Murder account ‘Deer Creek Drive’ has special Vicksburg connection

Published 4:26 pm Friday, October 21, 2022

Beginning at 3 p.m. on Oct. 31, Beverly Lowry, author of “Deer Creek Drive,” will have a book signing at Lorelei Books, 1103 Washington St., with free refreshments offered.

The nonfiction work by Lowry recounts the brutal Leland murder in 1948 of Idella Thompson by her daughter Ruth Dickins. Dickins was the only person in the house at the time of the murder, but she claimed she saw a Black man fleeing from the scene.

No evidence was found to substantiate Dickins’ claim; therefore, she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

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With the Jim Crow South still front-and-center in the small town, and after petitions pleading for her release, Dickins was set free after only serving just six years of her life sentence.

Lowry was only 10 at the time of the murder, but this story and its aftermath have played a part in her own upbringing in Mississippi. In addition to Lowry being on hand for the signing, Vicksburg resident Penny Varner will also be at Lorelei.

Varner’s father, Stanny Sanders, was the young District Attorney who prosecuted the case in Greenville.

“Beverly Lowry captured an amazing, true Delta story from 1948 and will travel to Texas to wow us with the background of this sensational murder,” Lorelei Books owner Kelle Barfield said. “An especially interesting twist is the connection of Penny Varner’s father to the events almost 75 years ago. Having a Vicksburg link makes Beverly’s unfolding of the details all the more compelling for us.”

Although only 2 years old at the time of the trial, Varner said, during her childhood she had “overheard” talk about the “gruesome” murder.

Thompson had been stabbed 150 times and left face down in a bathroom of her home.

“The ‘Dickins Trial’ was famous,” Varner said. “My mother clipped every newspaper article and murder magazine about the trial and the memorabilia ended up with me — the only surviving member of the Sanders family.”

Varner was unaware of Lowry’s book about the murder, she said, until Mack, her husband, saw it in the Clarion Ledger.

“We actually found out about it from reading the newspaper. Mack was looking at the book section and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this,’” Varner said.

Since the couple was set to go out of town to visit their grandson at college in Athens, Ga., Varner said they ordered a copy of the book.

After it arrived Varner said, “I opened it up and my daddy’s name was on the first page.”

Varner, who had not known Lowry, said not only had the book about her dad’s trial 70 years ago been a shock, “But seeing his name in print, alive on paper, page after page, was an emotional experience I cannot describe.”

After calling a friend who called a friend, Varner said, she was able to connect with Lowry.

“I invited her to come to see me and am so thrilled it has worked out, and I want to thank Beverly Lowry for the vivid portrait she painted of my father who passed away 50 years ago. It is a rare and tender gift,” Varner said.



About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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