By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The new year started with tragedy for the Starkville School District after two students were killed in separate incidents on New Year’s Day.
“Our hearts are heavy and our grief is great as we mourn the loss of Laura Carson and Devin Mitchell. These students brought great joy to their families, friends and teachers. Their untimely, tragic deaths have left us heartbroken,” Interim Superintendent Beth Sewell said in a statement released Monday. “We ask that you lift up Laura and Devin’s families as they grieve and ... remember all of the students in the Starkville School District during this time of tremendous loss.”
Mitchell, 16, was shot at Ridgewood Apartments in West Point at approximately 3 a.m. Sunday. He was transported to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo where he died as a result of his injuries.
The West Point Police Department arrested Tavaris F. Collins, 31, and charged him with murder. The incident is still under investigation, and further details are expected to be released today.
Mitchell was a junior at Starkville High School, where he was a running back on the school’s football team.
“He was a role model. He was an example for the entire student body of Starkville High School to follow,” SHS Principal Keith Fennell said. “He was well-liked by faculty and students alike, but more than just being well-liked, he was respected because he was always doing the right thing.”
Carson, 11, crashed into the back of an unoccupied, parked vehicle while she was driving a go-kart at 1:15 p.m. near Athens, Ala., where she was visiting family, according to a report by The Decatur Daily.
East Limestone firefighters gave Carson CPR before she was transported to Athens-Limestone Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Carson was a sixth grader at Armstrong Middle School, where she was a member of the band.
“She was a wonderful band student. It was really obvious that she worked hard, that she practiced at home,” band instructor Kathy Baker said. “She was a lot of fun, really happy young lady who smiled a lot.”
Baker said Carson’s loss will be felt throughout the SSD community.
“She was an example of just a great young person,” she said. “What strikes me about her is that she did work really hard in school and in band, but when I picture her, I see her smile on her face. She had a lot of friends, and I know this is going to be hard for them.”
Though the schools are still on winter break, Fennell said SHS would offer grief counseling to the students upon their return.
“We’re starting a new semester in January, going into new classes, but there are certainly going to be close friends of Devin’s who will be returning. Once they go back to school, they will have emotions that they may not know how to deal with, that they’ll need assistance processing,” he said.
This is the not the first tragedy that has struck SSD this school year. Starkville High School senior Breanna Hampton, 18, was killed in a single-vehicle accident in November.
Fennell said he hoped Mitchell would be remembered for the way he lived his life and what he contributed to the community.
“Devin Mitchell was a positive person in everything that he did. He gave 100 percent in everything that he participated in from sports, academics, student life and church, as well,” Fennell said. “This is something that’s going to be hard for us to get through, hard for us to understand, but definitely something that we’ll need to lean on each other for.”