A hometown hero: SPD lieutenant presented with award 

Starkville Police Department Lt. Bill Lott (left) was “speechless” with his wife, Donna Lott, (right) when he was awarded the Modern Woodmen Hometown Hero Award at the Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night. (Photo by Faith Lifer, SDN)

Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial presented SPD Lt. Bill Lott with the Modern Woodmen Hometown Hero Award at the Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night. 

Lott was awarded for the tireless effort he put into the former 1990 Labor Day cold case, which became active with the arrest of suspect Michael Wayne Devaughn on Oct. 6.

Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial Representative Barbara Coats presented Lott his award Tuesday night.

“One of the honors that I have as an advisor with Modern Woodmen is to recognize hometown heroes,” Coats opened. “A hometown hero is somebody who, either through their work or through their volunteer activities, has gone above and beyond and has impacted other people’s lives.”

Coats said Mayor Lynn Spruill suggested Lott as a hometown hero in early October, around the time of Devaughn’s arrest. 

“Back in 1990, there were some murders here in Starkville and people’s lives were forever changed,” Coats said. “28 years later a lot of people forgot about it, a lot of people didn’t know what was going on, but our (Oktibbeha County) Sheriff’s Department and our Starkville Police Department never forgot about it.”

“But one man really never forgot about it,” Coats added. “And so we would like to recognize Bill Lott as a Modern Woodmen Hometown Hero.”

The award was a surprise for a speechless Lott who sat amongst the audience. 

“I’m honored and, it’s the one time in my life that I am truly speechless,” Lott laughed. “Because I was not expecting this.”

“My ears started turning red when (Coats) started talking about the murder case because I knew something was up” Lott said. “I’m not usually at a loss for words but I’m just shocked. I really am.”

“It’s a gift form God is all I can say,” Lott added. “I was just a vessel he used.”

Lott’s wife, Donna Lott, made up a story to get Bill Lott to the board meeting so he would be surprised. 

“I’m very proud of him because he’s worked on (the case) for a very long time,” Donna Lott said. “He’s worked hard, he’s put a lot of time in it and he’s lost lots of hours of sleep. He worries, ‘What if I can do this? Well what if I can’t do this?’”

 “Hopefully he’ll get his verdict soon and it will be an end,” Donna Lott said. 

 As previously reported by the Starkville Daily News, Devaughn’s arrest comes after an incident that led to the death of Betty Jones and the sexual assault of Kathryn Crigler on Labor Day in 1990 on the 300 block of Lee Street, now Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. Devaughn was arrested on one count of capital murder and one count of sexual battery after the DNA from one of his cigarette butts matched DNA evidence from the scene of the crime. 

Jones’ sister Anne McWhorter was at the board meeting Tuesday for Bill Lott’s award presentation. 

“It’s well deserving. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty to work on this case. He’s been very passionate about it all the way through,” McWhorter said. “It’s a good feeling. I’ve had a good feeling with our (Starkville) Police Department all the way through the very beginning when it started with (Former SPD Chief) David Lindley. They worked diligently on this case trying to come up with who did it.”

Yet McWhorter rightly acknowledged the case is not over. 

“Bill has worked hard on this. We’re real proud of him and we still have a ways to go,” McWhorter said. “We know it’s going to be hard but hopefully we’ll get the final results that we want.”

Bill Lott said he would start the case over again if necessary. 

“If I had to start all over today and do it again I would,” Bill Lott said. “One thing about it is you can’t put a timeframe solving a case. You just don’t know what’s going to break it, what’s going to spring it or what event.”

“We’ll never have completely back to normal but now we’ll have justice,” Bill Lott added. 

SPD Chief Frank Nichols said he’s also proud of Bill Lott. 

“First of all, I’m proud of Bill for the work that he’s done and not giving up on that,” Nichols said. “I’m also happy with the community to recognize him. That just shows that hard work pays off. And for the community to recognize him is a huge deal.”
“This reinforces (the officers) that the community is behind them and they’ll work that much harder,” Nichols added.

Spruill said she believes service to Starkville like Bill Lott showed is important in the community.

“It’s important because it says we care— our employees care, our citizens care,” Spruill said. “We all come together to try to make (Starkville) better and anytime somebody’s hurting or has problems or issues you want to be helpful and make that right.”
Bill Lott said moments like these are just another reason he loves Starkville. 

“I’m just grateful to be appreciated, but that’s why I love Starkville,” Bill Lott said. “I came here and went to college and I fell in love with this city and I stayed.”

The Modern Woodmen award comes with a $100 donation to the recipients’ charity of choice and Lott chose to donate the money to United Way.