J.D. “Bubba” Roseman, the first black sheriff of Humphreys County, is a convivial man. In his office and in casual conversations on the street in this town of 2,200, he engages people quickly and easily, inquiring about a son on the football team, a niece in college or a grandmother in the hospital. He talks loud and fast, always smiling, and works a deep, infectious laugh into just about every conversation.
But when Roseman, 57, talks about Kathy Mabry, the mirth drains from his face. His brow straightens. He speaks softly. He pauses from time to time to swallow the catch that latches onto his words, and his eyes sometimes well up. It’s an unexpected thing from a stout man wearing a gun.
Mabry was murdered here in 1997 at the age of 39. This part of America once produced murder ballads about brutal crimes like this one — blues greats like Pinetop Perkins, Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson have all called Humphreys County home.