Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SPORTS >>Rams hope to overcome injuries, upset Badgers

Leader sportswriter

Beebe and Paragould will begin 5A East conference play this Friday night at Bro Erwin Stadium in Beebe. The Badgers are looking to mount a second straight playoff bid, while the Rams are simply looking to gain some respect in the difficult league.
Paragould has been a back marker in the East for some time now, but was encouraged by some strong youngsters in the preseason. That encouragement is somewhat waned at this point. The Rams have started the season 0-3, and have more injuries than they can shake a crutch at.

“We’re pretty banged up right now,” Paragould coach Brian Carter said. “At this point, we are down to our fourth left corner. We’ve had to make a lot of personnel adjustments. We have four guys that we know are out, and two others that we are waiting to hear from.”

Carter says the loss of receiver Colby Hammon and outside linebacker Andrew Weaver are particularly tough on the team. Those two are done for the year, and the other two questionables did not sound good. Paragould’s lack of depth defensively could spell big trouble on Friday.

The Badgers took a tough road loss last week at Vilonia, but did manage to show off a little youth nitro in the closing moments with a mostly 10th-grade offense marching downfield for their only score of the night.

Carter knows that the Badgers are not that restricted offensively, which is cause for concern for his international cross-roster. “Their passing game is going to be tough,” Carter said. “They like to spread that offense out and create matchup problems. Our biggest disadvantage at this point is lack of athleticism.”

Despite their woes, Carter says his team is not letting the injury problem get them down. The Rams will be looking not only to open the conference season out with a win, but to just get a win, period. “Anytime you come out of the non-conference season like we did, you come out looking for something to pick you up,” Carter said. “Conference is what matters, so you’re always looking to start out on a good note.”

The Badgers have gotten through the first three non-conference games injury free for the most part. What initally would have been considered a game slightly in Beebe’s favor could now be easy pickens for the Badgers, unless the Rams find a slew of subs that can perform a miracle, or set of miracles.

The Badgers and Rams will kick off the East season at 7:30 p.m. in Beebe.

SPORTS >>Cabot volleyball coach in third decade

Leader sportswriter

The sport of volleyball among high schools in Arkansas has changed drastically in the last three decades; just ask Cabot Lady Panthers head coach Terry Williams. She has been there for all of it.

Williams came to Cabot in 1977 fresh from graduating at Arkansas Tech University. She went to college to prepare for a career as a basketball coach and physical education teacher, but fell into what she now considers to be her true calling.
Now in her 30th season as coach for the CHS volleyball program, Williams has endured every conference shuffle, rule change, scorekeeping adjustment and technique re-naming to come along, while racking up a host of accolades along the way.
“The first years I was here, they actually used a clock during the matches,” Williams recalls. “When the ball went out, they blew the play dead, and the clock would stop. I didn’t like that very much; I was kind of glad when they did away with that.”
The late ’80’s and early ’90’s were her ultimate heyday, racking up two consecutive state championships in 1989 and 1990, and winning the overall title in ’90 as well en route to an unheard of 28-0 season. Her strongest player that season, Sarah Dearworth, went on to be named conference MVP, and earned a scholarship to Murray St.

The exact number of tournament wins and titles are not known to Williams. She did a scan of the trophy case in the Panthers gym in preparation for her feature, but found that there were so many trophies in the shelves grouped so close together, she could not read all of them to identify what trophy came from where without having a key to actually open the case and pull each one out. A problem many coaches in the state would undoubtedly love to have.

Some coaches that have been a part of one sport for a lengthy period of time can sometimes get stuck in what is known as ‘the good ole days’ mode, but not Williams. She is a big fan of many of the changes that have happened in high school volleyball throughout the years. Even the ones she didn’t like at first have come to grow on her.

“The game has gotten a lot looser over the years,” Williams said. “They used to call you for a double hit if it so much as grazed your shoulder. They let things like that slide a little more now. It helps make the game more exciting. It doesn’t make it any sloppier, just a lot more action.”

Williams had difficulty adjusting to the universal scoring system adapted a few years back. Points could only be earned on serve until three seasons ago, when the new rule was implemented that whoever won a particular rally earned the point.
“I didn’t like it at first, but now that I’ve had some time to get used to it, I guess it’s not so bad,” Williams said. “It kind of took away the chance for those big comeback rallies, but it does make the game a lot more fast paced.”

The mid ‘80’s were also very productive for Williams and the Lady Panthers. They won three-consecutive conference titles from ’84 to ’86, and reach the regionals of the state playoffs each year. In all, she has led Cabot to seven conference titles along with the two state crowns, and finished runner up to old conference rivals Jonesboro on at least nine occasions.

Williams, almost frustratingly humble, says the quality of the players were the key to the squads success during those years.
“They were just good athletes,” Williams said. “They had that mind frame that they just weren’t going to lose. They were expecting to win every time they got out on the court.”

While Williams didn’t seem to mind reminiscing on the past, her eyes brightened and her speech accelerated when the topic turned to this year’s Lady Panthers squad. Anyone who might consider calling Williams a ‘has-been’ has probably not taken a very close look at the Cabot volleyball program in 2006.

Fresh off a very strong runner-up performance at the Russellville invitational tournament last weekend, the Lady Panthers are beginning to have the look of a powerhouse team. They beat Harrison and Russellville in straight games during their first two bracket matchups. Then immediately after the Russellville match, they bested Alma in three games before meeting perennially tough Mt. Saint Mary’s in the tournament finals.

Williams believed the team could be good from the start of the season, but now believes they can be great.
“We are at a point now that on any given day, we can beat anyone, or be beaten by anyone,” Williams said. “So much of volleyball is momentum; you can beat yourself very easily.

“We just have a lot more confidence than what we had last year, and it shows up in our playing. We have improved so much even from the start of this season. They are finding the court really well. I thought we would do pretty well this season, but after Saturday, I think we are in a lot better shape than I ever imagined.”

SPORTS >>Good buddies set for battle

Leader sports editor

For a long time the Cabot-Conway matchup has been an intense rivalry. This year, although it may seem impossible, it will get even more intense. The two teams meet this Friday to continue the longstanding series, but it’s the first time they will meet other than on opening day. That’s because this year, it’s the opening week of conference play around the state. The Panthers and Wampus Cats will meet in Conway to open play in the brand new 7A-East Conference, and a lot is on the line.
“It’s always important to get conference started out on a positive,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. Conway coach Kenny Smith agreed.

“It’s the second season,” Smith said. “It has to get more intense. Those first three games are good for getting ready for this point, but there’s a star by those last seven names on the schedule for a purpose. They’re more important than those first three.” Outside all the Xs and Os that go into preparing for a football game. The two coaches have a long relationship that has developed into a friendship, and a great rivalry as well.

The coaches look forward to playing each other. “Yea we do,” Smith said, who coached at Cabot for three years before Malham arrived. “Michael and I have been friends for a long time. Cabot’s like a second home to me. Outside of Conway where I was born a raise, it’s the greatest place I’ve ever been. People are phenomenal, the support for the team, the school system is phenomenal. I pull for him and he pulls for me except for one week of the year.”

The talk between the two gets good at that time of year too. Both have quick wits and sharp tongues, and use them well.
“Michael’s pretty good at harassing people,” Smith said of Malham. “He’s good at it but so am I. I don’t brag on myself very much, but that’s one thing I think I can do.”

Malham agreed that Smith can harass people, but not with the part about bragging on himself. “He’s about a cocky old guy isn’t he,” Malham said, but then relented. “No, me and him are good buddies and we have a good time. The only time we get after each other is when we play each other.” The two get serious when it comes to game preparation though. Conway has been a little inconsistent so far this season, but still brings a 2-1 record into the game.

Inconsistency is one of the last things a coach wants to see with the Cabot Panthers on the horizon. Conway came back from 17 points down in the second half in week one to beat Bentonville 25-24, then was pummeled 49-7 by Fort Smith Southside.
Last week the Wampus Cats put together their best effort so far in beating Benton 29-6. The win last Friday was good medicine for Conway, but Cabot still has Smith concerned.

“It’s always been the first game and we’ve made a big deal out of it, it’s sort of been a media darling type game,” Smith said. “Now it’s a conference game, and it’s the first one. Having Cabot as the first dad gum conference game isn’t the greatest thing I could have asked for. I’d rather play them in week one because they thrive on execution, and the further into the season they get, the fewer mistakes they’re going to make.”

Cabot has a bit more to prepare for than usual. They found out last year that Conway has a new fangled passing attack when the Wampus Cats beat the Panthers 21-7, scoring twice on long passes. They still run the Wing T most of the time, but have thrown more out of it than in times past. Malham has prepared for it, but doesn’t expect to see a lot of it.

“They went back to what they do best last week and they won big,” Malham said. “They got all that spread stuff in and they’re going to use it if they need it, but they’re going to run the ball.”

What Cabot will do will, as usual, be no surprise. “They’re Cabot and they’re going to do what Cabot does,” Smith said. “We have to prepare for that, and we have to get ourselves ready to execute what we do. We haven’t done that at times this year.”
We played a very good football team in week one and were fortunate enough to get out of htat one with a win. We didn’t do anything in week two, and then we had our best game last week, but this is it right here. They felt good about themselves after the game, but I feel like we’ve got a pretty intelligent group of kids, and when they report this week they’re going to understand that this starts our year.”

Judging by the score, Cabot’s most recent outing looks like its least impressive, a 23-16 win over a Searcy team that lost big to two 5A schools. But scores are always a true indicator of games.

“It was a real short game,” Malham said. “We only had six possessions and we scored four times. We punted once and lost a fumble once. They had seven possession and scored three times. And they’ve moved the football on everybody they’ve played. They just didn’t have the points to show for it. They’re a better team than their scores show.” That’s all behind us anyway, all that preseason stuff is over. We’re 3-0, and it don’t mean a thing.”

SPORTS >>Bombers hope for win over the Devils

Leader sport editor

Jacksonville is riding high after a big road win over third-ranked Lake Hamilton last week, and prepares to host a team on the opposite end of the 6A spectrum. Mountain Home is 0-3 with two losses to teams from smaller classifications. Jacksonville has played two archrivals and the No. 3 team in the state, but considers the Bombers its biggest game so far.

Why? Regardless of record, MH just seems to have Jacksonville’s number. The Red Devils have been favored in each of the last two meetings, but has lost two in a row, and three of four since the two teams became members of the same conference.
Mountain Home coach ShanPatrick realizes that. He has a team that is looking for a reason to have confidence, and he reminds them that his seniors have never lost to the Red Devils.

“We talk about that,” Patrick said. “We’ve pulled out some close victories the last couple of years when a lot of people didn’t expect us to. Hopefully we can get that same kind of effort and that same outcome this week.” The Bombers’ Achilles’ heel this year has been the defense, and that’s a bad sign against a Jacksonville team that is averaging well above 400 yards per game.

“We’ve got 10 new starters on that side of the ball, and we’re just trying to get better,” Patrick said. “It’s not all their fault though. Part of the defensive problems has been the offense leaving the defense on the short side of the field. We’ve had way too many turnovers and that’s hurt us a lot.”

Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley was extremely pleased with his defense in last week’s win over the Wolves. He said it was without a doubt its best peformance of the year. He’s also pleased with the progress the offense is making, but doesn’t feel like he’s seen the best from his squad yet.

That worries Patrick. “That’s very scary to us,” Patrick said. “If they’re averaging 400 and hadn’t played well, I hope they don’t start playing well this week because we sure won’t have a chance.” Like every coach, whether his team is 3-0, 0-3 or somewhere in between, Patrick is reminding his kids that the games that count start now.

“I tell them that we’re 0-3, and we still have as much chance of making the playoffs as anybody,” Patrick said. “It’s just real important for us to go out and try hard to play better and find a way to win.” While his squad has not yet played well, Patrick has seen signs of improvement.

“Actually I have,” Patrick said. “We’ve gotten better each week. I didn’t think we played well last week at all (a loss to Van Buren), but we do have some areas that have improved. From week one to now, we are a better football team.”

OBITUARIES >> 09-20-06


April Lyn Hillman Fuller, 20, of Searcy died Sept. 16.  

She was born Nov. 30, 1985, to James Hillman and Mary Wright Kilpatrick in Jacksonville. She was a 2005 Cabot High School graduate and graduated from Arthur’s Beauty College in March of 2005. She was employed at Shear Envy Salon in Cabot.  She was preceded in death by her great-grandmother, Millie Fuller and grandfather, Gene Wright.

She is survived by her husband Matthew Dean Fuller of Higginson; her mother, Mary Kilpatrick and her husband Keith of Ward; father, James Hillman and his wife Misty of Ward; two sisters, Sarah Wilkins of Ward and Jessica Hillman of Jacksonville; two stepsisters, Michelle Crook of Jacksonville and Brittany Street of Ward; one brother, Ryan Hillman of Ward; grandmothers, Sadie Wright of Jacksonville and Martha Malone of Ward; grandfather, Leo Hillman of Jacksonville; and grandparents, Ed and Georgia Kilpatrick of Searcy.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m.Wednesday at First Baptist Church in Higginson with Bro. Tim Harper officiating. Burial will follow in Crestlawn Memorial Park at Conway. Arrangements are under the direction of Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.


Odell L. Coates, 82, of Des Arc, formerly of McRae, departed this life Sept. 16, after a long illness.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Geneva and son Leon, and is survived by three daughters, Susan Lumpkin of Eads, Tenn., Linda Davis of Byhalia, Miss., and Joy Jones of Beebe; one son, Allen Dell of Elaine; and a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and a very special lady and long-time friend, Dortha Bone of Des Arc. Funeral services were Sept. 17, at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Lebanon Cemetery.


FORT WORTH — Betty Jean Collier Kerr, 76, a retired real estate broker, died Sept. 16, at her home.

She was born April 9, 1930, in Cabot, to Grover Cleveland and Margaret Emily “Francis” Miller Collier. Survivors include one brother, George Wesley Collier of North Little Rock; four children, F.C. “Bud” Kerr and wife, Glenda, of Ferris, Texas, Gayle Gili-bert and husband Joe of Fort Worth, Texas, Roger Dale Kerr and wife, Patty, of Poolville, Texas, and John Darrell Kerr and wife, Carole, of Crowley; 10 grandchildren; and 10 ten great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22 at Thomas Funeral Home. Funeral services will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at Mountain Springs Baptist Church in Cabot. Burial will be in Mountain Springs Cemetery.


Corey Edward Delaney, 17, of Ward, passed away Sept. 15.

He was born Feb. 3, 1989, in Brikenfeld, Germany, to Robert Delaney and Carol Ann Teske Wilson. He was a senior at Cabot High School and a member of the Faith Missionary Baptist Church. He is survived by his mother and stepfather, Carol and Ron Wilson of Ward; his father Robert, Delaney of Lakeland, Mich.; a sister, Brittany Wilson of Jacksonville; two brothers, C.J. Wilson and Trevor Wilson of Ward; his grandparents, Beverly Teske of Cabot; Judith Keller of Rapid River, Mich., John Delaney of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Harold and Ursula Wilson of Butlerville; great-grandparents, Bonnie Delaney of Dexter, Mich., and Alfred and Clara Wilson of Cabot; along with several aunts, uncles, cousins and many, many friends.

Funeral services were held Sept. 19, at Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Cabot with Bro. Brent Summerhill officiating. Burial was in Evans Cemetery at Cabot with Noah Delaney, Adam Delaney, C.J. Wilson, Blake Wilson, Justin Wilson, John Teske, Randy Wilson and Zack Wilson as pallbearers, and Corey’s closest friends as honorary pallbearers.

In lieu of flowers you may send donations to Faith Missionary Baptist Church Youth Fund, 301 Bill Foster Memorial Dr., Cabot, Ark. 72023 in memory of Corey. Arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Sandra Lee Monaco Long, 56, of Jacksonville died Sept. 18 at Rebsaman Medical Center in Jacksonville. She was born April 19, 1950, in Denver to Marjorie I. Hurst Monaco and the late William E. Monaco. She worked at the Little Rock Air Force Base Hospital for 13 years as beneficiary counselor and assistance co-ordinator. She also worked as a volunteer for the last 13 years at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in the Children’s playroom entertaining patients with her famed arts and crafts.

She was a devout Catholic (member of St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Jacksonville) and an angel on Earth to all those who were blessed to know her. She was the best cook ever. She was the beloved wife of Charles E. Long of Jacksonville and is also survived by a daughter, Rebecca Kendall and her husband, Sean, and four grandchildren, Blake, Andrew, Richard and Alex of Yukon, Okla.; two sisters, Candace Monaco of Pluto, Mo.; Cindy Bickel and her husband, Steve, and two brothers, Michael and Patrick Monaco, all of Denver.

Rosary will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Jacksonville. Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 22 at the church. Burial will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in loving memory of our wife, daughter, sister, mother, aunt and friend.
Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Lena M. Crisco, 84, of McRae died Sept. 18. Born Nov. 9, 1921, at McRae, she was the daughter of the late Miles and Sallie Redding and the wife of the late Thomas Elton “Ton” Crisco.

Mrs. Crisco, a devoted wife and mother, was a Methodist and life-long member of Copperas Springs Memorial Church.
She was preceded in death by five brothers and three sisters.

She is survived by her son, Hal E. Crisco and his wife Deborah; daughter, Mary Jane Ward and her husband Charles, all of McRae; grandchildren, Charles E. Ward, Kathryn Renee Ellington, Tracy L. Womack, Marcus A. Crisco, Scott E. Crisco, and Nicholas C. Crisco; eight great-grandchildren; two sisters, Mary Adell Smith of Oracle, Ariz., and Mamie Ruth Treece of Blanchard, La.; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 20 at Westbrook Funeral Home at Beebe. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 21, at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Weir Cemetery.

EDITORIAL>>It's lieutenant, sir

Their debate Monday night may not have been exciting — it was not televised and was witnessed by a handful of people besides their cheerleaders — but at least the candidates for lieutenant governor provide a refreshing contrast.

Bill Halter of North Little Rock, the Democrat, tried to emphasize Sen. Jim Holt’s extremist nature, and the Republican was very cooperative. Other Republican candidates and the Republican governor himself are shying away from Holt, but the polls show that he has the best chance of any of them to win.

Halter said Holt was the only senator of either party to vote against raising the minimum wage for the first time in 10 years, and Holt was virtually alone in opposing some school appropriations, including funds for early childhood programs. Nearly every lawmaker in both parties and candidates for state office embrace early childhood training. Holt calls the minimum wage and pre-kindergarten schooling “socialism.”

They had no real disagreement about state taxes except the amount of them. Holt said Arkansas ranked fourth in the country in per-capita taxes. Halter said he left off a digit: It was 40th, according to the conservative Tax Foundation. We think the Tax Foundation’s figures are jiggered and that the ranking is actually lower than that.

Holt said he would fight to lower taxes. Both made a lot of promises about their stands when they reach office. No one reminded them that they are running not to be governor but lieutenant governor, whose sole constitutional duty is to preside impartially when the state Senate is in session. He cannot sponsor bills and he must remain neutral on the issues before the Senate.

EDITORIAL>>Engaging in debate

Mike Beebe and Asa Hutchinson, the major party candidates for governor, engaged in the first debate of the season Monday night at Jonesboro, and our considered judgment is that the collective impact of the hour of boasts and jibes was exactly. . . zero.

All that Beebe needed to do as the seasoned officeholder with a sizable lead in the polls and a money advantage was to show that he was as knowledgeable and comfortable as the pundits have always described him, and he did. Hutchinson needed to land some big punches or wow people with his manner or his argumentation, and he did none of those things. But even if things were reversed, if Hutchinson had kept the audience spellbound and Beebe had floundered, it would have had little effect on an electorate that is still bored with this campaign. Not many people outside three or four northeast Arkansas counties could tune in if they had wanted.

This whole round of debates is not going to affect the election much. They will not be televised statewide, the two minor candidates are excluded, and they are not really debates but chances for the candidates to deliver their rehearsed charges and defenses. Even at that, we acknowledge that these face-to-face matches are healthy. They give us all a chance to judge the candidates in their realm, see what they are willing to say and thus take a measure of their character. You hope that the exchanges give you an idea of the policies they would pursue as governor and the face each would present to the country as the official vicar of our little state.

Beebe seemed to prevail in those comparisons, but probably because the contest was on his turf, state government. Hutchinson’s main line of attack was that Beebe, a state senator for many years before he became attorney general, was either negligent or ineffective in the legislature. He said Beebe did not sponsor legislation to repeal the sales tax on groceries and implied that he was not really for the repeal.

Beebe replied that the repeal had passed in the Senate three times with his help and that he had insisted as a Senate leader that the lone sponsor be Bud Canada, a Hot Springs senator who made repeal of the tax the great crusade of his entire political career. Beebe opposed repealing the tax when it was put to a vote of the people because revenues were tight and it would have forced a cut in services. Twice in the last 28 years voters have rejected proposals to repeal the grocery tax.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Hutchinson said, he consistently opposed taxes and voted in 2001 for George W. Bush’s tax cuts (targeted at the wealthy). Beebe, on the other hand, had supported tax increases as well as tax cuts, he said. Hutchinson suggested that you have to be consistent.

That afforded Beebe his finest moment. “There you go again,” he said, recalling a famous Ronald Reagan debating moment. “. . . In Arkansas you have to balance the budget. We can’t do what they do in Washington. We can’t put our obligations on the next generation. We have to pay for our programs. When you start cutting all this revenue you better make sure you have enough money for education.”

The tax cuts that Hutchinson supported helped reverse three years of balanced federal budgets and produce the biggest deficits in the nation’s history. Beebe had his bad moments. He keeps trying to make something of the fact that when Hutchinson took a job in the Department of Homeland Security he bought a home in suburban Virginia and moved his voting residence there, only to register again in Arkansas last year when he returned to run for governor.

Hutchinson wondered about the relevance of his voting moves and, of course, they are irrelevant. He is every much an Arkansan as Beebe.

If the candidates debate near you or you can access the exchange electronically, try to watch. It is not apt to entertain you but, as debates nearly always do, it will reinforce your inclinations. But that is good enough.

TOP STORY >>Prosecutor is given report

Leader staff writer

A Cabot police officer has completed his investigation into the alleged illegal activities of a city code enforcement officer and turned the file over to the city attorney and county prosecutor. Police Lt. Scott Steely said Monday that the file from his three-week investigation of Jack McNally is an extensive one.

City Attorney Clint McGue received his copy that morning, he said. And Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain would receive hers later in the day. Although police investigations often end with the police recommending which if any charges should be filed, Steely said he didn’t do that in this case.

“I’m leaving that to the prosecutor,” he said. McCastlain said last week that she was aware of the investigation and expected to receive the file soon. McGue said Monday evening that he had never intended to do anything with the case but had always planned to turn it over to the county when the investigation was completed.

Alderman Odis Waymack, who pushed for the investigation, says the police department deserves a lot of credit for its work considering that McNally is a personal friend of Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh and even worked as his campaign manager when he ran for mayor four years ago.

Stumbaugh reportedly told Police Chief Jackie Davis to handle the investigation as he would any other, Waymack said.
McNally has been accused of stealing from vacated houses. He also has been accused of paying contractors to mow untended yards more than necessary and of not following the city ordinance about trying to get the owners to do it themselves.
Exactly which accusations became part of Steely’s investigation is not known.

He said Monday that all he could say about the investigation is that it has been turned over to the people who will have to decide if charges should be filed. The first theft report was filed in July by Waymon Overton of Hot Springs, who owns a house at 12 Chad Court in Cabot.

Overton told police that McNally, under the guise of cleaning so he could mow, removed several items from his backyard including tools, lawn mowers, grills and a swing set. Some of the items were in his backyard shed, he said. The latest report came from Mary Smith, who now lives in Jacksonville but owns a house at 13 St. John Street in Cabot.

Smith told police that someone removed from her property a bass boat, Oldsmobile car, freezer, two tool boxes, two dryers, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, five-piece bedroom suite and mattress and spring set. Based on information she received from Jewell Pepper and one of his family members, Smith told police she believes McNally was involved with the theft. Pepper hauls junk and reportedly hauled off Smith’s boat and car.

Waymack received information more than a month ago about the boat and car being removed from 13 St. John Street and started hunting for documentation to determine whether McNally had moved it as he had heard and whether such an action was legal. He requested under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, all the documents the city had pertaining to McNally and discovered the first report of stolen property made by Overton.

Waymack also learned from the documents he received from the city that McNally had hired one yard mowed twice, with the first time being only one day after another code officer had hired it mowed. Additionally, he learned that McNally had hired 10 yards mowed without the proper documentation that owners had been notified their grass was too tall. Smith went to police after reading in The Leader about Waymack’s efforts to find out about the legality of removing the boat and car.

TOP STORY >>Check cashers getting squeezed

It’s getting harder and less profitable for payday lenders to make short-term, high-interest loans to Arkansas residents and to prey on members of the military as state regulators begin regulating, Congress ponders new laws and the military tries to discourage such borrowing.

That’s according to Hank Klein, who, first as president of Arkansas Federal Credit Union, and later, in retirement, has doggedly helped lead the battle to drive these moneylenders from the Natural State. Studies have shown that payday lenders and the subspecies called check cashers tend to congregate near military bases, and in fact, three of four Jacksonville payday lend-ers are within a half mile of base property outside Little Rock Air Force Base’s Vandenberg gate. Clustered just east of state Hwy. 67/167 are Advance America, First American Cash Advance and American Check Cashers.

How “American” can they get? A second American Check Cashers is south of the other three. (See related story, p. 11A.)
Klein said payday lenders are three times more likely to locate near a military base.

Because of changes in the Federal Insurance Deposit Corp. regulations, Arkansas payday lenders can no longer “import” and operate under bank rules from other states. As a result, the Arkansas Bureau of Collection Agencies, Division of Cashers, now licenses all four, but only First American and Advance America are regulated for payday lending.

The two American Check Cashers locations, owned and operated by Cosby Hodges of Fort Smith, maintain they can operate under the banner of Hodges Finance Company, located in South Dakota. None of the four locations allow for partial payment.
Advance America, which now limits itself to $350 loans plus $45.19 in interest for two weeks, is charging an effective interest rate of 336 percent, according to Klein.

Both of Hodges’ American Check Cashers stores here will lend up to $500 for two weeks with $89 interest for an effective annual interest rate of 464 percent, according to Klein’s figures. Only Advance America is actually complying with Arkansas law, he said.

“We are definitely making progress,” said Klein. “Peggy Matson is doing a pretty good job of regulating, now that we finally got her attention,” said Klein of the agency chief. “But it’s like trying to corral cats.”

Last March, only 24 percent of the state’s payday lenders were licensed and regulated, he said. Now 52 percent are.
He credited Second Dist. Cong. Vic Snyder of Little Rock with trying to help protect active-duty members of the military.
Snyder took the lead late last month, asking Cong. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to include language in the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act limiting to 36 percent the interest that can be charged to members of the service or their dependents.

“It’s still not clear what the final language will be in the defense bill,” Snyder said Tuesday, “but I’m hopeful.”
Currently, payday lenders charge 300 percent in interest or more on what are known as deferred presentment checks—that’s post-dated checks.

In his letter, signed by 11 other congressmen, Snyder asked that lenders be required as well to “disclose in writing the applicable annual percentage rate, a clear description of the payment obligation and any other disclosures required by the Truth in Lending Act,” and to establish penalties for violators.

Last year, a Defense Department report found that “predatory lending practices are prevalent and target military personnel, either through proximity and prevalence around military installations or through the use of affinity marketing techniques, particularly on-line.”

“Predatory lending not only hurts service members and their dependents, it is having an impact on our nation’s security.”
Those in deep debt have sometimes lost security clearances and even discharge from the military.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Adm. Steve Abbot (ret.) said, “I have personally witnessed the downward spiral of debt suffered by our sailors, Marines and their families who seek financial assistance from predatory lenders.”

Abbot is president of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 to provide emergency financial assistance in the form of interest-free loans and grants to sailors, Marines and their families.
Abbot said that since August 2001, the society had assisted more than 5,500 Navy and Marine Corps clients victimized by predatory lenders in the amount of $2.6 million.

Abbot shared horror stories with the committee. He told of one place where a client can borrow $150 for three days with a finance charge equivalent to 3,220 percent. Another lender will loan $5,000, said Abbot, and by making scheduled payments only — 120 payments over 10 years — it will take $30,000 to pay off the loan. Neither of these lenders operates in this area.
Abbot would have congress cap the interest rate at 36 percent, eliminate all loan rollovers, require all payday lenders to have a clearinghouse to make sure no one has more than one loan, allow monthly payments and regulate on-line payday loan transactions.

TOP STORY >>Townhouse issue goes to council

Leader staff writer

Even though the Jacksonville Planning Commission soundly turned down a rezoning request for a section of land near West Main and Emma that would have allowed townhouses, the developer is appealing to the city council. Neighbors are passing out fliers against the rezoning.

With the support of Alderman Bob Stroud, developer Tim McClurg will ask aldermen at Thursday night’s council meeting to approve the rezone of about three acres out of the 26 acres he plans to develop on the south side of West Main Street, west of Emma Street.

McClurg wants the land rezoned from R-0 (single family homes) to R-4 (multi-family homes). His latest plan called for 34 townhouses to be built on the western edge of his property and 25 single-family homes built between the townhouses and Western Hills Subdivision.

The townhouses would have a minimum square footage of 1,200 feet. A fully packed chamber of residents, business owners and city officials heard the issue debated at the Sept. 11 planning commission meeting. It was the third time in less than a year that McClurg tried to get the land rezoned for multi-unit housing. Stroud was among a small number of people who spoke at the planning commission in favor of the townhouses.

“No one has fought against apartments more than me. But people want and need townhouses. This plan is a good thing. It’s good for the city,” he said. Stroud added that the townhouses would help satisfy the city’s need for more upscale housing.
Currently, there are no townhouses in Jacksonville, but there are 27 apartment complexes with a total of more than 1,700 units. Apartments rents range from a low of $295 a month to $650 a month.

Bonita Rownd, the chamber of commerce’s executive director, told the commission, “At a time in our city’s history where we are experiencing growth, I don’t want to hinder that growth. There is a need for this kind of upscale housing to bring in more commercial development.”

Rownd added, “I get calls daily, especially from seniors, for this type of home. But we have none in Jacksonville.”
“I like the plan,” planning commissioner Emma Knight said after listening to pros and cons of the proposal for nearly an hour. “The city needs townhouses, but not at this location, that’s why I’m making a motion to deny the request,” she said to thunderous applause. The motion was quickly seconded and the vote of the commission put any plans for townhouses on the 26 acreages on hold for at least a year, according to Chairman Mark Stroud, forgetting that the developer could appeal the decision directly to the city council. If the council denies the townhouses, McClurg does have the option to sue the city. More than 60 people in attendance at the planning commission meeting opposed the townhouses, including local resident Michael Martello. “You can call them apartments, complexes, condos or townhouses—it’s still high density housing. What’s to stop the developer from selling the townhouses t a single seller who turns it into rental property.” he said.

Commission chairman Mark Stroud said the plan met the basic requirements and that there was a difference between apartments and townhouses according to the codebook. “But would you want this kind of development in your area?” Martello asked the commissioners. “It goes against the master plan of the city of Jacksonville, and what about an environmental impact statement as this property adjoins wetlands,” he said.

McClurg responded, “I’m not building something that will hurt my home sales. This is something good for Jacksonville and good to have on its Main Street.”

TOP STORY >>Vote sets run-offs in pair of contests

Leader staff writer

Six candidates for one seat usually mean a run-off, and it has turned out that way for the Zone 3, Position 6 seat of the Lonoke School District. The top vote getters were Cindy Burns with 66 votes and Darrell Park with 65 votes. Also running for that seat which was formerly held by Neil Burnett Jr., who opted not to run again, were Roger Lynch who garnered 35 votes, Janice Perkins with 23 votes, Rudy Kurz with 12 and Shannon Holman with nine.

A four-person field for the Position 2 seat of the Cabot School Board also produced a run-off as incumbent and school board president David M. Hipp received 291 votes and Ken Kincade received 222. Hipp was just two votes away from avoiding a run-off. He needed more than 50 percent of the total vote, and had 49.8 percent.

Also running for that seat were Joyce Bender who received 46 votes and Arthur Evans with 20 votes. There were also five write-in votes. A run-off election for the two seats will be held Oct. 10.

The only other contested race was in Pulaski County where Sherwood residents Ronnie Calva and Charlie Wood faced off for the Pulaski County Special School District’s Zone 4 seat. Late Tuesday night, Wood had a one vote lead over Calva, the incumbent, with 10 absentee ballots still out. In all the other area school board races the candidates were unopposed.
Danny Gililland ran unopposed for PCSSD’s Zone 5 seat vacated by Carol Burgett.

Fred Campbell ran unopposed for Cabot School Board’s Position 6 seat. In Lonoke, Michael Linton ran unopposed for the Zone 2, Position 7 board seat. A vote to maintain current millage levels passed in all area school districts.

TOP STORY >>Cabot will consider rezoning request

Leader staff writer

A controversial rezoning request that consumed much of the Cabot City Council’s time last winter could well be a hot issue this fall. In February, residents who live across Highway 89 from Wal-Mart successfully fended off a rezoning of 11.5 acres owned by the Smith family that would have allowed a commercial development on their side of the highway.

City law says rezoning requests can’t be considered twice in the same year unless there is a substantial change in the request. So now the Smiths are asking the city to rezone 3.33 acres and the council and the planning commission agree that the change is substantial enough to meet the requirements of the law.

Late in 2005, the planning commission approved the first rezoning request and sent it to the council which has the final say. By that time, the residents of Sun Terrace subdivision which is behind the Smith’s property and other nearby residents were beginning to organize a protest to the rezoning.

The would-be developers met with the residents and promised good buffers and improved streets for the right to build a commercial subdivision. But residents said a commercial subdivision would make traffic worse at Rockwood and Highway 89 and they simply didn’t want it there.

In the end the residents prevailed and the development was quashed. Planning Commission chairman Ron Craig and Mike Bernardo, a member of the commission, told the council they needed its direction. “Does the council want a moratorium on building in certain places?” Bernardo asked.

Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh answered that the commission is an independent body with intelligent members who are capable of making recommendations that the council may or may not follow. Stumbaugh said it did bother him that the first proposed development included many concessions to the nearby residents that may not be feasible with a smaller one. In other business, the council approved a rezoning two parcels of land at Greystone Woods to allow a nursing home and an assisted living facility to be built there. Alderman James Glenn voted against the rezonings because one resident objected. Glenn has said he will never vote to rezone if the neighbors don’t want it.

The council also approved a rezoning at 52 and 54 South Pine Street from R-1 to O-1 that will allow an office building to go up where a duplex now stands and approved an annexation that will bring the school to be built at Stagecoach and Campground into the city limits.

The council also reappointed Dale McGregor to the Cabot Advertising and Promotion Commission. Alderman David Polantz’s resolution to review the city policy on employees’ using personal cell phones and explore the possibility of a “hands free” policy died for lack of a second.

Polantz said he was nearly run over by a city worker talking on a cell phone. The council passed an ordinance calling the cost of acquiring shielded light fixtures prohibitive. The state legislature passed a law in 2005 saying tax money could not be used to pay for lights that aren’t shielded. However, the law does not apply to municipalities that pass an ordinance saying the cost is too high. Most cities have done just that, City Attorney Clint McGue told the council, which passed the ordinance unanimously.

TOP STORY >>Nightmare not over for victim

Leader staff writer

The Blue Light Rapist’s petition for clemency, filed 12 days ago, has a snowball’s chance in, er, Haiti, according to one long-time observer of Arkansas jurisprudence who asked not to be identified. Having served about eight years of the 80 years to which he was sentenced in 1998 for kidnapping and raping Cabot teenager Shannon Woods, and six years of a life sentence passed down in 2000 in connection with a separate home invasion and rape, Robert Todd Burmingham has petitioned the Post Prison Transfer Board for a sentence commutation.

Burmingham, of Wynne, perhaps Arkansas’ most notorious serial rapist, wrenched Woods’ innocence from her that July night in 1997, but he didn’t take her courage or resolve. Woods has stepped from the shadows where rape victims often seek anonymity and into the bright glare of television lights and camera strobes. Monday and Tuesday alone, the 27-year-old single mom will have conducted four television interviews and at least two newspaper interviews.

She and her father, Larry Wood, have begun a campaign to make sure Burmingham serves at least the 58 years that Circuit Judge L.T. Simes II told the jury he would serve of an 80-year sentence, and they seem to be off to a good start. Woods lives in Ward, where her state senator, Bobby Glover, said Monday that he would oppose Burmingham’s petition.

It was Glover, D-Carlisle, who took the legislative lead two years ago in holding Gov. Mike Huckabee more accountable for his then-generous clemency policy and who helped derail the governor’s announced grant of executive clemency for Glen M. Green. Green was convicted of kidnapping from Little Rock Air Force Base and brutally murdering 18-year-old Helen Lynette Spencer of Gravel Ridge. While Green continues to languish in jail, there is recent precedent for the parole board cutting loose early a violent criminal with local ties.

On Sept. 5, the board ruled that Michael R. Webb, 33, who murdered Cabot teenager Jason Hatcher, 17, in a Sherwood Har-vest Foods parking lot, can be released in December, having served 11 years of his 46-year sentence. That’s despite continuous, vigorous and impassioned opposition by Hatcher’s family. Perhaps emboldened by Webb’s good fortune, Burmingham filed his petition for executive clemency three days later. Burmingham is an inmate at the Grimes Medium Security Unit at Nashville, according to prison spokesperson Dina Tyler. He works inside the facility as a maintenance clerk and has a good institutional record, she said.

“These are the earliest (press) calls we’ve ever received on clemency,” said Rhonda Sharp, spokesperson for the state Post Prison Transfer Board, Monday. “That’s what I’m going for,” said Woods. “To beat him to the punch. Violent offenders should have to serve the time.” Sharp said it was so early in the process that she didn’t even have access to his application.
If during the initial screening, the board sends the petition on with a negative recommendation, Huckabee will decide on the grant, but if the petition goes through the fairly lengthy full process, his successor will make the call next year, according to Tyler.

Burmingham’s screening is set up for Dec 3. In recent interviews with gubernatorial candidates, only independent candidate Rob Bryant took a hard line, saying rapists and murderers must do their time. Sharp described the clemency process as a lengthy one, saying the board’s staff must pull together a file from several resources. That could be completed by October. A group of such petitions will be forwarded to the parole board for screening in December.

It will determine whether the petition warrants a hearing. If so, there will be separate hearings for the inmate and for the victims, Sharp said. At that point, a board member will review information from the hearings and make a recommendation that Burming-ham’s petition has merit or doesn’t.

The five-member subcommittee of the board will decide whether to forward the petition to the entire seven-person board and to put the recommendation of their Web site. Thirty days later, the petition will be forwarded to the governor for his decision. Woods, now a respiratory therapist, was a recent high school graduate at the time, enjoying her summer and looking forward to starting at Arkansas State at Jonesboro on a full scholarship.

She and friends spent that evening hanging out in the Lonoke WalMart parking lot, as they often did. Looking back now, she thinks Burmingham may have scouted her and followed her from the parking lot, waiting until she was in the dark, sparsely settled area of the county, just two miles from her parents’ house. She was pulled over by what she thought was a lawman with a flashing blue light on the dashboard.

“I was getting my driver’s license and registration from my purse,” she said, and she turned to see a man wearing a ski mask pointing a handgun at her. Blindfolded, she was taken to a rent house owned by Burmingham’s father in Cross County, where he raped her several times, she said. Early in her ordeal, Woods began paying attention to her surroundings, like the number of steps from the ground to the door of the house, what station and what music was playing on the radio and other things that helped cement the state’s case against Burmingham.

Still, it was an anonymous tip that led the State Police to him, and DNA evidence that put him away—for 80 years or life, his victims thought. Woods’ father says DNA evidence also tied Burmingham to rapes in Lee and Woodruff counties, but victims and law enforcement officials, who believed he would be in jail until he was in his mid-80s, said Burmingham wasn’t tried in the other cases, which Shannon Woods says couldn’t be tried now because of the statute of limitations. The case and the trial were covered by national television news.

“Our judicial system is messed up,” she said Monday afternoon. The Victims Information Network left a message at her parents’ house Friday, alerting her that Burmingham had applied for clemency. Woods said that since that time, she’s been getting the run-around from both the governor’s office and the parole board, but Sharp says it’s so early in the process that no one has any information.