OXFORD WEEKLY PLANET
Monday, July 15, 2019
When the News-Makers Become the News
Oxford newspaper gets embroiled in its own story
What happens when the news-makers become the news? What happens when those who write the stories suddenly turn into the story itself?
Such a quandary is developing in Oxford right now, where Oxford Eagle city reporter Rick Hughes is reportedly being sought for questioning in the murder of Monica Drum, the paper's managing editor.
Drum was found shot in her office on Sunday morning around 3:15 a.m. by security guard Ernie Parrish and YCSD officer A. L. Quinlan. Parrish heard gunshots while patrolling the press area in the back of the building on regular rounds and immediately called police, who arrived on the scene within minutes.
Sheriff's department officials say that Hughes is a person of interest in the investigation at this time due to his long-standing relationship with Drum. Sources tell the Crime Beat that Drum and Hughes had a vicious argument not long before her death.
Hughes, who spoke to the Crime Beat from an undisclosed location, insists that he is innocent. He says that even though he and Drum had what he terms as an "up and down" relationship, they recently broke up for good and decided to remain just friends. He also claims that lately he has been binge drinking and blacking out with no recall of the evening before.
Some co-workers find the latter statement uncharacteristic. They claim Hughes is well-known for not partaking of alcohol in a town where drinking seems to be a preoccupation with much of the population, no matter the age.
But close colleagues and friends of Hughes tell quite a different story. They allege the relationship between Drum and Hughes was punctuated by frequent arguing and that Hughes had made some veiled threats in recent weeks. Some say their relationship had deteriorated to the point that either he or Drum would have to leave the paper.
Co-workers of Hughes also report that he claimed that he was "beginning to hate her," and that he would like to see her gone.
Hughes claims that such statements were taken out of context. Any arguments he and Drum had in the office, he says, probably pertained to their work at the paper, not their personal situation. Hughes says they often disagreed on both major and minor points concerning the paper's coverage of city news.
Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officials take a different stance on Hughes's statements. An official inside the department says that based on testimony from various witnesses regarding the relationship, Hughes and Drum most certainly took their personal lives into the office. Several examples bear this point out.
Hughes's sudden out-of-town story assignment earlier this month was a direct result, witnesses claim, of Drum's demand that he leave her alone for a while. She sent him to cover the escape of two inmates from the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi. Observers noted that Hughes's absence from the newspaper office extended well beyond the conclusion of that story.
In addition, a sheriff's official said, co-workers reported that on more than one occasion, Hughes and Drum were heard arguing loudly inside her office.
For years the newspaper was judged as mediocre for years and called an embarrassment by the very citizens it served. One can only wonder how they managed to become such a respected journal in only three short years under the teamwork of Hughes and Drum, when the entire time, a personal crisis was swirling around them.
By Kemper Jones at 12:00 PM