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2023 in review, Part 1

Children’s deaths among top local stories for first 6 months


News Staff Writer

The biggest and most far-reaching local news stories of 2023 happened in the second half of the year, but there was plenty of good and bad news that occurred between January 1 and June 30.

Topping those stories were the deaths of two children — a toddler who was beaten to death by his mother and her stepfather-boyfriend, and an infant who died through the apparent negligence of his father.

Shawn Rounsavall, a local businessman, remained free on $500,000 bond as the year ended. He is charged with reckless murder in the February death of his 2-year-old son, who was left unattended inside a vehicle for approximately eight hours.  

Even more ghastly was the arrest of Shelby Shyanne Comalander and Larry William Jackson. The two were charged with murder in the death of Comalander’s 2-month-old child, who was beaten severely over the length of its short life.

In other top news of 2023:


There were many individuals and groups who attained certain goals or were otherwise recognized — some posthumously — for their accomplishments. Among them:

*Park Drive, which connects Houston Avery Park to Martin Luther King Drive, was renamed in honor of Coach George Stuart Mosby.

*Local realtor Bub Gideons was elected Council Chair for Alabama Lions Clubs International, the highest position one can attain in the statewide Lions Club network.

*Bradley Stinson, 14 and an 8th-grader at J.U. Blacksher School, became the first player in any classification to ever get a hit in eight straight at-bats during the AHSAA state softball tournament.

*Jaala Torrence, whose father played football for the University of Alabama, helped pitch the Crimson Tide into the Women’s College World Series.

*The Atmore Area Hall of Fame inducted 12 new members in the first such ceremony in three years.

*Ten Escambia County High School (ECHS) students were inducted into the school’s National Honor Society chapter.

*At Rachel Patterson Elementary (RPES), 16 students were inducted into the school’s National STEM Honor Society.

*Five ECHS athletes signed college scholarships or accepted grants-in-aid.

Notable deaths

*Coach Cornell Torrence, for whom the ECHS gymnasium is named, passed away in March.


*The area wasn’t treated as roughly by Mother Nature during the early part of the year, although a June storm that featured hail and roaring wind gusts ripped trees apart and left around 4,000 people without electricity, some for several days. Also, farm structures and a church were damaged when straight line winds tore through the Huxford area in January.

Fatal crashes

*Four people with local ties died in automobile crashes in 2023 — the Chief Financial Officer for Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PBCI) and his wife, a young man who was struck by a train, and a popular Northview High School student.

Economic Development

Several economic development projects were started or announced during the first six months of the year, including:

*The much-anticipated gymnasium scheduled for construction at Huxford Elementary School got a boost when PBCI pledged $3 million to the project.

*PBCI announced plans to build a $15 million meat processing plant.

*Escambia County Schools officials accepted a $2.7 million bid for renovation and rehabilitation of the ECHS field house.

*Diamond Gas of Atmore sold 20 convenience store-gas stations in Alabama and Florida to a Vernon, Ala. company that then leased several stores to a group of local business owners.

*A $2.6 million, citywide street resurfacing project began.

Guns, etc.

*Three people were shot to death in Atmore, as more than a dozen gunfire incidents were reported inside Atmore or its police jurisdiction. Arrests were made in each of the three fatal shootings.

*A local man was arrested for setting fire twice to the same house.

*Two convenience store employees were arrested after they took $1,800 from a wallet dropped by a customer.

*Shannon Dean Barlow and Franklin Lee Barlow Jr., convicted of the 1993 slayings of their stepmother and stepsister near Nokomis, were rejected for parole for the fifth time.

Other highlights

*In a round-robin type move, 4-year-old kindergarteners at RPES were relocated to the vacant A.C. Moore Elementary building, and 4th-graders who had been moved several years ago to Escambia County Middle School, returned to RPES.

*A woman was arrested after she chased her ex-husband with her car in the Walmart parking lot, eventually using the vehicle to knock him into a ditch. An Atmore News Facebook posting of the incident was viewed by more than 180,000 people.

 *Atmore’s Yellow Hat Society was officially chartered as a Lions Club.

*Coastal Soaring Association, a group of sailplane enthusiasts, moved its base of operations to Atmore Municipal Airport.

Note: Next week’s edition will include the top local stories from July 1 to December 31, 2023.