The year in review: Looking back at the top stories of 2019

Published 3:42 pm Monday, December 23, 2019

Below is a look back at the top news stories in the U.S. 280 area from the first half of 2019. Look for a review of the second half of 2019 next week.


Slain Birmingham police officer was OMHS band parent

The Oak Mountain community mourned with the Birmingham Police Department over the death of Sgt. Wytasha Carter, who was a school band parent.

“We received tragic news that one of our band parents was killed in the line of duty early this morning,” read a post on the Oak Mountain High School Band Facebook page. “We ask that you cover the Carter family with your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Sgt. Carter consistently volunteered his time with our band program and supported us at each performance.”

Carter, a 44-year-old Air Force veteran, died from a gunshot wound in the early morning hours of Sunday, Jan. 13, while investigating vehicle break-ins in the area of Fifth Avenue North in downtown Birmingham.

Chelsea loses Historical Society founder Nivens

Tony Nivens, well-known founder of the Chelsea Historical Society, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 13, at the age of 62.

A visitation was held on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Redemption Church at K Springs, and a funeral service followed on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at the church with the Rev. Alan Higdon officiating.

“No one loves Chelsea, Alabama more than this man,” read a post on the city of Chelsea’s Facebook page. “His devotion was endless. His vision for our museum brought it to fruition. Please remember this family in this deeply sad time. He will be sorely missed. Thank you for your service.”

Nivens established the Chelsea Historical Society in April 2017.

“This is moving a lot faster than I expected it to,” he said at the time. “My vision is sharing Chelsea’s history, so people can discover it and love it. I always grew up with a love of Chelsea history. My mom wrote a book about Chelsea, so I’ve always been hearing Chelsea stories.”

Community helps Riverchase Elementary School families displaced by fire

A fire at an apartment complex claimed the homes of 11 Riverchase Elementary School students from nine families.

Other RES families and concerned community members then stepped up to help meet the victims’ immediate needs.

Hoover Fire Department firefighters battled the blaze at the Riverchase Landing Apartment Homes complex off Riverhaven Lane the night of Jan. 20.

Part of the building suffered heavy fire damage with some units also receiving smoke damage.


AG clears officer in Galleria shooting death

The shooting death of 21-year-old Emantic “E.J.” Bradford Jr. on Nov. 22, 2018, will not result in charges against the police officer who shot him, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Marshall said he informed the Hoover Police Department and the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation of his conclusion that the officer did not commit a crime under Alabama law and thus will not be criminally charged for his actions.

“The facts of this case demonstrate that ‘Officer 1’ reasonably exercised his official powers, duties or functions when he shot E.J. Bradford,” Marshall’s report read.

Harpersville Community Center hosts grand opening

Residents of Harpersville and surrounding communities attended a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony at the Harpersville Community Center on Thursday, Feb. 15.

The mayors of neighboring Chelsea, Vincent and Westover were among the visitors recognized by Harpersville Mayor Don Greene while a slideshow of images showing before and after pictures of the facility’s remodel played on wall-mounted televisions.

“The people we’re proudest of are the citizens here in Harpersville,” Greene said. “They’re the ones who make the town.”

Chelsea pastor leading Alabama Baptist State Convention

Tim Cox, senior pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, is following in his father’s footsteps as president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.

In fact, when Cox was elected to the position in November 2018, he became part of the first father-son combination to serve in the position.

“It’s an honor,” Cox said.

Cox’s father, Henry Cox, is pastor of Durant Chapel Baptist Church in Baldwin County.

Tim Cox nominated his father as president of the Convention in 2004, and then the father returned the favor by nominating his son in 2018.

“He’s my hero,” said Tim Cox, who served as second vice president of the Convention for two years and then first vice president for two years.

Shelby man charged with murdering 73-year-old

A 36-year-old Shelby man has been arrested and charged with murder for a weekend beating death of a 73-year-old victim in the Caldwell Crossings neighborhood.

Jackson Bradley Young was being held at the Shelby County Jail as of the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 22, on $150,000 bond.

The victim, Arthur Grey Till Jr., was pronounced deceased by emergency responders on Monday, Feb. 18, after being discovered by two friends who stopped by his residence.

After an autopsy was performed by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery, the medical examiner determined Till died from blunt force trauma with the manner of death being homicide, according to a release from the Hoover Police Department.


Teacher chosen as first Vincent Hall of Heroes inductee

Fifth grade teacher Angela Mitchell became the first inductee of the Vincent Hall of Heroes at a special ceremony on Thursday, March 21.

Hall of Heroes is a Leadership Shelby County group project, and is intended to serve as a “visual tribute to the spirit of the Vincent community,” group member and Alabaster City Councilman Russell Bedsole said.

“This Hall of Heroes is in honor of all those who offer their courage, strength and self-sacrifice in the service of others who often may never know them by name but will reap the benefits of their hard work,” Bedsole said. “The creation of this Hall is a symbolic reminder to never forget what makes this community so great.”

All of the fifth grade students at Vincent Elementary School were tasked with nominating people for the honor. The students composed 69 essays describing those in their community they considered heroes.

Vincent mayor: Large donation will be used for schools, roads, more

Vincent has undergone many positive changes in the past year, and a transformative donation from a new business in town will allow for more progress, Mayor Ray McAllister said on Wednesday, April 10.

McAllister spoke to Vincent residents and officials, and leaders from around Shelby County at the Coffee with the Mayor event sponsored by The Shelby County Chamber at Vincent Town Hall.

A landmark change for the town in the past year has been the opening of the Food Outlet grocery store.

Other changes in the town include improvements at the park, three new police cars and renovations to the library.

Grand opening held for McLeod Software’s new headquarters

City, Shelby County and Alabama officials gathered on Tuesday, April 23, to celebrate the grand opening of a business that has been recognized as the largest employer of software developers in the Birmingham-Hoover Metro Area.

McLeod Software’s relocation to the Meadow Brook Corporate Park represents a $21 million investment. The company employs 388 people, and that number is expected to grow to about 700 employees by 2022.

“We’re proud to be in Hoover, we’re proud to be in Shelby County, we’re proud to be in the state of Alabama,” said Tom McLeod, president and CEO, and 1972 graduate of W.A. Berry High School.

YMCA sells Hargis Retreat to Eddleman Properties

The YMCA of Greater Birmingham has sold Hargis Retreat Center, located off Shelby County 280 (Old Hwy. 280) in Chelsea, which began operation in 1999 and has served about 13,000 youth and teens through the YMCA Summer Day Camp program.

The 179-acre property was sold to Eddleman Properties for $2.1 million, the Y announced.

The 2019 YMCA Summer Day Camp was still held, and then the program officially ended operations in August.

Mt Laurel manager Freeman remembered for helpfulness, kindness

The unofficial “mayor” of Mt Laurel had an office with a scenic view of the town, but instead of sitting and observing, John Oscar Freeman Sr. spent his time driving around, phone attached to his ear, resolving residents’ concerns.

Freeman, who worked as construction manager and general manager for Mt Laurel for more than 15 years, died Monday, April 22, at the age of 88.

Mary (Peters) Knoechel began a receptionist job with the town in 2001, the same year Freeman started, and called him “the best boss I ever had because he cared about his employees.”

Freeman also cared deeply about the residents of Mt Laurel.

“Residents would call him night or day,” Knoechel said. “His phone was his main tool, and he would get things taken care of for people. People had his phone number, and if someone called to complain about a limb that may fall on their house, he would have it cut down that day. He was always doing for other people.”


Burrus found guilty of 2016 Highland Lakes murder

A jury on Tuesday, May 14, found Adam Michael Burrus guilty of the December 2016 murder of 37-year-old Constance Leigh Woolweaver at her Highland Lakes home.

The trial of Burrus began on Monday, May 6. After the conclusion of witness testimonies and closing arguments from representatives of the Shelby County District Attorney and Burrus’ defense, the 12-person jury deliberated for about an hour before returning the verdict.

As Judge William H. Bostick III read the verdict aloud in Courtroom 5 of the Shelby County Courthouse, Burrus, in a blue sportcoat and khaki pants, dropped his head and clutched the table in front of him for support as family members moaned softly.

SRO discovers, battles blaze at Oak Mountain Elementary

A police officer stationed at Oak Mountain Elementary School happened to stop by the school at the right time to possibly avoid large-scale fire damage.

School Resource Officer James Sellers with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and his daughter, Jayven, happened to stop by OMES the morning of Sunday, May 26, to drop off something on their way to the movies.

“Upon their arrival, they discovered a classroom was on fire,” read a post on the Shelby County Schools Facebook page. “Deputy Sellers pulled the fire alarm, called 911 and battled the fire with three fire extinguishers until the fire department arrived.”

Westover’s Teshua Farms offers goat yoga classes

Though goat yoga has become popular nationally, local options for this activity have been limited until recently.

Westover’s Teshua Farms in April began offering goat yoga classes—in which baby Nigerian Dwarf goats climb on participants while they perform familiar poses such as tabletop and plank—Managing Partner Mike Betz said.

“The goats are bottle fed at least twice a day. They’re handled every day so they’re really comfortable with people,” Betz said. “The animals are kind of like family members here. They’re rock stars. Each has a name and quirks just like children.”