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The Florala News
Florala , Alabama
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April 28, 2010     The Florala News
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April 28, 2010
 

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ESTABLISHED 1900 Location Of One Hundred Thirty-Nine Consecutive Annual Masonic Celebrations ONE HUNDRED TENTH YEAR WEDNESDAY NUMBER 7" 8 PAGES PRINTED ON ! 00% RECYCLED PAPER APRIL 28, 20 ! 0 50 PER ISSUE SALESTAX=NCLUDEDJ Florala man's death an apparent suicide by Jan AUred Robert Gene Yingst, age 40, of Florala, who was ar- rested by the Florala Po- lice Department (FPD) last week after holding his wife and children at gunpoint for over 14 hours and threat- ening to kill his wife and himself apparently hanged himself while in the Coving- ton County Jail (CCJ) last Wednesday. On April 19, the FPD ar- rested Yingst after he alleg- edly kidnapped his wife and three children holding them at gunpoint on April 15. On Wednesday, April 21, Yingst was found dead in- side his cell at the Covington County Jail in Andalusia. Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks said emer- gency personnel were called to the Covington County Jail on Hillcrest Drive in Andalusia about 4 p.m. be- cause of an inmate death. After the ar- rival of emer- gency person- nel, Covington County Coro- ner Norman Hobson was called and pronounced Yingst dead. The Ala- bama Bureau of Investiga- tion (ABI) ar- rived in An- dalusia just after 5:30 p.m. to lead the in- vestigation into Yingst's death and declared his death an apparent suicide. Officials have confirmed Yingst hanged himself. Although Yingst made threats to not only end his wife's life but his own, he was not placed under sui- cide watch when he was booked into CCJ. According Spikes sentenced in Walton County, FL ... Todd Monroe Spikes A former Alabama and Florida law enforcement officer initially arrested several years ago during a "Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator" sting has been sentenced. Walton County (FL) Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells sentenced Todd Mon- roe Spikes to a ten-year sex offender probation. Last month, the 44-year- old pled "no contest" to the charges of lewd and lascivi- ous exhibition with the vic- tim less than 16, and using the computer to seduce and solicit a child. Spikes was one of 21 men who police said had sexually explicit online chats with decoys posing as children. He had several online chats with a police decoy who was pos- ing as a 13-year-old 'girl:" He drove five hours to meet with her at a home in Fla- gler Beach, just outside of Daytona Beach, FL. Cam- eras followed Spikes as he drove around the decoy's house. He was stopped sev- eral blocks away where au- thorities found several load- ed weapons in his SUV. His vehicle also contained rope and a boat anchor. The charges were even- tually transferred to Wal- ton County, because the investigation revealed that he used the computer in Walton County to solicit the acts. At the time of his arrest, Spikes was working as an officer for the Florala Police Department. Prior to that, he had spent time with the Samson (AL) Police De- partment, Geneva (AL) Po- lice Department, DeFuniak Springs (FL) Police Depart- ment and the Walton Coun- ty Sheriffs Office. Following his sentencing, Spikes went to the Walton County Sheriffs Office to register as a sex offender. He lists his permanent ad- dress as 951 Trout Drive, just outside the Mossy Head (FL) Community. "Letters to God" sought for upcoming event The National Day of Prayer is a special day when everyone will be praying at the same time for our na- tion, its leaders and people. Those who have something special to say to God, are invited to write a "Letter to God" to be printed in the newspaper. One may feel led to express praise, thanksgiving or questions, either as an individual or as a group. This year's theme is, "Prayer for Such a Time As This," based on Nahum 1:7, "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him." The letters may be dropped off at The Florala News or mailed to The Florala News 1155 Fifth Street Florala, AL 36442 As space permits, they will be printed in The Flora- la News. All will be displayed at the May 6 evening event at First Baptist Church Florala. Letters must be re- ceived by April 28. Children may include their name, age, grade in school or Sunday School they attend. ROBERT YINGST Oklahoma DOC photo March 20, 2007 to Meeks, he never made any admissions he was go- ing to harm himself to jail staff or other law enforcement personnel during his arrest or the time of in- carceration. Therefore, he was not considered a danger to himself and was not placed under sui- cide watch. According to Meeks, when an inmate is booked into the jail he/she undergoes a se- ries of medical screenings and is specifically asked if they are having any suicidal thoughts, a history of suicide attempts, or plans to physi- cally harm themselves. If the inmate doesn't indicate during this time that they are suicidal then no special measures are taken to mon- itor the inmate. Meeks also said in addi- tion to the medical screen- ing and questioning that the arresting officer and booking officer evaluate the inmate's demeanor and behavior Yingst spoke with correc- tional officers on Tuesday and on Wednesday spoke to his probation officer and gave no indication he was contemplating suicide or harming himself in any way, said Meeks. On Thursday, the ABI released a statement say- ing they had investigated Yingst's death at the request of Meeks and once their in- vestigation is complete they will submit their findings to the sheriffs office and the Covington County District Attorney's office. According to the Okla- homa Department of Cor- rections, Yingst had been convicted of murder in the second degree and child abuse on October 8, 1991 and received a 20-year sen- tence for the second degree murder conviction serving jail time from October 23, 1991 to June 6, 2004. Re- ports show he also received a 20-year sentence on the child abuse conviction but was granted probation on the child abuse charges be- ginning March 29, 2007 and scheduled to end March 28, 2027. His record also shows a conviction for escape from a penal institution on April 26, 1995 and he was incar- cerated from June 7, 2004 to March 29, 2007 on the escape conviction. There is also a child abuse charge against Yingst that was sus- pended on May 20, 2004. City could possibly seek Attorney General opinion regarding bingo by Jan Allred Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said the city is going to keep moving for- ward with plans to open an electronic bingo facility in the city and may ultimately seek an Attorney General opinion on the legality of the electronic bingo machines. The proposed facility would include a full-service restaurant, sandwich shop, entertainment venue, ho- tel and a minimum of 500 electronic bingo machines. City officials and the major- ity of residents are behind the project but the issue of electronic bingo remains up in the air. Williamson said from the moment the city considered a develop- er's proposal to build such a complex in Florala, the city has and will continue to abide by the law. He said the city has no intention of violating any federal, state or local laws. The city has followed the law each step of the way and is in full com- pliance with the Alabama Constitution and the 1994 Constitutional Amendment that allows charitable bingo in Covington County. Florala has become known as the "bingo turtle" because the process has been so slow but said make no mistake, the city is com- mitted to bringing this facil- ity to Florala and are work- ing towards that goal, said Williamson. He said the developer is still committed and at this point has no in- tentions of backing out. The only way for the city to move forward with the project is to get an opinion from Attorney General Troy King as to the legality of the machines and put an end to the debate once and for all, stated Williamson. He said since the legislature failed to pass a statewide bingo bill during their recent ses- sion, getting King's "stamp of approval" on the electron- ic bingo machines is simply the next step in the process. He said although he's been told numerous times that the city is being "extremely naive" they will keep mov- ing forward. Wflliamson said right now electronic bingo is Florala's best shot and they intend to take it and regardless of what anyone says, the city didn't enter into this quest lightly or blindly. City offi- cials talked to several devel- opers and countless hours were spent researching the issue to ensure it would be something that could come to fruition. The city attorney re- searched the legality of the electronic machines the de- veloper intends to install prior to the council approv- ing the ordinance regulating electronic bingo. Williamson said all parties involved be- lieve the machines that will be used in Florala are in compliance with the laws that currently exist. The city is continuing to explore every option where electronic bingo is concern- see BINGO page 2 .. Suttles WALTON COUNTY, FL FUGITIVE Suttles arrested in Georgia An April 23 pre-dawn arrest in Georgia netted a highly sought after fugitive from Walton County, FL. Law enforcement agencies across northwest Florida and southeast Alabama have been searching for Jimmy Donald Suttles, Jr. since April 2006. ' Working on a tip, the U.S. Marshal's Task Force arrested 43-year-old Suttles Without incident at a ga- rage apartment in Marietta, GA. An arrest warrant was initially issued for him in April 2006, stemming from several lewd and lascivious molestation charges. The victims at the time were all under the age of sixteen, one being as young as ll-years- old. Suttles has family and friends along the Covington- Walton County line. In the past, he has lived in Paxton, FL, Lockhart and Florala. Since being sworn into office in January 2009, Wal- ton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson, Jr. has placed high priority on seeking out and arresting sexual preda- tors who prey upon children. Walton County Sheriffs Of- fice (WCSO) personnel have handed out wanted posters with Suttles' picture to busi- nesses along the Florida-Al- abama line. In addition, the sheriffs office placed numer- ous newspaper ads seeking the Suttles whereabouts. WCSO Warrants Unit Lt. Eric Aden stated, "There's been literally hundreds of manhours spent in trying to apprehend Suttles over the last four years." The War- rant's Unit specializes in fugitive apprehension, and Suttles has proven to be extremely elusive to track down. The following agencies contributed to the success- ful apprehension of Suttles including the U.S. Marshal Service, Okalooa County Sheriffs Office, Walton County Sheriffs Office, First Judicial State Attorney's Office, Florida Regional Fu- gitive Task Force; and the Cobb County, GA Sheriffs Office. Suttles was booked into the Cobb County Jail in Marietta. The WCSO will ask that he be extradited back to Florida to face the charges of lewd or lascivious molestation on a child un- der 12, and battery, touch, or strike.