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City Reporter



A Troubled Past

Mother had problems long before killing her baby.

By Janel Davis

Lisa Marie Butler, the 18-year-old in jail for killing her son, got a lawyer to represent her Monday, not only to assist her in this case but to wade through the troubled life that family members said started at an early age.

Butler is being represented by Tom Emerson Smith, whose first objective will be to verify that Butler's confession to the June 17th beating death of 8-month-old Dewayne Butler was voluntary. She admitted hitting Dewayne after an argument with the child's father, Dewayne Holloway. Holloway, 40, said on the day of the incident that he and Butler had argued over camera film before a graduation: "That's how Lisa was. She had a quick temper. She never took it out on any of my kids but she did on me. I've got the scrapes and scars to prove it." Holloway has eight other children from previous relationships. Butler is currently three months pregnant with their second child.

Holloway and Butler's relationship began three years ago on a street in North Memphis. He came upon the girl awaiting a ride to her grandmother's house and offered to take her there. She was living with her father at the time and had run away. "She kept running away from his home, and he wasn't trying to get her back in school, so I just took her in," said Holloway. "Lisa didn't get along with her family. They wouldn't listen to her, and she didn't get enough attention."

Holloway also said Butler admitted to having been molested by an uncle but never talked about it. She only reached ninth grade at Humes Junior High before dropping out of school.

Butler's mother, Edna Delois Butler, 38, said her daughter began exhibiting troubling behavior as a teenager when she began cutting her arms with razors. Around age 15, her diary was found to contain vows to kill the entire family, including herself. She tried to carry out her plans not long after that by turning on all the gas burners on the family's stove and striking matches as they entered the house. Edna said she never sought psychological assistance or evaluation for Butler, thinking that maybe "her condition would pass."

Edna reported her daughter to the Department of Children's Services in April, alleging abuse. When the department determined the allegations to be unfounded, the case was closed. "I do blame the department for not doing something about the situation when I first called them," said Edna. When asked why she did not remove the baby from the home, she said Butler told her the baby was crying because he was teething. Edna Butler has not yet visited her daughter in jail.

"I'm not mad at her at all. I never thought she'd be capable of doing this," she said.

Butler's next court date is July 22nd.


Flinn Broadcasting cancels radio personality's talk show.

By Janel Davis

Talk-show host Jennings Bernard of WTCK-AM 1210 radio, a Flinn Broadcasting station, has been taken off the air due to his on-air assault of a local automobile dealership, and station managers aren't talking.

Bernard, host of the weekday afternoon program Real Talk, advised listeners to boycott the First Choice Automobile Group after the company refused to repair a used vehicle bought by Bernard's executive assistant. Although the vehicle was sold "as is," when the engine head cracked he suspected the mileage had been rolled back on the odometer.

"My program is about empowering the community and that's what I did," said Bernard. "I took the campaign to the air, and my listeners responded by not visiting the company."

Complaints by the automobile company to station management eventually led to Bernard's dismissal. Real Talk was taken off the air June 9th. Bernard said he got the call from management one hour before his show was to begin.

Shea Flinn with station operations responded "no comment" to all questions regarding Bernard's dismissal.

Bernard had hosted the show for nine months. Like other hosts on the station, Bernard was not an employee of Flinn Broadcasting but paid for his air time. Bernard said he was never given a contract from the station.

Bernard said he had been told by station owner Dr. George Flinn that the show could be reinstated if an agreement was reached with the automobile company. First Choice agreed to pay half of the $2,200 in car repairs. Since the incident, Bill Martin with First Choice said, "I don't have any problems at all with [Bernard] whatsoever."

Even so, Bernard was told that his show "was not in the best interest of Flinn Broadcasting," and was not reinstated. Bernard, who has already moved to WMQM-AM 1600 on Saturday mornings, has obtained legal counsel to deal with Flinn Broadcasting. "If they had a problem with the boycott of this business, they should have said something before," he said. "I did several shows asking listeners to boycott Fred's Discount Store and they never said anything about it."

Bernard said he will compete in the upcoming City Council elections for the District 7 seat. Dr. George Flinn will run for the District 5 seat.

Update: Found Files

Hospital claims old patient records.

By Mary Cashiola

The mystery is solved, at least partly.

In last week's cover story, "The Mystery of the Old Hospital," two men who like to explore abandoned buildings found boxes of old medical files left behind at 1025 Crump Blvd. The building, which once housed a veteran's hospital, closed as Baptist's inpatient rehab facility in 1992. The outpatient rehab center closed four years later, and it was unclear exactly whose files they were.

"The files are not official hospital records," Ayoka Pond, a public relations coordinator for Baptist Memorial Health Care, said this week. "They're actually patient files from physician's offices, but they're still something we would like to take care of."

After the story ran, the owner of the building gave Baptist a few records from the building, and the health-care provider's legal and medical records departments looked them over. Pond says it wouldn't be appropriate to give the records to the patients themselves or to their families, because they were never intended for them in the first place.

"We're looking to get into the building and shred them," she said. They are still waiting for permission from Environmental Court to enter the building.

Fancy Food Facility

Memphis City Schools opens new Central Nutrition Center.

By Mary Cashiola

Memphis City Schools board commissioner Sara Lewis said she always hears from students about lousy cafeteria food. But she's hoping that those complaints will end with the district's new centralized nutrition center.

The Division of Nutritional Services recently moved into its new $20 million Central Nutrition Center (CNC) on Jackson Avenue. Touted as a state-of-the-art facility, the center will prepare bakery products, slice-and-dice fruits and vegetables, and bulk foods with a 30-day shelf life. The food will then be shipped out to the district's schools beginning in August. The 170,000-square-foot facility includes a warehouse to store food products and a room for catered functions.

"They told us about all these places that have central commissaries," said Lewis. "It just made sense. ... Students always say the food is lousy. This will standardize all of it."

Several school board members said they didn't know anything about the new facility. However, for a school district that until recently had a moratorium on any construction funding other than emergencies, a $20 million nutrition center seemed a little superfluous. Board member Wanda Halbert once questioned paying for a school playground when the district had other, more immediate needs.

The CNC project has been in the works for at least 10 years, according to Superintendent Johnnie B. Watson.

A fact sheet explains that it is "designed to reduce food, equipment, energy, supply and labor cost, eliminate a makeshift bakery, catering, training and nutrition education operation, and relocate the food warehouse." Because the division's monies come solely from federal and state reimbursement, as well as customers' payments, the sheet said it is necessary to run the division as a business.

"It should result in some attrition," said Lewis. "They're not going to lay anyone off, but they'll do some different things. All the schools have a cafeteria manager, head cook, and pastry cook. If all the pastries are done at this one place, we won't need a pastry cook at every school."

Ann Terrell, the division's director, estimates the CNC will save $500,000 a year. "We've already started cutting back on equipment at the new schools," said Terrell. "Our savings should increase as we produce more food items at the CNC each year."

The self-supporting Division of Nutritional Services has made over $1 million in profits for each of the past three school years. During 2001-2002, expenditures were $42.5 million, but revenues were $43.5 million. The existing general fund balance is almost $20 million. (Federal guidelines require the DNS to maintain a balance equal to at least three months' worth of operation expenses.) That money can only be used for nutrition services.

Patsy Smith, executive director of special services with the Shelby County Schools, says that system has nothing comparable. "Our kitchens prepare everything on-site. There's one centralized menu, but since the food is made on-site, they can add different options as well."

The county's vendors ship directly to the schools instead of a centralized warehouse, with each school placing its own order. Smith could not say if the county's nutrition division was making a profit because every school keeps its own records.

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