Press Release Issued by Clay County Sheriff Ray Latham:
On December 7, 2017, Clay County Sheriff’s Deputies initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle traveling south on Highway 77 near Antioch Road. As Deputies approached the vehicle, the driver fled in the vehicle and continuing south on Alabama 77. A pursuit began as deputies attempted to stop the fleeing driver.
Ashland P.D. & Lineville P.D. was called to assist, as the vehicle was traveling into the Ashland area on Alabama 77. The vehicle was followed for several miles, turning onto Idaho Road, back to Antioch, then again on Alabama 77 where the driver lost control in a driveway off Alabama 77 and attempted to flee on foot.
Following a short foot pursuit, the suspect was taken into custody. It did not take long for deputies and police to realize the reason for the evasion. Arrested was Gerry Brannon Walker, age 36 of Talladega. Walker was charged with Trafficking in Methamphetamine, (ICE), Unlawful Possession of Marihuana 1st, Unlawful possession of Controlled Substance, Unlawful Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and fleeing or attempting to elude Law Enforcement.
Also arrested was Jessica Susan McCook, age 28 of Goodwater. McCook was charged with Trafficking in Methamphetamine, (ICE), Unlawful possession of Marihuana 1st, and unlawful possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Walker remains in the Detention Center with bonds totaling $97000.00. McCook also remains in the Detention Center with bonds totaling $81000.00.
Sheriff Latham and staff would like to thank the Ashland and Lineville Police Department’s Personnel for their assistance in this arrest.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “ Jeremiah 29:11
Country Music Artist and Songwriter Jeff Bates is a testament to this scripture. At the age of 54, Jeff has seen the best of times, the worst of times, and is now using these life lessons as a tool to help others. His incredible story is one of inspiration that should be written in stone to be shared with the world in order to show people that no matter how bad things are going in your life, there is always room for redemption. This is his story:
Jeff Bates was born in Mobile, Alabama on September 19,1963 to a life he was probably fortunate enough to not remember. At just 3 months old, Jeff was placed on the doorstep of a sharecropper couple in the wee hours of the morning. Awakened by his cries, they were startled to find a very sick infant in a basket in a soiled diaper wrapped in a blanket on their porch. The blanket he was draped in, as well as much of Jeff’s little body, was covered with burns and he had double pneumonia. The Bates opened their hearts and home to this child, as they nursed him back to health. He was an answer to their prayers, a gift from God…
The Bates had only been married just a couple of years and desperately wanted a large family, although despite the prayers and efforts, had not happened yet. Both had come from abusive homes and wanted as many children as God would bless them with so they could give them a loving and secure home they had never had.
For the next year, The Bates did everything they could to find out who Jeff belonged to by placing ads in newspapers in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisana, but no one ever came forward. So, after a year of silence, they formally adopted Jeff and raised him as one their own. The Bates would go on to have the large family they had always dreamed of by rearing eight children, in addition to Jeff.
As he grew into a boy, Jeff would never question why he was the only one out of nine children not to have blonde hair and blue eyes. At the age of seven, Jeff got into a fight on the school bus with another boy who would reveal this life-altering information by lashing out “You don’t really belong to those people. You’re not a Bates and you don’t belong here.”
Jeff ran home crying with these questions for his parents and his fears were confirmed. Jeff’s mother told him the truth in a very honest method. “I just want you to know that out of all these kids, you’re special, because we got to pick you.” Jeff didn’t take this news well, and really started paying attention to the differences between him and his siblings. He felt like he didn’t belong anymore and began to withdraw from friends. His introverted behavior would follow him throughout his high school years.
Jeff’s mother was a huge musical influence in his life because she, too, was a singer. None of his siblings would have this gift. Jeff could remember sitting out on the porch at night listening to her sing and singing along with her. It would ignite a passion for music in him that would carry him throughout his life. At the age of 11, Jeff traded a rusty old 57 Chevrolet Bel Air given to him by his father for his first Fender guitar. That guitar was always by his side wherever he went. He would sleep with it and take it to school with him.
When Jeff was 15, he accepted Christ as his Saviour. And although he would stray later from these beliefs, he would eventually find his way back.
People began to take notice of his “Conway-style” voice and at the age of 17, Jeff got his first gig playing at a night club. Unfortunately, Jeff began to take notice of new ways to numb his pain from feeling misplaced in the world. He began to drink heavily, followed by the introduction of crystal meth in his life, which sent him into a downward spiral. The first time Jeff did meth, he was hooked. He did whatever he could do to get his next fix, which included stealing from family and friends.
So, the pattern was pretty much set for Jeff for the next 20 years. He would work a daytime job and then play gigs on the weekend. This destructive path he was on eventually tangled with law enforcement world and his problems began to mount. Jeff had given up on his faith in God. He no longer believed that God, Jesus, or even the devil didn’t exist anymore, it was only the survival of the fittest.
But on March 14, 2001, things would come to a head when Jeff found himself in the back of a police car after being arrested for grand theft in Nashville. Many would think this was the end of his story, but for Jeff, it was his saving grace. “It saved my life”, he admitted, “I was slowly dying.”
In jail, they told Jeff he was looking at a sentence of six to fifteen years. It was a sobering revelation, and he hit his knees to pray to God to show him the way. Jeff knew that his actions alone had landed him in jail, so he didn’t ask God to get him out, but yet, he asked God to change him. “I had lost everything I’d ever had. I had ruined every relationship I had ever had in my life with lies, emotional abuse, used them, or stole from them.”
Jeff was given the option to attend a 12-step rehab program, and he willingly entered the program. Part of Jeff’s rehab was to make a list of all the people he had wronged and then make amends. Jeff said he asked God to be with him as he placed calls to everyone on his list with his apology and promise to pay them back somehow. Another step was to make a list of everybody he had ever felt anger and resentment for in his life. Jeff said he surprised himself when he turned in a 40- page letter three days later. “I had blamed everyone else for everything that had ever happened to me in life but myself. But I was the problem, so I kept working on that.”
45 days into his jail sentence, as he continually asked God to help let go of the anger and guilt, Jeff got his epiphany, when a Biblical scene began to play out before his very eyes just like watching a movie, where religious leaders were trying to trick Jesus into saying something wrong, so they could kill him. Jeff said was the realest thing he had ever experienced, and he began to let go of all those harbored feelings. With the weight finally from his guilt-ridden shoulders, he went to bed and slept better than he had in years. He finally felt free.
The very next day, Jeff got his first jail visitor, his song plugger from Warner Chapel, a record deal he had lost when he went to jail. During that visit, Jeff was then informed that some of his songs he had written had been recorded that very day by big name country artists, such as Gene Watson, Montgomery Gentry, and Tracy Lawrence. Another gift from God, he said.
Jeff continued his daily prayer ritual for God to show him the way and was once again blessed when the judge gave him a 15- year suspended sentence and one- year probation. He got out of jail with only the clothes on his back and was given a life line by a friend, who he had once stolen from. This friend shoved the very guitar Jeff had once stolen from and told him to start writing songs again and get his record deal back. His friend also gave him a place to stay and some clothes. Jeff got a job pouring concrete and slowly began crossing names off his list of people he had once stolen from to pay back. Within a year, he had paid every one of them back.
And the rest is history…
One year to the day he got out of jail, he got a call from RCA records for a record deal. At the age of 37, Jeff’s dream was finally coming true, thanks to God and perseverance. His first album “Rainbow Man” produced two hits on the Billboard national chart, “Long, Slow Kisses” and “I Wanna Make You Cry”. He would go on to have seven songs on the Billboard charts over time. At present time, he has a #9 song on the Christian Country Inspirational Chart called “Judging Judas”. He still writes songs and has a couple of songs on hold by Alan Jackson.
Over the course of his career, Jeff has probably written over 2000 songs. He travels from town to town playing gigs all over from bars to small venues. And on Sunday morning, he’s in church sharing his story. He remains clean and sober after 17 years of that fateful incident that re-shaped his life.
Jeff is completely content with his life and has dedicated his life to helping those facing drug and alcohol addictions. Through the Jeff Bates Ministries, he travels to jails, prisons, and recovery programs to share his story with others to let them know that they are not alone and there’s a better way. “We spend most of our lives trying to make others happy and fail miserably. What does work is making ourselves happy through Christ. Then we can help others”, Jeff says with a smile.
On Friday night, Dec. 1st, Jeff Bates will play at the historic Ashland Theatre “An Acoustic Christmas” and will feature his Christmas CD “Once Upon a Star”. All songs on this CD were wrote by Jeff and tell the story of Christmas in his own way. Jeff reconnected with his love for Christmas through his 12-step program 16 years ago, and now embraces it in every way. Jeff and his seven-year-old daughter spend a lot of quality time watching those old Christmas classics, such as “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”. Jeff invites everyone to his performance for a night filled with the Holy Spirit and the Christmas Season.
Press Release Issued by Ashland Police Chief Joseph Stanford
On November 14, 2017 Ashland Police and Clay Sheriff’s Deputies made contact with a suspect that was believed to be involved in several of the burglaries in our area.
The suspect was identified by some witnesses as a person of interest, and both agencies sought him to speak with him about the cases. Ashland Police Department Sergeant Tony Hubbard, and Clay County Investigators Jason Freeman and Shannon House spoke to the suspect, Brandon Edwards, and admitted to the burglary on Tyson Road from November 4. He also admitted to several other burglaries that the county had outstanding.
As always, we at the Ashland Police Department would like to thank the Clay County Sheriff’s Department and the Lineville Police Department for their assistance in solving this case.
Below is a press release issued by Lineville Police Chief Shane Dunnagan:
On Tuesday, October 24th Lineville Police Department received a report of a stolen truck off Youngs Mill Rd. Lineville Investigator Mathews spoke to the victim and then to neighbors and quickly came up with a suspect.
While trying to track down the subject, Inv. Mathews received information that he was in the Anniston area. Inv. Mathews was able to recover video of the subject in the stolen truck just hours after it was stolen.
With the help of the victim, nitty gritty, and social media pictures of the truck were circulated throughout the county and surrounding areas.
On Saturday, October 28th the vehicle was spotted in the Lineville area and Lineville Police was notified. Because of the direction of travel, Officers notified Wedowee and Randolph County of the vehicle possibly heading their way. Wedowee Police located the vehicle and attempted to make a traffic stop.
The Occupants in the vehicle ran, but the truck was recovered. Subjects name cannot be released due to the age, but charges have been filed for the theft of the truck.
Thanks to the surrounding agencies the victim was able to get their property back and the offender charged. I would like to give a special thanks to Calhoun County, Randolph County, and Wedowee Police Department for working with us on this case.
The Clay County Board of Education met Tuesday, October 24, 2017. All items on the Agenda were approved.
Approval for Central High School, the FFA Club and chaperones to attend the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 24-27, 2017. FFA , along with Perkins, will be responsible for all expenses.
Approval for the Central High School HOSA officers and students in grades 10-11 to attend the Body Exhibit in Atlanta, GA November 1, 2017. HOSA along with Perkins will be responsible for all expenses.
Approval to accept the bid from Jack Green Oil for gasoline with a bid of $1.97103 per gallon. This was the only bid received.
Approval for the Board to select one member and one alternate as AASB Delegate for the 2017 Convention and Delegate Assembly on December 7-9, 2017 in Birmingham. Board Member, Shane Davidson was elected to serve as the delegate and Board member Chris Jackson was selected as the alternate.
Approval of the resolution to renew the line of credit at First State Bank for use if funds are not sufficient to pay the salaries of employees and meet current expenses when due.
Approval to select a candidate for District 4 Director. Members were given bios of each candidate to review at the last meeting.
Approval of the updated 2016 Clay County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan updated Resolution of Adoption. This was given to board members at our September 28 meeting for review.
Approval of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Community Development Institution/Head Start and Clay County Board of Education. This was given to Board members at our September 28 meeting for review.
Approval of the cooperative agreement for FY18 between the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Clay County Board of Education for Part-time Pre-Employment Transition Specialist. This was given to Board members at our September 28 meeting for review.
Approval of 17 Personnel Action Items, which included Renewal of Principal Contract for Ray Sewell, Central Jr. High was approved for the period of November 28, 2017 through June 30, 2021
Approval to take sealed bids on the Vocational School. Bids will be opened December 14, 2017 at the Central Office at 10:00 am.
Veterans Day Holiday will be November 10, 2017
Thanksgiving Holiday will be November 20-24
The next regular board meeting will be November16, 2017, at 4:00 PM in the board room.
The December board meeting will be December 14, 2017, at 4:00 PM in the board room.
Funding deficits caused tempers to flare at the Clay County Commission 2018 budget hearings last week on Thursday and Friday as Commissioners scrambled to make the necessary cuts needed to keep the county out of the red before the looming deadline. After being informed the 2018 budget needed to be trimmed by over 150,000, Commissioners asked each department head to cut at least 5% of their budget. In response to this, Sheriff Ray Latham cut his department’s budget by some $63,000, which provided some cushion to those final numbers.
There also seemed to be a lot of confusion over the exact amount that needed cutting from the new budget, with the Commissioners saying that they were given two sets of figures. County Administrator Mary Wood and Administrator Assistant Nina Bell tried to explain that this was because they had went back and made the cuts the Commissioners had asked for on the second set of figures presented to them, but the numbers still didn’t seem to adding up, which added to the frustration of the day. At one point on Thursday’s meeting, Wood told the Commissioners that she had done all she could do to the budget, that they could do what they wanted. Wood wasn’t present for Friday’s meeting.
Probate Judge Dianne Branch addressed the Commission with her contribution to the cutbacks, stating that she would pay the newest hired employee out of her discretionary fund, which brought on a whole new set of arguments. There had already been a lot of controversy surrounding this hire in the past few weeks, because Commissioners were not happy that Branch had not followed the standard hiring procedures put into place by the county. After some discussion, Branch did agree to advertise the position for one week.
There were many topics discussed as Commissioners went down the list of line items, such as transportation for the elderly, election expenses, the cost of workman’s comp per department, employee insurance, and the EMA Assistant role.
There was also the question of the high cost of utilities throughout the county offices. It was reported that the county spent as much as $120,000 yearly in utilities for all offices combined. The electrical bill at the courthouse, which runs around $3500 monthly, and the natural gas bill, which can run as high as $560 a month in the coldest winter months that heats the courtroom. The Revenue Commissioner does pay 20% of all utilities for the courthouse. It was noted that the Annex electrical bill ran around $6000 a month and was open 24/7, due to the Sheriff’s Office and Jail, whereas the Courthouse was only open 40 hours a week.
Morrison stated they were just going to have to start looking into closing the courthouse at some point, due to several reasons. “There just too many costs associated with keeping this building up and it’s going to get to the point where we have to cut some vital services to the citizens or we’re going to have to cut some expenses somewhere in the county. A money pit like that needs to be with the historical society, not a functioning building in my opinion,” said Morrison.
The Annex has recently added 13 offices to their facility, with ample space left for a couple of courtrooms, which could house several county departments, if needed.
Morrison said that after asking each department head to cut their budget by 5%, he was disheartened that the only department who had willingly done that was the Sheriff’s Office and these were vital services. ” How much more can you cut that? We just can’t hacking into this department. We’re going to have to come up with some creative solutions.”
“There was nowhere else to cut 5% from those departments. We can encourage the savings of utilities, but at the end of the day, we’re going to have to pay” said Bell.
On a final note before the vote was taken, Harris summed it up:” This budget is going to have to be cut and its not going to be pretty. Our job is simple, we take the money we get and do we can do. We may have to cut some things that seem trivial to some of us. I think one of the things we need to do is look at cutting travel expenses and we’ll look into this a little later. I think spending 35-40,000 a year on travel and expenses and cut that. These cuts are going to be painful for some of us.”
“Next year, there’s not going to be a fund balance there if we are short,” Morrison added” I’m very disheartened to see our employees have to go back to paying their insurance because of how little they make. Next year, don’t come in here wanting us to make them pay all their insurance to make the fund balance work because that ain’t happening. We’ll just cut employees and take care of the ones we got.”
In the end, some of the cuts made included the following:
Eliminate courthouse security employees, saving $37,000. Security will be handled by the Sheriff’s Office on an as-needed basis.
EMA Assistant position from full-time to part-time. (Commissioner Milstead abstained)
All county employees will now have to pay 20% of their medical insurance, instead of being 100% paid as it had been in the past. Family coverage will remain at 40% paid by county, with the employee portion at 60%.
The total county budget for fiscal year 2018 totaled $7,223,342.20, down from $7, 907,662.00 from 2017. This over $600,000 difference from the previous year is due to a steep decrease in revenues coming into the county from a federal and state level, which has led to these budget cuts. But where the revenues shortage is really affecting is the General Fund, where the budgeted expenses for FY 2018 total $2,900,032, and the revenues are only $2,800,012.
Commissioners cast their unanimous vote to accept the 2018 budget by a unanimous show of hands. This deficit of approximately $119,000 in expenses will be taken from the county’s reserve fund that they are required by the state to keep. However, this fund only has approximately $200,000 in it, so having to pull funds of this magnitude from it will almost deplete it.
Not to mention, if the county loses the lawsuit against State Senator Gerald Dial regarding a percentage of the county’s tobacco tax to be allocated to the Clay County Animal Shelter in the amount of $50,000, this deficit will go higher. This ruling is set to be handed down at any time by Judge Rochester at the Clay County District Court, but the budget had to passed, so it will have to be amended when the ruling comes in, The county did budget in the $5,000 to the Clay County Animal Shelter at this time.
“What we’re going to have to do is elect somebody into a state office who is going to help us generate income, because we don’t have that now. In the past, it’s just one thing after another getting taken away from us and now we’re down to this,” said Morrison.