Charges Dropped Against Mother’s Day Piggly Wiggly Shooter

September 29, 2011

Charges have been dropped against the Atmore man who shot a Century resident outside the Davisville Piggly Wiggly on Mother’s Day.

Gary Winston Smith, 57, of Rockaway Creek Road, had been charged with aggravated battery with a firearm for the May 8,, 2011, shooting of 45-year old Garland Rodney Johnson  of Century. Now, Johnson has told prosecutors that he no longer wished to pursue criminal charges in the case.

“The possibility that it was self defense has also been raised by the defendant,” Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille told Wednesday. “The could also be the issue of insufficient evidence.”

The whole incident, authorities said, was over a woman allegedly seeing both men.

The woman and Johnson, according to a witness, were both at the Grey Goose lounge a short distance from the Piggly Wiggly about 3:30 Sunday afternoon for a “Mother’s Day drink”. The woman told deputies that she and Johnson had just pulled into the Grey Goose parking lot when they heard tires spinning from Highway 97. Johnson then, according to the woman, went to the road to look and then got back into his Nissan Altima and took off toward the Piggly Wiggly. A short time later, according to an Escambia County Sheriff’s Office arrest report, Johnson called the woman on her cell phone and said, “He just shot me.” He told her he was “At the Pig” and had been shot in the stomach.

Smith told deputies he went to the Piggly Wiggly to get a steak to grill for his dinner. He said he observed Johnson get out of his Nissan Altima before he “charged” at him. Smith admitted to deputies that he reached into his pocket, pulled out a .22 caliber revolver, pointed it a Johnson and told him to stop. Smith said Johnson did not have anything in his hands, but came at him in an aggressive manner. Smith said Johnson stated that he was not scared of the gun and that “he was going to beat his brains in,” according to the Sheriff’s Office report.

Smith (pictured) told deputies that he shot Johnson in the stomach from about three feet away because he feared Johnson was going to “beat him up”. He also told deputies that he hoped Johnson would be okay.

When deputies arrived at the Piggly Wiggly after the shooting, they found Smith standing at the rear of his Mustang, which was parked along the sidewalk outside the store. His revolver was on the ground about three to four feet away. He was placed into custody without incident.

Deputies found Johnson inside the store, shot in the stomach with an exit wound in his back. He was transported by LifeFlight to Baptist Hospital and later recovered.

Smith’s brother-in-law told deputies he was about 20 yards away when he observed another man approach Smith, and it appeared the two men were arguing. The witness said the man got into Smith’s face, before stepping back and being shot.

Employees inside the Piggly Wiggly told deputies that they heard the gunshot before Johnson walked in the door and sat down on a bench. Store employees then called 911. Two of the employees told deputies that after the shooting, they observed Smith pacing with a gun in one hand and talking on this cell phone outside the store. Smith’s sister told deputies the two men had been feuding for the past few months.

For a photo gallery from the scene, click here.

Pictured top: A Century  man was shot just outside the Piggly Wiggly on Highway 97 in Davisville on May 8. Pictured inset: This exclusive photo shows Gary Winston Smith of Atmore being arrested in connection with the shooting. Pictured below: The victim, Garland Rodney Johnson of Century, was transported by LifeFlight to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola. photos, click to enlarge.

Photos: Bratt, Byrneville Students Learn All About Peanuts

September 29, 2011

Second graders from Bratt and Byrneville Elementary Schools had the chance to learn all about peanuts Wednesday morning — including a hands-on experience in a peanut field within walking distance of Bratt Elementary.

It was all part of a Peanut Field Day sponsored by Escambia County Extension.

“There’s a lot of important things to make peanuts grow,” Bratt Elementary second grader Paige Gibbs said. “And we learned how to find the bugs that like peanuts.”

Extension agricultural experts provided lessons about peanut products, nutrition and the life cycle of the peanut plant. Students had the chance to get their hands dirty and learn the parts of the peanut plant in the field, plus “sweep” the field for pests harmful to peanuts. They also learned about the machinery used for the harvest.

“It’s important for the peanuts to grow,” Gibbs said.

For a photo gallery from the Peanut Field Day, click here.

Pictured top and inset: Second graders learn how to use insect nets to sweep a  peanut field for harmful pests. Pictured below:  Farmer Robert Godwin and Extension Service Agent Libbie Johnson explain the growth cycle of peanuts during a hands-on lesson. photos, click to enlarge.

Planned Century Industry Boss Waives Extradition On Alabama Financial Crime Charges

September 29, 2011

James Leonard Craft — the man behind up to 500 jobs announced last year that never materialized in Century — has waived extradition to Alabama to face multiple financial and fraud charges.

For now, the 71-year old remains behind bars in Santa Rosa County, and he’s likely to be there for at least another week.

“He’s waived extradition back to Alabama,” Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille told Wednesday. “Alabama authorities are expected to pick him on up October 7.”

Craft was arrested without incident September 23 and booked into the Santa Rosa County Jail. He will be transported to Etowah County, Alabama, to face multiple felony charges.

At last report, Craft was the manager of Century Lumber and Land, a company that held a ribbon cutting back in October 2010 for a group of new businesses that planned to locate in Century’s vacant Alger Sullivan Lumber Company property and bring up to 500 jobs to the struggling town. According to Workforce Escarosa, over 3,000 people have applied for those jobs as of earlier this year.

Sgt. Steven Hooks with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office declined to specify exactly what securities fraud and financial charges Craft faces.

“He was indicted by a grand jury in Etowah County,” Hooks said last week, “and the exact charges are not public record until he is returned here and the warrant is served.” Craft’s bond is expected to be set at $30,000 once he is formally booked into the Etowah County Jail in Gasden, Alabama.

In a public order in late 2010, the Alabama Securities Commission ordered Century Lumber and Land, LLC and James Craft to cease and desist from offering or selling financial securities, within or from the state of Alabama after an alleged attempt to solicit an investment without a license for a wood products business.

Late Friday, Dan Lord, public affairs manager for the Alabama Securities Commission, referred to the cease and desist order that names Craft and Century Lumber and Land. He declined to say if Craft’s indictment in Etowah County was related to the 2010 Alabama Securities Commission order.

Pictured top: The October 22, 2010, ribbon cutting for Century Lumber and Land. file photo, click to enlarge.

Toy Gun Prompts School Bus Lockdown At Ransom Middle

September 29, 2011

A Ransom Middle School bus was put on lockdown Wednesday morning  after someone saw what turned out to be a toy gun.

A parent saw what she thought was a gun on the bus at the intersection of Tara Dawn Circle and Chippewa Way, prompting the lockdown and for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office to meet the bus at the school campus.

The gun turned out to be a four-inch long toy gun.

The school notified parents with an automated phone call about the incident, and school officials said the incident will be handled internally.

Escambia Bank Robbery Suspect Nabbed In Mississippi

September 29, 2011

An Escambia County bank robbery suspect is behind bars today in Mississippi.

David Paul Beaudoin, 48, no permanent address, was arrested around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Pascagoula, MS, after a Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy spotted him driving a car westbound on Interstate 10. The car had been reported stolen in Michigan a few months ago.

The deputy began following the suspect, who accelerated in an attempt to escape. A pursuit followed until Beaudoin crashed the car off Highway 90 near Pascagoula and fled on foot. He was taken into custody a short time later by a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer.

Beaudoin is a suspect in the robbery of SunTrust Bank on North Davis Highway on September 23, according to Pensacola Police. The suspect walked up to a teller, handed her a note demanding cash and lifted his shirt to show a handgun in his pants. The teller complied and the suspect left the bank on foot in an eastbound direction.

Pensacola Police Detective Chad Willhite said Beaudoin is being held in the Jackson County Adult Detention Center under local charges and a hold has also been placed on him by the Daphne, AL, Police Department for a bank robbery that occurred there Tuesday.

Willhite, who praised the Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy for spotting and following the suspect, said Beaudoin is a suspect in a number of bank robberies that have occurred between Pensacola and Missouri. An undisclosed amount of money was found in the stolen vehicle when Beaudoin was taken into custody Tuesday.

Pictured top: The September 23 robbery of a Davis Highway bank. Pictured inset: Suspect David Pual Beaudoin was taken into custody in Jackson County, Miss. Courtesy photos for, click to enlarge.

Molino Park Students Learn Fire Safety

September 29, 2011

Molino Park Elementary School students learned all about fire safety this week. The crew of Engine 1819 from the Molino Station of Escambia Fire Rescue was at the school Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the Molino Park’s annual “Fire Safety Days”. Pictured above:

Man Gets 20 Years For Kidnapping, Assault In Pizza Buffet Parking Lot

September 29, 2011

Dionte Stallworth was sentenced Wednesday by Judge Frank Bell to 20 years in state prison. On August 17, 2011, Stallworth was found guilty by an Escambia County Jury of attempted armed kidnapping with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm.

On November 10, 2010, Stallworth contacted the victim, Marcus Anderson of High Stepping Shoes, to purchase athletic shoes from him. Stallworth and Anderson agreed to meet at the CiCi’s Pizza parking lot on Ninth Avenue. As Anderson was showing Stallworth the merchandise, Stallworth pulled a handgun, held it in Anderson’s side, and demanded him to get in the vehicle, according to State Attorney Bill Eddings.

A struggle ensued resulting in one shot being fired. During the investigation, fingerprints were taken from the trunk of the vehicle that were identified as belonging to Dionte Stallworth.

Stallworth faced a maximum of 30 years state prison with a minimum mandatory of 20 years for discharging the firearm in accordance with the 10-20-Life law.

Open House Tonight At Ernest Ward Middle

September 29, 2011

An open house will be held tonight for Ernest Ward Middle School parents and students.

Parents will begin the open house tour in their child’s homeroom at 6 p.m., and they will follow their child’s schedule to meet each teacher. There will also be a Title I meeting for all parents in the school cafeteria beginning at 5:30 p.m.

For more information, call Ernest Ward Middle at (850) 327-4283.

Weather Forecast: Better And Better

September 29, 2011

Our weather will just keep getting better and better over the next few days. Lots of sunshine and lows eventually falling to around the 50 degree mark with daytime highs only in the 70’s.

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

  • Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 64. West wind around 5 mph becoming calm.
  • Friday: Sunny, with a high near 87. North wind between 5 and 10 mph.
  • Friday Night: Clear, with a low around 54. North wind around 10 mph.
  • Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 79. North wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.
  • Saturday Night: Clear, with a low around 49. North wind around 5 mph.
  • Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 78. Northeast wind between 5 and 10 mph.
  • Sunday Night: Clear, with a low around 50. East wind around 5 mph.
  • Monday: Sunny, with a high near 79.
  • Monday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 53.
  • Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 83.
  • Tuesday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 57.
  • Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 84.

Pictured above: Dark clouds in Gulf Shores Wednesday afternoon as a weak cold front continued to move offshore. Submitted photo by Marcella Wilson for, click to enlarge.

Florida GOP Could Settle On January 31 Primary Date

September 29, 2011

State Republicans seemed headed for a showdown with the national party Wednesday, as legislative leaders rallied around Jan. 31 as the date for Florida’s GOP presidential preference primary — a date that would break the Republican National Committee’s calendar rules by more than a month.

The move would still have to be ratified by a state commission at a Friday meeting, but House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican who named some of the panel’s members, told CNN the date was all but set.

“We are expecting to meet on Friday from 11 to 12, and I expect that they will pick January 31 as Florida’s primary date,” Cannon said.

That would put Florida back where it was before the commission was approved by the Legislature in an effort to defuse the looming showdown. Florida Republicans have vowed to make sure the state is the fifth state in the presidential selection process, after traditional early states Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

A January primary it will almost certainly spark a stampede by those other states to get ahead of Florida and preserve their premiere status in the selection of the next GOP nominee.

Florida officials had been looking at holding the vote in February. But Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Cannon, said that was before it became clear both Colorado and Missouri would hold primaries Feb. 7 — though it’s unclear whether either event will actually pledge delegates to the candidates, which could allow them to avoid penalties.

“The position of January 31 would still put Florida fifth in line,” Betta said.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a Merritt Island Republican who also appointed members to the primary committee, said he backed the idea as well.

“The Senate President firmly believes that Florida is the ultimate bellwether state and, as such, should play a pivotal role in the selection of the next Republican presidential nominee,” spokeswoman Lyndsey Cruley said. “President Haridopolos also believes that Florida holding its primary on January 31 accomplishes that goal, and he looks forward to the Presidential Preference Primary Committee’s final decision on Friday.”

Meanwhile, the RNC signaled it will not back down on its insistence that Florida should hold its primary no earlier than March 6. Only the early states are supposed to hold votes before then, and the national party says it will strip any state that goes early of half of its delegates to the 2012 convention, scheduled for next summer in Tampa.

“We’re going to continue working with Florida and other states until the deadline on October 1st to ensure they remain within the Party rules,” spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said. “Any state that violates the rules will lose 50 percent of its delegates.”

The move also brought down a bipartisan chorus of criticism, with New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley saying the move was “appalling” and would open up voters to holiday harassment.

“Now, New Hampshire voters will undoubtedly be hounded by Republican presidential wannabes as they try to spend time with their families this winter,” Buckley said.

By Brandon Larrabee
The News Service of Florida

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