From The Trussville Tribune staff
TRUSSVILLE –It’s undeniable that 2016 has been an eventful year, so as we ring in 2017, it’s time to take a look back at the top 10 stories from the last year.
1. Trussville elects a new mayor
Longtime Trussville resident and current city councilman Buddy Choat won the mayoral runoff election in October against Anthony Montalto after both men eliminated incumbent mayor Gene Melton who held the office for 20 years.
Choat took the race with 60 percent of the vote, with Montalto coming in with 40 percent. There were 2968 total votes for Choat, and 1977 total votes for Montalto. There were 4945 total votes cast in the runoff election between First Baptist Church, City Hall and Northpark Baptist Church.
Choat had served on the Trussville City Council since 2008, and enjoyed a year as the council’s president from 2013-14.
2. Magnolia Elementary lockdown due to bomb threat
A bomb threat was called in to Magnolia Elementary School on Nov. 16, which launched a week-long investigation. Students and teachers were moved to the storm shelter inside the school while police investigated the suspicious package, which was left outside.
The package was neutralized and checked to see if it contained any explosives, which according to ATF Special Agent in Charge David Hyche, it did. Investigators completed a 12 inch by 12 inch grid search of the area after the package was shot with a water filled shotgun shell to disable the device. All other Trussville City Schools went on a soft lockdown during the incident.
After a week-long investigation, two were arrested for possession of a hoax destructive device, rendering a false alarm and making terrorist threats after a bomb threat at Magnolia Elementary School on Nov. 16. Zachary Edwards, 35, and Raphel Dilligard, 34 were apprehended at their Birmingham home on Nov.23. Investigators obtained a confession, including Edwards claiming to be a member of the Black Panthers and the Black Mafia.
He allegedly said he intended to get the cops in one location to shoot them before saying he intended to use the incident as a diversion to rob a bank. Edwards said that when he drove to a local bank, he aborted his plan because a Trussville Police cruiser was in the parking lot.
3. New schools open in Trussville
Trussville City Schools opened a pair of new elementary schools in 2016, Cahaba Elementary School opened at the site of the old high school building, while Magnolia Elementary School opened across town.
Cahaba Elementary’s ribbon cutting was held August 18. Magnolia Elementary opened in October.
4. Murder-Suicide in Trussville
Brittaney Owens, 25, of Trussville, and Troy Green, 29, of Birmingham, are both dead this morning following an overnight murder-suicide.
Trussville police responded to a call on North Lake Drive just past Camp Coleman Road at approximately 2:15 a.m. in February and found the two victims, both shot, in separate vehicles.
Capt. Jeff Bridges of the TPD said there was a history of problems with the couple, who had a 3-year-old child together, stating that Green had been charged with domestic violence against Owens in 2014. Green had also threatened Owens several times in the past.
5. Clay woman murdered in home
Jeremy Conway Hardin, 39 ,allegedly told deputies that he shot the victim, Jody Marie Watson, 38, from behind while she was in the kitchen of the Yellowhammer Drive home.
A male suspect called 911 and reported that he had shot his girlfriend, according to the statement. At about the same time a second 911 call was received from a neighbor who reported that two children had come to their house and asked them to call for help because their mother had been shot.
Deputies arrived to find Watson dead on the scene. The male suspect, Hardin, remained on the scene and surrendered to deputies without incident.
Detectives learned that the victim had been in the kitchen of the residence when Hardin walked up behind her and shot her. Watson’s three children lived at the residence with her. The two youngest were home at the time of the shooting. They were not harmed, but witnessed what occurred. They ran to a neighbor’s home for help.
6. Trussville fire chief resigns, marshal placed on administrative leave
Ledbetter and Fire Marshal Steve Reasonover have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation of the volunteer fire department after a September 27 Trussville City Council meeting.
The city council had voted previously to refer the matter to the state attorney general’s office for investigation. That investigation will continue. Sources have told the Tribune that a complaint had also been filed with the state ethics commission.
Trussville has a paid, full-time fire department and a volunteer department. Ledbetter and Reasonover both work for the paid department.
On September 27, councilors went into an executive session after regular business was taken care of, and made the announcement upon coming out, prior to officially closing the meeting.
Originally, the council went into executive session alone with city attorney Whit Colvin. Within minutes, Colvin returned to the council chambers to invite councilmen-elect Zach Steele and Jef Freeman to join the executive session. A short time later, Colvin again returned to chambers to invite mayor Gene Melton to join the executive session.
“Information has come to our attention and it has become necessary for us to look further into this,” Council President Anthony Montalto said.
Councilman Alan Taylor made a motion that an external law firm be hired to conduct the investigation of the Trussville Volunteer Fire Department.
Taylor’s motion also authorized Melton to place Ledbetter and Reasonover on paid administrative leave.
7. Pregnant CCHS student murdered
An 11th grade student at Clay-Chalkville High School was the victim of a homicide in January. The Birmingham police department said officers responded to St. Vincent’s East hospital where they found 16-year-old Raven White suffering from a gunshot wound. White was pregnant.
The department’s investigation revealed the victim, along with her boyfriend, were sitting in their car eating pizza at the Panorama East Apartments when an unknown black male approached them and demanded money. In the course of the robbery, the victim was shot.
According to Edwards, the unborn child did not survive.
Students and faculty members at CCHS, where White was popular and a outstanding student, were shaken by the news of her death.
“Raven was the kind of kid that’s the reason that I do what I do,” Clay-Chalkville principal Michael Lee said. “Just a sweet, kind, loving, young lady. She was such a good girl, the kind of kid every parent wants have.”
8. Miss Trussville is Second Runner Up in Miss Alabama pageant
Jacks was named second runner up, and was named first runner up to the Miss Alabama Community Service Award. Jacks walked away with $4,700 in scholarship money. She also placed first in the talent competition.
9. Pinson community rises to rally around Big Country
Cody “Big Country” Cole, a 2015 graduate of Pinson Valley High School, is well known in the Pinson community for his outgoing personality and all-around lovability.
Last weekend, tragedy struck when Cody and his uncle were hit head-on in a collision on Carson Road. Big Country, as he is known to his friends, died from injuries.
From the moment the news spread, friends in the Pinson community have rallied into action with support of Cole and his family. The 9th floor ICU waiting room at UAB was packed with friends of Cole. Clay restaurant, Papa Sal’s sent food while Alicia Pippen and others have arranged meals for family members during their stay at the hospital.
10. Argo elects new mayor
The city of Argo made history Monday night after swearing in the first female mayor in the city’s history.
Mayor Betty Bradley has lived in Argo since 1998, and said she ran because she wanted to make a difference in her community.
In addition to being the first female mayor, Bradley is also the first new mayor in 26 years.