George Weakley Rhodes, sometimes known as "Old School," is no stranger to violence against women. In 2002, he and Marsha Simpson worked together for the City of Florence Recycling Program. Friends said the two had dated, but quarrelled.
Rhodes waited outside Simpson's home in East Florence for her to return. No one can be sure of his plans, but we can be sure that when Rhodes saw his former girlfriend walking home in the company of another man, he drew his gun and shot several times. No one was injured, but Florence Police charged Rhodes with attempted murder. After a deliberation of only an hour, a jury found George Rhodes not guilty of the charges.
We can understand how they came to their verdict. After all, who doesn't take a gun to visit his old girlfriend? Who doesn't fire the gun in her direction because he's so elated to see her with a rival? Obviously, this verdict falls under the category of "What Were They Thinking?"
Rhodes had previously led a less than perfect life. Among his many previous charges were a 1971 armed robbery of a grocery store on West Mobile Street and a 1999 armed home invasion style robbery of an East Florence residence. We will assume Rhodes' record of violence was not allowed into testimony at his 2002 trial.
Neither did Rhodes remain a stranger to law enforcement after his acquittal. In January 2006, he was arrested in Florence for forgery. In March 2007, Rhodes was arrested in a drug bust targeting dealers who waited for children at a school bus stop on the corner of Cedar and West Mobile Streets. At this time, Rhodes was charged only with possession.
Drugs seemed to play a large role in "Old School's" life, but so did violence--probably each fueling the other. This week the 61 year-old Rhodes agreed to a plea bargain in the death of Deborah Elaine Paulk. The south-central Florence woman was murdered either during or after an ongoing New Year's party in January of 2005. Paulk may not have had the best taste in recreational activities or friends, but murder is murder.
George Weakley Rhodes will serve only five years in prison; however, we understand the family felt there was no choice if they wanted a 100% guarantee Rhodes would serve any time at all. Perhaps George, now in his seventh decade and with a body damaged by years of drug abuse, will not find prison so easy. Ms. Paulk deserved more.
We've taken quite a few blasts concerning our commentary on Holland Noah Elkins, a young man whose life seems to resemble George Rhode's early years. The difference is Elkins has an education and an honest family on his side. Was the public shocked at Rhode's life of crime? Probably not. Yet, the public is shocked at Holland Elkins' continued forays into life's seamier side.
Make no mistake, we will support whatever justice Lauderdale and Colbert Counties mete out to Holland. No matter the dispositions of these cases, Holland still needs help, and we hope he gets it.
According to sources at Florence City Hall, the State Fire Marshal has denied Sweetwater Mansion a permit for inside tours unless the edifice is brought up to code by Friday. We will have more on this later. It's quite a story...
Connecting October 7th. This time we mean it!