began Thursday morning. A steady stream of mourners entered the three-story brick building throughout the day Thursday and Friday morning, filing past the casket containing the uniformed sheriff.

Outside the building, a long line of police cars formed for the funeral procession. Officers from Madison County kept watch at the Simpson County Sheriff's Department during the funeral, while Rankin County deputies patrolled the roads.

J.C. Dillon, who was sworn in as sheriff on Wednesday, mingled with visiting law officers, most with a black band placed across their badge as a sign of mourning.

Dillon, who grew up with Mullins and became his chief deputy when Mullins took office last year, said police and sheriffs' departments from around the country had contacted his office.

"The past few days have been rough, but it'll get better when this is all over," Dillon said.

Durham was being held in another county awaiting arraignment.

The accused man, whose parents live in Chicago, graduated from high school in Memphis and remained there briefly last summer before joining his grandparents in Mississippi, relatives said.

He tried but failed to get into community college earlier this year. Apparently, that's when his troubles began.

"Kris really didn't want to move down here," said Brian Durham, Kristopher's uncle. "I'm not a doctor and I don't know about depression, but I guess it can grab you like that. I don't have a clue."

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