Lee County



An Alabama teenager has died in what authorities are calling an accidental drowning in a state park lake. 

The Lee County coroner's office says 18-year-old Jamari Smith went under the water while swimming with friends at Chewacla State Park in Auburn on Wednesday. Firefighters found him underwater and Smith was rushed to a hospital, where he died.


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — As Alabama settles into a statewide stay at home order from the governor, the number of verified coronavirus cases continues to rise.

Heath officials said the number of COVID-19 infections in Alabama was at 783 on Sunday.

The official death count rose to four, but the state still hasn't recorded any fatal cases from Lee County, where Coroner Bill Harris said Saturday that five more people had died at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika.


The University of Alabama fan convicted of poisoning Auburn University's landmark oak trees has increased his restitution payments since prosecutors threatened to have him jailed.

Court records show Harvey Updyke has made more than $3,000 in court-ordered payments since an October hearing on whether he should be arrested. That's nearly half as much as Updyke had paid previously since pleading guilty in 2013 to poisoning the oaks at Toomer's Corner.

Rod Bramblett
Auburn University

An Alabama prosecutor is asking a judge to revoke the bond of a teenager charged in the crash that killed Auburn University broadcaster Rod Bramblett and his wife.

News outlets report the Lee County district attorney's office alleged continued unsafe driving in asking a court to jail 16-year-old Johnston Edward Taylor of Auburn. A defense attorney says Taylor is “a very troubled young man” who needs help.

Aniah Blanchard
Auburn Police Department

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man being charged with capital murder in the shooting death of the stepdaughter of a well-known UFC fighter, authorities announced Monday.

Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said at a news conference that the capital murder charge is being filed against 29-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed in the death of Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old Alabama college student and stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris.

Ibraheem Yazeed
Escambia County Jail

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — A man charged in the disappearance of a missing Alabama college student is due in court for a hearing that could reveal some evidence about the case.

Court records show a Lee County judge has scheduled a preliminary hearing for next Wednesday for 29-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed. His lawyers requested the appearance.

The hearing could reveal some of the evidence authorities have gathered about the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, the stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris.

Alabama Emergency Management Agency
http://twitter.com/AlabamaEMA / Alabama EMA

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama county emergency management director has resigned following an investigation that determined she didn’t follow state laws when she purchased a vehicle for the department.

News outlets report Lee County Commissioners announced Tuesday that Emergency Management Agency Director Kathy Carson has resigned.

County Administrator Roger Rendleman says Carson purchased a 2019 Polaris Ranger for the agency over the summer using grant money but didn’t properly bid on the vehicle per state laws.


OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — The family of an Alabama college student who died from complications of improperly prescribed birth control medication has been awarded $9 million in their wrongful death, medical malpractice suit.

Rod Bramblett
Auburn University

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Police have charged a 16-year-old with two counts of manslaughter in the car crash that killed Auburn broadcaster Rod Bramblett and his wife.

A police statement says Johnston Edward Taylor, of Auburn, was arrested Monday in connection with the May 25 accident. Police say test results showed that Taylor was driving "well over" the 55 mph speed limit and had marijuana in his system at the time of the crash.

The 53-year-old Bramblett and his 52-year-old wife, Paula, died as a result of injuries from the crash.

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — A man opened fire on police responding to a call about a domestic disturbance in an Alabama mobile home park, killing one officer and wounding two others, authorities said Monday.

An intense manhunt led to his arrest hours later, not far from the Arrow Head Trailer Park, which is only a few miles from the campus of Auburn University, where students had been warned to be on alert. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency described 29-year-old Grady Wayne Wilkes as armed and extremely dangerous, wearing camouflage body armor and a helmet.

Trump Mobile rally
Jeff Haller / New York Times

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump headed to Alabama on Friday to survey the damage from a deadly tornado that devastated a small town, killing nearly two dozen people.

Trump was expected to tour rural Lee County in eastern Alabama, where 23 people died Sunday in a massive EF4 tornado that carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide with 170 mph (270 kph) winds.

It was one of at least 38 tornadoes confirmed to have touched down across the Southeast in a deadly weekend outbreak.

BEAUREGARD, AL-- The rescue and recovery efforts are just getting underway in Lee County in east Alabama after a deadly tornado. Disaster officials have said the EF-4 tornado killed at least 23 people. The storm was estimated to be a half mile wide and tore a path of destruction a mile long.

APR’s Pat Duggins sat down with one woman from the community of Beauregard who made it out alive.

“Oh boy, the wind was so high and I heard like a little roar and heard those trees popping," said Peggy Hutcheson of Beauregard.

We met her at the Red Cross Shelter at Providence Baptist Church in Opeleika. Hutcheson came in for a cup of coffee and a chance to catch her breath. She lost her home in Beauregard during Sunday’s tornado. It was the sound of the trees she remembers most.

“I don’t know, little a pin, pop, pop, pop, like firecrackers," she recalled, "and that wind was so strong. I thought that was it.”

It wasn't just the sounds Hutcheson remembers. The storm was followed by the smell of pine and earth that was torn up by the winds. Hutcheson said Sunday was also proof that no one’s luck lasts forever.

“Three years ago one came through and missed us. This time we're 3, 4 foot from it,” she said.

The sounds and smells of a tornado like the one that hit Beauregard and Lee County are nothing new to residents of Tuscaloosa like Steve Miller. He was the first person Alabama Public Radio spoke with following the tornado that tore through town on April 27, 2011.

“The sound was the loudest thing I ever heard. It was so loud, I couldn’t heard it anymore,” Miller said.

And then there was human toll. Back in 2011, the storm killed over 50 people. A man who lived near Miller found one of the victims.

“My neighbor who lived two houses went into his backyard and found a young lady wrapped around one of his trees,” Miller recalled. “She had passed away.”

How to help tornado victims in Lee County

Mar 4, 2019

LEE COUNTY, AL-- A deadly tornado struck East Alabama on Sunday killing at least 23 people and destroying many homes.

For those looking to help the victims, listed below are drop-off locations where supplies can be brought.

​Greater Peace Missionary Baptist Church ​(perishable supplies)

Church of the Highlands: Dream Center

Goree's Furniture ​(furniture; for pickup call 334-742-0607)

BEAUREGARD, Ala. (AP)-- In a tweet, President Donald Trump says he's told the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give Alabama "the A Plus treatment" as the state responds to a deadly tornado that's killed at least 23 people there.

Trump says Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has also been informed and is working closely with FEMA and with him.

Lee Co. tornado

BEAUREGARD, Ala. (AP) — Rescuers began tearing through the rubble of mobile homes and houses Monday in search of survivors of a powerful tornado that rampaged through southeast Alabama and killed at least 23 people, including children.

The trail of destruction was at least half a mile wide and overwhelmed rural Lee County's coroners' office, forcing it to call in help from the state.

"It looks like someone almost just took a giant knife and scraped the ground," Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said of the devastation during a Monday morning news conference.

A woman in Hawaii is working to put a face with the name of every fallen serviceman on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, and she is searching for photos of four men who lived in Lee County.

Janna Hoehn of Maui has been volunteering with the "Faces Never Forgotten" program for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. The goal of the program is to match every name on the wall with a photo of the fallen veteran.

Hubbard appealing decision on juror misconduct

Nov 23, 2016

Ousted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard is appealing a judge's ruling on allegations of juror misconduct during his ethics trial.

Lawyers for the one-time Statehouse leader filed a notice of the challenge this week with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

The defense is fighting the decision of a Lee County judge who dismissed Hubbard's claims that jury members made improper comments that were critical of Hubbard.

Judge refuses investigation of speaker's ethics trial

Sep 2, 2016

A judge is refusing a request by former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard to have a sheriff investigate whether there was juror misconduct at his ethics trial.

But Judge Jacob Walker says he is open to taking testimony from a juror who says another juror made biased remarks.

Hubbard wants a new trial after being convicted on 12 felony ethics charges and removed from office. His lawyers submitted an affidavit from a juror who says another made biased remarks.

A judge has scheduled a September hearing on motions filed in former House Speaker Mike Hubbard ethics case. APR’s Stan Ingold has more…

Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard is looking to overturn his criminal conviction.

Circuit Judge Jacob Walker scheduled a September second hearing on post-trial motions filed in the case. The judge did not elaborate. A jury convicted Hubbard on twelve state ethics law violations. Because of this, he was automatically removed from office after the felony conviction.

What's next for Mike Hubbard?

Aug 4, 2016
MacKenzie Bates/APR

The former Alabama House Speaker was convicted on more than half of the 23 felony ethics charges against him on Friday in a Lee County courtroom.  He has no job, no title, and will be sentenced next month.  APR’s MacKenzie Bates was there during the tense hours between final arguments and the verdict…

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

Four Republican hopefuls are running for former House Speaker Mike Hubbard's legislative seat.

The Alabama Republican Party announced late last week that Jay Conner, Joe Lovvorn, Brett Smith and Sandy Toomer have all qualified to run for the Lee County House seat. No Democrats are running for the legislative district.

Hubbard was removed from office last month after a jury convicted him of 12 felony ethics charges. He was sentenced to serve four years in prison. Hubbard is appealing his conviction.

The primary election for the vacant seat will be held Sep. 13.

Lawyers have picked a jury for House Speaker Mike Hubbard's ethics trial scheduled to start next week. A-P-R’s Stan Ingold has more…

The panel of 12 jurors and four alternates is made up of five black men, four white men, four black women and three white women.

The Montgomery Advertiser and al.com reports that Lee County Judge Jacob Walker instructed the panel not to discuss the high-profile case.

A judge has delayed House Speaker Mike Hubbard's trial on ethics charges until 2015.

Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker pushed back a Dec. 8 trial date at the request of the defense. Walker will meet with prosecutors and defense lawyers on Jan. 7 to discuss a timeline for the case.

A grand jury last month indicted Hubbard on felony ethics charges. The indictment accuses Hubbard of using his public positions to obtain work for his companies and to solicit investments from lobbyists.


An Alabama legislator indicted in a government corruption investigation is asking a Lee County judge to put his case on hold while he appeals to a higher court.

Republican Rep. Barry Moore of Enterprise has requested that Circuit Judge Jacob Walker III stay the proceedings while Moore seeks a review of his case by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.


A special grand jury has been convened in Lee County, but prosecutors aren't saying what it is about.

Court records show Circuit Judge Jacob Walker III signed an order July 29 empaneling the grand jury at the request of the state government. Members of the grand jury were selected from potential jurors who reported for jury duty Monday, according to the records.

A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Luther Strange declined comment. Lee County District Attorney Robert Treese did the same.