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Biography: Weldon Foyle, victim's student

Weldon Foyle was born on May 5, 1977 to Lyle and Helen Foyle in Fleming County, Kentucky. Lyle worked as a farmhand and also worked in tobacco while Helen ran the household. The Foyle home was known to be extremely neat and orderly, the cleanliness more than making up for the extremely humble furnishings. Members of the East Fork Christian Church report that Helen suffered from terrible headaches and was often bedridden for days. Nevertheless, Lyle and the young Weldon kept the house to the same exacting standards as Helen.

The family was extremely poor, but refused all charity from area churches and other organizations. "My papaw used to let ole Lyle hunt deer over on his back acreage," said Flemingsburg resident Harold Croaker. "There was this creek bottom down there where the deer used to feed in the evenings. It was basically like hunting on a baited field, but the game warden let him do it. That family wouldn't have had no meat without that hunting. They were good, hard-working folks. Didn't no one begrudge them shooting a few deer out of season."

Lyle earned most of his income from farming and from picking and putting up tobacco. County Clerk records show that Lyle bought a small farm in 1978 and tried to start his own farming operation. However, the farm never turned a profit and eventually, Lyle lost the farm to the bankers. "Damned if he didn't work hard at it," said feed store owner Joseph Grimes. "But he couldn't get any decent acreage. That old farm was the only thing he could afford. Them fields weren't worth nothing but holding the earth together. I mean, it was nothing but pure scrap acreage. You couldn't raise an umbrella out there. He didn't stand a chance and, before long, the bankers come up to auction off what little equipment he had." After that, Lyle worked on various jobs throughout Fleming County and Nicholas County.

Young Weldon showed a prodigious work ethic at a very early age. At ten, he was working in the fields, carrying water to the hands and stacking up tobacco sticks. By fourteen, he was climbing the highest rails of the tobacco barns and hanging the leaves to dry. He loaded hay at a rate of grown men and was known to muck fifteen stalls in a couple of hours. "I wish I had ten of them Weldons, I could farm this whole county with a crew of folks like him," said Joe Jennings, an employer of Weldon. "He was sure quiet, kept to himself, didn't talk much. But damned if he couldn't work."

At school, Weldon showed similar determination. Teachers in the Fleming County school system report that he showed fierce desire to learn and achieve. "He wasn't the most brilliant student we've ever had," said school principal William Bryant. "But he might very well have been the most determined." Bryant said that Weldon seemed to have no friends whatsoever in school. "With anyone else, that might have worried us. But we just knew that Weldon wanted to get out of here. He wanted to achieve things and was single-minded in his quest. He didn't have time for friends."

By junior high school, Weldon was showing signs that anger was the fuel that propelled him to work so hard. "He started to get a little bitter," said teacher Margaret Lighter. "I think he reached an age where he started to see that other people had more money, and more opportunities than him. It really seemed to change him. Not that he started misbehaving, but it was almost like he wanted to achieve not only to succeed, but to also show up everyone else."

Weldon was a serious reader and during the long bus rides to school, or in the back of a truck heading out into the fields, he was often seen with a book. Sources say that he felt reading provided a world outside of the tobacco fields of Fleming County.

During his sophomore year in high school, Lyle Foyle fell from the top of a tobacco barn and suffered a broken back. Lacking health insurance, he refused to go to the hospital and was treated at home by the family doctor. The farms he worked for had never reported any taxes or worker's compensation for Lyle, so his injury ruined what little financial prospects the Foyle family had. Weldon worked even more, kept his grades up, and supported the family.

By graduation, Lyle had recovered enough to be able to do light work at nursing home, mowing the grass, doing simple carpentry. Helen watched some neighborhood children when her headaches allowed her to work. Weldon began searching for a college to attend.

The University of Mississippi was well-known in the South for being a school at a very reasonable cost. Weldon applied and was accepted, and his parents loaded up his meager belongs in the family pickup truck and drove him down to Oxford.

Weldon had to work many jobs while supporting himself and paying tuition, and occasionally had to take a semester off to earn enough money to pay for the next semester. He withdrew into himself even more. "He didn't have any friends and quite honestly, I bet I didn't see him ever say more than ten words to anyone on the hall," said Bobby Ferrell who was the resident advisor on Weldon's floor in the dormitory. School records show that Weldon was charged repair costs for work that had to be done to his closet after he moved out of the dorm. "He had added locks to his closet," Ferrell said. "I knew how hard Weldon worked, and he didn't have very much. I never thought of the incident as vandalism or anything like that. I just thought he wanted to protect and take care of what little he had. But still, we had to charge him."

Weldon's coursework at Ole Miss has thus far been exemplary. His professors describe him as very hard working and dedicated. "He wasn't the most naturally intelligent student in the class, but he sweated and gritted his way to the top score in the class," said economics professor Dr. Calvin Natoli. "He wrote some papers on Marxist theory and how the owners of the means of production exploit the workers that I remember to this day. His work was really stellar." Another professor, Dr. Shirley Taft, reported the same history of hard work combined with some unusual methods. "I knew he was working all kinds of crazy hours, so it wasn't unusual for him to drop off papers in the middle of the night. Or send me an e-mail at 2:30 in the morning. He was also very concerned about the security of his work. Like, he wouldn't just leave a paper in the box in the hallway with the rest of the students. He always had to slide it under my door. It was like he was afraid of someone stealing his work."

At the time of the Kristi Waterson investigation, Weldon was still attending Ole Miss and working a number of jobs in the Oxford area. Off the record, sources in the Registrar's Office say grades are still quite good with only a few bad scores sprinkled throughout his transcript. A professor who didn't want to be identified due to concerns about discussing a student's record said "He works so much. It's inevitable that he's going to have a bad grade here and there. Sometimes, he's worked all night before an exam and hasn't slept in 36 hours. Of course he's going to do poorly. I hated to give him bad grades because I knew it wasn't a case of someone who didn't care. He just couldn't help it."

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