By Erica Thomas, managing editor
TRUSSVILLE — As the world anxiously awaits a new year, we are looking back on top stories from 2020. Here is a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of a historic year.
Coronavirus pandemic impacts lives, changes way of living for many
ATLANTA — The coronavirus pandemic was responsible for nearly 80 million reported illnesses worldwide in December 2020. But, the illness, named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), actually began in 2019. Health experts first identified the virus in Wuhan, China.
Although many people reported little to no symptoms, some have reported severe illness. Around 1.72 deaths have been attributed to coronavirus. A person can remain infectious for up to two weeks after catching COVID-19.
Symptoms include loss of smell and taste, fever, cough, fatigue, and respiratory issues.
In the United States and in many other countries, mask orders required people to wear masks in public places and strongly urged social distancing, because the virus spreads through the air and from contaminated areas.
Most people who contract the disease and have symptoms, begin experiencing those symptoms within two to seven days after exposure.
Although a vaccine was made available in December 2020, health experts urge people to continue using caution by taking preventative measures.
The pandemic also impacted the economy, jobs and education worldwide.
Moody police officer dies following shooting at Super 8 motel
MOODY — A Moody police officer was killed in a shooting late on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at the Super 8 on U.S. 411 in Moody.
Moody Police Chief Thomas Hunt identified the deceased officer as Sgt. Stephen Williams.
The ordeal began around 9:30 p.m. when officers from the Moody Police Department arrived at the motel following a call for a disturbance at the hotel. Williams was shot upon arrival.
Williams was transported to UAB Hospital by ambulance where he was pronounced dead. A medical helicopter had arrived to the scene, but was not used.
Police surrounded the hotel for hours following Williams’ shooting. After a tense standoff, authorities apprehended Tapero Corlene Johnson, 27, of Birmingham and Marquisha Anissa Tyson, 28, of Birmingham. Both suspects are charged with capital murder in the slaying of Williams.
Williams was a 23-year veteran and had been with the Moody Police Department for three years. He was the night-shift sergeant. He had been promoted to sergeant in the past year and was posthumously promoted to lieutenant.
The department began raising money for a fallen officer memorial honoring Williams and Officer Keith Turner. Turner was killed in the line of duty in 1998.
Body of Paighton Houston found in shallow grave behind home in Hueytown
HUEYTOWN — The Trussville Police Department confirmed a body found on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Hueytown, was that of missing Trussville woman Paighton Houston.
On Thursday evening, authorities from the Trussville Police Department, the Birmingham Police Department, the Hueytown Police Department, Jefferson County Deputies and units with the Metro Area Crime Center cordoned off a residential area on Chapel Drive near Love Street in Hueytown, after receiving information in the search for Houston.
At the scene, officers searched backyards with flashlights along Chapel Drive. Dozens of unmarked and marked cars along with K9 units were at the scene. The scene was secured around 9:30 p.m. while investigators awaited daylight.
The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office arrived on the scene around 11:30 a.m. on Friday. A white van pulled behind the house and left the scene at 12:50 p.m. At approximately 12:57 p.m., Bessemer Cutoff District District Attorney Lynneice Washington confirmed that a body was discovered in a shallow grave. Washington said the body was covered with a sheet before being buried.
Houston was reported missing after leaving Tin Roof in Birmingham, late on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. She was seen leaving with two men, according to Birmingham Police, who are investigating the case.
Police said after leaving the bar, she texted a friend saying that she did not know who she was with and that she might be in trouble.
Toxicology tests revealed that Houston died of an accidental drug overdose, according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.
Fredrick Hampton, 50, of Brighton, is facing a charge of abuse of a corpse, a Class C felony, in connection to the disposal of Houston’s body. He is awaiting trial.
11-year-old Troy Ellis shot and killed
TRUSSVILLE — Troy Ellis, 11, a Cahaba Elementary fifth-grader, was shot near Emerald Lake, on Friday, May 1, 2020. His father, Obed Ellis, a coach at Mortimer Jordan, was also injured in the shooting.
Joshua Stewart Burks, of Mobile, was originally charged with reckless manslaughter in connection to the Friday, May 1, 2020 shooting. However, the charge was upgraded to capital murder in December 2020.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office initially said the shooting was accidental but after an investigation, detectives presented evidence to the District Attorney’s Office and the DA determined an arrest warrant was justified. A Grand Jury decided the charge should be capital murder of a person under the age of 14.
The boy and his father were on a turkey hunt with a group when the boy was killed on Friday, May 1, 2020.
Burks’ attorney, Jonathan McCardle, said the shooting was an accident and he does not believe criminal charges should have been brought against his client. Burks, a former teacher, is a U.S. Marine veteran and amputee.
Trussville teen shot and killed, another teen charged with murder
TRUSSVILLE — A Trussville teenager was shot and killed in the early morning hours of April 1, 2020. The victim was identified as 18-year-old Trent Parkerson.
The Trussville Police Department was called to the scene around 3:30 a.m. The incident occurred outside of a home in the 7600 block of Happy Hollow Road, which is north of Deerfoot Parkway.
Parkerson was pronounced dead on the scene, according to Jefferson County Coroner Bill Yates.
Steven Chase Lafoy, 18, was arrested and charged with capital murder in the death of Parkerson. Lafoy was 17 at the time of the shooting. Lafoy was able to post a property bond but was arrested again in November on a drug charge and his bond was revoked.
Both teens were students at Hewitt-Trussville High School.
Parkerson was a senior defensive end for the Hewitt-Trussville football team this past season. He played in eight games and recorded eight total tackles. He was also a member of the varsity wrestling team.
“We are devastated and deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Trent Parkerson, a member of our Husky football family,” Hewitt-Trussville football head coach Josh Floyd said in a statement. “We are praying for the families impacted by this tragedy. Our coaches have reached out to the other members of our team and are committed to working with them through the grieving process. We encourage the entire Trussville community to look for our ways to support the Parkerson family in any way possible.”
Trussville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Pattie Neill responded to the death with a statement.
“It is sad to hear of any loss of life, and our sadness deepens when students are involved,” Neill said. “Our hearts go out to the families of both of these students and to all of their classmates during this time.”
Clay-Chalkville grad, 20, shot and killed outside UAB student center
BIRMINGHAM — A woman shot and killed outside of the Hill Student Center at UAB on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, was Destiny Danielle Washington.
Washington, 20, of Trussville, was a 2018 graduate of Clay-Chalkville High School. She was completing classes at Lawson State through UAB’s Joint Admission Program with dreams of becoming a nurse to help others.
At approximately 9:40 p.m., South Precinct officers were dispatched to Children’s Hospital at 1601 5th Avenue South on a report of an adult gunshot victim who arrived by way of private vehicle. Children’s Hospital staff pronounced Washington deceased, according to Officer Truman Fitzgerald.
“The preliminary investigation suggests the victim was shot inside of a vehicle while in the parking lot of the Hill University Center at 1400 University Boulevard,” Fitzgerald said. “The victim was then driven to Children’s Hospital by way of a private vehicle for emergency medical care.”
In a statement, UAB said the shooting is believed to have occurred during an arranged meeting to sell headphones.
“We are devastated that tragedy hit the UAB family overnight when a student lost her life after being shot in the parking lot outside the Hill Student Center,” UAB said in a statement. “Police believe this occurred during a meeting arranged to sell headphones. Because this is an ongoing investigation, and out of respect for the victim and her family, we are not sharing additional information at this time. However, we will when it is appropriate. In the meantime, please keep the victim and her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.”
The suspect was identified as 22-year-old Carlos Londarrius Stephens, of Alabaster, Alabama. Stephens was taken into custody after turning himself in on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, police said.
Detectives presented the case to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and obtained a capital murder warrant for the death of Washington.
Stephens was booked into the Jefferson County Jail with no bond.
The death was the 118th homicide in Birmingham of 2020. Of those homicides, 15 have been ruled justifiable and one has been ruled accidental.
Pinson Valley captures 3rd state championship in 4 years
TUSCALOOSA — It was a come-from-behind effort in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, as the third-ranked Pinson Valley Indians knocked off the seventh-ranked Spanish Fort Toros 23-13 in the Class 6A state championship game.
Facing a 13-10 fourth-quarter deficit, the Tribe rallied for two late touchdowns, including the go-ahead touchdown strike from junior quarterback Zack Pyron to senior receiver Ga’Quincy McKinstry. The decisive strike came at a big moment and ended a stretch of six straight empty possessions.
The senior climbed the ladder, pulled down a high delivery and spun away from defenders for the 52-yard score that gave his team a 17-13 advantage with 9:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After another defensive stop, Pyron responded with the knockout punch — an 11-yard scoring strike to Jaquel Fells Jr. off play-action, setting the final count at 23-13.
Pyron completed 13 of his 21 passes for 166 yards and two scores to go with another 74 yards rushing. McKinstry grabbed five receptions for 89 yards, 52 of which came on the go-ahead touchdown reception. Fells added four receptions for 52 yards and the score.
It was, however, a game of runs.
The Region 6 champions started strong, jumping out to a 10-0 advantage with consecutive scores on their first two possessions. Junior running back Michael Sharpe Jr. started things with a 26-yard touchdown run with 9:04 remaining in the first, and junior kicker Zaylen McCray capped off Pinson Valley’s second drive with a 26-yard field goal.
Sharpe ran for 60 yards and a score on 13 calls.
The Indians (12-2) appeared to be on their way to another postseason blowout — Pinson Valley won its first four playoff games by an average score of 38-7 — but Spanish Fort (11-4) had other plans.
The Toros rattled off 13 unanswered to take a 13-10 advantage into the locker room. Sophomore quarterback Brendon Byrd punched in a pair of goal line touchdowns to give Spanish Fort its first lead with 3:49 remaining in the first half. The second of the pair was made possible by a botched Pinson Valley punt (McCray received the long snap with his knee on the Bryant-Denny turf) that set Byrd up with a first-and-goal from the Tribe’s 8-yard line. He hammered it home three plays later on a QB sneak.
The Pinson Valley defense would have all the answers throughout the final two frames, securing a second-half shutout. In six second-half possessions, Spanish Fort was forced into four punts, including three three-and-outs. In their final two drives, the Toros turned the ball over on downs and later ran the clock empty.
Defensive lineman James Perkins led the way with two quarterback sacks and seven tackles in the win. As a unit, the Indians finished with three sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
Hewitt-Trussville High named National Blue Ribbon School
TRUSSVILLE — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today recognized five Alabama schools, including Hewitt-Trussville High School, as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2020. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
“Congratulations to this year’s National Blue Ribbon School awardees,” said Secretary DeVos. “It’s a privilege to recognize the extraordinary work you do to meet students’ needs and prepare them for successful careers and meaningful lives.”
HTHS Principal Tim Salem was pleased to hear the good news.
“The HTHS staff, students, and parents have met the high standards of the National Blue Ribbon Schools, and I am excited to discover all of our high school’s continued successes,” Salem said.
According to a Thursday announcement from the U.S. Department of Education, 317 public and 50 non-public schools have been recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools this year, including five from Alabama.
Center Point elects new mayor, council
CENTER POINT — The city of Center Point came under completely new leadership after the 2020 Municipal Elections.
After nearly 18 years of service, former Center Point Mayor Tom Henderson was replaced by former Councilor Bobby Scott, who took part in a swearing-in ceremony on Monday, Nov. 2, at Hilldale Baptist Church. Henderson had been the city’s only mayor since its inception in 2002.
Henderson’s replacement, Scott, joined five new councilmembers at the ceremony. Those members include D.M. Collins (Place 1), Glenn Williams (Place 2), Tiffany Collins Moore (Place 3), Sharon Jones (Place 4) and Ebonee Hammonds (Place 5).
“We have five new councilmembers: four ladies, one man,” said Scott. “They have a lot of learning to do. I know my first year on the council there was a lot to pick up and then have to turn around and put back out there, so I think they are going to do great. They are very motivated, so hopefully progress will start soon.”
When asked about his platform as mayor, Scott pointed to economic development and safety.
“Economic development; definitely bringing in new businesses,” said Scott. “Safety is a huge concern for residents in the city, so we want to make sure whatever we can do to help improve the quality of life in Center Point, that’s what we’re going to do.”
The newly-elected mayor also encourages more community involvement throughout the city moving forward.
“The mayor definitely leads the city, but it takes every resident to help improve the city, so become involved: come to council meetings, come to city events, visit your schools, sign up for PTA,” said Scott. “I definitely ask the residents to do everything you can as far as helping Center Point progress.”
Chair assignments were also announced on Monday night, and go as follows: Collins (economic development), Moore (public safety), Hammonds (finance), Jones (education/library), Williams (parks and recreation).
Collins was also elected Council President on Monday night, while Moore was elected Council President Pro-Tem in Center Point.
Pinson elects new mayor for first time in history
PINSON – The Pinson City Council swore in a new mayor for the first time since the city’s 2004 incorporation Monday night, Nov. 2, 2020.
Mayor Joe Cochran has lived in the city of Pinson for nearly 30 years and served on the city council in Place 2 from 2004 to 2016. In 2016, Cochran ran for the position of mayor and lost, but this year, he ran again and succeeded, unseating Pinson’s inaugural mayor Hoyt Sanders.
“I think it’s probably the second or third greatest opportunity I’ve ever had in my life,” Cochran said. “Moving forward, I look very forward to working with this council and with this community to try to create progress here.”
The council also welcomed new city councilor, Glenda Kirkland, who was sworn in to Place 5. Kirkland, who has long-term roots in the city of Clay, has also served as mayor of the small town of Inglis, Florida.
“I’m excited about being on the council,” Kirkland said. “I’m looking forward to doing some good things here in Pinson and helping it grow. It’s exciting. I want to see Pinson move up more and do a lot more things for our schools and for the kids.”
Mayor Cochran and the Pinson City Council were sworn in by Alabama Supreme Court Justice Michael Bolin.
“Judge Bolin … has actually sworn every city council since the very first one,” Cochran said. “He is a supreme court justice, so we are honored to have someone at his level come to our small community. But I believe we have a special place in his heart, so thanks for being here.”
“It’s a great occasion, it really is,” Bolin said.
Councilor Dawn Tanner was sworn in to Place 1; Councilor Brad Walker was sworn in to Place 2; Councilor Robbie Roberts was sworn in to Place 3; and Councilor John Churchwell was sworn in to Place 4.
City of Trussville celebrates opening of Entertainment District
TRUSSVILLE — After years of planning and construction, the city of Trussville dedicated the Trussville Entertainment District (TED) on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.
The official celebration of the newly renovated area was attended by city and state leaders including Mayor Buddy Choat, council members, Rep. Danny Garrett, Sen. Shay Shelnutt, Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight and Trussville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Pattie Neill.
Choat said the celebration was a way for the city to show appreciation to everyone who has been involved in the development of the downtown area.
“It’s very gratifying to look back and see how far we have come,” Choat said. “But it’s not for me, it’s for the city and the citizens of Trussville and the families.”
Choat said he hopes the TED continues to grow and bring people to the city of Trussville.
“I just see it becoming better and better,” Choat added. “As you look around, you can see it has the potential to grow with new businesses.”
The area includes a pavilion and a stage, Ferus Artisan Ales and Cookie Dough Magic. Development around the Entertainment District is expected to continue into 2021 and the city plans to complete the next phase of downtown redevelopment, with the new plaza at North Chalkville Road and Main Street.