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by the Georgia Press Association
June 29, 2001
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Time off isnt what was planned
It has been so strange this past week, not being under a deadline, not worrying about getting pages done, not harassing Mark for pages.
I forgot what it was like before BCN, but I missed the pace and missed everyone.
No wonder we dont like the doctor
Most of the guys that I know dont like going to the doctor. Im no different. Really and truly though, who can blame us?
First of all, going to the doctor requires dealing with insurance companies.
Drag racing series coming to Atlanta Dragway
Round six of the 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will come to the Atlanta Dragway this Friday and Saturday.
Neighboorhood News ..
Life without parole given for double murder
A 25-year-old man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the murder of a Jackson County couple.
Superior Court Judge David Motes sentenced David Hodges to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday morning after he pled guilty to the murder of Sherry and Junior Brady.
BOC to spend $3 million on courthouse site work
Court date on citizens lawsuit set for Sept. 2
In a move that was intended to send a defiant message to opponents, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed Monday night to use up to $3 million of surplus county funds to begin foundation work on a controversial new courthouse.
Neighboorhood News ..
School is here ...already?
Students back in class, Thurs., Aug. 7
Madison County school bells will ring Thursday, the earliest start to a school year in this county.
Tax rate increase may be on horizon for IDA
Facing considerable loan costs for the Hull water system, the county industrial authority may be forced to raise the .24 tax rate it currently levies.
IDA members met Monday morning to begin hashing out the groups 2004 budget. The board will advertise two public hearing before setting the budget, but no hearing dates have been set.
The Banks County News
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Zana Smith helps put up a bulletin board at Banks County Primary School. School starts Friday for area children. Some 2,498 students are expected, which is up from 2,422 at the end of last year. See this weeks Banks County News for additional back to school stories.
Another feed mill?
Maysville could get a second one. Maysville, it appears, will get its second feed mill. The city council will hold a public hearing followed by a called meeting Monday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m. at the public library to consider the rezoning and annexation of 42 acres on Georgia 98 just east of the Wayne Poultry feed mill.
The rezoning is sought by poultry giant Mar-Jac, but is incidental to the feed mill, says Gary Freeman, city attorney. Mar-Jac also plans to purchase 95 acres from Daniel and David Wilson land already in the city upon which to build the feed mill.
The 42-acre tract is owned by Clarence Smith and Ruby Elrod. It has an agricultural zoning in Jackson County, Freeman said.
The property that is going to be used for the industrial site is already in the city and zoned for industry, Freeman said. The purchase of the additional property is an accommodation to the residents who live on that site so they will not be in the middle of two industrial sites.
Wayne Farms had looked at the larger tract in the 1990s but wound up building just up the road instead.
David Oppenheimer, who unsuccessfully sued Maysville over the zoning when Wayne Farms built, hopes to rally opposition to the rezoning. He lives directly across Georgia 98 from the proposed Marjac site.
Im going to distribute fliers to the people who live behind it. Most of them probably have no clue about the rezoning because they drive to work on Ridgeway Road and dont see the rezoning signs, he said. But, considering that a good number of the city commissioners are the same ones who let Wayne Farms come in in the first place, I dont expect much from them. Really, theres probably not much I can do about it.
A broken family
A story of abuse and neglect at the hands of alleged drug addicted parents
Editors Note: The following story is a continuation of a Banks County News special report about methamphetamine. A grandmother and her grandkids agreed to tell their story about how drugs affected their lives. Though the names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved, the story and its details are true and have been supported by official documents. Sensitive readers are warned that parts of the article may be disturbing.
Ben, 8, calls himself a junior scientist. His room is set up like a laboratory and hes very eager to show it all off, carefully describing how each instrument works.
Hes got a microscope and a telescope. He has several computers and his charts on the wall recount history and world geography.
Ben is a bright kid. He likes talking about NASA and science and reading about dinosaurs. He can easily point out places across the world on his wall map.
Ben has two sisters Brittany, 5, and Mandy, 3.
Brittany is a typical young girl. Shes cute and playful. Brittany likes dolls and says that pink and purple are her favorite colors. Her room is decorated to prove it.
Young Mandy is also very playful. She smiles a lot and likes entertaining guests. Her favorite colors are yellow and orange. Shes a curly headed little girl who, like her brother and sister, like nilla wafers.
All three of the kids seem like loving, happy children. They have many toys, a swing set and a small pool and dogs. And they all say they like living with their maternal grandmother on a chicken farm in Banks County.
Watching them play and cut up, one would never realize the horrific early childhood the three spent at the hands of parents who were alleged drug addicts.
They were victims of molestation and neglect, forced to live in conditions not fit for animal habitation. And their story is similar to that of thousands of kids across the state raised in homes where drugs have become more important than a childs well-being.
NO CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Susan, the grandmother, has been living in Banks County for close to three years with a man that in all respect can be called her husband. Susan and Bill have known each other for decades and have been together for just under 10 years.
Susan labels her daughter, Carol, as a perfect child. She gave no problems as a teenager. She didnt drink or do drugs and couldnt stand cigarette smoke.
Susan raised her daughter in another Northeast Georgia county where Carol went to school and was well liked. Carol was in several high school sponsored bands and was also a member of the girl scouts.
Carol never missed a curfew, her mother recounts, and was an A student, planning on joining the Navy or Air Force to pay for a college education.
She never did anything to cause me concern, Susan said.
But before Carol could make college plans, she got pregnant and decided to marry the father of her child in 1995 on the day the child, Ben, was supposed to be born.
Susan didnt want her daughter to be an unwed mother but also didnt want her marrying the childs father, Dan.
I wanted better for her, Susan said.
She said Dan had an attitude, an attitude she tolerated for her daughter and her grandsons sake.
I supported them in every way I could, Susan said.
Six years after the marriage started, Ben was nearing school age. His two sisters had been born by that time. Brittany was just 3 and little Mandy was only 18 months.
Susan and Bill decided to pay their grandkids a visit one May 2001 afternoon. They drove out of county to the trailer where Susans daughter lived, positioned adjacent to one that Susan lived in before moving to Banks County.
As they pulled up to the home, Susan saw her daughter, a person who hated smoke, standing on the porch smoking a cigarette.
I couldnt believe she was smoking, Susan said. I didnt say anything to her about it. She was an adult. But I was shocked.
Susan recounts that when Carol saw them pull up, she stepped back into the trailer and came outside wearing sunglasses.
The sun was not shining, Susan said.
While there is no direct evidence to prove Carol had been using drugs, drug users will often use sunglasses to hide the change in their eyes caused by drug use.
The two older kids, Ben and Brittany, were outside playing. Carol asked her mother not to go inside the trailer because Mandy was asleep in the living room and she didnt want to wake her.
So Susan and Bill stayed outside to talk with Carol. Then for no reason, Carol mentioned the name of a man who was a known drug dealer in the county. She said she had met him at a nearby trailer and that he was dating a woman that lived there.
Susan and Bill were shocked.
He was trouble, she said.
The man had prior drug arrests and was known to sell different drugs in the area.
Susan said she warned her daughter about the man, telling her that if the police do a drug raid and she is in the trailer with him, she could go to jail too. But Carol claimed she had nothing to do with drugs.
I could tell she didnt even care, Susan said. It was like I was not even talking to my daughter.
Susan said she and Bill then left and went to visit her mother. She broke into tears as she recounted telling her mother that she suspected her own daughter of using drugs and associating with known drug dealers and users.
Two weeks later, Susan decided to go back for another visit, this time alone. She said her daughter again appeared out of the trailer wearing sunglasses and wouldnt let her go inside.
I could tell something wasnt right, Susan said.
Ben then came running out of the trailer. Susan recalled him being filthy and asking if he go stay with his grandmother. Carol agreed but couldnt send any clean clothes with him since none had been washed.
Susan also recounted smelling something odd. She said the smell was nasty but different than the odor of marijuana burning. Susan questioned her daughter, who was defensive, and warned her that the smell better be gone when she planned to return Ben several days later.
Later that day, Susan had to go buy new clothes for Ben. She said he didnt even have any underwear.
Susan couldnt prove that Carol had been or was using drugs. But typical symptoms of methamphetamine abuse include paranoia and irritability, which could lead to a person becomming defensive. Drug use can also cause a person to act carlessly or neglect some responsibilities to give more attention to a drug habit.
I WAS MOLESTED
The following evening, Susan put Ben in for a bath and returned to the kitchen to cook spaghetti, that evenings meal.
A short time later, Ben called his grandmother and asked for some clean clothes. She went into the bathroom and began helping Ben dry his hair and back. He then asked her a question that she said made her blood turn cold.
The question left no doubts in her mind that a neighborhood drug user had molested her young grandson.
Susan began crying as she recounted the story. She said she didnt know what to tell her grandson. He began telling her that a neighborhood teenage drug user, Eli, and his brother, Edward, had been doing things to him.
He told his grandmother that the bad things they had done hurt him. He also said he told his mother and father and they did nothing about it.
Ben, who has undergone lots of counseling, will talk some now about the things that happened to him.
They molested me, and my mama and daddy acted like they didnt care, he said.
He added that he wanted to call the police but couldnt because the family didnt have a phone at the time.
CALLING FOR HELP
After hearing her grandsons story that night in 2001, Susan said she had to get him help. She immediately called her mom and younger sister and asked them to notify the sheriffs department in the county where the abuse happened.
She set up a meeting with them and law enforcement officials at a store less than a mile from where her daughter lived. She gave them and Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) workers a report about the incident.
The officials visited the the trailer but couldnt find anyone home. The officials had Susan take Ben to the hospital for an examination.
A doctor examined Ben and he began giving more information. He said Eli had grabbed his winkie and hurt him. He also told the doctor and police that the boy had held his head under water where he couldnt breath while his mama looked on.
I knew, Susan said, I knew my daughter was on drugs bad.
THE POLICE MOVE IN
After unsuccessful attempts to find the family at home, the police decidee to raid the trailer at 1:30 one morning.
Susan and Bill left Ben at the hospital and went to Carols home, parking a short way up the road away from the trailer.
Officers entered the home and emerged a short time later, carrying Mandy up the hill to the waiting grandmother.
It was just the most awful feeling at like 1:30 in the morning to be standing in the dark and have DFCS workers bring your grandchild in the middle of the night up there to you, Susan said in tears. I was glad I was getting the child, but just the feeling.
Not long after they came walking out of the trailer holding Brittanys hand.
Susan asked officials to go into the trailer to get the childrens clothes and car seats. They refused, saying the home was the filthiest place they had ever been in in their life and that nothing was coming out of there.
The police asked Susan to take the girls to the hospital to be checked out. Once there, they both were examined by doctors.
A female doctor examining Brittany found the girl had pinworms living all over her. The worms were large enough and in enough abundance to be seen with the naked eye and without any special lighting.
The parents had to have known, Susan said. Theres no way you could miss something like that.
She said the hospital also gave her medicine for her three grandchildren to take.
The following week, the parents had to appear in court. Susan went as well.
During the hearing, investigators and DFCS workers described a home filled with garbage and cat feces.
The youngest girl, Mandy, slept in a playpen full of cat excriment. There was no food in the home, though the refrigerator was full of beer. Roaches crawled throughout the trailer. And a back bedroom was piled to the ceiling with trash and junk.
A landlord who later went in to clean the trailer found piles of dirty diapers behind a chair. He found dead cats throughout the house, even under the kids bed.
Even now, Ben can remember the deplorable living conditions. He said his little sister slept in cat poop.
There were roaches everywhere and they let the cats crap on our toys, he said. It stunk so bad and we lived in it so much that I got used to it.
Ben also vividly recounted his father punching holes in the wall.
IN STATE CUSTODY
After the hearing, the children were remanded into state custody.
Susan said they told her she could have the grandkids in seven to 10 days after her home was inspected and she took a psychological exam.
She said she went to talk to her daughter and son-in-law to tell them that the state had taken the kids. She said they acted as if they didnt care.
Susan said she also confronted them about the molestation, which they both denied having any knowledge of. She was worried they were deep into drug abuse.
They were still covering up for themselves, she said. I knew they were really on some bad drugs because that wasnt my child.
The state took the kids in June of 2001. They were split up, with Ben going one way and the two girls going another.
Weeks went by and Susan still didnt have custody of her grandkids. She said her daughter tried to keep her from getting the kids.
Carol fabricated stories to DFCS workers, saying Susan and Bill were drug dealers and liked to drink and have parties and start fights. Susan said she had to get several public officials to vouch for her character.
My daughter and son-in-law were mad that I turned them in, she said. Yeah, I turned them in. But it was their fault.
By December, the children were still in foster care. Brittany and Mandy had been moved to more than 10 different homes. Ben had been in four.
That first night knowing my grandkids were in foster care, I did not think I could live through the night, Susan said. The pain was so bad knowing what my grandkids had already been through and knowing they were with strangers because of my daughter and son-in-law. They were the victims and they were the ones that suffered the most.
In early December 2001, Susan finally got custody of the two girls. Weeks later, she was given custody of Ben. And in June of last year, she won legal custody of the children, though the parents can still stake a claim, she said.
The years of abuse Ben suffered meant that he had to undergo lots of counseling. Susan said it was hard at first.
He would often have nightmares and wake up screaming. But the therapy also helped.
Ive never doubted that I did the right thing even though it hurt at the time, Susan said.
During therapy, more stories came out about what happened in that home. Ben told counselors that he had seen Eli hurt Brittany too. But Susan said talking about it angered him and that he refused to tell anyone exactly what he saw happen to his sister.
DRUGS HAD TO BE INVOLVED
Susan is adamant about the fact that drugs had to be involved in what happened to her daughter and her grandchildren.
She described her daughter as being a loving, perfect mother when the children were first born. But Susan said her daughter got involved with the wrong people and the wrong activities.
I dont know why she got inovolved with drugs or the people she was involved with, Susan said. Theres no explination, but I know it happened.
She said she wanted the local drug dealer arrested and even wanted her daughter and son-in-law locked up.
Its Carol and Dans fault for doing it and letting it happen to these kids, she said. But I know the drugs were coming from him (the drug dealer). He was bringing them in knowing there was young kids involved. But drug dealers dont care. They dont care that theyre ruining lives.
Susan said no one has been arrested for anything that happened to the children. Investigators told her, she said, that the molestation would be hard to prove.
Information has since surfaced providing more links to drugs as a possible cause for the familys turmoil. One family member admitted to Susan that she once used drugs with Carol.
Several law enforcement and DFCS reports also suggest a high likelihood that drugs were involved.
A counselor told me that my daughter was really smart and she could not understand what happened for somebody as reasonable and nice and intelligent as her to let something like that happen to her kids, Susan said. I told them she was on drugs.
Susan also recounted a incident before DFCS got involved where Ben was taken to the hospital. He was having severe hallucinations and was examined by hospital staff, who could find nothing wrong.
Susan is convinced Ben ingested some type of drug he found at the home.
Mandy has had abnormal CT scans also, possibly related to malnutrition suffered in the home.
The children have finally escaped the horror they faced in the home with their birth parents.
Carol and Dan are no longer together and Carol has since gotten a restraining order against him. The order also protects the children, who are on restrictive pick-up at their school.
Susan said Banks County law enforcement, school and DFCS officials have been more than accommodating to her family. She has had to call the police more than once because of harassment from her son-in-law. He has even come to their house.
Carol rarely comes and visits the kids, Susan said. She came to a birthday party last year, bringing her new boyfriend and his child with her.
Susan said the kids had to watch their mother be a mom to another child, which upset them. Later that night they had nightmares and woke up screaming in the middle of the night.
The ordeal also cut in Susans family. Her mother and younger sister took her side. Her father and older sister sided with Carol.
And Susan is more than positive the cause for all the turmoil. All the abuse, the neglect, the poor nutrition and even the lack of concern for Bens molestation happened because her daughter and son-in-law allegedly abused drugs.
I have no doubts whatsoever, she said. None.
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BOE approves tentative $23.7 million budget
Expenses get only 3.4 percent increase
The Banks County Board of Education has a tentative $23.7 million budget approved for the coming school year with no tax hike expected for landowners.
The BOE approved the budget after a meeting early Thursday morning. Superintendent Chris Erwin said projections indicate that the school board likely wont have to move the 12.25 millage rate. But with the states fiscal situation on such shaky ground, anything could happen.
Erwin did say he felt the approved budget could absorb some cuts should the state decide to give less funds than projected or even take back some monies.
General fund expenses are up only 3.4 percent over last years budget, standing at $16,898,986.
Erwin pointed out that the system will be adding four new teachers, four new paraprofessionals, a half-time food service worker and a half-time maintenance worker in the budget while not expecting an increase in property owners contributions.
Landowners in the county will be funding only $4.6 million of the budget, less than one quarter of the bottom line. Property owners will pay on average only about $1,800 per student for the entire year of education.
The total cost to educate one student for an entire year is about $6,700.
By far the largest single expense in the budget will be in salaries and benefits. The system expects to spend just under $13 million to pay faculty and staff.
Utilities and fuel will require the second greatest expenditure, $428,000.
Before approving the tentative budget, board member Ron Gardiner requested the school system spend the $50,000 alloted for lights and sound in the high school auditorium.
Erwin said he felt the lights were a higher priority because the facility could survive with a portable sound system for a short time.
The school board has yet to set a date to adopt the official budget for the current fiscal year.
In other business during Wednesday and Thursdays meetings, the BOE:
agreed to pay tuition for 28 students living in the county who meet requirements to attend Baldwin Elementary School.
approved the following new personnel: Jamie Lambert, half time EIP at BCES; Michelle Gentry, ISS at BCMS; Gwen Gary, special ed. parapro, BCPS; Kimberly Moore, kindergarten parapro, BCPS; Michelle Cash, media center parapro, BCHS; and April Turner, secretary/bookkeeper, BCUES.
approved the resignation of Kendra Abee as a special ed. parapro at BCUES.
met behind closed doors for 48 minutes to discuss personnel.
One killed, five injured in Homer wreck
Crushed front ends and shattered windshields gave testimony to the powerful head-on impact that took the life of Paula Shirley Jump, 25, Commerce, and injured three family members and two Homer residents in a three-car collision Saturday afternoon in Homer.
Banks County coroner Tommy Herbert said she had received multiple blunt force injuries to her body.
Even though a person is secured by a seat belt and the air bags deploy, the force of the impact will cause such injuries.
Jumps nine-year-old step-daughter Michaela was also seriosuly injured in the crash, but according to Herbert is now in stable condition at Scottish Rite Childrens Hospital in Atlanta.
State highway patrol officials, who point out the investigation is not complete, said Roberta McDonald, 40, Homer, driving a Dodge Shadow, apparently turned right onto Highway 441 from Athens Street and sideswiped the Ford Escort driven by Paulas husband Sonny Jump, 32, Commerce, that was traveling north on Highway 441.
Officials say the impact may have pushed Jumps car into the path of an Oldsmobile driven by John Rylee, 49, Homer, as he headed south on Highway 441, resulting in the fatal head-on collision.
Paula Jump and her step-daughter were taken to BJC Medical Center in critical condition. Mrs. Jump was pronounced dead on arrival. The young girl was airlifted to Scottish Rite via Emory Life Flight.
Sonny Jump suffered injuries and minor cuts about his body and was transported to Athens Regional Medical Center with their daughter, Tiffany, 2.
Rylee and McDonald were also transported to Athens Regional with moderate injuries, according to officials.
Homer Volunteer Fire department personnel were first on the scene at the four-way intersection of Highway 441 South, Athens Street, Evans Street and Highway 98 and called for back up from Banks County.
An extrication team worked to free Mrs. Jump from the Ford Escort she was a passenger in, while paramedics, EMTs and first responders aided the victims in all three cars.
Though off-duty paramedics and EMTs were called in to man BCFDs third ambulance, the number of patients needing transport required a call for mutual aid from adjoining counties. Jackson was the only county with an available ambulance and responded to the request. The Jackson team transported two of the injured.
The sheriffs office also had accident assistance from the Georgia State Patrol and the Commerce Police Department.
Traffic was shut down southbound on I-85 for more than hour, creating massive backups through Homer.
Meth, marijuana seized in drug bust
Local authorities seized nearly $12,000 in methamphetamine and marijuana following a bust Monday afternoon.
Banks County Sheriff Charles Chapman said two Commerce men were arrested at their Hwy. 441 home after the drug bust.
Jose Albert Gimnez, 40, has been charged with two counts of sale of methamphetamines,trafficking methamphetamine and six counts of sale of marijuana.
Miguel Angel Cardenas, 25, faces a charge of trafficking methamphetamine.
Chapman said officers with the sheriffs office, the Northeast Georgia Drug Task Force and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have been conducting a three month long investigation in the case.
Monday, undercover agents were able to purchase three ounces of methamphetamine and one pound of marijuana at the home. The purchase resulted in a search warrant at the home that led to the two arrests.
Over the course of the investigation, officers have conducted three undercover drug buys. A total of five ounces of methamphetamine and seven pounds of marijuana have been obtained during the investigation.
People are selling this stuff everyday, Chapman said. But this was a good lick and a good arrest.
Chapman said the charges of trafficking apply in cases where more than 28 grams of methamphetamine are seized. He also said the charge carries a stiffer penalty for those convicted.
As of Tuesday afternoon, both Gimnez and Cardenas were still in the Banks County Jail awaiting a bond appearance.
Chapman said the drug bust went as planned without any major problems.