Vicksburg, Miss. (WJTV) — Kuhn Hospital in Vicksburg has a storied past. A chilling murder murder there in 2015 caught the attention of Mississippi, the nation, and ghost hunters.
“It is dilapidated,” says Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs. “It’s an eyesore for our community and it would be better for us to demolish it, flatten it, and redevelop it as something around a housing development with recreation in mind and some retail development.”
And if Mayor Flaggs has his way, Kuhn Hospital on Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard will be demolished sooner rather than later. The city has received two grants for the project totaling $420,000.
There are two options the city is considering right now. One involves shops near the roadway with housing in the back. Option two creates a recreation center.
Mayor Flaggs estimates it will cost $800,000 to demolish and cleanup the site — although Community Development Director Victor Gray-Lewis says the cost may go down. Already, a committee has been organized to determine how to use the money. They had their first meeting last week.
“We’re in the process now of making sure all those conditions with the EPA is met and I think it’s going real good,” says Flaggs.
One thing is certain; the front building will come down. The roof is caving in and Gray-Lewis says it’s unsalvageable. But what will happen to the building in the back is still up in the air. “We did find asbestos in both buildings and in the back building, which I think we call the south, has an underground storage tank that’s still 3 quarters full of petroleum left over from 30 years, 40 years ago, still there,” says Gray-Lewis.
He goes on to say, “It has good bones if you will. So the question is do we try to take that building? Or do we just clean the asbestos, remove the underground storage tanks, and then maybe it can be repurposed into another use.”
The hospital hasn’t always been in this condition. It was first built in 1832 in a wooden, antebellum home in response to a smallpox outbreak. Then the main building was added sometime later and a second building, the south building as it’s called, was built in 1959. Both of those buildings stayed open until 1989. But there is the element of the paranormal here.
Ghost hunters visited the hospital in 2015. It was a Sunday night and they stumbled across a trail of blood leading out of this building and to the body of 69 year old Sharen Wilson.
“It’s probably the only time I would say this but thank God for the paranormal investigators because they were the ones that found the body of the victim,” says Warren County District Attorney Ricky Smith.
Warren County District Attorney Ricky Smith came to the scene himself the following Monday morning and would go on to prosecute the case.
Rafael and Akeem McCloud were picked up in Wilson’s stolen car after running a stop sign in Leland, Mississippi.
“Of course, the focus was on Akeem just as it was on Rafael,” says Smith. “But further investigation seemed to indicate Akeem McCloud was picked up by Rafael McCloud in the victim’s vehicle the morning after the death of the victim. That at the time he was picked up, Akeem did not know what Rafael had done.”
Charges against Akeem were later dropped. And Rafael McCloud quickly confessed to police that he had watched Wilson at her home on Drummond Street, figured out where she kept a spare key, broke in, assaulted her, and took her to Kuhn Hospital where she was shot and killed. A shell casing found at the hospital matched a stolen gun found with Rafael during his arrest.
“Never gave a motivation. Never really gave a reason. The confession was one of the most matter of fact – it would be like you describing getting up and going to church on Sunday and to dinner afterwards. It was a very matter of fact confession. A very matter of fact statement that seemed to have no remorse to it or any type of feeling to it.”
Mayor George Flaggs recalled Wilson as caring and supportive of his campaign for Mayor. “My prayers go out to family continuous. You know, I went to the funeral and, in fact, she’s over there, her obituary is over there. I keep it and it reminds me, what a tragedy, it reminds me that it was unfortunate, unnecessary and we just move forward, as the families move forward. I’ve talked to them since then and I think we’ll try to put this behind but we’ll never forget her and what she did for the community.”
Rafael’s story didn’t end after his arrest. In 2016, he escaped from the Warren County Jail and remained on the run for over a week.
DA Smith says by this time he had decided to pursue the death penalty for Rafael. But things didn’t play out that way. On March 10, 2016, Rafael broke into this home in Vicksburg, holding a man, woman and child hostage. After several hours, the woman managed to reach a gun, shooting and killing Rafael.
Now, more than two years later, Mayor Flaggs says Sharen’s death, in part, spurred the change happening at Kuhn. “It’s unfortunate, but we don’t want to create any more opportunities for any fatalities or any type of negative things for that area. So we thought it would be in our best interest just to get rid of it.”
Smith says the demolition isn’t soon enough, “It should have been demolished long ago. I understand there’s a lot of legal avenues that have to be taken before something like that can happen but that building is a blight on our community. It attracts…luckily now it’s been fenced in. It appears a fence has been placed around it. But it attracts people like Rafael McCloud who feel they can go there and do the illegal activity that they may not be able to do other places.”
The city should hold a meeting in December to get community input. By February of next year, they hope to have a plan in place to demolish and redevelop the site.