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Madison County Letter
Former mayor speaks out about water dispute
Regarding recent statements concerning the water line contract
dispute with Athens-Clarke County (ACC) and the city of Hull,
the facts are as follows...
Violence is never the answer
The murder of Douglas Benton has grabbed the attention of people
across the state. The details of his death are shocking and repulsive.
Yet still we clamor for more.
Madison Co. summer squad nabs four wins
The Madison County High School summer
baseball team continued its winning ways this past week, earning
victories in four of six games. The team defeated Oconee County
BOC chair candidates address growth
One candidate called for keeping Banks County as rural as possible,
while another said leaders need to work on a long-term plan to
Banks County Board of Commissioners incumbent chairman James
Fireworks display planned July 4
The traditional Homer 4th of July fireworks display will get
under way around 9:30 p.m. next Tuesday night.
City Lights' to be on this weekend
Commerce will turn on the City Lights this
week. The City Lights
festival, that is. It grew from a 40th anniversary celebration
to an annual benefit concert and, starting Thursday, the City
Lights Festival has become a three-day event...
Independence Day festivities ahead this weekend
The Fourth of July will be celebrated a little bit early in Jackson
County this year, with festivities planned this weekend in both
Jefferson and Commerce.
The Madison County Journal
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A property caretaker in Oglethorpe County discovered this
cement-filled water trough last week that held the body of Douglas
believe Tracy Fortson committed murder, cover-up without help
Investigators believe Tracy Lea Fortson
acted alone in murdering her ex-boyfriend Douglas Benton in his
Colbert home, encasing him in cement in a water trough and leaving
the body in a wooded area in Oglethorpe County.
And she allegedly removed the trough from her truck with no feat
of strength, just simple physics.
"She tied a rope or cable to a tree and tied it to the tank,
then drove off," said Madison County sheriff Clayton Lowe.
Why she allegedly did this is still a mystery.
"She's probably the only one who knows why," said Lowe,
who added that investigators are considering several motives,
Lowe said an unspecified sum of Benton's money was missing, along
with his wallet and gun.
The sheriff said Fortson, 35, bought the cement and water tank
in Athens from a business that had no knowledge of her plans.
She allegedly mixed the cement in the back of her truck.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Bill Malueg agreed that
Fortson, a body builder, apparently acted alone.
"Everything that we believe occurred, from removing the
body from the house to removing the vault from the truck could
have been done by one person," said Malueg. "It took
some effort, but as strong as she is, it's certainly possible."
Fortson allegedly shot Benton in the head and stabbed him before
encasing him in cement. The GBI searched Fortson's home last
week, finding evidence connecting her to the crime, but Malueg
would not specify what was found. No murder weapons had been
recovered as of Monday.
According to Malueg, investigators found blood in Benton's residence
and determined someone attempted to clean up the murder scene.
He said there was also the scent of kerosene in the house, which
is located on John Sharp Road, a narrow dirt path off Jack Sharp
Road, located off Hwy. 72.
Investigators also believe Fortson left a forged note in the
victim's truck to help conceal her alleged murder. Benton's truck
was found at the home of Jerry Alexander in Lexington with a
note reading, "Take care of my truck...I'll come back for
Malueg said the note, which he described as "short and cryptic,"
has not been scientifically analyzed, but it appears that it
was not written by Benton.
"We suspect she (Fortson) wrote it," said Malueg.
Malueg said Rodney Sturdivant, who owns the property where the
victim was found, is not a suspect in the case and neither is
Fortson, a former Oglethorpe County patrol deputy with a teenage
daughter, is being held in the Jackson County jail, since Madison
County currently has no facilities to house women prisoners.
On Thursday, Madison County Magistrate Judge Harry Rice transferred
her bond hearing to Superior Court, but no date for that hearing
was available as of Tuesday.
Fortson, who was employed by the Oglethorpe County sheriff's
department for about 18 months, was a "good employee,"
her bosses said, until about three months before she left the
job in February without giving a two-weeks' notice. She later
filed for unemployment compensation and claimed she was sexually
harassed at the job.
"She was a pretty good worker," said Oglethorpe County
chief investigator Mike Smith. "Then the last three months
she changed. She was more quiet. There was just a change in attitude."
(Read last week's story.)
Colbert July 4th
celebration set for Tues.
Colbert is planning a day of festivities and fun Tuesday, July
4. The events will begin with a parade at 10 a.m. with the Grand
Marshals this year being Rev. Don Fuller and wife, Sandra. Fuller,
who has served as pastor of Colbert Baptist Church for 30 years
and has been a supporter of Colbert's Independence Day celebration
during its 31-year history, has announced his retirement this
Following the parade, the keynote speech will be offered by Congressman
John Linder. Following the ceremony, the Colbert Fire Department
will be offering their famous barbecue at lunch, and there will
be many other food concessions. A large lineup of arts, crafts
and historical exhibits is planned.
An afternoon of live entertainment from the stage under the big
oak trees will feature, among others, Ben Johnson and The Pioneers,
a Georgia-based group that has performed for President Carter
and President Reagan, as well as guest soloists for the Atlanta
Symphony Orchestra. They perform bluegrass, standards, jazz and
Dixieland. The group recently completed a 10-day tour of Japan.
Along with the Pioneers will be the bluegrass sounds of the Blue
Ridge Ramblers, Danny Anthony, Dennis Troy, The Wright Family
Gospel Singers, The Johnsons and Roscoe Pucannon, who will emcee
the show along with a few tricks of his own.
off in first political forum
A full house turned out Tuesday for the county's first political
forum of the year to get an up-close look at the slate of candidates
facing opposition in the July 18 primary.
Most of the questions at the forum were directed at those running
for commission seats and centered around each individual's experience
and qualifications and what their chief concerns were.
Nash said he felt his seven and a half years as District 2 commissioner
has prepared him for the chairmanship as well as his experience
in managing a large farming operation.
He expressed a particular interest in the volunteer fire departments
and the continued expansion of the recreation department, saying
that if elected, he would recommend a 10 percent increase in
funding for the 11 fire departments.
Nash said the county needs both a water and sewer system to encourage
Akin said he felt qualified for the job because he had served
as a plant supervisor for a number of years. He cited water as
his chief concern.
Scott, whose fellow Democratic candidates did not attend the
forum, said he was qualified for the District 2 seat because
of his 29 and a half years of managerial experience and a previous
seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
For the coroner position, the most contested seat in the county,
qualifications and availability were the chief concerns.
Dickinson pointed to her 30 years of experience as a registered
nurse in a variety of settings as well as three years as a volunteer
with an Emergency Medical Service, serving as an EMT, ambulance
driver and on the Board of Directors. She told the audience that
she has no outside employment that would interfere with her duties
as coroner, and would choose her deputy coroner with care.
Crane stressed his experience working as an EMT and paramedic
with both the Madison and Oglethorpe County ambulance services.
He also said that he has been working closely with the Oglethorpe
County coroner to learn more about the duties of coroner. He
committed to working out a schedule with a deputy coroner so
that someone would be available at all times to respond to calls.
Scarborough also listed his years of ongoing experience as an
EMT, First Responder and paramedic with Madison County and as
a full-time fireman and EMS coordinator with Athens Clarke County.
He committed to being available whenever possible and also to
having a reliable deputy coroner to answer calls when he cannot,
adding that the deputy coroner would be "a direct reflection"
on him when performing his duties.
Three more forums will be held after the primary and prior to
the November general election: one for state representatives,
one for board of commissioners posts and one for constitutional
officers (coroner, clerk of court, probate judge).
Madison County's Jake Westbrook was sent back to the minor league
Columbus Clippers Friday after making his second start for New
York in a 4-2 Yankee loss to the Red Sox Thursday.
Westbrook gave up four runs, six hits and two walks, while striking
out one in two and two-thirds innings in Fenway Park.
In his first start Saturday, Westbrook gave up six runs and seven
hits in one and two-thirds innings versus the Chicago White Sox.
He pitched two and one-third innings of scoreless relief against
the White Sox last Sunday.
Westbrooks compiled an 0-2 record and a 13.50 earned run average
in three big league appearences.
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Was it murder, self defense or something in between? A Madison
County jury is being asked to decide.
On Saturday night, October 9, 1999, two young men were left alone
in a mobile home in Hull following an evening of beer, games
and arguments. Around 10 p.m., two deputy sheriffs were dispatched
to the area to investigate a report of a blood-covered man in
the street. Upon arriving, they followed blood stains to the
mobile home at Lot 16, Louise Drive where they found the badly
beaten and stabbed body of Juan Alvarez-Crispin on the floor.
An old bumper jack, the apparent murder weapon, was found lying
on the body.
Some time later, Eleazar Lopez, a 24-year-old Hispanic male,
was spotted riding a bicycle in the Pinewood Estates Mobile Home
Park off Hwy. 29 in Clarke County. He fit the description of
an individual spotted leaving the scene of the crime by deputies.
He was arrested and charged with murder.
Lopez's trial began Monday, June 26, with jury selection. Tuesday
morning was filled with pre-trial motions, with opening statements
beginning at 1 p.m.
District Attorney Bob Lavender opened the trial with a description
of events leading up to the crime. He described a party involving
beer, games of chance and dancing. He said evidence will show
that an argument occurred between the victim and defendant during
which Lopez obtained a large knife and threatened to kill Crispin.
Lavender described the body lying in a pool of blood, having
been "beaten to a pulp" with the bumper jack by the
defendant, who then went to the kitchen, returned with a knife
and stabbed the body repeatedly.
Defense attorney Chris NeSmith opened by informing the jury that
this is his first murder trial and only the second time he has
appeared before a jury. He asked the jury not to hold any mistakes
he might make against his client. He then asked that the jury
"resist the temptation to rush to judgment before all evidence
is presented." He urged the jury to "pay attention
to the witnesses and evidence you do not hear or see."
NeSmith said evidence will show that everyone involved was drunk,
that the knife taken from the defendant was not involved in the
attack, and that Alvarez-Crispin was the first to attack Lopez.
He suggested that Lopez's actions were due to "great passion
induced by great fear."
The first day of testimony involved the deputies who found the
body and witnesses who were at the party prior to the crime.
Testimony was slowed due to witnesses who spoke little or no
English, requiring repeated questions and at times an interpreter.
Neither side would predict the length of the trial.
According to NeSmith, the jury will be given the choice of voluntary
manslaughter or murder. Prosecutors are not seeking the death
Keith Layman of the state medical examiner's office testified
Wednesday morning that the victim suffered multiple blunt injuries
to the head, six stab wounds to the chest, as well as injuries
to his forearms and hands - typical of a person trying to shield
himself from blows.
puts Indians deal on hold
A deal between Scott Tolbert and the Cleveland Indians will have
to wait as the Madison County standout recovers from a strained
nerve in his pitching arm. The Indians drafted Tolbert in the
ninth round but informed the former Raider Monday that they would
wait on sealing a deal until his arm is healed. Tolbert, who
is undergoing physical therapy for the injury, said his doctor
expects him to be recovered in five to eight weeks.