2018: The Year in Review: Part One

BY GENA HUFF, Editor

The year of 2018 has come and gone but the memories remain. As with all years, there were good times and bad times. Following is a brief review of select news items from the past year, found in the pages of the Pickens County Herald.

 

January 2018

Gordo High-Schooler Loses Life in One-Car Crash

Anna C. Langdon, 17, of Gordo, lost her life as a result of a one-car automobile accident January 11, 2018. The high-school senior lost her life when the 2012 Hyundai Elantra she was driving left the road and struck a tree. She was rushed to DCH Regional Medical Center but died a short time later. Her obituary appeared in the January 24, 2018 issue of the Herald.

Anna Caroline Langdon, 17, of Gordo, died January 12. 2018 at DCH Regional Medical Center. Funeral services were Monday, January 15, 2018, at Gordo First United Methodist Church Family Life Center with Rev. Reagin Brown and Rev. David Wilder officiating. Burial followed in Franconia-Oak Grove Cemetery in Aliceville with Skelton Funeral Home of Reform directing.

Anna is survived by her parents, Jerry Byron Langdon and Angie Savage Langdon; brother, William Thomas Langdon; grandparents, Becky Sparks, Ferry and Sandra Langdon, and Calvin and Jeanene Savage; boyfriend, Braydon Butts; and special friend, Kelsey Dyer.

Anna was born March 6, 2000 in Northport, Ala. She was a senior at Gordo High School and a member of Gordo First United Methodist Church.

Pallbearers were Phillip Fikes, Bryant Fikes, Austin Wright, Jacob Wright, Cole Gibson, Clark Gibson, and Jacob Acker.

Honorary pallbearers were Brianna Lang, Lindsey Hardy, Ally Grace Dyer, Brooke Perrigin, Maggie Spencer, Sescily Shirley, Keeley Moore, 2018 Senior Class of Gordo High School, and the Youth Group of Gordo First United Methodist Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the Anna Langdon Memorial Fund at West Alabama Band & Trust or FNB of Central Alabama.

Home Invasion on Franconia Road

On January 12, three men forced their way into a home on Franconia Road in Aliceville and kidnapped the owner. After forcing the victim into his own car, the assailants drove him to the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) at the Aliceville branch of FNB. After trying to escape, the victim was assaulted both inside and outside the car. Three arrests were made by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department: Milton Ball of Aliceville, Darryl McCoy of Aliceville, and Joshua McMullen of Aliceville.

Aliceville Receives Fire Truck Grant

Alabama governor Kay Ivey granted $6.3 million in Community Development Block Grants to 26 Alabama towns, cities, and counties, including Aliceville. On January 24, 2018, $206,272 was awarded to the City of Aliceville towards the purchase of a fire truck for the city’s volunteer fire department.

Pickens Academy Boys/Girls Headed to Basketball Final Four

The Pickens Academy Varsity Boys Basketball team and the PA Varsity Girls Basketball team both headed to the Final Four. The boys defeated Emmanuel Christian on January 31, 2018, 70-35, in the Elite 8 competition in Montgomery, Ala., to jump into the Final Four. The Pirates were on a perfect 18-0 ride in the AISA AA.

The varsity girls, at a record of 14-5, defeated Macon East with a 62-27 win, putting them in the running for the title.

Both teams lost at the Final Four stage.

February 2018

AmWaste Takes Over Garbage Collection from County

On February 5, 2018, AmWaste, a Sylvan Springs -based private company, took over garbage collection for Pickens County. With it, an increase in garbage pick-up rates. AmWaste is a division of the Matter Management Company. Some collection days were also changed, along with the amount of bags and the weight of each bag which was specified in the letter received by customers. The Commission published a letter in the Herald “explaining” their decision to allow the private company to take over solid-waste management in the county. The cost of trucks, fuel costs, insurance, dumping fees, amount of debt obtained (blamed on those who did not pay their bill, a total which, at publication of the letter, was $105,480.82.)

As stated in the Letter to the Editor, published January 31, 2018, “The Commission believes that contracting solid waste services is the best economic plan for our County. It will be easy to look back five years from now and say what should have been done. With solid waste losing money every year, we feel it was time to ACT and not just continue discussing.”

 

Plans to Change Traffic Flow around the

Courthouse Approved

The Carrollton Town Council approved changes to the traffic pattern around the courthouse at their monthly meeting on February 1, 2018. Pickens County Commissioners gave their blessing to Carrollton Mayor Mickey Walker at an administrative meeting on February 8, 2018.

Traffic flow is once again one-way around the courthouse.

Commission Cancels Lease on Sapps Community Center

On February 13, 2018, the Pickens County Commission voted to revoke the lease on the Sapps Community Center due to several violent instances, including a shooting with injury on January 21, 2018.

Alijah Latham, 20, of Gordo, was shot in the lower abdomen/upper hip area. Tyson Windham, of Aliceville, was arrested and charged with attempted murder and placed under a $100,000 bond.

“We’ve been approached not only by people in the community, but also by the District Attorney’s office about the issues that are going on at the Sapps Community Center,” said County Attorney Tim McCool during an administrative meeting of the Commissioners. “No action has been taken but based on my review of the lease, it provides specifically that during the term of the lease … it is to be used as a site for educational purposes for the youth and the community, services for the elderly, and a place of recreation for both young and old.”

“Based on recent activity out there,” McCool continued, “in my opinion, it has ceased to be used for that, just due to the dangerous nature of the activity that’s taking place on the property.”

The decision to revoke the lease passed unanimously.

Charli Jones Parker Appeals Sentence for Improper Sexual Contact with Students

In the February 14, 2018 issue, the Herald reported Charli Jones Parker, who began serving her sentence September 11, 2017 after a guilty plea in August of that year for two counts of a school employee engaging in deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19. Parker was sentenced to 15 years, with a three-year split in one of the cases and 15 years suspended in the second case.

The appeal claimed Parker’s conviction was unconstitutional because the Alabama Code held school employees to a higher standard than other professions working with the youth, Alabama law did not cover improper sexual contact between a teacher and student at, specifically, a private school, until mid-2016 – after Parker’s relationship with two different 16-year-olds – and that Parker had a constitutional right to “private, consensual, sexual intimacy.”

Pickens County Gets New EMA Director

Lakitha Bell began her job as the new Pickens County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director February 26, 2018. Bell brought with her a background in both social work and as a dispatcher for the Pickens County E911.

As an EMA director, Bell’s job consists, in part, of being on alert and springing into action after a storm. When bad weather approaches, Bell is on alert from the beginning. If a storm is volatile enough to cause damage or danger, Bell says “you really can’t do anything while it’s going on, so I wait until after the storm to go and assess the area, see how much damage there is, see who needs what, and just try to take care of those first responders working it.”

Aliceville High School Basketball Team Advances to Final Four

The Aliceville boys’ basketball team defeated Keith 51-32, advancing them to the school’s first final four competition since 1993.

The team was defeated February 26, 2018 by two-time defending champion Lanett. The Yellow Jackets finished the season with a record of 20-3.

 

March 2018

Tucker Receives 30-Year Prison Sentence

George Mark “Chip” Tucker received a 30-year prison sentence for his guilty plea to two counts of distribution of a controlled substance. At the sentencing hearing, it was presented that Tucker was currently incarcerated in federal prison on a gun charge which violated his probation. Tucker had also been found guilty of assaulting a woman in Gordo in November of 2006, beating her severely and forcing himself on her. Photos were placed into evidence of the extensive injuries of the victim.

Sentenced on March 6, 2018 by Circuit Court Judge Sam Junkin, Tucker’s defense council was late arriving to court. Junkin said in his sentencing statement, “The way I see this you committed … probably one of the most heinous crimes you could commit on another human being. And you got off with what I would consider to be a very light sentence. You go out, you went right back to dealing drugs. You’re in federal prison on another case. You’re here before me on another case. I want you to understand that’s how I came to the conclusion I came to on this case.”

Tucker was sentenced to 30 years in prison for each of the two counts, running concurrently.

Aliceville Chamber Names Citizen and Volunteer of the Year

At Aliceville’s 65th Annual Banquet of the Chamber of Commerce on March 6, 2018, Annie Dee was named Aliceville’s Citizen of the Year.

Marie McKinzey was named Volunteer of the Year at the same ceremony.

Pickens County Medical Center  Welcomes New CEO

John O’Neil was welcomed as Pickens County Medical Center’s (PCMC) new CEO and President on March 19, 2018. O’Neil was formerly the CEO of St. Vincent’s Hospital from 2009 to 2015, and most recently served as a consultant for UAB Health System. While at UAB, O’Neil assisted in developing and implementing strategic plans for rural hospitals across Alabama.

Prison Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Impersonation

On March 26, 2018, former FCI Aliceville correction officer, Christopher H. Gordon, entered a guilty plea to the lesser charge of Impersonating a Public Servant immediately after court adjourned for lunch during the selection of the jury to prosecute Gordon for Impersonating a Peace Officer.

In the end, Gordon received a 30-day sentence, time served, and 12 months unsupervised probation. As an express condition of his plea, Gordon was ordered to tender a letter of resignation, resigning his position of employment as a federal corrections officer within 14 days.

“This was an extremely important case due to the far-reaching implications should the prosecution not be initiated or ultimately prove to be unsuccessful,” stated then Assistant District Attorney, Andy Hamlin. “From the outset, I knew that prosecuting it in a State court was going to be a challenge, but I also know it was something that was important and had to be done.”

“I’m pleased that we were able to put a case together that was strong and that the Defendant ultimately entered a guilty plea, and as a condition of that plea, resigned as a Bureau of Prisons employee,” Hamlin continued. “This was the most important consideration to all involved and I hope it sends a clear message that this type of misrepresentation will not be tolerated.”

 

April 2018

School Superintendent Faces Concerned PCHS Community

On April 12, Pickens County School Superintendent Jamie Chapman faced a crowded Pickens County High School auditorium of parents, teachers, and students, to explain the future the school may face.

“Pickens County High School has to have 250 students, or more, on October 1, 2018 or myself and the board will start having to make plans for what is next for Pickens County High School,” Chapman began. “Once you get under 250, you earn no assistant principal (salary), half a counselor, and half a librarian. When we start school in August, the number that was earned last year, from Labor Day to 20 days after, the reporting number for Pickens County High School is 221, which fell from 264 the year before. Basically, we’ve already earned what we are going to earn to start school next year, and it’s under 250.”

The Pickens County Board of Education came up with a survey for the parents and community members to fill out and return by April 18. Several reconfigurations of the grades were given to hopefully forestall or prevent the closing of any of the Reform-based schools.

Gordo Holds Mayberry Sock Hop

On April 21, 2018, the Gordo Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Mayberry Sock Hop” at Gordo Elementary School. Many tribute artists impersonating characters from the fictional hometown of Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show) were on hand along with Gordo’s very own Kenneth Junkin, who impersonates Otis Campbell from the show.

Griffith’s real-life daughter, Dixie, also came out for the dance. A good time was had by all.

College and Career Center Holds Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

The Pickens County College and Career Center had its much-awaited ribbon cutting on April 25, 2018. In attendance were Chan Mullenix, Principal; Jamie Chapman, Superintendent of Education for Pickens County; Nick Moore, Education Advisor to Governor Kay Ivey; Dr. Eric Mackey, State Superintendent of Education; members of the Pickens County Board of Education; Mayor Mickey Walker; Walter McKee of McKee & Associates; and other supporters of the school, county, state, and town.

 

May 2018

Turning Point Gets the Go-Ahead to Open  Satellite Office in Reform

Turning Point, a domestic violence/sexual assault help organization approached the Reform City Council at the May 1, 2018 meeting.

Turning Point Director of Domestic Violence Services, Belinda Jones, said, “We are trying to expand our services. We are trying to get a satellite office and I thought of Pickens County because that’s where a bulk of our clients come to Turning Point. They have been in a domestic violence relationship, been sexually assaulted, and they come to Turning Point.”

“Last year,” Jones continued, “back in 2017, we served over 7,000 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. That’s a large amount of people we are seeing in West Alabama.”

Abuse is not only physical. Abuse can also be emotional, psychological, and financial. If you are in crisis, you may contact Turning Point’s 24-hour hotline at (205) 758-0808 or look up their website at www.turningpointservices.org.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell Holds County Town Hall

On May 2, 2018, Congresswoman of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, Terri Sewell, held a Town Hall at Aliceville’s City Hall.

“We are here to serve you all,” Sewell began. “You are the shareholders of the 7th Congressional District. I just want you to be informed of what is going on in our district, and also what is going on in Washington (D.C.).”

Sewell also recognized Destinye Jones of Aliceville High School as the winner of the 7th Congressional District Art Competition. “We are just so proud of you, Dentinye,” said Sewell.

County Education Board Votes on Schools’ Fates

At the May 21, 2018 meeting of the Pickens County Board of Education, members made the call on the fates of both Aliceville and Reform school systems. At the recommendation of Superintendent of Education, Jamie Chapman, the board voted to move fifth and sixth graders from Reform Elementary School to Pickens County High School. The board also voted to split Aliceville Middle School, sending fifth and sixth graders to Aliceville Elementary and seventh and eighth graders to Aliceville High School, essentially shutting down Aliceville Middle School.

“It’s not about one community over another,” Chapman emphasized at the meeting. “It’s about the Pickens County school system.”

Ball Gets 24 Years in Prison for Guilty Plea

Milton Ball, 41, of Aliceville, pled guilty to a Robbery 1st Degree charge stemming from a January 2018 home invasion. Ball was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Having been convicted of and sentenced to a Class A felony, Ball will be required to serve 85 percent of his sentence, or 15 years, whichever comes first, before being eligible for parole.

 

June 2018

Homicide in Aliceville

On June 1, 2018, between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Daniel Perez, 32, was shot and killed at his residence on Memorial Parkway in Aliceville. Perez was shot once in the chest. The suspect was said to have been wearing a ski mask and/or hood, and long sleeves.

Gordo’s Mule Day/Chickenfest

Gordo held its annual Mule Day/Chickenfest the weekend of June 1, 2018.

Amy Huff Cox was named Gordo Citizen of the Year and Raymond Housel was named Pioneer of the Year.

It was noted there were more than 20 more vendors this year than the year before. “I was tickled with it,” said Gordo Chamber of Commerce President and Councilmember Floy Goode.

“We had a good turnout and a lot of good vendors,” said Gordo Mayor Craig Patterson.

Arrest Made in Dog Fighting Video

Calvin Hinton, 30, of Aliceville, was arrested June 8, 2018 by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department and charged with Dog Fighting after deputies went to a suspected dog-fighting site and confirmed the location of a video showing a Pit Bull canine killing a puppy used as a “bait dog.” A “bait dog” is used for the sole purpose of teaching a fighting dog to attack and kill living dogs for sport. Hinton was released on bond after his arrest.

Attention and suspicion of dog fighting by neighbors is often the best way in which dog -fighting rings can be brought to justice, but only if reported. If you know of or suspect dog-fighting activity in your community, please notify the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department at (205) 367-2000 or you may contact the Pickens County Herald at (205) 367-2217 and we will pass along any information. You may remain anonymous.

Reform Holds 2nd Annual Crepe Myrtle Festival

The 2nd annual Crepe Myrtle Festival was held June 15-16, 2018 in Reform. Festival attendees enjoyed all-day live music and vendors selling food and arts and crafts.

Dr. James (Jim) Gentry Retires from PCMC After 33 Years

Dr. James (Jim) Gentry hung up his stethoscope after working for 33 years as a well-respected surgeon at Pickens County Medical Center.