The efforts of divers give way to the draining of the part of Rocky Comfort Creek where Bill Farrer's boat was found and the excavation of part of the creek's west bank.
Volunteers drain the remaining water from the creek but find no evidence of Bill Farrer on the bedrock floor of Rocky Comfort Creek near Louisville.
Divers continue to search the area of Rocky Comfort.
Creek's flow diverted
• Bill "Bo Peep" Farrer's body not found in drained channel
By Ben Nelms
Increased search efforts
The 18-day organized, mass search for 66 year-old Louisville resident William "Bo Peep" Farrer along Rocky Comfort Creek came to close Sept. 30. Though his body was not located in the apparent accidental drowning, Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins said his office and state investigators will continue to explore every possibility that will lead to an explanation of Farrer's disappearance.
Search and rescue efforts began Sept. 13 after Mr. Farrer's boat was found in the water, positioned over a fallen tree sitting nearly one-foot above the water line at a favorite fishing spot off Clarks Mill Road west of Louisville. Also found at the secluded site was his truck, keys and shotgun inside. His arrival at the site was recorded Sept. 12 on a game camera positioned nearby. Farrer is presumed by law enforcement officials and friends first on the scene to have drowned due to a boating or health-related accident or injury. The hopeful notion that he would be found dazed and wandering in the woods gave way over time to the likelihood that he had succumbed to the water of Rocky Comfort Creek.
Search efforts unparalleled in recent Jefferson County history in both diversity and magnitude continued Sept. 24 and 25 with the arrival of more than a dozen pieces of heavy equipment from farmers and businesses in Jefferson County, Thomson, Augusta, Savannah and surrounding areas.
Sheriff Gary Hutchins and Jefferson County Emergency Management Director Fay McGahee sought and received approval to divert the creek and drain the closed section after dive teams from Burke, Washington, Columbia, McDuffie, Hart, Elbert and Lincoln counties, a Chattanooga dive team and independent blackwater divers from Ft. Stewart and Brunswick were unable to locate the missing man.
The decision to divert the portion of the creek upstream and downstream came after four cadaver dogs from three K-9 search and rescue organizations gave repeated strong "alerts" to a human presence in the area where the boat was found and at several locations downstream. Throughout more than two weeks of searching, the dogs alerted at numerous locations beginning less than 50-feet upstream from where Farrer's boat was found to approximately 300 yards downstream. The strongest and most consistent alerts came from four distinct areas within 100 yards of where the boat was found. These included the area where the boat was located and three areas on or near the west bank of the creek in the direct flow of the current.
Volunteer K-9 cadaver units came from Jesup, Chattanooga, Nashville, Rockdale counties assisted throughout the 18-day effort. One unit, Dogs South Angela Batten and Zena stayed from beginning to end. The dogs' consistent alerts convinced nearly everyone at the site to divert the creek even though divers continued to come up empty handed.
Heavy equipment operators worked in tandem to construct a 1,500-foot channel to divert the area of the creek where Farrer's fishing boat was found. Approval given by Georgia Environmental Protection Division to temporarily divert the creek was secured by Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Their quick work allowed pumps to be brought in to drain the remaining water after the diversion was completed. Two volunteers and a Sheriff's deputy spent the night of Sept. 26 at the site to insure that the pumps kept working.
A completely different view of that section of Rocky Comfort Creek emerged Friday afternoon after all but a few areas of inches-deep water had been pumped out. A crowd of people stood at the familiar west bank looking down as the water receded, looking for some indication, some sign of Bill Farrer. A visual and physical inspection of the bottom was possible for the first time to get some clue of his presence. None was found.
The next morning back-filled water was pumped and the excavation of much of the west bank began. To do so was the only way to determine with any certainty whether Farrer had been somehow lodged along the west side of the creek bank. The crowd of people again waited as a trackhoe operator moved the great machine with artistic precision, gently removing the bank and sifted it for inspection on higher ground. Again, no evidence or indication of Bill Farrer was found.
Everyone knew that the diversion of Rocky Comfort Creek would be the last in a line of massive volunteer efforts designed to locate the missing man. All the efforts of more than two weeks and endless searches on water and land produced no results.
"We've exhausted everything we could do with such a large scale effort at the creek," said Hutchins. "But just because we're bringing this part to a close doesn't mean we've completely given up on the site and it doesn't mean we're quitting the investigation just because we've left Rocky Comfort Creek."
The human side
Hutchins acknowledged that the inability of the search effort to find Farrer could fuel speculations already present since early in the search that he may have been the target of foul play. Investigators with Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Sheriff's office were brought in during the first week of the search. Investigators have been involved since that time with developing information that might be pertinent to a view of the disappearance if it leads to something other than an accidental drowning.
"We don't think a crime has been committed but we are looking at every avenue and nothing will be ruled out until we find an answer," Hutchins said.
The magnitude of the search efforts even prior to the arrival of creek-diverting heavy equipment was already without equal in the memories of volunteers at the scene. Each day of the 18-day effort found 50-100 people at the site, some as early as sunrise or to long after sunset.
Nearly impossible to describe was the mass of equipment, supplies and food brought in daily or as needed from city, county and state agencies, surrounding farms, companies, churches, restaurants and individuals. When a diver, dog handler or searcher expressed a need, that need was quickly filled. From tape to trackhoes and batteries to bulldozers, much was donated. Time and labor included. Though it did not matter, attempts to calculate the endless, selfless contributions in monetary terms failed completely.
At the end of the mass effort and throughout the 18 days at Rocky Comfort Creek, McGahee and Hutchins had only thanks, gratitude and praise for the continuous show of unity and endurance that the volunteer and professional searchers displayed. Never lost in the effort was the recognition that so many of the searchers there were simply the friends of a man who never met a stranger.
Infant left in abandoned lot during chase
• Wadley man said he ran because he thought officers were looking for him
By Ben Nelms
A chase late Sunday afternoon through Bartow resulted in multiple charges against a Jefferson County man and the safe return of his five-month old daughter found lying face down in a vacant lot where he left her while fleeing from officers.
Anthony Lamar Rozier, 28, of Wadley, was charged with one count of felony cruelty to children, reckless driving, obstruction of an officer, driving on a suspended license, no insurance and a child restraint violation, according to Bartow Police Chief Clay Neal. Rozier was also being sought by Laurens County officers.
The incident began at approximately 5:30 p.m. when Rozier made an unusual movement with his vehicle after entering Bartow when he noticed Neal's police car, eventually pulling the car into a driveway and lifting the hood. Rozier fled in his vehicle when Neal approached his car. He came to a stop at an Arrington Road residence after he lightly struck a pine tree with the front of his car.
Rozier exited the car and ran across the yard, through a wooded lot and into a vacant lot. Exiting his vehicle and running some way behind him, Neal saw that Rozier was no longer carrying what appeared to be a small bag that he had with him when he exited the car. Neal saw the pink object on the ground and continued chasing the man, attempting to cut him off by changing the direction of his pursuit.
During the foot chase Rozier temporarily eluded officers, running through properties across several streets. He was taken into custody when officers stopped a vehicle driven by a man who, unaware of the circumstances, had agreed minutes earlier to give Rozier a ride.
Upon returning to the vacant lot 20-25 minutes later where Rozier left the small bag officers realized that the object Rozier left in the vacant lot was a five month-old baby girl. The infant was attended by Bartow first responders and Rural Metro personnel. She had been bitten several times by ants and had a significant amount of dirt in her mouth, according to first responders. The infant was checked and released from Jefferson Hospital.
While at the scene Rozier said he fled because he believed the infant's mother had called authorities to report that he had taken the baby, said Neal. Also at the scene, the infant's mother said she had denied Rozier's request to take the infant to visit his mother but that Rozier took her anyway.
Another passenger in Rozier's vehicle, a nine year-old relative of the infant's mother, was unharmed in the incident.
County admin. James Rogers plans to retire
• Rogers, who has served in the position for 5 years, intends to retire at the end of December
By Ben Nelms
After informing Jefferson County commissioners more than a year ago about his intent to eventually retire, county administrator James Rogers recently decided to make the move after serving five years on the job.
Rogers gave commissioners his notice in early September, saying that he intended to retire at the end of December. He said he would help train his successor if they desired and would entertain the offer to work part time for two to three days per week if no successor was hired by that time.
"I wanted to give them plenty of time to find a successor for the position," he said Tuesday. "They really need to decide what they need and find somebody qualified for the job."
Rogers said his replacement would need to be someone with a financial background and one with knowledge of both current and upcoming financial requirements to which county governments are subject.
He entered the position as county administrator in September 1997. Since that time the changes he has seen in the day-to-day operation of county government have occurred not only in financial accountability areas but also in requirements imposed by government agencies such as Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Department of Community Affairs.
"I find myself a lot more involved in regulatory situations than I did when I began the job," he said. "Based on the changes we've experienced, I've seen things grow two to threefold in the type of things we're involved in on a day-to-day basis."