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November 15, 2001   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
November 15, 2001

Bobby and Ann Hemphill of Tuscaloosa County, left, were glad to recommend that their neighbor, Linda Hawthorne, second from right, receive a $1,000 reward from Alfa for helping catch a thief who stole items from their farm. From left are, the Hemphills, Tuscaloosa County President John E. Walker III, Mrs. Hawthorne and Alfa Insurance Agent James Jeffreys.
The watchful eye of a good neighbor recently was rewarded with a check for $1,000 and the return of stolen goods to an Alfa policy holder in Tuscaloosa County.

Linda Hawthorne of Fosters in rural Tuscaloosa County received a reward check from Alfa for information that led to the arrest and conviction of a burglar who broke into a farm shop of her neighbors, Ann and Bobby Hemphill of Fosters. The Hemphills grow corn, soybeans and wheat on their farm, which already had been burglarized twice in 2000.

"It was Oct. 2, 2000, about 4 a.m. when we got a call from our alarm system," Mrs. Hemphill said. "Our shop, about a mile from our farm house, had been broken into. Bobby rushed out there, only to find a cloud of dust from where a vehicle had sped down the road."

Mrs. Hawthorne lives about four miles from the Hemphill farm, and the dirt road near her home is the only public road leading to the Hemphills. Since there had already been several break-ins in the Fosters area, the neighbors had planned what to do if another situation occurred.

"I called Linda (Hawthorne), and she said she would go out and look for the vehicle," Mrs. Hemphill recalled. "Meanwhile, I got the sheriff's office on the phone, and then I got another call from Linda, who said she had seen an older model, white, Chevrolet, extended cab pickup 'race' by her drive."

Mrs. Hawthorne said she got in her car and followed the truck, trying to get the tag number, but it was driving too fast. She did note the direction the suspect's truck was headed and got a good description.

"All I had was my housecoat, my glasses and my cell phone," Mrs. Hawthorne said. "Thank goodness I had the phone so I could call and give the information to the Hemphills."

"I told the (sheriff's department) dispatcher the description of the truck, and he radioed his patrol officer," Mrs. Hemphill recalled. "The officer stopped the truck and found the stolen items in it."

Mrs. Hemphill said the burglar stole hunting and fishing equipment, a floor jack and antifreeze, and he broke a television set that he apparently dropped when the alarm went off.

Mrs. Hawthorn said the break-ins not only cost area residents money, it cost them peace of mind as well.

"I had gotten where I was scared to go home by myself because someone might be in my house," she said. "I had no idea that Ann and them had put in for me to get the reward, that's not why I did it for sure. It was just the neighborly thing to do. They would do the same for me, too."

Mrs. Hemphill said she got the idea for the reward for Mrs. Hawthorne in one of the billings she received from Alfa Insurance Co.

"I saw the information about the reward, and I thought Linda was a perfect candidate for it," Mrs. Hemphill said. "I discussed it with our agent James Jeffreys, and he checked into it. I was so pleased when we heard she was going to get the reward. "She really did the whole community a service when she helped them catch this guy.

"The authorities here said this one burglar was responsible for more than $50,000 worth of items that had been stolen during an 18-month crime spree in west Alabama."

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