2004 In Review

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2005

It was a year of tragedy and triumph, of sorrow and happiness and changes that promises to make our lives better. 2004 became the past last Saturday but will not soon be forgotten. Here are a few of the top stories in Shelby County during the past year.

Editor’s Note: This is the second installation of the 2004 in Review featuring July through December. January through June was featured last week.


Pelham Police arrested two suspects for a series of home burglaries after finding nearly $20,000 in stolen property in their car.

Police arrested Jermaine Laron Gray, 21 at the time of Ensley, along with Jason Matthew Pickett, 22 at the time from Midfield.

Both were charged with burglary and possession of a burglary tool.

The South Shelby Chamber of Commerce honored agencies, which responded to a fire at Summer Classics in Columbiana.

William Bew White III, president of Summer Classics, announced a gift of $5,000 worth of furniture and $2,000 in cash to the Columbiana Fire Department and a gift of $2,000 for the Summerhill Volunteer Fire Department for their efforts.

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe presented a key to the city to Charles Culotta, part owner of Piggly Wiggly, and recognized Store Manager Don Allen for their generosity during the fire.

Wilsonville became the first municipality in Shelby County to contract for law enforcement services with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

Veterans Park in Alabaster was dedicated with games, refreshments and a spectacular fireworks display.

The Alabama attorney general’s office was evaluating a complaint alleging Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe used a city-sponsored event to promote his re-election campaign.

Lowe said he felt confident &uot;that when all the facts are disclosed that everyone will have a clear understanding about why this complaint was filed.&uot; He said he made an offhand remark &uot;to the effect of vote for me.&uot; But Lowe said, &uot;This is something I did not plan to say. Anyone who knows me knows my sense of humor and I make jokes a lot. I said that as much for humor’s sake as anything – and it got a great laugh. That was the intended response.&uot;

According to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, William David Willingham Jr., 50 at the time, of Columbiana, was charged with attempted murder in connection with the shooting of Bryan Russell Dorminey, who was 29-year-old at the time.

The Sheriff’s Office reported Dorminey was shot after an altercation with Willingham in the 1000 block of Pool road in the Shelby Community.

The Shelby County Planning Commission unanimously passed a resolution seeking a temporary ban on new construction in a county beat that might submit a petition for zoning. The resolution applied only to the Chelsea North/Mt. Laurel county beat.

The warehouse on U.S. Highway 31 in Saginaw planned to house Shelby County’s first methadone clinic would remain closed pending a third hearing on the controversial drug treatment center’s fate.

A circuit court judge reversed the denial of Shelby Baptist Medical Center’s application to perform open-heart surgery, and the State Health Planning and Development Agency issued the hospital a certificate of need to clear the way for the procedures.

The Calera City Council adjusted budget figures accommodating lower-than-anticipated sales tax revenues that threatened the city’s $1 million reserve fund.

Facing an $894,000 deficit, Calera Mayor George Roy asked department heads to find areas to cut spending and adjusted anticipated sales taxes.

An escapee from the Shelby County Jail in Columbiana remained on the loose for about nine hours before being arrested in the Hollins community of Clay County.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office reported Timothy Riley Morris, 27 at the time and known to reside in Shelby, was discovered missing after a citizen notified the Sheriff’s Office.

Members of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Talladega County Sheriff’s Office and Clay County Sheriff’s Office arrested Morris for escape in the Hollins Community.

Police were investigating a possible bullethole found in the window of Alabaster mayor David Frings’ office at city hall.

A national credit rating service bestowed the best possible credit rating on Shelby County, ranking the county the best in the state and placing it in an elite group of counties nationwide.


Camouflage fatigues, combat boots and tan Shelby County Sheriff’s Department uniforms intermingled during a ceremony honoring law enforcement officers in the county who returned home after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office investigated reports that a jail inmate, Clint Arlo Morris, 20 at the time, of Shelby, was beaten by another inmate and then was refused treatment at the county jail.

The Alabaster Newsletter became the focus of campaign controversy.

It was announced that the August issue would not feature articles or photos from councilmembers or anyone seeking election on Aug. 24.

Amy Milliron, a candidate for Council Ward 4, questioned why her photo was removed from a business ad that had been published for about a year when the entire Alabaster City Council was pictured on the back page of the August 2004 newsletter.

Councilmember Adam Moseley said a photo of the council was a news event and councilmembers were not identified. And Ted Vodde, editor of the newsletter, said Milliron was not charged for her August advertisement and would not be charged for the September ad as well.

Harpersville acting Fire Chief Max Roper resigned and interviews were announced for the position.

Shelby County School Superintendent Evan Major reported the school system graduated 1,200 students the previous year and enrolled more than 2,000 for the 2004-05 school year with growth in the elementary grades and throughout the entire system.

Shelby Elementary teachers and Principal Karen Mitchell and Assistant Principal Ji Ji Lawley took to the road for the first time in school history to make home visits and deliver back-to-school packs for 250 youngsters.

Three long-time mayors in Shelby County who left an enduring mark on their cities said they were not prepared to step down as they grew into their retirement years.

George Roy of Calera, Charles &uot;Sonny&uot; Penhale of Helena and Bobby Hayes of Pelham said they were the right candidates for their city’s mayoral post.

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe asked contractors working on the downtown renovation to look into complaints of sidewalks splitting, cracks in drains and driveways, as well as mailboxes and sod in people yards sinking in the area of Magnolia circle.

Attorneys announced that other applications for methadone clinics in Shelby County were pending regardless of the outcome of the county’s first proposed methadone clinic.

Shelby Baptist Medical Center announced plans to perform its first open-heart surgery the week of Aug. 31.

Shelby County Commissioner Earl Cunningham became the state’s only black delegate to the Republican National Convention.

An inmate of the Shelby County Jail, Clint Arlo Morris, 20, of Shelby died at University Hospital in Birmingham.

Although 19 of 26 Shelby County Schools did not make adequate yearly progress as the result of Alabama tests in connection with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, school officials were not particularly upset.

Shelby County Schools Counseling/Testing Specialist Susan Seng said, &uot;Most of our red marks were in areas of participation, not academics.&uot;

Cindy Warner, public relations supervisor for Shelby County Schools, reported electrical wires fell and landed on top of a school bus driven under low-hanging power lines. However, she reported the children from Creek view Elementary were removed from the bus and loaded onto another bus without injury.

High school ACT scores for Shelby County beat the state composite average and the national composite average.

Sarah Yates became Shelby County’s 2005 Junior Miss.

The Shelby County planning staff completed a draft copy of a comprehensive plan.

Officials said a state autopsy report concluded that a 20-year-old inmate of the Shelby County Jail, Clint Arlo Morris, died of a massive staph infection, but the inmate’s family members, who had not seen the autopsy results, were unsure.

Darlene Simpson, Morris’ aunt, said Morris was not treated properly at the jail following the fight.

Ron Gore, head of the air division of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management confirmed that Carmeuse Lime & Stone which operates a facility at Saginaw (formerly Dravo Lime Inc.) agreed to a proposed consent order by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to pay a fine and obey other terms of the order without admitting liability.

According to the order, the violation consisted of failure to comply with a particulate emission standard set by ADEM. In addition, the company failed to comply with reporting standards.


Shelby County municipal election voters posted some of the highest turnouts in the history of the county.

Harpersville experienced a 67 percent turnout; Wilsonville, a 63 percent turnout; and Columbiana voters, a 58 percent turnout.

History was made when 48-year-old Alvin Ray Ford of Calera became the first open-heart surgery patient at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster.

Dr. L. Shefton Riggins, a cardiovascular surgeon at SBMC performed an aortic value replacement.

The hanging death of 35-year-old Melvin Wade Harris of Harpersville was the third suicide at the Shelby County Jail since May.

According to Sheriff’s reports, corrections officers found Harris handing in a cell at the old county jail in Columbiana.

A 2004 survey of Shelby County students showed monthly use of alcohol and tobacco at the middle school level on the rise along with illicit drug and marijuana experimentation.

A confrontation between friends turned deadly.

According to Shelby County Sheriff’s Office reports, investigators determined that David Michael Lunceford, 51, of Shelby was shot during an altercation with Larry Carraway, 60 at the time of Calera, while camping in a remote section of Richard Porter Drive.

Carraway, an acquaintance of Lunceford was arrested and charged with murder.

A small earthquake shook Helena and Alabaster.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 2.8 magnitude quake was centered about six miles southwest of Helena and six miles south of Alabaster.

Jacory Streeter, a 12-year-old Birmingham boy,

drowned at Oak Mountain State Park, according to Shelby County Coroner Doug Ballard Jr. Ballard pronounced Streeter dead at Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

Joined by the State Health Planning and Development Agency, Brookwood Medical Center filed a motion with the state Court of Civil Appeals to stop open-heart surgery at Shelby Baptist Medical Center until an appeal of the hospital’s certificate of need made its way through the appeals process.

Planning officials scheduled public hearings for the end of the month to review the county’s draft of a 20-year development plan.

According to Helena Police, John Russell Woods, 37, of Clanton was electrocuted.

Woods, who worked for an Osmose Corp. utility crew that was checking guidewires on the side of Shelby County Highway 91, died at the scene after being electrocuted while working on an Alabama Power line right of way in Helena.

Former Harpersville Councilmember Theoangelo Perkins was elected the town’s first black mayor.

Calera Police charged Joseph Agnew, 52 at the time of Calera, with first degree murder in connection with the stabbing death of 47-year-old Johnny Douglas of Columbiana.

Douglas was repeatedly stabbed inside Cowart Drug Store in Calera, according to Calera Police Chief Jim Finn.

Finn said Douglas was transported to Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster and then flown to UAB Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A Chilton County man was shot in Montevallo by another Chilton County man who owed him money, officials said.

According to Montevallo Police chief Steve Southerland, Danny Compton was expected to be charged with reckless endangerment, first degree assault and under ICE, a federal program.

It was announced that effective Jan. 15, 2005, all mail (other than large parcels) would be delivered from the Sterrett post office to residents inside the town limits of Westover using a new 35147 zip code and town name of Westover.

In the absence of Councilmember Tim Billingsley, the Columbiana City Council voted unanimously to rezone the almost five acres of Summer Classics property from M-1 (light industrial) to B-1 (local shopping district).

Sonny Conwill, a Columbiana attorney who represents Summer Classics, said he assumed the property owner will talk with the city about the sale of the property, but if the two can’t come to a price agreement, &uot;It’s been made clear if they do not, there will be condemnation.&uot;

Deidre Downs, a 24-year-old Pelham native and former Miss Shelby County, won the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.

Hurricane Ivan blew through Shelby County dropping up to eight inches of rain in some neighborhoods and rattling windows with 60 mph wind gusts.

At the peak of electric power outages there were some 233,311 residents in the Shelby County/Birmingham area without power.

Shelby County commissioners stalled new construction in the Dunnavant Valley of North Shelby County until a Jan. 18 vote on zoning the unincorporated beat.

The Shelby County Commission approved a $77 million budget for 2004-05.

Along with a 2.5 percent cost-of-living raise for current employees, it was reported the county would add 18 new positions in the upcoming budget year.

The Shelby County Board of Education rejected a 6 percent pay raise for central office clerk typist.

Excluded were a revised central office clerk typist schedule, a revised central office accounting/payroll clerk schedule and a revised central office chief clerk schedule.

However, several other board of education employees received raises through changes in status, re-organization of the Finance Department and revised job descriptions.

Michael Lamont Crockett, 33 at the time of Shelby County, was sentenced to prison for soliciting minors over the Internet for sex.

Crockett was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison with life on supervised release after the prison term and a $5,000 fine.

According to U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, Crockett attempted to entice three different girls, ages 13, 14 and 15 to meet him to engage in illegal sexual acts.


Three people were arrested in connection with the Sept. 29 burglary, robbery and binding of an elderly Shelby woman. Brandon Calop Seale, 20, of Calera and Holli Kristen Willis, 18, of Shelby were charged with burglary, robbery and unlawful imprisonment. Floyd Lee Shackelford Jr., 23, from Shelby, was also arrested and charged with robbery, burglary and unlawful imprisonment.

Harpersville elected and swore in Shelby County’s first black mayor. Theoangelo Perkins took the oath of office from Judge Dan Reeves.

Grady Parker, 80, presided over his last regular Montevallo City Council meeting. Grady served as a public servant to Montevallo for 32 years. Parker served for 23 years on the Montevallo City Council and eight years as mayor. He took his first oath of office in 1972.

Police arrested a man for killing Richard Louis Thomas, 56, of Alabaster as he walked north on County Highway 11. Police arrested Robert Cooper, 41, for the vehicular murder.

A Shelby man shot a Georgia fugitive in the face as he came home to find a group of escaped inmates burglarizing his home. Three fugitives had escaped from Georgia.

Authorities busted what they termed as &uot;a puppy mill&uot; in Columbiana, where Lonnie Watson was arrested for animal cruelty. Officers confiscated 181 dogs from the home and sent them to the Shelby Humane Society.

A Vincent man was arrested on rape charges. Deward &uot;Jake&uot; Van Orden, 42, was charged with first-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree sodomy.

A 23-year-old Montevallo man died from gunshot wounds he received during a fight at a county park. Kentonio Terrel Kirkland died after being shot at Almont Park.

The Alabaster City Council approved a rezoning request for 127 acres along Interstate 65 from agriculture to B-3 (community business). Residents of Alabaster’s Weatherly subdivision opposed the rezoning, expressing concerns about the impact of a 34-acre section of the property that backs up to their subdivision.

Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves upheld an injunction against the Shelby County Treatment

Center. District Attorney Robby Owens and Pelham attorney Mickey Johnson, plaintiffs in the case, argued that Saginaw residents were never given the opportunity to oppose the clinic, which was set to open on U.S. 31 in the unincorporated community.

Alabaster employees received a 5 percent cost of living adjustment.

Deputies arrested Antonio Laventa Dubose, 23, of Almont, on murder charges relating to the shooting death of Kentonio Terrel Kirkland, 23, at Almont Park near Montevallo.

The Shelby County Health Department administered 1,400 flu shot to at-risk residents. This fall, national health officials notified the public that a flu shot shortage was looming, and healthy, young residents who were not considered at-risk should bypass shots so that at-risk patients could receive them.

The battle surrounding a methadone clinic proposed for Saginaw prompted elected officials such as Sen. Hank Erwin to promote changes in the way that such medical facilities are approved in the state. Erwin and other legislators lobbied the State Health and Planning Development Agency Montgomery, pushing for more specific regulations regarding where proposed methadone and other medical clinics are to be located.

The city of Columbiana appointed an acting city clerk after the resignation of Terry Collum. The city approved Gina Antolini as temporary, acting city clerk. Also, the city appointed Sgt. Johnny Brown as temporary, acting police chief after Michael Lann resigned.


George W. Bush was the clear and overwhelming winner in Shelby County during the 2004 presidential election. Republican voters turned out big time in the county on Nov. 2.

Also, longtime Shelby County juvenile judge Patti Smith won at least 60 percent of the statewide vote to secure a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court.

In local races, incumbent Judge Dan Reeves retained his seat on the bench, facing off Democratic challenger Donna Beaulieu for circuit court judge.

A sophomore at Pelham High School died in a car accident on U.S. Highway 31. Jeremy Farren, 16, was a defensive lineman on Pelham High School’s junior varsity football team. He died in a one-vehicle accident on Halloween night at about 9:30 p.m.

A 24-year-old Alabaster man was charged with sodomy of a 6-year-old male. Terry Dowdell, 24, of Alabaster was arrested on Oct. 22. The 6-year-old reported the incident to the Department of Human Resources, and DHR reported it to the Alabaster Police Department.

Shelby County Commissioners voted unanimously to ratify a long-range comprehensive plan for the county. Commissioners ratified the plan, titled The Shelby County Comprehensive Plan: A Path to the Future, during their Oct. 25 meeting. The plan was adopted Sept. 30 by the Shelby County Planning Commission.

Shelby Baptist Medical Center announced a three-year plan calling for $39 million in construction at the Alabaster hospital. The hospital also recently received support for its open heart surgery program by way of a new state health plan that must go to the governor and a joint committee of the state Legislature.

Montevallo city leaders broke ground for the new Parnell Memorial Library in Montevallo. The groundbreaking ceremony for the 12,400 square foot facility to be completed in one year was held at the future site across from Montevallo Elementary School.

Shelby County Commissioner Earl Cunningham walked out of a commission meeting after he failed to get a second for a resolution requesting $8,000 in support of the Kids First Community Learning Center in Alabaster.

Almost 80 percent of registered voters in Shelby County cast ballots during the November elections. A total of 79,212 people went to the polls on Nov. 2, setting a new county record.

Calera began improvements on its sewage treatment facilities. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management prepared an administrative order to direct the city to comply with state regulations regarding sewage, after the city was cited for problems earlier in the year.

Calera City Council members listened to a group of homeowners from the Camden Cove subdivision as they discussed drainage problems that has plagued them for months.

The Alabaster Youth Baseball League disbanded. The league broke up after a decision by the city of Alabaster to dissolve its Park and Recreation Board and form a Sports Council.

The Shelby County Board of Education welcomed two new members. Dr. David Nichols replaced Trey Ireland and Anne Glass replaced Allen Rice.

Shelby County Commissioners approved an agreement that will produce three new traffic lights for U.S. Highway 280. The lights will be installed at the intersections of U.S. 280 and Shelby County 41, Shelby County 43 and Highland Lakes Drive.

Owners of a proposed methadone clinic in Saginaw filed an appeal of a court ruling that effectively barred the clinic from operating. Susan Staats-Sidwell and Glenn Archibald, owners of the proposed Shelby County Treatment Center, filed an appeal Nov. 19 with the Court of Civil Appeals in Montgomery.


Public health officials confirmed five cases of rabies in wildlife in Shelby County in 2004, prompting some officials to initiate steps to curb the disease’s spread into residential areas. The five cases occurred in bats and raccoons. Two cases were confirmed in Pelham, one in Calera, one in Columbiana and one in Alabaster. At least one case in Alabaster occurred in a subdivision.

State Rep. Cam Ward of Alabaster announced plans to introduce a vicious dog attack bill during the next regular legislative session. Ward said he would pre-file the bill for the session beginning in February 2005. Ward said he wanted to introduce the bill following recent dog attacks in Shelby County.

Oak Mountain Middle School students set a record by raising $25,846 for the annual Toys for Tots campaign.

Pelham police captured

suspects after an attempted armed robbery at McDonald’s on Cahaba Valley Road. Preston Chaney, 45, and Kejuane Rashid Bryant, 25, were each charged with first-degree robbery after they attempted to rob the restaurant at about 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 4.

Shelby County commissioners announced plans to build two new parks in Harpersville and Wilsonville. The county approved bids in November for construction of J.W. Donahoo Park in Harpersville and Oak Meadow Park in Wilsonville.

Officials announced plans to go door-to-door in the county verifying that pets were vaccinated against the rabies virus. The announcement came following the confirmation of five cases of rabies in wildlife in the county during 2004. According to public health officials, officers will check every residence in the county, which is expected to take about one year. Residents must produce proof that each pet has been vaccinated and is up to date for rabies vaccinations.

A Columbiana man was acquitted of animal cruelty charges after a judge determined the man’s unlicensed dog breeding operation did not meet the state’s definition of cruelty. Following the two-day trial of Lonnie Watson, the judge told Watson and his wife, Joan, they could take their 181 dogs back.

Columbiana Health and Rehabilitation welcomed its first resident on Dec. 10. The 63-bed facility received its state license Dec. 9.

An Alabama State Trooper shot and killed a Saginaw resident on Dec. 17. Christopher Lindley, 29, of Alabaster, was declared dead at the scene.

The director of a Bessemer methadone clinic, Robert White, filed a letter of intent with the State Health Planning and Development Agency on Dec. 14 announcing plans to open a methadone clinic in Alabaster. The move prompted the Alabaster City Council to adopt a formal resolution opposing the clinic.

Jerry Lee Bowen returned to Shelby County after surviving four years on the run. Bowen was convicted of the 1997 murder of his former wife, Brenda Breckenridge Bowen, in 2000. He was released on bond while awaiting sentencing and was a fugitive from justice until his capture in South Carolina on Dec. 23.

– Information and photos

compiled by Fred Guarino,

Patrick Crotty

and Candace Parke