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August 7, 2008 Issue

Group polls neighborhood's needs
Daughter says father put mother in freezer
Gun safety class offered by S.O.

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Group polls neighborhood's needs

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A group of Jefferson County citizens has reestablished a local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an American civil rights group whose first president was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“It was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King in 1957,” James Ivery said of the organization. Ivery is this year’s president of the Jefferson County chapter.

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“The national CSLC headquarters is in Atlanta,” he said.

Ivery became a member in 1970 and was a member for five years. The chapter in Jefferson County lapsed and started again in April, he said.

Several members of the group met around 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 21, to meet and talk with citizens in Wrens Quarters about the needs of the people in that community. On Aug. 16 they plan to bring their findings to local leaders in a meeting at the Loiusville library in hopes of finding solutions to social problems they found.

“We have been planning this for a couple of months now,” Ivery said.

Ivery, the Rev. Dr. Alvonia McCoy, George Boatwright, Rev. Charles Washington, Bobby Adams and Bobby Broomfield met at Louisville Middle School, had a moment of prayer and then separated.

Each person, armed with questionaires, went to different streets and spoke with the people who live in Wrens Quarters about their concerns.

The questionnaire addressed the issues of crime, drugs, garbage, housing, unemployment, community restoration, teenage pregnancy, disease, high school dropouts, illiteracy and drug abuse, Ivery said.

He has already spoken with Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins, Maj. Charles Gibbons of the sheriff’s office, several county commissioners and Congressman John Barrow (D-12) about addressing the issues that concern the community, he said.

He plans to meet with these officials at 10 a.m. on Aug. 16 at the Louisville Library to address their findings. He has talked with Lee Shellman, the president of the local chapter of the NAACP and an official with the school board, he said.

The focus of this upcoming meeting will be to work out a plan to address the needs of the citizens that were identified by the questionnaires.

“It was a great, great, great success,” Ivery said of the members of the SCLC going into Wrens Quarters and speaking with the citizens.

“The information we compiled was interesting,” he said, adding the group is still sorting through it in order to present it at the meeting in August.

“The information was pretty much what I thought it would be,” Ivery said.

The meeting will need to be on a Saturday, he said, because that’s when Barrow could attend. Ivery said Jefferson County Board of Commissioners Chairman William Rabun said August would be a good time for him to attend.

Ivery said the questionnaires asked citizens to identify the community’s number one crime.

“One person said, ‘All of the above – drugs, robbery and theft.’

“I asked another question, ‘Do you want crime to cease in your community?’ That was a definite yes,” Ivery said.

Ivery said about 45 people responded to the questionnaires.

When asked if they felt the landlords maintain their property, about half said no.

Seventy-five percent said they did not feel their community is safe.

When asked if they felt their district commissioner is doing a good job in their community, 80 percent said no.

Asked if they feel drug abuse is a huge problem in their community, 80 percent said yes.

When the residents were asked to name some things they would like to see changed for the better, nine people said street lights, eight said more police patrol and nine said garbage pick up.

Ivery said when it was announced in his church that a local chapter of the SCLC was starting, some of the church members responded.

“A couple of people stood up in church and said, ‘Y’all, please come and do something about Wrens Quarters,’” Ivery said.

He said he was told people were hiding drugs behind houses in the community.

“Some of the people were saying they’re afraid to come out of their doors. One street, it’s like a drive-through drug store, from what the people were telling me,” he said.

“One of the big ones,” Ivery said. “One of the good questions I asked, and I got some good responses, I asked people did they want to stop the young men in your community from wearing their pants below their butts. They called that indecent exposure. All of them, all 45 said if you can do something about that, please do.”

Ivery said his group will work with the community to develop what he called, “some kind of strategy to help our young people keep their pants up. We’re going to deal with that,” he said.

He said all of the people interviewed said they want their community to be kept clean of street litter, old junked cars and dilapidated houses.

“I would like to say, to sum it up, is that Wrens Quarters is one of the largest communities in Jefferson County and it’s also the hardest hit when it comes to crime, disease, poverty, teenage pregnancy, illegal drugs and drug abuse, inadequate, substandard housing, unemployment. Especially, the drugs,” Ivery said.

Ivery said a meeting has been scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 16, at 10 a.m. in the meeting room at the Louisville library at 306 E. Broad St.

Local officials scheduled to attend include Maj. Charles Gibbons of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson County Commission Chairman William Rabun, Jefferson County Commissioner Johnny Davis, Jefferson County Board of Education Chairman James Fleming and members of the NAACP, according to Ivery.

“The meeting will be open to the public, he said.



Daughter says father put mother in freezer

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The body of what is believed to be a Wadley woman was found in a freezer on Monday, July 28, in Mobile, Ala.

Arletha Hopkins, a former Wadley resident, has been missing for at least three years, according to reports. Her killer is believed to be her husband, Anthony Hopkins, 37, a traveling preacher, who was arrested on several charges last week, including her murder, while preaching a sermon on forgiveness.

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The 19-year-old daughter of the alleged victim, who was reportedly sexually assaulted for years by the suspect, reported him to the Child Advocacy Center and disclosed that he had made her help put her mother’s body in a freezer after her mother caught her father molesting her the day before in a bathroom at their home on or around Nov. 4, 2004.

According to reports, police searched their home on the night of July 28, finding the body in a freezer in the utility room. Anthony Hopkins told many in the neighborhood that his wife had died at child birth or had left him and the children to move back to Georgia.

Reports said that Arletha Hopkins’ family told officials that Anthony Hopkins told them their daughter did not want any contact with them, leaving them to learn about the police officers’ discovery Monday night.

The daughter who alerted authorities was only one of Arletha's eight children. It is reported that she left her father’s home two weeks before seeking help.

Officials said that Anthony Hopkins kept his children, ages 3 to 19, under close watch. They were home schooled, were not allowed to play with children in their neighborhood and only left home to attend church.

As of Tuesday morning, Anthony Hopkins’ bond was set at $750,000 for the murder of Arletha Hopkins and $10,000 on each of the sex charges which include rape, sodomy, sexual abuse and incest.

Alabama Assistant Distract Attorney Ashley Rich said in court that he was opposed to setting any bond as he felt Anthony Hopkins to be a flight risk. Rich said that the suspect had no steady employment record and that he had once been absent without leave from the Army in 1998. He has worked at a state mental facility as a nurse’s aide and in a shipyard, while his family performed as singers at churches where he preached

It was reported that it is not known if he, father of six of the children, could post bond. He made no comment in court and was returned to jail.

While investigators wait for an autopsy to reveal the cause of his wife’s death, prosecutors are looking into additional charges for another rape involving a teenage relative in Jackson, Ala.

Wadley Police Chief Paul Jordan said he had talked to one of Arletha Hopkins’ sisters Monday.

“They are still getting the paperwork together for the children to be transported back here,” he said. “I don’t know at this point who the children are going to live with. There is one sister in Louisville and I think another sister and her parents live in Wadley. The children were born in different areas and they are trying to get the birth certificates together.”

Members of Arletha Hopkins’ family were not willing to talk to the paper as of press time.



Gun safety class offered by S.O.

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins welcomed the first class of would-be gun-wielding women to come through his office.

“We appreciate y’all coming,” he said. “We want to get this out to the public – we’re tired of people coming into your homes.”

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The women were the first particpants in what the Sheriff hopes to become on-going firearm safety classes offered to women in our area.

"You've turned my mama into Rambo," one participant later commented.

Lt. Garry McCord, a sheriff’s deputy who provides instruction for the sheriff’s staff, said the response was great.

McCord, a certified firearms instructor, along with State Parole Officer Brad West, also a certified firearms instructor, provided information to six women Friday afternoon for about three hours. The class was held at the sheriff’s office.

Saturday morning, the women met at the sheriff’s office to drive the short distance to the range where they familiarized themselves with their weapons and practiced shooting under the watchful eyes of McCord and West.

During Friday’s class, West and McCord spoke about Georgia laws regarding firearms, the seven elements of effective firing and practicing safety.

West said the seven elements are stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger squeeze, breathing and follow through. He demonstrated the isosceles or triangle stance and the weaver stance.

The women listened to information regarding Georgia laws about carrying a concealed weapon, licensing requirements and deadly force.

Out on the range the next day, West demonstrated each of the weapons the women brought and reminded everyone about safety rules at the range.

The women practiced their stances and taking aim with unloaded weapons. Then the two instructors took two students at a time to practice shooting a paper target. In this way, the instructors explained, they could focus on one student at a time, correcting a stance or a grip and making sure no safety violations occurred.

One safety measure the officers drilled into the women was to aim only down range.

“We feel there is a need for this,” McCord said of the safety class, adding that at least 50 women have responded to the announcement that these classes were being offered.

After the class and practicing at the range, the women discussed how much better they feel about having a weapon.

Angie Bryant said she took the class “because a handgun kind of makes me nervous and this makes me more comfortable.”

Jennifer McCord said, “I just don’t feel safe with a gun.” She travels all the time for work, she said, and spends a lot of time on the back roads by herself.

Marnique Oliver said she took the class for personal safety.

Margaret Williams said, “I live alone and I think I need to learn about personal safety.”

Barbara Cheeks said she took the class to become more familiar with her gun.

“I haven’t shot one for 30 years until last night,” she said. “I practiced.”

Mary Rhodes said she lives in the country and has been robbed twice.

“My husband thought I should be familiar with the laws and how to handle a gun,” Rhodes said.

“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Oliver said. “I enjoyed myself and I’m going to tell everybody they need to take this for themselves.”

The classes are open to women 21 years of age or older who are citizens of Jefferson County. Currently, there is no cost to participants. Anyone interested in taking this class should call the JCSO at 478-625-7538 and leave your name and phone number. You will be called as soon as there is an opening, according to McCord.

“We want to thank Maxie Walden for allowing us to use his land for our firing range,” McCord said. “He has been very generous to us.”

McCord told the students to make sure they each had a good holster for their weapon.

“If you go into a gun shop and act like you’re looking for a pocket book, you’ll find something you like,” he said.




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