Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Compass Bank, 460 George Wallace Drive, Gadsden, AL, was robbed just prior to 11:00am this morning. Two black males driving a 1990’s model green Mustang with a missing hubcap, possibly a “doughnut” replacement wheel on the left side was seen leaving the bank.

One subject was described as approximately 5’7, thin, wearing a blue bandana over his face, black boots and jeans. The other subject is described as approximately 6’0. thin with a red or orange bandana over his face.

I hope to have photos out to you ASAP.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Gadsden Police Department or the Gadsden office of the FBI at (256) 547-0522

Paul E. Daymond

Media and Public Affairs Coordinator

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Birmingham Division


Wednesday, November 28, 2007 1:40 PM

Compass Bank, 460 George Wallace Drive, Gadsden, AL, was robbed just prior to 11:00am this morning. Two black males driving a 1990’s model green Mustang with a missing hubcap, possibly a “doughnut” replacement wheel on the left side was seen leaving the bank.
One subject was described as approximately 5’7, thin, wearing a blue bandana over his face, black boots and jeans. The other subject is described as approximately 6’0. thin with a red or orange bandana over his face. I hope to have photos out to you ASAP.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Gadsden Police Department or the Gadsden office of the FBI at (256) 547-0522

Paul E. Daymond

Media and Public Affairs Coordinator

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Birmingham Division

Man in standoff identified


The man who took his own life Monday evening during a standoff with Oxford Police was identified Tuesday.

Lance Alan Chastain, 20, of 104 Cooper Court in Oxford held police at bay outside of his house for several hours with an SKS rifle — similar to an AK-47 — and a handgun before taking his own life.

Just after 4 p.m. deputies from the Talladega Sheriff’s Department and two Oxford Police investigators arrived at the house to arrest Chastain in connection with the Friday shooting death of Donald Byrdsong, 36, of the Friendship Community.

When the officers arrived at the house, Chastain’s girlfriend walked out and quickly left. Chastain closed the door and ran to the back of the house, according to Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge.

The investigators tried in vain to talk him out of the house before calling for backup. A number of marked units, the department’s tactical unit, fire trucks, and ambulances staged in the area around the house blocking off the street.

Police evacuated six residences surrounding Chastain’s house and attempted to establish communications. No contact was made after well over an hour.

A few minutes before 6 p.m. police and eyewitnesses heard six gunshots.

Whit McGhee, program director for 97.9 WVOK, was standing outside of the station’s studio — just 50 feet away — when Chastain fired the SKS inside the house.

“It seemed like he was in there shooting away at the world,” said McGhee.

“One of them hit something metallic very close by. The house is essentially next door,” he said.

McGhee said the shots were in a slow succession.

“It was almost like he was reloading, they were about five to 10 seconds apart,” he said.

From inside the studio he could hear police talking to Chastain over a police car loudspeaker pleading with him to come out, he said.

“It was very tense. This is typically a safe area. It was good to see Oxford Police’s presence. Obviously it was something they didn’t take lightly.”

McGhee said that although authorities blocked off the street, none had emergency lights on. Partridge said this was a strategy to keep residents calm.

Police progressively launched chemical munitions into each window of the house, said Partridge. Around 9:15 p.m. — three hours after the gunshots — police hadn’t seen or heard any signs of activity from inside the house.

“It got to the point that he should have been irritated and ready to come out, so we checked the residence with a pole camera,” said Partridge.

Police found Chastain on the floor of a laundry room attached to one of the house’s bedrooms wearing a camouflage flak vest.

Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown said Chastain died from a single gunshot wound to the head apparently caused by a 9mm handgun.

Brown said Chastain’s estimated time of death was just before 6 p.m.

Oxford police recovered the handgun, the SKS and six 7.62 x 39 mm cartridges — the same type of shells used in a SKS.

Brown said the shots from the SKS penetrated walls in several rooms in the house.

No police officers were injured in the incident.

Oxford woman killed in 3-vehicle collision Tuesday


An Oxford woman was killed in a three-vehicle collision near the intersection of U.S. 78 and Watson Road Tuesday afternoon.

Christina Wheeler Mitchell, 35, stopped at the intersection, facing east, preparing to make a left hand turn around 2:47 p.m. in a 2006 Pontiac G6, reported Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge.

A 2005 Chevy Express Van owned by Swisher Hygiene and driven by Joseph Scott Web III, 41, of Jacksonville, approached from behind Mitchell’s vehicle.

Webb told police he looked away from the road for a moment, when he looked back up he was about to collide with Mitchell’s car.

The collision sent the Pontiac G6 into the path of an oncoming 2000 Ford Ranger driven by Darwin Ralph Taylor, 66, of Oxford.

The truck smashed into the passenger side door.

Mitchell died instantly from blunt force trauma, said Partridge.

All three drivers were reportedly wearing safety belts.

Man steals money, lingerie set from Anniston business


A man picked out ladies underwear before he robbed G&S Lingerie on the 2200 block of Quintard Avenue Monday afternoon.

A clerk at the store told Anniston Police the man walked into the store, saw that there were customers inside and walked back out. He returned when the customers left.

The man selected a red or pink lingerie set and took it to the register, police reported.

When the clerk began ringing up the purchase, the man pulled out a small handgun and demanded money.

The man absconded with an undisclosed amount of money and the lingerie set.

No injuries were reported in the incident. Police had no named suspects in the case.

Family offers $100,000 for information leading to arrest in son’s death


The family of Donoho student Benjamin Stanford has offered $100,000 for information about his death, but authorities say the lab test results may be slow to come.

Stanford, 17, of Talladega was last seen alive in Anniston on Nov. 5. His body was found on Nov. 13 in a wooded area off Interstate 20 in Villa Rica, Ga.

Carroll County Coroner Sammy Eady said Stanford’s cause of death is officially a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, but tests are underway to find a few more answers.

Eady said lab tests for toxicology, ballistics, blood-alcohol content and gunshot residue usually take 90 days. That would make it mid-February before results are in.

Talladega District Attorney Steve Giddens said he could not release any information, deferring to FBI spokesman Paul Daymond.

Daymond told The Star he was not aware of any new developments in the investigation and did not have any more information.

The Associated Press reported Stanford’s father, Bill Stanford, said the family decided to post the $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction for his son’s death.

“We’re concerned there are a lot of questions that need answering,” he said in a telephone interview with the AP on Tuesday.

Fliers and the family’s Web site say the reward is “for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the death of Benjamin Preuitt Stanford.”

Stanford’s Jeep Grand Cherokee was found abandoned Nov. 5. Searchers found his body eight days later about a mile from his vehicle.

Searchers found Stanford’s credit card and money clip with a small amount of money. But Bill Stanford said he’s concerned that searchers never found his son’s cell phone, billfold and car keys.

He’s also concerned that his son was shot behind the ear, which would be an awkward position for placing a gun in a suicide.

“It’s been very troubling to us,” he said.

The teenager’s vehicle was last seen the morning of Nov. 5 at a gas station along I-20 in Lincoln. The family said video has been obtained from the station, but there is a glare on the windshield of the Jeep that makes it impossible to tell who or what is inside the vehicle.

“You can’t see if there is one person or two,” Bill Stanford said.

Stanford said the family plans to pay an expert to try to enhance the video.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

Man arrested for stealing from bank drop-box


An Anniston man turned himself into police Monday for stealing nearly $7,000 from a night drop-box at BB&T bank earlier this month shedding light on the crime, but not the money custody battle it illuminated.

Police investigators charged Daryl Louis Thompson, 38, of Johnston Drive with theft first degree for allegedly swiping a zipper bag containing nearly $7,000 of cash, and checks deposited by Calhoun County Clerk Ted Hooks. The money was child support, alimony, and juvenile court payments.

On Nov. 5 Hooks made his nightly visit to the bank’s West 11th Street branch, unlocked the drop door with a bank-issued key, placed the bag inside, closed it and removed the key.

The next afternoon an associate from the bank called and reported they hadn’t received the court’s daily deposit.

Anniston Police investigator Nick Bowles said the two-stage drop box failed to deliver the bag into the second-stage safe. He said video shows Thompson driving up to deposit an envelope, retrieving Hooks’ bag and driving off.

Investigators were able to trace the vehicle’s license tag and track down Thompson.

Bowles said another man drove up prior to Thompson, saw Hooks’ bag in the first stage as well but didn’t touch it and left the bank without reporting it.

Hooks said he was relieved that investigators were able to move so quickly.

“It looked at first like it could have been negligence on someone’s part,” said Hooks. “I’m glad it was an out and out theft.”

If there’s a theft, robbery, or break-in, Hooks said the state’s insurance covers the loss.

Before investigators made an arrest, however, neither Hooks nor the bank felt it was their fault.

Bank customers agree to certain terms when they open an account and use the drop box. The terms spell out liability for loss.

Though BB&T credited $900 in cash to the county’s account, helped draft letters to get duplicate checks, and offered to help negotiate or pay associated fees due to stop-payment orders, the bank’s policy held that the bank was not liable for the loss.

The dispute is over when custody is transfered. Click here to read more.

Feds indict teacher in juvenile sex case

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- A Washington County teacher who is accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

FBI agents took 54-year-old Charlene Schmitz into custody yesterday. She was indicted on one count each of enticing a child by computer and enticing a child by cell phone.

Schmitz was already in the Washington County Jail stemming from her arrest on Friday. Deputies reportedly saw her sitting next to the boy at a high school football game in Leroy.

A state judge had barred Schmitz from having any contact with students from Leroy High School where she previously taught.

Schmitz was charged with rape and sodomy in June. The charges were filed after the boy's mother gave Washington County authorities dozens of sexually explicit e-mails she claimed Schmitz sent to her son.

She is scheduled to appear today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Mobile.

Ozark police probe city's first homicide of '07

OZARK, Ala. (AP) -- Ozark police are investigating the city's first homicide in two years.

A search continues for two male suspects wanted in a home invasion that resulted in the death of 24-year-old Miles Ansley.

The fatal shooting occurred early yesterday (Tuesday) morning around 2 a.m.

Police said before the victim was shot, he struggled with the two masked men, then tried to escape. Ansley, according to authorities, was shot in the back of the head.

Anyone with information regarding the murder can call the Dale County CrimeStoppers at (334) 744-9999.

Challenge to death penalty deserves trial, judge says


MONTGOMERY — A federal judge has ruled two death row inmates deserve a trial on their lawsuit claiming Alabama's lethal injection procedures are unconstitutionally cruel.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins denied the state government's request for a ruling in the state's favor without a trial. In a Nov. 16 order, the judge said the legal claims raised by Willie McNair and James Callahan should go to trial, but he did not immediately set a trial date.

The Alabama Supreme Court has scheduled Callahan's execution for Jan. 31, but Callahan's attorneys have asked for a postponement. McNair does not have an execution date set.

Attorneys for the state argued in federal court that McNair and Callahan waited too late to challenge Alabama's lethal injection law, which was enacted in 2004. But the judge said the inmates filed suit in 2006 before the state sought execution dates for either man, and that's early enough.

Other Alabama inmates have had similar suits thrown out because they filed the suits after the state attorney general asked the Alabama Supreme Court to set execution dates for them.

Watkins noted in his order that the trial could have been held in October but had to be delayed when the state changed its lethal injection procedures to make sure an inmate is unconscious before receiving drugs to stop the lungs and heart.

Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said Tuesday that Watkins' handling of the case could be impacted by the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to hear a similar lethal injection case from Kentucky.

In his Nov. 16 order, Watkins wrote that the Alabama trial will address issues such as the training of the execution team and the monitoring of the condemned inmate for unconsciousness while the deadly drugs are being administered.

The judge also noted that before the trial, he plans to inspect the death chamber at Holman Prison in Atmore "because material issues of fact exist as to the appropriate location of execution team members during the procedure, the length and location of IV lines, the size of the observation window, and the location of equipment and supplies."

McNair was sentenced to death for the robbery and murder of Ella Foy Riley of Abbeville on May 21, 1990.

Callahan was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jacksonville State University student Rebecca Suzanne Howell on Feb. 4, 1982.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oxford standoff ends in apparent suicide


OXFORD — A man wanted for questioning in connection with an early Friday morning shooting death near Oxford apparently killed himself during a Monday evening standoff with Oxford police.

The man, whom police did not identify pending notification of family, was sought in connection with the shooting death of Donald Byrdsong, 36, of the Friendship Community, according to Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge.

The man barricaded himself Monday evening inside a home on Cooper Court in Oxford. Around 9:35 p.m., several hours into the standoff, police entered the home and found the man dead, according to Partridge.

Partridge said the man died from “a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”

Police had evacuated at least six nearby homes and had blocked access to the street after 4:45 p.m. Monday.

Partridge said officers tried to negotiate with the suspect, who held them at bay with an AK-47 assault rifle and a handgun. But Partridge said officers were unable to communicate with him.

Residents nearby reported hearing several shots during the incident; Partridge said the man fired “several bursts” with his rifle after police arrived, but no police officers were injured.

The man started the standoff with his girlfriend in the house, but the police were able to get her out, Partridge said.

Donald Byrdsong died Friday in an early-morning shooting near a residence on Woody Lane in Talladega County. A woman was injured in the incident.

2 shot in separate incidents over the holiday in Anniston


Separate shootings over the Thanksgiving holidays left two area residents with non-life-threatening wounds.

Wednesday night around 10:30 p.m., a white Ford Taurus with no hubcaps and a dent on the driver’s side stopped on the road near a 19-year-old man walking near the 500 block of 19th Street, reported Anniston police.

The driver of the vehicle leaned out the window and shot the man in the right leg. The car then sped off, police investigators said.

The man told police at least one other person appeared to be in the car.

The victim was treated at Stringfellow Hospital for his injuries.

In a separate Anniston shooting incident Sunday, gunshots from outside a night club wounded a Jacksonville woman who was inside.

Several shots were fired around 1:45 a.m. outside the Lucky 7 Club on the 1200 block of West 10th Street, Anniston police reported.

The shots hit an unoccupied 1998 Nissan Sentra in the parking lot, damaging the dashboard, windshield and rear passenger-side window.

The injured 29-year-old Jacksonville woman was inside the building. She heard the shots outside, and shortly after felt pain in her right leg, said investigators.

She quickly realized she’d been shot.

The woman was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Stringfellow Hospital.

Those standing around the woman when she was shot told police they preferred not to talk.

Police had made no arrests in either incident as of Monday afternoon.

Take Back Our Highways’ cut fatalities, Troopers report


Alabama State Troopers dished out a second helping of intensive traffic law enforcement over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

“From a local perspective, we were very pleased” with the results of the effort, said Capt. John Henderson, post commander for Jacksonville-Gadsden.

The post reports just one fatality — in Etowah County — during the Nov. 21 through Nov. 25 “Take Back Our Highways” initiative.

“I noticed that folks had slowed down immensely,” Henderson said. “Last time, the numbers of injuries and fatalities were higher, for a shorter period of time.”

The post wrote 1,274 speeding tickets, 16 citations for following too close, 14 for improper lane changes, 612 for driver’s license violations, 612 for lack of insurance, and 162 for other violations.

The most disturbing number, however, Henderson said, was the 215 citations issued for seatbelt or child-restraint violations.

Statewide, troopers wrote 17,466 tickets for a wide variety of violations.

Troopers reported nine Alabama fatalities during the 102-hour campaign from 6 p.m. Nov. 21, through midnight Nov. 25. That’s less than half the 19 fatalities reported during the same period last year.

However, the week’s statistics — Nov. 19-25 — still show an increase from 17 fatalities last year to 21 this year, largely due to a single wreck that killed six people.

Public Safety Director Col. J. Christopher Murphy said in a press release Monday that alcohol and lack of restraints contributed to this year’s fatalities.

Mississippi and Tennessee, both joined Alabama in the tri-state enforcement effort, and both reported decreases in fatalities. The Tennessee Highway Patrol listed five traffic deaths — down from 20 last year. Mississippi reported one death — down from five last year.

Henderson said the public cooperated immensely in the effort to save lives.

“We’d love to work ourselves out of a job,” he said. “The strategy is working, and we will continue to use it; but it may not be announced next time.”

Henderson said he didn’t know if there will be a “next time” soon.

“I haven’t heard any plans for a ‘Take Back the Highways 3.0’,” he said. “Headquarters is still analyzing the data from this one.”

Meantime, the troopers will continue rigorous enforcement day to day, Henderson said. “We’re not going to drop our standards … we will continue until it’s obvious we’ve taken back the highways.”

2 robberies target Anniston convenience stores over holiday


Two recent similar robberies targeted local convenience stores, Anniston police report.

Around midnight Wednesday, three men entered a convenience store on the 900 block of Clydesdale Avenue, police said.

Two male employees were in the store. One was in an office at the back of the store. He heard the other employee — who was at the front cleaning — scream, and went to take a look.

He saw three men in the store, one holding a handgun.

The thieves took the store’s cash register with an unknown amount of money and fled.

No injuries were reported.

In a similar incident around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night, three men, one carrying a handgun, walked into a convenience store on the 1000 block of U.S. 431, police reports said.

The men took an undisclosed amount of money from the register before fleeing.

No injuries were reported. Police have made no arrests in either case.

Despite their similarities, the two robberies may not be related, investigators said.

Anniston police charge jailed Piedmont man with Oct. 4 robbery


Anniston police on Wednesday charged a Piedmont man already being held in the Calhoun County Jail in connection with an Oct. 4 robbery of Check n’ Go on the 2400 block of U.S. 431.

Police say they believe Denver Lee Ooten, 42, is the robber who entered the check-cashing business shortly after 4 p.m., wearing a Halloween mask with a black semi-automatic handgun stuck in the front of his pants. The thief demanded money and fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.

No injuries were reported.

Ooten was being held in Calhoun County Jail awaiting court dates for 16 counts of negotiating a worthless negotiable instrument — writing bad checks — and five charges of failing to appear to answer some of those counts. Police on Wednesday charged Ooten with first-degree robbery. The charge will add $50,000 to his bail, originally set at $10,600.

Ooten’s initial appearance in court on the robbery charge is scheduled for Jan 11.

Family offers $100,000 reward for information

This is from The Daily Home. There is only one source: the boy's mother. I called the DA in Talladega and the FBI yesterday and neither would tell me anything, on or off the record. I'm not an expert, but I wonder if this is a family struggling to accept a terrible fact or if there are still plenty of wheels turning behind the scene. -aj

By Chris Norwood

TALLADEGA — The family of Benjamin Stanford announced a $100,000 reward for “information leading to the arrest and conviction (of) those responsible for” his death, according to fliers that began appearing around Talladega Monday.

Stanford was last seen alive Nov. 5 in Anniston wearing rust colored Carhartt jeans, a purple shirt, a long-sleeved, dark gray fleece and a white Polo cap. He was last seen driving a silver 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The vehicle was recovered on I-20 East near Villa Rica, Ga., the afternoon of Nov. 5. Stanford’s body was found eight days later in dense foliage about a mile away from the mile marker where the car was found.

A preliminary finding by the Carroll County, Ga., Coroner’s Office ruled that Stanford died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, but several forensic test results remained unavailable Monday and his family is not so sure.

“We haven’t heard any new information today,” Stanford’s mother, Lynne Stanford, said Monday afternoon. “I think they’re still looking at a lot of options.”

Lynne Stanford said, for one thing, she found it curious that “he had a money clip with a couple of dollars and his gas card with him, but his keys, billfold and cell phone have not been found. I know they’re working on enhancing the video from the gas station where he bought a couple of gallons of gas, but there’s a glare on the windshield, so you can’t tell if it’s him in the car or if there’s someone with him,” she added.

Lynne Stanford also said she found it “odd that someone ruled it a suicide when he was shot behind his ear. And I know there is absolutely nothing in his personality that says suicide. He deserves further investigation.”

The Stanford family is still in regular contact with Texas Equusearch, the search and rescue organization that found Ben Stanford’s body two weeks ago. That group became involved after the case began drawing national media attention, including television coverage on the Fox News Network.

Full story

Monday, November 26, 2007

Police stalk robbers in unmarked cars: Special patrols aim to send ‘strong message’


Pulling through the parking lot in an unmarked car Friday evening, two Anniston Police investigators take a good look inside a restaurant prone to robberies. It’s dark, cold, and at 8:30 p.m. not many customers remain.

Inside, the cashier is leaning on the counter, talking on the phone. The phone cord pulls taught as he cranes his neck toward the window and watches the car as it drives in a slow, suspicious circle around the lot. He stands upright, hangs up the phone.

In the car, the investigators on robbery detail are watching the clerk, making sure the customers are on the proper sides of the counter. They search faces for signs of panic or anxiety, and check for the clear giveaway: masked men about to stage a robbery.

“It’s kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack,” says Investigator Bruce Butterworth. “But just being out here and letting the word get out that we’re patrolling is a strong message.”

Butterworth, an Anniston native, says he’s seen robberies evolve over his 18 years with the department.

“These kids are getting braver and braver. It’s getting to where they’re not afraid to shoot,” he said.

And often, “they” really are kids.

Anniston Police charged a 16-year-old Anniston boy as an adult earlier this month in connection with a Nov. 7 robbery and shooting at Diane’s Amoco on West 15th Street. Police believe he is one of two males in their late teens who robbed the convenience store and shot a female clerk, who was treated at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

In early November, plainclothes investigators joined uniformed officers patrolling the city. The intent is to be a presence — and a deterrent — during a particularly high-traffic time of the year.

Police began conducting robbery details two years ago and found them to be a successful way of collecting information and preventing crime.

After careers spent working robberies, the investigators bring a finely honed sense of the way the crimes are committed. They know what to look for, and just because it’s a needle in a haystack doesn’t mean a little luck — good or bad — won’t intercede and provide the opportunity to stop one.

Crime Scene Investigator Travis Bentley, a Wellborn native, rides with Butterworth tonight. The two graduated from the same police academy class and have an easy-going rapport.

“Anytime we’re on patrol together, something always seems to happen,” Bentley says.

Like the other investigators on robbery detail, Butterworth and Bentley patrol in a car that isn’t your average police cruiser, though they often wear shirts labeled “Anniston Police Investigator.”

They’re not exactly trying to hide their presence, but they want to keep criminals on their toes.

Driving through the restaurant parking lot, they confirm that everything inside is as it should be.

The cashier now is visibly unnerved by the unidentified car with two men in the front seat staring into the building.

“We do get some weird looks when we drive by like that,” Butterworth says. “I guess it keeps them aware, though. They have to be wondering, ‘Who are these guys scoping the place out?’”

Butterworth turns the vehicle toward another store in an adjacent parking lot.

As they round the corner of a corrugated metal building, a menacing-looking vehicle appears.

The car is creeping slowly toward the restaurant, its headlights off.

Two young men in the front seat eye the investigators from behind the half-open driver’s side window of opaque tinted glass. The passenger whips his head around to watch where the investigators’ car goes.

Click here to learn what happens next.

Shooting leaves 1 dead, 1 injured


TALLADEGA COUNTY — A shooting incident in the Friendship Community early Friday morning left an Oxford man dead and a woman undergoing surgery at Regional Medical Center in Anniston, according to Talladega County authorities.

Donald Byrdsong, 36, of the Friendship Community, died in the 1:30 a.m. shooting at a residence on Woody Lane in Talladega County near Oxford, according to Lt. Mike Hubbard, chief investigator for the Talladega County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies called to the scene found Byrdsong’s body. He appeared to have been shot at least once and possibly more times, in the torso, Hubbard said.

Byrdsong’s body was taken to the state forensics lab for autopsy and recovery of physical evidence.

The injured victim, Whitney Elston, was transported to Regional Medical Center via private vehicle, Hubbard said.

Investigators were able to speak with Elston briefly before surgery. They probably will be able to get a formal statement from her today, Hubbard said. Her injuries are not considered life-threatening, he said.

Hubbard said it appeared that Byrdsong and Elston both were shot by a third party and had not been shooting at each other.

Neither Elston nor Byrdsong lived at the residence where they were shot.

Anyone with information about this incident should contact the Talladega County Investigation Office at 256-761-2141.

Bank scam targets Regions customers


A computerized scam has the number of local residents.

People in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi have received calls from a computerized calling system supposedly representing Regions Bank, reported the FBI in a press release Wednesday.

The call directs people to a fraudulent Web site and asks them to verify their existing online information. The site requests customers’ usernames and passwords.

Regions Bank is reportedly the current target of the scam but other banks’ names could be used as well.

Charles Oxley, a resident of Golden Springs, said he received three calls on his two phone lines since Tuesday. His neighbors have also been called, he said.

“They are cold calling the whole neighborhood,” said Oxley. “We’re not customers of Regions Bank, never have been.”

When he picked up the phone, he said, a female computerized voice told him an account had expired.

To correct it, the voice told him, he needed to log on to a Web site and renew his information.

“The whole thing was very official sounding, but I was suspicious.”

Oxley called the local branch of the bank and they confirmed that the call was a scam.

The FBI release said Regions Bank “will never ask customers for online credentials via the Internet or telephone.”

They’ve asked any customers who have responded to the solicitation to call the bank at 1-800-REGIONS (734-4667).

Crack found on gunshot victim; cousin sought


A 70-year-old man shot his 23-year-old cousin Tuesday afternoon after an argument at a house on the 3100 block of West 12th Street.

The victim was visiting his aunt at her residence around 4 p.m. when someone accused him of smoking crack, reported Anniston Police. The man denied that he’d been doing crack and the accusation resulted in an argument between the two.

A 70-year-old male cousin became involved and shot the young man with a .22 revolver, reported police. The bullet struck him in the left hip area.

When emergency personnel arrived, they slit the man’s pants to access the wound and found a substance that appeared to be crack cocaine in his pocket. The substance has been sent off to a forensics lab to confirm its composition.

The victim was transported to Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. Investigators will evaluate pending unlawful possession charges when the man gets released from the hospital.

The 70-year-old man left the scene before police arrived. Police will likely issue a warrant for his arrest in the coming days.

Jacksonville man charged by Anniston police in arson


Anniston Police charged a 24-year-old Jacksonville man in connection with a house fire at 511 Arnold Drive on April 7.

Jimmy Mark McKinney, of Watkins Road, was charged while in Calhoun County Jail awaiting court dates on a litany of other offenses.

He’s being held on 22 counts of burglary third degree, one count burglary second degree, one count robbery first degree, one count theft of property third degree, one count failure to appear in court on drug paraphernalia charges, and 16 counts failure to pay for gas.

McKinney was arrested after he burglarized a house, said Anniston Police investigators. The fire may have been a way to cover the tracks of a robbery, said police.

Investigators said the fire started in the master bedroom and didn’t appear to be accidental or electrical.

McKinney is being held without bond, pending charges from another state.

Justices won't allow Alabama death row inmate's challenge on DNA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Monday refused to allow a death row inmate to try to prove his innocence through DNA testing.

Thomas Arthur, 65, was sentenced for the 1982 killing of Troy Wicker of Muscle Shoals, Ala. His execution has been set for Dec 6, but is expected to be delayed because of a pending Supreme Court case involving lethal injections.

The victim's wife, Judy Wicker, testified at Arthur's trial that she had sex with him and paid him $10,000 to kill her husband, who was shot in the face as he lay in bed. Earlier at her own trial, Wicker testified that a man burglarizing her home raped her, knocked her unconscious and then shot her husband.

In April, Arthur's lawyers sued the state claiming that the inmate was being deprived of his rights and was entitled to DNA testing of critical pieces of physical evidence, including a rape kit, bloodstained clothing and hairs aimed at showing that someone other than Arthur committed the murder.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta affirmed a federal judge's dismissal of Arthur's lawsuit, citing the authority of federal courts to dismiss such claims that are speculative or are filed too late in proceedings.

Arthur filed his claim five days before the state of Alabama moved to set an execution date.

The case is Arthur v. King, 07-397.

State troopers issued 3,000 tickets on Friday


MONTGOMERY — State troopers issued more than 3,000 traffic citations statewide Friday during a Take Back Our Highways campaign that had 200 additional troopers on the road.

Of 3,009 traffic citations, there were 1,942 “hazardous” incidents, including 43 DUIs, 1,520 speeding tickets, 32 tickets for following too closely, 18 improper lane change citations and 329 tickets for seat belt or child restraint violations, according to troopers.

There were 1,067 non-hazardous incidents, including warnings, assists and nontraffic arrests.

Troopers worked 87 rural crashes on Friday, resulting in 28 injuries and two fatalities.

By comparison, troopers made 887 hazardous citations on the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2006. On that day, troopers worked 99 rural crashes that resulted in 52 injuries and five fatalities.

ASU opens forensic science building


MONTGOMERY — Alabama State University has opened a $10 million forensic sciences building named for Robert Clinton Hatch, a pioneering black educator and former school president.

The addition is a first-time collaboration between ASU and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.

“The building adds a new education dimension to campus,” school President Joe Lee told the Montgomery Advertiser. “It has cutting-edge technology and space to work in for forensic science. It is a 21st century partnership that should set the stage for more partnerships in the future.”

Hatch served as an education professor at Alabama State College from 1947-1955 and is the first black employee of the Alabama State Department of Education.

State AG: Sex offender laws need revising


MONTGOMERY — Two years ago, Alabama overhauled its sex offender laws by ratcheting up penalties, restricting residency and establishing a monitoring system.

Attorney General Troy King says that those efforts were remarkable, but that there is room for improvement.

He’s been checking the pulse of law enforcement officials around the state for ideas on making laws even tougher on those who have been convicted of sex offenses, and said he finds them receptive.

“There is more that needs to be done to address those sex offenders who try to game the system and manipulate the law,” he said.

In addition to prosecuting people who allow a sex offender to use their address when that person does not live with them, King wants to close what he sees as loopholes in the law that restrict how close sex offenders can live to daycares or schools and extend it to other places where children congregate such as Boys and Girls Clubs or the YMCA.

He also wants to level the most severe punishment — the death penalty — on sex offenders who serially prey on children.

“As the father of two little girls, I understand how horrific something like that is and we should impose the most serious sanction that law allows,” he said.

When it comes to those who molest children, even King’s critics don’t argue with his zeal for using the law to keep pedophiles away from potential victims.

Their problem is that Alabama’s current sex offender law, particularly its provisions about community notification, registration requirements and residency restrictions, apply equally to anyone who has ever been convicted of a sexual offense, no matter how long ago that conviction took place.

“I don’t think you will find anyone who would advocate against the registration of persons who are a danger to society,” said Mobile attorney Kyla Kelim. “The thing is that so many people who are roped in by this law aren’t violent or dangerous.

More of Markeshia's story here.