Film director slain
OXFORD WEEKLY PLANET
Monday, April 20, 2020
Film director slain outside of Oxford
Reports allege the victim was holding crew hostage in wilderness compound
A Jackson man was reported dead yesterday in what the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department has described as a "commune killing" in the western hills of the county, where it's believed seven Oxford citizens were held hostage for more than 100 days.
Police arriving at the scene early Sunday morning found Dalton Kimbrough, 27, brutally murdered in a shower. Kimbrough and his crew of seven locals were filming a movie at a lodge on County Road 288, southwest of Oxford almost three miles from the Panola County line.
Police refused to identify the seven cast and crew members, though one is reportedly being held as a suspect, and the others are being questioned in the death of the film director.
"We're trying to determine the nature of the killing," said Sheriff's Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones. "The investigation is still in the very early stages. These people were camped out at a lodge in those hills for more than three months, so there's a lot of ground to cover in terms of their stories and the evidence collected."
Sources allege Kimbrough refused to allow the seven cast and crew members to leave until his picture was finished. Although investigators have not named the witnesses and possible suspects in the murder, many Oxonians have been talking about the disappearance of friends or relatives who were known to be involved with Kimbrough and his film.
Among those believed to have been held captive is Kayla Mathis, who was abducted in 2008 by her father's ex-girlfriend. Kayla was safely rescued seven weeks later. Her kidnapper, Julie Wood, was convicted of kidnapping and other charges in 2010 and is now serving 25 years to life in a Mississippi penitentiary.
Kayla's mother, Beverly Mathis, said she had received several phone messages from her daughter over the past three months, indicating she was still on the film set and that she was doing fine. "The way her voice sounded, I tell you, it gave me a fright because she didn't sound like she was enjoying herself, and she would never tell me exactly where she was or how I could contact her," said Mathis.
Kayla Mathis is safe at home now, though she refused to comment about the incident.
Adele McPhail said she had contacted the Sheriff's Department in March to report that she feared for her husband, Johnny McPhail, who was acting in Kimbrough's film. Like Beverly Mathis, she had received phone messages from her husband, who claimed to be at an undisclosed location. She told Crime Beat, "He just didn't sound right. It isn't like Johnny to run off with a bunch of kids and not even let me know where he is. Just these weird messages that don't tell me a thing." Johnny McPhail declined to speak to Crime Beat.
Pending autopsy, funeral arrangements for Dalton Kimbrough have not been announced.
Check back for updates on this developing story.
By Kemper Jones at 8:00 AM