200-foot radio station tower stolen without a trace in Alabama, silencing small town's voice

This image provided by Brett Elmore shows WJLX radio's tower in Jasper, Ala. Authorities say a thief or thieves made off with the 200-foot tower, which was discovered missing Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, and shut down WJLX Radio. (Brett Elmore vai AP)
This image provided by Brett Elmore shows WJLX radio's tower in Jasper, Ala. Authorities say a thief or thieves made off with the 200-foot tower, which was discovered missing Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, and shut down WJLX Radio. (Brett Elmore vai AP)

JASPER, Ala. (AP) -- The theft of a giant radio tower has silenced what used to be the voice of a small Alabama town and the surrounding county, the radio station's general manager said.

A thief or thieves made off with the 200-foot (61-meter) tower, shutting down WJLX radio in Jasper, Alabama. So far, no arrests have been made.

"The slogan of our station is the sound of Walker County, and right now with our station down, the community has lost its sound and lost its voice," WJLX General Manager Brett Elmore told The Associated Press. "This hurts, and it hurts our community."

The theft was discovered Feb. 2, when a maintenance crew arrived in the wooded area where the tower once stood and found it gone. They also found that every piece of broadcasting equipment stored in a nearby building had also been stolen.

"To break into my building and steal all my equipment, and the tower?" Elmore said. "Hell, leave me the tower -- that's the most expensive thing to replace."

Elmore said he suspects that the tower's guy wire was cut first, which would have brought the structure to the ground. Then he believes it was cut into smaller pieces and hauled away. "Some pretty simple tools you could get from Home Depot could cut this up in no time," he said.

The station had no insurance on the tower or the equipment, and he estimates that it will take $60,000 to $100,000 to rebuild. "We're a small market, and we don't have that kind of money," he said.

Elmore has heard from people around the nation hoping to help, and a GoFundMe page has been launched online to raise donations. He said he was reluctant to start the fundraiser, but a friend told him to put his pride aside if people are willing to help. More than $1,100 had been raised by early Friday afternoon.

The A.M. station has been on the air since the mid-1950s, and Elmore's quarter-century in the radio business carries on work his father did at the station before him.

"It's more than a job and radio," he said. "This is just a part of who I am."

Jasper police are investigating, Elmore said. A police department representative didn't immediately return a message on Friday.

Elmore now hopes to somehow get back on the air.

"We're going to make it," he said. "I have to keep the faith that we're going to make it."