The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


December 30, 2012

The Top 12 of 2012


Cemetery vandalized three times

November is typically a time to celebrate veterans, count blessings and visit loved ones.

But for the members of Little Ezekiel Missionary Baptist Church, it was also a time to grieve, reflect and restore after its cemetery in southern Limestone County was vandalized three times in successive weeks in November.

Hatchett Cemetery, which is located among cornfields on a remote portion of Bridgeforth Road, has nearly 200 marked graves. The small, fenced-in cemetery is the final resting place for dozens of prominent families, including several veterans.

Ardmore Monument Company conducted a survey and estimated at least $17,000 in damages. Many of the grave markers were toppled, chipped and split into shards or slabs.

Little Ezekiel, which has about 200 members, has held four community workdays and has pledged to fully restore the burial grounds. Eight grave markers have already been replaced.

Robert Allen Muse, 21, of Falkville, was arrested Nov. 26. He was charged with three counts of first-degree criminal mischief. His initial bail was set at $150,000 cash only, and Muse spent 21 days in the Limestone County Jail.

Muse posted a $75,000 secure bond and was released Dec. 19, after a bail-reduction that morning with District Judge Jerry Batts. The bail stipulations include an 8 p.m. curfew, turning his Kawasaki motorcycle over to his father and refraining from entering the county unless he has a court appearance or a meeting with his public defender, Garry Clem of Athens.

Controversial choice

In an effort to find a permanent home for court programs, the Limestone County Commission purchased a seven-acre property on the northern outskirts of the city.

The commissioners at the time — Gerald Barksdale, Bill Daws, Bill Latimer and Gary Daly — approved buying the L&S Shopping Center property for $525,000 from former owners Dick and Billy Smith in May.

The property was valued at $800,000, according to Chairman Stanley Menefee, who opposed the purchase.

The County Commission has proposed moving Community Corrections, Pardons and Paroles and county maintenance from a 16,000-square foot office space in the Crutcher Shopping Center on South Jefferson Street to the L&S site on North Jefferson Street.

The L&S property is comprised of the former Foodland grocery store and Fred’s Discount Store, a trio of rental houses, a closed restaurant and a handful of buildings still in use, including a barbershop and a space used for Hispanic Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

The county declined to renew a four-year lease with owner Jimmy Greenhaw to remain long term at Crutcher, which costs $2,500 per month to rent. Earlier this month the commission voted to reject bids to renovate the Fred’s building because all three bids were over the $300,000 estimated budget.

The commissioners are currently trying to decide whether to build a prefabricated metal building on the L&S site or purchase a ready-to-use structure to house Community Corrections and an 11-foot-by-7-foot Emergency Management Agency equipment trailer.

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