Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Brandi Lee Campbell Corrections & New Info

First, some corrections:

Family members report that Brandi did not graduate from Muscle Shoals High in 1997, as reported in her MySpace, but she did receive a GED.

They also report that only Brandi Lee and Bryan Ray were Terry's children, their father's other two children are half-siblings.

DHR has already officially placed Brandi's son, Brandon Lee Williams, with his paternal grandparents.

Brandi's most recent domestic violence charge involved an attack on a new boyfriend--not on her mother.

New Information:

Muscle Shoals Police report the vehicle Brandi Lee was driving belonged to her mother, Terry Kiker Johnson.

Staff in the Colbert County District Attorney's office report that Bryce Graham Jr. is following these events closely. With some crimes, a no-bill by a grand jury simply means that there is no immediate indictment, but the charges can be presented with new evidence at a later date. We have not heard anything definite on this, but it may remain a possibility in the death of Bryan Ray Campbell.

Please notify us of any errors in our columns; we will do out best to correct them immediately. Thanks, Shoalanda

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Strange Tale of Brandi Lee Campbell - Part IV

Angelina Jolie is my hero. - Brandi Lee Campbell

With the threat of prosecution behind her, Brandi Lee Campbell was now free to put her life back together. A second chance is rare for many, but Brandi now had a third, or even fourth chance to become a productive citizen, a caring mother, a loving daughter.

What Brandi didn't have was a second chance to become a good wife; Charles Johnson immediately left Brandi and requested the dissolution of their marriage. According to Brandi's MySpace page, she's still looking for that perfect soul mate. Unfortunately, Campbell seems to be looking in all the wrong places.

Arrested twice in Colbert County in September for Public Intoxication, Brandi was also arrested early in October for DUI. Later that month, Sheffield police arrested Brandi on a domestic violence charge, an arrest that sources say stemmed from an attack on her mother. After her move to the Holiday Trailer Park in Muscle Shoals, the Department of Human Resources reopened its file on Campbell who faces the permanent loss of custody of her son.

Still, Brandi told both friends and family that she was getting her life back together. On December 23, 2008, Brandi Lee Campbell drove her automobile into the front of Lewis Electric on Second Street in Muscle Shoals. When the investigating officer attempted to take Campbell into custody, she resisted and was forcibly taken away.

We've heard that Christmas in jail isn't pleasant. Look for this ongoing saga to be continued.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Strange Tale of Brandi Lee Campbell - Part III

Bryan Ray, I miss you more and more each second of every day. - Brandi Lee Campbell

The year 2008 initially brought happiness to the Campbell siblings. Bryan Ray started a new job as a truck driver, and his daughter Madison's leukemia was in remission. Brandi Lee met a new man and promptly fell in love. The fact that he was engaged to another woman didn't deter Brandi in her pursuit of her "soul mate" and she married Charles Thompson in June.

The night of June 18th, 2008, Bryan visited his sister and her new husband at their small house on Annapolis Avenue in Sheffield. Leaving Brandi's son Brandon Lee at home, the three adults decided to celebrate. After a night of heavy drinking, the three returned to Brandi Lee's home a short time after midnight. Realizing he was in no condition to drive, Bryan stated that he wanted to ride Brandon's bike the few short blocks to his mother's.

Bryan had given the bicycle to his nephew, but Brandi refused to let her brother take it. According to all present, the mood soon turned ugly, and Brandi and her husband began to beat Bryan with pool cues. From this point, the stories of the three survivors vary, but they all end the same way: Bryan Ray Campbell lay dead in the dining room of his sister's home.

Brandi stated she shot her brother as he attempted to force his way back into the house after being ejected by her new husband; however, only two empty shotgun shells were found--one on the front lawn and one in the middle of the street sixty-five feet from the front door. A trail of blood stretched across the porch into the house. After examining the scene, police took Brandi Lee in for questioning and formally charged her with murder the next day. Taking her past brushes with the law into account, the arresting officers felt the charge would be easy to prove. Even Brandi's mother announced she wanted justice for her son.

However, after reviewing the forensic evidence and reading the conflicting accounts of Bryan's death, the Colbert County District Attorney chose to charge Brandi with manslaughter, a crime that could bring up to twenty years in prison. Judge Hal Hughston set Brandi's bond at $10,000.00, an amount that would ordinarily be difficult for a hairdresser with no property to obtain. The next morning, Brandi Lee's stepfather, Curtis Johnson, arrived at the jail to post bond.

Family members were shocked by Johnson's actions, as were the arresting officers, but nothing prepared them for the grand jury's ruling. Despite the discrepancies between Brandi's statement to the police and the actual evidence, a Colbert County grand jury refused to indict her in her brother's death. Brandi Lee Campbell had once again escaped her actions unscathed.

To be continued...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Strange Tale of Brandi Lee Campbell - Part II

I pray every night you will come to me in my dreams so I can make peace with you! - Brandi Lee Campbell

Brandi Lee Campbell and her brother Brian Ray were two of four children born to Terry Kiker and Ray Campbell. After her divorce, Terry Kiker Campbell became the breadwinner for her family, attempting to make the best life she could for her family.

Friends remember both Brian and Brandi as outgoing children, always seeking to be the center of attention. As Brian matured, he began to call himself "Big Daddy" and nicknamed both friends and family, usually including the word "Lil" in the appellation.

Brandi was "Lil Sis" to Brian, but she had big ideas. Pregnant at 17, she managed to graduate from Muscle Shoals High School in 1997 and enroll at Shoals Community College the next year. Brandi Lee lists her major as "Paralegal" and her minor as cosmetology. Networking sites also list her occupation as paralegal, but her only job since graduation was at B & B Hair Salon in Muscle Shoals.

Brian had similar problems in settling on a career, but at the time of his death had become a truck driver, an occupation his friends thought suited his wanderlust. Both married, with Brandi Lee quickly divorcing, and Bryan finding temporary happiness. After the birth of their daughter, Madison, Brian and his wife Angela separated, but remained friends until her death from a drug overdose--a situation that enraged Brandi Lee, the last person to see her sister-in-law alive.

Single again, Brandi Lee began to live her life closer to the edge, often referring to her relationships with gang members. Sources say her penchant for flashing gang hand signals at random ultimately led to the death of a companion who took a bullet meant for her boyfriend. Another boyfriend died minutes after leaving Brandi, a veritable pharmacy in his system. By now, Brandi Lee Campbell was definitely on the local police's radar.

To be continued...

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Strange Tale of Brandi Lee Campbell - Part I

My brother passed away on 6/18/2008. He is missed very deeply by all of us! God rest his soul and I know I will see him again one day. - Brandi Lee Campbell

Brandi Lee Campbell entered the above quote on her MySpace page, the social networking site she opened on June 25, 2008. In reality, Brandi's brother, Bryan Ray Campbell, died around one o'clock in the morning on June 19. Brandi Lee Campbell shot her brother with a .410 calibre pump shotgun, and he was pronounced dead at Helen Keller Hospital later that morning.

Some friends and relatives of Brandi claim she had previously threatened the life of her 32 year-old brother, the single parent of a young daughter fighting acute myelogenous leukemia. Brandi, Brian, and Brandi's new husband, Charles Johnson, were all drinking the night of the shooting, so the truth may never be known, but Brandi claims she killed her beloved brother in self-defense and to protect her ten year-old son Brandon Williams, a witness to the killing.

Sheffield detectives who investigated the shooting were familiar with Campbell-Johnson, who had been involved in three previous death investigations and countless domestic disputes. They wanted her charged with murder, but the only witnesses were her husband and son. Despite her family's sworn statements, Sheffield police initially arrested Brandi Lee Campbell for felony murder, but they weren't prepared for what happened next.

To be continued...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas !!!

I sincerely hope all my readers, as well as those of Nurse Nan, have a terrific holiday. It may not be Christ's birthday, but this ancient mass does remind us of God's greatest gift and offer us the opportunity to contemplate His love for us.

May we all strive in the coming year to help those who need it most, to fight for the truth, and to uncover injustice.

Please let me know what topics you would like to see discussed or investigated in the coming months. In turn, please remember to click on our ads and to patronize our sponsors.

Sincerely, Shoalanda

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Donna Mae Project

The adopt a grandparent program at Heart's Cry was a tremendous success this year. Lauderdale Christian Nursing Home residents received their presents at a festive party; however, due to a large number of flu cases at Glenwood Rehab, their residents were unable to enjoy a holiday gathering, but hope to after the new year.

As mentioned in an earlier column, Heart's Cry sponsors medical and prescription help for those without insurance. This program is called the Donna Mae Project; anyone may leave a donation at the Heart's Cry store in Killen, as well as supporting the effort through purchases of new and used merchandise.

Thanks to Heart's Cry for all its assistance to the community. When you visit, tell them Shoalanda sent you.

What's up with this: Many Russellville residents are unhappy with Chris Hargett's handling of icy roads the past few days. The only way to make your opinion known is to write or call. Hargett is a public servant--it's time he remembered it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Update on Keith McGuire Rape Case

Judge Terry Dempsey is scheduled to hand down a ruling within the next few days on the latest action in the Keith McGuire rape case in Lauderdale County. Defense attorney Jeff Austin has been uncharacteristically mum on the December 22 court appearance that was another rung in the ladder to either McGuire's vindication or a conviction that could bring 20 years to life.

In the mean time, McGuire has made copy on an interesting blog with ties to North Alabama. For those interested in "teacher sex," this blog is a must read: jonbenetsblogs.blogspot.com.

(Above is address for search purposes. Here is actual link: http://jonbenetsblogs.blogspot.com/ Article is dated November 30th.)

What's up with this: Ask your bank president what he wants for Christmas--it may very well be a good defense attorney.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Bookstore Speaks - New Blog

Whoever said "you can't judge a book by its cover," was right on the money. Unfortunately, most bookstores won't refund our greenbacks if we don't like or agree with the content.

Beginning this week, a new blog, The Bookstore Speaks, will help make it easier to decide which best sellers we just have to have and which we can pass on. This blog is not written by either Nurse Nan or myself, but it has been created by a friend of ours, so we consider it part of our group.

We will have more on this after Christmas, but in the mean time, you may wish to visit K's Cove in Elgin to purchase the latest gently used best sellers at half price or less. As always, K carries a huge selection of Elora's Cave releases. There's a new anthology due soon with an entry by our own Debra Glass, so don't wait until all are sold out!

What's up with this: More reported home invasions in the Colbert County area, but nothing in the TimesDaily?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quinn's Ranch Deer Hunt

I recently reported that Quinn's ranch was sponsoring a January 2009 deer hunt for its charges--homeless, problem, and orphaned youths. Apparently, this is not the case. The deer hunt, scheduled for the 3rd of next month, does not involve the youths themselves, but adults who wish to participate at $50.00 an entry.

It seems that one, if licensed and acting within the laws of whatever area one wishes to hunt, may pay the fee and enter the bodies of one buck, one doe, and one pair (hopefully a mated couple so as to cut down on the deer population and avoid retribution from surviving spouses--I think someone made a video game out of that scenario).

The press release makes mention of the family fun at the end of the day when the dead animals are weighed in. Ah, yes, family fun in Red Bay apparently isn't what it used to be. Just remember: The family that kills together makes a lifetime of memories for those long,cold prison stays to come.

It seems Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing is on the board at Quinn's Ranch, advertised as "faith based," perhaps in Cthulhu or the Nazi Party--who knows? You may remember Joey Rushing is quoted prominently on the web site DumpYourWifeNow.com. Nuff said.

What's up with this: Medicaid, not famous for its expedient use of taxpayer money, is now rating local nursing homes. If you or a loved one should need the services of such local endeavors, remember to check the credentials of those doing the rating--it may surprise you.


In response to the comment, the article referenced is from April 2007--"Will Pimp for Pizza." While I infer Mr. Rushing feels any publicity is good publicity, a self-proclaimed Methodist minister and elected official would do well to steer clear of such sites (He knows it's there, he's been informed before). Franklin County has had only too many scalawag pols and police officers in its recent past. Neither Rushing nor Chris Hargett is setting a good example.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Historic Wilson Park Fountain

According to newspaper reports, the fountain in the center of Wilson Park is 75 years old. The beautiful structure needs work; it needs loving attention; its does not need to be replaced.

I sincerely hope that our City Council will agree that the fountain can be saved and returned to its previous three-tier grandeur. I'm sure many of us will be willing to contribute private funds in order to see this done correctly.

Circa 1973, the fountain was "restored" and new plumbing installed. Apparently this 35 year-old plumbing is no long working properly, and there are issues with the concrete in the structure. I would hope that the fountain could be restored to its original form.

The outer rim was added, apparently to shore it up, during the 1973 renovations. This rim may be practical, but it bears more than a slight resemblance to the small concrete circles created to hold garbage cans in place. I'm sure there are several pre-1973 photographs available from which a craftsman could work in order to create the image of the original. Please contact your Florence City Councilperson to make your wishes known.

Many thanks, Nurse Nan

Friday, December 19, 2008

Florence's Mobile Plaza

Mobile Street from Court to Seminary in downtown Florence has been known as Mobile Plaza for over 30 years. Less than 15 years ago, this plaza was renovated at no small cost. In May of 2007, the city fathers proposed another, more extensive renovation.

At that time, it came to light that no less than three separate firms had been contracted to redesign the one block street. Apparently the city fathers were red-faced that they had made these contracts, but not so embarassed that they failed to pay the first two firms their whole fee for very little actual work.

Apparently, this project is either still on the drawing board 19 months later or it was abandoned with little fanfare. If the latter is the case, I'm sure the structural architect (who apparently works out of Birmingham) did receive his full fee.

Now, the Florence City Council wants to renovate the fountain in Wilson Park. This work certainly needs to be done, but it needs to be accomplished in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Tomorrow, I will turn over the keyboard to Nurse Nan who lives close to the park and has more information concerning its history.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Angel Food !!!

Perhaps you haven't heard of the Angel Food Ministries, or if you have, perhaps you haven't known just how to go about signing up. Here's what you need to get started with Angel Food in the Shoals.

Angel Food Ministries was founded 15 years ago in an effort to help those who needed assistance in feeding themselves and their families. Today it has grown into a massive endeavor that is open to everyone, up to and including Bill Gates.

Angel Food provides two basic types of food packages a month, plus various specialties. The two basic boxes include a large selection of unprepared food for just $30.00; for just $28.00, Angel Food provides ten complete meals ready to be microwaved. There is no limit on how many packages may be ordered each month.

To sign up for this program in the Shoals, you may contact:

Edgemont Methodist Church, Florence, 766-3073
St. John's Methodist Church, Florence, 764-3972
Colbert Heights Baptist Church, Tuscumbia, 383-8016
Wells of Hope, Leighton, 446-6659
First Baptist Church, Rogersville, 247-5351
House of Victory, Russellville, 332-7937

The Angel Food program utilizes many volunteers in the area. Our thanks to all of them for their many hours of service.

What's up with this: Several subdivisions in Muscle Shoals reported moderate to severe flooding during the recent storms. Apparently, the city needs to tweak its drainage system.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


If you frequent First Fridays in downtown Florence or the annual Renaissance Faire in Wilson Park, you have probably seen the delightful Belilah. If you haven't, you've missed a treat.

Despite the exotic name, Belilah is a belly dancer from Lexington in Lauderdale County, but you may find her entertaining anywhere in the Southeast. Recently she started a blog on her special form of entertainment: http://belilah.com/

So, now you've decided to take up belly dancing, but have no idea where to find a costume? Have no worry; Belilah is also a consummate seamstress who sews for others as well as designing her own costumes. One of her specialties is a pair of "Isis Wings" that have to been seen to be properly appreciated.

You can place orders online for any of Belilah's creations. Be sure to tell her Shoalanda sent you.

What's up with this: Rumors are teeming about Carmike Cinema's financial problems. Anyone want a multi-plex for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Name Bridge for Don Michael

The Patton Island Bridge spans the Tennessee River, a vital link between Shoals cities, the old and the new, yet it has no official name. When Bob Riley took office, he stated that christening the marvel thirty years in the making would be on his to-do list. Six years later, we are still waiting.

Not much is named for Governor Patton, and certainly the appellation Singing River adds a certain ambiance to the utilitarian structure, but isn't there still a better option? Don Leslie Michael, Lauderdale County native and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, gave his life for our country.

Yes, there are some small memorials that already bear his name, but that's the problem--they hardly reflect the sacrifice this young man made. A friend of mine has campaigned for a number of years to have the bridge named for Don, as have others. If you feel as we do on this subject, please write your state representatives and Governor Riley. If you speak, they will listen.

What's up with this: Construction on the new Patton corridor is officially over, but some 35 mph speed limit signs remain. Perhaps the State Department of Transportation doesn't want the new road confused with the Autobahn?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shoals Habitat Re-Store

The Shoals Habitat for Humanity operates a retail outlet on South Royal Avenue in East Florence. With the exception of salaries for one full-time and two-part time employees, the proceeds from this endeavor go toward suitable housing for those in need.

The merchandise offered, both new and used, also helps those who wish to do home maintenance on their own dwellings at a bargain price; however, the price is not always a bargain. Several individuals have reported excessive mark-ups on donations, resulting in some items selling for full retail price.

As with any thrift store, the stock varies from day to day. If anyone finds the items to be overpriced, I would suggest calling the local Habitat director at 760-9515. It's always good to remember that this is a charity--any money spent goes toward housing for a deserving Shoals family.

What's up with this: Just how many of the 63 individuals recently arrested for the manufacture of methamphetamine will Lauderdale District Attorney Chris Connolly actually be able to indict? Well, it looked good on paper anyway.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Terrye Sledge-Terry Digital Archive

The city of Florence is indeed fortunate to boast the public library on Wood Avenue. Any town would be proud of these facilities, but for a community the size of Florence to have such a beautiful and functional structure speaks volumes about the dedication of its residents.

For many years, Terrye Sledge was Director of the Tuscumbia Public Library. After her marriage to Fred Terry, she left the library system briefly, but returned to work as Assistant Director of the Florence Public Library, where she remained until her death earlier this year.

Those who knew Terrye loved her for her smile and her dedication to the library systems in the Shoals area. She did not have the traditional family in her youth, but her mother, grandmother, and great-aunt instilled a love of community in Terrye, and she brought it to her work. Before her illness, she helped establish the growing Digital Archive in the Florence Library.

This archive is currently digitizing photographs and records from Florence and the entire Shoals community. When finished, it will provide an invaluable outlet for genealogists, local historians, and anyone who wishes to browse the collection.

Donations to the Digital Archive in honor of a loved one make a wonderful Christmas present. I hope all who are reading this will consider a donation, and in doing so honor Terrye Sledge-Terry as well.

What's up with this: It seems we have $50,000.00 invested in a de-icing system on O'Neal Bridge that doesn't work. Could we at least get that rusting edifice painted?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Complaint against Florence Police Officer

Domestic abuse is not rare in Florence, or in any other Shoals area town. What should be rare is the authorities' unwillingness to respond to it.

Obviously, many domestic abuse calls come down to "he said, she said." In these cases, officers use their judgment, based on training and intuition, in order to make the best call for everyone involved. I cannot imagine that any Florence police officer would stand by and allow a woman to be brutalized by her domestic partner.

Recently, I received an anonymous communication about Florence Det. Jerry Pearson. The woman who contacted me felt that Det. Pearson did not take her charges against her husband seriously. Whether the complaint is valid or not, there are many resources here in the Shoals for battered women.

First, call Safeplace at 767-3076. This organization offers immediate help to any woman in danger from domestic abuse. Second, contact the city magistrate for a Protection from Abuse order. Certainly a piece of paper doesn't deter every abusive partner, but it will work in some cases. Third, if you feel that any officer has not been willing to listen to your complaints, call Chief Singleton. I feel certain that Rick Singleton will listen to any valid complaint and do his best to rectify any abuse of power. Finally, one may always file a formal complaint against any officer. It's sad that it would be necessary in a case of domestic abuse, but it may be the best option here.

Whatever you do, if you are abused, do not stay with the abuser. If you believe hollow promises, you are only placing yourself and your children in danger.

What's up with this: Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett closed city streets last night--eight hours after they became impassible. Good to know he's on top of things.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Adopt a Grandparent

Most of us are blessed with a bounty unknown in the rest of the world, yet there are still some among us who lack. Perhaps those I speak of do not lack shelter or food or heat, but they lack something else: love and attention.

Again this year, Heart's Cry Thrift Store is sponsoring an Adopt a Grandparent Tree. There are still names left on the tree--just waiting for you to come select and make a nursing home patient happy this Christmas.

The names on the tree are residents of El Reposo and Lauderdale Christian Nursing Homes and have been selected by nursing home staff. These individuals do not lack the basics in life, but have little or no family to visit and bring gifts at this special time of the year.

I hope each one reading this will stop by and select a name from the adoption tree. In doing so, you'll make yourself happy as well.

What's up with this: Sources say that work is set to begin again on renovating the old Rogers Department Store. It would be a great start for downtown Florence in 2009.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nurse Nan Joins Us in the Vineyard

When we have a column on crime, readers will usually e-mail us with questions about the forensics involved. These queries underscore the need for easily read and easily digested medical knowledge--facts that can be immediately used in a semi-emergency situation.

While no column can replace a visit with a physician, a few common sense home remedies and first-aid tips can be invaluable to any of us in a home, school, or office setting. Therefore, I've requested a sorority sister to join me in a companion blog.

Nan is a Registered Nurse of long standing; she will be happy to answer any questions via e-mail. Starting today, her blog, Nurse Nan's Natural Home Remedies and First-Aid, is listed in the links to the left of this column.

Thanks for your readership and comments, Shoalanda

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Miss Sheila--Spiritual Advisor?

We can't pick up a copy of any newspaper without seeing the word "recession." Perhaps uncertain times are a boon to certain scam artists. For a mere twenty, thirty, or even fifty dollars, a seer will accurately predict your future--or will she?

New billboards featuring the image of a gypsy gazing into a crystal ball are springing up every day. These mega signs instruct the unwary to contact Miss Sheila who will be more than happy to tell you what your future holds. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Wait a minute...Sheila Marks--that name doesn't sound very Romanian, does it? So...maybe Miss Sheila isn't a real gypsy. Does she even have a crystal ball, or does she rely on tarot cards or tea leaves? I predict if you visit Miss Sheila, you will be sadder, but wiser, and just a little bit poorer.

What's up with this: I see construction crews have been back at work on the sink hole in the median of the new Patton corridor; think anyone is keeping up with how much these repairs are costing the taxpayer?

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Florence-Lauderdale Detention Center

Recent news releases tell of coming inspections of Alabama city courts. Of the seven recently audited, only Courtland passed the financial audit. The Hanceville municipal court actually incurred legal charges. What will these auditors find when they visit the Shoals?

While the Florence-Lauderdale Detention Center is not directly connected to the city's municipal court, we sincerely hope that it will also be audited. If any of you have attempted to post funds to a prisoner's account recently, you are aware that it cannot be done in cash.

Is this because, the authorities want a record of what individuals post money to the books of certain inmates? Think again--it's because cash on hand has a way of going missing. Those working at the jail are not Rhodes Scholars, but that should not reflect on their honesty. If those in these positions are no better than those they supervise, what does this say about our current administration?

What's up with this: Sources close to Trophy Golf say the project is currently dead in the water. Any comment from Sheffield?

Sixty-Seven Years Ago Today

There was once a local woman who was very ill with tuberculosis. At that time, most individuals with this disease were hospitalized in regional hospitals built for that exclusive set of patients. She had read almost all the books in the sanatorium's library and was down to the dregs. The patient picked up a book entitled How to be an Army Wife and began to read. The title page on which the copyright date would have been printed had long been torn from the copy, but the woman realized the book was hardly a recent work. As she neared the end, she discovered the last chapter listed various bases at which an army wife could expect to be posted. One inclusion was a remote, but beautiful base that very few had ever heard of--Pearl Harbor. The patient then knew the book had been written before the end of 1941.

Here in the Shoals, a public safety officer at the Tennessee Valley Authority was enjoying a quiet Sunday when he was handed a gun and told to block all traffic attempting to cross Wilson Dam. His questions went unanswered, so he just did his duty, noting how little traffic actually did try to cross the dam. He assumed there had been a bomb threat, and only learned that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor after being relieved of his post several hours later.

There are only a handful of survivors left. Those who fought in WWII are dying at a rate of one thousand a day. If you know a WWII veteran, thank him. It's the least you can do.

What's up with this: The local municipal courts should expect State financial auditors within the next few weeks. It won't be pleasant for some.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Shoals Insider

We have also added a link to the ShoalsInsider. We've mentioned their forum before, but they also have fast breaking news, and court records. The latter contain not only arrests, but divorces and foreclosures--something the TimesDaily abandoned long ago.

Much news hits the SI hours or even days before the TimesDaily. In fact, the ShoalsInsider was the first to report on the disappearance of Jennifer Hampton. There's even a blog in which the issues can be examined more closely.

Once you discover this alternative news source, be sure to check it several times a day. It's addictive in the best possible way.

What's up with this: We understand Walton's Restaurant in South Elgin has purchased the old Jimmie's Cafe' building. Was it really that much competition?

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Catfish Wrapper

Sometimes local news encompasses more than words printed on paper or filtering through the airwaves. Utilizing the Internet, Sheffield resident Steve Wiggins has created a unique form of news/entertainment in The Catfish Wrapper.

Calling his site a VodCast, Wiggins airs videos of local entertainers mixed with political chat. Often Steve, who unsuccessfully ran for Sheffield City Council this summer, is the first in the know about Shoals happenings.

Starting today, you can link directly from our site to The Catfish Wrapper. We can't promise you'll always agree with Steve, but you can be sure to find both entertainment and erudite commentary.

What's up with this: Rumors are a certain L.A. pundit with Sheffield roots is closely connected to Steve Wiggins, hmmmm.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Local News

How do you get the news? Perhaps you get most of it from great-aunt Freida who never met a stranger or kept a secret, but for most of us it seems our main source of "news" is now the Internet.

Our recent unscientific poll indicated our readers utilize the following:

Radio - 4%
Newspaper - 12%
Television - 32%
Internet - 52%

Certainly radio, at least in the Shoals, no longer provides a great deal of local reports. The same could be said for television, with the three major affiliates being located in the Huntsville metropolitan area.

Fast breaking news, a home invasion or coach firing, is certainly more easily followed on the Internet. One caveat: Even though I write an Internet column, not all news tidbits posted on the Internet can be verified; therefore, the safest source of news remains the local newspaper.

Newspapers provide a wider variety of stories than are found on the Internet, and have the ability to be stored away for future reading at a more convenient time. I hope that all of us consult all the news sources available to us. I've quoted Dick Biddle before, but his words bear repeating:

Be a good American; be an informed America.

What's up with This: For the readers who asked, yes Holland Elkins' father is Billy Elkins. Billy can't be with his son and family until his release in August 2009. Please pray for all involved in this terrible crime, and remember that children need guidance in order to mature into responsible citizens.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Heart's Cry Thrift Store

Do you hate Wal-Mart? Or perhaps you just hate the Wal-Mart/Target/K-Mart parking? Are you interested in going green? How about saving some big bucks?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you should try Heart's Cry Thrift Store on US 72 in Killen. Located directly across from Brooks High School, Heart's Cry is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The large store carries everything from household items to designer clothing to books. Much of their merchandise is new, with tags still attached. Other items are gently used and can be had at a bargain price. Besides used items, Heart's Cry offers some unique handmade items that make perfect gifts for the holidays. The store averages over 400 sales a day, so if you see something you like, you'd be wise to snap it up!

It should be noted that while the store is owned and managed by Faith Chapel, its revenues go to support medical and similar needs of deserving Shoals families. In other words, if a shopper is a Methodist, he needn't worry about the store funding Presbyterian doctrine, etc.

While there, enhance your shopping experience with a free cup of coffee. Tell them Shoalanda sent you.

What's up with this: Early this morning, the grandson of a Florence funeral director was injured in a home invasion. No matter our feelings about this youth's actions, Stanley Elkins has been a friend in times of need for many in the Shoals. Remember Holland Elkins in your prayers tonight.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Keith McGuire Rape Case - Part IV

"He stated he had a problem." - Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely speaking of Keith McGuire

In 1990, Jan Simpson* was 19 years old. According to Simpson, Keith McGuire raped and sodomized her at a Florence residence--it took 16 years before Simpson was emotionally able to report the crime. McGuire, who would have been 30 at the time of the incident, steadfastly denied that any force was involved in his encounter with Simpson. Allegations that a 30 year-old McGuire had sexual relations with a teenager obviously did nothing to bolster his claims of having no prurient interest in pubescent girls, and Jackson High School declined to renew his teaching contract.

The rape allegation was not McGuire’s only worry; at this time new reports of McGuire’s misconduct with Clements students surfaced, making their way to the Alabama Board of Education in Montgomery. The Board sought the revocation of Keith McGuire’s teaching license, and an inquiry was held at Clements on June 25, 2008. The Board stated that McGuire was guilty of “immoral conduct or unbecoming or indecent behavior.”

After five hours of testimony, including statements from some who had only recently come forward, the hearing ended. The moderator then had 30 days in which to consider the evidence brought forward; however, McGuire now had more serious problems in Lauderdale County. After a police investigation spanning almost two years, a Lauderdale grand jury indicted the former physical education teacher on charges of 1st degree rape, 1st degree sodomy, and 3rd degree sexual abuse, crimes that carry a mandatory sentence of 20 years to life. McGuire turned himself in to the Lauderdale County Detention Center on August 18. His bond was set at $125,000.00. The Clements charges were then placed on hold until after the criminal proceedings.

Knowing in advance that his bail would be substantial, the ex-teacher’s family had made prior arrangements, and McGuire left the detention center the same day. McGuire’s family in Lexington had also hired Florence criminal defense attorney Jeff Austin to defend the charges. Austin had previously represented Trey Wells, the Tuscumbia youth charged with the brutal deaths of both parents, and Dewon Jones who took part in a heinous liquor store robbery and murder. The attorney announced he was prepared to present a staunch defense of his client and was seeking an immediate trial.

Unfortunately, the McGuire family’s participation in the rescue squad and other Lexington civic endeavors had made them known to Lauderdale County judges, and the trial was moved back until a new jurist could be engaged. A trial date was set for the second week in December, with Judge Terry Dempsey of Franklin County presiding and Assistant State Attorney General Paula Casey prosecuting the rape charges.

Pretrial/Status Call was to begin December 2; at that time McGuire could assert his innocence and the trial would proceed the next week, or he could accept a plea and be immediately sentenced and remanded to the Detention Center to await transfer to Kilby Prison in Montgomery for processing. For whatever reason, Jeff Austin, who had filed copious motions, requested a delay, and the pretrial was rescheduled for December 22. Legal machinations are often unfathomable to the lay person, but in this case it would seem the intent is to allow Keith McGuire to spend one last Christmas as a free man.

Such delays are always hard on the victim, but Jan Simpson has used her time to act as an advocate for other victims of sex crimes. One can only imagine how Keith McGuire has spent his days since his dismissal at Jackson High School, but his Classmates’ profile is revealing. In the popular website, he states he’s there to find Ms. Right and lists his principal occupation as “channel surfing.”

May justice be served, the guilty punished, and the innocent vindicated.

* The victim’s name has been changed for the purposes of this account.

Note: We have received several inquiries since our mention of former Florence Fire Marshal Lloyd Hayes. A future column will relate his fall to child pornography.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Keith McGuire Rape Case - Part III

"He stated he had a problem." - Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely speaking of Keith McGuire

When board members of the Lexington Water Department heard of the job sharing agreement between Keith McGuire and Lloyd Hayes, they too met behind closed doors. Even though Hayes was not an official employee of the town, such an arrangement was ill advised. McGuire gave up his job with the town, but once again many questioned his actions. Was Keith McGuire determined to insinuate himself into a position of familiarity with young girls, or just a man attempting to make a living during a difficult period in his life?

McGuire taught at Haleyville High School for two years, with ostensibly no complaints. In the fall of 2004, McGuire moved to J. F. Shields High School in Beatrice, a small Monroe County town in South Alabama. After a year at Shields, McGuire moved again, this time to Jackson High School in Clarke County, even farther from his Lexington home. By this time, McGuire was divorced from his wife Tammy, who had taken their children and moved to Waynesboro, Tennessee. While it’s not unusual for some coaches to move frequently, many found it odd that each relocation moved McGuire farther from his family.

McGuire publicly blamed any problems on Robin Greene of Limestone County. After the physical education teacher left Clements High School without any official sanctions, Mrs. Greene took it upon herself to warn Keith McGuire’s new employers of his past record. According to Mrs. Greene, she had collected the names of 50 students at various schools, all alleging to have been molested in some manner by McGuire. On February 14, 2006, McGuire filed a slander suit against Robin Greene, claiming her campaign to discredit him had hurt his reputation and brought undue hardship on him. The wheels of justice grind slowly, and this suit is still pending in Limestone County; however, McGuire also initiated a restraining order against Mrs. Greene, preventing her from contact with any school at which he is employed.

With the Clements charges now seemingly behind him, Keith McGuire began to make a reputation for himself at Jackson High School--this time a good one. Besides his duties as assistant coach, McGuire taught Physical Education, Drivers’ Education, and Health. In the autumn of 2006, the National All-Star Football Association chose McGuire to coach a regional game in Cookville, Tennessee.

Keith McGuire was finally receiving the kind of success and attention he thought he deserved. Then a Shoals area woman filed rape charges.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Keith McGuire Rape Case - Part II

"He stated he had a problem." - Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely speaking of Keith McGuire

It was early in 2002 when Robin Greene’s 12 year-old daughter came to her with a story of being touched by her physical education teacher. Coach McGuire had touched her breast while they were playing one-on-one basketball and she knew it wasn’t right. Soon a 16 year-old girl came forward with a similar story concerning the Clements coach.

Clements, a rural school in western Limestone County, was a tight knit institution. Such things didn’t happen at the sprawling school where Keith McGuire had access to girls in the 7th through 12th grades. The school board called a special meeting and convened behind closed doors on March 7, 2002, to accept McGuire’s resignation.

The board stressed that McGuire, who had not retained an attorney, had taken a polygraph with inconclusive results. No charges were filed against the teacher even though according to Sheriff Mike Blakely, McGuire stated that he had “a problem.” The board also agreed to take no further action on the Clements coach’s teaching license on the condition he agree to counseling. Keith McGuire attended one session.

McGuire soon returned to the hamlet of Lexington where his father was a member of the town council. The town’s water department was in need of a meter reader, and Bobby McGuire made sure the job was offered to his son. Keith McGuire’s salary at the financially strapped water department was barely enough to meet his basic needs, and he began searching for another teaching position.

Without any official black marks on his record and a still valid teaching license, McGuire found work in the nearby Haleyville school system. He began coaching at the Winston County school in September 2002, but the problem of his mounting debts remained. Not eager to give up his job with the town of Lexington, but unable to fulfill his obligations on his free weekends, he sought an assistant to help with meter reading and related duties. Soon his friend Lloyd Hayes, a former Florence City Fire Marshal and convicted sex offender, joined McGuire in the field. It wasn’t long before residents realized the two men spent an inordinate amount of time working around one local entity--Lexington High School.

To be continued...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Keith McGuire Rape Case - Part I

"He stated he had a problem." - Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely speaking of Keith McGuire

We expect those in the teaching profession to care for our children as their own and we should expect no less. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There is always the John Mark Karr or Debra Lafave. When any teacher takes a sexual interest in his or her student, we are just that more wary of them all, sometimes judging them wrongly.

How do we know the difference between an innocent touch and something more sinister? How can we judge the intent of a teacher we barely know? More importantly, what happens if we're wrong? When there's two, or perhaps three, sides to every story, how can we discern the truth from fiction?

Such is the case of Brian Keith McGuire, a Lauderdale County native, now free on bond of $125,000.00 and facing a 1st Degree Rape trial in December. The son of Bobby and Jo McGuire of Lexington, Keith attended Lexington School for 12 years. By all accounts he was an average student and better than average athlete. His parents had helped establish the Lexington Rescue Squad, and his mother was held in high esteem by the community. Bobby, the current mayor of the small Lauderdale County town, was a strong presence in both the town and his own home. Those familiar with the family generally acknowledged that the soft-spoken Jo deferred to her husband.

Keith, as his parents called him, also deferred to his father, but adolescence brought changes in the youth. Physically resembling his mother, Keith boasted a shock of red hair and an outgoing personality. Sometime after elementary school, Keith began to call himself Fox, a name that still follows him. Whether because of his auburn coloring or his fancied desirability to the opposite sex, Keith was well-pleased with this new persona. Many in the Lexington community describe him as the all-American boy, but others began to see a darker side as McGuire grew to manhood.

Graduating from Lexington High School in 1978, Keith McGuire seemed at loose ends. No longer the high school jock, he began a career as a barber, but was always dissatisfied away from the lime light of athletics. Ending one's education after high school was not unusual in the rural atmosphere of Lexington, but other things about McGuire troubled some in the small town. Still others saw nothing wrong with boys being boys or sewing a few wild oats.

In the autumn of 1992, McGuire returned to college at Athens State University, receiving his teaching degree two years later. Now married to a young woman from a well-respected Greenhill family, McGuire used family influence to secure a coaching job at Clements High School, just across the county line in Limestone. Here Keith McGuire taught Physical Education, but some students began to report that his style of teaching was just too physical, especially where young women were concerned.

To be continued...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dollar Tree "Helping" the Salvation Army

Like many others, I ventured out today, but only to do necessary shopping. As I checked out of the Dollar Tree store adjacent to Southern Market on Florence Boulevard, the clerk asked if I would like to purchase a toy to be "donated" to the Salvation Army Christmas drive.

On the counter sat a bin of small stuffed animals, all made in China and none appearing to be of good quality or design. The clerk pointed to the toys and said that she had sold 40 of these small animals since she clocked in; another clerk had sold 60 during her shift.

While I contribute to needy children through my church and Safeplace, I was curious as to how this worked, especially since she had mentioned the price of $1.00. The clerk went on to explain that for every dollar I gave, Dollar Tree would donate a stuffed animal to the toy drive. I politely declined.

The English language is constantly evolving, and perhaps the word "donate" has taken on new meaning while I wasn't looking. I fail to see how the Dollar Tree is donating anything if Shoals area shoppers are purchasing these animals at retail price. If the Dollar Tree really wanted to donate to this cause, I would suggest they offer the toys at their price, probably around fifty cents.

If readers wish to donate to a worthy cause, may I recommend Safeplace. This organization takes care of battered women and children, not just at the holidays, but year round. Kudos to them.

What's up with this: A Sheffield grand jury has refused to indict the woman accused of shooting and killing her brother while she was intoxicated. Perhaps those wishing to do away with certain family members should move to Sheffield?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day of Thanks

Today is our traditional day of Thanksgiving. While there are some who mourn the recent loss of loved ones, most of us are celebrating with friends and family.

Unfortunately, most of us forget to give thanks the other 364 days of the year. We count our blessings only when we sing the old hymn that admonishes us to do so.

I want to challenge all of my readers to the following: The next time you see a shiny new item, whether microwave or ring, toaster or bracelet, don't buy it just because you would like to have it. If your old one will make do, take that money and direct it to a child who has little or nothing. It's not the child's fault if his or her parents have left or if their caregivers spend their money on alcohol or tobacco. You will make a memory for that child forever.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Free Feast This Thanksgiving

For the seventh straight year, Jen's Cafe' will be providing free Thanksgiving meals to one and all. Located at 319 South Pine Street in downtown Florence, Jen's will be open from 11:00 a.m until 6:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Whether you dine in or take out, you can be sure of a gourmet experience again this year at Jen's. For those who are home bound, call 760-9918 for delivery by Jen's volunteer staff.

Thank you, Jen, for all you do for our community. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

What's up with this: Check out the article by Joey Rushing, Franklin County District Attorney, on DumpYourWifeNow.com. Joey really gets around.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Unsolved Murders: Christopher Stanback - Part II

Results of the initial autopsy indicated Chris Stanback had died of head trauma, but offered few clues as to the murderer. Many speculated that the mutilation included castration, making it a very personal crime.

Chris' brother Harold, nicknamed Rudy, was a known drug dealer. The two brothers bore more than a slight resemblance to each other; was it a case of mistaken identity? Just two weeks before his death, Chris had been apprehended in Cullman with a group of older drug dealers. Since Chris had refused to claim the confiscated drugs, was his murder in retaliation?

Perhaps the most bizarre rumor concerned the involvement of prominent Florence officials. It had been widely reported that Chris was dating the daughter of a high ranking city employee. Everyone close to the situation knew this single father had expressed grave concerns about the relationship. Had this official recruited police chief Rick Thompson to help him dispose of the problem?

Weeks turned into months, and there was still no answer to the mystery of Chris' death. Various local officials offered a $10,000.00 reward in the case, and Chris' uncle promised a matching amount if anyone could help solve the crime. Eventually local police asked the FBI to investigate, calling it a possible hate crime. Years passed, and officials were still no closer to an answer.

The Stanback family remained determined to bring the murderer to justice. Hearing that Chris' age classified the crime as a child murder, they asked the Center for Missing and Exploited Children to enter the case. In April 2003, Chris Stanback's body was exhumed for a second autopsy, but the results offered no new evidence. Several Florence police officers took polygraph tests at this time; all of them passed. The investigation was back to square one.

Currently, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation is in charge of the Stanback murder, considering it one of their top priorities. Teresa Stanback still places reward posters around the area and hopes that someone will come forward after fourteen years. She laments that her son's grave has been repeatedly vandalized. Some days it's hard for her to find the strength to go on, but she has never given up hope.

This case has often been compared to that of Emmitt Till, the young black man murdered in 1950s Mississippi. Emmitt's murderers were eventually found; let's hope Chris' are too.

What's up with this: Quinn Ranch, a home for orphaned and problem boys in Red Bay, is sponsoring a deer hunt for the youths in January. Who came up with the idea of teaching these troubled boys how to use guns?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Unsolved Murders: Christopher Stanback - Part I

Chris Stanback's MySpace profile lists his age as 31, but his photograph is that of a 17 year-old boy, the age at which the Colbert County teenager died. The accompanying short bio prominently features the $20,000.00 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case, evidence of the desperation haunting the Stanback family for the past 14 years.

The summer of 1994, Christopher Stanback, known to his friends as Chris, returned from his home in Idaho to spend the summer with his mother Teresa, brother Harold, and sister Tara. On August 2, 1994, Teresa Stanback reported her son missing. Four days later, two children playing in a wooded area near the Carver Heights housing project found a body.

Speculation that the body was Chris' spread throughout the West Florence neighborhood, and soon a crowd of over one hundred spectators had gathered to watch Florence Police retrieve the remains. Many in the crowd of predominately young males tossed rocks and bottles at the authorities as they tried to move the body without disturbing any forensic evidence. Helicopters hovered overhead, their presence having no discernible effect on the crowd that was rapidly growing into a mob.

It had been less than three months since Florence Police officers had conducted a nighttime raid on the black neighborhood, arresting numerous drug dealers in what then Florence Police Chief Rick Thompson had dubbed Operation Copy Cat. To most of the gathering mob, Chris Stanback's death was just more proof that the police couldn't be trusted. Fortunately, local black leaders managed to control the growing crowd when authorities couldn't. Once the barrage of rock and bottle missiles halted, police retrieved the body and secured the scene.

Those who saw Chris Stanback's body realized that more than four days of summer sun had left an imprint on the murdered youth. What an autopsy later determined to be the results of a combination of beating and mutilation, the police took to be evidence that the body had been burned before it was disposed of. While their initial finding may have been easily explained under the circumstances, it only served to enforce the black community's opinion of the Florence Police Department: Truth was the last thing on their minds.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Unsolved Murders: Tommy Morris

Law enforcement officials in the tri-county area currently list a backlog of 15 unsolved homicides. The oldest of these is the murder of Tommy Morris, a 35 year-old special education instructor from Lauderdale County.

On the evening of October 17, 1986, Tommy Morris forwarded his phone to a sister's home and left his apartment in the University District of Florence; he was never again seen alive. By the next day, his two sisters became concerned enough to report him missing to the Florence Police, who initially dismissed the family's fears.

Deciding to take matters into their own hands, family members found Morris' car three days later near the intersection of Natchez Trace Parkway and Waterloo Road. The car had been torched, and authorities called to the scene found Morris' body locked in the trunk.

Tommy Morris had taught at Lauderdale County High School before transferring to Wilson a short time before his death. Morris, who was generally considered someone with designer tastes, also worked at Shankey's and Caster-Knott in Regency Square Mall. The school teacher, known for his elaborate wardrobe and expensive dental work, had friends in both high and low circles--a situation that made the investigation into his personal life that much more difficult. It was even rumored at the time that authorities videotaped Morris' funeral, but all inquiries lead to dead ends.

Rich Thigpen, a former Rogersville resident who remembered Morris from Lauderdale County High School, speculated on the teacher's death. Writing in Prism Comics' online magazine, the openly gay Thigpen theorized that Morris' closeted lifestyle had contributed to his death. Whatever the motive, the murder was especially brutal and stood out to the detectives assigned to the case.

Charles Ford and Charles Perkins, Lauderdale County investigators, have since retired and handed the investigation over to Jr Witt. Since late 2005, Witt has received at least two new leads and still hopes to solve the mystery of Tommy Morris' death. Anyone with information concerning this crime should contact Witt at the Lauderdale County Sheriff's office.

What's up with this: Barring extremely good sales the last week of this month, Dillard's is set to lay off as many as 30% of its sales staff. It gives new meaning to "Black Friday."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Alabama Blogs

Several readers have commented on the need for political blogs in our area. I hope this blog/column meets some of the needs of the Shoals, but obviously, the Shoals area is affected by statewide events as well as those in the Quad-Cities.

Some blogs of note, both conservative and liberal, focusing on statewide politics:


A Bama Blog

Alabama Improper

Alabama Legislative Outtakes

Eating Alabama

Left in Alabama

Daily Dixie

Loretta Nall

Pam's House Blend

Doc's Political Parlor

Locust Fork

I hope readers will take the time to examine various online content and add to their favorites list. Unfortunately, blogs are often the only medium reporting the underbelly of Alabama politics.

What's up with this: Alabama=Equality is about to begin a statewide campaign to revamp the State's marriage laws. One board member lives in Florence, so be prepared for the advent of local ads.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Florence Police Department

When both natives and visitors critique Florence, they invariably mention problems at the Florence Police Department. Obviously many who have harsh words for the law enforcement officers have been caught in compromising situations and cannot provide an unbiased view; however, this is not always the case.

Sources in the department itself frequently complain of absent deputy chiefs, and those working with the municipal court system relate tales of the low morale within the department. These problems are long standing and will in all likelihood not be remedied by any quick fixes.

However, the problems reported by many area drivers can be easily corrected. Almost universally, those citizens pulled over for routine traffic stops report rude or other inappropriate behavior from Florence officers. No driver should have to ask three times why he or she has been stopped, and no citizen should be subjected to the remark, "You aren't from around here, are you?"

Chief Rick Singleton can easily attend to this situation. A few classes in simple correct protocol and good manners will go a long way.

What's up with this: It's been reported that the Franklin County Drug Task Force raided a home in Russellville last night and held a gun to the head of a nineteen year-old quadriplegic. They must really feel good about themselves.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bellgreen Cops

They're rough...they're tough...and they're silly. They're the Bellgreen Cops.

If you haven't yet viewed any Dirrty Apple videos, you've been missing a real treat. Founded in Franklin County in 2002, this small company specializes in short comedies. Perhaps Dirrty Apple's best known works are those featuring a group of comedic cops set in the rural Franklin County town of Bellgreen, hometown to the producers.

Currently there are six Bellgreen Cop videos, the last shot just last month at Florence's Renaissance Faire. Our two favorites feature a perp with a very unusual weapon and the hunt for a retro criminal that takes our heroes to the metropolitan city of Russellville.

Dirrty Apple founders include Daniel Horton, Sharla Horton, Brian Rodgers, and Jonathan Borden. These talented young film/video makers now live in Huntsville, where they continue to expand their portfolio of humor. Besides YouTube, you can view these videos at their website or via their new pod casting endeavor.

Give them a look and you'll be hooked. Be sure to sign their guest book while there and tell them that Shoalanda sent you.

What's up with this: Sources close to the Florence zoning department say the release of information concerning environmental contamination at the former Richards' Metal Plating Company has put the nails in the coffin of the Sweetwater Entertainment District. Wasn't that unofficially buried long ago?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Scott Carrier - A Friend to Florence, Alabama

Florence has lost a friend with the passing of Scott E. Carrier. Whether one supported Mr. Carrier in his bid for mayor or not, no one can deny that he placed his hometown first.

From Veterans Park to Florence Public Library, from the historic district to the town's outskirts, Scott Carrier worked to make his hometown a better place. A close friend of Governor Bob Riley, Carrier never hesitated to travel to Montgomery to argue the city's case.

After serving District 2 for four years, Carrier lost his first mayoral race less than three months ago. I say first since those close to him felt he would again rise in the city's political circles. What he could have accomplished had he been able to do so, we can never know, but we can look back fondly and with admiration on what he did help bring to fruition.

Sources say that his family and close friend Matt Osborne have been deeply saddened by Carrier's sudden death. Our sincerest sympathies to all those close to Mr. Carrier.

What's up with this: Ben T. Gardner, current Sheffield City Attorney, is said to be chomping at the bit to take the City of Tuscumbia to court over its dismissal of Carol Burns. Perhaps they should charge admission?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hospice Wars

"When the hospice wars are over, we'll be the last one standing." - Sharon Ward O'Neal, Administrator/Clinical Nursing Director, A&E Hospice

If Andy Eddins, owner of A&E Hospice in Florence, fails in his attempt to have State administered Medicare and Medicaid funding reinstated, he will hardly be out of business. Eddins is also the owner of A&E Medical Equipment in Florence, Dura-Med in Batesville, Mississippi, A&E Hospice in Olive Branch, Mississippi, and Volunteer Hospice in Waynesboro, Tennessee.

Eddins first established the Florence hospice in April 2001. As of last week, the hospice employed 25 medical and support personnel and served 60 patients. Rumors had been circulating for weeks that A&E would soon merge with Tennessee Valley Hospice, but no one was prepared for the State's revocation of funding on November 5. Eddins has 90 days in which to appeal the State's ruling; however, officials began hinting yesterday that they would also seek the revocation of his business license.

Eddins, a frequent contributor to the Alabama Republican Party, is known for his charitable work, both in the Shoals and abroad. Each year Eddins heads a mission team from Underwood Baptist Church. Working under the banner of Baptist Medical and Dental Missions International, Eddins and his team are scheduled to travel to Honduras the first week in August of next year for another foray into jungle medicine. Eddins and his A&E staff have also been heavily involved with DreamCatchers, a group that fulfils the last wishes of terminally ill patients.

Doubtless the proliferation of hospices in the Shoals area has played a role in this development, but sources close to the medical group say that more revelations will be forthcoming. As of September 24, 2008, A&E Hospice lost its Better Business Bureau accreditation. The Alabama Department of Health is expected to release a follow-up statement within the week.

No matter the outcome, Mr. Eddins and A&E Hospice have always provided exemplary patient care. If Eddins is unable to meet the State's demands, his company will be missed.

What's up with this: Just who informed the Sheffield City Council that they had illegally appointed former Mayor Billy Don Anderson to the Utility Board? Pity the person didn't come forward before the schism within the current council.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why No Home Rule in Alabama?

Alabama is one of thirteen states to deny home rule to its counties; it is one of only two states to deny home rule to its municipalities, the other being Vermont. Our recent non-scientific poll garnered 60% of the votes in favor of home rule, with 25% opposed, and 15% having no opinion.

Our current state constitution prohibits towns and counties from much self-government. This can be changed only by a special amendment or a new constitution. The two major objections to home rule over the years have been taxing and zoning. Cities already have the right to tax, and with the majority of voters living in incorporated towns, any new county taxes are unlikely.

When questioned, citizens usually fear county zoning regulations much more than the remote possibility of new taxes. Yet a lack of zoning often costs county residents more freedom than zoning laws themselves. If faced with an unwanted enterprise, most county citizens will choose annexation to a nearby town rather than endure a sewage treatment plant or pig farm.

Write or call your county commissioners. Fax or e-mail your state representatives. Alabama will never prosper to the fullest without home rule for its cities and counties.

What's up with this: A reader e-mailed us concerning our series on Jennifer Bragg's murder in Lexington. He finds the small town riddled with financial problems and corruption, a situation not being helped by its new mayor Bobby McGuire. The mayor's son Keith is currently under indictment for various crimes including rape. Yet, McGuire was unopposed for this position. Why?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Murder in Lexington - Part III

"I couldn't think of a better place to raise children. We have no crime in this town." - Clint Freeman

When paramedics arrived at the Shapley home on County Road 51, they found Jennifer Bragg lying across the bed in the master bedroom, a gun nearby. Shaun Shapley told of Jennifer's intention to commit suicide and how he had valiantly tried to stop her. When later questioned, Kimberly Shapley admitted to being in a nearby room, unaware of the events that claimed her daughter's life, but insistent on the kind of father Shaun had been to her children.

Upon arrival at ECM Hospital, Jennifer was pronounced dead. Both paramedics and medical personnel at the hospital noted that the gunshot had blown off two of Jennifer's fingers--an unusual wound in a suicide. When Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly became aware of the odd circumstances in Jennifer's death he ordered an autopsy. The results of the post mortem indicated Jennifer died by manual strangulation, not a gun shot wound. Lauderdale County Deputies arrested Shaun Shapley on Monday, February 11th.

Held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center on $500,000.00 bail, Shaun Shapley vehemently denied any part in Jennifer's death. Kimberly Shapley stood by her man, requesting he be allowed to attend Jennifer's funeral and listing him as Jennifer's father in the obituaries. Jennifer was buried on Wednesday, February 13th. Two days later Kimberly arrived at Lexington High School to clean out her daughter's locker. Refusing any help, Kimberly Shapley boxed up her daughter's possessions and carted them away without letting anyone else view her daughter's personal effects.

A judge appointed attorney Joseph Daniel to defend Shapley, who was found to be indigent by the court. Unhappy with Daniel, Kimberly Shapley, who had requested funds for funeral expenses in Jennifer's obituary, began selling her possessions in order to retain another attorney. Kimberly Shapley soon contacted Jim Stansell of Rogersville, an attorney known for frequently defending those accused of sex crimes.

For whatever reason, Shapley was not arraigned until November 13th. Stansell spoke for his client and proclaimed him "not guilty." Judge Mike Jones scheduled Shapley's trial for February 9, 2009--a year and two days after Jennifer's murder. As Shaun Shapley left the courtroom in his regulation green jumpsuit he turned to blow kisses at Kimberly Shapley who had come to support him. No one was present on Jennifer Helen Bragg's behalf.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Murder in Lexington - Part II

"I couldn't think of a better place to raise children. We have no crime in this town." - Clint Freeman

Lexington sits in the northeast corner of Lauderdale County. A town of less than 800 citizens, the rural community boasts only four residents describing themselves as non-Caucasians, none of them black. For someone like Shaun Shapley, Lexington must have appeared the perfect community. Older residents have no trouble remembering when outsiders made sure they left the town before sundown, but Shapley's good ol' boy persona ensured him a measure of acceptance.

The family rented a small home on County Road 51, just two miles southeast of the building that houses both the Lexington Town Hall and the Police Department. Two blocks to the east of Town Hall sits Lexington High School where Jennifer enrolled and quickly made friends. Both Jennifer's classmates and teachers relate that she did well and was enrolled in the Upward Bound Program, requiring her to take classes at Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals. Lexington Principal Will Joiner commented that Jennifer knew where she wanted to go and was determined to make her dreams come true.

If her days in school were full and rewarding, her home life was less so. One of three children, Jennifer had been forced to move often, first with her mother Kimberly and then with Shaun Shapley after her mother's marriage. Her father's family had lost track of the three youths, only learning of their whereabouts after Jennifer's murder. Jennifer's older brother had joined the military to escape life with Shapley, but her older sister remained in the household. At age 19, the sister was the unmarried mother of two small children, a situation that had already garnered much community speculation. Only days before her death, Jennifer had told friends at Lexington High School that she had made plans to leave her home, but not before she reported her stepfather's unwanted advances to the proper authorities.

On the night of February 7, 2008, while her classmates were enjoying time with family and making plans for the upcoming Valentine's holiday parties, Jennifer Bragg found herself alone with her stepfather in the master bedroom. Shaun Shapley is the only living individual who has knowledge of the events that took place in that bedroom, but the vibrant, healthy teenage girl who walked into that bedroom left it on a gurney, her trachea collapsed and her hand and stomach bleeding from the gunshot of a .44 calibre weapon. Jennifer Bragg died at ECM Hospital later that night.

To be continued...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Murder in Lexington - Part I

"I couldn't think of a better place to raise children. We have no crime in this town." - Clint Freeman

When Jennifer Helen Bragg and her family moved to Lexington, Alabama, friends say she finally felt she had found a home. On the night of February 7, 2008, 17 year-old Jennifer died at ECM Hospital, ostensibly the victim of her stepfather, Shaun Clovis Shapley. The 44 year-old Shapley is currently being held on $500,000.00 bond in the Lauderdale County Detention Center; his trial is scheduled for February 9, 2009. At his arraignment November 13th, Shapley pleaded not guilty.

Shaun Clovis Shapley, sometimes referred to as Shaun Glouis, was no stranger to the judicial system. Before moving to Alabama, Shapley lived in the Polk/Hardee County metropolitan area of Florida. The oft-married Shapley was regularly in court as both defendant and plaintiff.

While still living in Florida, Shapley had been in prison three times for various crimes including felony assault, the victims usually women. On the night of May 8, 2000, Shapley was intoxicated and began to follow a black couple who managed to contact police. Having been informed that the pair was being pursued by "a crazy man," police gave chase and attempted to arrest Shapley when he pulled into a parking lot. Shapley, whose pickup was adorned with Confederate symbols, told arresting officers that he was chasing his girlfriend and another man.

Doubtful of his story, officers attempted to arrest the obviously intoxicated Shapley, who resisted. Shapley, already married to Jennifer's mother, claimed numerous violations of his civil rights and sued the arresting Polk County officers. A judge subsequently dismissed the suit as frivolous.

The next year Shapley brought suit against the State of Florida for violations of his civil rights in conjunction with several child support cases that had been filed against him. He included ex-wife Kathleen White of Winterhaven, Florida, in the suit for sixty-four million dollars. This suit was also dismissed, and Shapley told sources at the local NewsChief that his record had worked against him. The Polk County paper stated at that time, "Shapley admits he has married his own cousins in the past."

In late 2001, Shapley and Jennifer's mother Kimberly left Florida for Huntsville, Alabama, where they hoped to find jobs. After more arrests in Huntsville, the Shapleys decided to move again, this time to Florence, where they found Section Eight housing. Mary Kennedy, director of the Section Eight program for the Florence Housing Authority has declined to discuss the reasons for the Shapley family's eviction, but Shaun Shapley again saw an opportunity for some quick cash and filed suit for two million dollars against the Authority and HUD. This suit was also dismissed as frivolous, leaving the family broke and looking for a place to stay. They soon found a new home in Lexington, Alabama.

To be continued...