Monday, May 31, 2010

Wet or dry is a question now for two Alabama towns

By Sherea Harris

THORSBY, AL (WBRC) - Two Alabama cities will vote on alcohol sales Tuesday.

"Wet-dry" referendums will be held in Good Hope, located in Cullman County, and in Thorsby, in Chilton County.

Voters are usually divided on whether or not to allow alcohol sales in a dry city, but more Alabama cities are passing these referendums.
In January, voters in Jemison made alcohol sales legal.

A store employee at Jemison Exxon says since March, business has increased significantly. Beer and wine sales are steady.

Nearby in Thorsby, folks will vote on a referendum tomorrow. Only one person of those interviewed plans to vote "yes."

Some who are against alcohol sales are concerned of more alcohol-related accidents, which scares Dorothy Robinson.

"My nephew was hit by a drunk driver when he was four. He still suffers from it. He's got one kidney," said Robinson

"We believe in staying away from alcohol. But I can see both sides of the vote because it will bring more money to Thorsby," said Chad Foshee.

Good Hope is also voting on alcohol sales Tuesday

FOX6 spoke to Mayor Corey Harbison. He says though the council remains neutral on the matter, it doesn't want to see bars and clubs pop up in town if the referendum passes.

The voting in Thorsby and Good Hope are at City Hall from 7am to 7pm.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Apathetic, confused, or detached describes some voters

By Emily Luxen

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Tuesday, Alabama voters will decide who will be on the November's ballot in several state and local races, but as of Monday night, some still don't know who they will vote for.

Many voters said they haven't been following the different campaigns, and don't plan on voting.

Others said they just don't really feel connected to one particular candidate.

"I don't feel like anyone is making a strong effort to really the fix the issues going on," said Nashia Daniel.

"I just don't have a favorite candidate because I don't find anyone especially intriguing, or anyone that matches my views," said Miranda Rolen.

Many people said they will stay home Tuesday because they don't feel their vote will make much difference.

"I just think with Alabama being such a historically conservative state, it's almost guaranteed it will be a Republican candidate," said Ryan O'Hara, "So my vote doesn't matter much."

Others said they were turned off by all the negative TV ads, and they think candidates should focus more on the issues. "It's very confusing," said Tom Monroe. "One ad says one thing, the opponents ad says another thing. Then they'll get on radio talk shows and contradict each other, and it's just really hard to figure out what is true, and what isn't true."

"I have a lot of family in Minnesota and they watch the ads as a joke," said Patricia Clark. "They are on YouTube and people are making a mockery of the ads in Alabama. "

Alabama's Secretary of State is predicting a 35-38% turnout. That would be in-line with the turnout for the 2002 and 2006 gubernatorial primaries.

Copyright 2010 wbrc. All rights reserved.

Albertville man sentenced for possessing child porn

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A former pediatrician has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography.

Albertville's Michael Roy Sharpe, 64, pleaded guilty in March to one charge of possessing a cell phone with images of child pornography

According to court records, Sharpe confessed last year that he had sex with a minor who had been a patient.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Bryce patients to relocate

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - The Alabama Department of Mental Health says nearly a third of the Bryce Hospital's patients will move into community-based care.

Authorities say small group homes are a better setting for many.

Last week, Bryce was sold to the University of Alabam for $77million.

The change will happen over the next few months.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Talladega remembers a once forgotten Vietnam War veteran

By Dixon Hayes

TALLADEGA, AL (WBRC) - An unusual Memorial Day in Talladega has residents thinking of their friends, family, and neighbors who made the ultimate sacrifice in war. But many of them thought about one man in particular: Terry Lee Merritt, a 22 year old native of Talladega's Pines Park neighborhood killed in Vietnam on July 23, 1970.

Merritt's name was accidentally left off the city's Vietnam Memorial at Talladega's Veterans Park, when the memorial was dedicated in 1989. It was recently added to the granite marker and today, the newly edited marker was unveiled for friends of Merritt.

His name may have been forgotten 21 years ago, but longtime friends didn't forget him Monday.

Troy Pennington was a classmate of Merritt's, in the Talladega High class of 1966. Merritt was the class treasurer.

Pennington recalls the sad 10 year reunion, in which Merritt was missed.

"I know he would've loved being with us, we would've loved being with him, sharing his wit, his memories and sharing his big hug," Pennington recalled.

The memorial is located in the very park where Merritt and friends played so often as they were growing up. Friends like John Tinney recalled Merritt riding his blue motor scooter, playing football and even using the old Wham-O water toy "Super Slide," all in what's now known as Veterans' Park.

"Terry Merritt has always meant something to me, and this place that we're in today, helped shape so many of our lives over the years," Tinney recalled.

The day's activities included a video of Merritt's life, played at the Ritz Theatre in Talladega's main square, and even noted a song had been written about his life.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Candidates on last-minute campaign trail for Memorial Day 2010

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - We're now just hours away from the polls opening for primary election day.

Many of the candidates spent part of their day campaigning in the Birmingham area Monday.

Several campaign operatives said having an election just 1 day after Memorial Day will probably hurt turnout tomorrow, and that makes securing every last vote Monday all the more important.

American Village in Shelby County hosted a ceremony to honor those who've served our country in the armed forces. But to the handful of candidates in attendance, it was also a room full of hands that needed shaking, and potential votes in Tuesday's primaries.

"My message is I need you to vote, I need you to turn out and vote tomorrow, this race, there will probably be a runoff, so we'll get ready to tee it up and go again," said GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim James.

James shook hands and posed for pictures while just feet away, 2 candidates for the Republican Lt. Governor nomination, State Sen. Hank Erwin and State Treasurer Kay Ivey tried to lock down every voter they could.

Luther Strange is seeking to unseat incumbent Troy King in the attorney general's race, and he used the memorial day gathering as a chance to press his case with voters.

Rep. Spencer Bachus is battling Stan Cooke for a chance to run for another term, and while Bachus said he was focused on his race, he's also noticed the negative tone taken in his party's gubernatorial fight.

"I'm disappointed over some of the negative campaigning," Bachus said. "It's ok to point out your opponents record, but I wish the people of Alabama had a clearer image about what our candidates had accomplished in the past and how they plan to lead us in the future."

After going face to face with rival Ron Sparks at a Birmingham church service Sunday, Rep. Artur Davis rallied his campaign staff at his Birmingham headquarters Monday afternoon as he and Sparks close out their fight for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

"You never know what turnout's going to be, it's a post-holiday election, that's an unusual dynamic," Davis said. "I still run into folks who think the election's next Tuesday, ran into 2 of them in Gadsden today. So what we have to do is get out there and let people know about this election and work extremely hard."

Other Republican gubernatorial candidates were on the campaign trail today. Bradley Byrne attended a Memorial Day event in Mobile, Robert Bentley visited several events in the Tuscaloosa area, and Roy Moore's campaign had representatives at several Memorial Day events, as well.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Historian to offer virtual tour of Gadsden

By Dixon Hayes

GADSDEN, AL (WBRC) - Walking tours were held in downtown Gadsden the last two years, but they often were scheduled on stifling hot, 90-degree days. Plus some members of the tour had difficulty walking such a long way. So this year, historian Mike Goodson will hold a virtual tour.

There will be a multi-media presentation in the lobby of the Pitman Theater on Broad Street.

Goodson tells the FOX6 News' Anniston newsroom, his own passion for Etowah County history began in his youth. He grew up in the Alabama City section of Gadsden, in a neighborhood known as the "Mill Village."

The Mill Village was built for workers at nearby Crown Mills, where Goodson would often sneak and fish from a pond on that property. Goodson also remembers Saturday matinees at the nearby Ritz Theater, which still stands.

His virtual tour will utilize historic photos from the Scarboro Collection which is now archived in the Gadsden Public Library.

People who attend will see historic shots of Downtown Gadsden, shots of some of its founders, paddlewheeler riverboats on the Coosa River, even baby boomer images like the Rebel Drive-In Theater and the old Jack's Kwikee drive-in restaurant.

"They're going to see some of the early riverboats that plied the waters between Rome, Georgia and Greensport, Alabama," Goodson tells us. And history buffs are "going to see some of the early buildings and also some of the shots of Broad Street, when it was a dirt road."

He'll also tell unusual stories, like how Gadsden had an early relationship with the Jack Daniels distillery (which ended when a temperance group led a drive to make the city "dry"), and the urban legend that notorious bandit and killer Jesse James once came to the city. One notable western figure who did come, the "Cisco Kid" of radio and TV fame, and there's even a photo of him entertaining Gadsden area children in the 1950s.

One morning will even be devoted to the area's theaters and drive-ins, including the Pitman, which will host the virtual tours. The program will mention such other long-gone venues as the Princess and Gadsden Theaters, and the Rainbow Drive-In. They'll even serve popcorn and soft drinks that day.

All of this comes as Downtown Gadsden is undergoing a renaissance, with its historic buildings being preserved. The Downtown Gadsden, Inc. group recently moved its headquarters into the old Runt's Place restaurant, even restoring the facade to a variation of the Runt's Place exterior circa the 1940s.

"We're going to introduce people to the founders of our city, and what I would say the glory days of Downtown Gadsden, and a direction it's heading back towards," Goodson says.

The Gadsden Virtual Tours will be held every Saturday morning in June beginning June 6th. They will begin at 10 a.m. in the lobby of the Pitman Theater, 623 Broad Street. And while the tour won't move, history buffs will be given brochures leading them to some of the area's notable sites, should they decide they want to see them on their own.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Gov. Riley supports Strange, not his 2004 appointee, Troy King

by Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Attorney General Troy King says Governor Bob Riley wants someone he can control. Riley is endorsing King's republican opponent Luther Strange.

A campaign flyer from the Strange camp was distributed with Riley supporting Strange over Troy King, the man who Riley appointed in 2004 to attorney general office.

Friday, King says it's because he refused to give Riley favorable A.G. opinions. "Over the last six years, Governor Riley has asked me to issue legal opinions to support his political positions. Opinions I knew and he knew were wrong." King said.

As an example, King says Riley wanted political cover with an opinion after the governor moved property tax reappraisals from every four years to annually.

King says after his refusa,l he became the subject of ethics investigations. Starting with the state bar, then the Alabama Ethics Commission, eventually the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"The same complaint was filed with the U-S Attorney's office. For the next 18 months, a grand jury harassed my family and my office. Leaking grand jury information in violation of federal law." King said.

He was cleared in all cases. Still, the Attorney General King accused his republican opponent of using the ethics probes for political gain. "These investigations and the leaks from the violation of federal law have become the foundation of Luther Strange's sleazy television commercials." King said.

Governor Rileys' Communication Director Jeff Emerson released this statement. "Senator Shelby, Senator Sessions, Governor Riley and many others don't support Troy King because he won't enforce the law, period. Plus, everybody knows if you want Troy King to issue a favorable opinion, you've got to throw a party for him." Emerson said. This is in reference to King issuing an opinion about electronic bingo in Houston County and later having an event thrown for King by Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Last weekend for electronic bingo

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - It’s the last big weekend for electronic bingo in Jefferson County.

Michael Trucks, city attorney for Fairfield, says Jefferson County District Attorney Arthur Green has agreed on a June 4th deadline at 6 p.m. for all electronic bingo halls in the Bessemer cutoff to be closed.

That is the same day when the ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court on electronic bingo becomes finalized. The ruling gave Governor Bob Riley control of his illegal gambling task force instead of Attorney General Troy King.

So far Task Force Commander John Tyson has not signed off on the June 4th deadline.

You don’t have to tell players who love electronic bingo this is the last weekend for the games of chance.

"Well, I don't want them to close cause I love to play the machines," Brenda Mason said. "If they close these spots or other spots I will go down to Weptumka, Wind Creek or Tallapoosa."

"It's going to take a lot of fun from me," John Finn said. "I'm retired. It's the only thing I got to do. Win some money. Lose some money."

"That is correct unless there is a miracle this is the last weekend," Trucks said.

Electronic bingo means about $400,000 a month for the city of Fairfield. The city will be looking at some tough decisions once the electronic games are shut down.

"I hope everyone enjoys it," Trucks said. "We are going to find ourselves with 400 new people on the unemployment rolls in the Fairfield area."

Until then players can enjoy the games.

"It was my recommendation on the order becoming finalized they should shut down immediately or they would face the possibility of a raid which could lead to confiscation of their property," Trucks said.

"I don't like it," Earnest Davis said. "We need something. What the city gets off of bingo is good for the city. They should let us play."

"I'll be back," Finn said. "I'm going to the bank now. I'll be back."

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Woman catches self on fire while burning repossessed car

MOUNTAINBORO, AL (WBRC) – A woman who was trying to get revenge for the repossession of a vehicle accidentally set herself ablaze during the act.

On May 8th, 26-year-old Haleigh Elizabeth Boland poured gasoline on her former vehicle at the residence of the victim, who had recently repossessed the vehicle. After several failed attempts to light the gasoline from a safer distance, Boland moved closer to the vehicle for an easier ignition. That is when the gasoline erupted in a fireball that also lit Boland’s clothes on fire.

A security camera video of Boland shows her panickedly moving about while trying to extinguish the flames before running to a vehicle to escape.

Haleigh confessed to being the individual in the video after being interviewed by Etowah County Sheriff’s investigators. She suffered first and second degree burns on her upper body.

Haleigh and her father, 50-year-old Benny Gene Boland, were both arrested and charged with first degree criminal mischief. They have each been released on $2,500 bonds.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Forestdale home burns to the ground

FORESTDALE, AL (WBRC) - A home burned to the ground in Forestdale around 3:00 a.m. on Friday on Villa Esta Lane.

Firefighters say the fire started in the basement and the flames quickly spread throughout the home.

Authorities have not determined what started the fire.

They believe the homeowner was not inside the house when the blaze started.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Three arrested on meth manufacturing charges in Etowah County

ETOWAH COUNTY, AL (WBRC) – The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office says they have arrested three people in relation to a shake-and-bake meth lab.

48-year-old Jerry Patton, 25-year-old Sumer Naylor and 23-year-old Heather Comer each got one charge apiece for First Degree Manufacturing.

The arrest took place around 11:50 p.m. on Wednesday night at 15715 Highway 278, where authorities found a shake-and-bake meth lab that was imported from Mexico and a firearm.

A motorcycle, a car and a small amount of cash were also seized.

Sheriff’s deputies had carried on a month-long investigation before executing the bust.

All three suspects are being held in the Etowah Count Detention Center.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Gator surprises Chilton County family

CLANTON, AL (WBRC) - An alligator caused quite a stir Friday morning for several people in Chilton County.

Chilton County Chief Deputy Sheriff Shane Mayfield told FOX6 News a family was leaving home this morning when they encountered the gator in the middle of County Road 131. The alligator would not move, so they called the Chilton County Sheriff's Department.

Deputies, along with Jemison's animal control officer, quickly arrived but were unable to capture the alligator, so they called the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. An employee with the department arrived and removed the alligator from the scene.

Nobody knows where the alligator came from. No one was hurt.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Employee accused of stealing water payments

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - An employee with the Wattsville Water Authority has been accused of stealing more than $368,000 from the authority.

The accusations were part of a special report issued Friday by the Alabama Department of Examiners and Public Accounts on the Wattsville Water Authority in St. Clair County. Examiners, in the report, cited the authority with numerous bookkeeping errors and accused one employee of stealing $368,112.22 in money collected but not deposited and personal credit card purchases.

Examiners said they asked the employee to repay the money, but said she refused.

The report said information in the case has been sent to the St. Clair County District Attorney to continue collection attempts.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Man arrested on several rape charges

ETOWAH COUNTY, AL (WBRC) – The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office says they have arrested a man for rape related offenses in DeKalb County.

33-year-old Jessie Carlos Copas Cochran was taken into custody on May 21st by Etowah County deputies. He is charged with one count of First Degree Rape and two counts of Second Degree Rape.

Cochran was living in a residence in the Ball Play community. He was transported to the DeKalb County Jail.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Tanker truck explosion causes trouble on I-459

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A tanker truck explosion shut down I-459 for a time on Friday morning.

The 18-wheeler collided with a car on I-459 southbound at Highway 280 just after 1:30 a.m.

One person was transported to UAB Hospital.

Birmingham fire crews were able to get the blaze under control.

It is not clear what caused the accident.

State troopers say the interstate will likely be slow moving until at least 7:00 a.m.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Study says Alabama drivers get a C grade

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - A new study says Alabama drivers are among the worst in the country.

The study by GMAC says Alabama drivers would only get a "C" on their report if they were being graded on a 100 point scale. Alabama ranked 31st.

The study also found that 1 in 4 drivers in the state multitask while driving by texting, checking email, talking on cell phones, or even putting on makeup.

Drivers we spoke to say law enforcement needs to be proactive in helping protect everyone on the road.

To try and raise the state's ranking, and save lives, sheriff's deputies will be teaching a 2-day distracted driving course at every Jefferson County High School this summer.

Sheriff’s deputies say it is part of a plan to put better trained drivers on the street before they can form bad habits.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Marine police prepare for Memorial Day weekend

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - Friday marks the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend and the traffic will soon pick up on the state's waterways.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama marine police expect a busy three day weekend.

Before getting in your boat or watercraft, marine police officers suggest making sure all your equipment is working properly.

They say alcohol and inexperienced boaters are mostly to blame for accidents.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Alabama schools receive third year of proration

By Alan Collins

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - For the third year in a row, school systems in Alabama have had to do more with less from the State of Alabama. On Thursday, the Jefferson County Board of Education okayed 73 layoffs.

The school system will not fill 73 vacant positions and cut allocations to schools by 50% postage, band, biology and field trips. The school system will also cut back on utility consumption, travel and overtime costs.

"We want to go into summer reassuring our employees the level of service is still high. The challenge of providing that service is greater a year from now," Hammonds said.

The head of the American Federation of Teachers says at one time the school system was looking at 170 layoffs."When we lay off teachers and support workers, it means they are not spending in the economy. When they don't spend money in the economy, they hurt education even more," Via Parramore with AFT said.

Tax collections have jumped slightly giving the county an extra $3 million. The school system is also trying to help out the teachers.”The board has set aside one point two million dollars to material and supply money, not in the state budget," Hammonds said.

Without federal stimulus funds from the job’s bill now in Congress, all school systems are looking at serious cuts next year. "Next year I don't know what we will do. We had three years of proration. Some schools won't be able to open their doors," Parramore said.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Federal court maintains McClain's conviction

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The United States Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of former state senator E.B. McClain.

The court rejected McClain's argument that there was insufficient evidence for conviction.

Mcclain was found guilty in 2009 of money laundering, mail fraud, bribery and conspiracy.

He was sentenced to 70 months in prison.

McClain has been on bond pending appeal.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Some seniors and disabled to get extra money from government

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Checks to help senior citizens with high drug costs will be mailed June 10th. This date is ahead of schedule.

The $250 checks are for medicare recipients who fall into the prescription drug coverage gap. The new benefit is provided under President Obama's health care reform.

About 4 million seniors and disabled people will get checks this year.

For more information, call 1-800-medicare or visit www.medicare.gov/

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Death investigation underway in Bessemer

BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) – Police in Bessemer are investigating a death on Thursday.

Police say that a female is in custody and a male victim is dead at a house on 27th Street and 7th Avenue.

The female allegedly fled the scene and was picked up later.

Stay with MyFoxAL.com and FOX6 News for more information on this story.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Blount, LaPierre begin prison sentences

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The investment banker and the lobbyist who admitted to bribing former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford will begin serving their prison sentences on Thursday.

Last August, Bill Blount and Al LaPierre admitted their roles in steering billions in Jefferson County sewer bonds to Blount’s investment bank.

In return for the guilty pleas, Blount received four years and four months in prison; LaPierre received four years. They testified for the federal government in Langford’s trial.

The former mayor has already begun his 15-year sentence at a prison in Kentucky.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Suspect in Nadia Kersh case has preliminary hearing

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A man accused of killing a Homewood mother will appear in court Thursday.

Joacquas Haywood faces a capital murder charge for the death of Nadia Kersh.

At the preliminary hearing, the court will decide if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Kersh was last seen alive in November 2008. Investigators say Haywood killed Kersh while burglarizing her home. They describe him as a past acquaintance.

Authorities have not found Kersh’s body.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Jeffco teacher will keep job after questionable geometry lesson

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) – A Jefferson County teacher will get to keep his job after he used the image of an assassination attempt on President Obama to teach geometry.

The Jefferson County Board of Education ruled that Gregory Harrison would forfeit ten days of pay and will undergo diversity training this summer, but he will retain his job at Corner High School. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference had called for his termination from teaching.

AEA representative Michael Todd read a statement to the Board of Education on Thursday from Harrison. In the statement, he says that he is a good teacher, but made a mistake.

Several former and current Corner High School students attended the meeting in support of Harrison. Harrison did not attend the meeting.

Here is the statement from Harrison that was read by Todd:

I publicly apologize for the inappropriate comments that were made in reference to the President during one of my geometry class lessons. I made a very serious error in judgment with a teaching example of tangent lines and fully acknowledge such. To my students, colleagues and the public, I offer my sincerest apology for this action. As a veteran teacher of twenty-two years, I am keenly aware of the example I must set for my students and I realize that my actions fell short in this situation. I condemn violence in any form; therefore I want to clarify that at no time was there any talk of assassination or the killing or anyone advocated in my classroom. I deeply regret allowing this situation to ever occur and take responsibility for this unfortunate matter.

I have learned from this mistake and hope that we can all move forward. I would like to close with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”

Thank you.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Jeffco Sheriff’s deputies searching for missing person

ADGER, AL (WBRC) – The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department is searching for a man whose mother reported him missing.

Sheriff’s spokesman Randy Christian says 36-year-old Bradley Lamar Cannon was last seen at his mother’s home in Adger on Monday night. His two cell phones, pack of cigarettes, cell phone charger and headphones were found on a pier behind the house.

The Sheriff’s office dive team has searched the water and has been unable to find any signs of Cannon in the water or shore area.

Christian says that Cannon had previous drug problems and talked about “just going into the river” if his mother called the police.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham police release photos of NAPA robbery suspects

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – The Birmingham Police Department is searching for two suspects in relation to a robbery that took place on Sunday.

Police say the NAPA Auto Parts store at 701 39th Street North was robbed when two male suspects entered around 10:00 a.m. and demanded money. One suspect has armed with a handgun.

The suspects left the area in a silver 4-door sedan that may have been a Buick LeSabre. They took an undetermined amount of cash when they left.

One suspect is described as a black male in his early 30’s, 6’1” and 300lbs. with a dark complexion. The second suspect is described only as having a dark complexion and being bald.

If there is anyone who has information pertaining to this case, they are encouraged to contact B.P.D. detectives @ 254-1753 or Crime Stoppers at 254-7777.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Man arrested for making illegal whiskey in his apartment

WARRIOR, AL (WBRC) - Warrior police have arrested a person suspected of making illegal whiskey in their apartment.

The arrest was made at an apartment complex just outside of downtown Warrior, yesterday.

When FOX6 News arrived, investigators were still pulling out bottle after bottle of illegal whiskey. They arrested one person but did not release a name.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Inmate faces lethal injection on Thursday

ATMORE, AL (WBRC) - Alabama’s longest serving death row inmate appears to have run out of appeals and faces death by lethal injection.

Thomas Whisenhant of Mobile County was convicted for the 1976 rape and slaying of Sheryl Lynn Payton.

Officials say he has been moved to a holding cell just feet away from the death chamber.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Kidnapped toddlers returned to parents in Wetumpka

WETUMPKA, AL (WBRC) - Two toddlers are back home with their parents after being kidnapped.

A man identified as Christopher Lee Thompson is accused of taking the children from their Wetumpka home after grabbing diapers and extra clothes. Police say he was a family friend who routinely babysat the children. He was arrested in Montgomery.

The children were reunited with their parents on Wednesday night.

Thompson is charged with two counts of kidnapping 1st degree and one count theft of property 1st degree.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Jeffco department hurting from pump prices

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Filling up at the gas pump is hitting Jefferson County officials in the budget.

Wednesday, county commissioners were told the Roads and Transportation Department will need another $400,000 in order to finish out the year.

The current fuel budget will run out of money by the end of July.

Commissioners say they will dip into the county's reserve funds.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Birmingham Police involved in shooting

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham Police were involved in a shooting in a public housing community in Wenonah.

Police responded to a report of persons with guns. A foot pursuit ensued as officers located and approached the suspects.

A suspect brandished a firearm at the officer before he was shot in the a leg by Birmingham police.

It happened around 7pm in the 2900 block of John Bryan Road, near Wenonah High School.

The wounded suspect was transported to UAB Hospital. His wound is not believed to be life-threatening. The other suspect was apprehended unharmed. Police recovered weapons from both.

Their identities will be withheld until charges are announced.

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation and Birmingham Police's Internal Affairs Division will also conduct an investigation of the shooting.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Manager accused of selling stolen goods to competitor

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - An Etowah County grocery store manager is accused of stealing cigarettes from her store then selling them to a competitor.

The sheriff's department say 46-year-old Brenda Bain worked for Food Valu in Sardis.

Deputies say she stole cartons of cigarettes and sold them to Fred and Rebecca Whitfield. The two own "Woody's Grocery" in Walnut Park.

The Whitfields are charged with receiving stolen property.

Bain faces several charges including first degree theft.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Governor doesn't support BP boycott talk, others do

By Melanie Posey

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - As BP workers worked to stop that leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday, some drivers began to show their frustrations with the oil company.

Thousands have shown their support for several "Boycott BP" sites on Facebook.

Hoover driver Steve Noojin is showing his anger through his wallet. "I don't stop in there to buy cigarettes or anything," Noojin said while pumping his gas at a competitor's station. "Because I don't like what's happening on the gulf. Everybody out of work down there, the seafood is going up, everything else like that."

Holly Glenn manages the BP gas station in Pelham and says despite the spill, customers have remained loyal as far as she's seen. "Business has been pretty good. We haven't noticed any drop in sales. The same customers are coming in."

Governor Bob Riley says there will be plenty of time to play the blame game in the future. "I'm not sure that right know it's going to do anyone any good to beat up on BP or the federal government," Riley says. "Right now we all need to work together to make sure we protect the marshlands and estuaries."

Glenn says boycotters need to realize who they're really affecting. "I would just let them know they're hurting the people that work here. It's money and business we're losing."

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham councilor wants to sell surplus property

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Furniture, cars, and how about a vacant lot? Birmingham wants to sell some of their surplus if Councilor Carole Smitherman gets her way.

Smitherman is pushing Mayor William Bell to look at selling surplus property to help raise money for next year's budget and possibly avoid the 10% salary cuts for city workers that Bell has proposed.

She also mentions that she's not sure those salary cuts are necessary as she believes the mayor's projection about how much money the city will spend next year is on the low end.

To solidify her point, Smitherman showed a pair of vacant lots in west Birmingham's Wednesday. "$16,000 is what we're standing here looking at right now, so we can sell some of that, I think it would be well worth us looking at it on a deeper basis," Smitherman said.

The city spends between $300-$400 every few weeks to mow just those 2 lots, a process that's repeated at hundreds of these city-owned properties.

Smitherman says putting these lots on the market along with surplus furniture, cars, and computers would help the city find extra money for next year's budget. That budget could force salary cuts for city employees and the closing of some libraries and recreation centers.

Mayor Bell's office says he is open to any and all suggestions on how to find extra revenue, but the mayor's staff sent FOX6 News a list of 7 things the city already does to find the coins in its collective cushion.

They include selling cars and other items online through a site called GovDeals.com, selling used motor oil taken from city vehicles, selling scrap metal from the landfill, and trading empty toner cartridges for credit when the city's printers run dry.

"There may be a process in place, but if it's not generating enough money for us, then we need to look at it in another way," Smitherman said. "We just have look at other ways to bring in revenue. It may not come up, Jonathan, to whatever the deficit is, it may not come up to the deficit is, but it certainly will be a start in the right direction."

Smitherman's ideas don't end with surplus property. She says the city should consider selling naming rights for its new athletic complex under construction at Fair Park. They may sell ad time for its new scoreboard going in this summer at Legion Field.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Some Jefferson County voters will have to vote twice

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A word of advice for voters going to the polls next week: some voters will have to vote twice for their candidates and those voting absentee better get busy.

There has been a vacant seat on the Jefferson County Commission ever since William Bell left to become Mayor of Birmingham. The special election to fill his District One seat has 14 candidates vying to finish out Bell’s term until November.

"In Commission District One you will get two ballots," Barry Stephenson, Deputy Director Jefferson County Board of Registrar said Wednesday. "You will request either the Democrat or Republican primary, then you will get a separate ballot for the candidates running for the unexpired term in District One."

This means voters in Jefferson County District One must vote for their candidate in the special election and then for the candidate to serve out a full four-year term starting in November. If there is a runoff needed for the special election, it will be held June 22nd. If a runoff is needed in the primary election, it will be held July 13th.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County Circuit Clerk Anne-Marie Adams said Wednesday the clock is ticking on absentee ballot voters.

"Tomorrow, Thursday, is the last day you can make out out an absentee ballot or that you can vote in person," Adams said.

Adams said those who wish to mail in their absentee ballots need to be aware Monday is Memorial Day. The mail will not run and the courthouse will be closed. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Monday and delivered by Tuesday. Those who hand deliver their ballots have until Friday afternoon at 5 o’clock.

Adams fears the holiday will hurt voter turnout.

"I'm sure today a lot of people have not realized, they will be out of town and back on Tuesday," Adams said.

The circuit clerk said she expects a voter turnout of about 20 percent.

If you have any questions about voting places or absentee ballots in Jefferson County, call the Jefferson County Probate Judge’s office at (205) 254-7387 or the Jefferson County Registrar’s office at (205) 325-5550.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Toddler struck by car in Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A toddler is being checked out after she was hit by a car in Birmingham. Officers say the child is okay.

They say she wandered away from her mother while walking on University Boulevard and reached out to touch a car and got knocked down.

Officers did not notice any injuries on the little girl.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Bessemer church hit hard by overnight thieves

By Arielle Clay

BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) - Crooks have stolen everything they could carry from a church in Bessemer.

The burglars spent a lot of time in the Morning Star United Methodist Church on 15th Street North, even leaving behind cigarette butts from the smoke breaks they took in the sanctuary.

The pastor of Morning Star United Methodist says the thieves broke into his church at around 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Every other week, the pastor and his congregation meet at the church to pray at that same time, but he is thankful this was their off week.

With no one at the church, the thieves were able to steal tons of equipment including a guitar, bass, a 72-inch television, radio, a projector and some tools.

This is not the first time the church has had problems. About two years ago someone damaged their air conditioning unit, but the pastor says this is the worst thing anyone has ever done here.

The pastor says he believes the people were in need and his church would have helped if only they had asked.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Alabama Power conducting drills in preparation for hurrican season

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Alabama power workers are gearing up for hurricane season.

They worked with several other power companies in the southeast to conduct a drill trying to make their action plans more efficient.

Workers simulated a hurricane moving through the mouth of Mobile Bay. Their goal was to focus on their logistics and how they would move crews to hard hit areas and what to do in the worst case scenario.

Alabama power officials say these drills give them the opportunity to recognize better ways of dealing with challenges, so they can serve those hit worst, the fastest.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Shelia Smoot to carry over resolution to bar refund recollection

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) – Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot has decided to hold back introducing a new resolution to bar the county from recollecting occupational tax refunds from Jefferson County workers.

The refund money, estimated around $37.8 million, are from Jefferson County workers who paid the occupational tax before it was declared illegal. The county was ordered to refund the money, but a Supreme Court ruling allows for the county to recollect the money.

Commissioner Smoot says she feels recollecting the money would be unfair. Her fellow commissioners say they would like to look into legal options before making the final decision on recollecting the refund.

Smoot has agree to hold off on the resolution for two weeks.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Two arrested for making terrorist threats in Etowah County

ETOWAH COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Two Etowah County men are charged with making a terrorist threat.

Authorities say they phoned in a bomb threat to the courthouse in Gadsden.

The sheriff's department says 32-year-old James Bowman and 27-year-old Kenneth Gilbert made the threat in hopes of avoiding a drug test. Deputies say their number was recorded by caller ID.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Max Bus catches on fire in Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - An engine fire seriously damaged a max bus in Birmingham on Tuesday afternoon.

The bus burned in the 4600 block of 5th Avenue North.

The driver and passengers managed to get out safely.

Traffic was temporarily delayed while firefighters put down the flames.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham BOE unsure over job cuts

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Birmingham School Board is holding off on talks that could lead to more job cuts.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Superintendent Craig Witherspoon asked members to give him the "go ahead" to start looking at positions that could be eliminated.

Some board members questioned why the cuts were necessary, considering the system eliminated more than 200 positions just two-weeks ago.

Witherspoon says he may submit his proposal with more details at a future meeting.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Budget cuts meeting resistance in Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Several factions inside of Birmingham are looking for ways to trim the budget without having to cut pay.

The Birmingham Fraternal Order of Police is looking at other ways for the city to cut costs and balance the budget.

Sgt. Dexter Cunningham and members of the FOP met Tuesday to discuss ideas they plan to take back to Mayor William Bell and the city council. Cunningham says it upsets him to see officers working harder and getting paid less.

While he couldn't share the specifics, Cunningham says there are some areas where the council could cut funds without slashing salaries. "I can tell you that there are some licensing issues and biz fees issues that has not been visited in quite some time," said Cunningham.

Cunningham also says there is a duplication of services within the city that can be addressed to save money. He plans to meet with the mayor before the end of the week.

People in one Birmingham neighborhood are fighting the proposed budget cuts. They rallied Tuesday night to keep the Sandusky Recreation Center open. The mayor wants to close it to save the city money.

People who use the center say though it is a small facility, it is badly needed. They say senior citizens rely on it and it keeps children off the streets and out of trouble.

Community leaders say they plan to take their concerns to the mayor and council.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

UAB students to gain first-hand knowledge of an economic giant

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A dozen UAB students are packing their bags as they prepare to head for China next month. It's part of an ongoing effort giving Alabama companies an advantage in the world's fastest-growing economy.

China does $1 billion dollars worth of business with the state of Alabama every year.

In a tough job market, students with experience of the Chinese marketplace makes a valuable commodity.

Beyond learning how to spot counterfeit Chinese money and safe nightlife spots, the students are learning how doing business in China can be much different than in the states.

"In China, we like to say we become friends first, and then we do business," said K.C. Pang, the UAB business professor leading the trip. "Here, it's the other way around. We are a little bit more short-term, we want to make money tomorrow. Our system is "let's do business first, then we become friends later."

Pang leads a trip every summer that's aimed at giving these students valuable experience in what Chinese companies are looking for when they do business in Alabama. This experience be handy when they return to a tough job market.

"Just to have this on my resume that I lived in China for 30 days is extremely marketable, especially in the world today, the economy's going across borders, and just to have this experience will be extremely marketable for me," said Meredith Edmonds, one of the students going on the trip.

"Makes me extremely more marketable because I can say I've got international experience," said fellow traveler John Kier. "This is not something that everybody has."

For Pang, it's not just a resume-stuffer. This trip is also about staying competitive with an economic giant.

"They know so much about the U.S. They know our political system, they know our economy, they know how our culture is, they know our business environment, on the other hand our students don't know that much about China. And China is our biggest competitor in terms of economy. And think about that...they know about us, but we don't know about them. How are we going to compete with them in the global economy?"

The UAB party leaves for China on Thursday and as part of their visit they'll tour the Vulcan Materials facility in China.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Mayor Bell speaks with VP Biden

By Ashley Nix

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham Mayor William Bell spoke with Vice President Joe Biden today.

Bell spoke with Biden via telephone Tuesday morning. Bell said he called Biden to discuss the availability of federal stimulus funds and the process in which the dollars are handed out.

Biden asked Bell questions about any concerns and requests. No details about if and when more money might be available was announced.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All right reserved.

Some county commissioners want tax refunds back

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Wednesday, the Jefferson County Commission will square off over if the county should try and recollect up to $38 million in refunds from taxpayers.

Commissioner Shelia Smoot said Tuesday she is pushing a resolution saying no.

"It says in the document the county could collect," Smoot said. "It did not say the county had to collect."

But, Commission President Bettye Fine Collins says the county is obligated to go after the money.

"A governor saying to one of his children, they don't have to pay income taxes," Collins said. "The taxes we didn't set that tax. It was set by law."

Commissioner Bobby Humphryes opposes the recollection.

"I think it's ridiculous we would even talk about back taxing people," Humphryes said. "But, we got to be careful."

Carns says he wants to hear more before going after the job tax refunds.

"I'm not for being punitive to our taxpayers," Carns said. "That is something I've never done."

Most on the commission say they want a vote in the issue. County attorneys have said no vote is necessary because the finance director can go after the taxes. However, one of the attorneys who sued the county for the refunds says there should be a vote.

"We have a five-member commission, not a dictatorship," Jim McFerrin, one of the three attorneys who filed the lawsuit over the job tax against the county said. "It's up to the commission to vote if the want to implement Ms. Collins revenge tax."

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

County commission worried about tax refunds

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Tuesday, Jefferson County Commissioners reacted to possibly having to pay more in the occupational tax case.

Last week, DeKalb County David Rains said county could have to pay another $10 million on top of the $37.8 million in refunds to Jefferson County workers who paid the job tax when it was declared illegal. Rains said he wanted to hear arguments over the county having to pay plaintiffs attorney fees which could total more than $13 million.

Tuesday, Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said this could lead to job layoffs like last summer.

"Our salaries are the largest expenditure we make," Collins said. "So the first thing we would have to do, if we can meet payroll, is to start a reduction in force."

Commissioner Shelia Smoot said if the county is forced to pay more, it won’t be coming out of the commissioner’s pockets.

"When people say the county is picking up the full tab, the county is the taxpayers who pay into the general fund," Smoot said. "It's not from commissioners."

Commissioner Jim Carns also believes this could lead to budget troubles.

"Oh yeah, a $13 million hit will definitely cause problems," Carns said.

But others are not so sure.

"Frankly I think Commissioner Collins is an alarmest and looks on the bleakest side of everything without thinking things through and going to the worst case scenario," Commissioner Bobby Humphryes said.

One of the three attorneys that sued the county over the job tax believes this will not lead to hardships for the county.

"Judge decides the county puts up whatever attorney fees might award separate from the refund amount," Jim McFerrin said. "The money has been already set aside. It's not going to harm the county."

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Electronic bingo operators advised to close by June 4

By Alan Collins

BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) - Electronic bingo operators in the Bessemer cutoff of Jefferson County have been advised to shut down by 6 p.m. on June 4th.

Fairfield city attorney Michael Trucks told FOX6 News Tuesday he had advised all bingo operators in the cutoff to close their doors by 6 p.m. on Friday, June 4th, which is the day when the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on electronic bingo becomes final.

Trucks said Arthur Green, District Attorney for the Bessemer cutoff in Jefferson County, is comfortable with that advice.

Trucks said rumors that John Tyson, head of the governor's anti-gambling task force, was going to raid bingo halls today in Jefferson County were not true. He said Green told him Tyson continued to be "non-committal" on the matter.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham City Council looking to reduce budget cuts

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - On the table on Tuesday for the Birmingham City Council is a pair of plans to find a way to reduce Mayor William Bell's proposed cuts.

Mayor Bell's budget for next year contains several cuts, including an across the board 10% pay cut for city employees.

At Tuesday's city council meeting, members will vote on two resolutions. The first would request the mayor to sell surplus city property in an effort to find additional funding to balance the budget. The second measure would request the mayor to ask city employees for their ideas on ways the city can save money.

The resolution would have suggestions turned in no later than Monday.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Mobile County Commissioner charged with mistress' murder

MOBILE, AL (WBRC) - A Mobile County Commissioner, who is charged with murder, is scheduled to appear in court for his first call hearing Tuesday.

On Monday, a Baldwin County grand jury indicted Steve Nodine on a murder charge.

Authorities found Nodine's mistress Angel Downs dead at her condo May 9th in Gulf Shores. Investigators say Nodine is the only suspect in the case.

Witnesses report seeing Nodine's county-issued truck speeding from Downs' home the night of the shooting.

Currently, he is in jail on half-a-million dollar bond.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

AL Secretary of State worried over low voter turnout

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - Alabama's Secretary of State Beth Chapman has concerns about the possibility of an unusually low turnout next week.

Monday is a holiday and Chapman is concerned many people will not think about going to the polls on Tuesday.

On Good Day Alabama on Tuesday, Chapman stressed the importance of primary voting and how it will affect November’s elections. “If you don’t vote on Tuesday, then you won’t be able to determine who you vote for in November,” said Chapman. “One side of the ticket is probably going to have two runoffs, so you really need to go to the polls and decide who will be on the ballot for you and others to vote for in November.

Thursday is the last day to request an absentee ballot.

Chapman recommends having your ballot postmarked by Friday, which would factor in the holiday Monday when mail will not run.

For more information, including a voting location in your area, go to myvotealabama.com.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Crime down across U.S., Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Crime in the U.S. continues to drop. The FBI says property crime and violent offenses went down about five% last year. That is the third straight year with a decrease and challenges the conventional wisdom that crime goes up when the economy goes down.

In the Birmingham-metro area, crime is down compared with last year, but Birmingham is still ranked as one of the worst cities in the country regarding crime.

According to the FBI, the Magic City is 9th in the country for homicides per capita. New Orleans is number one.

Birmingham was 19th in the nation for violent crimes last year and fifth in overall property crime.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Man arrested in connection to Birmingham's 12th homicide of 2010

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham police have arrested this man in connection with the city's 12th homicide of the year.

They say Brandon Oden killed Ahmad Lewis. He is charged with capital murder and being held in the Jefferson County Jail.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Shelia Smoot comes out against recollecting refund money

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) – Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot says she will be making a push to stop the county from attempting recollect refund money from the occupational tax lawsuit.

Jefferson County attorneys say that the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that makes them refund the money from the occupational tax will also allow them to recollect the $37.8 million in funds.

Smoot says she will be offering a resolution in committee on Wednesday to stop the recollection of the money.

“(This) will be too much to drag the taxpayers through the mud,” says Smoot. “It’s time to move on from the occupational tax.”

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Old PACT Board holds final meeting

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - The board that has overseen Alabama’s prepaid college tuition program for two decades holds its final meeting.

Members authorized an attorney to try to settle lawsuits filed over the program's financial problems.

The legislature voted last month to appropriate money to make sure the PACT can pay the tuition of its participants. Lawmakers also created a new PACT board, which takes over June 1st.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More women taking advantage of their right to bear arms

By Sherea Harris

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Many homeowners are taking control of their personal safety. A local gun store owner says more women are taking advantage of the right to bear arms.

These are mainly women who live alone and single moms.

Officials say women are seeing that there are more incidents of home invasions and burglaries and they want to protect themselves.

There are two recent incidents in which intruders broke into homes. They both were shot and killed by homeowners.

Hoover Tactical Firearms says since they opened about eight months ago, 25% of his hand gun sales have been to females.

FOX6 spoke to a female gun owner. She didn't want to be identified for safety reasons.

She says her husband is away from home often for business reasons.

"I am not afraid to use it, no. I'm afraid someone will get hurt trying to come steal something from me," she said.

Keep in mind that to carry a concealed weapon, you are required to have a pistol permit. Conversely, you don't need a premit to have a gun in your home.

Chief Deputy Randy Christian says female attendance at gun safety classes offered by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office are higher than ever before.

The classes are free and include use of a firing range.

You can call the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 849-5246 for more information.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Local teachers get advice on how to cope with pink slips

By Emily Luxen

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham area teachers who have just lost their jobs because of state budget cuts and proration are uniting to try and get help. Leaders of the Birmingham and Jefferson County American Federation of Teachers chapters held a meeting Monday to distribute information about how to deal with layoffs.

Other teachers who still have jobs said this is important information, because they fear more cuts could be on the way, and they could also end up facing some tough times ahead.

President of the Jefferson County American Federation of Teachers, Vi Parramore, said there is no way to know how many more cuts are on the way, but she hopes she was able to pass along some useful information on unemployment benefits, insurance, and how to find a new job.

"They are so down and depressed, this gives them a heads up on where to go," said Parramore, "It gives them some direction. It tells them what government agencies are out there that can help people who are unemployed."

Local leaders said fewer teachers mean larger classes, and they're worried about how the cuts will impact each school district overall.

"It would destroy the academic process we have now as far as AP classes and art, and music," said Richard Franklin, the president of the Birmingham American Federation of Teachers. "It is amazing things that have been proposed, and they aren't thinking about the kids."

The Jefferson County and Birmingham school boards will discuss the possible job cuts at their meetings later this week.

Teachers must be notified of their status by the end of the school year.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates talk electronic bingo

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The fallout from the latest bingo ruling is stirring up the Democratic gubernatorial race with only a week before primary election day.

Electronic bingo has been a big issue for gubernatorial candidates from both parties, but most Republicans at least agree that they're opposed to electronic bingo but would tightly control it if the courts decide its legal.

Bingo and gaming has been the cornerstone of one of the 2 Democratic candidates campaigns. Today, Ron Sparks came out swinging, but not at his opponent.

"I'm asking the governor to stop this madness and stop this craziness in the state of Alabama," Sparks said at a Birmingham press conference. "The people don't deserve it and they wanna vote on it."

Sparks said he's asking Riley not to re-start raids on electronic bingo halls after a supreme court ruling last week that gives the governor final say in bingo issues.

Sparks said he would fire task force commander John Tyson and dismantle the operation if elected governor.

Rival Artur Davis capitalized on the ruling to point out his differences with Sparks on the bingo question.

"I think the ruling clarifies our differences in the Governor's race," Davis said. 'I'm the only candidate running who's not controlled by the gambling interests, but who is also for giving people a chance to vote. People ought to have a chance to resolve this question. But I'm not going to do it in a way where the deck is rigged to favor a few fat cats who are running a few casinos."

Both Democratic candidates agree on letting voters decide whether electronic bingo is legal, but no one is sure how casino raids would affect their race with just days before election day. Sparks says it might actually help his campaign.

"Anytime you wanna strategize on political campaigns, certainly people that's losing their jobs, someone that's trying to stick up for their job, possibly that could help you," Sparks said. "But my concern is that it's wrong."

"We don't have the gambling operators funding us like Sparks does," Davis said. "So we've gotta get out there and take our case to the people. We've gotta take our case to the voters. And we feel good about the last week of the campaign."

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Governor Riley unveils new research vessel

DAUPHIN ISLAND, AL (WBRC) - Alabama has a new tool for checking the health of coastal wildlife.

Governor Riley unveiled the Alabama Discovery, the newest research vessel at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

The vessel has a microscope and an LCD panel among other things that help researchers examine live animals and plants in mobile bay and along the coast.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Bessemer cutoff bingo halls facing task force raids

FAIRFIELD, AL (WBRC) – Several bingo halls in the Bessemer Cutoff are facing raids from the governor's task force on illegal gambling.

The threat of the raids comes after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled on Friday that power to enforce the laws on state gambling rests in the hands of the Governor. This ruling effectively ended a quarrel between Governor Riley and Attorney General Troy King who had taken opposing views on the enforcement of the law on electronic bingo.

District Attorney Arthur Greene says several bingo halls in Fairfield are still open and he believes the task force will raid this week. Greene adds that if the task force does not raid, he feels he will have to conduct the raids.

Fairfield City Attorney Michael Trucks spoke with task force commander John Tyson on Monday. Trucks says he was asking Tyson about how long the Fairfield bingo halls could be open due to the importance of revenue bingo brings to the city. Tyson answered that he feels the bingo halls should have closed on Friday after the Supreme Court's ruling. Tyson also said he is considering criminal prosecution of individuals involved in bingo, whether or not they are open.

Trucks says he feels there should not be any raids until the Supreme Court ruling is finalized two weeks after the ruling.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Man passes away days after vehicle accident

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – The Alabama Department of Public Safety says a Dora man has passed away several days after being involved in a wreck in Columbiana.

36-year-old Paul Spain passed away at UAB Hospital on Saturday, May 22nd.

Spain’s 2002 GMC Yukon was hit on Monday, May 17th while driving on Highway 25. The other vehicle was a 1999 Freightliner driven by 70-year-old Rot Horton.

Spain was taken to UAB Hospital after the wreck.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Authorities enforcing safety on land and water for Memorial Day

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - Alabama State troopers are increasing patrols ahead of Memorial Day.

It is the latest Take Back Our Highways campaign. Troopers say the emphasis this time is putting on your seatbelt.

“This memorial day we will be enforcing the state child restraint and seat belt laws,” says Trooper Charles Dysart. “We will be doing this through the program ‘Click it or Ticket’.”

The official Memorial Day holiday travel period begins at six Friday evening and ends at midnight Monday.

The increased patrols will run through Memorial Day.

The campaign will not just be on land, but on water, too.

There will be more patrols this coming weekend on Lake Logan Martin. In Pell City, marine police say they will help boaters to make sure they're properly and safely outfitted. They will also be keeping an eye on homes located on the lake after a number of complaints of theft.

Pell City's new marine police unit says increased patrols have helped cut the number of thefts dramatically

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham city employees to offers suggestions for budget cuts

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – The Birmingham City Council will vote Tuesday on a resolution asking city employees to submit their ideas on how to cut their own departments budget to the mayor by the end of the month.

Mayor Bell's current proposal would not only cut salaries, but also close 7 rec centers and 5 libraries for 9 months out of the year.

Bell calls the cuts tough but necessary.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Jeffco may be hit harder on occutax refunds

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County could be hit even more on the pocketbook in the occupational tax case.

A status conference was held Friday where DeKalb County Judge David Rains says he was dismayed at some part of the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling. Rains says the almost $38 million held in escrow could be $10 million dollars higher.

Attorneys for Jefferson County say the ruling allows them to recollect the money plus legal fees. Attorney Matt Lempke says it is not time to discuss those questions.

"The whole issue of how the recollection will work is premature. We have to wait and see what the Supreme Court is going to say and then have to wait and see what Judge Rains is going to do,"Lempke said.

Last week, Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said taxpayers could be reassessed any refund plus up to $13 million in possible legal fees. "Take those envelopes if they even get them and put on it return to sender," Collins said.

The attorneys who filed the lawsuit against the county challenging the old occupational tax say Collins is trying to intimidate the taxpayers not to accept a refund."I don't think there is any way to construe Ms. Collins comments but not to take the money. It's very offensive to me."McFerrin said.

DeKalb County Judge David Rains in court says he wants to hear arguments on why Jefferson County should not pick up the tab for up to $13 million dollars in legal fees instead of taking the money out of the refund amount. County attorneys say no. "The county has already objected to the fees coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets so we are certainly going to object to the order the county pay 13 million in legal fees with no benefit to the taxpayers," Lempke said.

Attorneys for the taxpayers say the county should not try to stop or recollect the refunds."We have a county commission. We have one member who says she wants to implement a revenge tax," McFerrin said.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham man charged with abuse of elderly parent

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – The Birmingham Police Department says they have taken a man into custody for the kidnapping and abuse of his elderly parent.

On Tuesday, officers from the East Precinct made a welfare check on Jones’ residence after reports were made that the resident had not been seen for over a month and a foul odor was emanating from the building. After making verbal contact with Jones, the officers found Jones to be uncooperative and obtained to search warrant in order to check on the victim.

The Birmingham Police Crime Reduction Team and U.S. Marshals entered the home and found the victim lying in a bedroom. The victim appeared malnourished and in need of medical treatment. Officers also report garbage and various insects throughout the home.

Jones will receive treatment for a mental condition before being transferred to the Jefferson County Jail.

The victim has been placed in the care of family members.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

New DVD addresses teen suicide

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - A new DVD is addressing what some educators say is a growing problem among young people: suicide.

With the backing of the governor’s office, the Alabama Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is sending a copy of a new DVD called “More Than Sad” to every public and private high school in the state.

“The actors portray what a child is going through, what his friends are seeing and how to get help and come out of that,” says Alan Weeks. Weeks is chairman of the Alabama’s AFSP chapter and has seen firsthand, the devastation suicide causes.

“Matt was the youngest of three sons. He had just graduated high school. We struggled with the last couple of years in high school…he was going through a depression.”

Weeks hopes the DVD will shed light on not just depression, but substance abuse and bullying and the connection it can have to suicide. “We hope through early education it can help and save kids and save kids for years to come.”

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Alabama Supreme Court sides with Governor Riley on gambling

By Ty Watwood

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - It's a big win for Governor Bob Riley and the illegal gambling task force.

The Alabama Supreme Court, in a Friday ruling, sided with Governor Riley in a long dispute over who has the power to enforce the state's laws against gambling. Governor Riley has accused Attorney General Troy King of not enforcing the law. King has accused the governor's task force of using "scare tactics" to shut down gaming halls.

"The counsel authorized by the Governor have the right to represent the State in this case and to see it through to completion," justices wrote in the opinion, which you can read by clicking here.

Governor Riley's office is expected to release a statement soon.

Watch FOX 6 News at 5:00 and 6:00 for more information on this developing story.

Tim James: Bradley Byrne owes my father an apology

VESTAVIA HILLS, AL (WBRC) - Republican candidate for governor Tim James says one of his primary opponents owes his father an apology.

James responded to Republican rival Bradley Byrne who has launched a television commercial that claims James success in a toll bridge and road in Baldwin County was the direct result of his father, then Governor Fob James.

Last week, Byrne pointed to an agreement in the final days of the Fob James administration that freed up federal funds to be used for a bypass that connected to the toll bridge and road. Byrne's campaign commercial calls it an insider deal.

During a campaign stop in Vestavia Hills, James called the commercial a lie.

“It is absolutely false and Bradley Byrne needs to, ought to apologize,” said James. “He doesn't need to apologize to me, but he ought to apologize to my dad because he has questioned the integrity of an honest man.”

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Missouri fugitive spotted in Cullman County

GOOD HOPE, AL (WBRC) - Cullman County authorities are still searching for a fugitive who is wanted in Missouri.

25-year-old Adam Teague is accused of endangering a police officer. Investigators say he was seen at a business in Good Hope on Thursday morning. They say he ran off after he was spotted.

If you have any information you are asked to call the sheriff's office at (256) 734-0342.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Wanted fugitive taken down by police in Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WBRC) - The search for one of America’s most wanted ended at a grocery store in Huntsville on Thursday.

U.S. marshals and Huntsville police followed 22-year-old Gilberto Vargas from a home to the store and took him down in the parking lot. Police say Vargas tried to run, but they subdued him with a stun gun and pepper spray.

Vargas was with two women, driving a u-haul, and towing a car. He was supposedly leaving for California. Inside the vehicle, officers found an a-k 47, a shot gun, and a handgun.

The women are not expected to face charges.

Vargas was recently featured on the FOX show “Americas Most Wanted.” He's a suspected Chicago gang member accused of murder.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Burglars hit Hueytown Texaco, take ATM

HUEYTOWN, AL (WBRC) - Hueytown police are searching for several people involved in a convenience store burglary.

Investigators say several burglars broke into the Texaco on Johns Road shortly before it was supposed to open on Friday morning.

They stole an ATM and all the loose money they could find in the building.

So far, there are no arrests in the case.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Judge questions ruling on JeffCo occupational tax

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The judge handling the lawsuit over the Jefferson County occupational tax expressed Friday his dismay towards a recent ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court in the matter.

DeKalb County Circuit Judge David Raines held a status hearing Friday morning in Birmingham with attorneys in the case. Judge Raines said he was "dismayed" by the court's ruling last week which could allow the county to keep some, if not all, of the more than $37 million collected by the county in 2009 under the old occupational tax.

Judge Raines declared that tax illegal in January 2009 and, after unsuccessful appeals, the Legislature approved a new occupational tax in August 2009.

Friday, Judge Raines suggested to the attorneys in the case that not only should the $37 million be refunded to the taxpayer, but another $10 million may be needed for refunds. In addition, Judge Raines also questioned whether legal fees, which are now projected to be at around $13 million, should be paid by Jefferson County instead of coming out of the escrow account for the refunds.

Judge Raines suggested the county should be responsible for paying the legal fees with funds not associated with the money collected under the old occupational tax.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Drivers being cautious as waters rise over roadways

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The rain has drivers taking precautions today as waters rise on roads.

People driving on Arkadelphia Road and 16th Avenue West had to avoid one lane that was flooded around 10:00 a.m. and people were trying to avoid rising waters on airport highway. Luckily no one got stuck today.

In Homewood, the rain waters were rising on Montgomery Highway and Oxmoor Road. Drivers were careful getting through the intersection.

Officials want drivers to remember to keep it safe; the phrase to remember is “don't drown, turn around”.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Gulf coast spill hurting seafood lovers' wallets

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - After 30 days of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, seafood lovers are starting to feel the pain in their pocketbook.

At Snapper Grabbers in Vestavia Hills, owner Pat Cary says his supply of shrimp, oysters and crabmeat is starting to dwindle. "Alabama shrimpers, they are working the cleanup. There are doing less shrimping. Less product and a lot more demand for that product. That's going to rise the cost of course," Cary said.

The cost of shrimp and oysters has jumped about $2 a pound. At Jubilee Joe’s in Hoover, owner Kash Siddiqui says the oil spill has increased pressure on his business. "It's affecting our cost. It's brought it up which is hurting business because we have to increase our prices to stay in business it's getting tough," Siddiqui said

Both businesses are being forced to look for seafood further down the gulf, closer to Florida and elsewhere. "We love the gulf product. It's the best. It's my favorite of all. I have to go to go to other options. I don't have a choice," Siddiqui said.

So the good news at this moment in Alabama, is that seafood is still in good supply here, but those who depend on seafood are keeping a close eye on the gulf and what BP is doing to solve the gulf coast crisis. "Get it shutdown now. We want to get it stopped as fast as we can. They are still pumping a lot of oil out there. We got to get it stopped," Cary said.

Until then Cary and Siddiqui are vowing to continue to search for quality seafood for their customers and to try to keep the price down as much as possible.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Coosa County Asst. D.A., lawyer arrested

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - An assistant district attorney and lawyer have been arrested on charges of extortion, bribery, and ethics violations.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King, in a statement Thursday afternoon to FOX6 News, said Frank Selman Teel, an assistant district attorney from Coosa County, and Frank Wayne Bailey, an attorney from Gadsden, were arrested Wednesday night on the felony charges. King said the two are accused of using the threat of indictment to force the settlement of a civil lawsuit for millions of dollars and, alternatively, offering to try to keep the man from being charged if he did pay the money.

King said his agents and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation arrested the two men late Wednesday night after the two men accepted a check for $1 million.

Teel, 59, of Sylacauga, is an assistant district attorney in Coosa County who also practices private law in Rockford. Teel and Bailey, 58, were handling a civil lawsuit against a man who could face capital murder charges.

Teel is charged with:
• One count of second-degree extortion, a class C felony, in that between March 24, 2010, and May 19, 2010, he used threats to obtain $1 million belonging to Carl Weaver and or Jay Stover, by either threatening to cause an official action or to withhold an official action;
• One count of bribery or accepting a bribe, a class C felony, in that between March 24, 2010, and May 19, 2010, as a public servant in his capacity as assistant district attorney, he solicited or agreed to accept $5 million to corruptly influence his official action, by using his position to prevent the indictment of Carl Weaver; and
• One count of intentional use of his public position as assistant district attorney for unlawful personal gain in violation of the state ethics law, a class B felony.

Bailey is charged with:
• One count of second-degree extortion, a class C felony, in that between March 24, 2010, and May 19, 2010, he aided and abetted Teel in using threats to obtain $1 million belonging to Carl Weaver and or Jay Stover, by either threatening to either cause an official action or to withhold an official action;
• One count of bribery or accepting a bribe, a class C felony, in that between March 24, 2010, and May 19, 2010, he aided and abetted Teel in soliciting or agreeing to accept $5 million for the corrupt influence of Teel’s official action to prevent the indictment of Carl Weaver; and
• One count of aiding and abetting Teel in the intentional use of Teel’s public position as assistant district attorney for unlawful personal gain in violation of the state ethics law, a class B felony.

Both men were being held Thursday in the Etowah County Jail with bond totaling $10,000 for each defendant.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Car slams into Birmingham Post Office branch

By Ty Watwood

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Authorities are trying to figure out why someone drove a car into the West End station of the Birmingham Post Office.

Most of the grey Lincoln Towncar plowed into the brick wall of the post office. The female driver was not injured. Birmingham police officers are investigating the incident.

Watch FOX 6 News at 5:00 for more information on this story.

Birmingham Library officials release list of proposed branch closings

By Ashley Nix & Ty Watwood

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Birmingham Public Library Board releases a list of library branches that could close for 9 months to help combat the city's budget deficit.

The library board is against closing any branches, but provided a list of five branches to Mayor William Bell Thursday afternoon. Library officials say the following branches could close without causing any major disruption in service to citizens:

* Slossfield, 1916 25th Court N
* North Avondale, 501 43rd Street N
* Ensley, 1201 25th Street Ensley
* East Ensley, 900 14th Street Ensley
* Inglenook, 4100 40th Terrace N

The library board wants its director, Irene Blaylock, to meet with Mayor Bell to work out the board's concerns about the proposal, before voting.

Watch FOX 6 News at 6:00 for more information on this story.

Man arrested in murder of Hokes Bluff woman

GADSDEN, AL (WBRC) - A man has been arrested in connection with the murder of a Hokes Bluff woman.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin, in a statement Thursday to FOX6 News, said Jeremy Wayne Grissom, 25, of Hokes Bluff, was charged with the murder of Monica Michelle Payne, 28, of Hokes Bluff. Grissom was also charged with abuse of a corpse.

Sheriff Entrekin said Payne's severely beaten body was found Wednesday inside a residence located on Clinton Street in Hokes Bluff. He said the cause of death was speculated to be blunt force trauma to the head, but said an autopsy was currently underway to determine the exact cause of death.

"A motivation for the murder is yet to be determined," Sheriff Entrekin said in the statement. "In the early stages of the investigation, it appears to be a domestic violence incident that escalated into a homicide."

Sheriff Entrekin said Grissom wrapped Payne's body multiple times in plastic and duct tape, then placed her body inside a duffle bag, cleaned the house and moved her car to another location.

Hokes Bluff Police said they arrested Grissom Wednesday evening after one of his family members called 911.

"The event that occurred yesterday is a shock to our community,” Hokes Bluff Police Chief Mitchell Hill said in the statement. "We read about these incidents and think it won’t happen in our community. It was a very sad day for us all."

Grissom was being held in the Etowah County Detention Center on $500,000 bond for each charge.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham police searching for missing man

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – The Birmingham Police Department needs your help in locating 62-year-old Henry Williams.

William walked away from UAB Hospital on Wednesday where he was being treated for mental illness. He is described as a black male, 5’10” and 175 lbs with brown eyes and black hair.

If there is anyone who has information pertaining to this case, they are encouraged to contact B.P.D. detectives @ 297-8413 or Crime Stoppers at 254-7777.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Four-year-old severely injured by automatic window

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WBRC) - A four-year-old girl remains in critical condition after investigators say she got her neck caught in a pickup truck window. The incident happened near Huntsville.

Officers say the girl had stuck her head outside her father's pickup and somehow hit an electric switch to roll up the window closing it on her neck.

Police say they do not know how long the girl was stuck, but paramedics revived the girl before she was flown to Huntsville Hospital.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Condoleeza Rice visits Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes another visit to Birmingham on Thursday.

Doctor Rice is the keynote speaker at the AG Gaston Boys and Girls Club anniversary dinner.

The annual dinner is the primary fundraiser for the club that serves more than 1,500 children.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Mistrial declared in Shaunasty Lowe murder trial

By Ashley Nix & Ty Watwood

BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) - A mistrial has been declared in the Shaunasty Lowe capital murder trial.

Two jurors apparantly knew witnesses that were called by the prosecution. An adaquate number of replacement jurors was not available Thursday morning, so a mistrial had to be declared.

A new trial has been set for September 13.

Lowe is charged with capital murder, accused of killing Derrick and Elizabeth Witherspoon and their two sons in 2008, and then setting the house the family lived in on fire.

Watch FOX 6 News at 5:00 and 6:00 for more information on this story.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All Rights Reserved.

Jeffco leaders against legal fees in refund battle

By Alan Collins

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - A war of words has erupted over legal fees in the occupational refund battle. On Wednesday, Jefferson County attorney Jeff Sewell updated county commissioners on the Alabama Supreme Court ruling from last week.

"We know plaintiffs lawyers not provided any net benefit to taxpayers because the taxpayers still owe 37.8 million dollars," Sewell said.

Sewell says the ruling means the county is entitled to recollect the money from the escrow account, $37.8 million which was designed to go to refund taxpayers who paid the tax after a court struck it down. Sewell says if $13 million is granted in legal fees to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, the taxpayers will be responsible for repaying the money to the county.

Jim McFerrin, one of the three attorneys who sued county, says it has been a hardship on him and his family. "For three years I foolishly took the battle to fight the Jefferson County Commission from taking something out of everyone's pocket. So far I haven't made anything," McFerrin said.

McFerrin says it will be up to DeKalb County Judge David Rains how much legal fees will be if there are any.

Commission President Bettye Fine Collins says the county will oppose $13 million in legal fees. "The citizens of Jefferson County have been victimized by the lawsuit two or three people filed in class action lawsuit," Collins said.

Commissioner Shelia Smoot wants a detailed legal bill from the lawyers. "I want a deliberate accounting not only for the county, but their clients they claim to be fighting for. What did they do? "Smoot said.

One thing McFerrin and the other lawyers plan to do is fight Jefferson County's efforts to recollect the job tax refunds. "We are going to do anything we have to make sure the people get their money," McFerrin said.

A status hearing is set for Friday with Judge Rains in Jefferson County.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

BJCC board fights to keep hotel plans alive

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The BJCC Board of Directors hopes to keep a $70 million hotel and entertainment district alive. On Wednesday, the board announced they will meet with the Birmingham City Council soon.

This week, Birmingham Mayor William Bell pulled the project off of the table after the council raised several questions about financing and control of the project.

The BJCC board says the project is too important to put on the back burner. "The ability to be at the table for a four star hotel speaks volumes for this community. We got to keep this project going forward," said Clyde Echols, BJCC Chairman.

Next week, the board’s attorney Tom Stewart hopes to present to the city council members a proposed draft of a legal agreement to oversee the project. A meeting between both bodies is expected to be set up soon afterwards.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Search continues for missing boater at Weiss Lake

CHEROKEE COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - The search for a missing boater resumes in Cherokee County.

Our Anniston newsroom says us the boater is 67-year-old Jerry Coker of Georgia.

Authorities say Coker's boat hit a log and he fell out into the Weiss Lake backwaters near Cedar Bluff.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

More arrests made in Operation RECON

ETOWAH COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - More arrests have been made in Etowah County’s "Operation RECON."

RECON stands for "Ridding Etowah County Of Narcotics."

Local, state and federal agents hit the streets with more than 200 warrants, targeting what they call street level dealers.

“We're able to catch more people. We're able to get out here with more agents, more money to spend, and everything's working good. So we're able to get out here and make more cases,” says Sheriff Todd Entrekin.

90 suspects have now been arrested. More than 60 suspects remain.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham considering ban on texting while driving

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Texting while driving is up for discussion now in Birmingham.

A ban took effect, Wednesday, in Vestavia Hills.

The proposal in Birmingham would be very similar to the Vestavia Hills law where violators could face a fine of up to 100 dollars for texting and even typing on a GPS while driving. The council's law department will review a proposal by the public safety committee.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Police and community unite to discuss violence

By Emily Luxen

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - After a deadly shooting at a graduation party over the weekend, a group of Tuscaloosa community leaders are uniting in an effort to stop the violence.

Wednesday night's event featured prayer and suggestions on how to stop the problem.

Residents said the situation is frustrating, and they want to see an end to the senseless violence.

"It's not alright," said Olivia Davis. "It's time for the community and parents to come together and find what is going on with our children, and why we have so much violence."

Tuscaloosa Police said 20-year-old Akeem Prewitt opened fire in a crowded room at an apartment complex early Sunday. Maurice Muhammad said he felt it was important to organize Wednesday's event because now is the time for the community to unite and fight back.

"I think one of the greatest causes is apathy," said Muhammad. "One of the things to prevent these situations is to become more involved in the day to day operations of our communities, and the daily policing of our community."

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson said it will take everyone's help to stop the violence.

"We as Tuscaloosa Police Department realize we don't have the resources to address all the problems in the community," said Chief Anderson. "We need the community's support and help in doing that."

Residents at the event said they are ready to take the first step towards making their community safer, and hopefully, prevent future tragedies from happening.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

YouTube becoming popular place for campaigning

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - If you haven't seen it, you've probably heard about it. A new campaign ad for Agriculture Commissioner candidate is getting thousands of hits on YouTube.

This follows the "English-only" ad from GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim James that generated days of national press coverage.

The new ad from candidate Dale Peterson hasn't aired as a paid commercial, but it's gotten a lot of play from conservative supporters across the country.

It's also been the 'butt' of many jokes in the within national media as well. Depending on who you ask, it's either a brilliant strategy, or it's part of a phenomenon even Peterson himself is still trying to understand.

"The idea of a viral YouTube video is to get enough attention from it that the press picks up on it," said Dr. Larry Powell, a UAB political analyst. "And the press picking up on it is when you get real exposure."

So are we fulfilling his wishes as we speak?

"That is correct. This is his goal all along, " said Dr. Powell.

"What tickles me more than anything about the ad, it is bringing good attention to Alabama," Peterson said. "And it's about the people of Alabama and the people of the country."

Peterson says he had no idea this ad would take off, and he knows he's the butt of some jokes, but that doesn't bother him.

"So be it. As long as I know in here that I am for the people of this country and for the people of Alabama, that's all that counts to me."

Peterson says the response to his web-only video has given him enough donations to put the spot on broadcast TV in the days leading up to the primary.

So is this trend of viral videos drawing big media attention like this story good or bad for politics, and ultimately voters?

"A little bit of both," Powell said. "It allows candidates with low money to have an impact on the campaign, that's the good thing about it, it allows them to get their message out. The bad thing is it does encourage extreme statements, and extreme statements are generally not good for the political process."

Dr. Powell says it's important to understand that YouTube hits or blog embeds, especially if they come from out-of-state viewers, don't always translate into success at the polls. "There is a big distinction between getting attention and getting votes. And some candidates forget about that. To get votes not only do you have to get attention but the message has to be one that will resonate with a broad spectrum of voters."

Dorman Grace and John McMillan are also running for the Republican nomination in the Agriculture Commissioner's race.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Proposed list of rec centers to be closed released

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham Mayor William Bell released Wednesday a list of the city's recreation centers he proposes should be temporarily closed as part of his effort to save money.

Mayor Bell's staff released the following list to FOX6 News:

Howze Sanford
Willow Wood
Harrison
M L King
Crumpton
Sandusky
Fountain Heights
Roosevelt City
Harriman

Bell's office said these nine parks were chosen because of their condition and low yearly attendance.

Tuesday, Mayor Bell announced the closings as part of his plan to cut millions of dollars in spending in the 2011 budget. The budget was submitted to the city council for discussion.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Bank robbery suspect arrested

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A man was arrested Wednesday in connection with a bank robbery in Birmingham.

Birmingham Police, in a statement Wednesday to FOX6 News, said officers were called to the Regions Bank at 1809 Avenue E shortly after noon. Dispatchers were told a man entered the bank and presented a note demanding money. Officers arrived and discovered the suspect, unarmed, inside the bank.

The suspect was taken into custody by officers. No one was hurt.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Federal judge denies Bill Blount's request to stay out of jail longer

By Ty Watwood

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A federal judge for a second time has denied investment banker Bill Blount's request to delay his prison sentence for bribing former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford.

U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler denied Blount's request. This is the second time Blount has asked Judge Coogler for a delay. Blount previously argued that he wanted to pay his full $1 million in restitution before reporting to prison. After Judge Coogler denied the motion, Blount filed another request under seal, or in secret.

Bill Blount is scheduled to report to prison May 27. Blount will serve 52 months in prison after pleading guilty to bribing Larry Langford for sewer bond business, when Langford was president of the Jefferson County Commission.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All Rights Reserved.

Divers searching for murder evidence in Logan Martin

CROPWELL, AL (WBRC) - The St. Clair County Sheriff's Department is searching Lake Logan Martin for evidence of a murder.

Investigators are focusing off the waters near Rabbit Branch Marina in Cropwell.

Divers believe there may be evidence dropped in the water from a murder in Georgia.

So far, nothing has surfaced.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Three injured in morning crash in Forestdale

FORESTDALE, AL (WBRC) - Three people were rushed to the hospital on Wednesday morning after an accident on Highway 78 and Tomahawk Road in Forestdale.

Investigators say two vehicles smashed into each other around 7:00 a.m.

One of the victims was 3-years-old and another was 17-years-old.

There is no word on their conditions.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Etowah County conducts massive drug roundup

ETOWAH COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Authorities are expected on Wednesday to release more info about a series of raids and roundups based on drug charges in Etowah County.

Sheriff’s deputies, Gadsden police officers and federal agents arrested dozens of suspect in what they are calling "Operation Recon", ridding Etowah County of narcotics.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin says these raids bring in 300 to 400 drug suspects a year, not counting those arrested on a daily basis.

"If we didn't do this, just imagine the number of people who'd be on the streets of Etowah County selling drugs,” said Sheriff Todd Entrekin. “We do these, like I said, at least every three to four months. And each time, they get bigger."

As of Tuesday afternoon, officers and drug agents had arrested about half of the 154 suspects.

The Etowah County sheriff's office plans to hold a news conference at one on Wednesday to release more information on Operation Recon.

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.