October-December 2011: Donny comes home; nursing school opens at Jeff State; pleas entered in Dorough murder

Published 2:50 pm Friday, December 30, 2011

Editor’s note: Between now and Tuesday, The Clanton Advertiser will revisit some of the top stories of 2011. Below are memorable stories from October through December.


Church theft leads to drug charges
A Clanton man was arrested Oct. 3 on charges of stealing from West End Baptist Church. He then faced additional drug charges after police searched his residence. Albert Theo Hayes, 38, was charged with theft of property, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, illegal possession of prescription drugs and criminal trespassing, all misdemeanors. A propane tank and grill hoses taken from the church were recovered.

Clanton Middle School student dies
A 12-year-old Clanton Middle School student, Dajia Lee, died Oct. 4. Investigators ruled the cause of death as a suicide. A vigil was held Oct. 13, where the founder of an anti-bullying organization spoke.

A vigil was honored after the death of Dajia Lee, a 12-year-old Clanton Middle School student who died from suicide.

First arrest made under new immigration law
A Jemison man determined to be in the U.S. illegally was the first person arrested in Chilton County under the state’s new immigration law. A Jemison police officer determined Ruben Gonzalez Ruiz did not have a valid passport following a minor car accident.

Clanton teen dies in wreck
An 18-year-old Clanton teenager died Oct. 10 following a three-vehicle accident near West End Baptist Church on AL 22.

Clanton raises garbage rates
The city of Clanton raised its garbage rate for the first time since 1994 during an Oct. 10 council meeting. The cost of household pick-up increased $3 to $15 a month.

New Swedish Queens
Tara Caton, the 17-year-old daughter of Mike and Sherry Caton was crowned the 2011 Swedish Festival Queen on Oct. 11. Joining her court were Junior Miss Swedish Fest Darian Green, Young Miss Swedish Fest Haylie Patterson, Little Miss Swedish Fest Ivie Littleton and Tiny Miss Swedish Fest Averie Littleton.

Eslinger awarded Purple Heart
Donny Eslinger, the Jemison solider nearly killed in Afghanistan, was awarded the Purple Heart on Oct. 10 by President Barack Obama. Eslinger was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. Eslinger was later transferred to Tampa Bay for further treatment and visited Jemison over the Christmas holidays.

LeCroy top Alabama science teacher
The Alabama Science Teachers Association named Isabella instructor Jay LeCroy the 2011 Outstanding High School Science Teacher. LeCroy teaches physics, advanced chemistry and physical sciences for grades 8-12 at Isabella. He also coaches a countywide robotics team that began at Isabella.


8 arrested on drug charges
A two-month investigation by the Clanton Police Department netted eight arrests in a drug bust. On Nov. 3, Clanton officers executed a search warrant on a house in the 1100 block of First Avenue. They recovered what Police Chief Brian Stilwell called a significant amount of crack cocaine, marijuana, synthetic marijuana, drug paraphernalia and money. Charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of marijuana were: Kenecia Aljira Caffee, Laura Mae Works, Rebecca Ann Lee, Sonya Denise Nix, Terry Dewayne Bailey, Thomas Earl Davis and Torey Morrell Reese.

Business, Farm of the Year announced
Rocky Farms and owners Truett and Jean Maddox were named the 2012 Farm of the Year at annual Farm-City Banquet. Dr. Ritky Dy was honored as the 2012 Business of the Year.

Miss Chilton County winners crowned
This year’s Miss Chilton County queens were crowned in a two-day pageant Nov. 9-10 and include: Little Miss Emma Kate Locke, Young Miss Lily Porter, Junior Miss Mary Elizabeth McKinney and Miss Chilton County Candace Pierce. Pierce was also named Miss Congeniality.

Martin switches parties
Chilton County Probate Judge Bobby Martin announced Nov. 14 that he planned to leave the Democratic Party and run for re-election as a Republican. “I’ve always been conservative, had conservative views and a conservative stance,” Martin said at the time. “I felt like it was time to become completely conservative.”

Mims re-elected commission chair
Tim Mims was re-elected chairman of the Chilton County Commission during its meeting Nov. 14. 2012 will mark the fourth consecutive year Mims has chaired the county’s governing body.

Farmer dies of a heart attack
A death investigation of a Chilton County farmer found dead in his front yard determined Raymond Cooedy died Nov. 11 of a heart attack.

Guilty plea in Dorough case
One of the two men charged in a 2009 murder pled guilty Nov. 30. Joshua Ready pled guilty to murder and, as part of his plea agreement, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.


Thorsby student passes away
A 10-year-old boy, who was a student at Thorsby, died from leukemia on Dec. 2. Logan William Pledger passed away at Children’s Hospital. He was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2011.

Wallace proposes bill to split up sex offenders
State Rep. Kurt Wallace said he will propose a bill in the 2012 session to limit the number of sex offender who can live at one residence. The bill came about after it was discovered that 23 convicted sex offenders have all been released to the same address on County Road 374. As of early December, nine registered sex offenders were living at that address.

Nursing school coming to Jeff State
Jefferson State announced in December that they plan to open a nursing school at its Clanton campus in January 2012.

Second suspect in Dorough case pleads guilty too
On Dec. 14, Christopher Kroeger admitted to Circuit Court Judge Ben Fuller that he shot and killed Steven Dorough in December 2009. His plea deal called for 35 years in prison. A second suspect in the case, Joshua David Ready, who helped cover up the crime, plead guilty in November and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Donny Eslinger and his mother, Mary Sazera, talk with reporters at the Birmingham airport.

Donny comes home
Donny Eslinger, the Jemison solider injured in Afghanistan this past September, was able to come home for a brief visit during Christmas and New Year’s.