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Press: Young Mother Murdered

Oxford Eagle, Monday, January 29, 2001
7-Year-Old Spends Night in Dead Mom's Arms

by Loretta Winston, Staff Reporter

Melissa Hammond, a 25-year-old divorced mother, was found dead in her own home Saturday morning and indications at the scene were that her 7-year-old daughter, Lydia, may have spent the night in the bed next to her mother's lifeless body. Melissa Hammond's father, Jonah Dale, made the gruesome discovery when he arrived at the Hammond home to take his daughter and granddaughter to breakfast. Dale did not speak with reporters, but family members say both Dale and his granddaughter are "stunned" and "grief-stricken" by Melissa Hammond's death.

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officials responded to the scene of this tragic murder on Elm Street around 8:00 a.m. Saturday. Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones said Sunday that Hammond was apparently strangled to death and that she may have been killed as long as 18 hours before her father discovered the body. PIO Jones declined to say whether there were any signs of forced entry or of a struggle inside the residence. She would not comment on whether investigators believe the victim's daughter was a witness to her mother's murder.

Melissa Hammond, who friends and family called "Missy," grew up in Oxford and graduated from Oxford High School in 1993. She was a popular hair stylist at the Southern Beauty salon in Oxford where she has worked for the last two and a half years. Hammond was known for her bright smile and her devotion to her daughter Lydia, who is in the first grade at Oxford Elementary School. The child's father, Roger Hammond, is the Sales Manager at Farrell Motors and he has been divorced from Melissa Hammond since 1998. Court records show that, at the time of her death, Melissa Hammond had an Order of Protection against her ex-husband, resulting from an incident at her home last summer.

In addition, court records also show that another man, JP Wallace, was arrested in a domestic violence incident at Melissa Hammond's residence in early January. Neighbors say Wallace was Hammond's boyfriend, and that she had a loud and public argument with him on Friday afternoon outside her home. Hammond had reportedly been dating Wallace for only a few months, but the two frequently had highly vocal disagreements, according to those who knew them.

Investigators refused to say whether Roger Hammond and JP Wallace are considered suspects in the homicide or whether they have any other suspects. PIO Jones stated only that detectives are following several promising leads in the case.

Melissa Hammond is survived by her daughter Lydia and her father, Jonah Dale. Funeral arrangements are being handled through Walls Funeral Home in Oxford.

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