World War II veteran Lawrence “Shine’ Thornton was fatally mugged in his own driveway by four teenagers in Greenville, Miss, police allege.
The assailants reportedly pushed him down to the ground and stole his wallet. He tragically died two days later at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
Thornton, 72, was a local celebrity in the Mississippi delta region because of his hot tamales. He was named king of the 2012 Delta Hot Tamale Festival for his signature dish called “Maria’s Famous Hot Tamales’ which he named after his wife.
Police arrested four teens — two 19-year-olds and two 18-year-olds — for the crime and charged them with capital murder, robbery, and conspiracy to commit murder. Capital murder means that they could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted. They are being held without bail in Washington County Jail.
Thornton served as a fireman on a minesweeper in the Pacific theater during the war. After completing his military service, he worked as an electrician for many years before opening a liquor store. Concerned about making ends met, he eventually went into the hot tamale business.
His obituary stated in part that “Thornton was well known in the Delta region for his Maria’s Famous Hot Tamales, which he began cooking in 1984, and named for his wife, Mary. He won many awards for his hot tamales through the years and loved sharing them with others. He was featured in numerous publications and videos about hot tamales and was interviewed in 2005 for the Mississippi Hot Tamale Trail. In 2012, he was crowned king of the inaugural Delta Hot Tamale Festival. Shine had a lifelong love of music. He earned his nickname Shine in high school when he began picking out the notes to ‘You are My Sunshine’ during the intermission of a performance. Members of the band started calling him Sunshine and eventually shortened it to Shine.”
In August, another WWII hero was viciously attacked in the state of Washington. Delbert Belton, 88, was beaten to death by two teenagers in what appeared to be a random act of violence. Benton died the next morning at a local hospital.