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Press: Two arrests in Stover murder case

 

Oxford Eagle, Friday, March 22, 2002

Two arrests in Stover murder case
Investigators: Plots converged in ex-con artist's death

By KELLY SHACKLEFORD
Eagle Staff Reporter

Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the death of controversial theater director Andrea Stover, who investigators say was the victim of separate murder plots in the hours before her death Jan. 14.

Detectives arrested Ursula Raines, 31, a physical therapist, Friday on charges of first degree-murder as well as resisting arrest. She is being held on $50,000 bail at the Yoknapatawpha County Detention Center.

Raines allegedly accosted Stover at the Oxford Centre shortly after midnight, causing a fatal 25-foot fall when she pushed Stover over the railing of the skywalk connecting the buildings of the office complex.

Earlier that evening, Stover met Gretchen Doyle, Raines' partner, at the Jubilee Lounge. Investigators allege that Raines followed Doyle to the bar, then lay in wait until she could confront Stover.

Investigators arrested Dale King March 14, when he was charged with attempted murder. He was released March 15 after posting bail of $15,000 and is scheduled to be arraigned March 31.

King is assistant director of Oxtales Theatre, where Stover worked as director. An employee of the Garden Center, King is charged with using home-grown rhubarb to poison a dessert he served to Stover at a theater rehearsal the evening of Jan. 13.

Rhubarb leaves are toxic when ingested. King likely had not used enough rhubarb to cause Stover's death, said Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones.

Witnesses say the group rehearsal broke for a potluck dinner at around 5:30 p.m., then ended for the evening at 9:30 after an acrimonious argument between King and Stover, according to Jones. Jones said Stover was next seen around 10:30 p.m. with Doyle at the Jubilee, where they stayed until after closing. Doyle said she and Stover parted ways after midnight, according to Jones.

From the Jubilee Stover made her way to Oxford Centre, where Raines confronted her, Jones said. Stover's body was found the morning of Jan. 14 by an employee at Blaze Media.

Jones said a vehicle similar to Raines' was spotted in the vicinity of the crime scene after midnight the night of Stover's death, but declined to elaborate further on the evidence in the case.

Neither King nor Raines could be reached for comment. But attorney Rex Mickles, who is defending King, said his client will fight the charges.

"The DA is going way too far," said Mickles, himself a former assistant district attorney. "Dale was nowhere near the crime scene and what he did wouldn't have resulted in anything more than a bellyache."

Pam Sutler, president of the Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Action Committee of Mississippi, said the group will fund Raines' defense, claiming Raines is the victim of discrimination and has been wrongly accused.

"Ursula Raines' only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Sutler said.

Doyle could not be reached for comment. Employees at Blaze Media, where Doyle works, said she has taken a leave of absence and is staying with family in Texas.

Stover, a Taylor performance artist, first made headlines in February of 2000, when she was arrested for disseminating sexually-oriented material to minors after parents of three teenagers who volunteered as stage technicians for the sexually explicit production "Snopes" saw a video of the production and filed charges. Stover was convicted in June of 2000 and served an 18-month sentence at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, MS.

Since Stover's release in December of 2001, Concerned Oxford Parents (COP), a community watchdog group that works to protect local children and monitors local sex offense cases, has been distributing flyers about Stover to neighbors and local parents.

Despite the publicity, COP president Ben Morgan said the organization is blameless in Stover's death.

"We did what we had to do to keep our community safe," Morgan said. "We never promote violence, but do promote citizens' awareness."

While she refused to comment directly about COP, Jones confirmed that investigators are not searching for further suspects in the case.

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