News from Madison County...

June 25, 2001


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillespie
Those square foods

Did you see the big news story about the Japanese growing a square watermelon? Apparently, they want to produce watermelons that will fit into the refrigerator better.

Margie Richards
Celebrating number 22

Charles and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last week by attending a relative's out-of-town nuptials and eating out (a lot).


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Westbrook continues to mature with Indians despite shuffle
Despite the jet lag Jake Westbrook may be experiencing from being shipped back and forth from AAA Buffalo to Cleveland, the former Raider continues to be sharp against Major League foes-when he gets the chance.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Fire destroys Homer residence
The home of Homer native John Nation burned to the ground Sunday afternoon. Nation, who was not seriously injured in the fire, said he was watching a race on television when he noticed how hot the house had become.

Banks Countians to receive Indian names from chief
Rene´ Hudler, Commerce, has earned the honor of receiving her "Indian name" from Chief Edwin "Wamblee" Poulan of the Southern Band of the Cherokee.



News from...
JACKSON COUNTY
BOC says 'No' to Earth Resources landfill request
North Jackson residents opposed to a landfill locating on Lanier Road had reason to celebrate Monday night, but the battle likely isn't over yet.

Elton Collins named county water authority's new chairman
The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority has its first new chairman in six years.


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The Madison County Journal
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UPDATE: 6-25-01
Mistrial declared in Wymbs case
Despite more than five hours of deliberation, a Madison County jury could not agree last week on the guilt or innocence of Hull's Albert Wymbs, who was accused of killing Angela Harris in her parents mobile home off Hwy. 106 in 1996.
The court declared a mistrial in the case Saturday morning after the jury split 11-1 on the case. It was not revealed which way the majority of the jurors voted.
The case opened Wednesday and closing arguments concluded Friday afternoon.
During the arguments, District Attorney Bob Lavender, who depicted Wymbs as a violent man who lashed out at women, said that "the simple facts" of the case pointed to Wymb's guilt.
The prosecution reinforced what they had built their case on all week - footprints left at the scene leading to Wymb's grandmother's house that they say belong to the defendant.
Although no matching shoes have been found, the GBI has said the footprints were linked to Nike shoes which they say match a shoe box belonging to Wymbs.
Furthermore, Lavender pointed to the Thursday testimonies of two witnesses - ex-girlfriend Shlion Dious and longtime friend Terrell Young - who said Wymbs admitted to murdering Angela Harris.
"The evidence says he did it and he says he did it," Lavender told the jury.
During Lavender's rebuttal, the district attorney addressed the defense's claims that the prosecution's case had been filled with holes and inconsistencies that cast reasonable doubts to link Wymbs to the crime. Lavender said the defense had merely been looking for "cracks" all week in the case and had "been attacking everybody involved."
Lavender said that the inconsistencies in the testimonies dealing with the crime scene were trivial and a result of witnesses trying to recall specifics from five years ago. The district attorney said the substance was still there to convict Wymbs.
"The facts are still the facts," he said.
However, during his closing argument, defense attorney Scott Davis said that the accusations against the defendant were a shaky solution to attempt to solve a five-year-old murder. Davis said that what he believed to be holes in the prosecution's case left much up to question.
Davis went through three areas in which the defense believed there were several reasonable doubts against convicting Wymbs.
The defense attorney said Wymbs didn't have a motive to commit the crime, that there were several inconsistencies in the testimonies against the defendant and that evidence against Wymbs had been tainted by sloppy police work.
Davis said the murder was "a crime of passion" adding that the evidence showed that the murder was committed by someone that Harris knew well. Davis said that the crime was covered up to look like a robbery, but no valuables were taken. The defense said Wymbs hardly knew Harris.
The defense team also pointed out that both of the key witnesses against Wymbs - Dious and Young - were angry at the defendant and that they were pressured by investigators with threats of jail time if they didn't cooperate - an allegation GBI investigator Gary Hughes denied.
Wymbs' lawyers suggested that Dious was upset over her breakup with Wymbs and that Young may be seeking payback against the defendant, who turned him in on burglary charges.
The defense attorney said the case against Wymbs was further discredited by the testimony of GBI agent Gary Hughes. Davis claimed the agent impeached the testimonies of other witnesses called by the state because he offered contradictory information. Davis claimed that Hughes went to the stand "to fill the holes" that were left in the state's case.
For a day-by-day summary of the murder trial of Albert Wymbs, see the June 27 issue of The Madison County Journal.




RIDING HIGH


Darrell Griffin stares down at the horns of a bull Friday during the Comer rodeo put on by Cross Creek Rodeo Company. See this week's Madison County Journal for more pictures.


BOE hires new legal counsel
The Madison County school board hired the law firm of Sam Harben and Phil Hartley of Gainesville as the school system's new legal counsel Tuesday night.
The five-attorney company, which represents school systems across the state, will replace Lane Fitzpatrick, who resigned as school attorney earlier this month.
"I think they're good people," said school board chairman Robert Haggard, noting that the firm will lead school board seminars in Savannah this week. "They've done work for us before on a contract basis. They're probably the best school attorneys in the state."
Haggard said Harben and Hartley will receive an hourly rate of $125 to $140 an hour - which he said is standard for school attorneys.
He added that the law firm will work on an as-needed basis.
"People will see a more diminished role of the school attorney," said Haggard. "You probably won't see Harben and Hartley at a meeting unless we ask them to come for a specific reason."
Fitzpatrick, who was paid $90 an hour by the school board, attended most every school board meeting. The school board was often criticized by citizens who felt the attorney had too much influence on BOE decisions.


Jury selected for Wymbs trial
A jury of six men and seven women, including one alternate, will determine the guilt or innocence of Albert Wymbs. Wymbs is accused of murdering Angela Harris at her home on the Ila Road near the Clarke County line.
The attack occurred in November of 1996 during a home invasion. The Judge, Defense Attorney and District Attorney have devoted two long days to selecting a jury for the Albert Wymbs murder trial. Jury selection began at 1:30 p.m. Monday and was completed at 9:20 p.m. on Tuesday.
Eleven of the jurors are white, two are black. Opening arguments were scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
The case was unsolved for three years before witnesses came forward connecting Wymbs to the case. Wymbs was considered a suspect early in the investigation, but adequate evidence was not available until August 2000 when the new witnesses were found.
Wymbs is currently serving a six-year sentence for burglary in Clarke County. He is also a suspect in a 1994 abduction and rape of a University of Georgia student.
The 60 potential jurors were called into the judge's chambers individually for an interview. The questioning continued late Monday night with approximately 18 panel members being interviewed. Court reconvened at 9 a.m. Tuesday with half the panel being questioned by the noon recess.
Judge Thomas Hodges heard arguments on a motion to move the trial to another location prior to the start of jury selection, but decided to withhold his decision until questioning of the panel is completed.


MCHS shows decline in science on grad tests
Madison County's Class of 2002 showed strength in English and math, but struggled in science and social studies on state-mandated graduation tests.
Only 57 percent of Madison County's rising seniors passed the science portion of the graduation test on their first try, down 21 percent from the MCHS class of 1999 and 15 percent from this year's graduates. Madison County finished 11 percentage points behind the state average on the science exam.
The class of 2002 was also behind this year's graduates on the social studies portion of the test, with 75 percent of the upcoming seniors passing that part of the exam on their first try, down from 83 percent of the previous class. The rising MCHS seniors were also five percentage points behind the state average in social studies.
But the news wasn't all bad for next year's graduates. The graduation tests showed improvement in English and math.
Ninety-six percent of Madison County's upcoming seniors passed the English portion of the graduation test on their first try, up from 94 percent of the class of 2001 and slightly above the state average. The class of 2002 also matched the state average on the math section of the test, with 91 percent of the first-time test takers passing the exam, up from 89 percent the previous year.
Students are required to show proficiency in English, math, social studies and science before receiving a high school diploma.



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Home invasion reported on Wayne's Lane
An elderly man was reportedly robbed at gunpoint last Friday morning in what was described as "a home invasion-type robbery."
According to sheriff's department investigator Buck Scoggins, two white men wearing masks and armed with handguns, along with a white female, robbed the man of an undetermined amount of cash at his residence located just off the Commerce Neese Road.
According to Scoggins, the man was approached by the female, who knocked on his door in the early morning hours complaining of "car trouble."
The man was not injured in the robbery. There were no arrests as of press time and the investigation is continuing.
Scoggins asks that anyone who may have been traveling on Commerce-Neese Road between 4:30 to 5 a.m. last Friday morning, June 15, and who may have seen a vehicle parked at the old Minish Store or at any point from Erastus Church to Freedom Church call Madison County 911 with the information.


Planners approve rezonings for two new subdivisions
Madison County planners gave the green light Tuesday night to plans for two new subdivisions to be located near Colbert.
Planners voted 5 - 1 to recommend approval to the board of commissioners on a request by property owner Millie Hart, represented by developer Edwin Hart and realtor Hal Grant, to rezone a 9.4-acre tract on Charles Hart Road off Hwy. 72 from A-1 (agricultural, five-acre minimum) to R-1 (residential, 1-acre minimum, with community water) for a major subdivision.
Commission member Jeep Gaskin provided the lone "no" vote.
The Harts want to subdivide the property into six lots ranging in size from one acre to 3.5 acres.
Preliminary plans call for 1,600 minimum square feet site-built homes with water to be supplied by Piedmont Water.
In a separate request, planners also voted 5 -1 to recommend approval on a request by Phil Munro, representing Tony and Annette Shubert, to rezone a 29.67-acre parcel on Colbert Danielsville Road from A-2 to R-1 (residential, 1.5-acre minimum with private water source).
Chairman Pat Mahoney provided the lone "no" vote.
The Shuberts want to subdivide the property into 13 lots for a major subdivision.
Munro said the lots will have individual wells and an on-site sewage disposal system.
The board of commissioners will have the final say on these and other zoning matters at its regular business meeting.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County Journal.


To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.