Tragedy in Pelham: 10 years later

Published 4:59 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It was a normal Thursday morning 10 years ago in Pelham, when things suddenly turned tragic.

In a span of 13 minutes on Aug. 5, 1999, three individuals, at two area businesses, were shot and killed in one of the deadliest rampages in the city’s history.

Lee Holdbrooks, 32, and Christopher Yancey, 28, were working at Ferguson Enterprises when Alan Eugene Miller, a 5-11, 350-pound fellow employee, entered the building and began shooting.

Miller shot and killed Holdbrooks and Yancey before heading to Post AirGas, where he was laid off eight months prior. There, he shot and killed Terry Jarvis, 39.

Miller fled on I-65 S., where he was finally stopped and apprehended, bringing an end to the carnage that began just 40 minutes prior.

Shelby County District Attorney Robbie Owens prosecuted the case, and he said the senseless nature of the heinous crime is still hard to comprehend.

“In this case, the victims had not done anything wrong,” Owens said. “It’s heart-wrenching for all us and very difficult when you have a case with multiple victims,” Owens said. “It was very cold, and very calculated, and it was a case that demanded we ask for the death penalty.”

The rampage captured the nation’s — and the world’s — attention as CNN broke into regularly scheduled programming to broadcast the story, along with media outlets in London and Tokyo.

Locally, the Shelby County Reporter even printed a special publication edition detailing the murder spree and the community’s reaction to the fatalities.

By all accounts, Holdbrooks, Yancey and Jarvis were all loving family men just working for a living.

Holdbrooks, a 1985 Thompson High School graduate and member of First Baptist Church of Alabaster, left behind a wife, Tara, with whom he had just celebrated his fourth anniversary.

“We still have good memories of him growing up,” said Sue Holdbrooks, Lee’s mother. “He was just full of life.”

Yancey, a member of Elliotsville Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Alabaster, left behind a wife, Kim, and two children, Tristian and Lauren.

Jarvis was one of only seven employees at Post AirGas, and he was employed there for 11 years.

Jarvis was described as a good, dependable worker and friend by his close-knit coworkers.

Sue Holdbrooks said each of the victims’ families had a chance to meet with each other after the tragedy to try and make peace with it all.

“It was a tragedy, a terrible tragedy. We don’t understand why it happened, but you just have to go on with your life,” Holdbrooks said in trembling voice. “I have a peace about it myself, but it’s still difficult.”

But through it all, Sue still has compassion for the other family whose lives were also shattered through the tragedy — the Miller family.

“I’m sure it was difficult for them,” she said. “I really feel bad for them.”

Miller was convicted and sentenced to death for the three murders.

He was transferred to death row at Holman Prison in Atmore on July 31, 2000, where he remains today.