Memories of Southern Torch Concluded

Memories of Southern Torch Concluded

Top Stories of 2019

 Justice for Amberly

By Marla Jones

Managing Editor

Published on March 19

COLLINSVILLE, Ala. — On Thursday, March 4, DeKalb County Sheriff Nick Welden announced the arrest of 33-year-old Christopher Madison for capital murder in the case of 11-year-old Amberly Alexis Barnett’s death.

Barnett was found strangled 200 yards from Madison’s home, the adjoining property to the home where Barnett was staying. 

Investigators confirmed that Madison had pretended to search for Barnett’s body after she was reported missing. 

“The road to justice for this sweet, innocent little girl is too important to release anything to jeopardize this investigation,” said Welden.

According to testimony by Chief Investigator David Davis, search and rescue dogs picked up Barnett’s scent at the back door of Madison’s home. The body of Amberly Barnett was found with a rope, the same type of rope found at Madison’s home, tied around her neck.

The following month, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office began taking the necessary actions to pursue the death penalty for Madison. 

A trial date has still not been set for the case. Madison remains in the DeKalb County jail without bond. 

 Contaminated Water in NE Alabama

By Marla Jones, Managing Editor

Published on November 21, 2019

IDER, Ala. — Following two letters sent to affected residents, officials at the DeKalb-Jackson Water Supply District are monitoring drinking water conditions after reporting violations of drinking water standards. 

An official with the DeKalb-Jackson Water Supply District stated that their water supply would be retested on Tuesday, November 26th. At the time of press, we have still received no comment on the retesting.

At a meeting of the water board in November, its first official one in months, local law enforcement was called to deal with citizens accused of trespassing after the meeting was adjourned. 

According to Jackson County Commission Chairman Tim Guffey, the current members of the Board include: Greg Harris and William Dalton of DeKalb County, with Clinton Hill, Dois Holman, Johnny McAllister and Frankie Yates serving as Jackson County’s members. Two former members of the Board, who were appointed by the Jackson County Commission, have sued to remain on the Board. 

“I feel confident that the new Board members that we appointed can fix the problem if they are allowed to,” said Guffey. “I think it’s awful that we’ve come to this point [and] that our water has gotten into this situation.” The lawsuit is still pending at the time of press.

 Day Trip Turns Deadly

By Marla Jones, Managing Editor

Published on July 11, 2019

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. — According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, on June 4, an incident occurred on a day trip at the Jackson County Park that resulted in the death of a resident of Haymon Homes. 

The deceased, 31-year-old Lucius Wayne Frazier, reportedly became violent with other residents and was then subdued by employees inside the bus. After the incident, Frazier stopped breathing and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation on the incident and an autopsy was conducted to determine the cause of death. 

At the time of press, the results of the final autopsy are still pending and no charges have been filed.

We are proud to present Southern Torch’s 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. 

2021 -

DA Accepts Dalton’s Plea 

Published: October

DEKALB CO., Ala-- Former DeKalb County Teacher Dustin Wade Dalton, 29, entered pleas of guilty to three felony sex offenses Monday morning in Circuit Court at the DeKalb County Courthouse.

He was convicted of one count of Sodomy in the Second Degree and two counts of being a teacher having sexual contact with a student under nineteen years old.  He was sentenced by Circuit Judge Jeremy Taylor to sentences totaling 10 years in state prison.  He will be required to serve three years in prison before his release to serve another five years on supervised probation. As a result of the convictions, Dalton will be a lifetime registered sex offender upon his release.

ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 6: Dalton was released on a $100,000 bond with no preliminary hearing in Judge Steve Whitmire’s courtroom. The defendant’s attorney is Stephen Bussman.

“This is so frustrating, working endless hours on a case to only see them walk out of your jail on a $100,000 bond,” said DeKalb Co. Sheriff Nick Welden.

 Dustin Dalton, 29  was indicted by the Grand Jury on June 22, 2021, on 24 charges by Grand Jury. Dalton was booked into the DeKalb County Detention Center at 6:49 p.m, June 22. 

The indictment list for Dalton shows eight different victims, identified by initials and ages. 

Charges were as follows: (Charges may be updated)

• Distribution of Obscene Material

• Enticing Child

• Solicit Sex Act W/Student

• Solicit Sex Act W/Student

• Dissemination of Obscene Material 

• Dissemination of Obscene Material

• Dissemination of Obscene Material

• Dissemination of Obscene Material

• Dissemination of Obscene Material

• Dissemination of Obscene Material 

• School Emp Sex W/Student

• Sexual Abuse 1st

• Sexual Abuse 2nd

• Dissemination of Obscene Material

• School Emp Sex W/Student Attempted

• School Emp Sex W/Student

• School Emp Sex W/Student

• School Emp Sex W/ Student

• Production of Porn with Minors

• Sodomy 1st

• Sodomy 1st

• Sodomy 1st

The bond for Dalton was set at $393,875.


Published: November

DEKALB COUNTY, Ala.-- The DeKalb County Commission held their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, November 9.  

The DeKalb County Commission approved redistricting according to the 2020 Census.  The population count for each district will be as follows:

• District 1- 17,170

• District 2- 17,764

•District 3- 18,620

•District 4- 18,054

The minimum in each district according to the census report is 17,006 and the maximum is 18,797.  

“This redistricting will affect very few people.  It will affect some but not a drastic change” stated DeKalb County President Ricky Harcrow. 

Cunningham To Retire As Fp Superintendent

Published: April

FORT PAYNE, ALA.-- Fort Payne City Schools Superintendent Jim Cunningham announced his retirement, effective October 1, 2021.

“I want to thank you for the opportunity you’ve given me for the past 36 years of working for Fort Payne City Schools,” Cunningham said. “This has been the best thing that’s ever happened because of the great school system and great community.”

Cunningham is a lifelong Fort Payne native and a 1975 graduate of Fort Payne High School. He completed a bachelor’s degree in education at Jacksonville State University (JSU) in 1979 and began his career in Jackson County shortly after. He began work at his alma mater in 1984 and has held various positions within the school system ever since, including assistant principal at Fort Payne High School, principal at Forest Avenue Elementary, principal at Wills Valley Elementary, principal at Fort Payne High School, and eventually, superintendent.


Published: June

FORT PAYNE, Ala.--Southern Torch is moving to our brand new offices in downtown Fort Payne this week and next week. Our broadcasting operations have just moved and the remainder of our operations and staff are in the process of moving. Service areas, phone numbers, and other pertinent information will remain the same.

Eight years ago, Southern Torch opened its doors in Rainsville as an online news source. In May of 2015, Southern Torch expanded its reach with a printed newspaper product.

Today, Southern Torch averages over 60,000 website visits per month and has an online following of over 41,000 across all social media platforms that share free content with our audience.

Two years ago, Southern Torch expanded its reach into the radio market.  With the purchase of two radio stations, WKEA 98-3 Wild Country and WMXN 101-7 The Torch, along with the addition of Fort Payne’s oldest radio station WFPA, the reach of Southern Torch now serves a primary audience in DeKalb, Jackson, and Marshall counties.

In January 2020, Jackson Blaze was developed as a subsidiary brand to host Jackson County news, happenings, and  Southern Torch, Inc., is excited to announce the addition of WFPA 1400 AM and its FM translator 93.9 to the company’s radio programming portfolio.

Southern Torch sought approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and an application for license transfer was approved. The license transfer was completed on March 18, 2021.

“We are excited about the continued growth of our audience that puts Southern Torch in a better position to serve our area,” said Southern Torch General Manager Eloise Smith. “We look forward to rebranding the station and providing programming that offers more variety for our audience.”

Our Dixieland Delight: Alabama kicks off 50th Anniversary Tour

Publshed: July

NASHVILLE, Ala.-- Alabama’s 50th Anniversary Tour will kick off this weekend, July 2-3 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.  

   The tour, which was delayed due to COVID-19, will cover nearly 30 concerts through 2022. A special guest for the kickoff concert will be Martina McBride. Several other musicians and bands will join the boys from Fort Payne throughout the tour included Travis Tritt, Tracy Lawrence, Sara Evans, The Marshall Tucker Band and The Beach Boys. In 1969, cousins Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook founded the band, originally named Wildcountry.  In 1977, the group changed its name to Alabama.

   In the early 1980s, the band had over 27 number one hits, seven multi-platinum albums, and received numerous awards. Alabama’s first single on RCA Records, “Tennessee River”, began a streak of 21 number one singles, including “ Love in the First Degree” (1981), “Mountain Music” (1982), “Dixieland Delight” (1983), and Song of the South (1988). 

   Alabama changed the face of country music and have received over 300 awards for their talents,  including being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. In 2019, the group was awarded the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award.

Cardwell Charged with Murder

Published: August

RAINSVILLE, Ala.-- The Rainsville Police Department reported that a homicide occurred on Friday night.

The Rainsville Police Department received information that a body was left near a business in Rainsville. Officers responded and located the body of Ricky Don Wilks.

Wilk’s body was sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Science for an autopsy.

On August 9, 2021, Jason Cardwell, 43 of Rainsville was booked into the DeKalb County Detention Center.  He was charged with Murder.  Cardwell’s bond is set for $1,000,000.

Agents with Rainsville, Fyffe, Fort Payne, and Boaz Police Departments along with DeKalb and Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, investigators from Center for Applied Forensics, and 9th Circuit District Attorney’s Office all assisted with the case.

Chief Michael Edmondson states, “ I am extremely proud of the tireless work that the officers of the Rainsville Police Department and Major Crimes Unit have put into working this case. It has taken many hours and the work is being continued in a great effort to bring this case to a close.”

Moon Lake Closure

Published: February

the DeKalb County Board of Education (BOE) held their regularly scheduled meeting.

The work session of the meeting was dedicated to hearing the concerns of the Moon Lake community regarding the possible closure of Moon Lake Elementary School. Superintendent Dr. Jason Barnett stated that the closure of Moon Lake had been ongoing for 90 years.

“We have positions that are serving 56 students that we pay the same that serves 1,200 at other schools,” said Barnett. “We have to provide an equal opportunity for all our students.” During the meeting, the BOE voted unanimously to close Moon Lake Elementary School at the end of the current school year.

The Top 5 Stories of 2022

Country Music Legend & Hometown Hero

Jeff Cook Passes at 73 - Nov 11, Volume 8, Issue 45

Nashville, Tenn. (November 8, 2022) — Jeff Cook, founding member and legendary guitarist of the supergroup ALABAMA, has died. Cook, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame,  Musicians Hall of Fame, Fiddlers Hall of Fame and Gibson’s Guitarist of the Year, passed away peacefully yesterday, November 7, with his family and close friends by his side at his beach home in Destin, Florida. He was 73. The multi-award winning guitarist was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012. Cook was a champion in all he attempted and he courageously faced his battle with a positive attitude.

Food City to Possibly Locate in FP

Jan 21 & Feb 18, Volume 8, Issue 3 & 7

By Marla Jones

Managing Editor

Food City is an American supermarket chain with stores located in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. It is owned by K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., a privately held family and employee-owned corporation headquartered in Abingdon, Virginia. 

They presently have 132 locations and employ 16,000 people. 

While it is unclear what the proposed store will offer in Fort Payne, several locations have Starbucks, a Food City Pharmacy, and a Food City Gas Station. 

Food City currently has three locations within a 30-mile radius of Fort Payne. Those stores are located in Albertville, Trenton, and LaFayette, Georgia.

Food City Deal Moves Forward -  Sep 2, Vol 8, Issue 35

FORT PAYNE, Ala.-- (Full video on Southern Torch Facebook Page) The saga of Food City’s proposed location in Fort Payne continues after an error in the city’s legal advertisement was published in a local newspaper, The Times Journal.  This error prompted the City Council to throw out the previously approved Memorandum of Understanding with Marathon Realty Corporation.

A new public hearing was held on Tuesday, August 30 for those on both sides of the debate.  All council members and Mayor Brian Bain were present, with the exception of John M. Smith who recently had surgery. 

While there was some present for the hearing that was in favor of the proposed development, the majority were against it.  Opponents stated that while they were not against competition, they felt that if Food City wanted to open up new development, it should be on “their own dime…not Fort Payne taxpayers”.  Others were concerned that their voices were not heard, as Council members did not answer their questions. Additionally, there is a pending opioid case that has been brought against Food City by the State of Tennessee Attorney General’s Office.

In the new Memorandum of Understanding, the City of Fort Payne will still pay $3.1 million, as an incentive to bring the development to Fort Payne.  This amount is to be paid in installments as the development meets certain benchmarks.  If Food City fails to open or if it closes within five years, it must repay all funds received from the City, with interest. 

In reaching the agreement to pay $3.1 million, the City stated that they considered the new jobs that will be created, increased sales tax revenue, and the overall impact on the City’s economy.  

The DeKalb County Economic Development Authority commissioned a study by the University of Alabama which concluded that Food City would “have a significant impact on the economy of both DeKalb County and the City of Fort Payne”.

The property on which Marathon Realty wants to build the development, according to a Fact Sheet presented by the City of Fort Payne, is owned by Drinkard Development. 

According to Attorney Alan Dodd of Scruggs, Dodd & Brisendine law firm,  the property is not owned by Drinkard Development, it is owned by an individual.

“We are for competition.  Competition helps the customer, it makes them try harder, price groceries lower, and offer more services” stated Alan Dodd. “We are against giving this company a 3 million dollar leg up on the competition.”

After nearly two hours of comments from citizens and business owners, the Council agreed to pass the Memorandum of Understanding and to proceed with the proposed development. 

​​Evacuation in Rainsville

Aug 26, Volume 8, Issue 34

By Marla Jones

Managing Editor

RAINSVILLE, ALA.-- On Thursday, August 18, at approximately  9:30  a.m., an 18-wheeler overturned, at the intersection of Alabama 75 and Alabama 35 in Rainsville. 

As Rainsville Fire and Police Department arrived on the scene it was discovered that there may be a potential chemical spill. The placards determined that the chemicals being transported were organic peroxide, 30% concentrate. The DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) was notified. 

“After evaluation of the scene, I advised Rainsville Police Chief Michael Edmondson to evacuate 800 feet in every direction of the accident” stated Rainville Fire Chief Williemac Wright. 

     When EMA arrived, communication began with the trucking company on mitigation efforts for a cleanup.  Around seven hours after the incident started,  a cleanup crew from Atlanta and Nashville were brought in to clean up the chemical spill.

“We had to shut down business in the immediate area. This was a hard thing for us to do.  We know this is a small town with a lot of small business owners but for their safety and for customers, we had to do that” stated Rainsville Police Chief Michael Edmondson.

Organic peroxide is used in different concentrates in meat and poultry plants.  This particular concentrate is used as heating of itself for a fire. It is a strong oxidizer and is highly combustible. Organic Peroxide is harmful if swallowed or inhaled or comes in contact with skin. Some of the symptoms of exposure are irritation to the eyes and nose, nausea, and headache. The Fire Department wore full turnouts around the trucks as they maintained the level of operations. 

 During the 24-hour period, the Rainsville Fire Department alone received six calls while continuing to monitor the chemical spill. Calls ranged from medical, wrecks, and industrial fire.  The fire was controlled quickly and over fourteen fire personnel were back on the scene of the incident. 

Weekend Altercation Leads to Death

Jan 7, Volume 8, Issue 1

By Marla Jones

Managing Editor

FORT PAYNE, Ala.--A man was found dead in Fort Payne on Sunday after a shooting incident in the 1000 block of Gault Avenue North. 

Fort Payne Police identified the man as Randell Jerome Meyers, 44, of Mount Vernon.

Fort Payne Police Chief David Davis confirmed that at approximately 9:30 am on Sunday, the Fort Payne Police responded to an altercation involving shots fired. 

Upon arrival on the scene, Fort Payne Police Officers and Fort Payne Fire Medics found one male deceased.  Chief Davis stated that there is currently an investigation being conducted by the Fort Payne Detective Division, Dekalb District Attorney’s Office, and Jacksonville State University Center for Applied Forensics.

According to Davis,  the incident appeared to be isolated with no threat to the public.  A person involved in the altercation is being interviewed by detectives with the Fort Payne Police Department.  At this time no arrest has been made. Once the investigation is complete the results will be presented to the District Attorney’s Office.

At press time, the name of the shooter had not been released due to a pending investigation. 

DA Accepts 2nd Dalton Plea

Feb 25 & Aug 12, Volume 8, Issue 6 & 32

By Marla Jones

Managing Editor

FORT PAYNE, Ala.--Former Fort Payne Teacher, Donavan Dalton, 29, entered a plea of guilty to School Employee Having Sexual Contact with a Student Under the Age of 19 years of age on Monday in Circuit Court at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Fort Payne.

On October 9, 2021, Donavan Dalton was arrested and tendered his resignation. His resignation was accepted at an emergency meeting of the Fort Payne Board of Education. Due to the fact that Dalton was an employee with the Fort Payne School System and the juvenile victim was within a school system, Dalton was charged with two counts of School Employee Engaging in Sexual Contact With A Student Under The Age of 19 years of age and 2nd Degree Rape.

Dalton, who appeared for a pre-trial meeting, accepted the plea deal that was presented by the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office. As part of the plea agreement, he was sentenced to an 84-month split sentence to be served with 6 months in the DeKalb County Detention Center followed by 5 years of probation.

Dalton was taken into custody immediately following the sentencing. Also under the plea agreement, Dalton will be required to register as a sex offender and will pay a fine of $689.50. Counts 2 and 3 of the indictment were dismissed under the plea agreement.

UPDATE - August 12, Vol 8, Issue 32

Donovan Wayne Dalton, 30, completed his jail sentence for engaging in sexual contact with students and returned to his residence on County Road 27, this past weekend. 

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