Cari Campbell Cullum is a 34-year-old Mississippi teacher who has been charged with attempted murder after police said she intentionally drove into a lake with her young daughter in the car on September 21, 2019.
Cullum and the 2-year-old child were rescued by a friend of Cullum’s she had called that morning. Police did not release the man’s name. The incident occurred in Columbus, Mississippi.
Cullum is an elementary school teacher and the mother of three children. She appeared in Lowndes County Municipal Court on September 30. The judge set bond at $400,000 and ordered Cullum not to have contact with her children, public information officer Joe Dillon told Heavy.
Heavy has also learned that Cullum is facing additional charges of child endangerment for a separate incident that happened in August of 2019.
Here’s what you need to know about Cari Cullum:
1. The Police Chief Says ‘This Was Not an Accident’
Police in Columbus, Mississippi, are investigating the case as attempted murder. Officials say Cari Campbell Cullum drove to Columbus Lake early in the morning on September 21, 2019. She then backed her SUV into the water off a boat ramp near the Columbus Lock and Dam. Her two-year-old daughter was also in the vehicle at the time. The 911 call was made around 3:15 a.m.
Chief Fred Shelton explained in a news release emailed to Heavy that preliminary evidence indicates that Cullum drove the vehicle into the lake on purpose. “This is a tragic case and we believe this was not an accident… Her children are in the care of another person at this time.”
Emergency responders took Cullum and her daughter to a nearby hospital the night of the incident.
Cullum was arrested on September 27. She has been charged with attempted murder.
2. Cullum’s Friend, Whom She Had Called Earlier, Dove Into the Lake, Smashed the Window of Cullum’s SUV & Pulled Her & Her Child to Safety
Cari Campbell Cullum had called a friend early that morning. That phone call may have been what ultimately saved her life and that of her daughter’s.
According to the Columbus Police Department, the man went into the lake and smashed a window of the SUV to get Cullum and her daughter out. He rescued them before emergency responders even had a chance to get there.
In a phone call with Heavy, Police Chief Fred Shelton said Cullum’s relationship with the man who rescued her and her daughter was not immediately clear. His name has not been made public.
After the rescue, Shelton described the man to NBC affiliate WTVA-TV, “The man that put his own life at risk to save these two people is a hero. We would never tell anyone to take such actions, but he did what he had to do. I am convinced the outcome would have been much worse without his life-saving work.”
3. Cari Cullum Was Arrested On Suspicion of DUI Weeks Before Police Said She Drove Into the Lake
Cari Campbell Cullum was arrested a few weeks prior to driving her SUV into Columbus Lake. According to Chief of Police Fred Shelton, Cullum was arrested on August 11, 2019, on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Cullum was charged with DUI and child endangerment. Chief Shelton told Heavy over the phone that Cullum’s two-year-old daughter and 11-year-old child had been in the vehicle with her at the time of the DUI arrest, which is why the child endangerment charge was added.
That case is being handled in Columbus Municipal Court. As of October 1, the case had not yet been brought before a judge and Cullum had not been convicted.
4. Cari Cullum Is a Second-Grade Teacher in Hamilton, Mississippi
Cari Campbell Cullum is an elementary school teacher. According to her Facebook page, she works at Hamilton Elementary School and teaches second grade.
As of October 1, Cullum was still listed on the Monroe County School District’s faculty page as a second-grade teacher. The superintendent of the district, Brian Jernigan, told the Clarion-Ledger, “This is something that we’re working through now as a district” when asked about Cullum’s arrest.
The faculty page lists her as “Mrs. Cari Cullum.” But on her Facebook page, Cullum lists her relationship status as divorced. The Columbus Police Chief mentioned in a phone call with Heavy that Cullum had referred to having a husband, but that he wasn’t entirely clear on her marital status. Marriage and divorce records in Mississippi are not immediately available online.
On Facebook, she uses the name Cari Diana Campbell. Her Twitter page, which is set to private, includes both the last names Cullum and Coleman.
5. Cari Cullum Graduated From the Mississippi University for Women, According to Her Facebook Page
Cari Campbell Cullum is a Mississippi native, according to her Facebook page. She graduated from the now-closed Central Academy in Macon in 2003. She then attended East Mississippi Community College.
Cullum says on her Facebook page that she later returned to college at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi. She says she studied elementary education and graduated in 2011.
Cullum appears to have used her former name, possibly her maiden name, when she applied for a teaching license. A search of the Mississippi Educator Licensure Management System does not bring up any results for Cari Cullum.
But a search for Cari Campbell along with her birth date brings up a teaching license registered to “Cari C. Coleman.” (A separate search of online records suggest that Cullum’s last name has legally changed at least twice and has been Campbell and Coleman in the past).
The certificate states that she is licensed to teach English, elementary education, and general sciences until June 30, 2021.
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