Melton's Complicated History with Maurice Warner | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Melton's Complicated History with Maurice Warner

During a JFP ride-along in 2006, Mayor Frank Melton embraced Maurice Warner while hunting for Vidal Sullivan.

During a JFP ride-along in 2006, Mayor Frank Melton embraced Maurice Warner while hunting for Vidal Sullivan. Photo by Brian Johnson

Also see: The Mysteries of Frank Melton
Full Melton Blog/Archive Here.

Of all the young men in Jackson that Mayor Frank Melton has befriended and mentored over the years, Maurice Warner was one of the most special to him. Melton met Warner when he was new to Jackson. He was CEO of WLBT and the young man was 14, Melton said in a series of 2006 interviews with the Jackson Free Press. "I never have lost contact with Maurice, but we could go six or seven months without me seeing or talking to Maurice, but it's the kind of thing where I could pick up the phone and call Maurice, and he would come and see me, or I would go and see him," Melton said in a 2006 interview in City Hall.

Over the ensuing 25 years, Melton has stayed close to Warner, even embracing him in public when running into the younger man on Pleasant Avenue in the Wood Street area. Warner had long lived in that area near his extended family—he is the father of 15 children and grandfather to 11—on the same blocks where neighborhood residents say that Warner has long sold drugs, and perhaps even directed a drug trade with younger dealers, at least some of them in their teens.

His close relationship with Melton, and with his wife LaToya Warner and children, came to an end, though, on Christmas Day. About 5:30 p.m., witnesses say that Saheed Davis, supposedly the boyfriend of LaToya's sister, went to his car, got a gun and shot Warner, then 39, multiple times in LaToya's grandmother's yard on Roosevelt Street, following some sort of misunderstanding. He died at the University Medical Center, with at least 18 bullet wounds in his body.

At his press conference about crime Tuesday, Melton talked about Warner's murder. "[T]his is something that happened in front of 25 people. It did happen. We know for a fact that we have a human being who's lost his life. We know for a fact the human being who took his life. We can go through the presumption of innocence all we like, but it is what it is, and it needs to be dealt with. I can't get into where Davis is. I don't want to hinder the investigation," Melton said.

Melton also confirmed that Warner had dealt drugs, but discounted reports that he had been dealing in recent months: "No, ma'am."

He did not confirm reports that Warner and Davis, who has not been apprehended, might have been involved in some sort of feud. "I can't go by hearsay. I can say I've arrested both of them at MBN. I arrested Saheed on a narcotics charge. I arrested Maurice on an obstruction of justice charge, for hiding Vidal Sullivan, and we were able to resolve that, but these homicides are mostly drug-driven, and Saheed and Maurice were both involved in the distribution of narcotics," Melton said.

In 2006, Melton talked about his close relationship with Warner, whom he calls by his street name "Nub," as well as Warner's cousin Anthony "Danky" Staffney. "At 16 years old, he worked at WLBT," he said of Warner. "He and Anthony both; I used to use them as janitors up there. And if I'm not mistaken, Donna, it was really like the last job they ever had. I brought them in, and they cleaned up the building and that sort of stuff along with some other kids."

In addition, Melton had what he now calls a painful relationship with Anthony's brother, Joseph Staffney, one of his "best friends," who also worked at WLBT as well as headed a drug gang, The Folks. (Brother Anthony headed rival gang, Vice Lords, Melton said.)

Melton talked often in interviews about Joseph Staffney, who died in a still-unsolved murder on May 13, 1990, also in front of witnesses including his brother Anthony, according to police reports. Police later investigated Melton's possible role in that shooting due to reports that Joe Staffney had accused Melton of sexual misconduct the year before, but Staffney later retracted that accusation. Melton talked openly about former Police Chief Jimmy Wilson's suspicions of him and others in Joe Staffney's death, clearly hoping to clear his name of a crime he has never been charged with. He says police put Staffney up to making the accusation.

Melton said he should have worked harder to save Joe Staffney, but that the rumors about the two of them kept him away.

"That was my mistake, and I'll have to live with that for the rest of my life. And Joe and I were very close, and he called me for some help. And because of all this garbage that goes around and my immaturity at the time, I didn't want to go down there because of all the rumors, this, that and the other, and I made a mistake, and he's dead," Melton told in 2006 interviews with the JFP.

Warner and Anthony Staffney stayed close to Melton over the years, as well as to each other, Melton said. When talking about them in the City Hall interviews, it was only weeks after the two men, along with Vidal Sullivan, had been acquitted of the murder of Carey Bias after a witness recanted his testimony. Soon after the acquittal, Warner returned to Pleasant Avenue, and Anthony Staffney went to work for the city and even sat in on one of the Melton interviews.

Melton also hired Maurice's brother, Marlon, to work for the city, first for the parks division, and later to oversee other "formerly incarcerated" workers Melton had brought in, an appointment he announced right before the 2007 district attorney's election between Melton nemesis Faye Peterson and challenger Robert S. Smith, who had previously defended many of Melton's young friends. Marlon "Mickey" Warner had pled to the lesser charge of manslaughter in 1994 after being charged with the murder of Willie Everett.

Warner's manslaughter plea deal came under former District Attorney Ed Peters, a long-time friend of Melton's. The prosecutor in the case was then-Assistant District Attorney Bobby DeLaughter, now a Hinds County Circuit Judge, and Warner was defended by Public Defender Tom Fortner's office. Warner served six years for Everett's death and was released in 2000.

More recently, Marlon Warner, 33, pled to possession of cocaine on Feb. 2, 2005, for which he served about a year. The private attorney who asked for that plea deal was Robert S. Smith. Smith was also Anthony Staffney's defense attorney in the Bias murder case in 2006. Since taking office last year, however, Smith has released damning accusations against Melton, reportedly angering the mayor who once claimed him as "one of mine."

Melton's extended and complicated family-and-friend tree has included Maurice Warner's children, too, some of whom law-enforcement sources say were on the Mobile Command Center when Melton allegedly led the Ridgeway duplex demolition in August 2006 (see page 14). In 2006, Melton talked about helping Warner's son, Terrell, around the time the father was arrested for the Bias murder.

"The last time (Maurice) and I met before he went to prison, or to jail rather, he was having trouble with one of his kids not going to school—Terrell, specifically—and he told me he needed to talk to me about Terrell, and I've known Terrell since the day he was born. So we generally sat around and talked about some strategy to make Terrell stay in high school and get off the streets because Maurice saw Terrell going the wrong direction, and what I saw was Terrell emulating his daddy. So the daddy was kind of ineffective dealing with him. Shirlene (Anderson), the police chief, and I had an interdiction with Terrell on Fortification (Street) where we actually caught some drugs on him and kind of had to deal with it," Melton said then.

Media reports have linked Warner and Staffney with the reputed Wood Street Players organization, but Melton has long drawn distinctions between those friends and Albert "Batman" Donelson and associates, saying that his mentees are among the only people he can trust in Jackson. (Donelson also denies helming a Wood Street Players gang.)

And as Melton said in 2006, he believed they needed him to save them. "f I don't do something with Nub, I'm going to lose Nub again, too," Melton said. "I know it. I've known them all of their lives. Nobody will hire them. They've got children. They feel hopeless. They get desperate."

In 2006, Melton said that the Warners and Staffneys have been pivotal to his own development in Jackson. "I love them, and I will always love them. But they taught me so much about what was going on in the streets, including Anthony's brother (Joseph Staffney) and that sort of thing."

Comment on this story and follow Melton's trial and breaking news at meltonblog.com.

Previous Comments

ID
142587
Comment

Great reporting here that no one, absolutely no one else in Jackson could have produced. This exemplifies the difference between real journalism and the toilet paper they print over at the Clarion-Ledger. Thank you, Donna, for this fascinating glimpse into Melton's world. If only he would have given you more interviews!

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2008-12-31T10:16:24-06:00
ID
142588
Comment

Test comment. Comments not showing up.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-12-31T10:49:13-06:00
ID
142590
Comment

Working now. WOO HOO! Anyway, looking at the title, is there anyone Melton knows that he hasn't had a complicated relationship with?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-12-31T10:57:22-06:00
ID
142591
Comment

You're welcome, Brian. You just gotta be willing, you know. BTW, I forgot to put in this story above that Anthony Staffney and Marlon Warner oversaw Melton's youth camp in Jefferson Davis County last year. I have too much material to remember it all sometimes.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-31T10:59:40-06:00
ID
142594
Comment

Keeping track of this tangled web would tax anyone. It's sobering to contemplate what 18 bullet wounds must have done to Warner. Is there any word on what kind of weapon was used? Assuming it's a semiautomatic 9 millimeter, it would usually only fire 16 bullets (15 in the clip, 1 in the chamber), but a single bullet might have passed through his hand, say, and struck his chest as well. Also, if Joseph Staffney was murdered in front of witnesses, why was no one ever charged? Or were they? There is so much I would like to know about that murder.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2008-12-31T11:40:55-06:00
ID
142597
Comment

Apparently, Brian, there were conflicting witness reports, and some witnesses who would not cooperate.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-31T12:13:07-06:00
ID
142598
Comment

This is a really good story. I am really enjoying the great coverage of our mayor. It makes me wish I had been reading your paper before I voted for this disaster.

Author
WMartin
Date
2008-12-31T12:19:23-06:00
ID
142602
Comment

Well, you are now! ;-) Hang tight: Korey is about to post the rest of the special Melton coverage from this special issue that is hitting the streets as we speak. Lots and lots there on the mayor.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-31T14:15:04-06:00
ID
142603
Comment

Also, if Joseph Staffney was murdered in front of witnesses, why was no one ever charged? Or were they? Probably that "Don't Snitch" thing that's run rampant in da hood deez dayz.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-12-31T14:28:30-06:00
ID
142618
Comment

Don't snitch started in Sicily, ya know.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2008-12-31T19:02:16-06:00

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