Monday, July 25, 2016

Richard Herston Knows How to Treat People?

For those of you who missed it, several weeks ago we had various readers who complained to us about drag racing in three or four different parts of Lauderdale County. One of these areas was in the town of Rogersville itself, and a reader sent us photos of an actual drag racing event held in the industrial park. Supporters told us the sponsors, 256 Call-Out, had a permit issued by the Town of Rogersville. Did they?

When we contacted Rogersville, the reply was that no permit for any drag racing had ever been issued to any group at any time. Was this true? The statement was much like that of the drug addict who can swear he’s never taken any Lortab or Lorcet. It may be true, but he’s taken quite a bit of generic hydrocodone. No, the Town of Rogersville had not issued a permit for drag racing, but had issued a permit for a “parade” that was composed entirely of drag racing. Everyone following this?

Our opinion is Mayor Herston falls into the category of someone who would tell a falsehood when the truth would suit better. While many didn’t want the drag racers in town, we’re sure there are others who did. Why couldn’t Herston have simply said it was a choice—either one the town still stood behind or now regretted. Talking all around the subject? Speaking with forked tongue? Talking out of both sides of his mouth? That pretty well sums up Mayor Herston.

Running against Herston in the August 23rd municipal elections is James Haygood. Haygood is apparently the equivalent of police commissioner for the town. We see that some police officers are endorsing him, while others are siding with Herston as someone who “knows how to treat people.”

Some of our readers think Rogersville needs an entire new set of council members; however, all (incumbent or non-incumbent) are running unopposed. That never bodes well for any town. Rogersville voters may not be able to clean house this time, but they can elect a more responsive mayor.

We endorse James Haygood for mayor of Rogersville.


Gasoline prices in the Shoals? South of the river prices are around ten cents a gallon less than prices in Lauderdale County. Even taking into consideration the tax difference, this is quite a bit considering most outlets purchase from the same distributors.

As the old song says, “You better shop around.”


Handy Week? L. Stone had this comment:

Huntsville and Decatur have been giving ridiculously inflated attendance figures for events, and it sounds like the Shoals is jumping on the bandwagon. I heard a WUAL news report and the expected attendance for the Handy Festival is 200,000. If every man, woman and child in Lauderdale and Colbert County came, it would only be about 3/4 way to that number. Imagine a sold-out Alabama football game. Now double that. That's 200,000.


Yesterday we blogged about Jerry Benjamin Crowden, an inmate in the Lauderdale Detention Center since the end of June. A reader then sent us a FB post from Crowden dated July 7th. Did Crowden make it?

It's entirely possible inmates do have access to a cell phone in order to contact the outside world via FB or e-mail. It would take just one phone smuggled in and hidden in various rotating locations. Detention Center personnel or trusties could then sell SIM cards which worked in the phone and could easily be hidden on the prisoner's person. 

Families of inmates would do well to remember that if readers can see these posts, so can judges...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Were You a Victim of the Benji Crowden Gang?

Benji Crowden - June 2016

One of Jerry Benjamin Crowden’s earliest crimes was the fairly banal “criminal mischief” for which he was arrested in June 2012 at the age of 19. Six months later he had graduated to forgery when he stole a blank check from his grandmother and attempted to cash it at a local bank.

Having made the check out for $80.00 and listing the payee as “cash,” Crowden then proceeded to misspell his grandmother’s name. Even then, he might not have been caught during a busy banking day, but the hapless Florence man chose to commit his crime on New Year’s Day when only a few banks were open and customers were scarce.

The bank notified the grandmother that Benji, as he is universally called to distinguish him from his career felon father Jerry Don Crowden, was up to no good, and she immediately had her errant heir arrested.

Bailed out by family members, Crowden was soon out of jail, but his freedom lasted less than two weeks. On January 12, 2013, he was arrested in Florence for breaking and entering a motor vehicle and third degree theft with witness intimidation thrown in.

Crowden was already the father of a young son, and at this point his girlfriend decided to sever all ties with the blooming felon. In a very public Facebook spat, Crowden called her selfish and announced how much his son needed him. Sadly, he didn’t at that point attempt to become the father his child did need. Instead, he acquired a new girlfriend.

By July of that year, Benji had accumulated four more charges, adding assault and trespassing to two counts of theft. Two months later, Florence police picked up Crowden on two counts of failing to appear in municipal court.

Crowden managed to rack up five more charges in April 2014 when he failed to show up on previous charges in Lauderdale District Court. Crowden’s lack of appointment keeping skills obviously riled the judge, and this time the aspiring bad boy was handed some real time to serve.

By early 2016, Benji was back in the Shoals and looking for a job…using the word in 1930s gangster movie patois. This time Crowden had connections and managed to throw together a gang of four others who were similarly minded.

In late February, Benji’s new crime empire hit a snag when he was arrested for theft and criminal mischief in Lauderdale County. He soon bonded out of jail and, according to authorities, immediately went back to business as usual.

By late June, detectives had accumulated enough evidence to arrest Crowden along with Dedrick Casey, Brandon Berry Sharp, Kayla Michelle Sharp Burns. and Lawrence Matthew Lee. Authorities say the group led by Crowden and Brandon Berry Sharp has been connected to thefts in at least 12 homes/businesses in Lauderdale County. The investigators expect the number to rise to as many as 20 or 25 by the end of the investigation. One victim lost over $30,000.00 in goods, mostly guns. Yes, guns seemed to have been a favorite target of Crowden’s gang. At the time of their arrests, the gang’s purloined loot may have racked up a value of $150,000.00.

Much of what the detectives have recovered is still to be claimed. If you believe you may have been a victim of Benji Crowden and his friends, call the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office at 256-760-5757 and ask to speak with Det. Bullock or Det. Bolton.

And what of Jerry Benjamin Crowden? Now 23, he remains in the Lauderdale County Detention Center charged with over a dozen felonies. He’s also charged with probation violation and the violation of his March 2016 bail. In other words, he’s not going anywhere any time soon except to court. Benji’s little boy was four years-old this spring. We have to wonder when he was going to start being the father he said the child needed?


Today's photographs courtesy of the Shoals Insider. Be sure to like them on Facebook!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Lauderdale Detention Center: Drugs in the Bible

Jails with little security are prone to the introduction of contraband. Remember when J.J. Common set fire to his cell in the Colbert County Jail? The inimitable J.J. was angry when his then girlfriend was caught bringing him drugs, cell phones, and shoes to sell – Yes, shoes!

We’ve blogged before on the security at the Lauderdale County Detention Center. It was almost a given that much of the alleged contraband came from so-called corrections officers. Now, one has been arrested for his part in smuggling drugs and more into the detention center.

We had previously expressed our doubt as to Holland Elkins having a cell phone with which to access Facebook, but hollowed out Bibles are capable of holding a great deal…although perhaps not shoes.

No, we had envisioned unscrupulous jailers periodically ferrying a few pills in their pockets sent by misguided girlfriends and family. (And of course, the equally unscrupulous defense attorney if charges concerning Chip Dillard are true.) Apparently the drug smuggling is being done on a much larger scale than we surmised.

Was Kenneth Lee Lawson the only guilty guard involved in this scheme? We await more arrests.


Our friend H.D. has placed his life and taste buds at great risk to again venture to Logan’s Roadhouse in Muscle Shoals:


Friday, July 22, 2016

Sixteen Spurgeons: A Very Dysfunctional Family

Statistics vary from state to state, but for years the average U.S. family has produced around 2.2 children. Averages are just that and include the childless family as well as the parents who are part tribble. Obviously the tribbles are rare animals these days for a great many reasons.

Should a family choosing to adopt 11 children raise any flags? The Spurgeon family, formerly of Clanton, Athens, and Florence, seemingly didn’t raise any eyebrows among DHR workers. All 11 children, six of whom are already adopted, were placed by the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

We’re not going to post names or photos here, but social media show healthy and robust Caucasian children who were added to the Spurgeon household. In other words, there were no handicapped or minority children who might have found it difficult to secure a forever home. We’ve also heard over and over from friends just how hard it is to adopt such children if the family already has one or two children. How did the Spurgeons manage to accumulate a household of 14?

We’re also sure that both adoptive parents and children said what DHR wanted to hear. Yes, children need and want homes and are often willing to put up with at least some abuse in order to obtain one. Yet, how about that semi-nude kayaking on the canal photo on the Spurgeon’s Facebook page? By this time the family had migrated to Florida, but wasn’t this a red flag to social workers that family dynamics were at least a mite out of the norm?

The thread running through the children’s accounts of abuse is that Daddy Daniel liked his girls between the ages of 13 and 16. That required a constant stream of children populating the Spurgeon home. Would it have all been over in ten years or so? No, he probably would have then begun with his grandchildren…and it will never be over for the young girls whom he took into his home and systematically abused.

Alabamians need to demand more from DHR. If you suspect any kind of abuse, don’t hesitate to report it. The mantra should be “Better safe than sorry.”



Yesterday we blogged on McKayla Slater who was missing from Franklin County. She was found late this morning. Given the reported circumstances of her disappearance, we're extremely grateful that she has been found. We do suggest she now be grounded until she's 36.


From a reader:

In light of the most recent attack on law enforcement where another officer was murdered in cold blood, one MIGHT think that federal and state government buildings would make sure that their respective U. S. flags were indeed flying at 'half staff'. Well.....such is STILL not the case at the Lauderdale County Courthouse, nor is it, I'm sad to say, at the Sheffield Post Office.

The county commission is in charge of the courthouse flag. Any time the flag is not handled properly, it should be reported to them. Also, another reader has indicated the flag was indeed at half-staff at the Florence Municipal Building when a reader questioned it. We realize that errors occur when many are in charge of the flag at various days and times, but if you see any breach in flag etiquette, be sure to report it to the head of administration for that building.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Let's Find McKayla!

McKayla Nicole Slater, 13, has been missing for approximately 32 hours. Judging by her social media, McKayla was part typical young teenager and part troubled child.

Those who came in contact with her may have believed her to be older. She commented on working long days and posted photos of herself making obscene gestures. The young Caucasian girl also called herself a “n***a” and posted a photo of a bearded and balding non-Caucasian male whom she called her aunt. These posts may be inside jokes or they could be symptomatic of something more sinister.

Did she leave her rural Franklin County home to meet a man? Her family has found her bicycle by the roadside and spoken to a man who claims to have given the girl a ride to a trailer park where no one can remember seeing her.

We can understand how worried her family must be given the circumstances of her disappearance. Someone has to have noticed a young girl traveling by herself. If anyone has any information, no matter how small or seemingly trivial, please call the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.


It would seem that Terry McMinn has dropped out of the Muscle Shoals city council race. We applaud Mr. McMinn in doing the honorable thing.


Don’t forget the Blue Light Vigil Saturday night in Leighton. There will be many present in spirit who aren’t able to attend in body. You don’t have to wait for Saturday night to tell local police officers that you appreciate them. They, like all of us, need a little extra encouragement from time to time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sandra Killen Burroughs for Mayor of Lexington!

From a press release issued by the Burroughs campaign:

Sandra Killen Burroughs announced last week that she will be seeking the office of Mayor for the Town of Lexington. The election will be held on Tuesday, August 23, 2016 from 7am until 7pm. In order to vote in the municipal election you must be registered to vote and live inside the Lexington City Limits.

Sandra is a lifelong resident of Lexington, a graduate of Lexington School and received her Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of North Alabama with a double major in Management and Marketing. Sandra is married to Barry Burroughs and has one son, Hunter Killen, who is a senior at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Sandra is the daughter of Alice Killen and the late W.O. Killen, former Mayor of Lexington from 1984-1996. Sandra has one sister, Cindy Killen, from Birmingham, Alabama. Sandra has worked in the tourism field for the past 22 years with such companies as Marriott, Hilton, IHG Properties and currently serves as the Membership Director and Legislative Liaison with the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. In this role with AMLA, Sandra works closely with our State Representatives, State Senators, and elected officials on all levels of the State and County.

Sandra has an extensive list of accomplishments to her credit:

* Vice President of the Alabama State Parks Partners Coalition
* Member of the Bear Creek Educational Center Steering Committee
* Member of the UNA Summer Theatre League Board of Directors
* Ex Officio member of the North Alabama Legislative Caucus
* Member of the Alabama Council of Association Executives
* CPR Certified EMT-D
* Past President of the Lexington Athletic Booster Club
* Past President of the Lexington School PTO Club
* Past Secretary/Treasurer Lexington Fire & Rescue Units
* 2001 “Outstanding Young Professional Woman of the Year” by Girl Scouts of North Alabama
* Past Secretary/Treasurer of the Decatur/Morgan County Hospitality Association
* Graduate of Dale Carnegie Leadership Training
* Awarded Convention South Magazines “Top Meeting Professional to Watch” in 2000, 2001 & 2004
* Graduate of Leadership Shoals sponsored by the Shoals Chamber of Commerce
* Past Chairperson for the Shoals Chamber of Commerce Leadership Shoals Program.


Sandra will be facing Tim Collier in the August election. Will it be a hard choice for Lexingtonians to make? It shouldn't be.

All the bloggers here care about the Shoals and Alabama. We care about you. Yet if you needed emergency surgery, there's not one here whom we would recommend to help you--none of us is a trained physician.

Mr. Collier may be, and from all reports is, a wonderful and caring person. Yet, he doesn't have the expertise to lead Lexington into a better world. Sandra Killen Burroughs does. Look at Sandra's list of accomplishments. She could have left Lexington long ago, but she decided to stay, to live her life in her hometown. Now she's willing to give of her time to put Lexington on the right track, to divest it of all the cronyism and shady deals that have plagued that small town in the past.

Sandra, we personally congratulate you and are proud to call you our dear friend!

(Note: You see we just called Sandra our friend. She is, and we believe in her. We expect you the voter to do your homework in this and all elections. We can suggest a candidate, but you ultimately have the responsibility to research those on the ballot and make an informed decision.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Qualifying Ends/David Riley--a Real B*****d

Qualifying for municipal elections ended today. Some are running unopposed; others might as well be. Still others will be facing a tough contest, particularly in the mayoral races.

We’ll begin showcasing the candidates tomorrow. There will also be some early endorsements in elections with only two candidates. We invite all those standing for office to send us their platforms.


In 2005, David Riley, then 20 years old, planned a liquor store robbery. He secured a gun and a henchman, then cold-bloodedly entered a Belle Meade liquor store in the eastern part of Florence, robbed the clerk, then shot him dead…just because he could.

Riley has already bilked the taxpayers of Lauderdale County who have had to foot the bill for two murder trials. Now he’s seeking still a third trial claiming ineffectual counsel. His attorneys were Steve Aldridge and Chris Childers, both competent in a trial setting according to those who have observed them over the years.

Yes, the prosecution contended that Riley deserved the death penalty. There are few instances in which we support the state taking a life; however, we can’t disagree with the state’s contention that David Riley, a royal bastard if any ever walked the streets of the Shoals, deserves to pay for his crimes with his life.


We’ve heard from two more readers who are concerned with county and state prisoners accessing Facebook and social media. We’re not entirely sure these prisoners are indeed posting on social media, particularly in the one local case that seems to have disturbed some.

The state prisoner? Since he doesn’t accrue correctional incentive time, he probably has no fear of write-ups. He may or may not be posting on a Facebook page. We would advise anyone who thinks it’s helpful or funny or whatever to post in the name of a state prisoner, you’re not making his life any easier should he be reported (and we’ve been told that he has).

Similarly, if the prisoner is posting by hiding a SIM card on his person, your encouragement of this behavior is not well thought out. Your friend/relative may not have CIT to lose, but he can still be placed in solitary confinement. Perhaps more importantly, he can be charged with harboring contraband and receive another ten years added to his sentence in a worst case scenario, particularly after the recent riots at Holman Prison. Is this what you want? Think about it.