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FRONT PAGE - OCTOBER 6, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GA

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BLOODY SHIRT FOUND

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 Jackson.

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 logging road.
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 the woods.
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 CAFOs.
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 permits.
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 problems."
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 restrictions.
"I need tangible facts to take before the DNR board to say the problem is under control or getting under control," he stated.
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 nitrogen-deprived counties.
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 anyway?"


'Ghostbuster' 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 two children.
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 present.
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.
WITCHCRAFT?
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 on."
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 watching TV."
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 the children.
"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 are "mainstream."
"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 photo.



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