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Area Students Interview for Southern Pine Electric Co-op’s Youth Tour Program

On Friday, January 12, twenty-four local students were chosen to compete for the honor of being a 2018 Southern Pine Youth Tour representative. Students were chosen by faculty members of their respective schools, based on academic achievements and extracurricular achievements.

Students selected by their schools to participate in Youth Tour were: Front Row (L to R): Avie Etheridge, Sparta Academy; Mary Thompson Lancaster, Escambia Academy; Anna Grace White, T.R. Miller High School; Natasha Grant, Hillcrest High School; Michael-Anthony Williams, Hillcrest High School; John Farish Ard, Monroe County High School; Max Carter, Monroe Academy; Althea Marsh, W.S. Neal High School; Olivia Simmons, Escambia County High School; Paige Gardner, J.F. Shields High School; Kaylee Knight, Monroe Academy; Karsyn Hill, Excel High School; Rachael Williams, J.U. Blacksher High School; LaMaiya Preyear, Monroe County High School; Adonis Williams, Escambia County High School

Back Row (L to R): Noah Winton, T.R. Miller High School; JaQaylin Harrison, J.F. Shields High School; Joey Trahan, Excel High School; Jackson Bonner, Escambia Academy; Lane Sims, J.U. Blacksher High School; McKenzie Faulk, Flomaton High School; Jay Jackson, Flomaton High School; Michael Campbell, W.S. Neal High School; Quin Godwin, Cornerstone Christian School


Sporting Chef Shares Tips for Tasty Venison


Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

With Alabama in the peak of deer season, freezers are getting full, which means it’s time to prepare some tasty venison.

As a buddy and I were discussing on a trip home from a hunting excursion, venison got a bad rap back in the day because of several reasons. Most deer hunting in the mid-20th century was done in front of a pack of hounds on a hot deer trail. Plus, it was verboten to shoot a doe back then. Hence, bucks replete with rutting hormones or lactic acid from being chased by the hounds, or both, made some of the meat less than palatable.

There was also the practice of hauling a nice deer around in the back of the truck to show all your buddies that contributed to the venison stigma.

That last practice is what really irks Scott Leysath, aka The Sporting Chef, when he hears people complain about the taste of venison. Leysath, who has roots in Grand Bay, Ala., and once produced the “Hunt, Fish and Cook” show out of Huntsville, said the care of the deer carcass right after it is harvested is a crucial step to tasty venison.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Alabama,” Leysath said. “Despite this recent cold spell, it can be a little warm during deer season. When I see people driving around with deer in the back of their trucks before it has been field-dressed, it makes me cringe. As with any animal, you need to get deer cleaned and cooled as fast as possible. If you ride around with the deer in the back of the truck, it’s not going to encourage it to taste good when it’s cooked.”

The best-case scenario, according to Leysath, is to have access to a walk-in cooler where the skinned deer carcasses can be hung for at least a week. He hangs larger animals for up to two weeks. The failure to properly age the venison can lead to a chewy meal.

“I actually had a buddy of mine from Centre, Ala., call me and say he had done everything I told him to do to prepare the venison,” Leysath said. “He said, ‘I did not overcook the backstrap. It was 130 degrees in the center. I made that balsamic dressing to go with it. But it was really, really, really tough.’

“I asked him when he shot the deer. ‘Yesterday.’ He hadn’t given that meat a chance. It has to go through rigor for 24 hours, and then you have to let it hang or age. If that backstrap had been aged for a week, it would have been a whole different animal.”

Leysath said that venison that is frozen soon after harvest can still benefit from the aging process. If you don’t have access to a walk-in cooler but have room in a refrigerator, you can put the meat on a rack above a pan and let it age. Another option is to use a large ice chest, but don’t put the venison in the ice. Arrange some method to keep the venison elevated above the ice and ensure the temperature inside the ice chest doesn’t get above 40 degrees.

“You’re going to lose some crusty bits that aren’t going to look all that pleasant after a week or two, but the rest of it is going to be a lot more tender,” he said. “After a couple of weeks, the meat will lose about 20 to 25 percent of its weight, but what is left is good stuff. The dry-aging and hanging makes all the difference in the world.”

Leysath also has a pet peeve about trying to mask the flavor of wild game. He has a friend in Alabama who claims snow goose is by far the best-eating goose. His friend cuts the goose breasts into little strips and marinates them in teriyaki for 48 hours. Then cream cheese and jalapeno are added before being wrapped in bacon.

“That’s the universal recipe with wild game,” he said. “You marinate in who knows what, add jalapeno, some kind of cheese and bacon. Then it doesn’t taste like deer, duck or snow goose. What’s the point of that?”

Leysath said during his travels he has noticed that cooks in some parts of the country are predisposed to overcooking and are convinced wild game must be done all the way through.

“The biggest challenge I have with a lot of folks is to get them to quit cooking their deer quite so long,” he said.

Leysath gave a venison cooking demonstration at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association conference last fall, and the venison didn’t stay long in the frying pan before he was slicing it into bite-size pieces.

“I just sort of looked at it, didn’t I,” he said with a laugh. “Had I kept cooking it, it would have been less tender. And that was a muscle from the hind quarter. That wasn’t a backstrap. The key is, before serving, cut it across the grain. If you see long lines running through it, you’re cutting it the wrong way.

“And if the internal temperature is beyond 140 degrees, it starts to get tougher. Some folks can’t get past eating medium-rare venison. If I’m doing a seminar, I’ll cover it up with a dark sauce, and they talk about how tender it is.”

Obviously, Leysath does not apply the medium-rare rule to all venison.

“Sometimes, you want to go low and slow,” he said. “If you’ve got a venison shoulder, leave the bone in. Give it a good rub with olive oil and whatever seasoning you prefer. I’m going to brown it and then braise it in a roasting pan with a can of beer, celery, onion and carrots at a low temp. I’m going to let that moist heat do the work for me. After a few hours, the meat is falling off the bone. I wish deer had more than four legs, because those shanks are some of the best eating when you cook them low and slow.”

When Leysath wants to change skeptics’ minds about the taste of venison, he uses this trusty recipe.

Backstrap and Berries

½ venison backstrap

3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

¼ cup red wine

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves

 2 tbsp berry preserves

3 tbsp chilled butter

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup whole berries

Trim all silverskin off the backstrap and either cut into thick medallions or in chunks that will fit in the frying pan. Sear all sides of the venison in the hot oil and set aside. Add red wine, balsamic vinegar, garlic and berry preserves to pan and reduce by one-third. Add chilled butter. Slice venison across the grain. Pour balsamic-berry sauce over venison and top with your choice of whole berries.

Leysath also suggested a very simple dish of four to five ingredients with an Asian flare.

Sesame Backstrap

½ venison backstrap

¼ cup yellow mustard

½ cup sesame seeds

3 tbsp vegetable oil

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup chopped green onions

Optional: couple of shots of sriracha hot sauce

Take backstrap and cut into thick medallions or manageable chunks. Coat in mustard and then roll in sesame seeds (look in Asian section of the grocery store instead of spice aisle). Sear all sides of the venison in hot oil and set aside. Add soy sauce, vinegar and chopped green onions to pan. Reduce by one-third and then pour over sliced venison.

“The key is to not overcook it,” Leysath said. “If all of your venison goes into a slow cooker with a can of cream of mushroom soup, you’re really missing out on a whole lot of venison flavor.”

Of course, many hunters will grind most of their deer, save the backstraps and tenderloins. Leysath has a proven shepherd’s pie recipe that gives cooks an option other than burgers or venison chili.

Venison Shepherd’s Pie

The Filling

2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup carrot, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups ground venison

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp kosher or other coarse salt (or 2/3 tsp table salt)

Pinch or two black pepper

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup chicken, beef or game broth

Dash Worcestershire sauce

The Topping

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup half and half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To prepare filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add ground venison and cook, stirring often, until evenly browned. Sprinkle flour over and stir to mix evenly. Cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining filling ingredients, stirring to blend and cook for 2 minutes more.

Prepare topping. Place peeled and quartered potatoes in a pot. Cover with at least one inch of water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well, return to pot and whisk in butter and half and half until smooth.

Transfer filling to a lightly greased baking dish. Spread potatoes over the top and place in preheated oven until lightly browned on top and the filling is bubbly hot.



MOBILE, ALABAMA – The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science is currently seeking applications for the 2018-19 school year.

ASMS is our state’s only fully public and residential high school for sophomores, juniors, and seniors seeking advanced studies in math, science, and the humanities. Newsweek, The Daily Beast, and The Washington Post have named ASMS among the nation’s most competitive schools. Tuition, room, and board are free.

Currently, 262 students from 48 Alabama counties study at ASMS.

“Every Alabama resident should be exceedingly proud of these young people,” said Dr. Monica Motley, ASMS president. “They’re joining a growing movement of ASMS leaders who are making an impact on our state and world—creating opportunities where others see obstacles.”

Since the school’s founding in 1989, more than 2,100 young people have graduated from the school, representing all 67 counties. Each graduate has been accepted to college.

In the last 17 years, ASMS graduates have earned $190 million in merit-based scholarships. Two out of three graduates are leading in STEM careers, and two in three have pursued graduate degrees.

“We’re looking forward to more young leaders from other counties to join our community,” said Motley. “I am continually impressed by the state's young people and their innate leadership abilities we hone at ASMS.”

Applications for the upcoming cohort are available online at www.asms.net. Students are evaluated based on academic success, ACT scores, maturity, essays, and recommendations teachers. The application deadline is February 14, 2018. Applying to ASMS is free.

For more information, please contact ASMS Admissions at admissions@asms.net. Also, potential applicants and their families may attend ASMS Day.

ASMS Day is an event designed to showcase ASMS to prospective students and parents. The event will take place on Saturday, November 11 and Saturday, December 2. Parents and potential students are welcome to tour the campus and take part in classroom demonstrations.

ASMS student Ambassadors will lead your group to these various demonstrations and answer any questions you have.

To register for ASMS Day, visit www.asms.net.


License Purchase Method Modified for Some Military Personnel and Those with AL Non-Driver ID Cards

Non-resident military personnel stationed in Alabama and those with Alabama non-driver identification cards will see changes this year in the process of purchasing Alabama recreational hunting and fishing licenses. The changes became effective August 21, 2017.

Non-resident military personnel stationed in Alabama must apply for a hunting and/or fishing license at their local probate office, license commissioner, Marine Resources Division office, or Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division headquarters in Montgomery, Ala. A valid U.S. driver’s license, military ID card, and a copy of military orders assigning them to Alabama for 30 or more days will be required when applying. This also applies to spouses and dependents.

Those with Alabama non-driver identification cards must also apply for a hunting and/or fishing license at their local probate office, Marine Resources Division office, or Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division headquarters in Montgomery, Ala. Two additional proofs of residency are required when applying.

These changes were made to ensure the correct license types are being sold to applicants. It is a violation of Alabama law to willfully or knowingly make a false statement when purchasing an Alabama resident hunting or fishing license.

Hunters and anglers make conservation efforts in Alabama possible through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses. Fish stocking, wildlife management, public hunting land, and marine fisheries management are just a few of the programs funded in part though license sales.

More information about the types of licenses available, hunting rules and regulations, and how to purchase a license can be found at www.outdooralabama.com/alabama-license-information.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.


Eastern Indigo Release Adds 26 to Conecuh Forest


Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Jim Godwin crouched next to a patch of white sand in the Conecuh National Forest last week and gently released a dark, 6-foot-long serpent. The threatened eastern indigo snake didn’t hesitate to slither quickly into the intended target, a gopher tortoise burrow.

The head of the eastern indigo snake, with its tongue testing the muggy July air, made a brief appearance at the burrow’s entrance, but there was too much hubbub going on in the longleaf pine forest for it to pose for photos. No encore. Elvis has left the building.

The hubbub was created by efforts to reestablish a viable population of the snakes that once were abundant before the longleaf pines became a prime species for lumber production. More than two dozen people, including wildlife and forestry professionals as well as interested citizens and their children, joined the project leaders to release the snakes.

Godwin, of Auburn University’s Alabama Natural Heritage Program, has spearheaded the project for the past 11 years, and last week’s release of 26 eastern indigo snakes increased the number of released snakes significantly.

Through a grant from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, the program had previously released 107 eastern indigos into the wild, according to WFF Grant Coordinator Traci Wood.

“This project is an example of great accomplishments for the eastern indigo snakes and all the partners involved,” Wood said. “It’s a great effort toward the recovery plan to enhance and maintain a population in the historical range of the eastern indigo. This species was extirpated from the state and hadn’t been seen since the 1950s. It is considered an apex predator. It plays an important role in the ecosystem, specifically the longleaf pine ecosystem. I think this is an exceptional example of the reintroduction of an imperiled species.

“This project is not only about the propagation and release of these snakes in the forest; we are also monitoring these snakes. PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags were inserted into the snakes. We will have technicians walking areas where snakes were released to look at survival, abundance and demographics.”

Eastern indigo snakes are the longest reptiles native to the U.S. at more than 8 feet long. They prey on a variety of small mammals, amphibians, lizards and numerous species of venomous snakes. The venomous copperhead snake is a common meal for the indigo. Godwin said indigos will range far and wide during the warmer months and then seek refuge in the gopher tortoise burrows during the winter.

Wood said the WFF’s State Wildlife Action Plan identifies 366 species that are in the category of greatest conservation need.

“Alabama is one of the most diverse states in the nation, specifically Conecuh National Forest, in terms of amphibians and reptiles,” she said. “This area is the most biologically rich public land in the country.”

Wood said the long-term goal for the eastern indigo project is to release 300 snakes into the wild.

“It’s a long-term effort our agency is committed to with all our partners,” she said. “I want to thank Jim Godwin with Auburn University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Zoo Atlanta and OCIC (Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation) for all their work and dedication. And I want to thank the U.S. Forest Service for their exceptional management to give us this opportunity to release these snakes in quality habitat.”

Tim Mersmann, Conecuh District Ranger, said he hopes the release of eastern indigo snakes becomes an annual event.

“We are all about restoring longleaf pine forest ecosystems on the Conecuh,” Mersmann said. “It’s really what drives us. This open, fire-maintained forest is what we’re about. This type of forest ecosystem used to be the most common condition along the coastal plain and the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast. Now it’s fairly rare. Many of the species associated with it are rare as well.

“We’re about restoring this condition as part of our natural heritage. And restoring the ecosystem means restoring the parts and pieces. One of the most exciting and striking pieces, no pun intended, is the eastern indigo. These snakes are very docile, but they are really a top predator in this type of ecosystem. So, to get them back after decades of being missing from this ecosystem is really exciting.”

Mersmann said that herpetologists have studied the 84,000-acre Conecuh National Forest and determined it has more species of amphibians and reptiles than any public land unit in the country.

“We’re really proud of that,” he said. “It’s a great haven for reptiles and amphibians, a great home for a snake-eating snake like the indigo. They’ve got a real smorgasbord to choose from. And it’s heaven for herpetologists as well.

“Beyond the herpetologists, this is part of our natural heritage. It’s part of the legacy we want to leave for the future. That is why we really enjoy having kids out here for the indigo snake release. That’s been part of the tradition.”

Godwin said last week’s release was the fifth major release in the project’s 11-year history.

“When we set out looking for a place to begin this project, Conecuh stood out as the only place in Alabama where we could successfully accomplish this task of reintroducing a population of indigo snakes back into Alabama,” Godwin said. “It had to do with this relatively intact landscape and good ecosystem management, and, as best as we know, the perpetuity of that management.

“This area is incredible for reptile and amphibian diversity. Another species in Conecuh that is rare is the gopher frog. One of the top breeding sites for gopher frogs is right here in Conecuh.”

Godwin said during the early days of the indigo project the snakes to be released were propagated from indigos that had been captured in the wild in Georgia. The indigos in last week’s release were bred in captivity at the Orianne Center at the Central Florida Zoo. Zoo Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army’s Fort Stewart also provided indigos in the past.

“Rearing an indigo in captivity costs a lot,” Godwin said. “When you multiply that by 50 or 60, it’s a huge task. We’re very grateful the zoos have been able to step up. The Birmingham Zoo now also has an interest. As this project has moved along, it has continued to expand. We also welcome new partners to help support this.”

Godwin said monitoring the success of the reintroduction of the indigo population is a difficult proposition, but new technology promises to make it easier. During last week’s release, the youngsters in the group were given priority to release the snakes, hopefully fostering their interest in the species.

Goodwin said eastern indigos are next to impossible to find in the wild.

“If you don’t have a radio transmitter in an indigo snake, you don’t know where it’s going or what it’s doing,” he said.

Godwin did say one eastern indigo snake was spotted in Conecuh National Forest this year.

“This is a federally threatened species, and the person who saw it knew it was protected,” he said. “I wish we could have collected some information, but he did the right thing by leaving the snake alone. We know indigo snakes are surviving out here. We hope in the future, the children will grow up with an appreciation and a real care and concern for these snakes.”


Steven Wayne Hall Death Sentence Overturned
 In 1991 Murder Of Clarene Haskew

Rather than writing this article myself and bringing up the details of this murder through a rehash of court documents, I have chosen instead to link to this article from The Montgomery Advertiser.

I will not be including an article concerning this case in our July print edition in order to spare the family of Ms. Clarene Haskew more local public disclosure, however the people of Conecuh County have a right to know the latest information concerning this case.


A missing Alabama boy we featured in August 2005
 has been found in Ohio after missing 13 years!

Son Forgives Father for Kidnapping Him 14 Years Ago


Evergreen Wood Products And BIOTAP Update

May 7, 2015
By: Jim Allen
EVERGREEN-Something that was never widely reported occurred at the March 9th Commission meeting when Mr. Bob Miller attended to report on the status of Evergreen Wood Products. The incident was mentioned on James Leon Windham's Blog, Conecuh News & Views, but not in the write-up in the Evergreen Courant – and I thought it irrelevant because it involved me. Well to be more accurate, Commissioner Johnny Andrews involved me.

As anyone who's been reading my work knows, I've been a strong advocate for the recovery of $350,000 in taxpayers money that was “loaned” to the City's Industrial Development Board about a year and a half ago to help “start up” Evergreen Wood Products.

Evergreen Wood Products never “started up” and the taxpayer funds, $175,000 from the City of Evergreen and $175,000 from the County Commission, was never returned.

When Mr. Miller appeared at the Commission meeting and it was Commissioner Andrews' turn to address him, Andrews deferred stating, “I have no questions, but Mr. Allen is in attendance and I bet he does!”

I declined. It was not my place to interrogate Mr. Miller or place him on the hot seat in relation to the still missing funds at a County Commission meeting.

It was our County Commission who voted to loan our money to the City's IDB, and Commissioners Andrews and Cook were strong advocates at the time to do so.

Our Commission did not loan the money to Miller. They loaned it to the IDB, at the request and upon the reassurances of Evergreen's Economic Development Director Bobby Skipper, that it would be repaid.

It's the IDB who is responsible for the funds.

Now, for one reason or another, Mr. Miller and Evergreen Wood Products has been allowed to continue to occupy the former Gerber facility although the business has never begun production.

On Thursday, April 16th, I attended a meeting of the City of Evergreen's Industrial Development Board at the Depot in Evergreen. And it was most interesting.

To keep it short, the meeting went something like this: the Gerber facility belongs to the City's IDB and Miller has been allowed to occupy it while he continues attempts to acquire funding to begin operations. Over the past year and a half, Miller has missed several deadlines for acquiring the necessary funding to begin operations – to include repayment of the $350,000 loaned to the IDB on his behalf.

Blame for those delays was tossed back and forth by both sides.

The meeting was for the IDB to decide if it would order Miller to immediately vacate the facility – or extend another deadline to May 20, 2015 when Miller claims he will finally have the funding necessary to close the deal.

After an Executive Session, the IDB chose to postpone the decision until Monday, April 20th when it would meet again at the Depot. In the meanwhile, Miller was to provide the IDB with documentation verifying his funding will be available and the deal will indeed close on May 20th.

It was also stated during that meeting that another business is interested in occupying the facility should it be vacated by Miller and Evergreen Wood Products.

During the Monday, April 20th meeting, the IDB spoke by phone with the potential investor. After the conversation, the IDB voted, although not unanimously, to extend the deadline until Wednesday, May 20th.

Personally, I was glad to see that members of the IDB have been making the repayment of taxpayer funds an integral part of closing the deal with Miller. As this saga continues, the taxpayers of Conecuh County will positively know the status of Evergreen Wood Products on May 20th.


The information on BIOTAP is short, but not sweet.

This from their website ( www.biotapsouth.com ): “BIOTAP South provides a broad range of testing services to physicians, hospitals and skilled nursing facilities through highly complex CLIA certified laboratories. Located in Evergreen, Alabama, our services include routine and specialized immuno-chemistry, toxicology/drug confirmation, endocrinology, hematology, serology, microbiology, cytology, pathology and molecular testing. Also provided, is a full spectrum support for auditing and inspections by CLIA and other governmental agencies. BIOTAP South serves to provide physicians the highest level of client services in the industry.”

This all sounds great, but in fact, there is no BIOTAP South, LLC., facility in Evergreen producing any of this stuff.

As some of you may remember, the story of BIOTAP began a bit more than a year ago with some members of the Conecuh County Commission hot and heavy to purchase a former 20 acre truck line facility on Ted Bates Road to house an “undisclosed” medical facility. The seller wanted to cut the property down to 16 acres and wanted a reported purchase price of around $600,000.

At that time, the name BIOTAP was not even mentioned and the deal centered around the purchasing of this property (as quickly as possible) by the county. Fortunately, a couple of Commissioners had concerns about possible contamination at the site and a very contentious Commission meeting was held to determine if an Environmental Impact Study should be conducted at the property and whom should pay for it.

At that meeting, Mr. John A. Johnson, Director of Coastal Gateway EDA was instrumental in the effort for the county to purchase the property and spoke on behalf of the seller.

Johnson conveniently recommended a Bay Minnette company that was ready to inspect the property within days, said the seller refused to pay for the study, then suggested during the meeting that open discussion of the possibility the property might be contaminated with hazardous waste could constitute slander. County Attorney Anthony Bishop disagreed.

Ultimately, the taxpayers of Conecuh County paid about $3,000 for a study that concluded further study was necessary.

The property was not purchased and word eventually leaked the potential employer was named BIOTAP South, LLC. Representatives of the company appeared before the Conecuh County Commission in June 2014 to answer questions concerning the proposed facility and suggested the company would start preparations to open within 60 to 90 days.

Soon thereafter, efforts began to find a suitable location in Evergreen and the former Resource Center on Jaguar Drive near Hillcrest High School was chosen.

Some offices related to Reid State Technical College at the building, which is owned by the Conecuh County Board of Education, have been required to relocate - and in recent months negotiations and contracts (that included tax incentives) with the Conecuh County Board of Education, the City of Evergreen, the Conecuh County Economic Development Authority, and the Conecuh County Commission have been negotiated and signed by those entities.

According to a June 23, 2014 letter from Mr. Johnson, announcing the pending arrival of BIOTAP, it states the Alabama Industrial Development Training Institute (AIDT) was also kicking in more than $100,000 to help train employees.

After months of negotiations what has not been signed, and reportedly only awaits BIOTAP's signature, is the final contract to close the deal.

When again questioned about the status of BIOTAP during the April 27th Commission meeting, Commissioners David Cook and Johnny Andrews stated that BIOTAP South, LLC., was still in the process of trying to find investors to launch the company.

After more than a year into the process of trying to bring this company to Evergreen and Conecuh County, this was the first public mention of the company even being in need of funding.

When questioned about any specific time limit on when BIOTAP South would be required to close the deal, Commissioner Andrews stated there was none.


Owassa Man Wounded By Law Enforcement Following Domestic Dispute

Saturday, March 7th

By: Jim Allen
OWASSA – It's been a little more than three weeks since a Conecuh County Deputy was involved in an officer involved shooting of an Owassa resident and only now are some details of the incident being released by authorities.

The shooting happened at the Owassa Road home of Tommy and Barbara Burt about 11:15 a.m., on Sunday, February 8th.

Information gathered at the scene indicates law enforcement was called to the Burt residence about 11 a.m., in reference to a domestic dispute between the couple.

Shortly thereafter, bystanders in the area reported hearing one gun shot and could see law enforcement grabbing their weapons and taking cover behind their vehicles as shouting came from the area of the residence.

Police units with the Evergreen Police Department, the Conecuh County Sheriff's Department and Alabama State Troopers began arriving at the scene about 11:30 a.m.

Approximately 30 minutes later, two ambulances from Conecuh County Emergency Medical Services arrived on the scene and both ambulances were soon escorted at high speed by law enforcement towards Evergreen.

Reports are that Tommy Burt, 41, was flown by LifeFlight to Mobile for emergency surgery for a single gunshot wound to the stomach. He was reportedly out of surgery around 8 p.m., that evening.

Anytime there is an officer involved shooting, the State Bureau of Investigation (formerly ABI) is called in to conduct an investigation.

The roadway was completely blocked with yellow tape and police vehicles after the incident and SBI agents began arriving at the scene at approximately 1:30 p.m. The road remained closed to traffic until about 6:30 p.m.

At the scene, Conecuh County Sheriff Randy Brock said he would have to coordinate with the SBI before preliminary information concerning the incident would be released, possibly as soon as the following day.

An unidentified SBI Agent at the scene said he could not comment concerning the incident and that it would be several days before their investigation would be complete.

However, information surrounding the shooting was not immediately made available and as of press-time, the SBI investigation into the incident continues.

When initially contacted February 13th, Trooper Jamie Maloy with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Public Information Unit confirmed an investigation by the SBI was underway at the request of the Conecuh County Sheriff's Department, but gave no indication as to when it might be completed.

Subsequent phone calls and emails to Trooper Maloy have gone unanswered.

During a recent interview with Sheriff Randy Brock at the Conecuh County Sheriff's Office, Brock said the SBI has up to 60 days to conduct their investigation and that once it was complete, the results would be sent to the state and to local District Attorney Steve Wadlington.

The case would then be brought before a Conecuh County Grand Jury at some point in the future.

The SBI investigation is completely independent, and as for the progress of the investigation or what direction it may be taking, “They don't keep me informed,” Brock said.

Brock said the call to the Burt residence was originally dispatched as a Domestic Violence call. He said he could not comment on details of the incident, but did confirm Burt did not shoot at law enforcement and that the only shot fired at the scene was by the deputy.

After consulting with District Attorney Steve Wadlington, Sheriff Brock identified the deputy as Brian Nelms (pronounced Nims) of Repton. Brock said Nelms has been with the Conecuh County Sheriff's Department since September 5, 2014.

Nelms has reportedly also worked for the Brewton and Monroeville Police Departments.

Brock said Nelms has not been involved in any prior shooting incidents and, “I'm sure my Deputy did what was necessary to protect himself and the victim.”

Neither Sheriff Brock nor Chief Deputy Tyrone Boykin were on the scene when the shooting took place.

After the incident, Nelms was placed on Administrative Leave with pay, Brock said, and was reinstated to active duty on February 16th following approval by the SBI.

“His clearance to return to work has nothing to do with the investigation being performed by the SBI,” Brock said, meaning his return to work is an issue separate from the actual investigation of the incident.

After the results of the investigation are released by the SBI, Brock said more information concerning the circumstances surrounding the shooting may be made available.

“We have nothing to hide,” he said, “People need to know what's going on.”

Following his release from the hospital, Burt was subsequently taken into Federal custody by U.S. Marshals and placed in the Mobile Metro Jail on February 18th where he is reportedly being held on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm.

This development apparently stems from the investigation by the SBI who, Brock said, located almost a dozen firearms inside the Burt residence, and a prior criminal history that showed he had been convicted of a felony.

A record search at the Conecuh County Circuit Clerk's Office indicates Burt has had some minor brushes with the law over the years and was charged with a Class B felony as a teenager some two decades ago.

That information was evidently relayed to federal authorities who took Burt into custody.

Repeated calls to the Public Information Officer at Mobile Metro Jail to inquire about Burt's status have not been answered or returned.

In an interview with Robert “Bobby” Crosby, the father of Barbara Burt, Crosby said Tommy Burt sustained internal organ damage from the shooting and that a section of his intestines had to be replaced with plastic tubing.

Crosby also went into detail concerning what he says happened that Sunday.

According to Crosby, he received a call from his daughter that morning stating the couple had been involved in a marital dispute and Tommy Burt wouldn't allow her access to the keys to a vehicle so that she could leave the residence. She asked him to come pick her up.

Crosby said his wife, Elaine, then called 9-1-1 and requested Sheriff's deputies meet him at a gas station in Owassa.

Crosby lives in Evergreen some 10 miles from the Burt home.

Two deputies met Crosby at the gas station, he said, and he informed them of the situation before they all proceeded to the residence.

Once there, Crosby said, the two deputies entered the home by passing through a door adjacent to the carport and escorted Barbara Burt outside the residence while Tommy Burt was in the shower.

Rather than leaving immediately, Crosby said his daughter wanted to return inside to retrieve some clothes and a discussion ensued on the carport just outside the door leading to the residence.

A few moments later, Crosby said, Tommy Burt appeared at the door wearing only boxer shorts and opened the screen door.

He said Burt always kept a rifle leaning up against the wall inside the door, and that although he did not see Burt with the rifle, one family member at the scene later told him Burt was holding the rifle with the barrel pointed down, and another told him Burt was holding it by the barrel with the butt down.

Crosby said the deputy, “Gave him no chance. When the door came open he just shot and ran.”

At that point, he said, law enforcement took up defensive positions in front of the house and repeatedly called for Burt, who had fallen backwards and lay wounded on the floor, to come out of the house.

Crosby said some 35 minutes passed before Burt was heard, “hollering for help” from inside the house. Law enforcement then approached and found Burt lying on the floor just inside the screen door.

Crosby said that at no time did Burt threaten law enforcement, and that his daughter, Barbara, had only minor scratches and bruises and did not need medical attention. He said she only later went to the hospital at the insistence of law enforcement.

“Barbara was not beaten,” Crosby said, and she has no plans to press any charges against her husband.

Sheriff Randy Brock also stated the Conecuh County Sheriff's Office has not filed any charges against Burt, and that none were pending.

[NOTE: Other family members were contacted for comment concerning this article and chose not to participate. This newspaper respects their decision and their privacy. Also, in our print edition, paragraphs 4 and 5 of this article were out of order. The approximate time of the shooting reflects that change.]

Special thanks to WSFA Channel 12 in Montgomery for picking up our article on the officer involved shooting in Owassa.



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