Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Two arrests in Stover case
Investigators: Plots converged in ex-con theatre director's death
Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the death of controversial theatre director Andrea Stover, who investigators say was the victim of separate murder plots in the hours before her death on January 2nd.
Detectives arrested Ursula Raines, a physical therapist, earlier today on murder charges. She is currently being held at the Yoknapatawpha County Detention Center.
Raines, 31, allegedly argued with Stover at Oxford Centre on N. Lamar Blvd. shortly after midnight on January 2nd, according to Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones. Investigators believe that confrontation led to Stover’s fatal plunge from a skywalk in the office complex’s atrium.
Jones would not comment on Raines’ possible motive, but sources familiar with the investigation claim Raines resented Stover’s close friendship with Gretchen Doyle, Raines’ partner. Doyle could not be reached for comment.
Yesterday, investigators arrested Dale King on attempted murder charges. He was released this morning after posting bail of $15,000 and is scheduled to be arraigned February 7th.
King is assistant director of Oxtales Theatre, where Stover was the director, and reportedly was unhappy about being ousted from his position as leader of the theatre troupe by Stover’s return.
An employee of the Garden Center, King is charged with using home-grown rhubarb to poison a dessert he served to Stover at an Oxtales rehearsal the evening of January 1.
Although rhubarb leaves are toxic when ingested, King likely had not used enough rhubarb to cause Stover's death, said Jones.
Not guilty pleas expected
King did not respond to requests for comment, but his attorney, Rex Mickles, said his client will fight the charges.
"The DA is going way too far," said Mickles, himself a former assistant district attorney. "Dale was nowhere near the crime scene, and what he did wouldn't have resulted in anything more than a bellyache."
Pam Sutler, president of the Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Action Committee of Mississippi, said the group will fund Raines' defense, claiming Raines is the victim of discrimination and has been wrongly accused.
"Ursula Raines' only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Sutler said.
Activist group denies responsibility
Stover, 29, first made headlines in February 2015, when she was arrested for disseminating sexually oriented material to minors after parents objected to their teens’ involvement as stage crew volunteers for a sexually explicit Oxtales production. Stover was convicted in May 2015 and served an 18-month sentence at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, MS.
Since Stover's release in December, Concerned Oxford Parents (COP), a community watchdog group that works to protect local children and monitors local sex offense cases, has been distributing flyers about Stover to neighbors and local parents.
Despite the publicity, COP president Ben Morgan said the organization is blameless in Stover's death.
"We did what we had to do to keep our community safe," Morgan said. "We never promote violence, but do promote citizens' awareness."
While she refused to comment directly about the COP organization, Jones confirmed that investigators are not searching for additional suspects in the case.