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October 8, 2012

Additional charges expected against suspects

The family of Ryan Culwell — the Hanceville man who, along with his wife and daughter, was killed in a car crashed by suspects allegedly fleeing Birmingham police Monday — has released a statement expressing their thoughts on the tragedy.

Twenty year-old Ryan Culwell, along with 23-year-old Amber Verus and 10 month-old daughter Rogue Marie, was killed Monday when their car was struck near Adamsville by a Chevrolet Tahoe that police allegedly had been pursuing from Cordova, where the vehicle had been connected with an alleged robbery earlier in the day.

In a statement delivered Friday from the Cullman-based Drake law firm, the victims’ father, grandfather and father in-law spoke with one voice in offering the following remarks:

“Words cannot adequately express the outpouring of love and support that I have received since the passing of my beloved son, granddaughter and daughter in-law.

“My family has been torn apart by a needless and senseless act — an act which leaves a void that can never be filled. No one, including myself, can ever prepare for such a tragedy; a tragedy which claimed the lives of a young and vibrant family.

“Today, I am heartbroken, and cannot understand how someone could have such a complete disregard for the lives of others. Those who know and loved this little family are devastated. Even more so because we were powerless to help them.

“I want to thank the entire North Alabama community for their outpouring of love and support; their words of comfort and condolences.

“I shall be forever and eternally grateful for the contributions of money to assist me in funeral and burial expenses."

The young Hanceville family was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash Monday night at the intersection of Minor Parkway (Alabama 269) and Birmingport Road. Authorities arrested two Mulga men, Dominique Rashad Smith, 20, and Jeffery Howe, 18. They are both charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the crash that claimed the lives of the three Hanceville residents. Howe is being held at the Birmingham City Jail on a $750,000 bond, while Smith’s bond is set at $225,000.

The charges in Birmingham are only the beginning of legal problems for the two Mulga men. Authorities in Cordova, where police say the pair robbed and pistol-whipped a 77-year-old man, are expected to bring forth charges in relation to that incident. Dora police may also make charges.

In Cullman County, Sheriff Mike Rainey said he is interested in reviewing information from a break-in last summer at a Cold Springs business to see if the two men could be connected to that crime. Authorities engaged in a high-speed south along Interstate 65 after suspects were spotted breaking into the store. The suspects made their getaway into a Birmingham neighborhood and have not been located since the incident occurred.

* David Palmer and Benjamin Bullard of The Times contributed to this report.

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