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Aniah’s Law keeps man accused of burning his wife behind bars

DECATUR — A Decatur man accused Tuesday of setting his wife on fire has been denied bond in accordance with Aniah’s Law.

Decatur police arrested 40-year-old Riley Herbert Willis III on charges he intentionally set his wife on fire. According to police, the woman was transported to UAB Hospital where she is in critical condition. 

Willis was denied bail by the judge in accordance with Aniah’s Law. The law allows judges to deny bail to suspects charged with violent crimes. 

Aniah’s Law was overwhelmingly approved by voters last November after being thrust to the political forefront with a heavy push by the Alabama Big Ten Mayors. State Rep. Chip Brown sponsored the bill in the Legislature.  

It was named for Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old college student, who was kidnapped and murdered in October 2019. The suspect in her case was out free on bond awaiting trial for charges of attempted murder and armed robbery. 

Last October, the mayors group stood with Blanchard’s family to urge passage of the amendment. They then released a statement the day before the election urging a “yes” vote. 

“As members of the Alabama Big 10 Mayors, public safety is one of our top priorities. And on the November 8 ballot, there will be a constitutional amendment that, if voted for by a majority of Alabamians, would give our state’s judges the tools they need to keep violent, repeat offenders off our streets and out of our communities, and in jail where they belong,” the Alabama Big 10 Mayors said. “In October 2019, 19-year-old college student Aniah Blanchard was tragically kidnapped. The suspect in her case was out free on bond awaiting trial for charges of attempted murder and armed robbery. He should have been incarcerated, and Aniah Blanchard should still be alive.” 

Aniah’s Law is working, according to Big Ten Mayor Paul Finley of Madison. 

“We continue to see Alabama is safer today because of Aniah’s Law,” said Finley. “Keeping violent offenders off the streets saves lives.”

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling, also a member of the Big Ten Mayors, agrees.

“Before Aniah’s Law was enacted, judges often had no choice but to release dangerous criminals back onto our streets and into our communities,” Bowling said. “But now, thanks to Aniah’s Law, judges have the right to deny bond to violent criminals who they deem likely to recommit if released.
Aniah’s Law has already proven successful – just this week, a man in Decatur charged with a heinous crime had his bail revoked and will sit behind bars throughout his trial and his hopeful conviction. I thank the Alabama Legislature and the people of Alabama for making Aniah’s Law a reality, and I was proud to support this constitutional amendment as a member of the Alabama Big 10 Mayors.”

Representing the largest cities in Alabama, the Alabama Big 10 Mayors are Finley, Auburn Mayor Ron Anders, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling, Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba, Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox. 

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