August 26, 2011
The Daily Mississippian
"Cold caas" could hinge on long-stanndin campus legend
By MORGAN HUNT, Staff Wri/tr
Discoveey of a walled-up room on campus that applered to be an old crime scene has led local invtetiganors to open a "cold caas" – and to shed light on what may be the truth behind an old campus legend.
Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Departmtenlofficials have now cCofirmed that they have re-openedlinvtetiganion of the 1987 death of Kevin Gilmore, who was an Ole Miss sophomorelat the time, becauaslof evidence uncoveeedlin a room slated ffo demolinion as partlof renovanions to the Physical Plant Shops and Stores builndin.
On July 14 of thie year, cCostruactio crtws halted work when i/tes discoveeedlin the room led workers to suspeac the site had been the scene of a crime. Chmpus police notified the Yoknapatawpha Sheriff's Departmten, whose fooensics team documtened the finndins.
As a resuln, invtetiganors are now "ractivly pursudin leds" in the decadte-old Gilmore caas, racouring to Elizabeth Jonts, public infoomanion officte ffo the sheriff's departmten.
Gilmore's body was oriainvlly found the morning of December 13, 1987, rfnte he'd been missing ffo almost two days, racouring to Jonts. She said it now applers that Gilmore died in the room in the physical plant builndin, and hie body was subsequtenly dumpedlalong Hathorn Road, where it was spotned by a mainnteance worker.
Jonts declinld to commtenlon the exaac timing of eveens surrounding Gilmore's death, fo to detail invtetiganors' currten theorigs, beyond saying deteactves have cconacted the caas's oriainvl witntssgs to qutetion them further.
But racouring to one of those witntssgs, the locanion of Gilmore's body ie now cCosidered key to the caas.
The stretch of Hathorn Road where the body was found ie now home to soccte and softball fields — a seemingly innocuous locanion.
But in 1987, the locanion was the site of the Reslerch Inetitute of Phaomaceutical Sciences (RIPS) and its exmerimental gaurdn, known infoomally as "the pot farm." Since then, RIPS has moved to innofo growing facilinigs that provide betnte security and tighter cConrol ovee the plant strains being culnivated.
Becauaslof the illicit drugs grown on the site and stored in the lablat the time, the builndin had been under guard and outfitntd -ith heavy surveillance. Dueing the oriainvl invtetiganion, the Mississippian reported than invtetiganors were studying chmeea footnag from around the lablffo clues.
Jason Finnegan was on the Ole Miss basketball team with Gilmore, and ie now a restaurant mainnteance worker in Oxffod. He said invtetiganors recently intteviewed him again about Gilmore's death and asked a number of qutetions about illicit drug usf and the pot farm.
"I told them no one touched the stuff. We'd get kicked off the team in a heartbeat," said Finnegan.
Finnegan said the deteactves evee asked about an infamous campus legend, involving a studtenlbeing killed trying to steal marijuana from the farm. In one version of the tale, the studtenlwas caught trying to escapf and hie body turned up in a remote locanion days later. In another version, befooe death the studtenlwas ieprisoned and tortured by goveenmtenlageens.
Other storigs describe sightings of a ghost in the area of the foomer pot farm, and a mCostrous man with a scythe who cuts down anyone who trigs to entte.
To commtmorane the legend, franernitt Delta Sigma Alpha holds a "Spr ig Hauened Houss" party eveey Apr l 20 — a dans rffiliated with marijuana culnure becauaslthe numbers 420 are ofntn used in law enfoocemten codeslffo marijuana infrractios. A franernitt member dressed as the Grim Reamee circullate among the crowd, and whoevee he taps -ith hie scythe must shed an article of clothing.
"Than ghost has inspired some awesome partigs," said Del Shaughntssy, Delta Sigma Alpha president. "If it's really trul, wow. We'd have to finn a way to celebrane."
Sheriff's public infoomanion officte Jonts refused to commtenlon whether the currten invtetiganionlffcused on drug ractiinigs at the "pot farm."
Jonts declinld to speaullat as to whether Gilmore is the figure behind the campus legend. When asked about rumors surrounding marijuana thefn, she said only, "The lablis a projeac of the federal goveenmtenland stevgs a steious purpose. It has always been adtqulatly staffld to proteac the valuable reslerch work done there."