Deputies Arrest Man Accused Of Beating Elderly Couple In Gurley

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GURLEY, Ala. (WHNT) - Authorities have arrested a man accused of savagely beating an elderly couple in an attack that eyewitnesses describe as pure evil.

Madison County Sheriff's deputies said 40-year-old James Stewart stormed into a home on Childress Street in Gurley Saturday morning and proceeded to beat 74-year-old Harold Vandiver and his wife Ruth, also 74.  Mr. Vandiver suffered a broken arm and head wounds that required more than 60 staples, while his wife also suffered minor injuries. Investigators said the attack appears to be random.

Family members told WHNT News 19 the Vandivers had just finished breakfast when the intruder reportedly kicked down the front door and knocked Mrs. Vandiver down with a single blow to the head. Harold Vandiver heard the commotion from another room, but was ambushed as he walked to the kitchen. We're told Mr. Vandiver somehow managed to push the suspect out of the front door, but ended up receiving a near-deadly beating outside in front of stunned neighbors after Stewart allegedly grabbed his walking cane and repeatedly struck him over the head with it.

"It was very gruesome to watch," said Teri Trickey, a neighbor who witnessed the horrific attack while standing in her yard. "He was consistently hitting him in the head. He [Harold] tried to get up at one point, and the man hit him again in the head, and knocked him back down... He had blood, nothing but blood all down his head."

Other neighbors we talked to were too shaken to show their face on camera, but described the horrific scene in vivid detail.

"He [the suspect] began beating him with what appeared to be a stick, and started screaming 'Do you want to feel my wrath," said another neighbor who did not want her identity revealed. "It was quite shocking and was happening at a rapid pace."

Other neighbors told WHNT News 19 Stewart allegedly shouted that he was God during the assault. Trickey said the suspect was laughing after deputies arrested him.

"When I first saw him close up he was in the back of the patrol car, and he was laughing," said Trickey. "I hope he rots in prison for the rest of his life."

One of Harold and Ruth Vandiver's grown sons told WHNT NEWS 19 that his parents had lived in the house on Childress Street since 1966 and have been married for 50 years. Both victims are expected to make a full recovery.

Investigators told WHNT News 19 that James Stewart did not know either victim, and appeared to pick the house at random. Deputies said Stewart had no known ties to the Gurley area.