ROGERSVILLE — Richard Herston said he was trying to watch the Lauderdale County High School football game Friday night, but at the same time, he couldn’t help but look across the street at the flashing lights of emergency vehicles at Meadowland Apartment Complex and feel a deep sadness.
“Everyone was coming in (to the game) asking what happened. Then within a short time, everyone knew and it was like they were in shock,” the Rogersville mayor said. “No one could believe what they were hearing. It shows, no place is safe from evil.”
Herston was referring to the death of 58-year-old Rogersville resident Connie Ridgeway.
Ridgeway’s body was discovered inside Apt. A4 of Meadowland Apartments on Prince Drive on Friday.
Rogersville Police Chief Terry Holden said police officers discovered Ridgeway’s body about 6 p.m. Friday inside her apartment after a neighbor called police for a welfare check.
The chief would not go into detail about how Ridgeway was killed. He did say when the officers went into the residence it was “obvious it was a homicide.”
“This wasn’t a random act,” Holden said.
Authorities said the last time anyone talked with Ridgeway was Thursday evening.
“A neighbor had become worried because she said it wasn’t like (Ridgeway) not to be out, and she hadn’t seen her all day Friday,” Holden said.
Officials said the neighbor walked to Ridgeway’s apartment, saw the door ajar, saw Ridgeway lying on the floor and called police.
Holden said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s State Bureau of Investigation was called in to do the investigation.
“(Our department) just doesn’t have the resources to conduct an investigation like this,” the chief said. “I appreciate everyone who stepped up to help us with the investigation.”
The Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office also is assisting with the investigation.
Authorities said Ridgeway had lived at the complex for about 4-5 years. Holden said she lived alone, although she did have a boyfriend who had lived there at one time.
Investigators were at the apartment until early Saturday morning, processing the scene and collecting evidence, officials said
The chief said the investigation now is focusing on developing a motive and a suspect.
“There are some individuals SBI agents are trying to locate to talk with that could hopefully help answer some questions about what happened and why,” Holden said.
Megan Swan and her mother, Heather, lives across the street from Ridgeway. It was her mother who went to check on Ridgeway on Friday, and called police.
Megan Swan said her mother is still very shaken by her discovery.
She said Ridgeway was a good, loving person.
“We would see her walking her little dog out in the apartment complex all the time,” Swan said. “She seemed so happy, and such a very kind person. This is so sad.”
Danny Jones lives in the neighborhood just behind the apartment complex. He didn’t know what happened until someone called him Friday evening.
“We’re less than 200 yards from her apartment. I had been outside working in the yard most of the afternoon into the evening and hadn’t heard a thing,” Jones said. “I was devastated when I heard about it. My wife knew her. She used to bring two older ladies into eat at a restaurant my in-laws owned. It was like she was taking care of them.
“I’ve never heard anything but good things about Ms. Ridgeway.”
Tim Anderson, pastor at Clements Baptist Church, said Ridgeway used to attend his church in Limestone County.
“She was one of the kindest, sweetest people you would ever meet,” Anderson said. “She was very involved with our music ministry, and she was a part of our hospitality ministry here on our (church) campus. And she loved meeting and greeting people.”
Herston grew up in Anderson with Ridgeway.
“I’ve known her her whole life. She was very quiet person, but she had a way about her,” Herston said. “She was so friendly and outgoing. I don’t think she met a stranger. I would see her out and about and she never failed to speak to me.”
Holden said the town was shocked by Ridgeway’s death.
“I couldn’t tell you the last time we had a homicide here,” he said.
Rogersville businessman and member of the volunteer fire department, Morris Lentz said he has lived in Rogersville for 50 years and his parents longer than that, and this is the first homicide he can remember in the city limits.
“This is something that happens in larger cities, not here in Rogersville,” Herston said. “This is just so hard to believe that it happened, and it happened here. I don’t believe we can be in any place safer than Rogersville. We have a good police department and great people.”
Jones said it’s unfortunate that incidents like this are products of the “society we live in.”
“None of us are immune to something like this anymore,” he said.
Lauderdale County Deputy Coroner Max Williams pronounced Ridgeway dead at the scene and took the body to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences lab in Huntsville for an autopsy.