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Cops: Man Took Kid’s Life Preserver

May 22, 2000

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (AP) _ One sunny and windy spring Sunday, 7-year-old Dallas Reinhardt Peeples went fishing with her stepfather and her 4-year-old brother, Garrett. The family’s live-in friend, Troy Carlisle, tagged along.

The children’s mother, Kerri Peeples, dressed them, brushed their blond hair and sent them off. ``I told them I loved them and I’d see them when they got back,″ she said.

Only one of the children returned.

Police say both children fell out of the family boat into Arkabutla Lake. Dallas’ stepfather rescued Garrett, and Carlisle swam out to Dallas. But instead of rescuing the girl, authorities believe, the strong currents caused Carlisle to panic and tear the girl’s life preserver away from her to save himself.

Dallas drowned. Her body was recovered three days later, on May 10.

That same day, Carlisle, 28, was accused of murder under a Mississippi law that stipulates that the charge is warranted when a crime ``was done in the commission of an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved heart.″

If convicted, he could face life in prison. Carlisle was on suicide watch in the county jail. The sheriff’s department said he had declined requests for media interviews.

It could not be determined if an attorney had been appointed to represent Carlisle. Attorney Darrin Vance said he only represented Carlisle during his bond hearing.

Phil Cottam, DeSoto County’s assistant chief deputy sheriff, was among the roughly 300 law officers who assisted in the search for Dallas. It was the child’s stepfather, Kenneth, who finally found her body.

``She still had her hair in a little ponytail and when I saw it ... it tore me up,″ Cottam said. ``I thought, `How can somebody do this to a child?‴

Carlisle had worked for Peeples family at their automotive shop before they closed it down a week before the drowning. He was facing charges of cocaine possession but was free on bond at the time of the fishing trip, authorities said.

Kerri Peeples said she and her husband wanted to help their friend. They offered him shelter in the two-bedroom apartment. ``We even paid for his attorney,″ she said.

She said that her children often played with Carlisle, whom they nicknamed ``Troy Boy,″ and that the five of them had spent time together on the family boat last summer.

Cottam would not elaborate on the case against Carlisle. But he did say 4-year-old Garrett is a possible witness.

``He enlightened us quite a bit,″ Cottam said. ``We feel strongly we have a good charge.″

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