Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Clement, Williams, & Crump: Wronged Citizens or Avaricious Vultures?

How old were you when you first heard about the possibility of a Patton Island Bridge? If you're like most of us, you were so young that you can't remember the exact date--or perhaps weren't even born when this wonder-way was first envisioned. While plans for the bridge finally came to fruition a few years ago, sadly, the connecting roadways on the Colbert side of what is now Singing River Bridge are still being held up by two sets of landowners.

Unlike the residents of Lawrence Avenue in Florence's Edgemont subdivision who were faced with losing personal property on which they lived, we doubt that John Clement, Danny D. Williams, or Raynell Crump purchased the two disputed tracts of land on which to build homes; Wilson Dam Road in Muscle Shoals has always been a prime location for business. No, Clement, Williams, and Crump purchased these two tracts for investment purposes and now feel they will not receive the desired return on their investments from the State of Alabama.

From the TimesDaily:

DOT needs 3.38 acres of Clement's property and offered him $373,500 for it. But Clements (sic) wants $1.3 million for it, which is more than his entire 78.24-acre tract appraised for in 2009. DOT needs .774 acre of the Williams/Crump property to pave beyond the intersection. DOT offered them $241,000, but they want $306,000. Thus, a stalemate.

Clement is a Shoals attorney. His asking over 20 times the appraised value of the land does indeed seem avaricious. We won't call Danny Williams and Raynell Crump complete vultures, but obviously three-quarters of an acre would accommodate few businesses, and $65,000.00 is quite a sum for the State (read: taxpayers) to overpay the duo.

Now, the State plans to bring suit against Clement, Williams, and Crump--a suit for which both sides (again, the taxpayers) will have to foot the bill. We hope the tyrannical trio will reconsider and do the right thing.

What's up with this: We hear that UNA has solved a number of car break-in cases on the campus. We also hear the student charged is quite well known in some circles. We look for more info to be forthcoming within the next few weeks.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Of Giants Among Men

Of Giants Among Men

A Guest Commentary by

J.J. Ray

I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." This famous quote was partially used in a Second World War movie Tora! Tora! Tora! Today, however, it is so applicable. Comrade Barry Obama has thrown down the gauntlet and dared those that dearly love this country to try and stop the “Triad of Deception from destroying the Republic. It is not a time for violence; rather the sleeping patriots must rise up and fill the ballot boxes in the fall with that resolve.

There is little doubt that this country is in dire need of health care reform. The current bill however was not reform but the first step by those that hate freedom and the constitution to install socialism as a form of government. Apparently, the Socialist advocates Comrades Pelosi, Reid and their leader Barry Obama thought they could sneak it past us. Apparently, they are not students of history.

Times past teach us that the men and women who gave up their lives and property so that all of us could live our lives free from oppression has stood that test of time.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed -Declaration of Independence

Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British Empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America. Thomas Jefferson, November 29, 1775.

Who are the governed that give them their power? Why we are, the citizens of this Republic that we call America. These are not just simple few words but are words that have stood the test. They are words of Giants among men.

This emotion was the beginning by the colonists and the latter framers of the Constitution that would lead to the cessation of taxes levied by the British parliament and guarantee us freedom of speech, religion and press.

Today we are faced by another more insidious and despicable antagonist, the Triad of Deception.” They are using devious methods along with the majority in congress to strip us of our rights and install socialism. We must begin today with “Terrible Resolve” to replace those that would steal our Republic and install real patriots. Yes, it is time for those Giants among men and women to rise up one more time as Regan did and be counted.

Repeal the bill, replace it with one that really works, and recall Comrade Barry Obama. Never forget their goal, the redistribution of wealth and to convert “The United States of America into The Union of Socialist States. We hired them we can fire them. Let us start today with that resolve.


Farewell: To our fellow blogger Zara. She and her husband will be moving to Atlanta in order to be with their new grandchild. We appreciate all her research and her wonderful sense of humor. Look for Trader Evaluates, our new food blog, to be coming soon.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Remembering Bill (Harvey) Allgood

Until Bill passed away, we thought his given name was Harvey--the name he used on Facebook. Others called him Hound Dog Blues, Sheep Dog Blues, or Clifford. Whatever you called Bill, if you knew him, you liked him.

Born in Florence, Bill attended Gilbert, Forest Hills, and Bradshaw. His Facebook page is the proof that he remained true to these schools and those he met there. For the past few years of his life, Bill lived in Killen where he made his home with his three dogs--Tippy, Freckles, and Sally.

After retiring from Hibbett Sporting Goods, Bill didn't sit and brood about his health; he immediately began to make friends in the world of cyberspace and continued to do so until his last illness. One of his former co-workers related that Bill was an excellent judge of character. There were few that he didn't like, but he was always ready to defend those who came up against those whom he knew to be unscrupulous. Bill loved sports, dogs, and the ladies, but not necessarily in that order.

Bill had complained of the unusual coldness of the winter; he died on February 22, one day after being admitted to ECM Hospital--something no one expected. We know that those of us who knew Bill, either in person or online, will remember him fondly. His friend Original Bama made a list of his favorite quotes--they're all worth remembering:

* ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡ןoן ¿sıɥʇ ƃuıpɐǝɹ ǝןqnoɹʇ ƃuıʌɐɥ noʎ ǝɹɐ ¿ɹǝʇʇɐɯ ǝɥʇ s,ʇɐɥʍ ˙ʎpoqʎɹǝʌǝ ƃuıuɹoɯ pooƃ

* Let us all challenge our brains not our enemies' brains. Either play games or enjoy the weather.

* You also never get ahead being critical of people for what they say or do. Give them a second chance by helping and you will be ahead with respect and full honor.

* Anybody want my opinion, send me a PM, I will reply back. It may not be a good opinion, at least you will find out.

* Good Morning. What happened to my sunshine outside? Oh well, at least I'm enjoying my coffee.

Bill's friends are planning on keeping his Facebook page alive as a permanent remembrance. We're sure that even if you didn't know Bill in life, he would be honored if you paid him a visit:

William Young (Harvey) Allgood

Apologies to my West Coast press agent, Rick Wiggins, for failing to wish him a happy 39th yesterday. Closer to home, Rick's sister-in-law Sheri Wiggins is 29 today. Best wishes to both of them.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Billy Underwood: The Republicans Are Coming!

According to Colbert County Democratic Chairman Billy Underwood, the Republican Party is making headway in the Shoals. Unfortunately, many Republicans still run on the Democratic ticket. Perhaps the Shoals needs a third party--a "coming out" party in which those of a true conservative bent may reveal themselves.

Candidates still have almost a week in which to declare. At that time, we'll be taking a more in depth look at several Shoals area office-seekers. In the mean time, we offer this for your viewing pleasure:

What's up with this: Apparently Lauderdale County deputies pronounced fugitive killer James Roberson dead at the scene of his attempted suicide yesterday afternoon. News reports aren't revealing how they finally discovered he was still alive if not kicking...


Saturday, March 27, 2010

No School Supplies

No School Supplies

A Guest Commentary by

Renee' Miskell

On March 25, 2010, the Florence TimesDaily reported that the House of Representatives just passed a bill on the Alabama Education Budget and it is going to the Senate to be voted on. The article stated: "The Alabama Education Budget will leave no money for school supplies."

I have been told that the Rogersville, Alabama, students are sent home without books and without homework assignments because the teachers cannot afford the photocopy paper to print the homework assignments! This is leading to failing grades and failing students!

On March 25, 2010, the Florence TimesDaily also reported that Alabama is ranked as the number one state with jail-housed criminals per capita. This is an outrage ... Alabama must wake up and help change our State...I feel it all starts with our students...they are our future!

First, I request that people write to our State Senator Jeff Sessions and Senator Richard Shelby and request that they do not pass this education bill. Their websites can be found on the web with an email link. I agree that we must all adopt a school, a class, or student(s) to help stop this lack of education and to help our schools with funding! The teachers should not have to bear the financial responsibility.

Please, let's band together and write to our Senators and ask for help with our Educational Funding.


Comics anyone? In case our state legislature isn't providing enough humor, we're now offering over 150 comics. Use the blue bar to scroll down to a strip that catches your fancy, then click on the yellow triangle located at the top right to view the entire comic. Enjoy!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Weeden Elementary School Needs You!

Pictured: Weeden School prior to 1955 building

Some years ago, the Florence City School System entered into a partnership with local business. The concept entailed the commercial entity promoting its adopted school in a positive manner. This partnership turned into a mixed bag for the system, with perhaps the most bizarre offering being delivered to Hibbett School. It seems Hibbett's partner was Parisian Department Store which aided the students by presenting a fashion show in the school auditorium. We hope the students enjoyed the fashion parade, but we somehow doubt that was the intent of the Adopt-a-School program.

We're not sure if the Florence system still participates in this program, but we do know that each school in the system is helped immensely by parents. These angels of largesse donate both time and supplies to their children's homerooms. Obviously the more affluent the parents, the more that is donated.

Let's be candid here concerning the situation in Weeden Heights. There may be some extremely wealthy individuals living in the Weeden School district, but obviously many of its citizens barely make ends meet, if even that. That's where you come in.

If you have no children, or if your children are grown, we urge you to adopt Weeden School, adopt a grade, adopt a classroom. Do whatever you can to ensure these students are on an even playing field with those at Florence's other two elementary schools. There's absolutely no reason that in 2010 one city school should lag behind the other two or suffer a reputation for inferiority.

These children are our future. Let's not let them down.


Lauderdale County Republican Party

Executive Committee Qualifying Closes April 2nd

Florence, Ala. - The Lauderdale County Republican Executive Committee is seeking candidates for positions on the executive committee. This is your chance to have input into the Lauderdale County Republican Party’s decisions and policies. Interested residents are asked to contact county party chairman Bill Batson at 762-4489. The qualifying fee is $50.00 and there are 25 members elected. Qualifying ends Friday, April 2, 2010 at 5:00 p.m..


Unusual Politics as Usual...

From Colbert County: We hear that supporters of Sheriff Ronnie May are busy placing political signs in various yards--the problem being they're doing so without the owners' permission. The odds are that Colbert County will have a new sheriff come next year.


From downtown Florence: After almost three years, the city of Florence is finally tackling a monumental issue--teaching employees what the small toggle switch on the wall actually does. Those who drive past the Florence-Lauderdale Government Building have long complained of late night lights on the second, fourth, and sixth floors of the building--all floors controlled by the city. Now such lights will be universally dimmed at 11:00 p.m. Why so late? Media Czar Phil Stevenson states that many city employees work late. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, couldn't those who leave earlier manage to flip the switch in their individual offices?


From Franklin County: A source from Scope 310 tells us that many group home managers and others connected to the county's Medicaid patients have long been displeased by the system's assigned psychiatrist--Dr. William M. Roddy. Due to budget cuts, Medicaid has been making an effort to curtail many of the meds used in the psychiatric care of its mentally impaired patients. According to our informant, at that point Roddy became unresponsive to the needs of the Medicaid clients and requests of their caregivers, refusing to discuss any other forms of treatment. Perhaps the fact that Roddy used the word "Med" in the title of his clinic should have given something away.

What's up with this: The farther behind Ron Sparks falls in the polls, the worse his grammar seems to become. We look for him soon to change his name to Bubba.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Jimmy Sandlin to Again Run for Lauderdale Circuit Court

According to yesterday's TimesDaily, Judge Jimmy Sandlin will seek re-election as Lauderdale County Circuit Court Judge Place 1, commonly referred to as Family Court Judge. Sandlin is opposed by Florence attorney Willson Jenkins and presumably Billy Jackson who, if still in the running, is keeping a low profile.

Sandlin came to the judgeship four years ago after defeating Judge Larry Mack Smith. His platform during that campaign was "saving marriages." Since his election, Jimmy Sandlin himself has divorced and been the subject of much speculation concerning his ability to carry out the job to which the people of Lauderdale County elected him.

Almost immediately after the inception of this blog, we were contacted by a Lauderdale County woman who had experienced Sandlin's court firsthand. Now that Sandlin has officially announced his intent to run for a second term, this caring and articulate woman and mother has again contacted us. She will be setting up her own website to oppose Jimmy Sandlin's re-election, using her documented case specifics, as well as other personal information that we choose not to publish at this time.

However, we can publish some of the concerns this woman is seeking to address. Here, in her own words, are her (edited) complaints regarding Judge Jimmy Sandlin which she has included in a mailing to many of his supporters:

---------Sandlin refused to grant my children and me financial support or exclusive use of the home-place from Feb 2005 to Feb 2007, that we owned another home on the same property, that we repeatedly turned to Judge Sandlin for help, that Sandlin was given several opportunities to protect my children, and he refused to help them.

---------copies of 3 motions filed asking for immediate relief from the conditions we were in:

---------the first one coincided with the initial filing for divorce which stated that "the wife does not feel safe if required to reside with the husband", "there have been certain behavioral changes in her husband of late which support and give credence to her fears"...stated that the husband has other places to reside.

---------subsequent motions used the words "openly hostile".... "chronic tension".... "detrimental effects both on the parties and the parties' children"... "significant negative effects on the parties' three girls"... "there is suffering among this family and the brunt of the suffering is unfortunately borne by the parties' children"... "defendant routinely drinks to excess".... "(children) have too much to endure".... "indicative of their (children's) depression"..."he withholds money"..."makes their simple existence almost unbearable"...."deteriorating circumstances in the marital residence"..."increasing air of hostility"...."environment counter-productive and unnecessary"..."afford them the relief to which they are entitled". Strong language, yet Sandlin refused to respond to the numerous requests for relief and deliberately left us in the same house with (husband) for two full years.

---------my testimony that the court damaged my children by making us reside with (husband) under these conditions for 2 years and that Sandlin threatened to make my daughters wards of the state with no justification at all.

---------that it was suggested by legal professionals that the way Sandlin arranged my children's child support is not legal...he awarded them $1934/month and then kicked back to (husband) $734/month as "rent" even though both our homes were paid for. This $734 in rent was not recorded on the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. More than one attorney told me this was not legal.

---------my attorney's affidavit that neither he nor (husband's) attorney received notice of the ruling which cost us our opportunity to appeal Sandlin's decree.

---------a copy of the January, 2007, article from the Times Daily about Sandlin's commitment to mending marriages, the programs that he implemented, the same programs he bypassed when he got his own divorce in another county.

As stated, these comments are highly edited. When the website has been completed, we will be providing a link for those who wish to read the story in its entirety. For further reading, we include links to previous columns concerning Lauderdale County Circuit Court Judgeship Place 1:

Jimmy Sandlin
Willson Jenkins
Billy Jackson

Be a good Alabamian, be an informed Alabamian.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mike Curtis Has No Democratic Opposition (Unfortunately)

Mike Curtis, a 1977 graduate of the University of North Alabama, started out his career as a shoe salesman at Castner-Knott Department Store in Regency Square Mall. From there he entered into the field of insurance sales and ran for a seat on the Lauderdale County Commission, serving for ten years.

When Curtis decided to run for the State House of Representatives, we're sure many had high hopes for the Greenhill native. For many of us, those hopes were soon bashed against a stonewall of deceit concerning the 62% raise the Alabama Legislature voted themselves in 2007.

If Curtis had voted "yes" to the bill, that would have been his prerogative. Instead he abstained, which was also his prerogative, but then two years later felt the need to claim he had voted "no."

Mr. Curtis has a degree from UNA; we're sure he knows the difference between abstaining and voting "no." We're also sure he thinks his constituency has a short memory.

Lest anyone doubt Mr. Curtis' deceitfulness in this matter, here are the facts:

From the Saturday, April 4, 2009, TimesDaily:

"Curtis is a commission only insurance agent who said he's now a full-time legislator and part-time insurance agent. He said he voted no on the pay raise two years ago.
Irons said she was unaware the automatic pay raise was part of the resolution two years ago. 'I voted against the pay raise,' she said."

Seemingly both Curtis and Irons hope the voters have short memories. According to the March 22, 2007, TimesDaily:

"The Shoals' two newest legislators faced their first big test this week, and they failed it miserably. State Reps. Mike Curtis, D-Greenhill, and Tammy Irons, D-Florence, had the opportunity to tell voters whether they agreed or disagreed with a 62-percent pay hike for themselves and other legislators in a recorded vote Tuesday. What did they do? Nothing. They dodged the issue by abstaining."

Let's hope Mr. Curtis will at least have Republican opposition who can discern the truth from a lie.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

We've Heard of Glad-Handing, but Glad-Hugging?

Since much has recently been made of Roger Bedford's close relationship with Chad Coker's family in Lamar County, we thought we'd see just who else is close to the King of Pork. If you don't recognize her, that's Candy Haddock, Democratic candidate for the District 1 House seat being vacated by Tammy Irons.

Speaking of that race, is Hermon Graham still in the running?

What's up with this: Anyone noticed Tammy Irons' billboard on Woodward Avenue? Not the best placement--blocking Tammy's face is Little Caesar of pizza fame. Well, his namesake was a much more astute politician.


Kenny Strickland: The Murderer Speaks

When Lauderdale County detective Travis Clemmons learned that Kenny Strickland (pictured) had spent the night in the Wheeler Lake cabin from which he had been previously evicted, the 24 year-old meth addict became a prime suspect in the brutal murder of Rusty Lynn Earnest. Informants reported that on the day of May 2, 2007, Strickland was seen at various drug houses flashing a large roll of hundred dollar bills. After two interviews, Clemmons returned to Strickland's new home in Eva, Alabama, and arrested him on capital murder charges.

Because of the gravity of the charge, Strickland was initially denied bail; but when an April 2008 grand jury indicted the suspect only on felony murder, burglary, and arson charges, Strickland's family provided the bond for his release. Strickland was scheduled to stand trial in November 2008, but had other ideas.

Seeking to place the blame for Earnest's death on an uncle against whom he had a grudge, Strickland placed an anonymous phone call to Lauderdale authorities. Pretending to be an acquaintance of the uncle, Strickland called from a payphone at an Elgin convenience store. Authorities traced the call and obtained both the suspect's license number and a video tape of him leaving the scene.

During the phone conversation, Strickland told of the brutal attack on Earnest, whom he bludgeoned on the small porch before returning hours later to drag the body inside and set fire to the lake house. Only parts of the conversation have previously been published, but family members who are familiar with the tape tell of the depravity of the crime--Strickland even throttled Earnest's small dog in an attempt to keep it silent, leaving its body lying in the living room with its owner.

Arrested a second time for giving false information to police, Kenneth Strickland decided to enter a plea. At the time of the defendant's court appearance, Rusty Earnest's sister Patsy and her husband were visiting in Pennsylvania, but Earnest's mother Dorothy and brother Grant were in attendance. When Dorothy Earnest asked Strickland why he killed her son, he replied that he didn't know.

Now serving a life sentence at Holman Prison for Rusty Earnest's murder, Kenneth Bradford Strickland will be eligible for parole at some point, perhaps as early as 2015. If you would like to write a letter of protest to be maintained in Strickland's file, you may address it to:

Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole
Post Office Box 302405
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-2405
Re: Kenneth Bradford Strickland - AIS# 234843

Thanks to D.K. for his help with this series on the murder of Rusty Earnest, with whom he had once worked.

Special thanks to Patsy Earnest Michael for her assistance with previously unpublished information. Mrs. Michael has been especially kind to help with these blogs and wants others to know her brother as he was--not as a faceless victim.

While Det. Clemmons and some others characterized Rusty as one who carried large sums of money, Mrs. Michael has further related to us that, while these amounts may have seemed large to Kenny Strickland, Rusty usually just carried enough cash to carry on day-to-day living in Rogersville where debit cards are not always welcome. Rusty had sold his fishing boat in order to help finance a Lasik eye surgery not covered by his insurance.

We're happy to make these addenda, but it should be noted that no matter how much money anyone carries, they do not deserve to be the victim of a brutal beating, to have perhaps half their life taken from them. We're sure that all those who knew Rusty, and many who never met him, have been moved by the story of this sadistic murder, a crime that even took the life of Rusty Earnest's dog.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Kenny Strickland: The Ultimate Betrayal

According to Kenneth Bradford Strickland's family, he had been an addict his entire adult life. Frequently family members intervened, and Strickland always managed to retain his freedom. In a 2006 attempt to rehabilitate Strickland, his grandfather allowed the then 23 year-old to move into his lakeside cottage--a cottage next door to the home of Rusty Earnest. For a short time, Kenny Strickland seemed on the road to a drug-free life. During this period, Earnest helped the younger man in any way he could.

However, it was not long before Strickland relapsed and was evicted from the small beach house. According to those who knew Strickland, by 2007 his life had become a cycle of theft, drug use, and more theft to fund his drug of choice--methamphetamine.

In late April, Rusty Earnest sold his fishing boat to a co-worker, a fact Earnest casually mentioned at a local restaurant belonging to Strickland's family. Whether Kenny Strickland knew the exact details of the sale is unknown, but what is known was Strickland's desperation for money and drugs on the day of May 1, 2007.

Strickland had unsuccessfully attempted to sell a knife before borrowing $25.00 from a friend. According to those who saw him later that day, Strickland, along with two female companions, had spent the money on whiskey and was again broke. Around midnight, he decided to pay Rusty Earnest a visit...

Tomorrow: He killed both of them.


Featured on From Muscle Shoals to Music Row, you can buy their music on their MySpace site--The Levees:


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Death of Rusty Earnest

Rusty Lynn Earnest's home on Travel Path Road in Rogersville wasn't palatial, but it offered a panoramic view of Roberson Beach on Wheeler Lake. It was also usually surrounded by vehicles and boats that Earnest collected or just bought to help out those who needed some extra cash. It was the sale of one of these boats on May 1, 2007, that ultimately led to his death. Earnest was known to carry large amounts of cash, and his neighbors on the lake front road knew that the boat's sale had brought even more ready cash into the pockets of the health physics specialist.

When Earnest didn't show up for work the next day, a worried co-worker contacted Rogersville police. Together the friend and Chief Ty Barrett arrived around 10:30 to find Earnest's house filled with smoke; both Rusty and his dog were dead inside. Assistant Rogersville Fire Chief Morris Lentz stated the house was so well sealed there wasn't enough oxygen to fuel the flames, and much evidence to the crime remained. There were obvious blood stains on the small patio, but not so obvious was the killer's identity.

Neighbors and family all spoke well of Earnest, but they also mentioned his habit of carrying copious amounts of cash. Lauderdale County investigators who had arrived at the scene now had a motive--what they didn't have was a suspect.


To be sure it's the day for the wearin' of the green. May the road rise up to meet you and may you all enjoy this traditional Irish song--written in America, of course.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Life of Rusty Earnest

Rusty L. Earnest was 47 years-old when he was brutally murdered three years ago. If he had died one hundred years earlier, perhaps there would have been those who felt Rusty had lived a long life; when he died in 2007, many speculated on the number of years that had been taken from him. All who knew him agreed on one thing: Rusty Earnest had lived life to the fullest.

Rusty left several relatives, among them his sister Patsy Earnest Michael of Athens. The following is an account of Rusty's life in her own words:

Rusty grew up in the small town of Loretto, Tenneessee. There he attended high school and was selected as most friendly, a trait he carried through his 47 years of life. At the time of his death, he lived on the Tennessee River in Rogersville, Alabama, where he had resided since 1984.

He had traveled around the United States in the Nuclear Power Industry since the early 1980s. He had worked locally at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and was working at the TVA Muscle Shoals Power Shop at the time of his murder. Rusty was a Christian man, an active member at Faith Church in Florence, where he served on the greeters ministry. Rusty had a God given gift of helping others. He was always ready to lend a helping hand and would take the time to talk to others, never drawing attention to himself.

As family we knew the sincere kind of person he was, but since his death have learned from co-workers from all areas-church family, neighbors, and friends-of the many positive impacts he had made in their lives. All of these people were devastated by his horrible and senseless death. Rusty worked very hard for his material possessions and was thankful for them. He loved to have people to enjoy fellowship at his home on the river, only to have everything destroyed.

Rusty’s life being taken has been devastating for my family, and only with God's help in our lives and prayers from others, have we survived. It’s something we will never get over, but have to learn to live with. We are members of the group Vocal (Victims of Crime and Leniency) in which we now support other families when the same devastation and pain comes to them.

In so many people's eyes, Kenny Strickland should never get out of prison. Yet as sad as it is, by Alabama Law he will become eligible for parole one day, and we will be there to fight for Rusty. We are now in the process of working on this, even though it should be years in the future.

Tomorrow: The Death of Rusty Earnest


Are All Murders Equal?

Before you answer yes to the question posed in today's topic, let us consider some different scenarios. A man kills his daughter's attacker, a second man kills his wife's boyfriend, a third kills an acquaintance in a drunken brawl, and a fourth kills a stranger for the cash in his pocket. Are all four murders equal? At least in Alabama, the fourth murder could possibly be the only one designated a capital crime. Yet even murders where a second crime is involved are not always prosecuted as capital offenses--think Shaun Shapley who murdered his stepdaughter during an attempted rape.

Alabama is one of only a handful of states that will sentence a white collar criminal to prison, yet will not consider premeditation grounds for capital charges. Our legal system is indeed an enigma.

Obviously, a district attorney, no matter how air-tight the case, is not guaranteed a guilty verdict. Plea bargains may look good in almost any capital case. Like Shaun Shapley, Kenneth Bradford Strickland pleaded guilty to a lesser offense in the 2007 death of Rusty Earnest. Until now, many of the facts concerning Earnest's murder have gone unpublished.

Rusty Earnest was a friend to many in the Shoals area, as well as Loretto and Athens where he had family. Lauderdale District Attorney Chris Connolly called the Strickland murder case one of the strangest he had ever prosecuted. Join us tomorrow as we begin our look at Rusty Earnest's life and death.

Did you know: Almost one in ten residents of Alabama Death Rows was convicted in the counties of Lauderdale, Colbert, and Franklin.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Tuscumbia Police: The New Keystone Kops?

When Tony Logan arrives at the Tuscumbia Police Department tomorrow, presumably riding a bicycle, he may not have a good day. It seems Tony could be spending at least part of tomorrow interviewing replacements for a TPD employee recently terminated for stealing city gasoline. That's only if he isn't attacked by another disgruntled and spurned female officer. Well, variety is the spice of life, but one would think the city of Tuscumbia might at some point prefer their chief to do some routine police work and leave the drama for the courtroom.

We wonder if those who once criticized Florence Chief Rick Singleton for sacking Logan still feel he made the wrong decision. The FPD is extremely fortunate to have a chief who is able to weed out rogue officers and maintain a department with at least some semblance of integrity.


Judging by comments on local forums, many don't understand the Alabama ban on the sale of so-called sex toys. The highly controversial ban didn't originate because of any crusade by area churches or self-appointed keepers of morality. It seems at last look the states of Georgia, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, and Louisiana also have such bans. In fact, Alabama's 1998 ban on sex toys was taken directly from Georgia law. Further it was taken from Georgia law by mistake.

It seems a Huntsville legislator sought to curtail drug use and other illegal activity at a so-called gentleman's club in the city of Madison. His idea was to outlaw topless dancing and, being either frugal with his time or just downright lazy, he lifted Georgia's law word for word. The legislator failed to read the entire law, and thus Alabama's ban on so-called sex toys came into effect as an addendum to the State's obscenity law. The fact that the ban was accidental has done nothing to prevent Troy King from stringently enforcing the sex toy clause. This would be the ideal place to insert a bon mot about Mrs. TK's feelings concerning the law, but obviously the poor woman has suffered enough.

What's up with this: Florence's One Luv shop had over 3,500 MySpace friends before it even introduced sex novelties; can we say mail order sales?


Sunday, March 14, 2010

More Problems for the Muscle Shoals Police?

Our March 1st blog referred to the suspension of a Muscle Shoals police officer stationed at the city jail. Ten days later the TimesDaily confirmed the suspension of Charles Richard Michael. Now our contact with the MSPD informs us that two more officers are in trouble--one of them a long-term veteran with the department.

The two officers, a patrolman and a sergeant, are being questioned in the beating of a handcuffed black suspect. The source indicates that we can expect another announcement from Muscle Shoals law enforcement within the week.


For those seeking to clean house at the Lauderdale Board of Education, Chad Holden is certainly making himself and his ideas for change available to the citizens of Lauderdale County. Holden, while maintaining a full-time teaching position, has been regularly visiting each corner of the county, getting to know the electorate and, more importantly, letting them get to know him. So far he is officially unopposed in his quest for a seat on the Board. Holden is certainly on the right track, and we wish him the best. You can follow Chad on Facebook.


Apparently One Luv, the Florence shop that recently added sex toys to its line of novelties, has already discontinued the risque merchandise, or would that be risky? TK the AG has tentacles in every county and isn't afraid to use his power whether it be to thwart the sale of illicit lingerie or command county registrars to scour voting rolls for the stray convicted felon. Ah, attention to detail...too bad it doesn't extend to his ethics.


Happy birthday tomorrow to one of our favorite EMTs, Donna Cain. Hope you have a good one, Donna!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Tony Logan's Blood Alcohol Count--No Mistake

The photo on the front page of Thursday's TimesDaily showed a laughing Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan, puffy face and all, talking and joking with others seated in Judge James Hall II's Florence Municipal courtroom. Yes, it's a real fun place--crying babies, body odors, amateur tats, and stopped up toilets. Perhaps Logan missed the courtroom's full effect since he was apparently tried in special session to accommodate the city's appointed special prosecutor.

For any who may have missed it, Logan was convicted, with testimony indicating his blood alcohol level was .272 three hours after the incidents that precipitated his arrest. No, that's not a typo, his bac was more than three times the legal limit for the State of Alabama. Defense attorney Tim Case is appealing Logan's conviction, stating there were problems with the chain of custody.

Each institution may have a different procedure for handing specimens, but in every case, once the blood is drawn, it is sealed and not opened again until it reaches the lab tech who will do the actual testing. So...we're to assume not only someone at the FPD has it in for Logan and tampered with his blood sample, but the lab tech was in on it as well? Sounds good, after all, why should crazy conspiracy theories be wasted on only national events. The Shoals is entitled to create its own.

Now, Case will be taking some more of Logan's money to appeal to Lauderdale County Circuit Court. The two of them will also be taking tax money from Lauderdale County citizens in order to perpetuate this farce. Logan and Case--prime examples of the Peter Principal; the television series should be coming soon.

FYI: Some years ago we heard of an individual who lost a case in Florence Municipal Court and then sought to appeal to Lauderdale Circuit Court. When the defense attorney told the client it would be useless and a waste of money, the defendant searched until finding one that would take the case--Yep, good guess. Case is always on the case.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Words (The New Political Language)


A Guest Commentary by

J. J. Ray

Well, it is that time again. Election season is upon us. For all of you that are watching the goings on in Washington you will discover there is a new language out there. I call it politicaleze, not to be confused with salesmaneze or lawyereze. Although they are similar, they are not quite the same. If anyone has ever bought a car you will be familiar with salesmaneze, or if you have any dealings with insurance salesperson then you have been exposed. Attorney’s primarily use Lawyereze until they are elected. Then the legislature infection takes over.

Congress speaks a combination of all three. I believe that when they are elected all those promises that they made somehow got lost inside their heads and then that new language and virus, Congresseze takes over. This language infects that part of the brain than controls speech and truth. Most politicians are infected with it, there is no cure or vaccine only the termination of their position will cure it.

Now, do not confuse these new languages with mediaeaze because that one is a pure dialect. There is left-winger, right-winger, centrist, liberal, bleeding heart liberal, populist, moderate, social democrat, blue-dog democrat, Regannite, birther, progressive and the old standbys republican and democrat. Oh, the new one, tea partier almost forgot that one. How can a democrat or republican become all or part of these designations? I thought we had a two party system.

The President is such a good polyglot he is able to combine all the languages and roll them into Presidenteze. Presidenteze however, comes with a special infection commonly referred to as selective hearing and fractional amnesia.

Some in congress are prone to that selective infection but the media in most cases have a cure for it. Apparently the President welcomes the selective virus as he does not hear the will of people when they tell him no and forgets all those promises he made when he was campaigning. I have heard it said that some women also have the selective virus. Personally, I would never allude to it for reasons of personal safety.

In November of this year, I believe those that are infected with congresseze will get an antibiotic and then they will be cured. Maybe part of that will rub off on the president. Next time we will get precise definitions of the new Media language and learn the proper way to discern it.

The countdown is on: For Tuscumbia Mayor Shoemaker to decide the fate of Police Chief Tony Logan. The voters of Tuscumbia are waiting...


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Official Alabama Flora, Fauna, & Miscellany

Since the furor over changing the state song began, we've heard several individuals state they had no idea Alabama even had an official song. Indeed, Alabama has many official items. Here's a list we've compiled from various sources:

Song - Alabama by Julia Tutwiler
Bible - State Bible in Montgomery
Seal - Great Seal of Alabama
Creed - Creed of Alabama
Coat of Arms - Eagles Supporting Shield
Poet Laureate - Sue Walker (A former poet laureate was Morton Prouty of Florence)
Nickname - Yellowhammer State
Motto - "We Dare Defend Our Rights"
Flag - Crimson Cross of St. Andrew
Bird - Yellowhammer
Game Bird - Wild Turkey
Horse - Racking Horse
Mammal - Black Bear
Marsupial - Opossum
Reptile - Red-Bellied Turtle
Insect - Monarch Butterfly
Butterfly - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Freshwater Fish - Largemouth Bass
Saltwater Fish - Fighting Tarpon
Amphibian - Red Hills Salamander
Shell - Caphella Junonia Johnstoneae

Fossil - Basilosaurus Cetoides
Flower - Camellia Japonica
Wildflower - Oak Leaf Hydrangea
Vine Fruit - Blackberry
Tree Fruit - Peach
Tree - Southern Longleaf Pine
Nut - Pecan
Rock - Marble
Gemstone - Star Blue Quartz
Mineral - Hematite
Soil - Bama Soil Series
Folk Dance - Square Dance
Quilt - Pine Burr Quilt
Renaissance Faire - Florence Renaissance Faire
Spirit - Conecuh Ridge Whiskey
Theatre - Alabama Theatre of the Performing Arts
Championship Contest - Horse Show
Horseshoe Tournament - Stockton Fall Horseshoe Tournament
Barbecue Championship - Demopolis Christmas Cook-off on the River
Musical Drama - The Incident at Looney's Tavern
Non-Musical Drama - The Miracle Worker
Agricultural Museum - Dothan Landmark Parks
Veterans Museum - Alabama Veterans Museum, Athens, Alabama

We're not bothering with jokes--it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Perhaps the salient point is that for each of these items, albeit dating back to the 1800's, the State Legislature actually dedicated time and effort in establishing these officialities. See any you'd like changed? Or how about a campaign for an official state crustacean like Louisiana has? Contact us; we'll work on it.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stars Fell on Alabama (If You Haven't Heard)

The annual Leonid meteor shower was so pronounced on the night of November 12-13, 1833, that many thought it was the end of the world. The shower was especially dramatic in the Southeast, with Alabama being the focal point.

Perhaps much of this night's history would have been lost if not for University of Alabama English professor Carl Cramer. In early 1934, he published a series of essays detailing several events depicted in Alabama folklore. More than one essay told of the "night the stars fell," a night so etched in the memory of many that later events were often described as happening so many years after the famous meteor shower.

Cramer was a New York native whose book received wide publicity for its day. After hearing of the event, Mitchell Parrish and Frank Perkins were inspired to write the song Stars Fell on Alabama later that year. The number of artists who have recorded this standard are too numerous to mention, but certainly Jimmy Buffett's rendition tops the list for many of us.

We invite you to watch the following video. If any one of you should still feel Stars Fell on Alabama shouldn't be the official state song, there's no musical hope for you.


Matthew Williams: Was Justice Done?

Did Matthew Daniel Williams take a bullet that was meant for someone else? It's hard to come to any other conclusion after reviewing the various statements concerning the March 15, 1997, drive-by shooting.

While driving north on Woodward Avenue, Matthew Williams was behind the wheel, while his friend Bradley Williams, an alleged member of the Crips, sat on the passenger side; between them sat Brandi Lee Campbell, often described as a gang-wannabe. Bradley Williams had been involved in a verbal altercation with 16 year-old Charles Eugene Black earlier in the evening. Now, Black was a passenger in a car driven by 18 year-old Jamie Allen Mackey. Three other youths rode in the back seat of Mackey's car, all either members of or closely associated with the Folk Nation.

As Mackey's car maneuvered alongside Matthew Williams' truck, Brandi Campbell saw the glint of a gun as it misfired. Telling her fiance' Bradley Williams to duck, Campbell followed suit, allowing the second shot to strike Matthew Williams in the head. According to Campbell's dramatic testimony, she knew he was dead as soon as she felt him slump against her.

A Colbert County jury took 45 minutes to convict Charles Black of capital murder. Black is serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole at the St. Clair Correctional Facility. Mackey was convicted of felony murder and is currently serving a life sentence at Limestone Correctional Facility; he is eligible for parole.

The third defendant in the case was Ben Edward Burt (pictured). A resident of Reedtown, the 37 year-old Burt was supposedly the Northwest Alabama leader of the Folk gang and a close associate of Mark Anthony Hurley, aka the Reedtown rapist. The Franklin County resident admitted to ordering a random hit on a member of the Crip gang and was given a plea deal for his testimony. Burt received a twenty year sentence and is currently incarcerated at Limestone.

According to Danny and Elaine Williams, Matthew's parents, while they accepted the plea deal, they expected Burt to receive much longer than his twenty year sentence. Now Burt's case is to be presented to the Alabama Board of Pardons & Parole on April 13. They are asking that all concerned citizens write the Board in protest of Ben Edward Burt's parole. We don't think it's too much to ask that Burt serve the remaining seven years of his sentence.

Alabama Board of Pardons & Parole
Post Office Box 302405
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-2405
Re: Ben Edward Burt - AIS #1


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our New State Song by Bubba Smuckpucker

Our New State Song

A Guest Commentary by

Bubba LeRoy Smuckpucker II

I heard on TV that Alabama is fixing to pick a new state song. At first I heard it was going to be "Stars fell on Alabama" that I'd never heard of, but now I hear it's going to be "Sweet Home Alabama" that everybody's heard of. Great choice, man.

Well, actually I'd rather have "Ala-freakin-bama" but you can't expect our state lawmakers to have that much class. Just last year they voted to up the highschool dropout age to 17, and I need my boy at home to help with the septic tank business, so what can you expect from anybody that's been to college.

But back to the song, I hear Johnny Mack Morrow--he's my cousin Earl Nol's wife's brother-in-law's foot doctor's neighbor (twice removed)--wants to change the words around to cut out some things that are supposed to be offensive. All I got to say is that they should add some more of them. Us in Alabama don't give a rat's ass what anybody across any state lines think of us. Hell, I think we should have left the union when Wallace was gubnor. At least they mention him in the song, along with Watergate, Neil Young, and Jimmy Carter in some versions.

That's what I mean, we can add some more verses and stick it to ol' Obama while we're at it. This would be the best thing that's happened to Alabama since George stood in the schoolhouse door.

Go for it, Johnny Mack. We're all behind you here in Dog Ear, Alabama. We might not read no newspapers. Heck, maybe most of us can't even spell Alabama, but we vote, usually for the same people over and over. That's why we have the most greatest state in the Union.

Thanks for letting me have my say,

Bubba LeRoy Smuckpucker II

Dog Ear, Alabama

Foghorn Junior High Class of 1982

Our series on the murder of Matthew Williams will continue tomorrow.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Matthew Williams: No More Crusin' on Woodward Avenue

The pony cars are cruisin' on Woodward Avenue.
Go and try to pass 'em, they'll smoke you if you do.

From The Horizontal Bop by Bob Segar

One doesn't have to be superstitious to realize that the Ides of March was unlucky for Matthew Daniel Williams. It was Saturday, March 15, 1997, when Williams died in a 10:20 p.m. drive-by shooting on Woodward Avenue. Reports indicated that Williams' red Mazda truck displayed symbols associated with the Crips; the other two occupants of his truck were Bradley Williams and his pregnant fiancee' Brandi Lee Campbell. Campbell was known to talk of gang related activities and flash gang signs at random--a strange affectation that may have directly led to Matthew Williams' death.

Matthew Williams, a graduate of Muscle Shoals High School, was attending Northwest-Shoals Community College at the time of his death. A member of the choral group "The Singers," he had a perfect 4.0 GPA. Muscle Shoals police were initially mystified as to how the conservative Williams had become involved in a gang related shooting. Their investigation later determined that Bradley Williams, no relation to the victim, had been in a verbal altercation with the shooter earlier in the evening. Was Bradley Williams the intended victim? Were gangs even involved? Had Brandi Campbell sacrificed Matthew Williams to save her fiance'?

Tomorrow: A plea deal that left Matthew Williams' family shocked.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Blog Awards/Home Furniture Depot

There are many blog directories in cyberspace--some are regional, some are topical, and some encompass as many areas as possible. Home Furniture Depot is the driving force behind Blog Awards, a directory that not only lists various blogs, but rates them as well. Currently, over 2,200 blogs are featured at their blog website. Home Furniture Depot was kind enough to add our blog several weeks ago, and we've been remiss in not acknowledging that kindness. Here's a link to their store's website; we're sure you'll find something you can't live without.


Our correspondent D.K. tells us that a parole hearing for Ben Edward Burt Jr. (AIS #197375) will be held on April 13, 2010. Burt was convicted of criminal solicitation in the murder of Matthew Williams of Muscle Shoals. Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting on March 15, 1997. Thirteen years is far too short a sentence for such a crime. D.K., as well as the rest of our blogging group, encourage you to write to protest Burt's parole:

Alabama Board of Pardons & Parole
Post Office Box 302405
VSO Debra Bonds
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-2405

Tomorrow: The murder of Matthew Williams



Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hospice Hijinks: Fasten Your Seatbelts

The following column is one of a series that we will be publishing at random intervals over the next few weeks/months. At this time, we are censoring the names of the Shoals area hospice, as well as those of the author and recipient of the e-mails. All censored names will be replaced with five x's.

It is our understanding that various lawsuits, including one for sexual harassment, have been filed against this company; however, while this is public information for those who might wish to search courthouse records, most of what we will be publishing has not yet been seen in the media. Kudos to the victim in this case for coming forward...


Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2008 10:27:45 -0800
Subject: XXXXX

February 27, 2008
I don't know what all XXXXX has told you as to why I quit working for XXXXX. I'm pretty sure he hasn't been completely honest with you, which is why I am emailing you.
I applied for my unemployment after I quit. I received a letter today stating that XXXXX denied my benefits for the following reasons: "You left your last bona fide work with XXXXX voluntarily for reasons you would not discuss. In the absence of any additional information from you, it is determined your leaving work was without good cause connected to work." Of course this statement is untrue because XXXXX knows exactly why I quit my job. I have proof that XXXXX was fully aware of my reasons.
Before I get started, XXXXX, I just want to say that I used to LOVE my job. I worked very hard for your company. I even took work home with me all the time. XXXXX became my life, my family. Ten months ago that changed dramatically. I really think you need to know this. You need to ask XXXXX the truth about what really happened between me and him. And also what has happened between him and a couple more girls at that office. Although I don't think he will be completely honest with you, but I am going to tell you what happened to me.
I had a meeting with XXXXX one night over drinks at Applebees about 10 months ago to discuss the OIG reports. He was already three sheets in the wind by the time I got there. I also discussed with him my concerns (again) about the nursing home billing. He told me that he wasn't worried about it. I asked him what was he going to do if & when they audited us. He told me he would play dumb and get a loan to pay them off. I got frustrated. He would not listen to me, as usual. It was getting late & I was gathering my things to leave. He leaned over and kissed me. When he did, I stood up and I told him that he should not have done that and that would cause a lot of problems. I knew he was drunk and I was willing to let it slide. I told him that it would be a terrible mistake and that it wasn't going to happen. I told him NO. He leaned back in his seat, crossed his arms and said, " don't work for me no more then.". I couldn't believe he said that to me. I asked him what the hell he meant by that. And he proceeded to tell me that if I didn't have sex with him, I wouldn't have a job. I got so angry. And I cussed him right there in the bar. I have witnesses. It made quite a scene. He chased me down in the parking lot and tried talking to me. He asked me to wait on him while he went in to pay his tab so we could talk about this. As soon as he went in I got in my car & went home. I was so upset I called XXXXX crying. I told her I wasn't coming back to work. While I was on the phone with her, XXXXX knocked on my door. Yes, he came to my apartment. My friend that lived in the apt beside me is a witness to this. XXXXX accidentally went to his apartment first. XXXXX heard everything that was said & went on while he was there. I told him I wouldn't be back to work. He promised me that I would make more money than ever in my life and I would 'have it made'. Next thing I knew he was on top of me. I don't think I have to tell you what happened next. When he was done, all he was talking about was you. He was scared of you finding out. He said you would kill him. And of course he talked about being scared of a lawsuit. I kicked him out of my apartment & told him not to expect me back at work. The next day he called me apologizing and asked me to please come back. He valued me as an employee and didn't want to lose me. So I came back. And it happened more than once.
I lost respect for him after that. I felt trapped. I didn't know what to do. I have two small kids. I couldn't afford to lose my job. So I stayed. But I wasn't happy. I was very uncomfortable. Unlike another certain employee, I never used it to my advantage. In fact I was damn right ashamed of it. For a while, after he got married, the advances stopped. I quit because there was another incident. He started making advances again. I had to leave.
I could've filed a lawsuit against him and the company. But I just wanted to put it behind me and move on with my life.
What would it have hurt y'all to approve my unemployment? I have two small children to support. Now I'm being forced to take actions. I am appealling my unemployment benefits. And I will have an EEOC representative with me. And if I have to XXXXX, I will subpoena all of my witnesses.
I think it's pretty sorry of him and XXXXX to treat me this way. Even after I quit, I returned to that office to help you guys out several times. I didn't want to come back into that office, but I did. Not to mention I have spent the last three years of my life working my butt off for XXXXX.
XXXXX, I never wanted it to come to this. You have no idea how bad this has affected me personally. It has almost killed me. Literally. I've cried for weeks straight. I lost 10 pounds. I had a nervous breakdown. He has came by my apartment many many times. If you don't believe me, check with the Florence Police Dept. I had to call the law on him because he harassed me for four hours straight in one night. This was recently. A coulple of weeks ago. Of course he had been seen out drinking that night by several people. He even left letters on my car and my apartment complex has surveillance videos. It's all on tape. I did file a police report. If you would like, I can give you a copy of the report. I could've had him arressted, but I asked the officers to just make him leave me alone. He's not allowed back in that Apartment Complex.
I know I'm not perfect, but I am a good person. I would not have just up and quit such a good paying job for no reason. I don't deserve the way I have been treated. And this is just one story of many.

Company Official:

Sent: Thu, February 28, 2008 5:22:39 PM
Subject: XXXXX


To my knowledge we have not taken any action to block your unemployment benefits. If there are any clerical errors, we can submit paperwork to correct it. I wish you well in your future career, and hope that we can part as friends.



Date: Mon, 12 May 2008 12:54:00 -0700
Subject: My Unemployment

I received a letter from the Unemployment Dept. of AL stating that XXXXX has appealed my unemployment benefits, yet again. I have a very good attorney in Birmingham who is aggressively pursuing me to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against XXXXX and XXXXX. I have just about decided to act upon his advice. XXXXX, If I have to I WILL pursue it vigorously. I would think that you are smart enough to avoid this type of humiliation. So your quick attention in this matter to correct this to the Unemployment Dept. would be in the best interest for both of us.

Company Official:

Sent: Thu, May 15, 2008 8:50:08 AM
Subject: RE: My Unemployment


I am not directly involved in this process. However, XXXXX has told me that if you change your reason for filing benefits to" downsizing" or "layoff" then we would see to it that you get your benefits.


If there should be others out there who have had this type of problem, please contact us.