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YEAR IN REVIEW 2015: August

Country music loses legend, Billy Sherrill

According to multiple reports, producer, songwriter, arranger and Country Music Hall of Famer Billy Sherrill died in his home Tuesday morning at the age of 78 following a short illness.

Sherrill, a Phil Campbell native, is a legend in country music, perhaps best known for producing hits like Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” (which they co-wrote), Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Sherrill was well-known locally, beloved by Rick Hall of FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios in Muscle Shoals, which Sherrill helped to found.

Sherrill was born Nov. 5, 1936. Sherrill and business partner Glenn Sutton are regarded as the “defining influences of the countrypolitan sound, a smooth amalgamation of pop and country music that was popular during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s,” according to a bio for Sherrill.

In 1962 Sherrill was hired by Sun Records’ Sam Phillips as a producer-engineer and moved to Nashville. He later began producing at Epic Records.

Sherrill was inducted into three Halls of Fame: the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame and in 2010, the Country Music Hall of Fame. At the time of his death he had been in retirement for several years.

He leaves behind his wife of 54 years, Charlene, his daughter Catherine Lale and her husband George, and two grandchildren, Samantha and Matthew.

 

Sheriff arrests one for bestiality

A Phil Campbell man was arrested and charged with four counts of bestiality Monday.

Sheriff Shannon Oliver said his office “received information someone had overheard him and his dog.” Investigators interviewed the suspect, and he admitted to intercourse with the dog.

Russell Joseph Meyers, 54, of Highway 143 in Phil Campbell, was also charged with possession of marijuana, second degree, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Meyers is reportedly a Chicago native who, Oliver said, said he ended up in Phil Campbell after his work with traveling circuses.

Bond hearing for Meyers was held Tuesday, and bond was set at $6,000 for six charges. Bestiality is a Class A misdemeanor, district attorney Joey Rushing said.

“We’re treating this … as it involved a sexual motivation to the crime,” Rushing said. “If proven, he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.”

Bestiality is not on the books as a sexual crime, but Rushing said they were able to file notice that will allow him to prosecute it that way. As part of the bond requirement, Meyers cannot possess animals or firearms until case is resolved.

 

Appeals court upholds rape conviction

The conviction was upheld for a Franklin County man convicted of forcibly raping a woman at her home in February 2013, officials said.

Aug. 14 was the day the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued their decision denying the appeal for Richard Edward Agee Jr., 29, who in September 2014 was found guilty of first-degree rape.

In the opinion, written by Judge Liles C. Burke for presiding Judge Mary Becker Windom, Agee’s arguments are addressed: one, that “the trial court erred by allowing the State to present evidence of prior acts of violence between himself and the victim” and two, “the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial made during the State’s closing argument. Specifically, Agee argues that the prosecutor bolstered the victim’s testimony when he stated her testimony was genuine.”

To the first point, the appeals judge affirmed that evidence of prior acts of violence may be offered “as proof of motive, opportunity, intent … provided that upon request by the accused, the prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial” that it intends to do so. The appeals judge found that “the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing Mann to testify about Agee’s prior acts of violence towards her.”

To the second point, of the State bolstering the victim’s testimony, the appeals opinion reads, “A review of the record reveals that the prosecutor’s comment was an isolated one made during the State’s rebuttal … to be viewed with leniency.” Also noted, the trial court informed the jury to ignore the State’s assurances of the victim’s truthfulness.

Agee, who at the time of this crime was on probation following conviction of child abuse in February 2012, had that probation revoked and must finish serving that 15-year sentence prior to beginning his current life sentence.

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