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Filed 03/11/2006 Updated after 4PM for next day...
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Today’s News Headlines from Alabama 810 News

  • Ewing captured in Georgia
  • Explosives to be examined today at Anniston Army Depot
  • Weaver man pleads guilty to drug charges
  • Trammell pleads guilty to Pell City Murder
  • Death Penalty Sought in Margaret Murder
  • Accident victim remains critical


Ewing Captured in Georgia 

A 33 year old Anniston man who escaped and assaulted a Deputy Monday was captured in Cobb County Georgia Thursday by the Cobb County Organized Crime Unit, Clay Ewing is expected to have an extradition hearing today, According to Calhoun County Chief Deputy Matthew Wade, their investigation and search for Ewing has led to several arrests including that of an employee at the Anniston City Jail.  James Floyd Smelcher, Jr is charged with Hindering prosecution and was arrested and held under a 150 thousand dollar bond.  Tessa Meharg is accused of transporting Ewing and hiding his whereabouts from authorities; she has been charged with hindering prosecution and was held under a ten thousand dollar bond.  A deputy responded to a domestic violence call Monday and arrested Ewing, placing him in the patrol car.  While the deputy, who was alone, checked on the victim, Ewing kicked out a window and escaped, when the deputy tackled him, Ewing broke the deputy’s nose and fled.  According to Chief Deputy Wade,  Ewing had just been released from the Anniston City Jail 

Sheriff Larry Amerson said that a major factor in the injury to the deputy and Ewing’s escape is the lack of adequate staffing in the Sheriffs department.  Investigators are continuing to investigate Ewing’s activities after his escape and further arrests and charges are possible.


Explosives to be examined today at Anniston Army Depot 

Army specialists plan to examine two mortar rounds today from the former Camp Sibert that were dug up decades ago and are suspected of containing a chemical agent.
Authorities with the Anniston Army Depot were told Tuesday that two 4.2-inch mortar rounds found a number of years ago were at a farm near Steele.

The two mortar rounds were taken to the Anniston Army Depot as a precautionary measure and treated as potential chemical rounds because Camp Sibert was a chemical weapons training base during World War II.
Mike Abrams, the public affairs officer for the chemical weapons incinerator in Anniston, said Thursday the rounds are in a storage igloo at the Depot awaiting the arrival of a five-member team of chemical specialists with the 22nd Chemical Battalion at Pine Bluff, Ark. The team will use specialized equipment to determine the rounds' exact content.
Abrams said "They had been plowed up 20 or more years ago and had been in someone's personal possession,".
He did not know where the mortar rounds had been stored during the years that passed between their initial discovery and when authorities got them.
Abrams said this week's incident demonstrates how people who live near or have access to land that was Camp Sibert or land around the firing ranges at the former Fort McClellan should be aware of the potential to come in contact with military weapons, including mortar and artillery shells.
Abrams said "I sure wish they wouldn't pick them up or disturb them,". "Not only is there the danger of an explosion, there's also the possibility there could be some chemical warfare involved. It would be a shame if someone's ignorance led to someone getting hurt."
He said anyone who finds suspected military weapons should contact their local police department or sheriff's office.
The two mortar rounds in question are the same type devices as one found in a pasture near Steele in 2002. Contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were searching for buried weapons as part of a three-phase investigation of Camp Sibert.
That mortar round was found on a farm at the dead end of Duncan Farm Road off Steele Station Road. It was detonated and the choking agent inside it was neutralized in a containment facility built on site.
Camp Sibert encompassed 37,035 acres in Etowah and St. Clair counties. Much of the land that comprised the military base became private property when the government released it following decontamination after military training ended at the camp in 1945.
The Army conducted several cleanup operations at Camp Sibert during 1947 and 1948, though the possibility exists that chemical warfare agents and conventional ordnance may still be in many locations.
The Corps and those contracted by the federal agency to search for chemical weapons have been in an area around Duncan Farm Road for the past few weeks.
Abrams said he did not know if the two mortar rounds were found off Duncan Farms Road, but said the road had been discussed in the context of the old rounds.
Camp Sibert is part of the Formerly Used Defense Sites program established in 1986 by Congress to clean up former military properties.
The Corps received $6 million this year through the FUDS program to investigate the area near Steele designated as Site 8 where the live mortar round was found in 2002.
Pat Robbins, public affairs officer for the Corps' Mobile District, said the set-up and training process would take several weeks and it "it will probably be late April" before contractors begin clearing and digging work on the land.

Weaver man pleads guilty to drug charges

A 46 year old Weaver man on parole for previous drug charges, has entered a guilty plea to cooking methamphetamine next door to Weaver High School.  Charles Lea Pearl entered the guilty plea to first degree manufacturing methamphetimines as a jury was being selected for his trial.  Pearl was arrested last March 15th after officers with the Calhoun County Drug Task Force and officers from the Weaver Police Department executed a search warrant at his Newberry Road home in Weaver.  Officers found an active Meth lab which was operating 500 yards of Weaver High School.  Pearls parole was revoked as a habitual violator pearl’s only available sentences were life or 99 years in prison, Judge Malcolm Street Jr. sentenced him to life in prison 

Trammell pleads guilty to Pell City Murder

31 year old Henry Lee Trammel of Ragland plead guilty yesterday to the November 2004 murder of 35 year old Billy Joe Jones of Pell City.  Jones had been shot once in the head by Trammel as he sped away in his car.  Jones was struck in the back of the head by one of four shots fired by Trammell,  he died five days later in a Birmingham hospital.  Trammell was initially charged with capital murder, but under a plea agreement with the District Attorneys office was allowed to plea to a lesser charge of murder.  Sentencing is set for May 11th. 

Death Penalty sought in Margaret Murder 

St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor has announced he will seek the death penalty for a man accused of murdering his 79 year old relative last week in Margaret.  31 year old Sedrick Hardrick is currently charged with three counts of capital murder in the February 27th death of 79 year old Ollie Brown.  If convicted, Hardrick could receive the death penalty or life in prison without parole.  Hardrick was released from prison in December where he completed a sentence on burglary and theft charges. 

Accident victim remains critical 

53 year old James Michael Ripka remains in critical condition at Regional Medical Center after losing both of his legs after being struck by a car a week ago.  Ripka was waking on the Old Gadsden Highway last friday evening when an eastbound vehicle swerved to miss him and a second vehicle driven by 72 year old James Murphy of Anniston passed the first vehicle and struck Ripka.    Police did not charge the driver as Ripka was wearing dark clothing and walking in poor lighting.  Police also say the car was traveling 15 miles an hour below the posted speed limit.


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