The Top Stories of 2020

The Top Stories of 2020

By Southern Torch Staff

DeKALB COUNTY, Ala. — At the end of each year, the Southern Torch Staff looks back on the previous year and chooses our most important stories. 

2020 might have been a much different year than many expected, and it certainly had its fair share of huge news stories in DeKalb County and the world in general. From complications caused by COVID-19 to starting up the Jackson Blaze and electing a new U.S. Senator, 2020 has been eventful to say the least. Here are the Southern Torch Top Stories of 2020.

Southern Torch Launches Jackson Blaze

  • Published: January 9, 2020
  • Writer: Nick Jones

On January 9, Southern Torch announced a Jackson County, Alabama online news company — Since its inception, the Jackson Blaze has reported and published critical content for Jackson County and its surrounding communities. Dylan Smith serves as the Blaze’s Managing Editor. In addition to online content, the Jackson Blaze has become integrated into our weekly print publication. Jackson Blaze formally launched on January 13, 2020. 

Dock Fire Turns Deadly

  • Published: January 27, 2020
  • Writer: Marla Jones

On January 27, a massive fire broke out at the docks at Jackson County Park in Scottsboro. The fire quickly consumed the dock and claimed the lives of eight (8) people, according to statements from Scottsboro Fire and Rescue. Multiple local, state and regional resources responded to the site and conducted the recovery operations. By the end of the investigation, an estimated 35 boats were completely destroyed prior to extinguished. 

DeKalb Co. Reports First COVID-19 Case

  • Published: March 26, 2020
  • Writer: Zach Hester

COVID-19 has dominated the 2020 news cycle across the nation, but the first local case of the virus came at the end of March with Commission President Ricky Harcrow announcing it. Local officials encouraged following health protocols and made the appropriate arrangements for quarantining the individual, but cases continued to rise in DeKalb County and across the world. The following month, Governor Kay Ivey announced her “stay-at-home” order that is still in effect today, now with a mask mandate to continue averting the spread of this deadly disease.

Local Officials Bail Out Police Heckler

  • Published: June 24, 2020
  • Writer: Marla Jones

In June, a local controversy arose after a Rainsville police officer was threatened while issuing a ticket. According to body camera footage, Jerry Jason McKee was pulled over by officer Josh Wilson, verbally threatened the officer, and was taken into custody after a warrant was served. McKee was then bailed out by Rainsville City Council Pro Tem Ricky Byrum and DeKalb County Board of Education member Monty Darwin. The full video of Wilson’s body camera footage can be found at

Southern Torch Turns Seven

  • Published: August 26, 2020
  • Writer: Marla Jones

In August, Southern Torch celebrated its 7th anniversary as a business in DeKalb County. On the anniversary, Southern Torch unveiled the first look at our brand-new location in downtown Fort Payne. We are so thankful for our loyal audience and hope the best is yet to come for Southern Torch.

Tuberville Unseats Jones in U.S. Senate Race

  • Published: November 4, 2020
  • Writer: Zach Hester

In the 2020 election, former Auburn Football Coach Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) successfully unseated incumbent Democrat Doug Jones in the race for U.S. Senate. Tuberville had previously defeated former U.S. Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to win the Republican nomination. The former coach turned politician unseated Jones, who won a 2017 special election, after a highly-advertised race which was considered the most flippable seat for Republicans when it comes to Senate races in this cycle.

Rainsville Approves First Alcohol Sales

  • Published: November 9, 2020
  • Writer: Marla Jones

In this year’s municipal elections, the City of Rainsville voted to allow the sale of alcohol within the City limits. Following the vote, the Rainsville City Council adopted an alcohol ordinance to permit sales within the city limits and on Sundays and formed the Alcohol License Review Committee. On November 9, Rainsville approved the first licenses for alcohol sales in the city limits to Bruce’s Foodland, Topher’s Wings, and the Northeast Alabama Agri-Business Center.

Locals Decorate D.C.

  • Published: December 3, 2020
  • Writer: Marla Jones

Just before the holiday season, three local women, Connie Cochran, Starr Mitchell, and Alice Pettyjohn, were invited to attend a reception with First Lady Melania Trump after assisting in decorating the White House for Christmas. Selected from hundreds of applicants across the country, Mitchell called it “an experience I’ll never forget.” This year’s Christmas theme at the White House was “America The Beautiful,” with an 18 ½ foot Fraser Fir from West Virginia as the centerpiece.

New Police Chiefs Hired at Rainsville & Fort Payne

  • Published: December 17, 2020; November 2, 2020
  • Writer: Marla Jones

Since electing new administrations after this year’s municipal elections, both the cities of Fort Payne and Rainsville have voted to hire new police chiefs. In Fort Payne, the Council unanimously voted to hire David Davis, the then-Chief Investigator with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, who has 24 years of experience in law enforcement.

In Rainsville, the Council appointed former Chief Deputy of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office Michael Edmondson as the new Chief of Police. Edmondson has served in law enforcement since 2000 and has experience as the commander of the DeKalb County Drug and Major Crimes Task Force, overseeing patrol, investigation, the D.A.R.E. programs, clerical work, and incarceration. 

DCSO Discovers Illegal Alcohol Operation

  • Published: December 17, 2020
  • Writer: Marla Jones

On December 17, officials with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and Alabama Beverage Control Board discovered an illegal alcohol operation at the Rainsville Wastewater Treatment Facility. 

The following day, Rainsville Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt held a press conference addressing the illegal winery and explained the sequence of events that led to its discovery. Lingerfelt also stated he had been the liaison to the plant for the last several years.

On Friday, December 18, Allen Maurice Stiefel (62 of Fyffe) was arrested in connection with the winery on the charges of Unlawful Possession of an Illegally Manufactured Alcoholic Beverage, a misdemeanor, and Use of Official Position for Personnel Gain, a Class B felony.

DeKalb County Sheriff Nick Welden stated that this was a “significant operation” and the matter would be turned over to the State Bureau of Investigations. 

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