Judge Rules to Extend Restraining Order Against Tornado Masters and Safesteel

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HUNTSVILLE - Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Odell ruled late Monday afternoon that there was just cause to extend a temporary restraining order against Tornado Masters and Safesteel of Madison County.

The owner, Les Holt, and Chris Hastings sat quietly behind the defense table listening to at least eight customers describe nightmare experiences with the company as they tried to get FEMA-compliant tornado shelters installed to protect them from an EF-5 tornado.

Prosecutors rested their case around four o'clock Monday afternoon.  Defense attorneys called only one witness to the stand.  He was an engineering expert who they hoped would discredit the State Attorney General's licensed engineer who testified he inspected a dozen shelters around the Tennessee Valley and found many of them to be unsafe.

By five o'clock, defense attorneys rested their case and Judge Odell ruled to uphold the restraining order against the two companies.  Prosecutors asked that he make the restraining order permanent so that Tornado Masters could never sell another storm shelter again.  Odell said he would rule on that by Friday.

WHNT NEWS 19 asked prosecutors if they would pursue criminal charges against Holt, but they declined to comment.  They said they suspect there are hundreds of unsafe storm shelters around the Tennessee Valley, but they don't believe the company has the assets to reimburse past customers or fix the unsafe shelters.