In the early morning hours of October 8, 1985, the body of eighteen-year-old freshman Stacey Dianne Pannell was found in her dormitory room at Northeast Mississippi Junior College in Booneville, Mississippi. Pannell’s body was discovered by her roommate, Amy Wheeler. Wheeler arrived at her dormitory room and discovered that the door was locked and that Pannell did not answer her knocks. Since she didn’t have her key with her, Wheeler knocked on the door of the next room where Alexander lived. Alexander sleepily answered Wheeler’s knocks and let her into the room so that Wheeler could pass through the adjoining bathroom of the two rooms and get into her own dormitory room. Upon entering her own dormitory room, Wheeler saw Pannell’s partially nude body on a bed. Wheeler approached the bed with Alexander a few inches behind her. Even in the dim light, Wheeler saw blood on the pillow and Pannell’s panties pulled down around the knees of both legs. Upset, Wheeler ran out of the room through her own door and into the hallway in order to get help.
Another resident of the dormitory, Belinda Posey, went to check on Pannell at Wheeler’s request. Posey found Pannell’s door locked again and had to enter through Alexander’s room. After seeing Pannell’s body, Posey left to find the “dorm mother”.
When the “dorm mother”, Edna Snyder, went to check on Pannell, she found Pannell’s door locked and got a security guard to unlock it for her. Snyder found Pannel’s body with the panties around the calf of only one leg.
Investigators documented the scene. Pannell was lying with her back on the bed. She had her left leg resting on the bed and right foot resting on the floor. She was partially covered with bed linens and was nude from the waist down. A pair of panties was pulled down around her lower left leg. A pillow had been placed over her head. Pannell had severe injuries to the left side of her head and there was a great amount of blood on her head and on the pillow next to her head. There were blood splatters throughout the room on the walls and ceiling and as far away as nine (9) feet from the body of Pannell. A drill rifle was lying on the floor with a towel wrapped around the barrel end. There was blood on the stock or handle of the drill rifle. A hole, 8-10 inches long and 8-10 inches wide, had been cut out of the window screen.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol hunted almost a year for Pannell’s killer.1 About 15 different investigators worked on the case. The detectives called in Steve Rhoads, the police chief of East Hazel Crest, Illinois, who often lectured at seminars for law enforcement personnel about a special interrogation technique known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
Rhoads questioned those around the crime scene. On September 18, 1986, Rhoads questioned Stephanie Lynn Alexander, a suitemate of Pannell. She confessed. Alexander signed three statements confessing to the killing of Pannell. She signed one statement on September 18, 1986. She signed another statement on September 19 while in the Union County Sheriff’s Office in New Albany, Mississippi, giving additional information. While being kept in the Lee County Jail on September 21, she signed a third statement similar to the first two.
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