Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Murder at Jody's: A Crime of Retribution?

Murder is still unusual in the Shoals area, and double murders are extremely rare. Add the element of an execution style hit and you have big news. It was certainly a huge story when Kayla Howard Glover, the daughter of a Florence police officer, and Gary (Bean) Baskins were murdered early one winter morning at Jody's Restaurant in Muscle Shoals.

The following accounts are taken from articles first published early in 2015 in Pen-N-Sword...

Early this morning, Muscle Shoals police were called to a shooting at Jody’s Truck Stop on Hwy. 72, a popular establishment known for heavy traffic 24 hours a day. Emergency personnel found the bodies of Kayla Ann Glover and Gary Wayne Baskins.
Kayla Ann Glover was 23. She had previously lived in Taylor, Michigan, and Killen, Alabama, but currently resided in Florence. The hostess at the Texas Roadhouse eatery on Cox Creek Pky. was a Brooks High grad who had attended NWSCC and was the mother of a young daughter, Natalia Rayne Glover.
Update: Family has reported to PNS that Kayla, who sometimes used the last name Morgan, was the mother to two children; however, she lists only one on her public bio. Kayla was the daughter of Hal and Sherry Howard. Hal is a Florence police officer.
Kayla Glover & Daughter
Kayla Glover & Daughter
Gary Wayne Baskins was a white male called “Bean” by his friends. He was a student at Florence High School until he dropped out, eventually getting his GED.  Research revealed that he was no stranger to local law enforcement agencies in relation to drug violations with the earliest recorded in 2007. The 25 year old Baskins had a criminal history, having been charged with drug crimes in Florence as early as 2007. Records also show that in 2010, he  had a First Degree Robbery arrest in Lauderdale County.
Baskins had just gotten out of prison about four months ago according to our information and was determined to make a 180 degree turn from his past life.  During these past few months, he had applied at many places for a job, but was finding it difficult due to his past record. His family and friends also said that he was a loving father to his three small children and, while had some drug issues in the past, was a person with a good heart.  
Authorities say friends of the victims have reported seeing the couple together in Florence shortly before they were shot at Jody’s, a popular restaurant on highway 72 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. The Muscle Shoals Police Department is the lead agency in charge of the investigation, being assisted by the Florence Police and Alabama Bureau of Investigation.
Then came speculation:
On March 15, 1997, Matt Williams was fatally shot while driving on Woodward Avenue. At the time, Muscle Shoals police theorized that the intended victim was a passenger in Williams’ truck. Information received is that at one time the passenger was a reputed member of the Crips Gang. While local authorities tell us gang activity is minimal in this area, it’s nevertheless present to some degree. 

Our sources stated many years ago Baskins was associated with the gang, but had left the life style behind. Baskins, who was sometimes known as “GW” or “Bean,” wore the tattoo “3 18 9 16,” the numerical indicator for CRIP. Family believes the crime was a “payback,” but probably not gang-related.
From early February 2015:

Kayla Glover & Gary Baskins

UPDATE: A Muscle Shoals Police New Conference held earlier this week indicated authorities are still seeking leads in the double murder. Chief Robert Evans is requesting anyone with info on the shootings to call authorities. There is a 1K reward offered in the double slaying.

A source with the Muscle Shoals Police Department has stated there were multiple shots fired at the scene. The victims were sitting in Mrs. Glover’s car parked at the the Northwest corner of Jody’s Restaurant when the shooter approached and caught them unawares early Saturday morning.
Police believe the second victim, Kayla Ann Howard Glover, 23, was not the intended target but was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Apparently, after being hit in the leg Kayla got out of the car attempted to go for help in the restaurant, collapsing before making it to the door. Baskins, shot eight times, was found with money still on his person so it appears they may have been another motive for the shooting other than robbery. 
There is currently a minimum of $1K reward for information leading to the arrests of person or persons responsible.  Please contact Muscle Shoals Police or Crime Stoppers at 386-8685 if you have any information about this incident.

As this is published, it's been over three years since the murders. Authorities have said privately that at least two of those involved in the shootings are currently incarcerated on other charges. Will these men, and it's believed that at least three may have been involved, ever see justice for their roles in Kayla and Gary's deaths? For the sake of their families, we hope so.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Tragic Murder of Bree Rutland

One definition of "tragedy" is a play in which the hero's downfall is caused by an imperfection in his otherwise flawless and heroic character. This is truly the story of Brioni Rutland, known to his friends as "Bree." Below is an account of Bree's murder taken from Pen-N-Sword articles:

November 29, 2013
by Firenze Veritas
breecoachThe morning of Tuesday, November 26th, Brioni Jamaal Rutland was at Deshler High School assisting with the athletic program. Around eleven o’clock, he told associates that he was going to Krystal in Florence to meet some friends for lunch. He never arrived.
Early on Wednesday, Bree’s girlfriend Morgan Taylor Presley notified the police that the former Deshler football standout was missing. Police soon used the GPS on his cell phone to locate it in a sewer on Wood Avenue. Along with the phone, police found Bree’s wallet. At that point, the police went public with their search for the 27 year old Tuscumbia resident.
By Thanksgiving night, authorities had found Bree’s gold Chevrolet Impala at Village Apartments in Sheffield, but it yielded no new clues as to Rutland’s whereabouts. On Friday morning, hikers reported a large amount of blood on the Old Railroad Bridge in Sheffield. At two o’clock this afternoon, a search team found a body that family identified as Bree’s.

November 30, 2013
by Firenze Veritas
Local authorities have a suspect in custody and hope to answer both the questions of where and why Brioni Jamaal Rutland, aka Bree, was murdered. The 27 year old Deshler volunteer coach was last seen at Deshler High School around eleven o’clock Tuesday morning.

Top to Bottom: Intersection of Wood Avenue and Hawthorn Street in Florence where Rutland’s phone and wallet were found in a storm drain; Old Railroad Bridge where police believe Rutland was killed; Village Landing Apartments in Sheffield where Rutland’s vehicle was found abandoned; Deshler High School in Tuscumbia where Rutland was last seen alive.

Intersection of Wood Avenue & Hawthorn Street
village landing
Village Landing Apartments Where Rutland’s Vehicle Was Found Abandoned

December 2, 2013
by Firenze Veritas
Sample Football Pool Form
Sample Football Pool Form

Pools on football games or other sports are common in today’s offices, as well as fraternities, and just about any venue where the males of the species gather. Was it an argument over a football pool debt that cost Brioni Jamaal Rutland his life?
A source with the Tuscumbia Police Department has indicated a debt of a few hundred dollars won in such a pool was the basis for the original disagreement between Rutland and Jeremy LeShun Williams, a former basketball teammate of Rutland at Deshler High School. Authorities have copies of text messages between the two men that indicate Rutland expected to pick up money from someone on the day he disappeared.
A life destroyed for a few hundred dollars.

December 3, 2013
by Firenze Veritas
Lonell D. Hankens, 31, of Tuscumbia (pictured) has been shot in an early Tuesday morning altercation and airlifted to Huntsville in critical condition. Hankins is a cousin to Bree Rutland, recent Tuscumbia murder victim and played football at Deshler High School in 1999 and 2000. Hankins was allegedly shot by Gregory Williams, brother to Jeremy LaShun Williams who has been arrested in the murder of Rutland.

December 6, 2013
by Firenze Veritas
Brioni “Bree” Rutland was rumored to be heavily into gambling. Whether a major Shoals bookie or just a regular player in football pools, Bree’s life was reportedly taken over a gambling debt owned him by his assailant. Police have sifted through Rutland’s text messages in order to pinpoint his known associates, but have they checked his Twitter account?

Rutland regularly Tweeted as “GRIND2SHINE.” He had 386 followers who were personally approved by him. One of his followers was Deion Belue:
“cant live this life!”? Did this become an apt eulogy for “Bree” Rutland?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Dr. David B. Dickerson: The UNA Rapist?

In 2006, long time Maryland senator Paul Sarbanes had decided to retire, and 28 individuals entered the race for the coveted spot. Among the Democratic candidates was Dr. David B. Dickerson whose age was listed as 43 and whose occupation was identified as engineer. Dickerson ultimately came out ninth in the Democratic field, but not before his campaign provided voters with quite a bit of drama.
In 2003, Dickerson was traveling on business in Latvia where he met a 16 year old girl, a girl who was 24 years his junior. Dickerson officially stated that the relationship didn’t begin until Anna was 18, but by 2006 the two were married and living in Sparks, Maryland.
Then during the fateful 2006 campaign, Anna accused her husband of assault. Specifically, the young Latvian woman stated her husband held her against her will in their apartment, denied her food, and repeatedly raped her. David Dickerson countered that his wife was mentally ill. He was officially charged with second-degree rape, fourth-degree sex offense, and misdemeanor second-degree assault. In Maryland, second degree rape indicates a rape without excess violence or where the victim was drugged or otherwise incapacitated.
The charges were dropped after Dickerson’s attorneys pointed out what they called inconsistencies in Anna’s account of the alleged assaults. By this point, Anna Dickerson had a protection from abuse order against her husband, but it was David Dickerson who had his wife arrested for trespassing when she attempted to visit him at his parents’ home in Richmond, Virginia.
David Dickerson told the press that the whole affair was a “Romeo and Juliet” type scenario and showed he could take the strain of politics. Never mind that Juliet was just 13 and that it’s widely presumed Romeo was only 16. Dickerson received just under 4K of the Maryland Democratic vote or .67 of one percent.
Perhaps the saddest part of this sordid tale is that David and Anna Dickerson had a child who was three months-old at the time of the alleged rapes. What happened to the infant after the dissolution of the marriage? David Dickerson sent it to live in Latvia with Anna’s mother.

David Braxton Dickerson PhD first came to the University of North Alabama as a visiting professor in September 2015. From the university’s press release:

Dr. David Dickerson has recently joined the College of Business as a Visiting Professor of Marketing & Global Business. He brings with him vast global experience as a former executive at Motorola GmbH and SONY, where he spearheaded business development and research in emerging markets throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China, India, Vietnam, Ukraine, Russia and Central Asia. He most recently lived and worked in Kazakhstan.

His degrees include a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, Judge Business School (UK); a Master of Administrative Science in Information Technology Management from The Johns Hopkins University, Carey Business School; and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola University, Sellinger, S.J., School of Business.

His expertise is in cross-cultural marketing strategy and global sales. He is happy to be in Florence, and shares the vision of reconciling regional values with the need to expand upon global awareness. “The reason why I chose UNA,” he says. “Is because I see it as a golden opportunity to expand the international business and global program, which is my background.”

Now Dickerson, 54 in 2017, was accused of assaulting, then raping a student he took on an academic trip to Orlando, Florida, in November 2015. Specifically the female student, then 19, alleged Dickerson doctored her drink with a date rape drug. It later emerged that Dickerson had been accused of assault and rape at a previous position and that UNA had not done due diligence in initiating a standard background check.

Dickerson left the university at the end of his contract and began teaching in Colorado at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, an institution with an enrollment of slightly over 20,000 students. The female student, identified only as Jane Doe, took an “academic leave.” Her suit named both Dickerson and the university which she says failed to take even a statement from her and never notified the police. 

Dr. Jerome Gafford is the director of the University of North Alabama’s Center for Professional Selling. In the fall of 2015, Gafford was scheduled to help chaperon/oversee a student trip to Orlando, Florida, for what a lawsuit calls a UNA sponsored Intern Sales Conference/Competition. For whatever reason, Gafford was unable to attend, and Dr. David Dickerson was left as the only UNA employee to oversee the group of four young people. The group included a 19 year-old junior who was taking Dickerson’s class in sales, a class that only he taught.

The young woman and her attorneys Rodney Slusher and Terrinell Lyons allege in a suit against the university that Dickerson joined her while she was swimming in the hotel pool, where he began to touch and grope her. She further states she left the pool for the nearby hot tub where others were present. Dickerson then followed her and again began to touch her against her will. The marketing student then states that she left the area completely, returning to her room.

Later the same day, Dickerson allegedly followed the victim and another female UNA student to a Universal theme park, where he picked them up and returned them to their hotel. He proceeded to take them to dinner where the second student left the group, stating she would soon return. The young woman failed to come back, and “Jane Doe” states she began to feel odd. Dickerson then assisted her back to the hotel where the rape reportedly took place.

Once back in Florence, the two young men who had attended the Florida conference told Dr. Jerome Gafford of the incident. Gafford then informed Dr. Jana Beaver, head of the marketing department, who contacted the alleged victim. Beaver instructed Doe to stay away from classes and the downtown Florence area where she might be apt to encounter Dickerson. According to the lawsuit, it was during this time that Dr. Jerome Gafford informed Jane Doe that the university had not performed a background check on Dickerson.

Jane Doe then sought help from university mental health counselor Jennifer Berry, who recommended a medical leave for the student. Vice President David Shields needed to sign off on Berry’s recommendation, but refused to do so. He instead instructed the victim to take an academic leave.

Some months into the leave, Jane Doe received the following message from David Dickerson:

“It has been over six months since we spoke, so I am sorry. Much to my dismay, I was compelled by UNA not to speak with anyone! What crazy, stupid and parochial minded people. Either way, I just want to say that aside from childish behavior, I command (sic) a great respect for you, and will be happy now to keep in touch with you! Friends forever! Feel free to contact me! Your friend, David.”

At the time of the assault, Dr. Kenneth Kitts was president of the university and Dr. David Shields was Vice President of Student Affairs. The university initially refused to comment on the suit. 

Then the institution issued a brief statement, allegedly written by either Kitts or Shields, in which the accuser was blamed. It was taken off line a few days later and replaced with a more moderate statement, but not before several students marched in protest and spoke at a rally at Harrison Plaza. 

The whole episode took an even more bizarre turn when the now unemployed David Dickerson sued the university. 

Former University of North Alabama visiting professor David B. Dickerson filed a complaint with the state Board of Adjusters in which he asked for almost seven million dollars. Dickerson specifically felt the Kenneth Kitts answer to a lawsuit against the university defamed him. Shortly after the lawsuit by a former female student of Dickerson came to light, he lost his then current teaching position in Colorado.

Dickerson is pictured above when he ran for Congress from Maryland. Below is a photo as he appears today.

Dickerson’s claim came to light just as Kitts asked the state legislature for more funding. UNA is also facing lawsuits by at least one current employee on the grounds of a civil rights violation.

As of the date of this publication, neither lawsuit has been settled.

Information taken from PNS articles previously published...

Saturday, January 13, 2018

John Wesley Akin: From Habitat to Heroin

John Wesley Akin, 25, graduated from Birmingham Southern College in May 2010 with a Bachelor's Degree in Economics and Business Administration. Akin’s resume’ claims a 3.6 GPA and memberships in enough honor societies to field a basketball team. Among his charitable endeavors was work with Habitat for Humanity and Urban Ministries.

The first indication the public gleaned of John Wesley Akin's fall from golden boy was in 2011 when he robbed an outdoor shop. Then in June 2013, Akin's actions took a much more sinister turn:

Akin, who lists his residence as 529 North Seminary Street in the University District, and David Ros, also of Florence, were arrested in Morgan County on Monday for trafficking in heroin. This isn’t Akin’s first criminal rodeo. In May 2011, he was arrested for burglarizing Alabama Outdoors in its former location on Courtwalk. From pilfering ladies’ jackets, Akin has risen to become what some are calling a key player in the North Alabama heroin trade.

Akin lists his current employment as a sales representative with Alabama Interconnect, a communication firm located on Veterans Drive in Florence. It seems likely his future may hold a career in license plate manufacture.

If found guilty, what kind of sentence may Akin expect? According to this, at least 15 years with no good time or parole:

In the State of Alabama, drug trafficking is selling drugs over certain threshold amounts that are different for each type of drug. They include:

More than 2.2 pounds of marijuana
At least 28 grams of cocaine or a mixture containing cocaine
At least four grams of heroin, morphine, opium or other opiates
Five hundred or more pills of hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Palladone)
At least 28 grams of 3,4-methylenedioxy amphetamine (Ecstasy, MDMA)
Four grams or more of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
At least 28 grams of amphetamine, methamphetamine or related drugs

Punishments vary according to the amount, from three years to life without parole, plus heavy fines starting at $50,000. Possession of a firearm while violating this law adds five years to the sentence. If there is any prior felony on your record, you face an enhanced sentence of at least 15 years to life, as a “habitual felony offender.” These are mandatory minimum sentences that don’t allow early parole or time off for good behavior, and they cannot be suspended, deferred or withheld unless the defendant helps the state arrest or convict co-conspirators.

In addition, the state may charge you with involvement in a drug trafficking enterprise if you had a managerial role in a group of at least five other people who trafficked in drugs, and you earned more than the minimum wage by doing so. That charge carries a penalty of 25 years to life for the first offense.

Another arrest quickly followed in July:

John Wesley Akin of Florence was arrested on July 8th in Morgan County and charged with heroin trafficking. Authorities say a member of Akin’s immediate family provided bond for the 25 year old Birmingham Southern graduate. Now sources in Florida have stated that on July 16th, Akin was arrested in Ft. Walton Beach for the fraudulent use of a credit card. Akin remains in the Walton County Jail, and sources say if he should make bond in Florida, he will be returned to Morgan County and held without bail. PNS has also learned that Akin was free on bond in Lauderdale County at the time of his trafficking arrest. Florence police had arrested Akin on May 20th of this year for the possession and use of drug paraphernalia.

A bail jumping charge followed in January 2014:

John Wesley Akin, currently under arrest/indictment for several drug trafficking charges in Alabama and Florida, has been arrested again in the Shoals. Akin, 25, was arrested on November 14th for Second Degree Bail Jumping. The charge relates to a defendant not showing up on the appointed court date and may prove to be the least of Akin’s worries. The reputed heroin trafficker remains free on bond at this time.

In May, Akin went missing for 24 hours. His family issued a plea for any help in finding him, and he was soon located and allowed to remain out of jail on bond. A month later, Akin was arrested again...this time for trafficking:

John Wesley Akin of Florence is currently under indictment in Florida and two counties in Alabama for theft, fraudulent use of a credit card, and…the biggie…heroin trafficking. Akin, 26, was arrested again early this morning on the outskirts of Greenbriar Subdivision in Florence and charged with possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia. Authorities say once the heroin, all stored in small plastic bags, is weighed, Akin may face another charge of trafficking. He currently faces a sentence of 25 years day for day with no possibility of parole or work release.

FPD now says the charge against Akin is indeed trafficking. The sentence, if Akin is found guilty, would be determined by the amount of heroin found and previous convictions. There is no plea bargaining in trafficking cases, and Akin could expect a sentence for this charge to range between three years and life.

The FPD Statement:

“A Florence Man has been arrested and charged with Trafficking in Heroin. Florence Police have arrested John Wesley Akin, 26, of Florence after patrol Sgt. Randal Holt conducted a traffic stop for traffic violations early this morning. While investigating the traffic violations, officers discovered a large amount of heroin in the possession of Akin. Officers and drug agents also located paraphernalia in Akin’s vehicle. Akin is currently being held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center on $26,000 bond.”

In October, Akin received his first sentence in connection with the heroin charges:

John Wesley Akin of Florence has been sentenced to 15 years for trafficking in less than 14 grams of heroin in Morgan County. He also is serving two lesser sentences from Lauderale County. He is currently in the Limestone Correctional Facility and is still awaiting trial for heroin trafficking in Florence. The current projected release date for the 26 year old Akin is October 14, 2019–meaning he is currently receiving Correctional Incentive Time.

It would be over a year later before Akin was sentenced in Lauderdale County. From December 2015:

John Wesley Akin, 27, accepted a 20 year plea deal on drug trafficking charges on December 8th, 2015. Akin is currently serving a 17 year sentence in the Limestone Correctional Facility on similar charges in Morgan County. Sentenced as a habitual offender for a Class A felony, the Florence man will not be eligible for correctional incentive time, but will be eligible for parole under new sentencing guidelines. If he serves his entire sentence for heroin/drug trafficking, Akin will be 47 when he leaves prison in 2035.

By January 2016, Akin was back in Limestone:

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, John Wesley Akin has been granted a “jail time credit” of 545 days to be applied to his newest two concurrent sentences for drug trafficking. Akin’s new scheduled release date is July 5, 2034. Akin is also eligible for parole at some point; however, a date has not yet been set.

As this is published in Shoals Crime, Akin still has no parole date set. His Lauderdale sentence of 20 years was for possession; however, his Morgan sentence was for trafficking, meaning no parole consideration until at least 2029. Akin's family has the money to hire the best parole attorneys, so almost anything is possible.

At this point, John Wesley Akin has been incarcerated in jail and the Limestone Correctional Facility for three and a half years. What he will be like at the end of 15 is anyone's guess.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Criminal County Constables

It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. Sometimes those sworn to uphold the law are the ones to break it. Here's a 2013 PNS article on county constables, specifically Franklin County constables. It would appear that in 2013, half the constables in Franklin were under investigation themselves (Note: As this is republished, the article is four years old, and there is no current investigation of anyone mentioned here):

Not all Alabama counties have constables. Franklin is among the counties that do; currently four constables serve, but just what is their mission/job description? Franklin County writer and former district attorney John Pilati defines the office thusly:

“Under Alabama law, constables are considered peace officers with the same law enforcement authority as other officers within their county. Constables are elected by voting precinct, so Franklin County could have as many as 24 elected constables, but the numbers have never reached that level. A large reason is that constable is a non-salaried position.”

While there is no salary, the constables share a yearly 15K appropriation. There are currently four elected constables in Franklin County:

Bobby Brown – Russellville II – Top Left

Ray Hill – Tharptown (Currently under indictment for Sexual Abuse) – Top Right

Kyle Palmer – Red Bay (Currently the subject of a RBPD internal affairs investigation) – Bottom Left

Earl Potter – Russellville I – No Picture Available

Brown also works as Russellville Police Department’s chaplain, while Palmer is a sergeant with the Red Bay force. PNS received a question as to a possible conflict of interest in Palmer’s case. Is it legal for Kyle Palmer to hold the office of constable while an active member of the Red Bay Police Force? Below is a link to the duties and qualifications of an Alabama Constable. Nowhere is a conflict of interest addressed. If any readers have questions, they should contact Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing and/or the Alabama Ethics Commission.

Besides Franklin, the following counties still maintain the office of Constable: Jefferson, Marion, Mobile, Shelby, Walker, & Winston.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Tragic Life and Death of "Fat Sam"

Sam John Passarella was born in Brooklyn, New York, in the late 1940s. Sam's family moved to Lawrence County, Tennessee, while he was still a young teenager, and the boy who was now known as "Fat Sam" found what amounted to local fame performing with his band at civic events and sock hops. 

After high school, Sam moved to Nashville looking for work as a backup musician or even as the leader of his own band. For whatever reason, fame eluded Fat Sam who alternated his time between Nashville and Lawrenceburg.

By the 1980s, Sam had fallen in with the wrong crowd. The year 1982 proved eventful for Fat Sam, but for all the wrong reasons.

Along with James Howard Turner and Earl Carroll, Sam purchased some bogus silver from a Nashville businessman, Monte Hudson. From court documents:

"When they learned that the silver was not genuine, they abducted Mr. Hudson and his wife at gunpoint from the parking lot of a Nashville motel. Mr. Turner forced Mrs. Hudson into his car, and Messrs. Passarella and Carroll took Mr. Hudson away in another car. Mr. Turner released Mrs. Hudson the next day. Mr. Turner and Mr. Passarella were indicted for two counts of kidnapping and their trials were severed. Mr. Carroll accepted a sentence of two years for kidnapping in exchange for his testimony against Mr. Passarella, who was convicted and received a sentence of seventy years imprisonment. Prior to Mr. Turner's trial, Mr. Hudson's corpse was discovered, and the facts indicated that he was killed by Mr. Passarella."

Fat Sam was incarcerated in the Tennessee State Prison system for almost four decades before he was paroled. From a 2015 Pen-N-Sword article:

"Sam John Passarella was no angel. The Brooklyn, NY, native arrived in Nashville in the 1960s to make it big in the music industry. Instead he made it big in crime.
Third from Right in Libido  Band
Third from Right in Band Libido
Passarella, 69, spent 30 odd years in a Tennessee prison on charges related to drugs, forgery, kidnapping, and murder. During his stay, the Los Angeles Times reported on his gardening accomplishments. He was released in 2013 and removed to Lawrenceburg where he had family, joining the local music scene. Last October, his band played the Oktoberfest in Loretto.
Pasarella in Trilby with Band Survivor
Passarella in Trilby with Band Survivor
On May 19th, a relative found Sam John Passarella murdered near his home on the Florence Road. Police are saying little but are asking for the public’s help. Someone knows something; in the mean time Passarella’s family is grieving a man they spent too little time with."

By the time Sam Passarella was released from prison, he may have been older and wiser, but he still loved his music. He often played with his band Survivor at local benefits and other functions. He moved into a subsidized apartment complex for those over 65 and made new new friend too many.

The last gig Sam mentioned on social media was at Nana's Pizzeria in Loretto in mid-April 2015. Four weeks later he was found dead in his apartment. While police may have initially thought Sam John Passarella was killed by some of his old Nashville crowd or a friend of Monte Hudson, one by one the suspects were eliminated.

After almost a year, an arrest was finally made. From a Lawrence County press release:
"On February 5th, 2016 Detectives with the Lawrenceburg Police Department and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agents arrested a subject responsible for the Murder of Sam John Passarella that occurred in Lawrenceburg, TN on May 19, 2015.
Detectives have worked extensively during the joint investigation and have discovered evidence linking Crystal Gregoire (35) of Lawrenceburg to the crime.

On February 5, 2016 a special session of the Lawrence County Grand Jury met and reviewed evidence in the case before handing down Indictments against Gregoire for 1st Degree Murder, Aggravated Assault, Tampering with Evidence and Theft. Gregoire is being held in the Giles County Jail."

Gregoire's trial was in April 2017, more than a year after her arrest. From Lawrenceburg Now:

"After hearing testimony throughout the week, jurors returned a guilty verdict against thirty-seven-year-old Crystal Gregoire in the death of Sam John Passarella, age 69.

Passarella’s badly beaten body was found inside of his Crockett Senior Housing apartment on Old Florence Road on May 19, 2015. He was lying across his bed with a bread knife in his right hand and had sustained numerous blows to the face, head, neck and torso from a claw hammer before being stabbed in the neck with a kitchen knife.

Gregoire was indicted on murder, aggravated assault and theft charges on February 5, 2016 after the hammer, knives, Passarella's empty prescription bottles, and other evidence was found buried behind the home where she had resided at the time of his death.

Gregoire entered a plea of guilty on the count of aggravated assault. During deliberations jurors found her not guilty on one count of theft, not guilty on one count of felony murder, and guilty as charged on one count of first degree murder.

The first degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence. Attorneys are working on an agreement that will allow a three year sentence on the aggravated assault count to run concurrently with that life sentence."

Sam John Passarella...he never really had a chance to live.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Jessica Broadfoot & Danger Grisham - A Lethal Combination

The following accounts of the Jessica Broadfoot murder, investigation, and legal proceedings originally appeared in Pen-N-Sword and have been used with permission.

The day after Jessica Bevis-Broadfoot’s 2013 death, Homajean Grisham III was charged with Felony Murder. Today those charges in the brutal stabbing death have been upgraded to Capital Murder. Grisham has given a brief confession to authorities, but it remains to be seen if he will claim self-defense or insanity or other plea that will necessitate a trial. His chance at 1.5 million dollar bail has now been revoked and he will not see freedom unless acquitted at the trial to be scheduled later.
May 8 – Arrested outside Atlanta for DUI
May 13 – With victim in motel room
June 27 – Posted on Facebook: I had one of my retarded exs texting me every five seconds last night.
June 29 – Found wearing bloody clothes in truck with knife, both also soaked in blood
The Arrest:
Above is a mugshot of Homajean Grisham III from May 8th of this year when he was arrested outside Atlanta for Driving Under the Influence and other more minor traffic related offenses. Now the 34 year old resident of Cherokee has been arrested for Felony murder in the death of Jessica Nicole Bevis Broadfoot, 32, of North Florence. Her body was found in a vacant pasture at the 420 acre Grisham family farm on Fossik Lane in Cherokee.
The father of a nine year old girl from a previous relationship, Homajean preferred to be called Lee or his nickname “Danger.” Standing over six feet tall and weighing 200 pounds, Grisham could obviously be a danger if he so intended. Authorities state that Bevis-Broadfoot was beaten as well as stabbed.
homasrPublic records show that Homajean III was named for his grandfather, a co-owner of a large building supply store in Cherokee as well as a director with both Farm Bureau and Colonial Bank. He was also the first Shoals resident to be appointed to the Alabama Forestry Commission. Homajean Sr., who passed away in January 1989, also lends his name to a Northwest Shoals Community College scholarship for deserving graduates of Cherokee High School. It would appear that just having the same name was not enough to lead his grandson down a productive path.
Grisham is now being held in the Colbert County Jail on bail of 1.5 million dollars. This could be lowered early next week if his attorneys manage to schedule a reduction hearing. The amount is possibly this high due to his family’s assets making the prospect of flight extremely plausible.
Danger Had Many Faces:
Today is alleged killer Homajean “Danger” Grisham’s 35th birthday. He’ll be spending it in jail unless his family can come up with 1.5 million in bail. Danger’s Facebook page has a collection of snapshots of the Colbert County farming heir, most of them along the same theme. Besides these candid shots, there’s also a photo of his crotch and a German Shepherd urinating on a scantily clad woman. PNS will happily spare you those last two.
Homagean Grisham III, sometimes known as “Lee” or “Danger,” now faces a grand jury in the stabbing death of his on-again off-again girlfriend Jessica Bevis Broadfoot. PNS has learned that on the night she last saw Grisham, Broadfoot left her cell phone with her mother to keep. She reportedly stated that Grisham would scroll through her recent calls and become angered if she had contact with any males he didn’t know.

Authorities in California have indicated they will not extradite Grisham on pending charges of drug trafficking; however, they may reopen an investigation into the death of Grisham’s former girlfriend who died of a drug overdose while he was in the process of tying up loose ends at his former residence.

Homajean Grisham III may have been living a small town life at his family farm in Cherokee, but he had recently been residing as far from that Colbert County town as possible. It was only a matter of months ago that Grisham was living in Costa Mesa, California, where he ran afoul of the law for a crime of violence. On probation, Grisham returned to north Alabama where his parents and two children live.

Sources say it was Grisham’s father, Homajean Jr. aka Butch, who reported the murder of Jessica Bevis Broadfoot to authorities. When found, Grisham was reportedly covered in his girlfriend’s blood, as was the interior of his truck. Officers reported finding a bloody knife in his vehicle, as well as a second knife covered in blood lying by the victim’s body. It’s believed that Grisham’s record of violence is such that prosecutors can obtain a sentence of Life Without Parole even if Grisham is charged with only Felony Murder.

A Plea:

Homajean Grisham III, aka Lee, is currently under indictment for the murder of Jessica Nicole Broadfoot. On Thursday afternoon, Grisham, the grandson of a noted Colbert county philanthropist Homajean Grisham Sr., pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect. Will it wash?
Such defenses rarely do save a defendant, but what does it mean? From a legal website: A person is considered insane and is not responsible for criminal conduct if, at the time of the offense, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, he was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts. Grisham’s trial date has not yet been set.

A Sentence:

Cherokee native Homajean Grisham III has accepted a plea deal in the Colbert County murder of his girlfriend Jessica Nicole Bevis Broadfoot. Grisham will be sentenced to 30 years and be given time for the almost three years he has served while awaiting trial.

The 37 year old Grisham will be eligible for parole consideration in seven years; however, any early release will almost surely be opposed by the Colbert County district attorney’s office.

A New Reality for Danger:

The man who dubbed himself “Danger” now rates only a medium security ranking in the Alabama Prison System. Homajean Grisham III, also known as the more innocuous “Butch,” is currently housed in the Bibb Correctional Center.

Grisham, now 39, pleaded guilty to Felony Murder in Colbert County in May of last year. The Cherokee man received a 30 year sentence in the death of his girlfriend Jessica Broadfoot, for which he receives no Correctional Incentive Time. He will be eligible for parole at some point, but no date has yet been set. His end of sentence date is June 22, 2043. Assuming Danger Grisham doesn’t make parole, he will be 65 years old when he returns to his north Alabama home.