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Residents React to Hatchie Bottom Tragedy

Hatchie Bottom is a secluded area near the Tippah/Alcorn County line where people socialize on weekends, mud ride and possibly drink. Tragedy occurred there early Sunday when off-duty MHP Trooper Josh Smith was found deceased. The suspect, Troy Anthony Eaton, top left, has been charged with capital murder.

Suspect Charged With Capital Murder in Off-Duty MHP Trooper’s Death

By Josh Mitchell

Corinth Today News Editor

The circumstances that led to an off-duty Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper being shot and killed remain unclear.

Josh Smith, 32, was pronounced deceased in Hatchie Bottom near the Alcorn/Tippah County line at around 12:45 a.m. Sunday.

Suspect Troy Anthony Eaton, 43, surrendered to authorities about five hours later. Eaton has been charged with capital murder and attempted murder. He was arraigned Monday afternoon in Benton County Circuit Court and was held without bond.

Rickie Dale Vick, 38, of Michigan City,  was also shot and transported to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

People who know Eaton and Smith were shocked that the tragedy occurred.

Retired Mississippi Highway Patrolman Freddie Corbin said “all troopers are like family” and that Smith was a “good person” who would always help people.

Corbin added that Smith was a husband and father and loved being part of the highway patrol.

Smith had recently had foot surgery and was assigned to light duty helping out at the driver’s license office in Corinth, Corbin noted.

Smith worked the Tippah County area while Corbin was assigned to Prentiss County, but both were part of the same Troop F, based in New Albany. Corbin said some people joked that they were the “F Troop.”

Corbin also said Smith was part of the MHP SWAT team and was a member of the motorcycle unit.

Corbin works security in the same place where Smith was helping with the driver’s license office. Smith had a quiet demeanor, and Corbin said he saw him last Wednesday.

For the past two days all he has thought about is Smith getting killed.

“He was an outstanding guy,” Corbin added.

Some people also had nice things to say about the suspect, Eaton.

Martha Eaton, who said she is not related to the suspect, said he is a “very good man” and that she has known him about six years. She described Eaton as an easygoing person who liked to joke around. She added that he is always willing to help others and that she has never seen him act out in a violent manner.

People who know Eaton said he is married and has a daughter.

Hoyt Davis, who lives just down the road from Eaton on County Road 518 in Alcorn County, said he has known Eaton and his dad their whole lives.

Davis, 74, said Eaton and his dad worked together on roofing projects and various carpentry work. In fact, Davis said he tilled up Eaton’s garden for him and that Eaton fixed his roof for free last year. Eaton and his dad did some counter top work at Davis’ house as well, and Eaton had also broken horses for Davis in the past.

Davis said he has known Eaton since he was just a little boy and never knew him to get into any kind of trouble or bother anybody.

“It’s a sad situation both ways,” Davis said.

For some reason, Hatchie Bottom, known as a place where people socialize, mud ride and possibly drink on the weekends, was a scene of tragedy involving Eaton and Smith.

Hatchie Bottom is not an easy place for non-locals to find. One person described the directions as going past the building marked Red-Eye Saloon on State Highway 2 and then crossing over two bridges and taking a right at the dairy barn.

Motorists then wind their way around until coming to a fork in the gravel road. Take a right at the fork, and then a concrete, spray-painted bridge is seen with sandy roads leading further into the bottom.

Tragically, Smith did not come out of Hatchie Bottom alive Sunday.

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