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Monday, July 10, 2017

University professor found dead

Conference to continue after one-day suspension of activities

Professor slain at conference

The death of a beloved University of Mississippi English professor this week cast a pall over the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha County Conference of which he had been a planner and participant.

Douglas Reed, 31, of Oxford, was discovered by a colleague around 7:30 a.m. on Monday in a meeting room of the Yoknapatawpha County Conference Center (YCCC) where the popular literary event is held, according to Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Jones.

Jones said Reed's death appears to be a homicide but declined to say exactly how he died. An autopsy will be performed Tuesday.

In the meantime, investigators have cordoned off the room from the rest of the conference center while they gathered evidence and interviewed potential witnesses.

"We have no suspects at this time," Jones said.

Conference attendees expressed shock and sadness over Reed's death. Many have known the professor for several years and said he was a rising star in his field.

"At such a young age, he was already was a fixture of Mississippi's literary circle and a big presence at Ole Miss," said Heather Radcliff, an author and conference attendee from Tupelo. "I just saw him last night. I still can't believe this happened."

The university also issued a statement expressing its condolences to Reed's family and remembering the faculty member as a popular professor well-liked by students and respected by colleagues.

Family members reached by the media declined to be interviewed.

Reed's death darkened the mood of the normally upbeat conference, which had started Sunday with registration, a roundtable at the YCCC, and later a buffet supper at Rowan Oak. Radcliff said Reed was at the dinner for at least two hours and was still there when she left.

"He seemed happy," she said. "Everything was normal."

Still in disbelief attendees slowly walked by the taped-off room and talked in hushed voices about what might have happened inside just hours before.

"This is a tragic event, but the conference must go on," said another organizer, Carol Fitch, who worked with Reed in the English Department. "We plan to hold a memorial for Douglas this week and will make the necessary announcements about that as we finalize the details."

The conference draws hundreds of people including writers, teachers and literary scholars for five days of lectures and discussions. This is the first time anything like this has happened at the annual event, police and conference organizers said.

By Kemper Jones at 1:55 PM

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