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July 03, 2003 Issue

Designed to keep drunk drivers off the roads, officers surveyed the 833 vehicles that drove along US Highway 1 through Jefferson County between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Motorists offered Zero Tolerance

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Times are becoming increasingly tough for those who drink and drive. Clear evidence of that reality was evident Friday night along US Highway 1 in Jefferson County as more than a dozen law enforcement agencies made arrests and issued warnings as part of Georgia's Zero Tolerance program.

Beginning shortly after 8 p.m. and ending close to 3 a.m. Saturday, traffic count personnel with the state Institute of Highway Safety logged 833 cars making their way through Jefferson County. During those hours officers made three drunk driving arrests, seven drug arrests for suspected marijuana and cocaine and issued 23 citations for infractions such as suspended licenses, no seat belts, no insurance and child restraint violations. Department of Motor Vehicles personnel issued 14 warnings.

Also participating at the road check and used for determining and holding drunk drivers was the Warner Robbins Police Department BAT Mobile. The fully equipped mobile unit was outfitted to test blood/alcohol levels, check licenses and outstanding warrants and housed a six-seat mobile jail. The unit was also equipped with video cameras inside and out.

The overall intent and execution of the program along US 1 Friday night successfully met the spirit of the Zero Tolerance initiative, said Wrens Police Chief and East Central Georgia Traffic Enforcement Network Chairman David Hannah.

"Operation Zero Tolerance is intended to cut down on the number of people drinking and driving on the roadways," he said. "We had a great turnout with all the agencies participating and we had good results in our effort. Drinking and driving is a serious thing and we hope that if a person wants to drink they will stay home or have a designated driver. More than anything we want to make sure that our residents are safe on the road."

Hannah said Operation Zero Tolerance will continue through the end of the year.

Agencies participation in the road check included Wrens Police, Louisville Police, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Wadley Police, state Probation, Jefferson County Marshal's Department, Jefferson County Board of Education, Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles, Blythe Police, Grovetown Police, Warner Robbins Police, Richmond County K-9 Task Force, Wrens K-9 unit, Jefferson County Sheriff's K-9 unit and Georgia Institute of Highway Safety.

Murder suspects seen in area

Homes searched, but suspects are not yet apprehended

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A mass assembling of nearly three-dozen local and state law enforcement agencies converged on Louisville in the early morning hours June 24 to conduct simultaneous searches for two men wanted for murder last year of a New Jersey man. Officers were unsuccessful in locating the men even though they obtained a number of leads during the night.

Law enforcement officers used Jefferson County jail as the assembly point shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday. The search for New Jersey murder suspects James Irwin and Steve Bennett was launched locally after U.S. Marshals received information that the two men had acquaintances in Louisville and had been seen locally in recent days. Irwin and Bennett are suspected of murdering a New Jersey man and later setting fire to his car with the dead man inside.

Nearly a dozen personnel from the U.S. Marshal's Service operating with the South Georgia Fugitive Squad, numerous deputies and investigators with Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Wrens Police Chief David Hannah and Wrens Police, Louisville Police Chief Jimmy Miller and Louisville Police, Jefferson County Marshal's deputies, Milledgeville Department of Corrections K-9 unit, Wrens K-9 unit and the sheriff's K-9 unit participated in the search.

The immediacy of locating and apprehending the suspects was evident on the faces and in the voices of fugitive squad members as they began assembling at the jail. There was no hesitation in the recognition that Irwin and Bennett were considered dangerous. That recognition was also evident as nearly every officer involved in the search donned bulletproof vests and armed themselves with handguns and shotguns prior to departing the jail.

By prior arrangement with local law enforcement, all the officers were assigned to one of three groups. Each group arrived simultaneously at residences on Clark Lane, Nelms Street and Beech Street.

Upon arrival at the residences, car and truckloads of officers quickly exited their vehicles in silence. They hurriedly took position in locations around the perimeter of each residence, guns drawn and positioned in the direction of windows and doors in case of an escape attempt while three officers knocked at the front door.

It was serious business that melded with a quiet night in several neighborhoods in Louisville. The silence was broken only by the sound of knuckles rapping on the door and officers announcing their presence and the desire to speak to the occupant of the home.

Conversations with occupants led to searches of the premises and were often accompanied by bits of information that led to the arrival of officers at other residences in Louisville that night.

By sunrise the next morning the operation was called off. Leads had been explored and motels and other locations around Jefferson County had been checked. Though the efforts of nearly three-dozen local and federal officers had seen no success, the resolve of the fugitive squad to eventually catch Irwin and Bennett was clear.

They would act on the next series of tips and move on to another town. And if conditions work in their favor, they will get their men.

Stapleton teenager dies in McDuffie County ATV accident

Over 1,000 attend rising senior and accomplished athlete Will Holley's services

By Parish Howard

William "Will" J. Holley of Adams Road in Stapleton really lived every day of his 17 years, his mother said.

"He was 100 percent boy," Susan Holley said. "He woke up smiling and went to bed smiling. He wasn't perfect, but he cared about people. And we enjoyed every bit of him."

The Briarwood Academy rising senior died early Wednesday from severe head and neck trauma he received after the four-wheeled all terrain vehicle he was driving was struck by a car at Happy Valley Road and Reeves Road in south McDuffie County around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 24.

He was airlifted to the Medical College of Georgia where he was pronounced dead at about 3:30 a.m.

"We have no regrets," Susan said. "Sure we're sad, we're mad, we're all upset, but we won't have to say we wish we'd done this, we wish we'd gone camping one more time or gone to that ball game."

They did it when it counted.

Susan remembers her son, the day he died with a smile.

"He'd been working on the farm for his dad," she said. "He spent some time with his grandfather working on an irrigation pivot. It rained and they spent some time in the truck talking. His brother (Trenton) was running the combine and Will took him some water. Later he came by the house and told me his father had told him he could go spend the night with friends and ride four-wheelers.

"He asked me to sit down with him and we talked. We talked about safety and being careful."

She said that he had accepted Christ at such an early age, she asked him what was in his heart.

"I love Jesus, he said," she remembers. "He told me that he prayed everyday."

An avid hunter and fisherman, he was also an accomplished athlete.

Will was an Augusta Chronicle All-Area football and baseball player for Briarwood Academy.

A team leader, he was named a GISA All State Player. He was named Best Defensive Player for the 2002 Bucs, and earned All Region honors.

"He loved football," his mother said. "He loved to hit. He'd pick you back up, but he loved to knock you down."

He led his team in tackles every year that he played, even his freshman year up to the point where a concussion took him off the field for the last month of the season.

Will made 111 tackles as a defensive linebacker for the Buccaneers last season. As an outfielder for the school's baseball team he batted .422, with three home runs and 14 RBIs.

He also competed on the school's track team.

Will was remembered by teachers and students as an outstanding athlete, a hard worker and an all-around good guy.

"He touched a lot of lives," his baseball Coach Charlie May said. "The entire Briarwood community is pretty upset because it is such a tragic loss. He was an outstanding athlete and young man."

Hundreds of people, classmates, friends, and family gathered Saturday for his services at Wrens Baptist Church, where he was a member.

Survivors include his parents, Keith and Susan Holley, a brother Trenton P. Holley, all of Stapleton; grandparents Ed and Betty Perdue, W.C. and Clyde Holley of Wrens.

"Will didn't have any trouble expressing his love for people," Susan said. "If someone was hurting, he was praying for them, even if he didn't let you know it.

"It's hard, but I'm thankful for our faith in Jesus. I know where my son is. I enjoyed every bit of him."

(Augusta Chronicle staff writers Jonathan Heeter's and Josh Katzowitz's reporting contributed to this article.)

Program cuts down on stray animal population

Melanie Roberts found the most humane thing to do is keep them from ever being born's services

By Parish Howard

It wasn't just one dog that broke Melanie Roberts' heart; it was hundreds of them. She cried for the malnourished, often disease plagued animals she found huddled at rural dumpsters, desperately trying to survive on what garbage they could find.

Like many residents, Roberts took them home when she could and tried to feed them when she could not.

Each and every one tore at her heart, but it was one particular litter that pushed her to do something more.

"I found this dog at the dump," she said and apologized for crying. "She had a broken leg and there was something growing on her ribs, some sort of growth, and she had 11 puppies. She'd gotten too thin to feed them. Still, she was a very kind dog."

Roberts said she looked and looked, but could not find anyone to take the puppies. The animals were suffering and there was very little she could do about it. So, she called a veterinarian friend of hers and they sent someone out to put the dog and its puppies down.

"I wanted to be there when they...when they did it," she said. "It was just so awful. I can't stand to think about it now. It was like having to tell this animal that no one wants you or your babies and since no one cares, you're all going to have to be euthanized. Why? It's not the dog's fault. The thing is, it doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't."

First she went to the county wanting to know what they could do to help.

"They told me it was not an issue they felt they had the funds to support," Roberts said. "So then I started researching it on my own."

For nine months she read all she could about animal shelters and humane societies and came to the conclusion that the best way to cut down on the numbers of strays in a community is by reducing the number of unwanted pets being produced.

In her research she discovered that in six years, one female dog and her offspring can result in 67,000 puppies, while in seven years, one cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens.

"There are lots of animals in our county that are starving," Roberts said. "They look like holocaust victims, skin and bones. It's pitiful."

The organization is not spaying stray animals at this point. They are trying to get to pets they know will be taken care of, but which may be producing litter after litter of puppies or kittens every year.

"We can't save every stray out there," she said. "I'd love it if we could, but it isn't practical. By spaying animals, we can reduce the number of puppies and kittens being produced. We can control the population growth."

In January she contacted a lawyer and began the process of creating a tax exempt organization that could accept donations that would go 100 percent toward this goal.

"Every dime we collect goes directly toward spaying animals, toward the operations," she said. "We are getting a discount from a local veterinarian, but all of the boarding, collars, leashes and everything are provided by volunteers."

She calls the organization Spay and Save.

"Our main priority is to cut down on our pet overpopulation through spaying animals," Roberts said. "The nonprofit (organization) raises funds to perform these operations for people who can't afford to have it done themselves."

Over the last three years she has spayed 12 animals out of her own pocket. Mostly, she said, they have been the pets she found out about through her students.

But she feels the non-profit organization should be able to do so much more.

"Everyone I talk to about the organization seems so excited about it," she said. "I didn't know there were that many people who cared."

So far Spay and Save has raised spayed nine animals.

Roberts and her organization are planning several fundraisers and raffles, and she sees a wealth of possibilities for the program's future goals. Some of these include mange treatments, pet ID tagging and humane treatment education.

"People in the city limits beg for me to address the strays getting into their trash and treating cases of mange which is rampant in certain areas of our community," she said. "Mange scares many people, often causing dogs with mange to be abused. There are several different kinds of mange. Only one kind is transferable to humans. Please let the vet help you treat your pet."

She said she would love to have a program that would aid hunters in tagging their dogs so they could be returned when they get lost.

"People are (also) telling me about the dog fights staged by people in our community," she said. "I want the public to know that the Humane Society of the United States has a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of these people. It is a felony in the State of Georgia."

Still, the program's primary goal is to spay animals and cut down on the numbers of strays roaming our streets and countryside.

"I want people to realize that most of these animals don't have a pretty life after they are dumped," she said. "It seems every week cats and dogs are abandoned there, either to starve, be killed by poison, or traffic or other animals, or if they are lucky (which few are), to be picked up by an occasional passer-by. The vet will euthanize animals for a very small fee. It's hard, but it's better than the life they'll have on their own."

Anyone who believes they may qualify for Spay and Save's assistance is encouraged to contact Roberts at (478) 625-8257.

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