A Columbus couple was stabbed and attacked with a hammer by a man they found inside their home Monday, and a Lowndes County parolee who is at large after skipping out on a 48-hour pass may be connected, police said.
Kenneth Macon, 28, of 1568 Hughes Road in Lowndes County, is also suspected of robbing a Columbus woman at knifepoint last week. He has been at large since failing to return to a Leake County halfway house Jan. 31.
Macon is considered armed and dangerous, police said.
According to police and witnesses, Jessie and Mary Gardner were attacked in their home at the corner of 11th Avenue South and Ninth Street South at around 2 p.m. Monday. They were taken to the intensive care unit at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, and were in critical but stable condition Tuesday, a hospital spokesperson said.
Charlie Richie, a neighbor of the Gardners who spoke to Mary Gardner at the hospital Monday, said that a man was hiding in a closet when the Gardners arrived at their home. He said the suspect sprung out of the closet, hit Mary on each side of the face with the claw of a hammer, and stabbed her once in the right side. Then he attacked Jessie, hitting him several times on the head with the claw of the hammer and stabbing him four or five times in the right side and back.
The suspect then took “quite a few hundred-dollar bills” from Jessie Gardner and took off in his Ford F-150 truck, Richie said.
“Mary talked to my wife after (the attack),” Richie said. “My wife called the police. She was hurting like the devil. When she sat on the couch while the medics were treating her she said it hurt to move.”
The Gardners are in their early 70s, Richie said. Both are doing “fairly well,” and would be kept overnight at least, he said. Richie, who saw Mary Gardner in the hospital, said “one of her eyes is swollen bad and she had blood running from her nose, ears and mouth.”
Police interviewed the couple at the hospital, Columbus Police Department Officer Terrie Songer said. She said Tuesday morning that Macon is “a person of interest” in the crime.
“That is still under investigation, but we consider him as a person of interest as there are others,” she said.
Songer said the Ford F-150 truck that was taken from the Gardners has been recovered.
“The truck was left four blocks from their home, and they made their way on foot. To our knowledge, they have no vehicle,” she said.
Richie said he didn”t think the Gardners knew Macon. The Gardners don”t live in the home all the time so Richie assumed the suspect could had been there for a while.
Monday afternoon Steve Shirley of S&S Home Improvement was at the Gardner home to check the locks because there were no signs of forced entry. He discovered the back door could be pushed open even when locked. Police said the rear screen door had been cut.
The incident was similar to one last week, in which Macon is suspected.
In that case, a Columbus woman returned to her 613 16th Ave. S. home Thursday night — a few blocks away from today”s incident — and found Macon inside, police said.
“Macon got a knife and tried to attack the victim and then stole her purse with money and contents,” Songer said in a release.
Macon has been at large for more than a week after falling to turn himself in after a 48-hour pass granted by the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Songer said.
“Macon had on a GPS ankle bracelet from MDOC but has cut it off,” she said in a release.
According to Songer, Macon was being held on charges of violation of probation and possession of cocaine.
Pat Tuggle, administrative assistant with the Lowndes County Sheriff”s Department, said Macon was jailed in May 2009 for violation of probation. Tara Booth, a spokesperson with Mississippi Department of Corrections, said Macon has been housed at the Walnut Grove Transitional Center in the Walnut Grove community in the southern part of Leake County since last November.
“This facility houses probationers, people who are on probation and are here to pay off fines set by the courts. If they were not staying here, they would be on the streets,” she said.
Jimmy Wilcher serves as warden of the facility in Walnut Grove, which has been open for more than a year. He said the facility houses approximately 157 men and 49 women.
“We keep them on separate sides, and these numbers change every day as the probationers finish paying off the fine, or the court rules they have done their time,” he said.
Wilcher said Walnut Grove is private-owned facility, but is under MDOC guidelines.
Macon was granted a 48-hour pass and when he did not return, authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, Wilcher said.
Wilcher said probationers can get a 48-hour pass every 30 days as long as they have someone who can provide transportation to bring them back.
“They have to earn points to gain the 48-hour pass. That is according to MDOC regulations,” he said.
Lowndes County Sheriff”s Office Chief Deputy Greg Wright said Macon has been arrested and in jail off and on since 2001 on numerous traffic charges, including speeding, and also contempt of court charges for those charges.
Staff writers Jason Browne and Allen Baswell contributed to this story.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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