Alabama Mayor Mary Ella Hixon Stole $201,000, Serves No Time Because She's Old

Alabama Mayor Mary Ella Hixon

A 91-year-old woman who pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing $201,000 from the south Alabama town where she was mayor for three decades paid hush money in a bid to keep her crimes secret, documents showed.

Prosecutors said River Falls Mayor Mary Ella Hixon pleaded guilty to theft and resigned. In exchange, authorities dropped another felony ethics charge.

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan sentenced Hixon to 10 years in prison but suspended the term because of Hixon's advanced age. She must spend five years on probation.

Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell said years of thefts left the city all but broke.

"Had it not been a 91-year-old woman, I would have stood on my head to make sure she went to prison," Merrell said.

McKathan ordered Hixon to repay the money, with her estate being held responsible if she dies before all the money is refunded.

The probe revealed that Hixon had illegally transferred $201,610 in city money to others in the last three years, but the prosecutor said the thefts likely started long before.

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An attorney representing Hixon, Mark Christensen, said "a lot of factors" led to Hixon's actions.

"I think, at least partially, she was being taken advantage of [by] some others she trusted and probably shouldn't have," he said.

Hixon, one of Alabama's longest-serving mayors, was re-elected in August, Christensen said.

Located near the Florida line, River Falls has about 510 residents. It's little more than a wide spot in the road for people driving to Panhandle beaches.

"To a casual passerby, it would be two gas stations and a bridge," Merrell said.

Authorities said police in nearby Opp began investigating after The Andalusia Star-News reported in August about the city selling property to a middle-aged man who was living with Hixon. Merrell said Hixon acted like a grandmother to the man's four children, the youngest of whom just entered college.

A sworn police statement said city money went to Hixon and her relatives, the man she lived with and his relatives, and co-workers at a development company where the mayor also worked.

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The police statement showed the investigation grew to include a "concerned citizen" wearing a hidden recorder during a conversation in which Hixon admitted to illegal conduct, told the person what to say to police, and paid the man $525 to "keep him quiet."

Hixon turned herself in to authorities Wednesday in a negotiated surrender and was released on bond without having to spend the night in jail before her court appearance.

Christensen said she testified to a grand jury after pleading guilty.

Residents who long suspected wrongdoing in the town began talking to police after word of the investigation leaked earlier this year, said the district attorney. While Hixon was old, he said, she also was powerful.

"We had quite a few citizens come forward with information they had held on to for years," Merrell said. "They were reluctant to do so earlier for fear of being ostracized or because it was a proverbial "little old lady."'

Second Arrest Made

The investigation continues and officials say Hixon is cooperating. On Thursday a second arrest was made related to the case.

The Andalusia Star-News reported Friday that 47-year-old Richard Moss is charged with multiple counts of theft. He's the former administrator of the Coffee County Jail and was the man who lived with Hixon.

District Attorney Walt Merrell says Hixon gave Moss about $80,000 in city money claiming he was a police officer and repair worker. But authorities say he was neither.

Merrell says Hixon and Moss lived together for years, but the relationship apparently wasn't romantic. He says Hixon acted like a grandmother to Moss' four children.


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kimcrdr

To me it doesn't matter her age, she should have gotten the same sentence as a younger person who commits the same crime, just think had they caught her several years back she would probably still be in prison! for her being older should be enough to give her a harsher sentence, she knew better and she knew she was doing wrong everytime she took more money!!

October 16 2012 at 12:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wgoldsc830

Just another case where as Justice/Judges are blind and favor women by giving them no jail time and now because of a females age. Male certainly would have gotten time regardless of age factor,no bleeding heart
judges for the males. Look how the judges have let off countless female teachers for sex offenses and one because the judge said, She was to pretty to go to jail.

October 16 2012 at 8:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Don Murphy

I have no particular malice for the woman or senior citizens in general, but age should have little to do with these kinds of cases. No one should ever be above paying for crimes they've perpetrated and if her dishonest actions earned her a 10-year sentence (most inmates in U.S. prisons, especially women, aren't sentenced to anything near a decade, so let's not forget her transgressions were beyond minor) then she should be made to serve that. Jailtime tends to greatly accelerate the mental and physical deterioration of people beyond a certain age and if incarceration ultimately were to end her sordid story at 93 as opposed to say 96 or 97 on the outside, then so be it, no reason folks should find that particularly wrong, abhorrent or cruel in any way.

October 16 2012 at 5:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Welcome King

Well she's old even that shouldn't be a excuse,but probation is good enough.

October 15 2012 at 10:43 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
kvh32055

Her age should have nothing to do with doing jail time, especially in light of the fact she apparently owns enough property to repay should she die before it's all paid back.

October 15 2012 at 5:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Fred

She must have been a dummycrate.

October 15 2012 at 4:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Fred's comment
rvneeley

Generations of inbreeding have come to this.

Thanks for proving yourself to be the dummy. How sad that you act as if it is a bragging point.

October 15 2012 at 8:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ycplum

Personally, I would not have given her probation. Granted, I don't think jail would be appropriate, it being more of a hassle for the prison than her. I would have put her on house arrest and put a lien on her house to cover what she stole.

October 15 2012 at 3:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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