A violent resolution

Published 8:23 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Murder on the ferry! A tragic end to a story that still rips at my heart, one of those where a real good man had a problem and came to me for help. I did what I could; it wasn’t enough.

I knew Mr. Patterson, his brother and elderly mother very well. They had waterfront property approximately 1/2 mile below Lay Dam in Coosa County. Everyone would watch in amazement at the time and effort the two men put into mixing concrete over some very large rocks, making a platform on the property that otherwise would not be usable. They did this for about 20 years! Finally, their invalid mother could sit and fish. A new man with a large boat moved in up the creek—then the problems started.

Mr. Patterson approached me as he had before, “Bill, don’t you think you can put a buoy in the mouth of that branch?” I had sent his requests to our office, and we couldn’t justify it. Each time, I passed it on to him as best I could, with regrets. He repeated the story of his last confrontation, saying the man had cut his mother’s lines and was disrespectful to her. Mr. Patterson was a frail person in his 70s, the other man much larger, and he stated that the man told him that, “Next time I catch you on that ferry, I’m gonna put you in the river,” a statement that was very meaningful to the old river-folk. He said, “Bill, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to kill him.” Looking into his eyes, you could see the desperation. Wait, let’s talk. If you think you are going to have a serious problem with him, go to Rockford, see your judge and get a warrant! I stressed that he see the judge! He followed my instructions, but the judge wasn’t in. My friend was desperate. He stopped off at a little sport shop and bought himself a pistol and ammunition. He pulled up on the ferry to cross over. The other man pulled in behind him and got out of his truck and approached Mr. Patterson’s truck and opened his door. They had a few words, and he repeated his threat. Mr. Patterson reached into the paper bag, took his new pistol out, pointed it at the victim, fired three shots, and two of them struck the victim.

I heard the radio message, rushed to the jail and there he sat with such a sad look—his face was sprayed with blood. He said, “Bill, I’m sorry that I had to kill him.”

He was indicted in Chilton County for murder! While awaiting trail, my friend died! I’m so sorry.