Drug Arrests Made Through Joint Effort of Clay County Law Enforcement Agencies

On August 25, 2017,  Officers from the Ashland Police Department, Lineville Police Department and Clay County Sheriff’s Department, along with Alabama Department of Probation and Parole conducted a search and subsequent arrest of three individuals involved with illicit drugs.

Ashland Police Officer Micheal Harris and Investigator David Martin, working with Lineville Investigator Chris Matthews developed information that subjects living on Country Club Rd in Ashland were manufacturing/using methamphetamine, and that one of the subjects was under the supervision of Clay County Probation Officer Brad McVey. The officers developed enough information for a Probation home visit and upon arrival two of the subjects ran from the scene.

It was later determined that the two that ran was Mitchell Wright of Ashland, and Dalton Wright of Ashland. A third subject was located at the home, and she was identified as Breana Langhorn. All three subjects were eventually taken into custody and charged with the following: three counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance; three counts of Chemical Endangerment of a Child; three counts of Possession Drug Paraphernalia; two counts of Attempting to Elude.

All three subjects were taken to the Clay County Jail for booking. Chief Stanford and the Ashland Police Department would like to thank the officers involved for their hard work and determination in working together to see this case to its end. Without their tireless effort, and ability to work together, nothing would have been accomplished.

Special Called BOE Meeting Summary, Aug. 17

The Clay County Board of Education met Thursday, August 17, 2017 for a special called session. All members were present with the exception of Blaine Lacy.

All agenda items for this session were approved, which included the following:

  • Approval of the 2017-18 salary schedule and supplements
  • Approval to accept the bid of $1.6608 per gallon received from Willingham Oil for diesel fuel. This was the only bid received.
  • Approval of 27 personnel action items which included some of the following:
      Kelly Craven as bus aide
      Julie Wester as bus aide
      Stacey Pitts as bus driver
      Heather Rooks as custodian at Ashland Elementary
  • Informational Items
    The  first home football game is August 25, 2017.
    The next regularly scheduled Board meeting and first budget hearing will be August 31, 2017.
    There will be a called Board meeting and budget hearing on September 7, 2017.

 

ARGIE DARNELL NAMED SOUTHERN REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION OFFICER OF THE YEAR

Clay County Sheriff Ray Latham was notified on July 31st, 2017 that an employee of the Clay County Detention Center had been nominated to the Outstanding Corrections Professionals Award Program, in Midway, Utah.

The selected officer from the Southeastern Region of the United States was to be announced on August 2nd, 2017 by the nominating committee. Persons for such a prestigious award would be considered based on previous achievements with the National Institute for Jail Operations, (NIJO)  also headquartered in Midway, Utah.

Sheriff Latham presents Argie Darnell with award

Early in 2012, Sheriff Latham joined the detention center with the National Institute for Jail Operations in an effort to have a more secure facility while providing guidelines and regular up to date training for employees. Requirements of detention certifications, training guidelines and other requirements associated with the NIJO were a challenge in the start. Cooperation by the County Commissioners, necessary upgrades & repairs to the Detention Center were and continue to be made. Work by Detention Administrators, correctional officers and supervisory personnel in the Sheriff’s Office, accomplishments were rewarded.

Sheriff Ray Latham, Investigator Shanon House, Jail Administrator Argie Darnell, Chief Deputy Henry Lambert

On August 2nd, 2017, Sheriff Latham was notified that Detention Administrator Argie Darnell had received the Southeastern Regional Detention Administrator of the Year award. Darnell’s accomplishments with the requirements set forth by NIJO as it pertains to the Clay County Detention Center was most impressive, stated, Tate McCotter, Executive Director for NIJO in Midway, Utah. Her name stood beside each on-line compliance and certification required by NIJO, and was completed though and timely.  With such a high compliance rating through NIJO, McCotter intends to use Darnell’s accomplishments as an incentive for other jails across the country when he teaches.

Darnell will receive her prestigious award at the NIJO Southeastern Regional Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 30th, 2017. “Accomplishments like this are earned by hard work and dedication” states Sheriff Latham.

State Senator Dial to Introduce new Tobacco Tax Bill that would Eliminate County funds

Thursday, July 27, 2017- Just minutes after releasing a statement regarding the controversy surrounding a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Clay County commissioners,  the plot thickened.  Commissioners received an email of yet another new bill to be introduced to the Senate that would take away all the funding to the commission.

The previous bill regarding the distribution of the tobacco tax funds within the county, SB65, passed in March 2017, to be put into effect in October 2017 showed the following percentages as follows:

(1) Thirty-two percent to the Alabama Forestry Commission to be utilized for fire protection in the county, as provided in subsection (b).
(2) Twenty percent to the Clay County Industrial Development Council.
(3) Eighteen percent to the Clay County Animal Shelter. The Clay County Animal Shelter shall annually report 8 to the county commission regarding the expenditure of the 9 funds in the preceding year.
(4) Fifteen percent to the Clay County Commission to be deposited into a special fund in the county treasury and, subject to an application process developed by the county commission, disbursed to water districts in the county for the purpose of installing feeder lines. The county commission shall have the authority to develop guidelines, promulgate 16 rules, and institute an application process to provide for the disbursement of the funds.
(5) Fifteen percent shall be retained in the Clay 19 County General Fund to be utilized as are other county funds.
(b) The funds distributed to the Alabama Forestry Commission shall be payable on a quarterly or monthly basis and will be expended solely for purposes of fire protection, prevention, and fire safety education in order to encourage a strong volunteer firefighters’ network in Clay County.

The New Bill in question, just received today, reads that State Senator Dial will introduce changes in these figures  distributed to show that the Alabama Forestry would now receive 62% of the Tobacco Tax funds, 20% to the Industrial Development Council, and 18% to the Clay County Animal Shelter.

This would completely de-fund the Commission, possibly causing a major water project of almost 10 million dollars to be halted, as well as cut services offered to the citizens and/or put county jobs in danger.

Below is the press release by the Commissioners made earlier today:

In response to the letter from the Clay County Animal Shelter, regarding the lawsuit surrounding SB65.

The Clay County Commission has supported the animal shelter to the tune of $5000 per year. Those funds are included in the 2017 budget and currently there have been no plans made to change any of that. However in response to the commission stance to oppose this bill, let’s look at the whole picture.


Senator Dial took it upon himself to introduce this legislation in Montgomery without so much as discussing it with the commission or any other leaders in this county. As a commission we must make decisions based on what is best for the county as a whole. Funds continue to shrink, people continue to move away, and no new funds become available. We want what’s best for this county. Period. But is it fair for a senator to divert money without discussing it with the people it affects? Now if he wants to put it on a ballot and let the people of the county decide to give that money to the animal shelter, we will gladly back away, even if we have to cut funds elsewhere. Because that’s what will happen. As it stands now, this has been much like taxation without representation. When an elected official just decides to use his office to heavy hand the local government. Does that sound fair?

The Commission is challenging the constitutionality of SB65 because:

A. The state constitution states that public money cannot be distributed to a private entity not under the control of the state or any of its subdivisions unless those appropriations were approved by a 2/3rds vote of all members elected to each house. SB65 violates article IV ss 73 of the Alabama constitution
B. Only 16 of 35 members of the senate and 18 of 105 members of the house voted in favor of this legislation. Clearly this is not 2/3rds in either house.

It is important to note that we continue to lose funds from the state and federal government. For instance federal payment in leiu of taxes ( for national forest) dropped from $83,850 in 2016 to just $48,277 in 2017.

As for the statement made by the animal shelter that due to this action by the commission they can no longer accept animals, how is that the case? There have been no funds removed from the shelter. Not one dime. The same funds that the shelter has been receiving will continue. This lawsuit is to stop more funds from being pulled from the county and shifted to the animal shelter. So how does that stop the operation of the shelter? It has been operating until notification of this action. And just so the public knows, even if the action was allowed to stand, no funds would go towards the shelter until NEXT year. How does that affect the shelter today?
The bottom line is this. The money is not there to offer that much support to the animal shelter. Where should we cut services to do so? Because that is what will have to happen if that much is pulled away from the general fund.

For informational purposes here is a breakdown of the county general fund expenditures for 2017 thus far

For 2017, there has been general fund expenditures of $2,397,487.23:

$1,234,956.06 to the sheriffs office and jail. That’s roughly 55% of the general fund
$478,336.36 was For commission office, staff, upkeep of all county buildings
$33,006.50 for board of registrars
$3,470.74 for airport
$9,153.36 for farmers market
$43,465.11 for county maintenance department
$106,161.94 for EMA
$14,262.58 for coroner
$213,747.73 for probate office and staff
$29,115.75 for courthouse (utilities)
$17,761.01 for courthouse security
$14,218.75 for the supernumerary pay (retirement to former Sherriff
$8,072.47 for the recycling center
$34,754.52 for the elderly transport
$5000 for rescue squad
$5000 for animal shelter

Also included in these are the commission responsibilities for state offices located here in the county. We are required by the state to pay these.

$82,160.34 for the revenue commissioner
$3,226.63 for phones in circuit judge
$1,825.28 for phones in circuit clerks office
$5,259.87 for telephone and utilities for district attorney
$316.80 for phone for juvenile probation office
$257.76 for phone for drivers license office
$4,452.32 for utilities and phone for extension office

Clay County Commissioners. Photo courtesy of The Clay-Times Journal

Signed, Clay County Commissioners

  • Bennie Morrison, District 1
  • Donald Harris, District 2
  • Ray Milstead, District 3/ Chairman
  • Greg Denney, District 4
  • Ricky Burney

In a letter released earlier from Sharon Forbus submitted earlier to Senator Dial, who was desperately asking for help for the shelter:

Dear Senator Dial,

I’m certain that you have heard by now that the Clay County Commission, namely Benny Morrison, Ray Milstead and Mary Woods have filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and other declaratory relief against Clinton Carter, Dr. Kathleen Baxter and the Clay County Animal Shelter seeking the Circuit court of Clay County to declare SB65 AS unconstitutional and void, for a permanent injunction against providing that CCAS any of the tobacco receipts, plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court. As you know the shelter is run by volunteers and donations are used for it’s survival. In the past, we received $5,000/yr from the Commission, $500/Mon. from the City of Ashland and $150/mon. from the City of Lineville. Our treasurer, Frankie Gravette was informed by Ray Milstead that the shelter would no longer be receiving funds from the County. We are uncertain as to how to proceed. We do not have funding to hire an attorney and even though I practiced law in the Army for 16 years, I am not admitted to the Alabama bar and, therefore, cannot represent the Shelter in court. Without funding this shelter cannot stay in operation. We Don’t know what to do.

Please help our shelter.

Sharon Forbus

The Clay County Animal Shelter is in dire need of funds to ensure the facility can keep their doors open. Anyone wishing to donate the Shelter can do so here:

https://www.gofundme.com/shelter-legal-fund

 

 

Commissioners Respond to Lawsuit involving Animal Shelter Funding

In response to the letter from the Clay County Animal Shelter, regarding the lawsuit surrounding SB65.

(Please click on green wording below to view the lawsuit in its entirety, along with Senate Bill 65, which also serves as Exhibit A in the suit)

Commission Lawsuit

lawsuit supported document

The Clay County Commission has supported the animal shelter to the tune of $5000 per year. Those funds are included in the 2017 budget and currently there have been no plans made to change any of that. However in response to the commission stance to oppose this bill, let’s look at the whole picture.


Senator Dial took it upon himself to introduce this legislation in Montgomery without so much as discussing it with the commission or any other leaders in this county. As a commission we must make decisions based on what is best for the county as a whole. Funds continue to shrink, people continue to move away, and no new funds become available. We want what’s best for this county. Period. But is it fair for a senator to divert money without discussing it with the people it affects? Now if he wants to put it on a ballot and let the people of the county decide to give that money to the animal shelter, we will gladly back away, even if we have to cut funds elsewhere. Because that’s what will happen. As it stands now, this has been much like taxation without representation. When an elected official just decides to use his office to heavy hand the local government. Does that sound fair?

The Commission is challenging the constitutionality of SB65 because:

A. The state constitution states that public money cannot be distributed to a private entity not under the control of the state or any of its subdivisions unless those appropriations were approved by a 2/3rds vote of all members elected to each house. SB65 violates article IV ss 73 of the Alabama constitution
B. Only 16 of 35 members of the senate and 18 of 105 members of the house voted in favor of this legislation. Clearly this is not 2/3rds in either house.

It is important to note that we continue to lose funds from the state and federal government. For instance federal payment in leiu of taxes ( for national forest) dropped from $83,850 in 2016 to just $48,277 in 2017.

As for the statement made by the animal shelter that due to this action by the commission they can no longer accept animals, how is that the case? There have been no funds removed from the shelter. Not one dime. The same funds that the shelter has been receiving will continue. This lawsuit is to stop more funds from being pulled from the county and shifted to the animal shelter. So how does that stop the operation of the shelter? It has been operating until notification of this action. And just so the public knows, even if the action was allowed to stand, no funds would go towards the shelter until NEXT year. How does that affect the shelter today?
The bottom line is this. The money is not there to offer that much support to the animal shelter. Where should we cut services to do so? Because that is what will have to happen if that much is pulled away from the general fund.

For informational purposes here is a breakdown of the county general fund expenditures for 2017 thus far

For 2017, there has been general fund expenditures of $2,397,487.23:

$1,234,956.06 to the sheriffs office and jail. That’s roughly 55% of the general fund
$478,336.36 was For commission office, staff, upkeep of all county buildings
$33,006.50 for board of registrars
$3,470.74 for airport
$9,153.36 for farmers market
$43,465.11 for county maintenance department
$106,161.94 for EMA
$14,262.58 for coroner
$213,747.73 for probate office and staff
$29,115.75 for courthouse (utilities)
$17,761.01 for courthouse security
$14,218.75 for the supernumerary pay (retirement to former Sherriff
$8,072.47 for the recycling center
$34,754.52 for the elderly transport
$5000 for rescue squad
$5000 for animal shelter

Also included in these are the commission responsibilities for state offices located here in the county. We are required by the state to pay these.

$82,160.34 for the revenue commissioner
$3,226.63 for phones in circuit judge
$1,825.28 for phones in circuit clerks office
$5,259.87 for telephone and utilities for district attorney
$316.80 for phone for juvenile probation office
$257.76 for phone for drivers license office
$4,452.32 for utilities and phone for extension office

Clay County Commissioners. Photo courtesy of The Clay-Times Journal

Signed, Clay County Commissioners

  • Bennie Morrison, District 1
  • Donald Harris, District 2
  • Ray Milstead, District 3/ Chairman
  • Greg Denney, District 4
  • Ricky Burney

 

The Clay County Animal Shelter has stated that without these funds, they may be forced to close their doors and have established a Gofundme account. Click here to donate:https://www.gofundme.com/shelter-legal-fund

 

 

A letter to Senator Dial Regarding County Funds not Being Allocated to Shelter

Below is a letter filed by Sharon Forbus, on behalf of the Clay County Animal Shelter to Senator Gerald Dial about the $50,000 the Senate Bill 65 which would allocate funding to the Clay County Animal Shelter. In this bill, 18% of the tobacco tax collected in Clay County would go to the Shelter. However, there is a lawsuit in place at this time regarding this allocation. And because this is a pending lawsuit, it is going to be very hard to get any comments from the Commission on this subject. I am going to attempt to get a statement of some kind though from the Commissioners and from Senator Dial. 

 

Dear Senator Dial,

I’m certain that you have heard by now that the Clay County Commission, namely Benny Morrison, Ray Milstead and Mary Woods have filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and other declaratory relief against Clinton Carter, Dr. Kathleen Baxter and the Clay County Animal Shelter seeking the Circuit court of Clay County to declare SB65 AS unconstitutional and void, for a permanent injunction against providing that CCAS any of the tobacco receipts, plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court. As you know the shelter is run by volunteers and donations are used for it’s survival. In the past, we received $5,000/yr from the Commission, $500/Mon. from the City of Ashland and $150/mon. from the City of Lineville. Our treasurer, Frankie Gravette was informed by Ray Milstead that the shelter would no longer be receiving funds from the County. We are uncertain as to how to proceed. We do not have funding to hire an attorney and even though I practiced law in the Army for 16 years, I am not admitted to the Alabama bar and, therefore, cannot represent the Shelter in court. Without funding this shelter cannot stay in operation. We Don’t know what to do.

Please help our shelter.

Sharon Forbus

BOE Approves Hires for AES Teachers; Discuss Important Dates

In a special called session, The Clay County Board of Education met Tuesday, July 18 at the Central Office. The sole purpose for this meeting was to approve a few priority personnel action items that needed to be addressed for the upcoming school year.

The following personnel actions items were unanimously approved:

Resignation:
  • Donna Medforth, Janitor – Ashland Elementary School
Employ:
  • Anita Harris – Teacher at Ashland Elementary School
  • Jessica Burney Hammonds – Teacher at Ashland Elementary School

BOE Member Chris Jackson was excited to announce that Clay Central now had a Fishing Team. There will be six teams that  represent school in a bass nation tournament.  Les Robinson was instrumental in the establishment of this team, generously donating his time and efforts by Coaching this team until someone else can step in and take the reins. “This team will provide additional opportunities for both male and female students who are not interested in other extracurricular activities, such as football, baseball, cheerleading, band, etc., ” said Jackson. Members of this team will also be eligible for scholarships.

The 2017-18 Clay Central High Fishing Team

 

Discussion before the closure of this meeting included important dates to remember regarding the kickoff of the new school year:

August 2nd,  4th, 7th– Teacher InService days

August 3rd– Open House for all schools:

  • Ashland & Lineville Elementary: 1:00-7:00 PM

Special Information for Lineville Elementary:

*Tuesday, August 1: Parents’ Night – Kindergarten at 5PM and 1st Grade at 6PM (This is for Kindergarten and 1st Grade ONLY)
*Thursday, August 3: Open House (1-7PM)
*Tuesday, August 8: First Day of School

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  • Central Jr. & Sr High- 8:00 am-3:00 PM

    12th​ 8:00-9:30​​​​​​
    11th​ 9:30-10:45​​​​​​

    Lunch 11:00-12:00

    10th​ 12:15-1:30
    9th​ 1:30-3:00

    Schedules will be issued in the CAFETERIA LOBBY. Students are to pick up schedules upon arrival.
    Lockers may be rented in each homeroom for $25.00

    Jr High Schedule
    8th​ 8:00-11:00 (Jr High Building)
    7th ​12:15-3:00 (Jr High Building)
    Lockers may be rented in 1st period class.

    Parking permits will be sold in Room 156 for $25.00 for students who must drive to school. (Must have a valid Alabama driver’s license and proof of insurance to purchase).

    ALL STUDENTS GRADES 7-12 WILL HAVE SCHOOL PICTURES MADE ON THIS DAY. AS SOON AS SCHEDULES ARE PICKED UP PLEASE GO TO THE JR HIGH LUNCHROOM TO HAVE YOUR PICTURE MADE. This is taking the place of fall pictures and is required for INOW and the yearbook. There will be a make up day but students are encouraged to have them made at this time. ALL SHIRTS MUST BE IN DRESS CODE FOR PICTURES.

    All students must see their teachers for fees due.
    All checks are to be made out to Central High School of Clay County and a receipt will be issued. ALL CHECKS MUST HAVE A PHONE NUMBER. CHECKS MAY NOT BE WRITTEN AND CASHED BY THE SCHOOL.

    New students needing to enroll or students needing to withdraw must see the school counselors at the given times per grade.

    Any problems or issues with schedules will be addressed by grades beginning the first day of school. Please follow the schedule you are given until your grade is called if you have a problem with the schedule.

    Students may also put money in their meal accounts during Open House by going to the Cafeteria. All checks for meals must be made out to CNP. Forms for free and reduced lunch can be picked up at this time.

August 8– Students first day

The next Board meeting will be held July 27, 2017, during which time the 2016 Audit Report will be presented.  BOE member Blaine Lacy was absent from this meeting.

 

 

 

Bunner Receives 52 Year Sentence for Murdering Ex- Girlfriend

July 13, 2017- In a Clay County Courtroom today, Loren Daniel Bunner withdrew his Not Guilty Plea and entered in a plea of Guilty  for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Jolee Nicole Callan, age 18. After an hour and half of testimony and hearing state’s evidence, Judge George Simpson handed down a sentence of 52 years incarceration to Bunner. The murder took place on August 30, 2015 in a densely wooded area along the Pinhoti Trail of  Cheaha State Park.

Bunner had originally been granted youthful offender status by Judge Simpson, which only carries a maximum of three-year sentence and goes off your record at age 18. However, Simpson revoked this status is November 2016. Bunner was released on a 150,000 bond after serving just a few days in jail.

After Bunner’s youthful offender status was revoked, his attorney, Greg Varner, made a motion requesting Simpson reinstate the youthful status, claiming no new charges or additional evidence have been filed against Bunner. Simpson denied Varner’s motion in December 2016.

Bunner’s story at the time of the murder was that he and Jolee had a suicide pact. They were supposed to jump off the cliff together Romeo and Juliet style, but when they got there, neither could go through with it. So, Bunner had said that Jolee wanted to be shot in the back of the head, so she “wouldn’t see it coming.” A story that would prove to be false after autopsy proved Callan had been shot not only once in the back of the head, but point-blank between the eyes as well before Bunner threw her body off the cliff. Bunner then left the scene and called 911, confessing to the murder shortly afterwards.

The State’s Defense stated that Bunner had confessed to the murder many times, through a 911 call, several law enforcement agencies, and had even bragged about it to his cell mates.

One cell mate account was that Bunner said he had killed his girlfriend and he wasn’t sorry, because if he couldn’t have her, no one else could. Another  story from Bunner said he had killed his girlfriend, shot her and threw her off the mountain and he would have gotten away with it if he hadn’t confessed.

Clay County Law Enforcement take Bunner into custody. Photo courtesy of the Clay Times Journal.

Allison Davidson, Jolee’s English & Theatre Teacher at Vincent High, gave her testimony. Davidson stated that Jolee took Theatre classes for two years, during which time, she got to know Jolee very well. Davidson described Jolee as very intelligent, funny and bright, compassionate and kind. Davidson referred to Jolee as an excellent student, who was also in the gifted program. Davidson said she became very fond of Jolee, and soon they became friends outside of the classroom. Even after Jolee graduated from Vincent, She kept in touch with Davidson through texts, calls, and visits. Davidson stated Jolee came to see her three days before she was killed, and they had a nice visit. “She was the happiest I had seen her in awhile. She looked good and was in a great mood. She told me she was dating a new guy named Matt, but was still getting numerous calls from Loren threatening suicide, and when this would happen, Jolee would go ‘talk him down from the ledge’. I advised her that Loren was a grown man and could take care of himself and that she needed to move on with her life.”

Davidson knew all about the troubled relationship between Bunner and Jolee because Jolee confided in her throughout the life of the relationship. “Jolee said he played video games a lot, and they argued frequently. Loren isolated her from her friends, only allowing Jolee to hang out with his friends.” Davidson recalled prom night where they seemed to be a lot of tension between the two. Davidson said that Jolee was not suicidal, that she even told her on that last visit that she had decided to go to Montevallo, a college which she had been accepted in when she graduated. But not knowing exactly what she wanted to do with her life, Jolee had taken a babysitting job over the course of that summer, giving herself time to really think about what she wanted to do with her life. “She was very excited about the prospect of going to college. The last thing I told her on that visit was that I was proud of her for cutting ties with Loren and that I knew she would have a bright future,” said Davidson.

Photo courtesy of The Clay Times Journal.

Jolee’s father, Michael Callan was next on the stand, dressed in a purple oxford button down, with a beautiful purple ribbon adorned with an angel on the pocket in honor of his daughter. Callan described his daughter as just a great kid, who never got into any trouble. ” I never had to spank her. Everyone who knew Jolee liked her. She had lots of friends and dearly loved animals. We had a great father/daughter relationship,” said Callan.

Callan’s description of Bunner mirrored what her former teacher had said. ” He played video games a lot, was quiet and kind of controlling”, said Callan,” They pretty much did whatever he wanted to do. He said he got the same texts and had the same conversations that Davidson talked about. ” She would tell me about him threatening suicide all the time, and I tried to tell her just to move on. But everyone who knew Jolee knew that if they were in trouble and needed a friend, she would be the first one there, and he knew if he called her and threatened to take his life, she would be there, and she was. She was always helping others.”

Callan spoke briefly about the tremendous impact that losing his daughter had had on not only him, but his family. ” It’s been terrible. My Mom and Dad’s house burned two weeks after Jolee’s death. I lost my Dad a little later, due to a stroke. I firmly believe that if Jolee hadn’t been killed, my Dad would still be here today. It’s just taken a toll on the whole family. Everyone loved her.”

Callan said that he too, suffered a stroke a year ago from the stress of losing Jolee. ” I celebrate Jolee’s birthday at her grave site with balloons every year. I think he should get life in prison or the electric chair.”

The 911 Recording was entered in as state’s evidence and played, which included a clear confession from Bunner: “I want to turn myself in for the murder of my ex-girlfriend, Jolee Callan that happened just a little while ago on Cheaha Mountain.”

Bunner’s court appointed Attorney Greg Varner felt that a reasonable verdict would be 20 years incarceration, a consistent judgement with prior sentencing of the Clay County District Court and also that Bunner had no other priors, other than a traffic ticket for running a stop sign.

But District Attorney  disagreed, using words such as cold-calculated and pre-meditated to describe Jolee’s murder. ” There are three cases of homicidal violence in this case. First, he lured her to the mountains for a symbolic hike, and then he shoots her in the back of the head while she’s looking at the view. Then, he flips her over and shoots her point-blank between the eyes, I think, because he wanted to look at her in the eyes, if she was still alive. Then, he drags her body to the edge of the cliff and throws her 40 feet off the cliff. Not to mention, two days before the murder, he tried to take Jolee’s new boyfriend out by soliciting a friend to kill him.”

When Bunner was given an opportunity to say something to the courtroom before hearing his sentence, he declined.

Bunner’s 52-year sentence includes 10 years for the use of a firearm in the commission of murder. He will also have to pay restitution of $9, 255.00 to the Alabama Crime Victims Commission, attorney fees totaling $1500, and court costs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking Justice for Jolee, Once and For All…

We can live forever even with an impactful shorter-life.” 

― Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel

So few words, yet such a bold statement.  How does one begin to measure the weight of an impact a person can make on their life? The honest truth…you don’t really know until they are gone…That’s the way it is when God puts a shining star in our lives, it burns so bright that it burns itself out quickly, yet its beauty is never forgotten. Jolee Callan left the imprint of her footprints in every heart of those around her.

Jolee Callan

Jolee Callan was a magical little slip of a girl, yet her presence was larger than life. At 4’10 and all of 90 lbs, her waif-like aura was powerful, as people were drawn to her quiet, yet infectious zest for life. Those who knew her best said she was one of a kind, and there would never be another like her anywhere.  To say that she was immensely loved by all who knew her would be an understatement. Yet, her time on Earth was to be short-lived. Her life would be snuffed out at the tender age of 18 in such a shocking,  brutal manner at the hands of someone who claimed to truly love her. And with that, Jolee would become a statistic of domestic violence. Yet the lives she touched in her brief time on Earth would live forever.

Although there were many things reported on during the time of Jolee’s murder, no one talked about HER. She simply became a statistic on paper to those who never knew her.  No one reported that Jolee Callan , born December 29, 1996, had this massive heart for people and animals. That she was very sensitive, empathetic and kind to everyone she knew. Her love for the theatre was also close to her heart, as she participated in several plays. In her Junior year,  she played a part in Grease and then Wizard of Oz in senior year. She played the part of the china doll to perfection. Jolee made good grades in school and never got a spanking in her life, nor did she get in any trouble. Her favorite couple was purple.

Jolee was 17 when she began dating Loren Bunner. Father, Michael described him as a quiet person, who kept to himself, but seemed like a decent guy. They dated about a year, with frequent breakups throughout the span of the relationship.  They did stuff with his friends, but not her friends. He was described by many as manipulating and controlling.

Every time Jolee would try to break free of him, he would prey upon her sympathy by threatening to kill himself if she didnt come back to him. Afer some time, she grew tired of this threat, and ended their relationship for good around the time she graduated from Vincent High School.

Jolee was described as a much happier person free from Loren, as she started seeing someone else. But Loren continued to call her, wanting her back. Jolee still wanted to be his friend, so she tolerated these calls, which continued throughout the course of the summer.  But her father had no idea she had agreed to go on what was referred to as a “symbolic hike” to Cheaha Mountain with Loren on August 30, or he said he would not have let her go. The hike was labeled as symbolic because Jolee thought this was going to be a transistion to a platonic friendship, or that was what Loren had led her to believe. The last time Michael saw his daughter was Friday night, when she told him she loved him right before she left and he told her that he loved her too.

Jolee’s best friend texted her the night before ( Saturday night, telling her she was staying at Loren’s house that night, sleeping on the couch and they were going on their symbolic hike the next day to Cheaha.  She jokingly told Callan not to let him take her off in the woods and kill her, to which she replied ” LOL, well if something happens to me, you’ll know who I was with”. This was the last time she would ever speak to her dear friend.

What events played out on that fateful Sunday will remain a mystery, and all police had to go one was Bunner’s account, which seemed to change several times. Bunner called the Oxford Police Department around 6pm that night, stating that  he had “murdered his girlfriend on the trail”.  Bunner then led the lawmen through the densely wooded area to the edge of the cliff just off the Pinhoti Trail. There, they discovered Jolee’s body about 40 feet down off the rock cliff with her backpack still on. No remorse could be seen on Bunner’s face at the scene.

Loren Bunner

Bunner’s story was that they had a murder/suicide pact, but he was unable to go through with his suicide after shooting her. He had told law enforcement that he had only shot her once in the back of the head, because he said “she didn’t want to see it coming”. However, an autopsy would later reveal that she had also been shot point blank between the eyes as well. He said he then threw her body off the cliff, House said. An autopsy revealed Callan had been shot twice – once from behind and once between the eyes. Police recovered a Bear Claw .22 from Bunner, and observed “a large amount of blood” at the area where the shooting apparently took place. There was also blood on Bunner’s steering wheel.

Picture Bunner posted to Instagram moments before her death

Another chilling note, was that shortly after Bunner had committed this murder, he had posted pictures of their hike that day on Instagram, and had also posted this on Twitter.

Bunner was taken into custody at the Clay County jail, where he remained for the next nine months, as his court dates kept getting continued. His original court date was set for October, but a verdict was not reached until late May 2016.

Before the records were sealed, they did show the defense attorneys were investigating whether Bunner had Asperger’s Syndrome.  Because of this investigation, it was believed that a youthful offender status was granted to Bunner,  which only holds a three-year sentence maximum, a suspended sentence, or simply probation. Under the youthful offender status, this would not go on his record after his sentence was served. However,  the youthful offender status was revoked in December 2016. Bunner spent only 15 days in jail and has been out on a 150,000 bond since January 2017.  

It’s been a long, hard road for the Callan family and those who knew Jolee so well, but they remain hopeful that some sort of justice will be served in the her death. On Thursday, July 13, 2017 @ 10:00 am, at the Clay County Courthouse, Bunner will go before Judge Simpson for a change of plea and there is a good possibility Bunner will receive his sentence at this time.

This horrific crime has touched my heart since day one. My heart breaks for this family, for Jolee, who did nothing to deserve the unspeakable act of violence that ended her short life. I am asking that this county support this family during this sentencing tomorrow. In honor of Jolee and in support for the family, I ask that you wear purple tomorrow, maybe place a purple bow, lay a flower or sign on the courthouse lawn. Perhaps you could even be there, outside standing on the lawn just to show your support. Folks, its the least we can do for this family for everything they have lost and everything they have had to go through just to get some justice for Jolee. This county has always had the best people and have always been there for others in times of need. Well, this family needs you tomorrow. Let’s show them that we care….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

County Watershed Overflow Big Problem for Cattle Owners

Jacky Dingler

July 10, 2017- At Monday’s planning session, Mr. Jack Dingler of Delta, AL, was present to plead with the Commission to help him save his cattle. Mr. Dingler went on to explain that his pasture, along with his neighbor,  Mr. Merrell Bell’s pasture which adjoins Dingler’s land in the Shinbone area, has been flooded with all the excessive rain that has fallen over the past three weeks.

Over half of Dingler’s 20 acres of pasture land is several inches underwater and his 28 head of cattle are having a hard time finding dry land. Over 3/4 of Mr. Bell’s pasture acreage has been affected as well. Even with the waters receding somewhat at times between the rain showers, the grass is now dead. So because of this, Dingler said he, along with Bell, will soon be forced to sell their cattle if something doesn’t give soon. On top of the flooding, the stagnant waters have brought about horrible odors and an abundance of flies and mosquitos to the area affected.

While a simple solution could fix this problem without Dingler having to come address the Commission, but the owner of the land, Mr. White,  where the county watershed resides is having no part of it. The owner of this property is very adamant that the water level not be reduced to alleviate the flooding of the pastures because he says he has stocked the lake and doesn’t want to lose his fish. Commissioner Morrison said the whole thing just sounded “fishy” to him to begin with. ” Here we are, and we’ve got two other farmers who are being affected and if we don’t open that up to reduce the water on their pasture land, they are going to lose their cattle. ”

No, this is not lakefront property. This is how far the flood waters have come to Bell’s house. This should all be pasture land.
Dingler’s flooded pasture

After much discussion  in the general meeting on this issue, County Attorney Greg Varner said even though he still had to look at the deeds where the property lines and easements ran in more detail, but he did say this to Commission in conclusion: ” There is no liability to Whites or the Dinglers here, but we do control the operation of the watersheds. You have the ability, its your call as to your decision.  Mr. White having fishing is subject to our operation. Either way, there’s no liability to the county. It’s a discretionary measure on the county’s part as to what decision is made. If you elect to order the water shed to be reduced, make it conditional on my approval on the fish issue.”

Morrison’s motion went as follows: “Contingent on Varner’s findings, I make a motion we reduce the amount the water held by that water shed until it gets back down to the original contour. I don’t see where we should allow one individual to cause two other individuals to have to sell their cow herds just because they want to hold as much as water behind that dam.” This motion was followed by a second and unanimously approved.

On behalf of the Clay County Hospital,  Debbie McKinney and Joel Tate addressed the Commission with a possible list of nominations for vacancies on the hospital board. Once these vacant positions are filled, they will look on the expired terms. This list was handed out to all Commissioners to review.

McKinney and Tate

Morrison inquired why it took so long to fill these positions. Tate responded that it wasn’t easy to find people to be on the Board. McKinney also stated that since many people had traded land lines for cell phones, making it hard to get into contact with them with no access.  six vacancies vacant. The following people were appointed to the Hospital Board:

  • District 2 : David Williams and Andy Howard
  • District 3: Ricky Farr, Claude Bennett, Sonny McCollum were all nominated, but was tabled.
  • District 5: Tabled

County Engineer Jeremy Butler stated they had received their new side cutter last week.  Butler said that First State Bank had given them a great financing rate, and was asking for a resolution to finance with them. This was approved.

There was a question in the planning session about the appointment of Millerville Water Authority. After looking into the minutes from the previous meeting, it was discovered that Kenny Packer had been appointed from District 4, and Lorenzo Caldwell from District 5 had been re-appointed, leaving District 2 open. Harris requested to re-submit Gary Chandler from District 2, which was approved.

Commissioners also approved a one year renewal on the health contract for the inmates. There were no changes to this contract.

Daugherty

EMA Director Theresa Daugherty announced she had secured a Homeland Security Grant in the amount of $22,826 for a new repeater in the Coppermine/ area in the North End of the county. The 20 yr old repeater that was in this area had went out some time ago, but luckily, they were able to re-program an old repeater to replace it temporarily, however this left them with no backup.  This repeater is a very important piece of equipment, used by both the EMA and fire department and is also used to sound the sirens.This is a 100% grant that requires no matching funds by the county.  The new dual- band repeater to be purchased is now being offered on the State Bid list. The Commission approved this request  to go ahead and purchase the new repeater and commended Daugherty on securing these funds.

Young

Tiffany Young, Chamber CEO was present to ask the Commission for their support in the Clay County Fair to be held October 19-21 at the AES Practice Field. This event will feature carnival rides, vendors, food, and live entertainment. Commissioner Morrison said he felt this event would be very beneficial to the county and they should support by doing a platinum sponsorship in the amount of $1000. This would require an amendment to the budget and will have to be ran in the paper to be put on the agenda for the next meeting before it can be voted on at the next meeting.

John DeCourcey approached the Commission about re-applying for

DeCourcey

grant money to paint the runway at the Airport. DeCourcey stated they  had grant money left over and the FAA notified them and said they were going to distribute it to another airport, because they didn’t have a need for it here. However, it was discovered upon inspection that the numbers on the runway were unreadable and needed to be re-painted.  The total project cost will be just over $40,000, with matching funds coming from the county just in excess of $2000. This request was approved.

Morrison made an inquiry about the overtime budget, wanting to make sure the amounts put into place for both the Engineering and Sheriff’s Office had not been exceeded in order to make sure the budget wasn’t affected. The Sheriff’s Department is allotted 20,000 and have only used 5,500 thus far,  the jail allotted 15,000 , have only used 5,600 and the Engineering Department budgeted 20,000, used only 10,000. There are no other county departments who are allotted an overtime budget.

In other business, Morrison explained that Chairman Ray Milstead’s self appointment to the EDC ( Economic Development Council) was not legal at their last meeting because it was never brought before the Commission for a vote, therefore every business item that took place at this at meeting  was null and void. Milstead had explained that he did not appoint himself to the Board, but was just filling in until he can appoint somebody at the next meeting. His future appointment should resolve any further issues.

Other agenda items approved involved the following:

  • budget amendment to pay Hurst Construction in the amount of $63, 859.31 for work at the Courthouse.
  • Approval to participate in COLA for County Retirees.

Probate Judge Dianne Branch presented a check to the Commission in the amount of $11,394, funds she had secured in a grant that will secure the contract for maintenance of the 2004 Election Machines. This brought about a round of applause for Branch.

Sheriff Ray Latham present a check for approximately $20,000 to the Commission for housing federal inmates.

Hurst

Before the conclusion of the meeting, Rep. Steve Hurst spoke brieflybefore the commission, thanked the Commissioners and the Sheriff for everything they had done. He expressed his concerns over some things going on within the state that will affect us a later date. He invited everyone to come see him if there was a need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nitty Gritty – Clay County News and Events