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January 17, 2002

Volunteer firemen and EMS technicians crowd around one of the vehicles
involved in the five-car accident which occurred early Sunday morning.

Five cars collide in south Wrens

By Parish Howard

A Wrens man has been charged with fleeing the scene of an accident and other charges are pending in a five-car traffic incident that occurred early Sunday morning.

"The roads were wet and it looks like a couple of the vehicles were traveling at high rates of speed," Police Chief David Hannah said. "The call came in at 1:58 a.m. and we believe some of the drivers may have been returning from the club."

Hannah said that while the investigation is not yet complete, it appears that the first accident occurred when vehicle one, a dark blue 1994 Nissan Sentra, stopped at the traffic light on Highway 88 waiting to turn onto US Highway 1 was struck from behind by vehicle two, driven by 20-year-old Shelton Farmer Jr. of Wrens.

"Both airbags in Farmer's car deployed and a passenger apparently hit his or her head on the windshield," Hannah said. "It did more damage to his car, but he then left the scene." According to Hannah, the driver of vehicle three, having witnessed the accident, stopped his 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass in the left lane and the driver of the fourth vehicle, a 1997 Nissan 200 SX, stopped in the right lane.

Hannah said that is when the fifth vehicle, a 1983 Buick LeSabre, apparently traveling at a high rate of speed, appears to have attempted to avoid striking vehicle three, merged right and struck vehicle four sending it approximately 250 feet off the road and down an embankment.

According to the incomplete report, Hannah said that five passengers were taken to area emergency rooms. Their names and the extent of their injuries were unavailable at press time. Hannah said that Farmer was taken into custody Sunday afternoon and charged with fleeing the scene of an accident. The investigation is on-going.

Keysville couple found dead

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Tragedy struck the small community of Keysville Sunday with the unexplained (puzzling) deaths of a local husband and wife at their home.

The deceased couple, Harold Evans, 59 and Gina Evans, 34, was found in a bedroom of their home Sunday afternoon, according to Burke County Chief Deputy James Hollingsworth.

Though the circumstances were not immediately apparent, investigators said the deaths involved a firearm, likely a .357 handgun.

Burke County deputies responded to the residence after a 911 call at 3:27 p.m. Authorities had received no reports of a domestic disturbance at the home.

The remains were sent to the state crime lab for autopsy due to the manner of death.

Graveside services for Mr. Evans will be held 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 18, at Keysville Methodist Church Cemetery.

Funeral services for Mrs. Evans will be held 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at Faith Baptist Church in Blythe.

Hunters discover outdoor meth lab

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Jefferson County's first suspected methamphetamine lab was discovered Jan. 9 after the impromptu manufacturing location was found by hunters on property they had leased on Gough Road.

Deputies were called to the wooded location near Burke County after a report from two coon hunters involving suspicious activity on the property was received at the 911 Center at 8:52 p.m., according to a spokesman for the Sheriff's office.

The hunters told investigators that while on the property they came across the location approximately 300 yards off the roadway where a man had a cooker and other equipment on a table.

They said the burners were on and something appeared to be cooking inside a container.

The man fled into the woods as the hunters pulled up. Believing the man's response to their arrival to be suspicious, they backed their vehicle into the underbrush some distance away and called 911.

Within minutes the man returned, gathered some items from the table and fled in his vehicle. The hunters reported that the man, upon seeing their vehicle still on the property, drove his vehicle through the underbrush to flee the property. They told officers the vehicle drove in the direction of Burke County.

At the scene, investigator's called Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Patrick Clayton after examining the abandoned equipment. Clayton contacted a hazardous materials disposal company in Augusta to remove the evidence.

Approximately eight to nine ounces of methamphetamine base was left by the suspect and retrieved by investigators. The evidence was taken to the DEA office in Augusta for further analysis.

Investigators said the clandestine operation was the first suspected "meth lab" discovered in the county. Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant classified as a controlled substance.

The investigation surrounding the incident is ongoing.

Anyone with information in this case is asked to call the Sheriff's office at (478) 625-7538.

Praise Deliverance breaks ground

By Parish Howard

On Wednesday, Dec. 21, just three days after Bishop Lee O. Wallace crossed the threshold into his eternal rest, his wife, his family and his church celebrated his vision by breaking ground for Praise Deliverance's new Highway 17 campus.

"This was his vision, this was our vision together," his wife, Pastor Christine Wallace, told those gathered for the event.

The first glimpses of Bishop Wallace's vision for the Praise Deliverance ministry came to him more than 20 years ago. He already had the future church's name, but his wife says he didn't know where the Lord wanted him to build the ministry.

Then, in 1978, while passing through Wrens on his way home from a funeral in Louisville, Wallace felt led to begin Praise Deliverance there, and build it from the ground up.

"At first it was just our family, me, Bishop and our three children, meeting in Wrens to hold church services," Pastor Wallace said. "I remember there were times when we sold drink bottles to get the money to drive back and forth from Augusta. It was not a ready-made path. We had to make it."

And they did.

The family and its grown congregation met in an old "citizens' league" on Broad Street, before building their first church at 505 Stephens St.

"We currently have 265 members on the rolls," Wallace said, "and some of those go back 20 years. We are a growing non-denominational congregation. We open our arms to all Christians."

Pastor Wallace said that the church closed on the 29.46 acre future site of the Praise Deliverance campus just days before her husband passed away.

"We call it a campus because there are so many plans for this property," Pastor Wallace said.

This first phase, what she calls the "launching pad" will include a 13,850 square-foot pre fabricated steel building with a facade. At first the building will be used for worship, meetings and classrooms.

"When we move on to the next phase, we are planning to convert this building into a gym and multi-purpose youth center," Pastor Wallace said. "The property already has a dirt track and a paved outdoor skating track. We are also planning on adding a toddler recreation area."

Phase two involves converting the building into a gym/youth-centered building. Further phases are still totally up air, waiting for Pastor Wallace to add them to the vision.

Eventually she sees some of the church's other Wrens programs moving to the campus site.

Currently, Praise Deliverance Book Store on Broad Street doubles as the church's resource center and Pastor Wallace said that she hopes a new set of 10 donated computers should be set up and networked soon for technical training classes.

"We also help people who may qualify for special assistance, like SSI by walking them through the application process or by referring them to people who can help them," she said.

Other programs provided by the church's ministries include Grace House, a four-bedroom home that provides lodging for women and children who are the victims of domestic violence.

Praise Deliverance plans to continue to provide current services, like its adult day care and employment assistance, from its Stephens Street and Broad Street offices and facilities, at least until future phases are completed at its new location.

Questions about any of the aforementioned programs may be directed to the church's resource center at (706) 547-4030.

Grand jury finds no "criminal intent"

Jury sees no reason for formal charges to be brought against the county commission or former D.A.

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The November 2001 Jefferson County Grand Jury decided upon convening Jan. 7 that no action was necessary on a September petition issued by the Concerned Citizens of Jefferson County Inc. citing allegations malfeasance in office on the part of Commission Chairman Gardner Hobbs.

The grand jury's decision on the Sept. 5 petition letter by the citizens' group was included in the summary of the findings:

"The grand jury has decided that upon all evidence presented to it concerning the activities of the Jefferson County Commissioners that no criminal investigation is deemed necessary or prudent. The grand jury finds no criminal intent by any member of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, and any allegations of malfeasance should be redressed at the ballot box and not through the court system. This grand jury recommends no further action be taken concern ing the matter raised by the Concerned Citizens of Jefferson County and recognizes it is in the best interest of Jefferson County that this matter come to a close."

The Concerned Citizens petition cited 15 instances of alleged malfeasance in office. President Kay Heilig said the citizens group was bothered by the speed in which the grand jury reached its decision, given that all business was concluded by 3 p.m. on Jan. 7.

"We don't understand how they could have sifted through the evidence and interviewed witnesses in order to come to an objective decision in that short amount of time," said Heilig.

Responding Tuesday to the Nov. 7 findings, county attorney Mickey Moses said he believed the grand jury's statement on the petition addressed the issue thoroughly.

"I think the grand jury says it all," he said.

When contacted Monday, Hobbs said he had no comment on the matter.

In response to the grand jury's findings Heilig said Sunday he was surprised that no one from the organization's board of directors had been called as witnesses to address the allegations.

When asked whether members of the grand jury had been given the opportunity to speak with representatives of the Concerned Citizens organization, District Attorney Steve Askew said jurors had the option to subpoena members of the group but chose not to do so.

Citizens' access to the grand jury for a redress of grievance or other issues does not require a formally filed petition to the court, said Askew. An individual or group can access the grand jury by informing the Clerk of the Court or the District Attorney of the request. The information will be passed to the grand jury, who will make the decision whether to hear the request.

Controversy arose in early October over the intent of the Concerned Citizens' petition. County attorney Mickey Moses maintained that the petition constituted a lawsuit while Heilig said the petition was issued to generate an investigation into the allegations of malfeasance. Clerk of Superior Court Mickey Jones said Oct. 8 that technically, the petition did not meet the standards of a lawsuit but that determination was not for the clerk's office to decide.

The petition issued by the citizen's group was filed with Superior Court Chief Judge Walter C. McMillan Jr. Sept. 5. McMillan responded two days later in a letter requesting that Jones' office pass the information on to the next convening Grand Jury.

The November 2001 jury convened Jan. 7, considering 15 criminal charges presented by the District Attorney's office for possible indictment and the Concerned Citizens petition before adjourning.

In another matter relating to the grand jury report, Heilig said their inclusion of the statement "it is further acknowledged that no malfeasance has occurred by action of District Attorney Steve Askew or his office" makes little sense. He said the mention of an allegation of malfeasance in the closing paragraph of the Sept. 5 petition was included for informational purposes so that Judge McMillan would be aware that the Concerned Citizens were communicating with the Attorney General's office on a matter other than the one specifically involving allegations made in the petition.

"The Concerned Citizens of Jefferson County Inc. is very bothered by the grand jury's statement," said Heilig. "We wonder on what basis this gratuitous statement was made, given that our reference to the District Attorney's office was FYI to Judge McMillan and had nothing whatsoever to do with the redress of grievance relating to Dr. Hobbs."

The News and Farmer P.O. Box 487 Louisville, GA 30434
(478) 625-7722 or (706) 547-6629 - (478) 625-8816 fax
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