New Year’s Day is usually a time of celebration and excitement, but in 2013 that was marred by the tragic loss of three young lives. Jordan Ryan Smith, 17, of Jasper, and Brandon Tyler Ary, 19, and Jordan Seth Montgomery, 17, both of Arley, died when the plane they were piloting crashed shortly after taking off from the Walker County Airport.
Three Jasper men also died when the Arc bus they were passengers in crashed into a tree in May. No cause has been given for the accident, but at least one lawsuit has been filed in relation to it.
A bomb threat forced the evacuation of Walker Baptist Medical Center and the closing of Hwy 69’s bridges throughout the county in July. The stunt was apparently to create a distraction for the armed robbery of the Traders and Farmers Bank in Curry later that day. Authorities apprehended Brandon Peake and Tamara Files in Tennessee following that robbery. Peake recently pled guilty in federal court to the incidents but may still be facing local charges.
Wanda Kiser was extradited from West Virginia to face more than a dozen counts of forgery related to the 2002 disappearance of Mary Cobb and her daughter Wynona Delvecchio.
Local authorities have called the case one of the strangest in their careers. The woman had not been seen in a decade when a human skull was found under the former residence of the ladies in Jasper.
After the initial arrest, the remains of two bodies were found in a West Virginia storage unit.
Kiser is currently hospitalized and unresponsive.
Cities in turmoil
Carbon Hill’s city government was hit hard this year, with Mayor James “Pee Wee” Richardson being arrested and charged with inappropriate behavior toward inmates in the city jail, and three council members resigning less than a year after being elected. The city also fired Police Chief Kenneth Bobo only a few months after appointing him.
The city of Dora also had its share of turmoil this year, with the council and mayor being split down the middle on most decisions. The initial disagreement came after the city’s fire chief was temporarily appointed by the council for a second time.
Mayor Randy Stephens appointed Chris Edwards permanently at the next meeting. Stephens said the temporary appointments had dragged on long enough and cited state law that names the mayor as the appointing authority for the city.
The city requested an opinion on the matter from the attorney general and that opinion upheld the mayor as the appointing authority for the fire chief, in the absence of any previous city law that named the council as the authority. The city clerk also resigned and subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city.
There was much discussion over the plans to build a new Walker High School. The city and school board have gone back and forth on plans and costs associated with the new school, but construction is expected to begin in 2014.
In east Walker, the long-awaited building of a new Sumiton Elementary School began with a groundbreaking in May. The school is expected to be completed in time for the 2014-2015 school year.
Like many municipalities, Jasper was faced with dealing with an aging, dilapidated jail. After being unable to reach a resolution to house the prisoners at Walker County Jail, the city struck a deal with Winston County. Inmates were transferred to Winston County Jail beginning in May.
The Walker Civil Service Board upheld the firing of Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Hadder in April.
Sales Tax Increases
Three local cities voted to increase sales tax, Jasper, Carbon Hill and Sumiton. Jasper’s sales tax increased by 1 percent, or one cent on each dollar to help fund the construction of the new high school.
Carbon Hill also approved a 1 percent increase to go into the city’s general fund and a portion into the garbage fund for the city. Sumiton approved a 1.5 percent increase with a portion to go toward funding a new fire station.
The city finally was able to demolish the remains of downtown.
The area had been battered by tornados in 2011 and the rubble burned on three occasions.
The city also received grant money to realign Main Street and build a new city hall and police station.
The city also became the fifth city in the county to vote to allow alcohol sales.
Shane “Bucket” Tucker was a finalist on CMT’s “Redneck Island.” It has been reported that he was in discussions to host his own reality show.
Roy Wooley appeared on Syfy’s “Face Off” as an all-star.
Shelbie Z. Panter also competed on NBC’s “The Voice.”
Two local restaurants, Hickoryland and Larry’s Kontry Kitchen in Sumiton, were lost to fire this year. Two churches, Jasper’s First Church of the Nazarene and New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Dora, also burned.
In August, Walker Coach John Holladay punched a Cullman High School coach following a football game by the two rivals. Holladay resigned as Walker’s coach and the Vikings were banned from post-season play for the 2013 season.
The city of Jasper announced late in the year that four major retailers — T.J. Maxx, Petco, Hobby Lobby and Shoe Carnival — will be built in the Jasper Square Shopping Center.
Jasper’s Cobb Theater closed its doors in September, after decades of service to the community.
Full Moon BBQ opened its doors in late 2013 on Hwy. 78.
Cracker Barrel announced construction on its much-anticipated restaurant in Jasper will begin on Jan. 6, 2014.
Winston County Sheriff’s Deputies were investigating an abandoned vehicle report when they found four dead bodies.
The occupants were from Tennessee and the deaths were ruled murder-suicide.
An unrelated double murder set residents on edge in the normally quiet county. One man is charged in that case with murdering Maxine Carroll, 80, and Bryan Stephens, 50, in Carroll’s home.