This week, Montgomery County Sheriff Bubba Nix will begin a new challenge in a different field. After nearly 26 years in law enforcement, Nix has accepted the position as manager of Bella Mia Ranch, a 1,000 acre hunting camp in Montgomery County.
“I’m as happy as I can be,” Nix said of his new endeavor.
Serving 12 years as Montgomery County’s sheriff, Nix was not re-elected to the seat in the 2019 election, but he said God always has a plan.
“Don’t worry -- I’m good. I’m blessed,” Nix said. “God is good, and he’ll take care of you, and he will take care of me.”
Nix will fulfill his duties as sheriff through December 31, and then he is off to the great outdoors.
“[My new position] all took place because of friendship,” Nix said.
Nix said during his tenure as sheriff, he became friends with Dan Robbins of Louisiana, owner of the Bella Mia Ranch in Poplar Creek. With a number of employment offers for when he left office, Nix chose to work for Robbins. It’s much less stressful than law enforcement, and Nix said that is a relief to him and his family.
“That is an ease [of heart] for the family,” Nix said. “They don’t have to worry about me anymore.”
Although he is heading in a different direction in life, Nix said he has enjoyed serving the people of Montgomery County for the last 12 years.
“I loved [being sheriff],” Nix said. “I did my best for Montgomery County, and I can sleep good at night because I’ve done my best.”
Nix began his career in law enforcement in 1989 with the Winona Police Department, working under Chief John Johnson.
“[Law enforcement] was something I always loved,” Nix said. “John Johnson hired me back in 1989, and I loved it. I think I was making something like $5 an hour.”
Nix said in his first year in law enforcement, he received an opportunity to go and work with Mississippi Power and Light, for triple his patrolman salary, and he accepted the position. However, he still served part-time under Sheriff Robert Tompkins and Sheriff Bill Thornburg to continue working in law enforcement.
“Every time I heard a siren, I thought, ‘What’s going on?’”
When Mississippi Power and Light was taken over by Entergy, Nix was laid off, and he went back to law enforcement at the Winona Police Department under Chief Johnny Hargrove.
“Law enforcement had been my thing,” Nix said. “You have to love the job to stay in it. You don’t do it for the money. Most [officers] have other jobs. But you can help a lot of people.”
Nix said so often law enforcement is criticized, but helping people has its own rewards.
“You feel the appreciation, and it feels good,” Nix said. “The big thing is your family standing behind you, because [the job] takes a toll on them, too.”
When Nix ran for Sheriff in 2007, he ran because he wanted to serve the people.
“I’m not a politician,” Nix said. “I was here to serve the people of Montgomery County. In the 12 years, I’ve learned a lot. You can’t please everyone.”
Nix said three cases have remained in his thoughts over the years – one of which he is most proud, one that has stuck with him over the years, and a cold case that he wish he could have closed.
On December 1, 2009, William McChristian, 45, was murdered in his home on Minerva Road. Curtis Davis, Jr., McChristian’s son-in-law was arrested and charged with the murder, and his step-daughter, Nadjala Davis, and another woman, Betty Young, were also charged in connection with the murder.
Nix said the McChristian case was his first homicide investigation, and he will never forget it.
“I remember working that night, and calling the [Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics] to come in and assist,” Nix said. “It was cold that night, and I was looking around, seeing who was there standing behind the yellow [crime scene] tape. I saw the son-in-law and the daughter in the crowd.”
Nix said he picked up Curtis Davis, Jr., and took him to the Mississippi Crime Lab in Batesville to conduct a polygraph test. He said as the polygraph examiner prepared for the test, he went back inside the room with Davis.
“I told him that people make mistakes and that no one is perfect,” Nix said. “I told him that he should come clean. Then he admitted to the whole murder – everything. I still get chill bumps just thinking about it.”
Nix said that was his first homicide investigation, and he and the other officers had been working hard to solve the case.
“I wish all cases would be like that,” Nix said.
Davis pleaded guilty of McChristian’s murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Nadjala Davis and Young pleaded guilty as well to lesser charges in an agreement with the prosecution. Nadjala Davis was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison with five years to serve, and Young was sentenced to five years in prison with all five suspended.
However, in law enforcement, in some cases, there is just not enough information or evidence to make an arrest. Currently, there are three unsolved homicide cases open at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department -- the murder of Shayla Miers, 23, of Duck Hill on April 5, 2013; the murder of Devante Tyrone Bibbs, 22, of Winona on September 23, 2014; and the murder of Anthony “Railroad” Hamer, 40, of Montgomery County on September 12, 2016.
Nix said investigators worked long and hard on these cases, but they could not get enough information or cooperation to make arrests in the cases.
Nix said he spent nearly one year investigating a cold case dating back to 1979 of a missing man, Dennis Mann, who is presumed dead.
“Chuck Post with the [Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s] Cold Case Unit came up, and we re-opened the investigation,” Nix said. “I worked on it hard my whole first year. [Mann’s] mother just wanted closure.”
Nix said he followed every tip he had to locate Mann’s remains, even digging up an old water well, however, the case remains unsolved and Mann’s whereabouts are still unknown.
The murder of a young man by his father is one that has stayed with Nix since it occurred on March 13, 2014, as much for Nix’s role in apprehending the suspect as the horror of the crime itself.
Matthew Dearinger, 33, of Olive Branch was shot to death at a residence on Sawyer Road on the evening of March 13, 2014. Britt Dearinger, 57, the victim’s father, was arrested and charged with the murder his son.
After Britt Dearinger called 911 and reported the shooting, Nix responded to the scene. Nix and Britt Dearinger both worked as officers at the Winona Police Department, and they had been in touch since leaving the department.
Nix said as he got closer to the scene, he called Dearinger, and Dearinger said Nix and no one else could come onto his property.
“He threatened to shoot anyone else,” Nix said, adding that he instructed his deputies to stay at a neighboring home. “He told me to pull in the driveway. I had my firearm beside me, and I was wearing my [bulletproof] vest. I got out and stood behind the door. Brett has a rifle pointed right at me.”
Nix remembered the standoff lasting for hours, with him the only one Dearinger would speak with.
“I remember thinking of how to apprehend him,” Nix said.
Eventually, the opportunity to disarm Dearinger and take him into custody presented itself.
“I charged him, and got him on the ground and handcuffed,” Nix said.
Originally charged with first-degree murder, Brett Dearinger pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a plea agreement with the prosecution in October 2015. He was sentenced to 30 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with 25 years to serve and five years on supervised probation.
“If it hadn’t been for my faith, I wouldn’t have done the things I have done,” Nix said.
Nix said he will miss the people he worked with the most, and not just those he worked with in Montgomery County.
“I’m going to miss the people, all the contacts, and law enforcement friends,” Nix said. “Just the friendships we had working together.”
Since November’s General Election, Nix has been working with Jeff Tompkins, the sheriff-elect, to transition him into the position.
“It will be a smooth transition,” Nix said, adding that he will be around if he is needed.