Lucy Bess Cooper : Just on the verge of change, a little too late

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Lucy Bess Cooper (1980-2015).

Parents: Ellen Grant Walker (1957- ) & Frank Wes Cooper (1951-1997).  Grandparents: Lucy Calhoun Keith (1921) & Joseph Cowan Cooper (1913-1995) on her father’s side;  Bessie Grant (1932- ) & Walter Calahan Walker (1931-2001) on her mother’s side.

Lucy Cooper comes from an old Mississippi family.  Roy Cooper entered the state in 1794 and gradually purchased enough land to have a small sustenance farm but no slaves.  His son, Frank Roy Cooper was 38 when the War Between the Sates broke out and enlisted and was made a colonel of a local regiment, and served until the very end at which time he was one of last men to fall in May of 1865. One of her great-great-grandfathers, Charles “Charley” Wooley Cooper, was ten years old at the end of the Civil War, fatherless, devoted his activities to causing as much mischief for the Reconstruction politicians in and around Jackson, Mississippi, as was possible for a small boy.  So, you could say that Lucy comes from a long line of hell-raisers and people with a strong disregard for authority, however, possessing a lot of respect for their Mississippi heritage.

Jackson MSLucy was in her 30s, living in Jackson, Mississippi, supporting herself with a small marijuana dealing business.  Across the street from her was a bachelor, Levi Hooper, who fell in love with her, which was not entirely unrequited.  She had been a small time drug dealer for the last decade primarily using marijuana but she also had done harder drugs, Dilaudid and cocaine.  Levi had been coming around and she felt a desire to change her life due to his overall wholesomeness and positive influence on her.  See could herself getting clean and starting a new life with Levi.  However, one of her old friends got picked up for his own drug issues, and in order to lessen his own sentence gave Lucy up as his dealer.

B9316412054Z.1_20150228201914_000_GUGA3CU39.1-0She was arrested and convicted for possession and distribution of marijuana and sentenced to 18 months at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (her friends incorrectly referring to  it  as Parchman Farm). While there she became depressed (since she was on the verge of changing her life) and began using Dilaudid, not orally as designed but crushing the pills and dissolving them in water for injection (“shake and bake”).  She died as a result of an overdose less than a year into her sentence, and only weeks before possibly being paroled.

Introducing Louanne Murphy Borden : A good girl who lost her way

Bonnet_Louanne 1987

Louanne Murphy Borden (1967- ) comes from an old Texas family, descendants of Thomas Borden (1802-1836), one of The Old Three Hundred and the first Borden to live in Texas.  The Bordens became quite wealthy during the first decade of the 20th century when Louanne’s great-great-grandfather, Jonus Caldwell Borden (1860-1914), struck oil on his ranch, before dying of a stroke.  The ranch and oil wells went to his son, James Neal Borden (1889-1961), who proved himself more than a competent steward of the family’s burgeoning wealth.

Bonnet_Bonnet Home in Highland Park

By the time Louanne was born the family had been living for decades in Dallas, the “old-money” part of town, Highland Park.  As was true for many kids who grew up during the Seventies, of privilege, Louanne’s idea of rebellion centered upon hanging out with kids from “the wrong side of the tracks”, and in general, frustrating her parents ideas about whom she ought to date, i.e. a nice boy from the club.  When it came time for Louanne to go off to college, she chose the University of Mississippi in Oxford because she had heard from some friends in Baton Rouge that it was an even bigger party school than LSU.

Bonnet_Ole MissIn her first semester at Ol’ Miss, Louanne met a good-looking fellow, Ronnie Raney, who definitely was not a boy from the club, and not even enrolled at the university.  His main preoccupation appeared to be selling quality weed to fraternity boys.  One thing led to another and soon Louanne and Ronnie began dating, ending up with Louanne unofficially dropping out of school and moving to Vicksburg with him.

Louanne did not fully appreciate what she was getting into, since unbeknownst to her, Ronnie’s little pot business was only the tip of the criminal iceberg run by Ronnie’s mother, Maggie Raney.  The Raney family, i.e. Maggie, had a strong hold on the political and judicial levers of power in Warren County, and in fact, exerted influence and received protection from prosecution from Natchez to Memphis.

shotgun houseFor a while Louanne partnered with Ronnie in the marijuana distribution enterprise, even turning out a few girls using a trailer behind the topless bar owned by the Raney family.  However, after living a few years, even getting married to Ronnie, she got tired of Ronnie’s habit of hitting her when angered.  She found the nerve to shoot him while he ate the fried chicken and gravy she made for him.

She did not even attempt to flee the jurisdiction nor avoid prosecution for this crime.  She was well aware that Ronnie’s older brother, Lonnie, sheriff of the county, would make sure that her justifiable homicide defense at trial was not convince the jury.  In short order Louanne was found guilty and sentenced to twenty years to be served at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.

While at CMCF, Louanne developed an exemplary record of good behavior including mentoring several other young female prisoners.  For example, about half way through her sentence, a young woman, Lucy Cooper, was sent to CMCF on a drug charge, given eighteen months.  Lucy was a funny, bright, and street smart but fragile woman who simply could not do the time for her crime.  Despite being taken under Louanne’s wing, Lucy became increasingly more and more despondent, eventually suiciding from an overdose – within six weeks of her release.

Not long after this tragedy Louanne’s case was reviewed by a judge who ruled that hers was a case of justified homicide and her sentence was commuted to time served. These events coincided with the death of her grandmother in 2015, when she was released after serving almost 70% of her original sentence.  She returned to Texas for her grandmother’s funeral and remained there with her mother, to live once again in Highland Park, however, now in somewhat reduced grandeur.