Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where Do You Get Your News?/Cherokee Mayor Arrested?

While we basically offer political commentary, there's a certain amount of news in many of our columns. Why? This news, and we consider it important political news, is not to be found in the TimesDaily, aka TotallyDecatur. If the TD does publish much of this news, it's one or two days after it appears either here or in the ShoalsInsider.

Like many, we hoped this would improve when Shelton Publishing took over the operations of our daily newspaper. Instead, it seems to have gotten worse. We have yet to read in the TD about the arrest of Leighton Police Commissioner Teresa Lannahan.

Then again, if the TD printed all the political news from Leighton and Cherokee, there wouldn't be room for the comics...or, perhaps, they would just be redundant.


Summer is winding down, but you may still need a good fan. How about one from Greer Drug in Sheffield? Link


Things just get more interesting in Cherokee. From C. R.:

Keeper of the Keys: Part Two

Sunday night after 9:00 p.m. Cherokee Town Clerk Melinda Malone found the locks to the clerk’s office changed. Melinda Malone called the police officer on duty and demanded a report be filled out. The officer refused because no crime was committed. The officer was 100% correct. The officer called his dad the Chief of Police and in turn the chief called Mayor Chuck Lansdell. Melinda Malone called Councilwomen Patricia Mason and she showed up to city hall and confronted the mayor.

The unelected Councilwomen Mason was demanding a report and wanted to know who authorized this action. The mayor informed Councilwomen Mason that Alabama law gave him full authority to run the day to day operations of the town and no council vote can override Alabama law. Councilwoman Mason and the town clerk were informed that if they changed the locks he would invoke his rights under Alabama law and have them changed back.

No Common Sense Needed To Apply

It would seem that a person who is educated on the laws of Alabama and has experience in enforcing Alabama laws would understand them better. Cherokee Town Councilman Steve Glover, a law enforcement officer in Lawrence County, was fit to be tied Monday morning after finding out about the town clerk’s office locks being changed. Councilman Glover called the Cherokee Police Dept. and demanded a burglary report be filled out and gave orders to have the mayor arrested for burglary. The police dept. refused the request. It would seem that a person that enforces burglary laws would know more about them.

Section 13A-7-5

Burglary in the first degree.

(a) A person commits the crime of burglary in the first degree if he or she knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling with intent to commit a crime therein, and, if, in effecting entry or while in dwelling or in immediate flight there from, the person or another participant in the crime:

(1) Is armed with explosives; or

(2) Causes physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the crime; or

(3) In effecting entry, is armed with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument or, while in the dwelling or immediate flight from the dwelling, uses or threatens the immediate use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument against another person. The use of or threatened use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument does not include the mere acquisition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument during the burglary.

(b) Burglary in the first degree is a Class A felony.

(Acts 1977, No. 607, p. 812, §2610; Acts 1979, No. 79-471, p. 862, §1; Act 2006-198, p. 286, §1.)

Section 13A-7-7

Burglary in the third degree.

(a) A person commits the crime of burglary in the third degree if he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein.

(b) Burglary in the third degree is a Class C felony.

(Acts 1977, No. 607, p. 812, §2612; Acts 1979, No. 79-471, p. 862, §1.)

The mayor had no intent to commit a crime and he has the right under Alabama law to be on city property. How Councilman Steve Glover keeps a job in law enforcement puzzles me. It should puzzle the Sheriff of Lawrence County.

The Colbert County Sheriff’s Dept. filled out a report on the no crime committed incident. With Labor Day approaching the Colbert County Sheriff’s Dept is back in the Click-it or Ticket program. The sheriff’s election in Colbert County must be over.



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Monday, August 30, 2010

The Tale of Two Train Wrecks

We don't want to look at train wrecks; we know we shouldn't look at train wrecks; yet we invariably do look at train wrecks. Colbert County seems to have two train wrecks--one at each end, veritable bookends you might say.

Neither Cherokee nor Leighton can have a town council meeting without harsh words and strong language--and sometimes fisticuffs. The mayor has been sued in Leighton, as has the mayor's wife in Cherokee. Both towns have female town council members who have been in the news this past week--neither for any meritorious actions. Leighton is being investigated by the Federal Department of Justice, while Cherokee is the subject several State ethics complaints.

Is there a cure for these two towns and their anti-social behavior? Nanny McPhee Part III coming soon...


Our mail is running five to one against our removing the Cherokee town council member pics; however, there was the slight chance her accounts were actually hacked. We think it was probably an instance of someone providing the password to the wrong person and look to hear more about this in the immediate future. As we publish, the council member's Yahoo status of "needing some action and satisfaction" is still up...

For the few who felt the pics shouldn't be republished, remember this person is an elected official, one who makes decisions that affect the entire community. We understand she also makes medical decisions in her role as a rescue squad volunteer. Hacked accounts or not, there were some very bad decisions made here.


Words from Mother Dear: Three things that don't mix...Oil & Water, Ammonia & Chlorine Bleach, a Thong and a Man with a Camera. Mother Dear was always right.


Now, let's return to the train wreck. From C. R.:

Keeper of the Keys

It seems there is a battle of the keys in Cherokee. The city council voted to change the locks on the door to the city clerk’s office. The only person that would have the key would be the city clerk. The mayor of the city would not be allowed to have access. The council wanted to make sure the mayor was really insulted and let the city clerk keep a key to the mayor’s office.

It appears that the mayor has had enough of the council. Friday when the city clerk was off for training he changed the locks to the city clerk’s office and his own. Sunday night after 9:00 p.m. the city clerk Melinda Malone went to city hall and found the locks changed. Melinda Malone called the police officer on duty and the officer called his dad the chief of police and the chief called the mayor. The mayor came to city hall and gave a copy of the key to the city clerk office to Melinda Malone and made her sign for receiving a copy of the key. This should make for an interesting council meeting Sept 7.



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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Special Report: It Doesn't Pay to be Drunk in Cherokee...

This morning we published a special report concerning an elected official from Cherokee. The post contained pictures and a quote that were supposedly provided by this councilperson.

According to the person in question, the photographer and/or persons unknown acquired the password to both her Yahoo and Facebook accounts, hacked in, and added the salacious material. We will take the councilwoman at her word and delete the photos and quote.

Do we believe this person's account of how the photographs came to be on Facebook and Yahoo. We honestly have no idea. These photos were also published on the TimesDaily site; making ours the fourth site to publish them--not exactly breaking news at that point.

Our intention was, and is, to encourage Shoals voters to elect qualified leaders. God knows they are in short supply in this area. It was certainly never our intention to cause any discord between the councilwoman and her family and friends.

Our apologies. We do suggest that the councilwoman check her social networking sites more often since one entry we published was two weeks old.


Red Faces & Pink Slips at the Rail Car Plant

Red Faces & Pink Slips at the Rail Car Plant

A Guest Commentary By

J. J. Ray

Where else in the world could we have Government Motors in Detroit and Alabama Railcars right down the road from Cherokee? That almost seems like poetic justice. There is no doubt the rest of the world, with maybe Venezuela as an exception, is envious.

Think about it folks with only a pittance of just one billion (1,000,000,000,000) we are now in the same category as Barry Obama. Imagine the excitement of the taxpayers and retirees to find out they are now the proud owners of the largest white elephant in the world. A mile long building where nothing happens. Obama I am sure is salivating that we have the audacity to play in the same league as the federal government.

Where is the speech from Governor Riley? After all, he sold us this bill of goods, or was it that swampland in Arizona we bought. Where are our leaders now? They are probably out buying another country club to turn into a dump. When are we going to wise up and quit listening to these snake oil salespeople? There is an old adage that goes, “When do you know a politician is lying to you? When his lips are moving."

Congress is now at eleven percent approval, what about our state leaders when do we hold them accountable? Is there any possibility that something good can come out of that one billion (1,000,000,000,000) hole in the ground. Let’s look at the possibilities, how about the largest car or tank wash in the world or maybe an indoor exercise spa for a herd of white elephants? Don’t like these suggestions? Why don’t we have a contest, name the building, and pick the best use for the facility. The winner will win an all expenses paid trip to the golf course in Ford city that we pay two cents a gallon for every day until the Good Lord comes back.

Yes, it is disheartening to see those sixteen hundred jobs go bye bye. Now we must know how the citizens of Iuka feel. Remember that debacle? How come the phones are not ringing off the wall in our leaders offices? How much longer do we let them drain our life’s blood from this area with their nonsense? Remember the definition of a politician? Poli meaning many and tics meaning blood sucking insects. That is what we have today--many bloodsucker politicians. Stand up for Alabama. Hold them accountable. Vote in November. Send them a message they will understand. Pink slips to all, and to all a good night.


J. J.'s commentary is right on the mark. We would suggest that every retiree covered by the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA) contact David Bronner and inquire about the status of this project. No squeaky wheels indicate satisfaction. Anyone out there satisfied with National Alabama so far?

We would also suggest those affected by this mile-long albino pachyderm contact local news media to inquire why the lack of coverage on this royal mess. We no longer expect the TimesDaily to offer any honest input, but surely the Huntsville television stations would be interested in doing an investigative piece on this massive malfeasance.


Maisie the Beagle has become something of a local celebrity. She's also the namesake of a new charitable cause. Read about it here: Maisie's Fund.


Are you following the adventures of the Naked Baby? Why not suggest new destinations for Naked Baby? We're pretty sure it doesn't need a passport, so how about: Naked Baby Joins the Canadian Royal Mounted Police or Naked Baby Infiltrates a Mexican Drug Cartel?

The possibilities are endless. If you haven't been following, you can catch up here. Link


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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Leighton Police Commissioner Arrested

Teresa Lannaman is a member of the Leighton Town Council and the Police Commissioner of that fair Colbert County town. The 49 year-old convenience store owner is currently serving her third term as Place 1 representative--she may soon be serving a different kind of term.

A 1981 graduate of Muscle Shoals High School, Lannaman was arrested on harassment charges early Thursday morning and was reportedly bonded out of Colbert County Jail by her husband, Jamaican native Russell (the Love Muscle) Lannaman. How important is her arrest to the Shoals political scene?

The answer to that question is: It depends. A source close to Leighton poltitics has informed us that the ABI, previously called in to investigate Mayor LaWayne Harrison, is currently working with the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate several complaints against both the mayor and other city officials. In other words, if you've ever wanted to serve on the Leighton Town Council, now may be the time to throw your chapeau into the slightly tarnished ring.


The license revocation hearing for Brian Keith McGuire has again been continued. The issues in this particular case against McGuire are now over eight years old. Let's hope the Alabama Department of Education charges against McGuire can be officially settled before the end of the year.


Anyone know the former location of Hindman's Mill in Tuscumbia? It may be gone, but you can still buy its image, circa 1913, on eBay: Link


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Friday, August 27, 2010

Update on Two Coaches

Our e-mailer from yesterday has again contacted us concerning Will Foster. She is beginning a campaign to have Foster's Department of Public Safety designation changed through the Florence Police Department. We will publish updates as we have them.


We have no official word on the License Revocation hearing scheduled yesterday for Brian Keith McGuire. According to Alabama Board of Education policy, the verdict may not be handed down for 30 days. If the presiding judge does revoke the teacher/coach's license, McGuire may then appeal to Circuit Court. We assume these proceedings would be held in Limestone County.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Home Invasion 101: Have a Plan


A Guest Commentary By

Charlie Cutshaw

The time is zero dark thirty and you and your spouse/significant other are sleeping peacefully in your bed when you awaken with a start because something has gone “bump in the night” – something that shouldn’t have been there. You wonder if it was your imagination when you hear it again. Someone is in your home and since it is the wee hours of the morning, it is clear that the intruder is up to no good. Being a prudent citizen, you have a pistol and flashlight in the nightstand and your first inclination is to seek out and confront the intruder. But your two kids are in their bedroom asleep and what do you do about them? Your spouse is still sleeping, so you awaken her/him and tell them that something very bad is coming down. What to do? What would YOU do in similar circumstances?

When I was an Army officer, there was tenet that was pounded into our heads that we were to keep in mind at all times. “Remember the Five Ps.” (Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.) In the case of personal safety and home defense it can well be said that prior planning prevents a family member being hurt or killed. I’m not talking about making a defense plan that involves closing with and defeating the enemy intruder, but one that ensures that you and your loved ones live to see another day.

In tactical military operations we had what were called “rallying points.” (RPs) These were places that soldiers went to if separated or after an assault or ambush. In your home, you should also establish RPs in case of emergency. These are rooms where all family members know to go to if something bad happens. In case of a “hot” burglary like the one described above, it probably will be your master bedroom. While one of you sends for the cavalry (The police), the other quietly gathers whatever other family members are in the house and brings them to the RP. The operative word is QUIETLY. You do not wish to announce to the bad guy that you know he has invaded your turf, if at all possible. In case of fire, you should have an RP outside the house where everyone goes to when a smoke detector goes off. (You DO have smoke detectors, don’t you?) Your plans should be simple and straightforward. We had another acronym in the military – KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid! Complexity in planning is the mother of failure. I can’t tell you exactly what to have in your plan, but having done this sort of thing for over 40 years, I can give you some general principles and guidance that you can fit to your circumstances.

First, if you believe that you have an intruder, DO NOT try to confront him yourself. He has the advantage of knowing that you are coming and can ambush you, despite the fact hat you know your home better than he does. Clearing a house is extremely dangerous and unless you have had training, don’t even think about clearing your own home if you are invaded. I have had training in house clearing, but if my home were to be invaded, I would leave that task to the police for the reason stated above. Yes, I have cleared buildings and houses while on police duty, but that was because it was my duty, NOT because I especially wanted to. Trust me – house clearing is one of the most dangerous tasks a police officer can face, so leave it to the police. So you have gathered your family to your RP and have called for the police. What next? Your house probably is (or was) locked and if the intruder came in through a window, the cops are going to have to get in somehow, probably through a door. If the door is locked, what can they do besides kick it in? Well, you give them a key.

When you call 911, tell the dispatcher that you have gathered your family in your RP. Tell him or her where you are in the house, that you are armed and that you will stay in your RP room until the police tell you that it is OK to come out. That way, they know that anyone they encounter in your house is a bad guy. Tell the dispatcher that you will toss a key out the bedroom window for the police to use to gain entry. We keep a key in our bedroom attached to a brightly colored and highly visible sponge that arriving police can easily see. You should do likewise, but wait until they arrive to toss it. Remember that the police aren’t psychic, so you need to tell them everything they need to know about you situation for them to successfully clear your house, keep themselves safe and hopefully apprehend the bad guy.

But what if the worst happens? You have your plan, you have retreated to your RP room and the police are en route. Unlike the movies, it will almost certainly take the police several minutes to arrive, depending upon your location. If you live in the country, it may take as long as a half hour because sheriff’s deputies are few and far between at the hours we are discussing. In the county in which I live, there are usually only two deputies on duty in the early morning hours, one for the east end of the county, one for the west. In the small police department where I am a reserve officer, there is only one officer on duty between the hours of 5:00 PM and 3:00 AM, when he goes off duty. From 3:00 to 6:00, the town is the county’s responsibility and the responding deputy maybe as far as 35 miles distant when he gets the call. My point here is that you should know the approximate response times in the area where you reside. In the final analysis, however, you may have to fend for yourself.

Although the police do their best, they are under no obligation to rescue you. In court case after court case where the police have been sued for failing to prevent a crime, the individual has been found to be personally responsible for his or her self defense. In Alabama, we have what is called the “castle doctrine.” This basically means that if someone invades my home uninvited, they are presumed to there for a nefarious purpose and can be shot. In Alabama, this doctrine also extends to my automobile if I am in it. I can’t shoot someone who is trying to steal my car if I’m not inside it, but if I’m driving and someone attacks me, I have the right to defend myself. Several other states, mostly southern, also have this doctrine, but others do not. Make sure of the law where you live before you use deadly force against anyone. Some benighted states require that you retreat from threats, even in your own home, but Alabama is not one of them. The use of deadly force is beyond the scope of this essay, but I recommend that everyone who legally has a pistol for self defense should afford themselves alternatives to deadly force. Get pepper spray, a Taser or a stun gun, so you have alternatives, even in your home. And remember…have a plan!


We recently received the following e-mail concerning Registered Sex Offender Will Foster:

In doing my monthly or so google checks on Will Foster i can across your blog. Please note that Will Foster IS a sex offender and deviant as i deal in the wake of what he has done on a daily basis. While he did nothing to me directly, what he did to someone i love will never be forgotten (as if it could, even if we tried). He should not be around kids for any reason and if i ever hear of him doing so i will call the cops myself. I am not in the MS area so i can not keep track of him but hope and pray he is not still allowed to do gymnastics in any way. You may publish this if you like as i have created this email just to send you this message. Thanks. I am very curious as to why he wasn't asked to leave, i check the registry and regardless of what it says he is on the sex offender list and should have been removed immediately.

The Sex Offender list is incorrect--it lists Foster as having only one victim over the age of 12 when the crime occurred. While four young women eventually came forward to state they had been sexually molested by Will Foster, the former gymnastics instructor agreed to plead guilty in two cases. Yet, in these two cases, as well as the two he in which he was not charged, all victims were 11 or 12 when the abuse began.

If you wish the Alabama Department of Public Safety to correct this error, please visit there website at: Link.

Scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find a comment section. You may express your concern about this error in the space provided and send as an email to the DOC.


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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Maisie: Thank You So Much for Helping Me!

Trader came by to see me yesterday. The last time he saw me, I had just undergone surgery and was not feeling too good. I am afraid I was not a real good host that day. As I lay there, I heard Dr. Cobb telling Trader he was real concerned that he might have to take my leg off if infection started to set in. Dr. Cobb showed Trader the X Rays of my left hip where the bone was not only snapped in two completely, but I had bone splinters which were hard to pin and wire back in place. To make matters worse my pelvis was broken in several places. He could only allow Mother Nature to put it back together and that would take time.

It has been a few weeks now and I am so tired of being confined to a cage. They told me I had to stay confined for a little while longer to allow my hip and pelvis to continue to heal. Everybody here loves on me, and Dr. Cobb told Trader I was getting spoiled.

According to Trader, Dr. Cobb told him the danger of infection has now passed and he has taken me off of the antibiotics. Now! It’s just a matter of gradually allowing me to walk to get my hip strength back. They took me out today so Trader could take some pictures of me. He said he wanted everyone to see what the result of kindness can produce when so many human beings pitched in to help me survive. Trader told me my injuries would normally have been a death sentence without someone like Dr. Cobb willing to go the extra distance to save my life.

I could not believe my ears and my hope soared when Trader told me of the checks that were starting to come in from as far away as New Hampshire, Michigan, Georgia, Maine, and from the humans who live in this area. I especially want to thank Asst. Chief Bobby Inman of the Leighton Police Department who helped get the information out about me needing help. I was told yesterday he was involved in a car accident and he is going to be confined to a cage for a while until he can move better. Hang in there, Bobby! The days go slow but you will be out sooner than you think!

This is the first time in my life that I have received so much kindness from so many human beings. It is because so many that showed kindness to me knowing that I could not pay them back that I am still alive.

Dr. Cobb said I have about another 6 weeks of convalescence before they can even think about finding me a family. It would be nice to be able to love on some humans just like I have been loved on these past few weeks. Whoever is interested in adopting me into their family I hope will allow me to stay indoors as Dr. Cobb said, that due to my injuries, extreme cold, dampness, etc., would cause me a lot of pain if I was placed out in it all the time.

Again! Thank You So Much For Giving Me My Life Back!



Trader has a list of everyone who has contributed to Maisie's surgery and convalescence. Donations are still needed, but we are almost there. After she has completely recuperated and been placed, he will be in contact with each of you. Thanks to everyone who made Maisie's new life possible.


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Steve Guthrie Thanks his Physician

Leighton police officer Steve Guthrie has been cleared of all charges involving an incident at his Sheffield apartment. Why? Guthrie's prescribing physician informed the Sheffield Municipal Court and Leighton Town Council that any problems Guthrie suffered at the time of his arrest were the results of legally prescribed medication. While we're sure B. T. Gardner aggressively defended Guthrie, we have no doubt the doctor's statement provided the impetus to lift Guthrie's suspension.


Assistant Leighton Police Chief Bobby Inman has requested a week to recuperate from injuries received in a Sheffield automobile accident Saturday afternoon. Inman has assisted in collecting funds for injured Beagle Maisie, and we wish him a speedy recovery.


Sick of the rail car plant? Just imagine how David Bronner and retired state employees feel. A reader pointed out to us that the RSA has now invested the better part of a billion dollars in the so far failed endeavor.

If 120 employees seem like small potatoes, just think of the payroll required to keep that many on staff. Assuming an average salary of $10.00 per hour (and we're sure it's much more), the yearly payroll exceeds 2.5 million. That's not counting utilities for the mile long structure.

The RSA's 2009 annual report listed assets of over 27 billion; so just how important is National Alabama in the RSA's grand investment scheme? Let's just say if Dr. Bronner could find a buyer, we predict he would sell.


We've all heard of the Grant Hotel, but the Sheffield Hotel? This image is from 1930 and available on eBay: Link


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Monday, August 23, 2010

Troy Oliver: Not Exactly a Historian

The age of a cabin owned by Russellville Mayor Troy Oliver is in dispute--for some unknown reason. While this is hardly an issue that concerns the entire Shoals area, it should be noted since it reflects on the intelligence, or lack thereof, of some local leaders.

Oliver cliams the DeVaney House was built in 1770. Were there white settlers in Franklin County at that time? It's certainly possible that fur traders and similar settlers may have lived here with the indigenous population that early, but it's Oliver's "proof" that is ludicrous.

Oliver claims, and TimesDaily journalist Trevor Stokes does not question, that property deeds date the house to 1770. Very interesting...except for the fact this area was Indian territory until after the War of 1812; before that time the U.S. government officially discouraged settlement. To claim that there were property deeds for North Alabama as early as the late 18th century shows a dramatic lack of education on Oliver's part--not to mention a college educated journalist who fails to note this small fact.

We realize that due to Franklin County's isolated geographical location and resulting lack of high-tech industry, or any industry for that matter, it's not the hub of critical thinking; however, unless Franklin County voters become more discerning, Russellville and the surrounding area will never progress beyond a 1770 mentality.


Did someone say education? How about the Florence Business College circa 1920? For many years a business college stood on South Court Street, it's ownership and name changing frequently, but this architectural gem does not resemble what ended its life as Alverson-Draughn Business School. We're unsure if this Arts and Crafts building is still extant, but you can buy an image on eBay: Link


D.K. reports that the defense team in the Brandi Willingham murder trial requested to have the proceedings moved from the area. The motion was temporarily denied until after an attempt at jury selection today.

Look for D.K. to bring us reports of interest from this trial that don't make it to the TimesDaily.


Other upcoming blogs will feature a most interesting Cherokee tale from C.R. and, deep breath, blackmail by those who don't have a clue...


Get connected in September!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Sheffield Sunday

If you grew up in the Shoals, you probably spent several Sunday afternoons of your formative years in Sheffield, either cruising around the stand pipe, visiting one of the town's remaining drive-in restaurants, or looking up in wonder at the giant Santa during the holidays.

Perhaps you even drove through the Village admiring the Spanish-style houses. If so, here's a chance to own a rare souvenir of that architectural delight, now available on eBay: Link


Sheffield still has much to offer, especially this Sunday afternoon:

The Tennessee Valley Historical Society (TVHS) will hold its Quarterly Summer Meeting on Sunday, 22 August 2010 at 2:30 p.m. at the Sheffield Public Library located at 316 North Montgomery Avenue in downtown Sheffield, Alabama.

This quarter’s speaker will be Tom McKnight who will give a power-point presentation on the Mosaic Templars of America, (MTA); an African American fraternal organization whose presence throughout Alabama and particularly northwest Alabama was an organization of great significance.

Though headstones marking member’s existence can be found scattered throughout city, church, private cemeteries and farm land, knowledge of the organization’s existence, purpose and some of members were unknown until research brought to light the organization’s history and some of its members.

Mr. McKnight, President of the Tennessee Valley Historical Society is also Colbert County Historical Landmark Foundation’s Program Chairperson and has made his home in northwest Alabama after retiring from a career with the United Nations. McKnight’s membership affiliations include Tuscumbia’s Civitan; American Legion Post 31, consulting member of the Sheffield Historical Commission and engagements in other history and research projects.

He’s a graduate of Columbia University School of Public Health (MPH) and holds a Business Management degree from the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York.

Tennessee Valley Historical Society meetings are open to the public, free of charge. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Tennessee Valley Historical Society President Tom McKnight, at 914-707-0528.

What's up with this: Apparently the rail car business was much better in 2003 if this quote concerning Greg Aziz's new home is any indication:
"This 14,400-square-foot mansion, a replica of the famed Le Petit Trianon at Versailles, is being built on the Caledon estate of National Steel Car chairman Greg Aziz at an estimated cost of $3 million."


Get connected in September!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Special Report: Rail Car Debacle

Let's look at this story of the year, published today in the (Saturday) TimesDaily. The original Mike Goens/Tom Smith report is in red; the translation is in black:

National Alabama railcar plant is now an Alabama-based company, having severed its relationship with the Canadian industry that made a decision three years ago to expand its operations to Colbert County. - It took three years for National Steel Car to realize the plant would never make any money and/or get caught in what some politicians are calling a money laundering scheme involving offshore bank accounts.

Former National Alabama Chief Executive Officer Greg Aziz has resigned his position on the company's board, and the Retirement Systems of Alabama has obtained 100 percent equity in the plant it helped build at Barton Riverfront Industrial Park. - The RSA had to pony up some more teachers' retirement funds to purchase Greg Aziz's 10% interest.

“This increases our flexibility to build the business model that we think is best for the long-term benefits of National Alabama,” CEO John Stein said when contacted by the TimesDaily on Friday morning. “We are now in complete control of the future direction of our company.” - The TimesDaily took five days to contact National Alabama after Trevor Stokes' dramatic announcement that SEDA was looking for other industries to take over the plant.

The retirement systems has $625 million invested in the mile-long plant in western Colbert County.- The plant will never see a profit in our lifetimes, if ever. Don't hold your breath.

RSA lent National Industries Inc., which operates National Steel Car in Canada, $350 million in 2007 to build the plant as part of the state's incentive package to lure the company and the 1,500-1,800 jobs it was to create. There are 120 workers now. - Anyone can be snookered, but it takes a real and total failure not to know when to cut losses and run. Oh, and obviously Tom Smith didn't write this paragraph since it contains the grammatically correct word "lent."

With the struggling economy particularly tough on the railcar industry worldwide, Aziz asked RSA Executive Director David Bronner for an additional loan in late 2008 to help equip the plant. Bronner responded by increasing the existing loan by $275 million in February 2009, and RSA was given 20 percent equity in the company. - Aziz knew when he had a desperate patsy.

As part of the deal, however, Bronner insisted on repayment of the loan within 15 years and appointed a five-member board to oversee operations until the loan was repaid. - Yes, but now the RSA owns the whole shebang, so is the loan still valid or not? We're guessing not. Nice of the TD to once again drop the ball on the salient questions.

“This is another positive step in the right direction in getting the plant up to full capacity,” Colbert County Commissioner Troy Woodis said of the announcement. “Now, Dr. Bronner and Stein can carry this plant in the direction that it needs to go. - Yes, owning 100% instead of 90% makes a big difference in the RSA's management. That should add the 1680 employees within the next year. Can you say "press op" for Troy Woodis?

“Dr. Bronner has never done one thing that he is not thinking long term. He has long-term visions for what they want for the plant and now they can move toward those.” - Perhaps the TD should have asked Woodis how Greg Aziz's 10% ownership was holding the plant back.

The board changed the plant's management team a year ago. Stein was appointed CEO at National Alabama after Aziz resigned the position. Aziz, who remained on the company's board, said then “the time has come for the plant to have a CEO who is from Alabama and can devote the necessary time.” - Aziz had gotten all he wanted from the Shoals area and high-tailed it.

Stein said the goal has been to operate National Alabama as an “independent, stand-alone company.” Workers at the plant were told about the change Friday morning. - Before they read it in the newspaper?

“This is a continuation of our progress toward independence, and I think everyone is pleased this day has come,” Stein said. “This completes that process we began last August. We no longer have an affiliation at the board level or ownership level with National Steel Car or related entity. - Or have any of the business contacts or contracts the NSC has.

“There is still work to be done as we continue to focus on the best business plan for the company, not in the short term but from a long-term perspective.” - We say again, don't hold your breath for any profit in your lifetime.

Workers continue to build a small number of railcars in an attempt to perfect the production process in anticipation of the industry rebounding within the next year or so. - It keeps them busy since National Alabama doesn't have any real orders after three years of business.

“This move is going to be good for the area,” said Florence Mayor Bobby Irons. “Look at the financial strength the plant now has under the control of RSA. They are committed to making this a successful venture, and to me this just proves that point.” - Bobby Irons thinks the plant has more financial strength under RSA since any business is handled better than Greg Aziz was handling NSC.

Colbert County Commissioner Rex Burleson said with RSA in total control, they can be more aggressive in promoting the plant and working towards getting the entire plant up and operational. - Rex Burleson didn't want Troy Woodis to be the only commissioner to get a five second sound bite out of this.

“They are not going to let that much money be tied up in something and let it just sit there,” Burleson said. “This is nothing but positive for the Shoals and the state.” - Nope, Bonner and SEDA are already looking at other ways to get the RSA's funding back.

While they intend to continue building railcars at the plant, Stein and other managers on site also are exploring other possibilities to bring in business. That includes working with other companies to produce specific products at the Barton plant. - Of course, the mile long plant is really set up for sub-division. Flea market comes to mind if all else fails.

Stein said he has had conversations with several companies that he considers “good prospects.” - Conversations are social; meetings are business. Nice try, though.

“We're looking at opportunities to achieve our goal of creating jobs and building a successful company,” Stein said. “It takes time and we understand that, and we will be deliberate about making wise decisions. We're not going to do something so we can make a big splash and say we're doing something. - No one is going to accuse the plant of doing anything, much less making a big splash after the initial announcement.

“Decisions we make will be for the long-term profitability and success of National Alabama and our employees who make up a talented group that is committed to the vision of this company. - They're committed because they can't find jobs anywhere else in this economy. This is where an independent journalist would have asked the employees how they feel about the announcement, but we have only Mike Goens and Tom Smith who don't get paid unless they write something good.

“Having control of those decisions now increases our flexibility in the kinds of arrangements we can pursue with other companies. Before, and appropriately so, we had to take into account another company. Now, we have that control,” he said. - Now the company has to swim or sink without being able to blame a company in Canada.


Who Needs Air Conditioning? Good Question...

From a local forum, we've learned there's currently no air conditioning in the Lauderdale County Detention Center and apparently hasn't been for some time. So...do they really need it there, of all places?

We probably won't change anyone's mind with our opinions, but let's give it a shot anyway. Not everyone incarcerated in the Detention Center is Osama Bin Laden. Some are truly innocent, some were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and some have made a singular mistake they will never repeat.

If you don't care about these unfortunate people now, perhaps you will when your wife's brother loses his job, gets drunk for the first time in his life and winds up in jail. Or it may be when your son or grandson accidentally runs a stop sign and decides to run from the police officer he sees in his rear view mirror because his friend sitting next to him has some dope in his pocket. Or...it may not be until the next life when you're asked why you didn't care in this one.

We already know that we can't leave cash for inmates because it has a way of disappearing--this says a great deal about the staff at the center. This does not speak well of our society, but since we don't seem to care about our schools, why should we care about our prisons--you know, the place our citizens go when they drop out of our oh so well funded schools.


There are many caring people in the Shoals, and many of them have seen fit to help Maisie, the injured Beagle. Here's an update from Firenze: Link


Any Cuppy's Coffee victims out there? Some interesting news for defrauded franchise owners: Link


This Milner's photo postcard from 1900 is currently on eBay. It depicts the First Baptist Church building on the corner of Tombigbee Street and Wood Avenue with the Poplar Street Church of Christ building in the background.

The post card has slightly over a day left on the auction block if you'd like to bid: Link


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Friday, August 20, 2010

The Ant at Thirty/Slugo's Revenge?

That's right. Our favorite ant is now 30, along with the Russellville Watermelon Festival. Here's a link to this weekend's events: Link

If you can't make it to the festival, you can still order tee-shirts from the address listed. Unfortunately, the Kerry Gilbert Band is not available through the mail.


Been reading about the elusive George Earl Craig of Russellville? Craig is currently wanted on kidnapping and rape charges. It seems George is the brother of the late Slugo Craig. According to to a highly reliable source, the altercation between George and his victim began when the victim stated she was glad Slugo had been done-in by an ex-girlfriend.

Did our source have any other interesting tidbits? One could say so...it seems our informant didn't believe the charges against George. According to her, "He wouldn't have raped her. He would have just beaten her up real bad." Well, glad we've gotten that straightened out.


To Respond or Not

A Guest Commentary By

J. J. Ray

Sometime in life, discretion is the better part of valor. Simply put, saying nothing to ridiculous allegations by individuals who have only one agenda and that is to destroy a human being they don’t agree with. The state employee in question does not have any naked pictures that he carries around with him unless they are baby pictures. He could not show it to anyone because it does not exist. He has not taken sides between the Hatfields and McCoys nor will he.

This is nothing but more character assassination by wearisome individuals that have nothing to do but gossip. I also have my sources in Cherokee that are very reliable (meaning truthful). Some have lived there all of their lives and only want to see the city grow and prosper.

Others would have the city wither, and die for no reason other than they are miserable, and want all around them to be downhearted. Mike Malone is both a respected person at work and with most of the citizens in Cherokee. I have a relative that works with him who made that comment. I do not know either Mike or his wife personally, only their reputations that are available from once again, reliable sources.

All of us in this world have shortcomings. None are or have been perfect, save one. I used a quote by Einstein in another column the other day: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Stop this self-destructive behavior and character assassination. Remember we all have to answer to a higher power someday. One of my favorite quotes is from a college professor years ago. He stated that he hated to hear the words, “I wish I had.”

Is it not time to cease and desist all of this grumbling and backbiting and put that energy to work building the town up? Cherokee can be a great and prosperous place to live. The highway access is great, crime is almost non-existent, most of the people are friendly and the schools are first-rate. All that is needed is for the Hatfields and McCoys to bury the hatchet, not in each other. Don’t fear prosperity, embrace it.


Did you know MUG.com has relocated to Sheffield? Read Trader's review of their new facilities: Link


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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roger McWhorter: There's Gold in Them Thar Parks

There's also, uh, eccentrics at local council meetings. Hiwassee, Georgia, resident Roger McWhorter recently attended a Florence Council meeting at which he stated DeSoto's gold could be buried in this area--more specifically, McFarland Park and under an unnamed street. Above is the map of DeSoto's travels in the Southeast, so you be the judge.

What was McWhorter's actual intent? While we're unsure of that, we have found where as recently as 2004 McWhorter was touting his invention as a means to find buried explosives. Does his device work for even that?

In May 2008 we published a blog on a supposedly lost H-Bomb from 1961 (Lionel Terry: He Died to Protect an H-Bomb); certainly this incident at the Four Corners area of Utah was not isolated. There were many such incidents listed in the 1992 Federal report on past accidents involving nuclear weapons in the U.S.

One of these lost explosive devices was the 1958 Tybee bomb:

The bomb was released after the B-47 was severely damaged in a mid-air collision with an Air Force F-86 Saberjet fighter during a military training exercise.

Col. Howard Richardson, the bomber’s pilot, dropped the 7,600 pound Mark 15 nuclear bomb in an effort to save his plane. crew and area residents after deciding to try to land the badly crippled aircraft at Hunter Air Field.

It seems that after the release of the 1992 report, many individuals in both the private and public sectors saw the need to find the bomb, but had little luck. In 2004, McWhorter joined one of the search teams:

This time his team included a pair of professional divers and electronics expert Roger McWhorter, who brought along a special device he was developing to detect both nuclear and conventional explosives from a distance.

The team placed the unusual device, referred to as a “Harmonic Resonant Molecular Field Locating Transducer”, at several locations on beaches bordering the sound to triangulate the precise spot where radiation was previously detected before sending the divers down to collect soil samples in the area.

Roger McWhorter's device failed to find the infamous Tybee bomb. Is there any reason to believe his gold-sniffing project will produce better results?


If you would like to read more about the Tybee bomb, here's the most complete site on the web: Link


How safe is State of Alabama Work Release? Our opinion is very safe, but not extremely safe. Our opinion is also that the rules and regulations of such programs change at the vagaries of the current governor and other elected officials.

When Don Siegelman became governor, he immediately recalled all state work release inmates who had a vehicular homicide conviction. Did that make the public safer? No, but it pleased Siegelman who had been severely injured some years before by a drunk driver.


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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brenton Wayne Smith Has Previous Escape from Muscle Shoals

One of two escapees from the Decatur Work Release Center has faced escape charges before. Brenton Wayne Smith, 27, escaped from the Muscle Shoals City Jail in September 2007. Smith was being held on the relatively innocuous charge of failing to pay over $2,000.00 in traffic fines when he escaped while a jailer was changing out mattresses.

At the time of his arrest Smith was living in Florence and may still have relatives in the area. The Alabama Department of Corrections did not provide information on the reason for Smith's current incarceration, but his scheduled release date was April 6, 2011. Instead of gaining his freedom in just eight months, Brenton Wayne Smith will face a possible 20 years added to his sentence.


Now C. R. has a most interesting report from Cherokee:

The Truth is the Truth

When this story (police called on high school students) broke on the (COBRA) blog I did some investigation. I spoke with reliable sources close to youth football board members, law enforcement, and the parents of the children. I found out several facts and the blog was not off. The blog did have the wrong board member’s name. The blog was truthful. Everyone knows I normally would write an article for SS on what I found. It took a few days to get all the facts and it was old news and I to give Mike a free pass, but thanks to J.J it is no longer old. After reading what J.J wrote I investigated some more and found out something about a state employee. Thanks to J.J. the real truth came out.

The Facts

The Cherokee Elementary School was having registration. The Cherokee Youth Football Cheerleaders would be in the way and had to relocate. Board member Miss Young called the Mayor and asked permission to relocate to city hall. They needed to practice and do uniform fittings. The mayor called Marsha Allen and asked would she go to city hall and open the doors for the youth. Marsha Allen is also a youth board member and went to open the door. When she arrived the door was already open. Why was the door open already? Melinda Malone failed to lock it when she left.

The state employee ready for his daily Internet fix was heading to city hall to use the city’s wi-fi. Who gave this state employee the password to the cities wi-fi connection? Could it be the city clerk that he talks to for hours at a time? This state employee could see that it was youth football cheerleaders at the city hall practicing. This state employee decided to call Councilman Mike Malone and inform him of what was going on at city hall. Mike Malone called the police officer on duty and told him to remove everyone from city hall and the parking lot.

When the police officer arrived at city hall a board member informed the police officer they had permission from the mayor to be there. The police officer informed several people in the room that he received a phone call from Councilman Mike Malone and he was ordered to remove everyone from the city hall. The officer used common sense and did the right thing.

Common Sense

The above is the truth and now let me analyze what happened. The state employee saw it was the youth football cheerleaders practicing at city hall but decided to stir up trouble and called Mike Malone. Mike Malone decided to seek revenge on Marsha Allen, the person that filed ethics complaints against the council and is the current mayor’s secretary. Mike Malone thought he could get Marsha Allen in trouble for opening up city hall without permission. If he had called the mayor this would have never happened. If he drove up to the city hall himself nothing would have happened.

The council is always overstepping their authority. The mayor is the only person that can give orders to employees. When Mike Malone spoke with the state employee he had to ask who is at city hall going in and out of the building. Answer, there are a lot of kids and parents. Mike Malone wanted revenge and allowed that to over ride common sense. Now the parents of the youth cheerleaders are raising hell, Mike Malone is in cover my butt mode. Mike Malone thought the police officer would not inform the crowd about the phone call. Well he was wrong. News flash for Mike Malone, police officers do not like to be treated as tools to seek revenge.

Thanks J.J.

During my investigation I did uncover something shocking. I hope writing about it will allow the person to come forward and file a complaint. A women told me that the state employee has a picture in his wallet of himself naked. This state employee showed it to her while he was on duty and in uniform. The same person also made sexual advances to the women. If this is true the women should file sexual harassment charges against the person and file a law suit against the state.

I have a few questions. Does this state employee have a boss? Why is this state employee allowed to hang out at city hall and other places in Cherokee for hours at a time. Why is he not doing the job he is paid for?

J.J. Ray wanted the truth, I just hope he can take it. The next time you want to know the truth, e-mail me and I will find out for you.


Unsolved Murders? There are currently over a dozen unsolved murders in the Shoals area. Each time a newspaper, a blog, a forum, or any other medium brings attention to these crimes, so much the better.

We hope to feature each of these unsolved murders. So far, we have looked at three crimes that resulted in four deaths. Here are the links to those three:

Does the Mayor's Killer Still Walk Among Us?

Tommy Morris

The Christopher Stanback Murder


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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Off Shore Bank Accounts?

Was National Steel Car's Barton plant, d/b/a National Alabama, ever intended to produce an actual product? One would hope this was the case whether Greg Aziz and others at NSC in Hamilton, Ontario, actually anticipated the promised large rail car orders or not for their US spin-off.

However, according to one source, the plant may have been nothing more than a front for money laundering. From Jim Bonner's election blog:

What I know, or think I know since this is all just whispered rumor around the coffee pot, is that the Alabama Bureau of Investigation was called in because money was being funneled into private offshore accounts. This investigation resulted in the replacement of the local plant manager for National Alabama. (twice). So the rumor goes.

You have likely heard nothing about it. I have to assume that if something significantly illegal was going on somebody would have been extradited from Canada. I really assume that. I really do.

I know, or think I know, that CSX in Florida bought 750 rail cars on the pretext that National Steel Car had the production facilities to make them inside the United States. I know or think I know, that those cars are being manufactured in Canada and will be railroaded right past the Barton Plant.

For those who wish to read the entire entry, here's the link: July 14th Post


Republican gubernatorial candidate Dr. Robert Bentley will begin some serious campaigning in a less than serious setting--a pumpkin patch. That sounds like fun to us.

For those of you who are up for a Saturday drive, Bentley will be speaking at the Clanton Pumpkin Patch at 11:00 a.m. on August 21st. Here's a link to this family-fun farm: Link


Shortly before midnight on August 16th, our blog racked up 150,000 unique hits (this figure does not take into account hits from October 2008-May 2009). Our page hit total is just above 229,000. Thanks to all our readers for your support and interest.


Tomorrow we'll return to Cherokee with a rebuttal commentary by C. R. We can promise there will be some revelations...


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Monday, August 16, 2010

The Truth About National Steel Car Ltd.

National Steel Car Ltd. was to be the savior of the economy in Northwest Alabama. The Hamilton, Ontario, company promised a minimum of 1,500 jobs paying at least $16.00 an hour. Interestingly, the unionized Hamilton plant pays its workers the US equivalent of $26.00 an hour. Now the new plant, dubbed National Alabama, has seemingly returned to the genie's bottle from which it sprang--the same one holding the convoluted financial machinations of NSC's Greg Aziz.

According to Canadian sources, Aziz is not only president and chief executive officer of NSC, he owns 100% of the rail car manufacturing facility. Aziz is said to own only 10% of its Alabama counterpart. In 2007, Aziz announced the Hamilton plant was landlocked, a statement many in the Ontario manufacturing hub questioned. Aziz further declared that by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the manufacturing concern, the Hamilton plant would no longer be able to keep up with orders for new rail cars and hoppers.

Greg Aziz was looking for land at a cheap price and his quest soon brought him to the Shoals; obviously we were only too glad to be the recipient of his attentions. Just how closely did the powers that be look at Aziz's National Steel Car Ltd.? Seemingly most local and state industrial recruiters were viewing Aziz and his grandiose plans through a gauze covered lens.

As early as 2006, the Hamilton plant had begun laying off workers due to a slow down in orders. By 2009, NSC had sent 1,700 workers packing, leaving only 660 fully employed. NSC soon asked that those remaining take a 25% pay cut, and a strike ensued. Hamilton workers are members of the Teamsters Rail Union, while the prospective workers at Barton are not unionized--a fact that was not lost on Aziz.

While Greg Aziz told Shoals industrial leaders that the Barton plant would begin full operations as soon as the economy rallied, he failed to mention that at least one of NSC's chief competitors had already relocated to Mexico, siphoning away many of NSC's customers with a lower bottom line.

On July 19th, the TimesDaily reported that National Alabama had a total work force of 120 and had not yet received its first order for rail cars. On August 15th, the same newspaper offhandedly threw out the line:

When asked about the future of the railcar facility, Wright would only comment, “We're talking with companies that could operate in that facility.”

It may sound trite, but we have to ask: Just what do Forrest Wright and SEDA know and how long have they known it?



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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rail Car Plant to Leave Shoals?

What should have been the headline of today's TimesDaily was merely the last sentence in Trevor Stokes' article on the abysmal wages paid in the Shoals. Here for the world to read is the sad news:

When asked about the future of the railcar facility, Wright would only comment, “We're talking with companies that could operate in that facility.”

Forrest Wright is head of the Shoals Economic Development Authority. Perhaps this was the way of our local newspaper informing us the cat is on the roof.


Is tourism, not manufacturing, to be the Shoals' long term future? Certainly our friend Sandra Killen-Burroughs is making things happen in that area. From a recent press release:

Sandra Killen Burroughs, with the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association and chairman of the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Board has completed the first portion of a three-year professional development program that will lead to certification as a Tourism Marketing Professional (TMP).

Killen Burroughs was one of 232 tourism professionals enrolled at the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College earlier this month. The week-long program turns the facilities of North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, Ga., into a laboratory to teach tourism marketing each summer.

There is no other professional development program like the STS Marketing College, and it is recognized nationally for its training of tourism leaders. 564 people have earned TMP certification.


According to D.K., the murder trial in the death of local nurse Melissa Garrett has been postponed until October. Her accused killer Darryl David Thompson remains in the Lauderdale County Detention Center.


From C. R. (All Cherokee residents should read this--way to go, C. R.):

What are Law Enforcement Guns Used For ?

One would think that a law enforcement weapon would be used on duty. The use of the weapon would protect the public and officer from an armed assailant. It does not appear this is the case in Cherokee. Two Police issued weapons were stolen while the police officer was on duty. The report was taken by the Tuscumbia Police Department. The report states an AR-15 and shotgun were stolen from the officer's residence in Tuscumbia. The officer, who is the police chief’s son, found the guns stolen from his house while on duty.

Why was the officer at his house while on duty in Cherokee? This could explain the slow response time to several calls by this officer. Why was the officer on duty without his city issued weapons? Reliable sources state just a week before the theft, the officer had to return to his house to get his AR-15 because of a deadly situation that arose while he was on duty. Speeding at a very high rate would take at least 30 minutes for the officer to return to his house and retrieve his weapons, then return to Cherokee.

Mister police officer, you might want to carry your issued weapons with you while on duty. I am sorry, I forgot they were stolen and you cannot carry them anymore.



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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jerry O'Dell Kelley Gets 25 Year Sentence

Less than a month after his escape, convicted First Degree rapist Jerry O'Dell Kelley has received two concurrent 25 years sentences in Franklin County. Kelley, who committed his original crime in Michigan, was in the Franklin County jail for failing to register as a sex offender in Alabama when he managed to pull off an impromptu exit.

Kudos to Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing for securing such stiff sentences for Kelley. We doubt that this bad boy is a prime candidate for parole.

We do wonder why Kelley chose a large public park as his post escape destination. Surely a thinking person would have chosen a truck stop or similar entity where he would not be recognized while awaiting a ride. We have to consider the possibility that Kelley, whose previous victim was a nine year-old girl, knew his escape would be short-lived and planned to make what he considered the most of his temporary freedom. Fast work by the Tuscumbia Police may have saved another child from this waste of oxygen.


Doubt that sex offenders usually blame their victims? Consider today's TimesDaily article on Alexander Ray. Ray, who is charged with sodomizing a nine year-old girl, claims his victim took advantage of him. We sincerely hope that Ray's future dorm mates will do exactly what he claims his victim did.


Remembering Richie Hayward:


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