Chief investigator David Cochran examines
a bloody shirt allegedly worn by one suspect in the brutal stabbing
and beating of a Gainesville taxi driver. Jackson County deputies
found the shirt Tuesday afternoon off Plainview Road in North
Taxi driver stabbed, stoned in NJ
Three arrested in assault
If it weren't for a two-way radio and car horn, Juan Pablo Alfaro
would likely be dead.
The Gainesville taxi driver was brutally stabbed and stoned with
rocks around 2 a.m. Tuesday morning in North Jackson, then driven
into some nearby woods and left to die by his assailants. Two
men and a woman have been charged in the attack and are being
held in the Jackson County jail.
Although in stable condition at Northeast Georgia Medical Center,
Alfaro survived the attack and using the two-way radio in his
taxi, was able to call for help. When officers couldn't locate
Alfaro, his Gainesville dispatcher had him honk the taxi's horn.
Deputies located Alfaro around 5 a.m. at the end of an abandoned
Charged in the attack were Archie Wayne Frodl, 24, Jefferson,
Bobby Ray Lafaeur, 20, Louisiana, and Donna Rae Loggins, 26,
Gillsville. Frodl and Lafaeur are charged with kidnapping, aggravated
assault, armed robbery and carjacking while Loggins was charged
with being a party to the crime. Other charges on all three may
also be filed, said Jackson County Sheriff's Department chief
investigator David Cochran.
Alfaro is a 48-year-old father of two and lives in Gainesville.
He is originally from Guanajuato, Mexico, and has been in Gainesville
for about three years. He had worked for a different taxi service
and had worked for Uno Taxi for about a month.
The incident began when Alfaro picked up the three suspects at
Wal-Mart in Gainesville for a fare to 547 Pinetree Circle off
Plainview Road in North Jackson. Alfaro was apparently attacked
while sitting in his yellow mini van taxi, said investigators.
Officials believe the suspects attacked him from behind with
a knife, stabbing him numerous times. At some point, Alfrao got
out of the taxi and was knocked to the ground where the suspects
allegedly stoned him with fist-size rocks from the driveway.
A large area of dried blood was evident at the scene Tuesday
afternoon as investigators again inspected the site.
After the beating, the two male suspects allegedly put Alfaro
back into the taxi and drove him to a nearby logging road off
Plainview Road. Investigators believe they left him there in
the van and walked back to the Pinetree Circle site. Along the
way, however, one of the suspects apparently fell into a roadside
thicket where he removed his shirt and hid it. JCSD deputies
pulled a blood-soaked shirt from the site Tuesday afternoon.
Sometime during the early morning hours, a woman called Jackson
County E911 to report the beating. When Alfaro later radioed
his dispatcher, the officers began looking for the victim, but
couldn't find him or his yellow taxi van. That's when the dispatcher
had Alfaro honk the horn and officers located the van deep in
Meanwhile, one of the suspects, all of whom were now back at
the Pinetree Circle address, asked to be transported to a hospital
with chest pains. All three were later taken to the JCSD for
questioning and held as suspects in the case.
New chicken litter
rules bring out large crowd of local farmers
New government regulations aimed at stemming the amount of chicken
litter runoff aren't popular with area poultry farmers, as evidenced
by a huge turnout Tuesday night in Jefferson for a meeting with
state environmental officials.
More than 220 poultry producers from all over northeast Georgia
turned out at Jackson Electric Membership Corporation to hear
about the upcoming regulations aimed at solving problems most
of them believe don't exist. The meeting was organized by state
Rep. Ralph Hudgens of Madison County.
The federal government is requiring states to regulate "concentrated
animal feeding operations," which can include poultry layer
and broiler operations of 30,000 or more birds, plus certain
swine and cattle feed operations. In turn, the state EPD is in
the process of drafting its regulations to meet the federal requirement.
The heart of the issue is water pollution. The regulations aim
to control agriculture-related runoffs that would pollute the
state's waters with nitrates and phosphorus, products found in
chicken litter. But farmers and state officials alike agreed
that there is no scientific documentation in Georgia tying excessive
amounts of either chemical in the state's waters to agriculture.
A study of the water quality of Lake Lanier has indicated pollution
problems, and while some people believe agriculture is the problem,
no proof has been presented.
According to Gary Blount, a lawyer who represents the Georgia
Poultry Federation, the EPD had proposed "reasonable rules,
consistent with the national standards, which we supported,"
only to have the Department of Natural Resources board insist
on more stringent controls, particularly on swine operations.
The poultry regulations will come in two rounds. Round one starts
in January and continues until January 2005, during which time
the state will issue permits for concentrated animal feeding
operations "with significant manure production."
By 2003, operators must have a "comprehensive nutritional
management plan" for the areas where they spread manure
or litter, and by 2002 there will be specific permits for problem
Five years later, the state will revisit the whole issue of how
to manage runoffs on farms. The Georgia Poultry Federation, working
with the EPD, plans to have all poultry producers trained in
the development of comprehensive nutrient management plans by
January 2001, the hope being that by proving to EPD and the DNR
board that producers are using the best management practices,
most of them can avoid greater restrictions and the need for
Those plans will spell out how much litter will be used, when
it will be applied and to what tracts of land. Soil tests will
be part of the plans.
Agriculture commissioner Tommy Irvin promised state assistance
in siting and approving poultry pit sites to make sure they meet
EPA requirements. New regulations will also cover the disposal
of dead birds, but those regulations are not considered as troublesome
as those dealing with chicken litter.
"We're going to do all that for free, as long as the legislature
continues to give us money," Irvin said.
He urged the poultry growers to get involved.
"Let your legislators at the state and local levels know
that with some of these additional costs you have to bear, you're
going to have to have some help," he said.
Several others also spoke of "cost sharing" by the
federal or state government or the poultry companies, but no
promises were made.
Irvin struck a chord with the crowd when he observed, "I
don't believe poultry litter is responsible for some of the things
they're blaming on you. Some of the problems in Lake Lanier may
be traced back to all those houseboats and all those septic tanks."
He urged farmers to "use good old common horse sense and
do what you know you need to do, and we can avoid some of these
Alan Hallum, chief of the EPD's Water Protection Branch, expressed
hope that by following the Georgia Poultry Federation's initiative
farmers might avoid a strong regulatory approach.
Regulation of farm operations is inevitable, he said, because
of the changing nature of farming.
"No longer can you raise a few cows and a few chickens and
make a living," he said. "The large operations pose
larger environmental risks, hence the regulations. But if farmers
follow the poultry federation's program, they might avoid severe
"I need tangible facts to take before the DNR board to say
the problem is under control or getting under control,"
But he conceded that there is no data blaming the poultry industry
for water pollution.
"We don't have reports that single out any one source of
the problem," he said. "Everyone is part of the problem
and everyone has got to be part of the solution."
Essentially, what the farmers learned was that they must be prudent
with their use of litter. Litter must be covered while in storage
so rain cannot wash it into streams, and farmers who use litter
for fertilizer must keep up with the levels of nitrates and phosphorus
in their soil. When levels get too high, farmers should get rid
of the litter elsewhere.
Ironically, while excess fertility may be a problem in poultry-producing
counties, most counties have the opposite problem.
Dr. Mark Risse, a pollution prevention specialist with the Cooperative
Extension Service, showed maps indicating that 16 Georgia counties,
almost all in northeast Georgia, have excess amounts of nitrogen,
but the rest of the state's counties lack that nitrogen. A solution
to both problems, he said, is to move poultry litter to those
Overall, farmers, public officials and state scientists agreed
that chicken litter is an asset when properly managed.
"Don't forget, chicken litter is what made northeast Georgia
green," Irvin stated.
Risse told the farmers that both EPA and USDA agree that the
land application of chicken litter is the best way to reduce
runoff and erosion.
"It's just a case of using litter properly, using it in
an environmentally safe way and using it to the best benefit
of your crop," said Dr. Mike Lacey, an extension poultry
specialist. "It's just good business. It makes sense to
use litter the most effective way you can."
Terry Chandler, a Madison County farmer who raises cattle, poultry
and hogs, expressed some of the frustration farmers experience
in being blamed for problems they say may not even exist. He
warned that the tough regulations he faces with his hog CAFO
will be duplicated for poultry growers.
"Don't think because these folks say the problem does not
exist that they won't implement rules and regulations,"
he said. "They will. They did it with hogs and there was
no evidence (of hog waste-related pollution). "Do not expect
the same thing not to occur in regard to the poultry industry.
There are no documented cases of litter or dead bird-caused pollution.
The need for these regulations does not exist...What scientific
information exists to indicate that all this should be going
stirs controversy over graveyard forays
Woman's haunt hobby also dominates child custody hearing
BY ANGELA GARY
A former Jackson County woman has come under fire for her nighttime
forays into area graveyards to look for ghosts. Her ghost-busting
"hobby" has also dominated Cheryl Drake's custody dispute
with her Nicholson husband, John Drake, who alleges that his
wife's hobby is really witchcraft that is unhealthy for their
Several Nicholson area residents complained recently to The Jackson
Herald about Mrs. Drake's graveyard activities after having seen
her photographs on the Georgia Haunt Hunt Team web site and reading
an article about her in an area magazine.
The website features photographs
taken from several Jackson County cemeteries, including Antioch
United Methodist Church in Nicholson, Brockton Church Cemetery,
Center UMC, Howington Cemetery and Mizpah Cemetery. The photographs
have captions such as "Home of the Antioch Pie Ghost,"
"The Cloaked Ghost of Antioch Cemetery" and "Ghost
looking at the camera! It is wearing a cloak."
Margaret Ward, a long-time member of Antioch UMC, is one of the
church members upset about Mrs. Drake going into the cemetery
in search of ghosts.
"I've always felt that the cemeteries were a place we reverenced
and honored because of our loved ones being buried there,"
she said. "I think it is just a part of our culture. I think
that anything other than reverence for a grave is desecration.
I also feel this group of people, although they may be on the
surface saying it is not anything of evil nature, that if they
are indeed legit, they would have come to someone in the church
and asked permission to go into these graves."
Mrs. Ward said she is also concerned that the web page could
bring others to the cemetery in search of "ghosts."
"Since all of this is on the Internet and it is worldwide,
there may be other people that would come in now and destroy
the grave markers and things of this sort," she said. "I'm
very upset. I think they are abusing the memories of those we
honor and love."
The Rev. Richard Cathy, pastor of Antioch, said no one from the
group contacted him about going into the cemetery and he doesn't
approve of the action.
"I think there needs to be permission given before they
start doing those type of things," he said. "As far
as I know, they haven't talked to anyone over here. We need to
know what she is doing on our property. When you see those things
on the web page, it is disturbing."
In a recent custody hearing, Mrs. Drake said the cemeteries she
goes to are picked at random and she doesn't know whose graves
are depicted in the photographs she takes.
"I've not had anybody say that they minded," she said.
"In fact, some people bring us to their family cemeteries."
In addition to the complaints of trampling in graveyards, Mrs.
Drake's activities have also been the main focus of her custody
dispute. In the hearing, Mr. Drake accused his wife of witchcraft.
Mrs. Drake denied the allegations, but did admit to the cemetery
visits in search of ghosts, reading Tarot cards and "smudging,"
which is taking a bundle of herbs, lighting them and spreading
the smoke through a home to get rid of evil spirits. She calls
her actions a "hobby."
Superior Court Judge David Motes apparently agreed with her as
he granted her temporary custody in the hearing.
"Ms. Drake's eccentricities are a cause for concern,"
he said in his ruling. "And I'm not sure how her beliefs
....will affect the children emotionally and spiritually...I
believe that there's no evidence in this case of witchcraft or
devil worship. It's apparently a hobby of Ms. Drake that I believe
she's maybe taking a bit too seriously."
The judge ruled that Mrs. Drake's allegations of physical abuse
by Mr. Drake are more damaging. She said that her husband slapped
her once and spit on her daughter once.
"The thing that concerns the court the most is Mr. Drake's
slapping his child and spitting on his child," Judge Motes
said in his ruling. "I don't know what sort of mental or
emotional effect ghost hunting will have on the children, but
I know the mental, emotional and physical effects of slapping
a child and spitting on a child."
Although Mr. Drake admits having slapped his wife once and spit
on the 10-year-old-child, he said both were extenuating circumstances.
Their was no evidence presented in the hearing in connection
to the judge's comments about the child being slapped. Both Mr.
and Mrs. Drake said that he had not slapped the child. But the
judge did meet in his chambers with the child with no one else
Mr. Drake said he spit on the child because she had repeatedly
been spitting on her younger brother and then spit on him.
"I felt terrible about it," he said. "We had a
long, long talk about that. And I apologized to her. She apologized
to me. We all discussed how that it is improper, disrespectful
and just should not happen."
He also admitted to slapping his wife on one occasion, saying
she had multiple personalities and he was just trying to get
her to calm down.
"...It wasn't intended to be, you know, pain-inflicting
or violent," he said. "It was really to bring her,
hopefully, to her senses. And that's the only time I've ever
laid a hand on her in six years."
Mrs. Drake also admitted that she once slapped her husband's
daughter, who was 13-years-old at the time. She also said she
has hit herself in the head. She said she knows these actions
are wrong and has gone to therapy because of them.
But while allegations of abuse figured in the court hearing,
Mrs. Drake's desire to find ghosts were also at the center of
the issue. Mr. Drake attorney, Wanda David, presented three boxes
of evidence, including photographs taken from Jackson County
cemeteries where Mrs. Drake went in search of ghosts, her diaries
which include passages on ghosts and reincarnation, Tarot cards
and other occult-related items.
"I don't believe in witchcraft," Mrs. Drake said during
her testimony. "I did do tarot card readings for myself
and I did do smudging, which clears the air in a room. But those
things are coping mechanisms for when I can't take John's badgering.
They're coping mechanisms. They're fun."
Photographs Mrs. Drake took at Jackson County cemeteries were
among the evidence presented during the hearing. Some were marked
with her thoughts or comments, including one which said there
were "photos with globes of light. One very prominent and
sparks of ecto.
"Ecto--that's what I used to call it," Mrs. Drake said.
"But I don't like that word now because it's too ghost-buster.
Yeah, there were speckly things in the picture. I don't know
what they were."
She also testified about the organization she formed, Georgia
Haunt Hunt Team, which has the web-site of Jackson County ghosts.
"We try to either prove or disprove whether there may or
may not be ghosts in a house," Mrs. Drake said. "And
we have no proof that there are ghosts, period. We look for evidence,
but no one has any proof anywhere. It's just a hobby.
"To me, I would love to find proof that there are ghosts
because to me, that would mean there is life after death and
I think that would make it easier for people to accept death."
During his testimony, Mr. Drake said that he has been concerned
about his wife going into cemeteries.
"I have concerns and always have had concerns as far as
trespassing on grave sites," he said. "And I think
there's a matter of respect for the deceased that is being trampled
Mrs. Drake said she at first that she never took the children
on her haunt huntings. Mrs. David presented a photograph of the
daughter with a thermal scanner which is used to measure temperature
in the infrared range. Mrs. Drake said this is used to check
for "cold spots" in alleged haunted houses. She later
testified that her daughter and son had been with her when she
went to cemeteries but she left them in the car.
She also explained passages from a journal she kept on incidents
involving the children. One dealt with something her daughter
saw in their home.
"She saw a blur go by her door," Mrs. Drake said. "She
saw the face of a little boy wearing, she thinks, a red shirt.
She assumed it was (her brother) until she realized he was downstairs
She also wrote about her son's "ghost friend."
"He told me that his ghost friend is on the closet side
of the room where I heard the scratching noise," she said.
"He says he plays hide and seek with his ghost friend. He
says the boy's hair is white."
In the closing statements, David again emphasized the elements
of witchcraft in the family home and the influence it has on
"Her activities have stretched the imagination, as far as
I'm concerned," the attorney said. "We read our cards.
We go in our closet. We see ghosts in photographs. And your honor,
look at the evidence. Read her diary. She thinks her child is
a reincarnation of a dead child. It just cannot be for the mental
health and well-being of these children for them to remain with
her at this time."
Mrs. Drake's attorney, W. Roy Finch III, said his client's actions
"Her hobbies may be a little more colorful than a lot of
folks in Jackson County and maybe a few more in Athens than she
can relate to and maybe a few more in Atlanta," he said.
"But the fact of the matter is, there's nothing sinister
and there's nothing evil about this."
In the judge's ruling, he said he did not see a "pattern
of violence" in Mr. Drake's actions
"I've heard some allegations of violence on Mr. Drake's
part, but I don't see a pattern of violence in the evidence,"
he said. "I see some isolated incidents but those are of
a great magnitude."
The judge ordered a custody evaluation by an independent psychologist.
Another court hearing on the matter has not yet been scheduled.
Murder charges filed in shooting
Murder charges have been filed against a Jefferson man in connection
with a shooting last week.
Rufus Moon Jr., 64, Magnolia Drive, Jefferson, was charged with
felony murder in the shooting death of Ellis Harper, 40, Commerce.
Moon had earlier been charged with two counts of aggravated assault
and one count of battery in connection with the incident. The
murder charges came after Harper died Sunday in an Athens hospital.
Harper was shot in the head Wednesday, Sept. 29, during a domestic
dispute at a Magnolia Drive, Jefferson, residence. Moon is also
charged with striking his girlfriend, Brenda Denise Williams,
30, in the face and head with a gun and telephone and his hand
during the incident. She received minor injuries.
"Mr. Moon assumed that Mr. Harper and Miss Williams were
having an affair," said investigator Robert Laroque with
the Jefferson Police Department. "They got into an argument
about it and the incident occurred."
Ax handle beating leads to assault charges
A Winder man faces aggravated assault charges following a domestic
dispute Tuesday night in Hoschton. Kenneth Ethridge, 28, was
charged after allegedly hitting Michael William Perry, 43, Hoschton,
with an ax handle causing serious head injuries. The incident
happened at 134 Crowes Circle, Hoschton.
Officials believe a domestic dispute led to the confrontation.
A knife was also recovered from the scene, according to Jackson
County Sheriff's Department reports.
MainStreet Newspapers win 9 national awards
MainStreet Newspapers won nine awards in the National Newspaper
Association's Better Newspaper Contest.
The awards were presented at the annual NNA convention last weekend
in Boston, Mass. Six Georgia newspapers won awards in the contest.
The Jackson Herald won second place for public notice pages and
promotion. The Commerce News won honorable mention for best editorial.
The Banks County News won first place, sports feature; second
place, best writing; third place, freedom of information; third
place, best sports pages; and honorable mention, excellence in
layout and design. The Madison County Journal won third place
for community service and honorable mention for best feature