Saturday, April 12, 2008

Editorial: Stop crime before it starts: City needs more than more cops


Policing experts agree: the best way to reduce crime is to the stop it before it happens. Intervening before a young person on the edge turn to a life of crime is the best course for a safe and prosperous city.

However, changing hearts and minds before somebody gets hurt is more difficult than raising a cop's pay or buying a squad car.

Just this week, that reality was reinforced when a coalition of ministers, law enforcement officials and concerned citizens met to discuss an uptick in violence in 2008, including nine local homicide victims whose lives were cut short by a bullet.

The consensus sounded Thursday night at the "Stop the Violence" roundtable was that we can't arrest our way out of Anniston's growing crime problem.

The Rev. Jeffrey Williams owns Anniston Funeral Services, the scene of Thursday's meeting. He said, "We just funeralized a young man yesterday that was murdered, and it bothers me. As a funeral director, I don't need the business that bad."

Well said, reverend.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Anniston motorcyclist killed in collision


An Anniston man died Wednesday night when his motorcycle collided with a car on Morrisville Road near Anniston.

Danterrius Gladden, 23, of Anniston, was driving a 2004 Suzuki Motorcycle around 6:30 p.m. about three miles west of Anniston on Morrisville Road when he collided with a 1994 Infiniti driven by Michael Hafley, also of Anniston.

Gladden was wearing a motorcycle helmet but was fatally injured. He was transported to Regional Medical Center, where he later died, reported state troopers.

Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown said he was pronounced dead at 6:57 p.m. from blunt-force trauma.

Hafley was uninjured.

Calhoun County jurors no longer needed today for Huntsville case


Court officials in Calhoun County announced Thursday that jurors summoned for selection in the case of a man accused of shooting to death a Huntsville police officer, should not report for duty today.

Calhoun County Circuit Clerk Ted Hooks said the services of the 335 jurors called for the case no longer are needed.

On trial is Benito Ocampo Albarran, 34, charged with capital murder in the death of Officer Daniel Golden. According to prosecutors, Golden was answering a domestic violence call on Aug. 29, 2005, at a restaurant and store named Jalisco's when he was killed.

The venue of the trial was changed from Huntsville to the Calhoun County Courthouse in Anniston after defense attorneys argued that media coverage and the recent shooting death of another Huntsville police officer made selection of an unbiased jury unlikely.

The Madison County District Attorney's office informed the City of Huntsville's public safety director, Rex Reynolds, around 4 p.m. Thursday that Circuit Judge Karen Hall had decided to postpone the trial "based upon an issue involving the defense," said Wendell Johnson, spokesman for the Huntsville Police Department.

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Equipped to serve: Calhoun County Civil Defense Emergency Group gets much-needed equipment

Part of the current 38-person Calhoun County Civil Defense Emergency Group is pictured. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

When a child goes missing or a tornado damages a neighborhood in Calhoun County, the county's Civil Defense Emergency Group mobilizes its 38 volunteers to help out however they can.

Since Nov. 2, 1962, the group has been assisting the county's Sheriff's Office and municipal police stations with those situations and many others, including dragging rivers for drowning victims and assisting hazardous materials teams.

Unlike most public safety organizations, the Civil Defense Emergency Group is not included as a line item on any government agency's budget. Instead, it relies completely on donations, said Commander Harold Rhodes, who has been with the group for 18 years.

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Man get 18 month sentence for threatening TV station

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- A Mobile man will serve 18 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to sending threatening e-mails to a Mobile television station.

Federal Judge William Steele sentenced 38-year-old Daniel Ray Leonard at a hearing yesterday in U.S. District Court. Last October, Leonard admitted sending the emails to W-P-M-I television station.

Mobile police said the correspondence began June 7th and threatened harm to employees at the news station.

Leonard must also serve three years on probation when he's released. He was also ordered to repay WPMI more than $36,000 that was spent on extra security.

Ex-candidate Lodmell pleads guilty to soliciting prostitution

FAIRHOPE, Ala. (AP) -- Benjamin Reid Lodmell has pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution - a charge that ended his Democratic bid against Republican U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner.

Lodmell had announced his Democratic candidacy to oppose the Republican incumbent, but Lodmell never qualified with the party to run.

The 36-year-old Mobile resident was arrested in Baldwin County in January and later dropped his candidacy. He was accused of offering an undercover female officer $100 for sex.

District Judge Michelle Hart on Thursday accepted Lodmell's plea to the misdemeanor and deferred punishment for two years. The charges will be dropped at that time if he stays out of trouble.

Lodmell is a former banker who is executive director of an international non-profit group.


Information from: Press-Register,

House passes bill on missing seniors alert


MONTGOMERY — Alabama's senior citizens could be a step closer to having their own version of the Amber Alert program.

In a 76-to-0 vote Thursday, the House passed the Emergency Missing Senior Citizen Alert Act.

Based on the same concept as the Amber Alert program, the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Vinemont, provides for establishment of an alert system for seniors who go missing.

The bill would open the door for the creation of a voluntary partnership between local and state law enforcement agencies and the Alabama Association of Broadcasters.

If the legislation becomes law this session, the alert system would enlist the help of the state's television and radio audience to help find a missing senior who is at risk of bodily harm or death.

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Editorial: Serve, protect, despair: Anniston police need more tools


Anniston's police department does an excellent job of training other cities' law enforcers.

The reasons are easy enough. Anniston officers earning a meager salary can move to suburban forces and in the process increase their salaries and reduce the amount of crime they face.

As one former Anniston officer who took a $14,000 raise for a job on an out-of-state police force says of his former Anniston coworkers, "They are doing a thankless and hard job for very little pay."

National experts and Anniston officials agree that longevity and continuity are important to building an effective police force. Hard to do that when low pay and high stress drive Anniston's finest to greener, safer and more supportive pastures.

Money isn't the answer, but without more of it dedicated to public safety, Anniston will continue to spin its wheels.

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Editorial: Perception vs. reality: Anniston must guard its image and its streets


The digital map of reported crimes in Calhoun County virtually pulses with data. Each blue flag represents a crime registered with local authorities. Click one and discover details of the crime. The Star's new online feature — located at — is handy, another layer of reporting for a community newspaper.

No matter the map's useful-ness, some finer points of lawbreaking are missing. It can't show crimes that did not happen. Nor can it illustrate the men and women who might have turned to a life of crime had someone or something not intervened to put them on the straight and narrow.

Perhaps most importantly the map cannot measure the public perception of crime in a community.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Editorial: Open means open


In a battle of open records, laws versus local government exceptions, sunshine and the state always win.

For this reason, the Anniston Police Department went off track earlier this week when it initially refused to release a report detailing a complaint alleging an off-duty officer struck an Anniston woman last weekend.

On Tuesday, Anniston Police Chief John Dryden told The Star that department policy prevents release of the reports involving law-enforcement personnel until an investigation is completed.

The department released the report Wednesday, saying it had completed a preliminary probe into the allegation. The accuracy of the allegations and the disposal of this case are not relevant to the larger matter, namely timely release of all public documents.

The best application of the law should be for local governments to release records without delay. While some exceptions for redaction and delay may exist in the code, the wisest course is building public trust, and doing so promptly.

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ATM captures image of man suspected in rape, kidnapping

Photo: Special to The Star

Anniston police have released an ATM photo of the suspect who kidnapped two women from the Victoria Inn at gunpoint in November 2007, and raped one.

Family, friends and concerned Anniston residents are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the man responsible.

According to Anniston police, the man kidnapped the 28-year-old Florida woman and another woman at gunpoint early Nov. 2, 2007, in the Victoria Inn parking lot. He made them drive to a local ATM machine to withdraw money, ordered one of the women out of the car and raped the 28-year-old before letting them go, police said.

Anniston police investigators said Wednesday no significant new leads have cropped up since the assault. Anyone with information is asked to call Anniston Police Department at 238-1800 or Crime Stoppers at 238-1414. Tips may be left anonymously.

Police continue searching for man who robbed Regions Bank

Photo: Special to The Star

Anniston police continued Wednesday to look for the man who robbed the Golden Springs branch of Regions Bank on Monday.

Investigators released security camera still photos with the hope of generating more leads.

According to police reports the man slipped a bank teller a note demanding money around 9:25 a.m. Monday, then left on foot headed south with an undisclosed amount of cash. Police have only a vague description of the man.

Police ask anyone with information about the robbery to call the police station at (256) 238-1800.

Anniston police finish internal review of woman's accusations


City officials said Wednesday the internal investigation into an Anniston woman's allegations that she was assaulted by an off-duty Anniston police officer near the scene of a wreck, is now complete and in the hands of the city manager.

"The report has been processed, reviewed by me, and sent through central records. I delivered a copy to the city manager for a decision and the victim has been contacted," said Anniston Police Chief John Dryden.

City Manager George Monk said he received Dryden's recommendation but hadn't read through it as of Wednesday afternoon.

The allegations are levied at Officer David Wilcox.

Wilcox was hired and sent to the police academy by the Anniston Police Department in 2006, according to the city's Web site.

Valerie King, of Anniston, said that she stopped to call 911 after she drove up on a small traffic accident on Greenbrier Dear Road April 5 around 4 a.m. When she saw that everything appeared to be under control, she began to leave, but Wilcox, who had stopped with another person to aid the motorists, began yelling at her not to leave — apparently believing she had been involved in the accident.

According to King, Wilcox reached into the car and punched her in the arm and beneath the jaw while she dialed 911 a second time to say she was being assaulted by an unknown man.

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J.J.'s convenience store robbed by armed man


A man with a silver handgun robbed J.J.'s convenience store on the 3400 block of Alexandria Road in Anniston on Tuesday night.

Anniston police reported that the man walked into the business around 9:20 p.m., while there was one customer in the store, pointed the handgun at the clerk and demanded money.

The clerk handed over an undisclosed amount of money, and the man left the scene on foot, said investigators.

Neither the clerk nor the customer was reportedly injured in the incident.

No suspects related to the case were in custody Wednesday afternoon.

Quick Cash office clerk suspected of embezzlement


Managers at Quick Cash on 1110 South Quintard Ave. in Anniston believe that an office clerk embezzled more than $44,000 between September 2007 and February 2008.

Employees at the lending facility discovered that the clerk — whose name is being withheld until formal charges are filed — was $3,000 short during a nightly count out, said office manager Lisa Lewis.

After an extensive audit, the company determined that the woman had taken the information of customers who hadn't been into the store in a year or two and issued cash loans to herself with it, she said.

According to Lewis, the company terminated the woman on Feb. 29.

Quick Cash is owned by Albertville-based First Credit Inc. with 23 stores in the state including one in Anniston and two in Gadsden.

Anniston police are still investigating. No arrests had been made Wednesday afternoon.

Talladega man killed in early-morning crash


A 26-year-old Talladega man drowned in his car after a single-vehicle accident just outside of Talladega early Wednesday morning.

Demetrius White, 26, was driving a 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse on Jonesview Road about 6 miles west of Talladega around 4 a.m., when he lost control of the vehicle, reported Alabama State Troopers.

The Eclipse left the roadway in a particularly curvy part of the road and drove into a small pond, said Talladega County Coroner Jerry Castleberry.

The car was nearly completely submerged for sometime until a state trooper drove by and saw the tire tracks leading to the pond, said Castleberry.

According to the coroner, White was pronounced dead on scene at 8:30 a.m. from asphyxiation due to drowning.

White's body was taken to Terry's Funeral Home. Troopers still are investigating the accident.

Alabama man charged with sexual battery of Miss. teen

LUCEDALE, Miss. (AP) -- A 28-year-old Alabama man has been charged with sexual battery involving a Lucedale teenager he met over the Internet.

George County Sheriff Garry Welford said Perry Lynn Gold Jr., of Harvest, Ala., initially contacted the 15-year-old girl through the social networking Web site, MySpace. Welford said Gold also talked to the minor on the telephone before arranging a personal meeting.

Welford said in a statement Wednesday that Gold traveled to George County, where a sexual encounter allegedly took place.

The sheriff said a warrant for Gold's arrest was transmitted from George County Justice Court to Madison County, Ala., where authorities arrested him. He was transported back to George County on Tuesday.

Gold was being held in the county jail pending an initial court hearing.

A sexual battery conviction carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison for the first offense and requires the convicted person to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.


Information from: The Mississippi Press,

Murder suspect escapes juvenile detention center


MOUNT MEIGS — A search continued Wednesday for a 17-year-old Maryland murder suspect who escaped from a juvenile detention center near Montgomery.

A lookout was issued Tuesday for Glenn Eugene Herrmann III of Randolph County, who was arrested earlier driving a vehicle belonging to a person killed in Prince George's County, Md., authorities said.

Montgomery County Sheriff D.T. Marshall said Herrmann scaled a fence at the Mount Meigs youth lockup just after noon Tuesday and was last seen leaving in a gray vehicle.

Alabama Department of Youth Services officials would not comment on the Maryland case, but said Herrmann was being held on a burglary charge out of Randolph County.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Oxford man sentenced to life for first degree rape and burglary in Etowah County



Charles William Brandenstein, 37, of 105 Central Avenue, Oxford, Alabama, appeared before Etowah County Circuit Judge Clark Hall last week and entered guilty pleas to charges of Rape in the First Degree and Burglary in the First Degree. After the pleas were entered, he was sentenced by Judge Hall to a term of life imprisonment on each charge. The cases had been scheduled for trial during the week.

Marcus Reid, Deputy District Attorney, who prosecuted the cases stated that the charges arose from an incident that occurred in May of 2006, when Brandenstein forced his way into the home of the 64 year old victim and forcibly raped her. The entry occurred at night while the victim, who was deaf, was asleep. After entering the bedroom and raping the victim, Brandenstein proceeded to steal various items of jewelry and cash from her home. Tips from area residents led Gadsden Police Department investigators to Brandenstein, who was later identified by the victim from a photo line-up. DNA evidence recovered and analyzed through the efforts of investigators from the Gadsden Police Department and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences was pivotal to the resolution of this case, according to Reid.

Disney Teacup Beating Trial Continues in Orange County

Marva Hinton 04/08/2008 16:51:56

Testimony continues today in the trial of a woman accused of beating another woman at Disney.

Alleged beating victim Aimee Krause grabbed her neck and head as if in pain several times during her testimony.

"Are you still suffering from injuries that you received on May 27th?" asked prosecutor Richard Bogle, referring to the date last year when the altercation between Krause and defendant Victoria Walker occurred.

"Yes," replied the Clermont woman from the stand.

Walker is accused of beating Krause at the Mad Tea Party Ride after a confrontation while waiting in line. Walker, a native of Anniston, Alabama, allegedly became enraged when she thought Krause and the woman and two children accompanying her were let ahead of Walker in line.

Full Story on AM580's site.

Arrest made in Hobson City shooting death


A 21-year-old Anniston man was in Calhoun County Jail on Tuesday, charged with the April 1 murder of Broderick Few in Hobson City.

Gordon Raynard McGrue, 21, of Anniston was being held on $200,000 bond after Calhoun County Sheriff's deputies arrested him Thursday, two days after the murder.

Sheriff Larry Amerson said the office's investigation is continuing their efforts to filter through conflicting information given by witnesses and friends.

"At the moment it appears to have been a personal dispute," said Amerson. "One theory is that there was a relationship with a girl involved but there have been inconsistencies in what people have told us."

Amerson said there has been a lot of communication with the community that has helped them get as far as they have gotten, but there are still elements they are working out.

According to police reports, Few, 32, of Hobson City and a 29-year-old man from Munford were sitting on the porch of a house at 316 Wilkerson Ave., around 1:30 a.m. when gunfire erupted from the woods across the street.

Few was struck in the head and the 29-year-old in the leg.

Both were transported to Regional Medical Center, where Few died in surgery. The 29-year-old was treated and released.

Woman says she was assaulted by off-duty Anniston officer


The Anniston Police Department initiated an internal investigation earlier this week into allegations that an off-duty officer struck a woman in the arm and jaw Saturday at the scene of an early morning traffic accident.

Anniston Police Chief John Dryden said he can't discuss the specifics of the alleged incident due to the investigation but that "all officers have to adhere to policy on or off duty."

"It is to our benefit to take all complaints and look into them," he said.

Valerie King, 38, of Anniston said she was driving down Greenbrier Dear Road headed to work just after 4 a.m. Saturday when she came upon an accident and stopped to call 911.

Before uniformed police arrived, two men — whom she would learn later were off-duty police officers — stopped to check on those involved in the accident and direct traffic, she said.

When she realized the accident was minor, King turned and walked to her car, intent on leaving to go to work.

One of the off-duty officers quickly caught up with her and told her that she couldn't leave the scene, she said.

King said she told him she was not in the wreck and was going to continue on to work, but he kept telling her she couldn't leave.

King identified the officer to The Star but Dryden would not confirm his name.

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Area woman arrested near Canadian border


According to Calhoun County Sheriff's deputies, an Anniston women caught near the Canadian border at a checkpoint will be extradited in the coming weeks.

Laurel D. Jennings, 27, was arrested on a warrant issued earlier this year when she failed to appear in court after being charged with possession of a controlled substance, said Chief Deputy Matthew Wade.

The Sheriff's Office has made arrangements to transport her to the county, he said.

The Times Argus, a newspaper in Barre, Vt., reported Monday that Jennings was taken into custody in the town of Derby, near the Canadian border, on March 28, attempting to enter the United States from Canada.

Police there reported that Jennings was taken into custody and held at Dale Correctional Facility in Waterbury, Vt., on $100,000 bond.

State Trooper hit by alleged drunk driver


A 33-year-old Alabama State Trooper was recuperating at his home in Ranburne Tuesday after being hit by a pickup truck at a driver's license checkpoint over the weekend.

Cpl. Marshall B. Merrill, 33, and several other troopers were directing traffic through a checkpoint they set up near New Liberty and A.P. Hollingsworth Roads, said Jacksonville-Gadsden Post Commander Capt. John Henderson.

A Toyota pickup driven by Brian Lipscomb, of Rainbow City, came down the road and got too close to Merrill as it passed, striking him and sending him airborne, said Henderson. The impact knocked the trooper under the vehicle he was checking, he said.

Merrill suffered a broken jaw, lacerations to the front and back of his head, and heavy bruising on his body, said Henderson.

He was transported to Jacksonville Medical Center then via ground transportation to UAB Hospitals.

Lipscomb was uninjured and was taken into custody for driving under the influence and first-degree assault. Court records show that he had a registered blood alcohol level of 0.120.

Henderson said an Alabama State Trooper vehicular homicide investigator is continuing to investigate.

Search continues for Regions Bank robber


Anniston police continued to search Tuesday for the man who robbed the Golden Springs branch of Regions Bank on Monday.

Investigators said they have very little information to go on, but have been following leads ever since the robbery.

The man reportedly left on foot headed south with an undisclosed amount of cash after slipping a bank teller a note demanding money around 9:25 a.m. Monday. Police have only a vague description of the man, but planned to release surveillance footage today.

The bank was open for business as usual Tuesday, according to branch employees.

Police ask anyone with information about the robbery to call the police station at (256) 238-1800.

AG asks court to dismiss serial killer's lawsuit


BIRMINGHAM — Attorney General Troy King is asking a federal court to dismiss an amended lawsuit by a death row inmate who says Alabama's execution method is still cruel and unusual despite modifications made last year.

King filed motions in federal court in Birmingham on Monday asking for the amended suit by convicted serial killer Daniel Lee Siebert to be dismissed on grounds that a two-year statute of limitations had expired.

The Alabama Department of Corrections changed its execution protocol in October to require a corrections officer to assess the consciousness of the condemned before the administration of chemicals intended to cause paralysis and cardiac arrest. The guard is to speak the inmate's name, pinch his arm and brush his eyelashes to determine whether a drug meant to cause unconsciousness was effective.

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17-year-old flees juvenile lockup near Montgomery

MOUNT MEIGS, Ala. (AP) -- A search continued Wedneaday for a 17-year-old Maryland murder suspect who escaped from a juvenile detention center near Montgomery.

A lookout was issued Tuesday for Glenn Eugene Hermann III of rural Randolph County in east Alabama, who was arrested earlier driving a vehicle belonging to person killed in Prince George's County, Md., authorities said.

Montgomery County Sheriff D.T. Marshall said Herrmann scaled a fence at the Mount Meigs youth lockup just after noon Tuesday and was last seen leaving in a gray vehicle.

Rick Barro, an investigator for the Prince George's County sheriff's office, told the Montgomery Advertiser that Hermann is wanted on a first-degree murder charge. Barro declined to provide other details.

Alabama Department of Youth Services officials would not comment on the Maryland case, but said Herrmann was being held on a burglary charge out of Randolph County.


Information from: Montgomery Advertiser,

AG: Sheriffs can keep unspent prison food money

Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

A recent opinion by state Attorney General Troy King affirmed an archaic Alabama law that says sheriffs can pocket money left over from feeding prisoners, but the practice does not happen in Calhoun County, officials said.

The state provides $1.75 per day, per prisoner for food. If they can feed inmates in their jails for less than that, Alabama sheriffs are allowed by law to keep any overages for their personal use.

However, because Calhoun County is one of a few Alabama counties in which the County Commission controls prisoner food, the law does not apply here.

Buddy Sharpless, executive director of the state Association of County Commissions, said he was not certain how many commissions handle jail food, but that it was probably fewer than five. He said one reason most sheriff's offices keep control of jail food is this law.

"In many counties, receiving $1.75 per prisoner has become a very lucrative proposition for county sheriffs," he said. "Most of them aren't about to let loose of that."

Sharpless said it can also be more economical for sheriffs to handle the food, because the competitive bid law forces county commissions to take bids for the food. State law says sheriffs can buy it themselves without going through the bid process.

Some legislators have in recent years unsuccessfully tried to change the food money overage law.

Amerson said it did not make sense for county commissions to complain about their sheriffs pocketing leftover food money, because they could take over the jail food program any day.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Early morning wreck in Irondale kills three

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- A single-vehicle accident in Irondale claimed the lives of three people.

Police said the vehicle left the roadway, flipped upside down and landed in a pond. The wreck was reported around 7:15 a.m. today at the intersections of Amber Hill Road and Barnes Lane. Police and fire units remain at the scene. The identities of the occupants was not immediately available.


Information from: Stephanie Irwin/WBMA-TV,

Suspect in Anniston murders arrested


An Anniston business owner was in the Calhoun County Jail on Monday, charged with murdering two Anniston residents whose bodies were found in a burning house on Bancroft Avenue in Anniston.

Robert Clarence Ervin, 49, of Weaver was arrested late Friday morning and charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of William Junior Nunn, 26, and Annette Spinks, 47, both of Anniston.

Ervin is an owner of Total Quality Auto Paint & Body Shop on Noble Street.

The bodies of Nunn and Spinks were found March 8 in a burned-out back room of the Bancroft Avenue house. Autopsies showed the two died of multiple gunshot wounds before they were burned beyond recognition.

Anniston police received reports around 9 a.m. on March 8 of a shooting at a residence on the 1400 block of Bancroft. When they arrived at the scene, they found the house burning. The bodies were found by firefighters in a back room. The initial police report listed the fire as arson.

Ervin is being held without bond awaiting a May 15 court date.

Gadsden man dies in 1-vehicle accident


Weather may have played a role in an early morning single-vehicle accident Saturday that claimed the life of a 46-year-old Gadsden man, said Alabama State Troopers.

Harold Dean Hargrove Jr. of Gadsden was driving a 1995 Jeep Wrangler on Alabama 204 around 5:10 a.m. when the vehicle ran off the road and overturned, troopers reported.

The accident occurred about 8 miles west of Jacksonville, the report said. Hargrove was transported to Regional Medical Center, where he later died.

No other weather-related incidents were reported, said troopers.

Saturday dispute leads to stabbing


An argument outside a convenience store on Noble Street on Saturday night sent a 26-year-old Anniston man to the hospital after another man stabbed him in the stomach.

The victim and a man he knew only by a nickname were having an altercation outside of the Discount Food Mart at 2630 Noble Street when it escalated, reported Anniston police.

The man apparently pulled out a knife and stabbed the victim in the stomach several times before fleeing, said investigators.

Friends took the victim to Regional Medical Center, where he underwent surgery on serious but not life-threatening wounds, police said.

No arrests had been made in connection with the incident as of Monday afternoon.

Greenbrier-Dear Sonic robbed


A man wearing a mask robbed the Sonic restaurant on the 1500 block of Greenbrier Dear Road late Sunday night.

Shortly after 11 p.m., the man entered the business carrying a silver semi-automatic handgun, approached the counter, and demanded money, reported Anniston police.

Employees handed over an undisclosed amount of cash and the man left the area on foot, said investigators.

There were no reported injuries related to the incident. No arrests had been made in the case Monday afternoon.

Police look for suspect in robbery of Regions branch in Golden Springs


Police continued the search Monday night for the man who robbed the Regions Bank branch in Golden Springs earlier in the day.

According to police, a man entered the Golden Springs branch around 9:25 a.m. Monday and passed the teller a note demanding money. The man never showed a weapon, according to reports. He fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash. No injuries were reported.

Police had not made an arrest by 5:30 p.m. Monday, but planned to continue to search for the suspect through the night. Witnesses could only provide police with a vague description of the man.

A bank employee who answered the phone Monday said the branch was closed after the robbery and would "possibly open at 9 a.m." today.

A Regions corporate spokeswoman said she did not have any information on the robbery and did not know if the branch would open today.

Ex-Justice Department employee who stepped down working for Alabama Law Institute


MONTGOMERY — The former chief of the Justice Department's Voting Rights Section, who stepped aside in December after apologizing for remarks about minority voters, is now working on election-related issues for the Alabama Law Institute.

John Tanner, who is being paid by the Justice Department under a federal program, also will teach at two Alabama law schools.

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State receives $13.5 million homeland security grant


MONTGOMERY — Alabama has received a $13.5 million federal grant to improve communications for police, firefighters and others who respond to emergencies statewide.

Gov. Bob Riley said Monday the homeland security grant is the result of Alabama receiving federal approval of its advanced communications plan. Alabama is one of 20 states to receive federal approval so far, he said.

Alabama's homeland security director, Jim Walker, said it took 18 months to develop the communications plan.

Art Faulkner, the state 911 director, said part of the money will be used to develop the first phase of a statewide radio system that will allow the emergency operations center in every county to communicate with the state headquarters.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Police investigating Golden Springs bank robbery

Updated 11:00 a.m.
Police investigate an early morning robbery at Regions Bank in Anniston. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

A man robbed the Regions Bank in Golden Springs around 9:25 this morning.

According to Anniston police at the scene, the man slipped a note to a teller and left with an undisclosed amount of cash, before fleeing on foot. The man never displayed a weapon, police said.

No injuries were reported.

Investigators and the Crime Scene Unit were on the scene around 10 a.m., as officers combed the area searching for the suspect. A bank employee who answered the phone around 10:40 a.m. said the bank would not reopen today and she was not sure whether it would open tomorrow.

Investigators at the police station did not know any more details about a suspect and said they had not heard any reports of injuries.

Check back with for more updates.

Sheriff's deputies arrest group allegedly selling counterfeit items


Calhoun County Sheriff's deputies seized more than 1,000 CDs and DVDs from Anniston street vendors that they believe to be counterfeit.

Deputies arrested Elhadji Mbacke and Thierno Cisse of Senegal, Taylor Johnson, of Alexandria and Billy Lee Whitson, of Anniston.

The men are each charged with one count of felony failure to display the required manufacturer's label on packaging, but Sheriff Larry Amerson said the men could be charged with one count per counterfeit item.

The men were selling the CDs at two locations on the side of West 15th Street and one spot in the 2300 block of Noble Street.

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1 victim of mobile home explosion moved from ICU


One of the victim's in a Thursday mobile home explosion has been downgraded from intensive care to the nursing unit, but the other remained in the ICU Friday.

An explosion and fire in a mobile home on New Liberty Road near Wellington sent Jimmy Tatum and Crystal Wilhite to the University Hospitals at Birmingham with what authorities called serious injuries.

Tatum was downgraded to the Trauma and Burn Nursing Unit Friday, but Wilhite remained in the burn unit's intensive care Friday afternoon. A hospital spokeswoman would not release either victim's condition.

The investigator on the case said Wilhite was listed as critical Friday afternoon and Tatum was stable though he has burns on 45 percent of his body, according to Assistant State Fire Marshall Scott Pilgreen.

Pilgreen said the fire and explosion have been ruled accidental and likely came from a propane tank in the kitchen. He said the tank was connected to a stove and investigators for the Liquid Petroleum Gas Board would be checking the scene over the weekend or on Monday.

Early release program eases prison overcrowding, but local officials say they're left out of the loop


When the two Department of Corrections sergeants arrived at the Calhoun County Courthouse in February to request an escape warrant for an inmate, they were met with some confusion. The court clerk's office processes a stack of warrants for a variety of law-enforcement officers daily, but they had never heard of the program the sergeants represented.


Regulations for the program (.pdf)

It was by way of trying to issue the warrant that many in the judicial community and the district attorney's office learned that a new Alabama Department of Corrections inmate release program even existed.

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VFW honors fallen Oxford police officer


An Oxford police officer who died last year when a school bus struck him as he was directing traffic was honored at VFW Post 924 on Saturday.

Lt. Dexter Holcomb was posthumously given the post's J. Edgar Hoover Award for Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Holcomb died of multiple blunt-force traumas after an Oxford High School bus driver suffering a medical emergency lost control of the vehicle and hit him on Feb. 16, 2007. He was 46 years old and a 20-plus-year veteran of the Oxford Police force.

Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge said it was rewarding to know that people remember fallen officers.

"We miss him very much," he said.

VFW Commander James Coppola said Holcomb was deserving of the award.

"Anyone who serves on the police force and dies while doing their job should never be forgotten," he said.

Also honored at the VFW event on Saturday was Diana Thomson, a 14-year-old student at The Donoho School in Anniston.

Thomson went all the way to the national level of the VFW's Voice of Democracy scholarship contest. While she did not win at nationals, Thomson's audio-essay about honoring United States veterans won her about $3,000 in scholarship money.

In Thomson's speech, she encourages others to honor war veterans by remembering their sacrifices and practicing freedom.