Children’s deaths among top local stories for first 6 months
By DON FLETCHER
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.
*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.
*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.
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.
*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.
*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.