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...