By Nicklaus Lovelady Hope for the safe return of missing Jackson State University student Latasha Norman ended in heartbreak for her family and friends Thursday when police discovered her body in a wooded area in north Jackson. Her ex-boyfriend, Stanley Cole, was arrested a short while later and charged with murder. The break in the Nov. 13 disappearance of the 20-year-old accounting major came when police took Cole into custody Thursday morning.
Information obtained from Cole during questioning by Jackson Police Department detectives led them to Norman’s decomposing body near Brown Street about 2 p.m., police said. “We have confirmed that the body found is that of Ms. Norman. I can’t elaborate how, but it is her,” JPD spokesman Sgt. Jeffery Scott said Thursday evening. Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart said Norman has been dead for approximately two weeks and was found about 15 yards off Brown Street. Grisham-Stewart would not give any other details about the condition of the body.
Late Thursday, Grisham-Stewart said due to the body’s state of decomposition the autopsy performed Thursday night was not completed and did not immediately reveal a cause of death. She said the state medical examiner would resume the autopsy later today. “There were signs of trauma, but we have not concluded that’s what caused her death,” said Grisham-Stewart, who would not elaborate.
After the body was found, Cole, 24, also of Greenville, was charged. Cole is a sophomore criminal justice major at JSU. Earlier in the day, Cole was scheduled to appear in Pearl Municipal Court to face a simple-assault charge for allegedly hitting Norman in the face with his fist as they argued in a restaurant parking lot on Oct. 9. Before Cole could go before a judge, he was taken into custody by JPD. Cole originally had been questioned by JSU police in the days after Norman’s disappearance. Assistant Police Chief Lee Vance would not say what prompted police to question Cole again or whether he had confessed to killing Norman.
The wooded area where Norman’s body was found is about a half-mile south of County Line Road and just west of North State Street. Around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, dozens of residents from the nearby North Hills Apartments, including children, stood on Brown Street several yards from where investigators found the body. “I was coming out of my apartment trying to get on the interstate when I saw the crime tape and all these cars. I asked what had happened and they said they found the body of the JSU student,” Nakia Banks said.
Norman’s disappearance attracted attention from local and national media outlets. Her parents, Patricia and Danny Bolden of Greenwood, had temporarily moved to Jackson to aid in the search. They could not be reached for comment Thursday. Street poles, store windows and car windshields around town held pictures of Norman’s smiling face. “I kind of thought she might be dead, but I really hoped, for her and her family, that she was alive,” said Melanie Weaver, a resident of North Hill Apartments. “To kill her and just throw her away like some dog is just wrong.”
Cole is being held in Hinds County Detention Center without bond. Scott said Cole’s initial appearance could come as early as today and that the investigation has not been completed. Nearly 17 hours prior to the body being found, students at JSU had held a prayer vigil in hopes that she would be found alive and returned to her family and friends. To honor Norman, JSU classes have been canceled today. “I want to extend my deepest and most profound sympathy to the Norman/Bolden family, (Norman’s) friends and others who loved her,” said JSU President Ronald Mason Jr. in a written statement. “There are simply no words that can take away the anguish felt in the face of such a heinous and senseless act.”
Our deepest and most sincere prayers are sent to the relatives in the Norman family, as well as friends and colleagues.
[Source: Clarion Ledgar]