A look back: Large crowd attends hospital ‘beam signing’ ceremony

Published 1:56 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chilton County residents showed their support for the construction of a hospital in Chilton County when almost 80 percent of voters approved a 1-cent sales tax to pay for a new facility.

Chilton County residents showed their support for the construction of a hospital in Chilton County when almost 80 percent of voters approved a 1-cent sales tax to pay for a new facility.


Verbena woman sentenced to 119 years for child sex abuse charges

A Verbena woman was sentenced Sept. 30 to 119 years in prison for sexual abuse charges involving a child less than 12.

Toni Jo Minot, 40, who lists an address off County Road 506 in Verbena, was sentenced by Bessemer Cutoff Jefferson County Circuit Judge David Hobdy to 99 years for her first-degree sodomy charge and 20 years for sexual abuse of a child less than 12.

Minot will not be eligible for parole due to the victim in the case being under 12 when the crimes occurred, according to court records.

In August, a Bessemer Cutoff jury found Minot guilty of the two charges.

Minot was originally arrested on Jan. 24, 2012, in Jefferson County, after being indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury in 2011 on charges of first-degree sodomy and sexual abuse of a child less than 12.

According to the indictment, Minot engaged in sexual contact with a child less than 12 between Dec. 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, in Jefferson County.


Large crowd attends hospital ‘beam signing’ ceremony

Chilton County residents showed their support for the construction of a hospital in Chilton County when almost 80 percent of voters approved a 1-cent sales tax to pay for a new facility.

Locals showed their excitement on Oct. 8 as about 200 people attended a beam signing ceremony at the site of St. Vincent’s Chilton.

The crowd that attended, which heard from several of the main players in the process of bringing the hospital to Clanton, couldn’t be contained under the large tent that had been erected at the site of the construction.

Many attendees stood under a beaming sun as several officials instrumental in the process of bringing the hospital to Clanton spoke with the clatter construction in the background.

Residents signed beams for the hospital during the beam signing ceremony in October.

Residents signed beams for the hospital during the beam signing ceremony in October.

Residents were invited to sign one of the final beams that will be put into place as part of the steel framework of the facility, which is located at 2030 Lay Dam Road in Clanton.

“Signing the beam represents St. Vincent’s, the project partners’ and the community’s commitment to the future of health care in Chilton County,” said Neeysa Biddle, senior vice president for Ascension Health and Birmingham market executive of St. Vincent’s Health System. “We want to give everyone the opportunity to make their mark on this new building and to become part of the history of the new St. Vincent’s Chilton hospital.”

Biddle concluded the program by remarking about the “rare” commitment to the hospital residents showed by voting overwhelmingly in favor of funding its construction.

“We do not take that commitment lightly,” Biddle said. “We thank you, and we’re honored to be here.”

Biddle said St. Vincent’s wants to be a partner beyond the hospital and will ensure the level of care is “top-notch” and consistent with the company’s other locations.

“We want to be the people you count on when it comes to your health,” she said.

The hospital is located on a 40-acre parcel of property near Interstate 65 Exit 212.

The hospital will be a full-service community hospital providing general acute care and outpatient services including a 24/7 emergency department, diagnostic imaging, surgery, critical care, wellness services, lab and gastroenterology services.

The hospital is scheduled to open in fall 2016.


County, Clanton to purchase land for industrial park

County and city of Clanton officials have voted to jointly purchase about 520 acres of land for an industrial park.

The total purchase of the land would be $2,728,000 with the county and city each paying $1,364,000.

The Clanton City Council voted unanimously in favor of the purchase during a regular meeting Oct. 12, while the Chilton County Commission unanimously voted during a special called meeting Oct. 13.

Commissioners met shortly after 8 a.m. at the Chilton County Courthouse to discuss the purchase.

Chilton County Industrial Development Coordinator Fred Crawford spoke to commissioners and council members about the land, which is located near Interstate 65 Exit 212 and borders both the interstate and Highway 145.

Access to the park would be from 145.

Crawford said the property would belong to the city and county jointly until another organization to oversee the property is developed.

Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama, told council members the park would be one of the largest in the state in such a desirable location.

“I don’t want to get too excited, but this really does work,” Searcy said.

The property borders other property that is inside Clanton city limits, which would make the industrial park eligible for annexation into the city.


Clanton man kills sister in shooting, victim’s son critically injured

A 48-year-old woman was killed and her 24-year-old son critically injured after being shot by a relative Oct. 18.

Robert Fields Jr., 34, was charged with murder, attempted murder and assault first degree after he allegedly shot and killed his 48-year old sister, Rachel Pedro, and critically injured Pedro’s 24-year-old son, Bamidele Pedro, who suffered from multiple gunshot wounds.

Maddox said that officers from Clanton Police Department and the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office responded to a residence in the 200 Block of Third Avenue South about 3 p.m. Oct. 18 after receiving a report of shots being fired at the residence.

At the scene, officers found Rachel Pedro dead from an apparent gunshot wound and her son, Bamidele Pedro, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

The suspect had fled the scene on foot.

A canine search team from Bibb County was called in to help with the ensuing search, but police soon received information that the suspect was hiding at a Clanton motel, where he was arrested without incident.

Fields is brother to Rachel Pedro and uncle to the second victim, Maddox said.

The suspect and two victims lived at the same residence, along with at least three other relatives, including Fields’ son and parents of the alleged shooter and deceased victim.

The other members of the household were present at the time of the shooting, Maddox said.

The residence is located in a seemingly quiet residential area, separated only by a stand of trees from the Chilton County Jail.

The suspect did not sustain injuries during the incident, he said.


Clanton man charged with making terrorist threat

Formal charges were filed Nov. 2 for a Clanton man who threatened on Facebook to go on a killing spree.

Jeremie Jonathan Montgomery, who lists an address off County Road 942 in Clanton, has been charged in Shelby County with making a terrorist threat, a Class C felony, according to court records.

His bond was set at $500,000.

The arrest warrant for Montgomery states that he “intentionally or recklessly caused the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or other serious public inconvenience.”

District attorneys in Shelby County filed a bond recommendation of $500,000 on Monday stating that Montgomery was currently on probation in Chilton County for criminal mischief in the first degree and was on probation when he committed the terrorist threat offense.

The motion also stated that Montgomery “is considered very dangerous and presents a substantial risk to the general public based on the true facts of the this offense.”

The motion went on to say that Montgomery confessed to posting the threatening messages and photographs that resulted in the new criminal offense.

Authorities in Chilton County arrested Montgomery on Nov. 1 after he threatened on Facebook to kill people at Flowers Baking Company on 16th Street North in Birmingham and Alabama Crown, a distribution company, in Alabaster.

Chilton County Sheriff John Shearon said authorities with the special operations units in Clanton, Jemison and Chilton County Sheriff’s Office located Montgomery at his home and staged an area nearby to keep an eye on him until they took him into custody.

Montgomery posted using the Facebook profile name “Jeremy Jeremias Montgomery” on Facebook to a Birmingham business that things were “going to get pretty ugly.”

“I feel like going on a killing spree today,” Montgomery posted. “If I take a trip out to my old jobs First Flowers Bakery then if I’m able (Alabama Crown in Alabaster).

They messed over the wrong person and it’s not about to go down like that,” Montgomery posted on Facebook. “I got 30 rounds and I’m trying to use the whole clip and some more.”

Shearon said Montgomery was transported from Chilton County to Shelby County, where he was booked into the Shelby County Jail.

“We just wanted to make sure that everyone was safe during the situation,” Shearon said. “We take these types of threats very seriously. Thankfully, no one was hurt.”


Two additional suspects arrested in Maplesville woman’s death

Two additional suspects were arrested on Nov. 12 in connection to the kidnapping and death of a 29-year-old Maplesville woman.

Marcus King George, 34, of Centreville and Alyssa Sue Watson, 22, of Centreville, were both arrested and charged with kidnapping first-degree.

Both are currently being held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on a $60,000 bond each.

Earlier that week, two other Bibb County residents were arrested and charged with capital murder in the case.

Michael Belcher, 31, and Chylli Bruce, 18, were charged on Monday night with capital murder in the death of Samantha Payne.

Squirrel hunters found Payne’s body near the Tuscaloosa and Hale County line in the Talladega National Forest around 9 a.m., Nov. 2 according to authorities with the Tuscaloosa County Homicide Unit.

Investigators are still working to determine the relationship between Payne and the four suspects charged in her kidnapping and murder.

Investigators know that Payne and Belcher knew each other and were together a few days prior to Payne’s murder.

Investigators believe that Payne, Belcher, Bruce and others were together in Bibb County on the night of Nov. 1.

Authorities previously responded to a suspicious vehicle/person call on South Sandy Road, near the area where Payne’s body was found.

Bruce and Stephen George, 27, of Brent, were arrested by Hale County Sheriff’s deputies for drug charges that day.

George was later arrested and charged with capital murder.


Chilton County Men in Pink raise $47,600 for Relay

Chilton County Commissioner Joseph Parnell has witnessed several family members and friends battle cancer over the years.

So, when he was approached by Chilton County Relay For Life organizers about participating in the first-ever Chilton County Men in Pink fundraiser for Relay For Life last month, he agreed to help.

“Our family has been very much affected by cancer,” Parnell said. “It really inspired me to become involved in this fundraiser.”

Parnell was among 17 men in Chilton County that raised more than $47,000 total for Chilton County Relay For Life in October.

“For the month of October, each of those men wore something pink each and every day,” Chilton County Relay For Life Community Manager Jeannie Smith said. “They brought awareness of breast cancer in Chilton County, they brought awareness of Relay For Life and they raised funds to continue the mission of the American Cancer Society. The heart of that mission is research for a cure.”

Parnell was introduced at a Nov. 5 event, “Men in Pink: Pink Tie Affair Dinner,” as the 2015 Chilton County Man in Pink for raising the most money of the 17 participants.

“It was a huge honor and a very just cause,” Parnell said. “I think it was a very successful first-year fundraiser, and I think it’s something that not only myself but almost everybody who participated in it would be willing to do again.”

Parnell raised $6,624, with Chilton County Schools Superintendent Tommy Glasscock close behind with $6,515.50. The group raised a total of $47,600.

“It’s tremendous,” Smith said of the group’s efforts. “I’m still in awe.”

To raise money, Parnell said he donated a Browning X-bolt stainless steel hunting rifle and sold raffle tickets for it for $25 apiece, along with sending emails to people asking for contributions.

Proceeds from ticket sales for the Men in Pink dinner event also benefitted Relay For Life.

All of the participants were recognized at the Nov. 5 event, which was held at the Jemison Municipal Complex.


Former sheriff’s deputy, schools employee enters guilty plea

A former Chilton County sheriff’s deputy and schools employee entered a guilty plea Nov. 30 to six counts of sexual abuse.

David Hubbard, 41, entered a negotiated guilty plea to rape in the second degree, four counts of a school employee engaging in a sex act with a student under the age of 19, and one count of enticing a child for immoral purposes, according to court records.

Hubbard was originally indicted on 47 counts including 42 felony charges and five misdemeanors.

Chilton County Circuit Judge Ben A. Fuller filed an order Dec. 1 setting the sentencing hearing for Hubbard at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2016.

Hubbard’s trial was scheduled to begin Dec. 7 at 8:30 a.m. with jury selection at the Autauga County Courthouse in Prattville.

Fuller ordered David Hubbard be housed at the Autauga Metro Jail during the week of the trial, and the Chilton County Sheriff should ensure that no less than two Chilton County deputies were present in the courtroom for the duration of the trial from jury selection to the return of the verdicts by the jury.

A gag order was issued in the case by Fuller on June 18.

The four-page order from Fuller outlined specific restrictions for public comments made about the case by the parties involved in the matter.

A motion was filed on Nov. 30 by Chief Deputy District Attorney C.J. Robinson for the 19th Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office requesting Fuller lift the gag order due to Hubbard’s plea of guilt.

Late Dec. 1, Fuller filed a motion lifting the gag order, according to court records.


Administrator named for St. Vincent’s Chilton

St. Vincent’s Chilton appointed an administrator for the hospital.

Suzannah Campbell, was previously vice president of operations at St. Vincent’s Birmingham, and is looking forward to her new role in Chilton County, according to a press release.

“Honestly, the enthusiasm in this community about having a hospital open is what excites me the most,” Campbell said. “It is contagious. It is such a great feeling to see people who are wanting to support something so much.”

The new 30-bed hospital will open in the fall of 2016.

Campbell has been with St. Vincent’s Health System for nine years, serving as director of business development, administrative director of operations, and prior to this appointment as vice president of operations since March 2012.

Before joining St. Vincent’s, she served as state health planner with the Alabama State Health Planning and Development Agency, and in planning and operations roles within the UAB Health system.

“Suzannah brings to this new role a track record of excellence in leadership and a true commitment to our mission,” President of St. Vincent’s Birmingham and St. Vincent’s Chilton Evan Ray said in a release. “Her outstanding leadership in the areas of quality, patient experience and operations have contributed significantly to our Birmingham ministry. I am confident she will bring the same professionalism and dedication to her new role at St. Vincent’s Chilton.”

Campbell said she looks forward to being able to provide care in a community to the people who need it most.

“I have been driving around Chilton County seeing the ambulances transporting people, and knowing that they have to drive 30 minutes to get someone to a hospital is scary,” Campbell said. “I am looking forward to being able to provide care so that people don’t have to travel so far.”

Campbell holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a Master of Science degree from Auburn University of Montgomery, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Auburn University.



A wreck early Christmas morning claimed the life of a 40-year-old Clanton woman and two of her children.

The vehicle they were traveling home in during heavy rain left the roadway and entered a pond about 2 a.m. Dec. 25 near the intersection of Chilton County Road 54 and Chilton County Road 73, according to a press release from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

The driver, 33-year-old Luis Alberto Cruz, who lists an address in Verbena, has been charged with manslaughter, as the preliminary investigation indicated alcohol was a factor in the crash, according to the release.

The three victims were Maria Rocha-Gomez, 5-year-old Mariana Rocha-Gomez and 7-year-old Mariela Rocha-Gomez.

It was unclear the relationship between Cruz and the victims.

Another child occupant survived the crash, swam and attempted to find aid for his mother and siblings, Chilton County Sheriff John Shearon said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney C.J. Robinson confirmed on Monday that the child attempted to extricate the deceased victims from the car once in the water, but he was unable to do so.

None of the occupants in the 2005 Nissan Altima were using seat belts or child restraints.

Cruz fled the scene but was apprehended in Clanton by Alabama State Troopers.

He has been charged with three counts of manslaughter and is being held at Chilton County Jail, according to the release.