PANOLA COUNTY, Miss. — The new Panola County sheriff planned on hitting the ground running after taking office, but he ran into a rather big setback.
Panola County Sheriff Shane Phelps said someone tampered with his department's computers.
"We came to the office, and we noticed that the computers, there was nothing on the computers," Phelps said. "They were completely wiped clean, except for one computer in the jail."
Now Phelps, who was sworn in Dec. 27, 2019, is trying to find out who's behind deleting important files from all but one computer at the justice complex in Batesville.
"One of the first things on the list is get the trust and support back from the people of this county," Phelps said.
He refused to place blame but has his own suspicions.
"I have suspicions who I believe did it," Phelps said. "I'm not going to accuse; I'm not going to say who I believe did it. It's in the past now, and we're going to move forward."
The setback caused Phelps and his staff to be unable to pull accident and incident reports for three days.
While that problem has been solved, a computer company from Batesville has been unable to retrieve other deleted files — a concern for Phelps and his detectives.
"I don't know what was on these computers," he said. "I do know that my detectives are going through case files right now, trying to sort through them. But as far as what was on those computers, I cannot tell you."
The situation has left staffers to create work-arounds for the time being.
"I had to come in and create my own log-in system and filing system in order to keep up with all the summons and complaints that come in that the deputies have to serve," civil process clerk Amber Shegog said.
Phelps said he's continually focused on filling his role as the new sheriff.
"I wish it could have been a better transition," he said. "It could have been better for us and the people of the county."
Phelps said he hasn't considered contacting the attorney general or requesting an investigation.