Top news stories of 2014

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Major stories in 2014, left to right, included “saving the Strand,” the opening of Walmart in August and a brutal storm that destroyed Burke’s Outlet and other businesses in March.

Major stories in 2014, left to right, included “saving the Strand,” the opening of Walmart in August and a brutal storm that destroyed Burke’s Outlet and other businesses in March.

No matter the month, there was always something newsworthy happening in the Atmore community during 2014.

Here is a look back at the top stories from each month in 2014, as chosen by the staff of The Atmore Advance.

January — Convicted murderer gets death penalty

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Citing evidence that Cedric Floyd “cruelly terrorized the victim before killing her,” Circuit Judge Bert Rice on Monday, Jan. 27, sentenced the defendant to die by lethal injection.

Floyd was convicted in October of the Jan. 2, 2011, shooting death of his girlfriend, Tina Jones. The jury found that Floyd also committed burglary before he shot Jones three times, because he broke into her house through a window.

Also making news: Snow and ice visits Atmore; Young hired as ECHS football coach

February — McBride, David’s Catfish House honored

Dr. Ullysses McBride, president emeritus of Reid State Technical College, was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 68th annual meeting of the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Feb. 20.

David’s Catfish House was selected as the Business of the Year, and William “Pee Wee” Powell was named the 2013 Citizen of the Year.

After receiving his award, McBride challenged those in attendance to continue doing what they could to make Atmore great.

“Please leave here tonight ready to pay any price, and endure any burden, to keep Atmore No. 1,” he said.

Also making news: Little announces retirement from school system, Hall of Fame class announced

March — Heavy winds damage Atmore businesses

A storm that passed through the south end of Atmore at about 8:15 a.m. Sunday, March 16, heavily damaged Burke’s Outlet and caused some damage at surrounding buildings.

Downed trees and broken glass were seen in the surrounding area. Signs at several businesses on South Main Street, including KFC, were damaged by the winds.

Damage was also noticeable throughout much of the southern part of downtown Atmore, particularly along McRae Street. Power and phones were knocked out in much of the city, but most electricity was restored by Sunday evening.

Also making news: PCI opens health care facilities; Lisenby dies in motorcycle crash

April — Judge dismisses Strange’s suit against PCI

In April, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit that Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange previously filed against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) Gaming Authority.

Strange’s lawsuit, initially filed Feb. 19, 2013, in an Alabama state court, claimed that PCI’s gaming operations are illegal under state law. PCI successfully had the case moved to federal court, and Judge W. Keith Watkins granted PCI’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit Thursday, April 10.

Also making news: Coach Mosby dies at 90; Coleman pleads guilty to manslaughter

May — Knott named new county superintendent

John Knott was named superintendent of the Escambia County School System on Thursday, May 22.

Knott, who had served as the system’s assistant superintendent, and Escambia County Middle School Assistant Principal Kim D. Staley were the two finalists for the job.

Then-superintendent Randall Little retired June 30, and Knott assumed his new role on July 1.

Also making news: Orso gets life in prison for murder; Inmate dies at Holman

June — Bryan named new PCI chair

Stephanie A. Bryan was elected as the new Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) tribal chairman Saturday, June 7, becoming the first female chair in PCI history.

Bryan received 782 votes in the election, while Robbie McGhee received 605 votes. One vote was cast for a write-in candidate.

Bryan replaced outgoing chairman Buford Rolin, who had served in the position since 2006. Bryan had served as the PCI vice chairman, and McGhee served as treasurer.

Also making news: Smith announces state Senate bid; Man steals disabled dog

July — YMCA announces possible closure

After 19 years of serving the Atmore community, the Atmore Area YMCA said in July that it may officially close its doors for good on Aug. 29, 2014.

Paul Chason, CEO of the Atmore Area YMCA, said Monday, July 7, that the non-profit organization no longer has the financial resources to remain operational.

“The YMCA board of directors and staff have worked very hard in an attempt to keep our YMCA operational,” Chason said, in a prepared news release. “[We have pursued] opportunities for additional funding above membership income from many different sources.”

However, the YMCA eventually secured enough funding to remain open for the foreseeable future.

Also making news: Lambeth gets 15 years for murder; NHS grad dies in car crash

August — Walmart opens doors to shoppers

Atmore’s new Walmart officially opened for business Wednesday, Aug. 6, at 7:45 a.m.

Prior to the opening, Walmart officials expressed their excitement about the new retail store.

“What you have done to make this store work is absolutely amazing,” said Chris Weinberg, Walmart market manager, who is responsible for the stores in Baldwin and Escambia counties.

Also making news: Taco Bell opens, ACH changes management partners to Infirmary Health

September — Strand ‘saved’

Thanks to the hard work of several community members and local donors, the “show will go on” at the Strand Theater.

Malcolm “Bub” Gideons, the chairman of Pride of Atmore, said Monday, Sept. 22, that the organization has officially purchased the Strand building. Pride of Atmore is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community organization founded in December 2013, and dedicated to preserving the historical integrity of the Strand Theater and downtown Atmore.

Gideons especially thanked First National Bank & Trust for arranging a unique financing structure that will allow Pride of Atmore to start paying for the building, while continuing to raise funds through grants and other avenues.

Also making news: Gun found at ECHS; 3 arrested for thefts at EA

October — Fire destroys Parish Grill

A fire early Sunday, Oct. 12, caused major damage to a restaurant in downtown Atmore that had been open for just two months.

The fire began about 1 a.m. in The Parish Grill, located at 122 S. Main St. Firefighters from the Atmore Fire Department, Poarch Volunteer Fire Department, Escambia County (Fla.) Fire Rescue, Brewton Fire Department, Bay Minette Fire Department and Station 9 from Pensacola, Fla., responded to the blaze.

Atmore Fire Chief Gerry McGhee said that city firefighters were on the scene from approximately 12:47 a.m. and left the scene at 10:30 a.m.

“We were able to confine the fire to the one building, for the most part,” McGhee said. “The Tot Shop had some smoke damage and the antique store had some water damage, but otherwise we were able to contain it to that one area.”

Also making news: 43-year-old woman dies in car crash; “Drugs Erase Dreams” rally held

November — 4 arrested for arson, thefts at We Care store

Atmore police eventually arrested four suspects in connection with an arson and theft at the We Care Economy Shop on the evening Thursday, Nov. 6.

Agent Scott Walden of the 21st Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force confirmed that those arrested were Chad Alverson, 28, of 201 E. Ridgeley St., Apt. 301, Atmore; Johnny Brooks, 48, of 100 Trout St., Atmore; Lisa Casey, 33, of 350 South Road, Atmore; and Jake Lacey, 31, of an unknown address.

All four have been charged with third-degree burglary, second-degree theft of property, second-degree arson and second-degree criminal mischief. They were transported to the Escambia County Detention Center on Saturday, Nov. 8.

Also making news: Albritton defeats Smith in Senate bid; EA wins 1st state football title

December — Execution announced at Holman Prison

A man convicted of fatally shooting a Sylacauga store clerk in 1987 is scheduled to be executed in March at Atmore’s Holman Prison.

On Tuesday, Dec. 23, the Alabama Supreme Court announced the spring execution date for William Ernest Kuenzel, who has already served 27 years on Death Row. Kuenzel is scheduled to face execution on March 19, 2015.

The court approved the order in an 8-1 decision, with Justice Greg Shaw dissenting.

The last execution to take place at Holman was on July 25, 2013.

Also making news: Robinsonville Road victim burglarized, hit; City lights 1st official Christmas tree