Friday, June 19, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panther basketball continues strong summer camp play

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School boys’ basketball team had another productive outing at their three-team camp Tuesday at Panther Arena. The varsity and junior varsity Panthers each played a pair of exhibition games, and the two Cabot teams won all four games.

Cabot’s JV and varsity teams each picked up a pair of comfortable wins against Beebe’s JV and varsity teams, and to close the night, they each won close games against traditional powerhouse Little Rock Hall.

The JV Panthers held off a late Warrior rally to win that exhibition 56-52, and the varsity Panthers, despite missing three starters, eked out a 43-42 win in the final game of the evening.

Tuesday’s games were the last Cabot will have this month, and CHS coach Jerry Bridges was pleased with the way his group closed the month.

“That’s a good finish to the first half of our summer league,” said Bridges. “We’ll start it back up when we come back from dead weeks.”

In the varsity game, Cabot scored the first bucket on a 3-pointer by Parker Childress, but Hall scored the next six points to lead 6-3. Cabot’s 6-foot-8 forward Matt Stanley, though, scored the next seven points to give the hosts the lead, and the Panthers cruised to a 23-15 lead at the end of the 20-minute half.

Stanley added a tough inside bucket five seconds into the second half to give the Panthers their first double-digit lead at 25-15, and with 17:08 to play, Stanley got an and-1 to put Cabot up 12, leading 29-17.

Hall soon got the margin back to single digits before Cabot’s Phillip Wynne sank a corner three near the 14-minute mark to up the Panther lead to 34-23. The Warriors, however, responded with a 10-5 run to take their first lead of the half with under two minutes to play with the score 40-39.

Stanley, though, put Cabot back up with two free throws. That made the score 41-40 with 1:34 remaining. Hall took the lead shortly after, but Stanley scored the go-ahead and game-winning bucket with 49 seconds left, which also set the final score.

That basket was scored inside the paint and was set up by a nice pass from teammate Logan Gilbertson from the other side of the lane. Stanley was the only Panther to score in double figures against Hall. He had 20 points.

Stanley, a junior-to-be transfer from Vilonia, has only had three practices with the team so far, but Bridges is looking forward to the future with him in a CHS uniform.

“I can’t wait till Stanley knows more of how we go about doing things,” Bridges said. “He’s practiced three times with us, and then we’ve been playing. He doesn’t know a lot of the little wrinkles or sets that we like to do that can put the ball in certain people’s hands in different spots on the floor.

“I’m excited about him and I was excited about our team before he came in.”

Cameron Thornton and Wynne each contributed five points for Cabot in the varsity game. Jarrod Barnes and Gilbertson scored four points each. Childress had three and Bobby Joe Duncan had two.

In the JV game, Hall led in the early goings before Cabot overcame an eight-point deficit to tie the game at 21-21.

Cabot took the lead on a Jared Vance 3-pointer near the three-minute mark of the opening half, and the Panthers maintained the momentum and used it to take a seven-point lead at halftime with the score 32-25.

Cabot’s lead stretched to 44-34 on a free throw by Carson Walker with 8:43 to play in the second half, but the Warriors didn’t go away quietly. They inserted some varsity players into their lineup and eventually got their deficit down to 50-48 in the final minute.

The JV Panthers, though, answered with five-straight points to push their lead to 55-48. Hall scored the next four before Christian Weir set the final score on a one-and-one free throw with 17.5 seconds remaining.

“We like our young kids here,” Bridges said of his JV unit. “Those are all 10th graders that we’re just keeping together. They shoot it well and they’re learning what we expect of them.”

Landon Vaught led Cabot’s JV team with 15 points Tuesday. Noah Allgood had 14 for Cabot. Vance had 10. Jaylin Brown and Walker contributed five points. Weir had three, and teammates Ray Doakes and Ayden Shurley had two points each.

Cabot will resume its summer league schedule on July 14 at Panther Arena.

SPORTS STORY >> SH Bears do alright at meets

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills football team has enjoyed a solid summer so far. The backs went 4-2 at a 7-on-7 meet at Benton on Tuesday. The week before, the whole team performed well, according to head coach Jim Withrow, at the Ouachita Baptist team camp in Arkadelphia.

One of the biggest advantages of team camp was that the inexperienced Bears got to split into two teams. The varsity squad faced North Little Rock, Catholic, Lonoke and Sheridan, while the junior varsity went against Riverview and Des Arc.

“The main thing is we’re young and we need as many guys getting as many reps as possible,” said Withrow. “I think you get a lot out of those team camps. We lined up against some solid teams, big schools, so we learned a lot about where we’re at and what we need to work on.”

While Withrow hasn’t named a definite starter at quarterback to replace two-year starter Trajan Doss, he was without last year’s backup and the frontrunner for the job this year. Junior Jordan Washington was at the University of Arkansas individual camp while the rest of the team was at OBU. But Withrow has also been high on sophomore Ryan Lumpkin, and said he looked good again in Arkadelphia.

“He played pretty well with the varsity,” Withrow said. “He’s young, too, so he made some mistakes. But he handled himself pretty well out there.”

The Bears replace most of last year’s offensive line, and Withrow says consistency must improve, but is pleased with the potential.

“I thought the two we have back, (Sam) Perez (Temuulen Zolbayar) , they played pretty well,” Withrow said. “The younger ones had some good moments, but then some bad moments. They’d screw up once, and then they’d turn around and make a great play. So the ability is there. We just have to find the consistency.”

The head Bear is concerned very little about wins and losses in 7-on-7, looking mostly at technique and execution from individual players. He saw much that he liked at Benton from receivers Cameron Sharp and Jamar Lane.

“I thought those two receivers really did well,” Withrow said. “Sharp in particular – if he keeps getting after it and working hard, he’s got a chance to have a really good season in the fall. He looked really good.”

Starting on the second Tuesday in July, the Bears will compete in team camps at Catholic each week, and will take part in the fourth annual Garrett Uekman 7-on-7 tournament on July 17 at War Memorial Stadium.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe ahead of expectation

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers faced some good competition at the Conway High School football team camp Monday and Wednesday this week. The Badgers were a bit shorthanded, with a few players out for various reasons, but saw some bright spots from a very inexperienced offensive line, which is a big focus during the offseason.

“Offensively I was pleased,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “Of course Jo’Vaughn (Wyrick) and Trip (Smith) looked good. We know what we’re getting with those two, but the offensive line did a really good job of blocking. That’s a big question mark for us coming in because we’re replacing two tight ends, two tackles and two guards. They made some mistakes. There’s still a lot of room to improve and keep growing, but I think we’re a little bit ahead of where I thought we’d be at this point with a whole new offensive line.”

The team camps are divided into offense and defense, which are usually playing at the same time, so Shannon didn’t get to see much of the defense. He thought the offense was better on Monday than Wednesday, but believes some of that had to do with the players that were missing.

Starting quarterback Justin Burlison wasn’t at either camp. He’s on a mission trip with his church. Backup Tyler Woodall handled duties on Monday, but even he was gone on Wednesday. That left third-string quarterback and starting linebacker Bo Smith to run the offense.

“We looked a little sluggish Wednesday but we were down to our third-string quarterback,” Shannon said. “Bo did a good job, but we just weren’t as efficient as we looked with Burlison and Woodall. I thought Woodall did a really good job on Monday.”

The Badgers also took part in a 7-on-7 meet at Cabot High School on Wednesday evening, the second one of the summer. There they faced Cabot and several smaller schools like England, Hazen and Rose Bud, as well as Beebe’s 5A-Central Conference mates J.A. Fair and McClellan.

“We might throw a little more if we need to with Burlison,” Shannon said. “He can throw it pretty well. But with backs like Trip and Jo’Vaughn, we hope we won’t have to throw it a whole lot. We do 7-on-7 mostly for defense, but we see a lot of things in 7-on-7 we don’t see during the season. I still thought the kids did a good job of recognizing sets and getting in the right spots. We saw some empty sets and quad sets, and we haven’t seen that in two or three years in a game.” There will be five more 7-on-7 meets at Panther Stadium in July, but Beebe won’t be there. Instead, the Badgers will go once a week each Wednesday back to team camps in Conway.

SPORTS STORY >> Vault record falls again

Leader sports editor

It’s Saturday at the Arkansas Vault Center in Black Springs. The pole is planted following the powerful approach and bends into an acute angle. The straight left leg swings from behind and out in front of the bent right leg as the bent pole straightened, propelling Tori Weeks upside down, almost 15 feet into the air. The feet came together as the right hip cleared the bar and she let go with the left hand. She curls over the bar and lets go with the right. The left wrist grazes the bar on descent.

It begins to wobble as Tori falls to the pit. It stays. She’s the new national high school girls’ record holder, clearing 14-feet, 4-inches and breaking the record of 14-3 1/4 set by her twin sister Lexi Weeks on Feb. 21.

Sprinting down the halide lit runway is Lexi, leaping onto the pit, the first to embrace her sister as she stands almost in disbelief with her face in her hands.

The duo has dominated Arkansas high school pole vaulting for three years and have been ranked in the top five nationally for almost two.

A week earlier, Tori achieved a personal best outdoor vault of 14-1 at the Great Southwest Track and Field Events in Albuquerque, N.M. to win that event. Lexi finished second in that event with a height a 13-6.


It wasn’t all second-place for Lexi recently. On Monday, Lexi was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year for girls track and field. She has been the Arkansas state record holder for indoor and outdoor for more than a year, and has broken her own outdoor record a few times.

She also has the second-highest high school girls’ outdoor pole vault ever, and the highest in the nation this year. She is three inches behind Desiree Freier, of Texas, who set the high school outdoor record at 14-6 last year.

The two will be teammates at Arkansas next season along with Tori and two other Cabot graduates. Ariel Voskamp, who just finished seventh in the NCAA Women’s Outdoor Championships in the pole vault, will be a senior Razorback, and the Weeks’ classmate Micah Huckabee, the state champion distance runner, will also be a freshman on the national powerhouse.

EDITORIAL >> Charleston and the past

A boyish white supremacist’s slaughter of nine black worshipers at a Charleston, S. C., church reminds us again that, much as we might wish it were not so, the past in this country is still not past. It will never be past until we have fully embraced it.

For the altar of the mass murder that he obviously considered to be an heroic act of patriotism, young Dylann Roof chose the African American church that symbolized the plight of American slaves and the United States’ indelible past as the largest slaveholding nation on earth, which for its first three-score years counted a black person as only three-fifths of a human being even as it proclaimed itself the world’s beacon of liberty.

The Charleston church, the second oldest black church in the South, was burned in 1822 after one of the church members tried to organize a slave rebellion. He and accomplices were executed and blacks were forbidden thereafter to have churches.

Yesterday, as Roof was arraigned in court for the murders of nine worshipers, mostly women, one of them 87 years old, the nation sort of celebrated the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth 1865, when a Union general alighted at Galveston, Texas, and told slaveholders that it was at last down to them and that, yes, even Texans had to free their slaves.

Roof did not try to hide his motives before or after the murders—he hated black people and hoped to ignite a race war that would put blacks back in their proper place in a segregated society. His few friends didn’t take him seriously until it was too late. A Facebook photo showed him wearing the flag patches of the old apartheid regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia. His own South had had to abandon apartheid, at least legally, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown decision in 1954 and the passage of civil rights laws in the 1960s. In every community of the South and much of the North we are still struggling with the legacies of slavery and segregation, although most folks in the South concur with a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court that inequality and injustice are things of the past.

Dylann Roof expected to be admired as a hero and a martyr even as he is prosecuted for murder, and perhaps in some quarters he will be, quietly. Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, thought he was the vanguard of the American right, which was rising up against a tyrannical liberal government.

Like McVeigh, Roof is demented, but it is not hard to see how the misimpressions developed as he and his pals haunted the bars and strip joints around Charleston. To soak up the message that America is headed to ruin and that great acts are needed to save it, he did not have to link up with the online hate groups or social media that proclaim the tyranny of the black president or the growing power of blacks and immigrants. You hear it at nearby lunch tables or the workplace and you see it in unsolicited emails. And, if you are in our beloved South, you see it symbolized in the civil venues.

Let it be said that, unlike the church bombings and racial killings during the not-so-distant civil rights era, the South Carolina officials reacted not with mild disapproval but with genuine outrage and, unlike the Fox network, they called it what it was, a racially motivated mass murder that had to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. (Fox suggested that Roof was carrying out the left’s agenda of stifling religious liberty; an NRA leader said the minister, a state senator, was killed because he had voted against a concealed carry bill in the legislature.)


The Confederate battle flag still flew over the Capitol at Charleston, the cradle of the Confederacy. The state still officially proclaims that South Carolina must maintain its reverence for the cause of the Confederacy and the soldiers who fought for that cause. Although Dylann Roof killed for that cause, too, the governor and other officials say the issue of the flag is just too complicated to deal with. Some day, maybe.

Here in Arkansas two months ago, the Republican legislature beat down a bipartisan effort, led by a conservative Republican (now turned independent), to abandon Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday as an official holiday shared with Dr. Martin Luther King. Lee is a symbol of our great lost causes—secession and the preservation of slavery. It was explained on the legislative floor and in the editorial pages of the statewide newspaper that Lee was a brilliant and humane general and just a good man, qualities that should be celebrated through an official holiday. It occurred to us that if revered generalship needs enshrining, a more deserving honoree might be Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in the last great war led a nobler cause than slavery—the defeat of tyranny—and was a good enough general to actually win his war and then lead his country nobly in peace.

We have not reconciled with our past and Dylann Roof, sadly, will not be the last to remind us.

For hope, turn to the relatives of the slain black worshipers, who showed up yesterday morning at his arraignment not to shout imprecations at the killer but, one after another, to express their grief but also their forgiveness and to ask God’s mercy for the killer. They swapped hate for love.

“I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, whose sister, a Methodist minister, Roof shot point blank with the revolver his parents gave him the money to buy for his birthday. “She taught me we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate. We have to forgive.”
 — Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> Electric saboteur gets prison term

The man who pleaded guilty to destroying power lines around Jacksonville, Cabot and Scott in 2013 was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday, according to U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Thyer.

Jason Woodring, 38, of Jacksonville will also be required to pay $4,792,224 in restitution to Entergy for his destruction of power lines and an electrical tower near Cabot and a switching station in Scott.

He will also have to pay $48,729 to First Electric Cooperative for damage to the downed power lines and poles in Jacksonville.

He will not be paroled, as he was sentenced for a federal crime. After being let out of prison, he’ll be under supervised release for five years.

U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson accepted Woodring’s plea agreement.

“Woodring’s 2013 attacks included sabotaging an electrical support tower and downing a 500,000-volt power line onto a railroad track near Cabot, which resulted in approximately $550,000 worth of damage; setting fire to and destroying an extra high-voltage switching station in Scott, causing over $4,000,000 in damages, and cutting down two power poles, which led to the temporary loss of power to approximately 9,000 people in Jacksonville,” Thyer said.

Woodring was charged in an eight-count indictment by a federal grand jury on Nov. 6, 2013. He pleaded guilty to the sabotage in March and to being a methamphetamine user who was in possession of firearms and ammunition, which he surrendered.

He will appear in Pulaski and Lonoke County Circuit Courts next week on criminal mischief, drug and gun charges.

Tori Moss, spokeswoman for First Electric Cooperative, said her company “thanks the FBI as well as the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies involved in this case.”

TOP STORY >> Clergy mourn attack

Leader staff writer

Twenty-two people gathered Thursday night at Evangelistic Ministries Church in Jacksonville to “intercede in prayer” for the families of nine victims killed Wednesday in the Charleston, S.C., shooting.

Rev. James Bolden, who leads Evangelistic Ministries and is also an alderman, said he prayed for strength after hearing about the tragedy that took place during a Bible study at a historically black church in South Carolina.

The alleged shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was charged on Friday with nine counts of murder and one count of possessing a weapon. Officials are calling the incident a hate crime.

Gwendolyn Harper, president of the Jacksonville NAACP, said Thursday that the country was still working through the initial shock.

“Of course, we feel that it’s deplorable; it’s just deplorable,” she told The Leader.

Harper expects that people in that area will address problems once the shock has passed. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems here. We don’t know people’s hearts.”

Her advice for preventing and learning from the tragedy is to figure out how to be vigilant. “The world is the same, but it’s not the same…There is a lot of mental illness going on besides a lot of hatred.”

Bolden said a task force of people from white churches, black churches and people from all races should come together and work to prevent tragedies like this one and address racism in that area. He emphasized the need for “unity in Christ.”

Bolden said, “Older people need to stop polluting the younger people…Racism is learned in families.”

The reverend pointed out that babies of all races could be placed in a room and would play with each other. He argued that parents teach racism to children.

Bolden said a shooting like the one in South Carolina could happen anywhere, but people should feel comfortable in church. He suggested that houses of worship form security teams for protection.

The incident also launched some discussion of mental- health reform. The reverend said people must learn the signs displayed by someone who may need help.

Bolden also said, despite people rallying for more gun control, he supports the right to carry as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

Pastor Craig Collier of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Jacksonville’s oldest and largest African-American church, did not return a call from The Leader seeking comment on the shooting by press time.

The state is already forging ahead on a solution to mental health issues here.

On Thursday, the Arkansas Public Policy Panel presented a report to state legislators on the potential benefits of mental-health reform for the prison system, according to a news release.

It says the report suggests that people with mental illness be sent to crisis centers rather than jails that could provide better care while alleviating prison overcrowding and saving the state close to $140 million a year.

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe), although they didn’t specifically mention mental health in their columns this week, wrote about the need for prison reforms.

Bill Kopsky, executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, said in a news release that the proposed crisis centers are “far less expensive, more humane, more effective and safer than simply sending people with mental issues to prison.

“Arkansas has thousands of prisoners with mental-health issues. Sending these people to treatment allows the system to focus resources on those who are true threats to society.”

According to the release, the report projects the costs of one year’s services at a crisis center at $10 million versus $150 million for incarceration. It also states Medicaid would cover $2 million to $3 million for the next several years so that Arkansas would pay about $7.5 million to provide better services for the mentally ill.

“The initial findings are so overwhelmingly positive. Arkansas must follow up with more detailed analysis,” Kopsky said in the release.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Fireworks ban

The Cabot City Council voted Monday to keep the city’s ban on fireworks after hearing from residents who opposed the proposal, which would have allowed fireworks for a few days around July 4th and on New Year’s Eve.

The police department had hoped to overturn the ban because it’s too short-handed to have its officers respond to complaints about fireworks. It’s also a waste of money and time.

Residents who value their peace and quiet hope that by keeping the ban it will discourage some people from shooting fireworks or at least encourage a level of moderation.

As another Independence Day approaches, fireworks tents are beginning to pop up. Soon patriotic residents will be letting bottle rockets fly to the annoyance of some of their neighbors despite the ban.

Jacksonville allows fireworks if residents obtain a free permit. It was a smart plan that was also intended to end the cat-and-mouse game that police officers have to play every Fourth. The only problem is almost no one has applied for permits, and the city’s 911 center is still inundated with calls about fireworks.

Some will ask, what good are fireworks if they don’t have a bang? But in the interest of communal harmony, may we suggest some less noisy classics: Sparklers, Roman candles, hens laying eggs, snakes, flowers and TNT poppers.

EDITORIAL >> Hungry seniors

There’s been a lot of buzz about senior hunger in Arkansas. The state has won — for the third year in a row — the dubious honor of being No. 1 in the nation for hunger among seniors.

Adding insult to injury, the state Legislature cut $1 million this year from the budget for senior meals affecting both senior centers and Meals on Wheels. Did our legislators forget the first of the Corporal Works of Mercy — to feed the hungry? Cuts go into effect next month.

Couple that with an increase in requests for meals and a drop in federal subsidies for home-delivered and congregate-meal programs and the problem becomes massive.

Reductions in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food-stamp program, have further complicated the picture.

To counteract the cut by your legislators, some groups, including CareLink, the Area Agency on Aging for Central Arkansas, stepped up its fundraising efforts, garnering substantial amounts to supplement food pantries’ reserves, support the delivery of meals to homes and for congregate meals. The National Commission on Hunger held a public hearing in Little Rock last month highlighting the problem of hunger that many seniors face daily.

Luke Mattingly, CareLink’s CEO, said there that Meals on Wheels helps to deliver healthy meals to homebound seniors, allowing recipients to remain in their homes longer.

Also stepping up to help are the unsung volunteers who run the hundreds of food banks and soup kitchens in the state. One example is Jacksonville’s Fishnet Missions run by the unsung champion of the hungry, Dewey Sims. Many food pantries say they are having trouble keeping their pantries stocked, and some have closed.

If you know a hungry senior, encourage them to apply for SNAP. Their senior center can tell them how and help with the paperwork.

In the words of Tim Herr, the director of the Area Agency on Aging of West Central Arkansas, “Now the question is, what do we do about it? And the we try harder. We talk louder. We get our elected officials’ attention...We want hungry seniors fed.”

TOP STORY >> Filings will start soon for boards

Leader senior staff writer

All seven seats on the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board will be up for grabs Sept. 15, the date of Arkansas school elections.

The fling period to run begins June 30 and ends at noon July 7 for area districts.

It appears that most, if not all, current appointed board members will seek to be on the district’s first elected school board.

Those seeking election to any of the five designated zones or two at-large zones must receive and complete pre-election questionnaires by June 16, according to the secretary of state’s election calendar.

Petitions to run must contain signatures of at least 20 registered voters who are school district residents.

Petitions may be filed between June 30 and noon July 7 at the Pulaski County clerk’s office.

June 30 is also the first day a write-in candidate can file a notice of intent to run, a political practice pledge and an affidavit of eligibility with the country clerk.

Early voting will begin Sept. 8.

Current vice president of the JNP Board, Ronald McDaniel, has said he expects to run for the board.

Other board members — president Daniel Gray, secretary Carol Miles, Robert Price, Richard Moss, Norris Cain and LaConde Watson have said only that they are considering it.

Pulaski County Special School District is still under state control, with Education Commissioner John Key serving as the one-person board. No PCSSD school board will be elected in September.

TOP STORY >> Funeral owners plead innocent to corpse abuse

Leader staff writer

Arkansas Funeral Care owners Leroy Wood and Rodney (Rod) Wood pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 13 felony counts each of abusing a corpse.

Their next court date is Sept. 2, according to the Jacksonville District Court.

Funeral director and embalmer Edward Snow faces the same charges and is due in court June 25 for plea and arraignment.

The Jacksonville funeral home at 2620 W. Main St. was shut down in late January after an inspector found bodies “stacked on top of each other” and a cooler “filled beyond capacity.”

The 86-year-old father, who lives in Jacksonville, and his son turned themselves in Tuesday morning, while Snow was taken into custody Monday afternoon.

Rod Wood is 61 and lives in Heber Springs. Snow is 63 and lives in Cabot.

Bond was set at $2,000 for all three, and none were at the Pulaski County Jail as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the inmate roster on its website.

On Jan. 23, the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors levied a $10,000 fine and closed Arkansas Funeral Care by accepting voluntarily surrendered funeral director, crematory and establishment licenses from Leroy Wood.

But that meeting didn’t resolve complaints involving Snow, who — along with embalmer Glenda Beard — is set to appear before the state board when it addresses those complaints on July 9.

According to the affidavit, a detective who interviewed Arkansas Funeral Care employees found out “things began to get overwhelming in the month of January due to an unusual number of death calls.”

It notes that the “frustrated” employees said the Woods told them “they were being blessed.”

The affidavit states, “Upper management, Leroy and Rod Wood, would not allow hourly employees overtime.” All were hourly, except for the two of them, Snow, another funeral director/embalmer and an apprentice.

Also, according to the affidavit, “A contributing factor to the large number of bodies stored at the funeral home other than the unusual number of death calls was the refusal to cremate or provide services until payment for the desired services were paid in full.”

It states that employees told police the Woods denied requests for additional help, equipment and overtime because they said they couldn’t afford more cooler space, beds or overtime. The owners were planning to open another funeral home in Alma, according to the affidavit.

It lists 12 witnesses, with one being the board’s inspector and another being a Jacksonville police officer. It’s probable the other 10 are employees.

The affidavit reads, “There is evidence of multiple bodies stored outside of the cooler over a period of time in January…Bodies were stacked on top of one another, on pallets, on the washer and dryer and on every available space they could find.

“Coffee cans with deodorizer were placed next to bodies to help with the odor in the room. The employees were astonished that management refused to stop taking bodies when there was nowhere left to put them.”

After Board Inspector Leslie Stokes first presented her report during a Jan. 21 emergency teleconference, 31 bodies and 22 cremains were immediately removed from the home.

Of those, 13 are believed to be victims of abuse of a corpse, including one body photographed and documented outside the cooler by the inspector. The affidavit says the deceased woman was in a state of “extreme decomposition.”

The detective requested the board’s investigative notes, photos, documentation and statements on Jan. 27 and received them on Feb. 2, the affidavit notes.

Part of the board’s Jan. 23 agreement with Leroy Wood was that it would not pursue criminal charges by forwarding information to the county prosecutor’s office.

But, Board Secretary Amy Goode said, the recent arrest doesn’t mean that agreement was violated because its actions and the Jacksonville Police Department’s investigation are “two separate issues.”

She explained that any documents requested by police had to be provided because they were subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

The felony the Woods and Snow are facing is committed when a person knowingly “physically mistreats or conceals a corpse in a manner offensive to a person of reasonable sensibilities,” according to the affidavit.

A reported nine lawsuits have also been filed against Arkansas Funeral Care.

TOP STORY >> Brown: ‘Defenders did their job’

Col. Charles E. Brown Jr., commander of Little Rock Air Force Base, discusses the shooting at a press conference Monday afternoon with Jacksonville Police Chief Kenny Boyd (left).
Leader staff writer

“My defenders did their job,” said Col. Charles E. Brown Jr., commander of the 19th Airlift Wing and Little Rock Air Force Base, during a press conference Monday afternoon after two 19th Security Forces Squadron members stopped a rifle-wielding man from entering the base.

The FBI named north Pulaski County resident Larry McElroy, 43, as the suspect. He died Tuesday night at UAMS.

The incident took place around 9:15 a.m. Monday when a vehicle came “crashing over the curb and street sign.” The driver then attempted to get out of the vehicle with a weapon in his hands, according to Brown and a news release from the base.

McElroy’s vehicle and home were searched for evidence of a bomb, but nothing was found.

The base was locked down for about two hours and 45 minutes while being cleared of any additional potential threat. The lockdown was lifted mid-afternoon.

McElroy has a history involving alleged drug use, hallucinations and claims that LRAFB officials bugged his home on Maddox Road. Reports, most filed by him with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, date back several years.

On Jan. 22, he told deputies he had found three spy devices on electronics and a chandelier using a “bug” locating device purchased from Ebay. Little Rock Air Force Base officials planted them, McElroy insisted.

In a Jan. 25, 2014, report, McElroy’s father said his son called to say more than 25 people were holding him and his wife captive at their home.

McElroy said the people who held them captive wore uniforms and were carrying weapons.

The deputy’s narrative reads, “While speaking to Mr. McElroy Jr., he began to point out individuals who were standing next to us, and others that were laying on the ground, pointing weapons at us. It was obvious he was hallucinating.”

McElroy’s father told the deputy his son was a drug user and that it was not the first time he had hallucinated.

On March 31, 2014, McElroy told police he was afraid for his safety and that people were watching him. He said he wanted to go to the hospital, and his wife agreed to drive McElroy there.

Earlier that same day, deputies had been called to his home because McElroy reported that his wife was threatening to hurt herself with a knife. She didn’t have one in her possession when police arrived and denied that she ever did or made any such statements.

McElroy stated later that he wasn’t sure his wife ever had a knife.

On March 23, 2007, his wife called police to report that he had choked and shoved her a couple of times.

On June 11, 2014, county cops were called again for a domestic dispute. McElroy said he and his wife had argued but that he didn’t want to press charges and nothing physical happened.

He didn’t allow the deputy to photograph his injuries and refused to fill out a domestic battery form.

On Monday, the FBI and Little Rock Fire Department Bomb Squad searched the home at 4120 W. Maddox Road Pulaski County deputies were so familiar with.

“The FBI had reason to call (the base bomb squad) out,” Brown said. The 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, including a robot, searched the suspect’s vehicle and removed several items, including gas cans.

No explosives were found in either the vehicle or home. It appears there was no motive, and McElroy had no ties to terrorism, according to a news release from the FBI.

“I do know through (the Air Force Office of Special Investigations) and FBI…they have determined there is no additional threat to the base and he is a lone actor,” the base commander said.

“At any given time, we have four to six defenders at the gate,” Brown told reporters. According to him, the standard-issue weapon for Security Forces is a Beretta M9. “At this time, I don’t know that is the weapon they utilized. At times, they are afforded semi-automatic weapons, but I don’t know what they were garnering at that time,” Brown said.

“This is a traumatic event, as you can imagine. We will make sure they are able to go back to full mission status before we release them,” he said of the two airmen involved in the incident.

“The first thing that always goes through my mind is the well-being and care of airmen and their families,” Brown said of the lockdown situation. “You go through the actions you’re trained for. We make sure everyone is notified through our loud voice (speaker system), as well as Facebook and email, to go into lockdown.”

According to an FBI release, “This is a joint investigation with the Little Rock Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Jacksonville Police Department, Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, the ATF and the FBI.”

A bystander was hurt at the scene, but a news release said the injuries were unrelated to the shooting and that the person was released from North Metro Medical Center the same day.

Leader staff writer Sarah Campbell contributed to this article.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot junior team hammers Benton

Leader sports editor

The Centennial Bank junior American Legion team hammered Benton-Everett Infiniti 11-1 Monday at Brian Wade Conrade Memorial Field. The five-inning, run-rule shortened game saw Cabot’s Ty Cyr go the distance on the mound. He gave up six hits and zero earned runs with no strikeouts and one walk.

Cabot took the early lead with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Brenden Sheldon hit a leadoff single to shallow center field to start the inning. Bobby Joe Duncan then doubled to the power alley in right-center to put runners in scoring position. Logan Gilbertson grounded out to second base and scored Sheldon on the play. Dillon Thomas singled to score Duncan on the next at-bat. Brett Brockinton grounded out to third and moved Thomas into scoring position before Dylan Billingsley singled to center field to drive in the final run of the inning.

Cabot sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs in the second inning. The big inning started with a leadoff triple by Cyr, and scored on a single by nine-hole hitter Skylar Weidman. Sheldon and Duncan made it four-straight base hits, with Duncan’s shot scoring Weidman to make the score 5-0. Gilbertson flew out to deep right field to score Sheldon from third and record the first out.

Thomas walked to put two runners on base and Brockinton singled down the third-base line to score Duncan.

Billingsley reached on an error at third base that also allowed Thomas to score. Will Jerry then hit a base-clearing, two-RBI triple that gave Cabot an 11-0 lead.

Benton got its lone run in the top of the third. Leadoff hitter Braden Carman and Westyn Buchanan got back-to-back singles to start the inning. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position with one out, but Benton couldn’t advance on a hard grounder to third that was fielded cleanly by Thomas for the out at first. But an error by Thomas on the next play allowed Carman to score.

Sheldon and Duncan each went 2 for 3 at the plate. Duncan added a double and a run batted in, and both players scored two runs. Gilbertson went 1 for 3 with a double and two RBIs. Thomas went 1 for 2 with two runs scored and one RBI. Billingsley also went 1 for 2 and finished with a pair of RBIs.

The win raises junior Centennial Bank’s already impressive record to 13-2. It played North Little Rock at home on Tuesday after Leader deadlines, and will host Heber Springs at 6 p.m. Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville lefty quiets Morrilton’s senior team

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville-Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion team went 2-1 at the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic last week, but didn’t win its pool and failed to advance to the tournament round of the state’s largest mid-season tournament for the first time in four years.

Jacksonville opened the tournament with a 9-2 victory over Hot Springs Village on Thursday before losing 3-1 to pool winner Malvern on Friday. The Chevy Boys closed the tournament on Saturday without several starters. Two starters were taking the ACT while others attended a football camp in Memphis. Gwatney still beat Morrilton 6-1 behind a dominant pitching performance by Brandon Hawkins. The lanky left-hander threw a complete-game two-hitter against the Cogswell Motors team from Conway County.

Hawkins gave up no earned runs while striking out seven and walking three.

Playing as the visiting team, the shorthanded Jacksonville squad gave Hawkins an early lead to work with, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning.

D.J. Scott moved to the leadoff spot and roped a single to left field on the game’s first pitch. On the second pitch, Ryan Mallison pulled a line drive down the first-base line for an RBI, standup triple. Two batters later, Colton Goodman hit a sacrifice fly to score Mallison and give Gwatney the early 2-0 lead.

No one scored in the second, but Jacksonville made it 4-0 in the third. Mallison pulled another hit to right field, this time for a single with one out. He stole second base and Laderrious Perry drove him in with a base hit to left field. With two outs, Chris Penn singled to straightaway center field, scoring Perry for the final run of the inning.

Morrilton scored its lone run in the bottom of the third. A two-out error left a runner safe at first base before Morrilton’s first base hit, a double off the wall in center field, drove in the run.

“That’s what happens when you commit errors,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “He (Hawkins) should’ve had him a shutout, but we made too many mistakes in the field.”

In the third inning, Morrilton gave the unearned run back plus one. Braxton McKinney got a leadoff single and Donte Harris drew a one-out walk to put two runners on base. Mallison then hit a hard grounder to second base that was bungled. McKinney got to third easily on the play, and broke for home when the ball bounced away from the second baseman. He was safe on a close play at the plate, and Mallison broke for second on the throw home. Mallison made it thanks to a nifty feet-first slide around the outside of the base, and Harrison broke for home on the throw to second. The second throw home beat Harris to the plate, but was too high, forcing the catcher to leap to make the catch and making him unable to apply the tag in time.

Hawkins walked the first batter of the fourth inning on four pitches, but got two infield pop-ups and a strikeout to end the inning without the runner advancing. He also walked a batter with two outs in each of the fifth and sixth innings, but both times struck out the following batter.

An error at third base put Morrilton’s leadoff hitter on base to start the seventh inning, and a one-out base hit put runners at the corers. But Hawkins fanned the next batter and D.J. Scott saved a run and ended the game by tracking down a deep shot to center field for the final out.

“We got a bunch missing and a lot of people in different positions from what they’re used to,” Hickingbotham said. “So overall they did pretty good.”

The tournament play leaves Jacksonville with a 4-3 record. The Gwatney senior team traveled to Conway on Tuesday after Leader deadlines, and will host Conway in the final game of a junior-senior doubleheader tonight that begins at 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Three Devils’ second chance

Leader sports editor

National signing day is long gone and most college football teams got their signing classes in order weeks, if not months ago. But a trio of 2015 Jacksonville graduates were just recently added to college rosters. Defensive tackle Anthony Fields, running back Lamont Gause and linebacker Justin Abbott each got on with different teams.


Fields signed with junior college powerhouse Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas. Gause will join the Arkansas Tech Wonderboys in Russellville as an invited walk-on, and Abbott signed with Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

Fields, who has a DI-level combination of size and speed, garnered interest from, but was eventually passed on, by the larger schools because lackluster performance in the classroom left him short of the top level’s requirements.

After a breakout sophomore season on the defensive line, Fields found himself ineligible his junior season because of grades. He worked over the second semester and in summer school to get the GPA back up, and regained his eligibility for his senior year.

Fields admits it was just laziness that caused the grades to drop, but thinks the experience will help him in college.

“I just slacked off,” said Fields. “I can’t blame anyone but myself. I had to ask if I really wanted this to happen for me. I know how fast it can be taken away, now. I’m blessed to have another opportunity and I mean to make the most of it. It’s just a matter of putting in the work.”

Fields said getting his academic eligibility back was the easy part. By the time he returned to the field, there was a new head coach and new defensive coordinator, and an all new focus and regiment on strength and conditioning.

“It was harder getting back in physical shape than it was getting my grades up,” Fields said. “The grades were just a matter of applying myself. Those workouts over the summer were hard.”

Trinity Valley is a mainstay at the top of the junior college rankings, and finished last season ranked No. 2 after going 12-0 and winning the Heart of Texas Bowl, the championship game of the Southwest Junior College regional playoffs.

The school places several players in major colleges, largely because of getting players like Fields, who received interest from those schools out of high school but were not academically eligible.

Fields is a powerful 6-0, 286 pounds, and runs a 4.87 40-yard dash. While a major force defensively, he says the highlight of his high school career came on offense.

Playing crosstown rival North Pulaski, Fields closed the first half of that game with a 76-yard touchdown on a hook and lateral. He took the lateral at about the 30-yard line near the Jacksonville sideline. He plowed over one would-be tackler, cut back to the middle of the field and outran the rest of the defense to the end zone.

Fields said the play was a reward from coach Barry Hickingbotham for making sacrifices for the team.

“I had never played offensive line before and I didn’t really know how to do it,” Fields said. “I didn’t like it because I didn’t know what I was doing, but coach said he needed me to make that sacrifice for the team. We worked on that play in practice that way and I told him before the game, if he called it, I would score. He said he would do it for making that sacrifice. And really, that was about the last game I played offensive line. I was just defense after that. He just needed me to do it until they could get someone else ready.”


Gause is a two-time 1,000 yard back and All-State honoree. He is super quick and uncommonly strong for his size, which is what ultimately caused most schools to back off making scholarship offers. Gause is 5-7, 178 pounds and runs a 4.47 40-yard dash. He made several big plays, scored 22 touchdowns and even had one quarter against Beebe in which he had four carries for 119 yards and one touchdown, as well as a 59-yard touchdown reception called back for holding.

But Gause says the highlight of his senior year took place before the first snap of the season.

“My senior year, there were a whole lot of good things that people didn’t see,” Gause said. “As players we got better, and as people we got better in who we are off the field.”

The team went to a week-long retreat to Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, staying in the school dorms abandoned by college students for the summer. Upon arrival, coaches collected everyone’s cell phones as they exited the bus.

“We were all surprised when we found out we were going to Walnut Ridge,” Gause said. “We were like, ‘what’s Walnut Ridge?’ We got there and had to hand over our phones, and were like, ‘What?’ Nobody liked getting up at 6:00 in the morning, or 5:00 in the morning. By day three we were all hanging out with people we didn’t really know before, and by the time camp was over, everything was different. We were a team.”

The season didn’t start out very well at all, Jacksonville lost its first four games of the season and was 1-6 overall and 1-3 in conference play with three games remaining. The Red Devils then won their last three games to finish 4-3 in league play and make the playoffs.

But the team never looked like a 0-4 or 1-6 team in practice, and Gause goes back to preseason to explain it.

“Walnut Ridge was preparation for that,” Gause said. “One of our goals was to be able to face adversity. That was our adversity and we took it as a challenge that we weren’t down and out yet.”

Gause’s new adversity lies in the fact that he was overlooked by almost everyone. He was originally going to join Fields at Trinity Valley, until he found out they didn’t want him as a running back.

Believing in himself, Gause turned down the scholarship, and will walk-on at ATU hoping for the opportunity to prove himself as an effective ball carrier.

“I just have to prove something to get from one place to another,” Gause said. “I want to play running back, and I’m going to make something known that should’ve been known.”


Abbott, like Gause, was a three-year starter in the program and huge help for Hickingbotham in his first season. Abbott led the Red Devils in tackling the last two years at inside linebacker, and was the team’s strongest player. He boasted a 500-pound squat, 300-plus bench press and a 280-power cling. But his biggest asset, according to Hickingbotham, was his intelligence and experience.

“Without our lack of experience on defense when I got here, he was like a coach on the field for us,” said Hickingbotham. “He was a good classroom kid, carried about a 3.0, got his work done on the ACT. He was the kind of guy with enough football in him, he could take things he would see on the field and give us coaches his ideas. He could get guys lined up in the right spots and make adjustments on the field. He was just a huge factor for us in leading by example and helping get the younger guys up to speed. He led in all phases.”

Height was a key factor in schools not offering Abbott (5-11, 210) and Gause, but Hickingbotham takes some of the responsibility.

“Being our first year, we didn’t really know the process for getting these guys some exposure,” Hickingbotham said. “I don’t know how much was done before we got here, but we were a little late in the game in getting these guys’ names out and in the coaches’ minds. We’re just thankful to (SAU) coach (Bill) Keopple for listening to us. They had signed their linebacker prospect, but we told him he could also play fullback. He’s just a motivated football player and has the want-to to be successful. He’s going to be coachable and he’s going to do whatever you ask. And he’s going to make plays for you because he’s going to do whatever it takes. And if he doesn’t make the play, it won’t be from a lack of effort.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot in final at Wood Bat

Cabot’s Logan Gilbertson drove in runs in Centennial Bank’s junior and senior wins over Benton on Monday in Cabot.

Leader sports editor

Local teams continue to be very successful in the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic. The Centennial Bank senior American Legion team advanced to the championship game on Sunday, where play was halted and postponed in the fifth inning due to heavy rain. Cabot and tournament host Sheridan will resume play for the championship on July 24.

Cabot’s appearance in the final marks the fifth-straight year that either Cabot or Jacksonville, and sometimes both, have advanced to the final of the state’s largest annual mid-season tournament.

When play resumes, Sheridan will hold a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth. Cabot will be at bat with a runner on first base and no outs.

To get to the championship round, Cabot beat Malvern 9-1 earlier in the day on Sunday in the semifinals. Malvern took a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but pitcher Brett Brockinton shut things down from there.

Brockinton gave up a hit to Malvern’s leadoff hitter Marcus Collie, and two Cabot errors brought the runner around. Malvern did not get another runner on base the rest of the five- inning game. Brockinton threw all five innings for Cabot, giving up just one hit and zero earned runs while striking out seven, walking none and retiring the last 13 batters in a row.

He also scored Cabot’s first run in the bottom of the first inning. With two outs and no one on, Brockinton hit the first of back-to-back doubles that tied the game. Gavin Tillery followed Brockinton’s shot with an RBI triple to the wall in center field, but was thrown out at home trying to stretch it into an infield-the-park home run.

In the second inning, Blake McCutchen hit a leadoff single and Hayden Vinson slapped a two-out double to right field to give Cabot its first lead at 2-1.

The Centennial Bank squad took control of the game with a three-run third inning. Dylan Bowers walked and Lee Sullivan bunted him to second base on a sacrifice. Sullivan stole second base and Brockinton hit a groundout to shortstop that did not advance the runner.

With two outs, Tillery singled to drive in Sullivan and McCutchen walked to put runners on first and second. Logan Gilbertson then doubled to left-center field to score both base runners and give Cabot a 5-1 lead.

Centennial Bank added two more runs in the fourth inning. Nine-hole hitter Caleb Harpole hit a leadoff single to left field. Bowers and Sullivan hit back-to-back groundouts before Brockinton walked with two outs. Tillery then singled to score Bowers and McCutchen walked to load the bases. Gilbertson then took a pitch off the shoulder to score Brockinton for a 7-1 lead.

Cabot added two more in the bottom of the fifth to invoke the eight-runs-after-five-innings sportsmanship rule the tournament observed. The final rally started with a leadoff base hit to right field by Vinson. Bowers walked with one out and Sullivan reached on a bunt single that included an error that scored Vinson and moved the runners into scoring position. The game ended on a passed ball.

The Cabot senior team endured another mid-game rainout Monday against Benton at Conrade Memorial Field.

The Centennial Bank squad was dominating and led 10-2 when play was halted before the first pitch of the fourth inning. A mishmash team of junior and senior players piled up 12 base hits in just three innings against the Benton-Sportshop junior team.

Cabot scored seven runs in the first inning off six base hits, but started the rally when Bowers was hit with the first pitch of the game. Bowers stole second and scored on a base hit to left field by Sullivan. Dillon Thomas popped up to shortstop before Gilbertson singled to left to score Sullivan.

Vinson hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice that got Gilbertson thrown out at second. Brenden Shelden singled to right and Collin Thames walked to load the bases with two outs.

Harpole then singled to left to drive in two runs. Logan Edmondson singled to left to drive in Thames and Bowers singled to right to score Harpole for the 7-0 lead.

Benton scored two runs in the top of the second on three hits and two Cabot errors. Cabot got those back plus one in the bottom half. Thomas opened the frame with a double to left field. He scored on a one-out, RBI single to center by Nicholas Belden. He advanced to second on the throw to the plate, and moved to third on a single by Sheldon. After a 6-3 groundout, Harpole walked to load the bases. Edmondson walked to drive in Belden and Bowers walked to score Sheldon.

Sheldon went 3 for 3 at the plate, including a double in the third that should’ve scored a run, but coach Chris Gross held the runner at third in an act of sportsmanship. Belden entered the game in the second inning, replacing Vinson, and went 2 for 2. Bowers went 1 for 1 and reached base on all three at-bats.