Man involved in chase, fatality charged with murder

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The victim Ellarea Dickson is pictured with her son, Sgt. John Dickson. (Morgan County Sheriff’s Office)
The victim Ellarea Dickson is pictured with her son, Sgt. John Dickson. (Morgan County Sheriff’s Office)

CULLMAN, Ala. – A Tennessee man is facing a murder charge for his role in a high-speed pursuit and wreck that left a Crane Hill woman dead in south Cullman Friday, May 24.

Michael Neal Ivy, 39, of Middleton, Tennessee, is charged in the death of Ellarea Dickson, 77.

“The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with District Attorney Champ Crocker, has obtained warrants for murder and assault in the first degree,” said Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry on May 28. “In addition, Ivy has been charged with felony attempting to elude, resisting arrest, reckless endangerment and multiple traffic offenses.”

As of press time, Ivy was still in an area hospital. The charges stem from a chase that initiated in Hartselle and continued south on U.S. Highway 31 into Cullman where the crash happened in front of Town Square Shopping Center near McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The vehicle Dickson was driving was struck as a result of the high-speed police chase. Cullman County Coroner Jeremy Kilpatrick identified Dickson, and a social media post from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said she was the mother of Sgt. John Dickson.

According to a statement from the Hartselle Police Department that day, “On May 24, 2024, at about 07:35 am a Hartselle Patrol Officer was traveling south on Highway 31 near Crescent Drive. The officer was behind a vehicle turning left into a business. The officer heard the sound of squealing tires and observed a vehicle approaching from the rear at an excessive speed. The vehicle then swerved to the right lane almost striking another vehicle. The officer attempted to stop the vehicle, but the vehicle continued at a high rate of speed toward Falkville and out of the city limits of Hartselle. The officer determined not to pursue the vehicle further due to the excessive speed.

“The officer later discovered this same vehicle proceeded to Cullman and was involved in a wreck. The officer obtained the driver’s name and other identifying information and obtained a warrant for Attempted to Elude Police, a Class C Felony. The warrant is entered into NCIC and the suspect, Michael Ivy, age 39 of Middleton, Tennessee will be arrested following his release from the hospital.”

Officers from the Hartselle Police Department, Falkville Police Department, Cullman Police Department, Cullman County Sheriff’s Office and Alabama State Troopers were involved in the pursuit at different points.

According to a statement from the City of Cullman that day, “A high-speed chase was initiated in Hartselle this morning. The suspect was chased into Cullman County and then entered the city limits. Due to a high rate of speed in heavy traffic areas, Cullman Police Department joined in the pursuit. Officers observed him run multiple red lights and the suspect later collided with an innocent third party in front of Town Square Shopping Center. The crash resulted in one fatality and a second person transported with critical injuries. The suspect is in custody but was transported due to injuries sustained in the crash. The crash is under investigation and more details will follow.”

Multiple social media posts, as well as a GoFundMe set up for the family, have identified the passenger in Dickson’s vehicle as her granddaughter Alyssa, who was severely injured in the crash and remains hospitalized. The pair were on their way to work at KFC, where Dickson was a beloved longtime employee.

Said Gentry, “One of the hardest things about law enforcement is having to deal with other people’s bad decisions. These actions often put us in no-win situations. We do everything in our power to keep the citizens safe, but sometimes tragedy still strikes. Mrs. Dickson was a wonderful, sweet lady that I had an opportunity to get to know over the years. I had spoken with her on several occasions at community meetings, as well as at KFC. Losing her is an absolute tragedy. We will be with her family every step of the way to ensure that prosecution is carried out to the fullest extent of the law. Our prayers and deepest condolences will continue to be with the family and friends of Mrs. Dickson.”

Gentry said Ivy will be transported to the Cullman County Detention Center upon his discharge from the hospital. He is currently being held with no bond.