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Top Stories
November 25, 2004 Issue

A Wadley family is silhouetted against the holiday glow at the cities Christmas tree lighting.



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Celebrate the holiday season with a parade or tree lighting





Other Top Stories
10 arrested in identity theft ring
Teenager killed in accidental shooting

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Celebrate the holiday season with a parade or tree lighting

Events planned for Wadley, Wrens, Gibson, and Louisville over the next three weeks

By Regina Reagan
Apprentice

Although the skies were dark and the rain came down, the City of Wadley held a successful Christmas tree lighting Friday night. The citizens of Wadley, armed with umbrellas in hand, brightened the night with song, dance, worship and the holiday spirit.

Master of Ceremonies for the night was Timothy Bell.

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The evening opened with a prayer by Minister Betty Perez. In the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas, Perez gave thanks to the Lord for the many blessings Wadley has received throughout many years. Among these were the new businesses and restaurants and Carver Elementary.

Councilwoman Edith Pundt welcomed the large crowd that had gathered around the tree. Then the Carver Choir entertained the audience with holiday medleys. They danced and sang and invited the audience to join.

After the choir performed, a poem entitled "Santa's Christmas Prayer" was read by Beth Moore and Miss Wadley Teen was announced by Sallie Adams. Receiving $25 and the distinction of Miss Wadley Teen runner-up was Shalinda Williams. Of the five contestants, Alisha Bell was named Miss Wadley Teen and will receive $50. Both of the teens will ride together in Wadley's parade on Dec. 4.

After Miss Wadley Teen was announced, Nora Paige lit a large candle in honor of the city's late Mayors.

From that candle, every person in the audience lit a single candle each as a memorial list was read aloud by Josephine Johnson and "Silent Night" was sung. The candles lit up the night as the smoke slowly rose to the heavens.

Lastly, closing remarks were made by various city officials and Wadley Mayor Herman Baker illuminated the tall tree.

Family and friends held loved ones close as they stood in awe, and the children raced quickly to the refreshment stand laughing the whole way.

Wadley will continue to celebrate the Christmas season with their parade scheduled for Dec. 4 at 10:30 a.m.

The Wadley Christmas parade has been an ongoing tradition for the last 20 years.

This year the parade will be led off by Honorary Grand Marshall Dr. Dudley Gunn, a previous mayor of Wadley. The parade will be a carnival of lights, sirens, music, decorations, food, fun and plenty of candy with the Wadley Fire and Police Departments, Jefferson County High School Band, Jefferson County ROTC, church floats, booths and vendors, arts and crafts, Santa Claus and more.

Line-up for the parade is 10 a.m.

Anyone interested in entering an entry into the parade should call Wadley City Hall at (478) 252-1116.

The City of Wadley has a program planned afterwards with music, activities for the youth and prizes and gifts.

Wrens

Wrens will celebrate Christmas throughout the entire day of Dec. 4 with the Wrens Better Hometown Downtown Christmas Celebration.

The main attraction, the annual Christmas parade, will start at 2 p.m. with line-up scheduled at 1 p.m. and float judging between 12 p.m. and line-up.

The street will be lined with vendors of all sorts and candy will be thrown off of passing floats to the children below. Ralph McGahee will lead the parade as the Grand Marshall. Wrens, Stapleton, Avera and Matthews fire departments are expected to make a lot of noise along with the Jefferson County High School Band. Santa Claus, of course will be present to greet the children, and Mr. Walter Hannah, organizer of the Wrens parade for the past 15 years, says that there may be a few surprises in store in terms of entries in the parade.

Deadline to sign up an entry in the parade is Nov. 29. Anyone interested should contact Hannah at (706) 547-3000.

Many others will be surprised when their winning tickets are called for one of the over $1000 in cash and giveaway prizes from local merchants. Prize drawings will begin at 12:30 p.m. on the center stage downtown.

Merchants participating include Wrens Laundromat, Wrens Apothecary, Wrens Drugs, Peggy's Restaurant, Wrens Drugs, McDonald's, Wrens Pawn Shop, Ingles, Jones Oil Comp., Jays Hardware and Hadden's IGA.

Tickets can be picked up at any of these participating merchants.

If the parade and cash is not enough to get you in the holiday mood, check out how real Wrens' residents decorate for the holidays inside and out during the Tour of Homes that Wrens Better Hometown is hosting directly following the parade. The Tour of Homes will be from 3:30-5:30 p.m. and include the homes of Dollye Ward, Heather and Tyler Mahaffey and Michael and Donna Scott Johnson. Tickets will be sold up until the day of the event at State Farm, Tapley's Salon, First State Bank, Ricketson Insurance, Designs by Steve, Perfect Touch, Mahaffey & Dube, Wrens Apothecary, Peggy's Restaurant, Wrens Laundromat, Snow White Cleaners, First National Bank, Wrens Drug and Wrens City Hall. Tickets are $3.

For the children, a miniature Christmas Festival will be held following the parade with arts and crafts, kids' rides, food and fun.

After all the excitement has died down the whole city will once again gather together for the city's Christmas Tree Lighting. It will start at 6 p.m. The tree will be set to life in its full brilliance by McGahee while spectators sip on hot chocolate and hum along with their favorite Christmas tunes.

Glascock County

Glascock County will hold its parade simultaneously with Wrens. At 2 p.m. on Dec. 4 Gibson's streets will be filled with the sights and sounds of the Hephzibah High School Band, Glascock County fire trucks, Shriners, U.S. Army Guard Hummers and a PLS truck, the Shade Tree Model A Club cars out of Evans, classic cars presented by the Glascock County Historical Society and entries from Sandersville Technical College, Family Connections and more.

Grand Marshall for the day Renae Kelley, Assistant Superintendent of Glascock County Consolidated School System, will lead off the parade that will start with line-up at 1 p.m. at the school and make its way through downtown Gibson.

D'Ann Simpson with the Chamber of Commerce answered the question that's on every young child's mind.

"Santa Claus will be there," said Simpson. "He has already R.S.V.P.'d."

Anyone interested in becoming a part of the parade is asked to contact the Glascock County Chamber of Commerce at (706) 598-9901. There is no deadline for entries and the invitation is open to everyone; all that is asked is that all entries be a representative of a business or organization.

"We'd love for everyone to come out and be a part of it," said Simpson.

Prior to the parade, Gibson will hold its annual square lighting on Nov. 28 at 7 p.m.

Louisville

Louisville's Christmas parade is scheduled for Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. Louisville Mayor Byron Burt will be lead off the parade in the Grand Marshall position and following him will be various floats, old cars and other entries. The Jefferson County High School Band will lull the crowd with their light-hearted Christmas melodies and the fire trucks are guaranteed to wake everyone in the crowd up with their loud sirens.

The National Guard is expected to have an entry along with the Forestry Commission and Sandersville Technical College. Trotting along with the parade will be a band of horses and cruising along will be old classic cars.

There will be ample candy and goodies sold by street vendors. Spaces are available downtown, but limited, for booths for anyone interested. Contact Reggie Morgan at the Forestry Department at (478) 625-3319 for more information.

For the children there will be arts and crafts and pictures with the jolly old man in the red suit.

Vendors and downtown activity will start at 8 a.m. and will end when the crowd disperses.

Line-up for the parade is at 12 p.m. at Louisville Academy and float judging will take place at 12:15 p.m. WPEH will announce the winners as the floats pass through downtown.

Morgan would like to thank the local merchants for their continued support of the Christmas parade.

"They always come together and do such a great job," he said.





10 arrested in identity theft ring

Jefferson Energy employees were targeted

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A four-month investigation relating to the personal identity fraud of a number of Wrens-based Jefferson Energy Cooperative employees resulted in the arrest of a former Georgia Dept. of Labor (DOL) employee and nine other Atlanta residents involved in the thefts.

Charged with 12 counts of identity fraud was former DOL employee Kerri Jordan, 23, said a spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. Also charged were Letisha Porter, 24, charged with five counts of identity fraud; Taminica Porter, 31, charged with four counts; Ashoci Campbell, 20, charged with one count; Conchateau White, 34, charged with one count; Terri Jo Jordan aka Terri Jo Thomas, 44, charged with one count; Yamasheta McMillan 21, charged with one count; Natasha Nicole Wilkes aka Kiesha N. Wilkes, 26, charged with one count; Josephine White, 55, charged with one count; and Shalithia Ruffin, 25, charged with one count, investigators said.

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The investigation was initiated on Aug. 2 after authorities were informed that the names and social security numbers of at least one-dozen current and former employees of Jefferson Energy Cooperative had been fraudulently obtained by former DOL employee Kerri Jordan. Investigators said Jefferson Energy employees personal information was used to illegally establish at least two-dozen telephone accounts through telephone service providers in the metro Atlanta area. All the telephone accounts were established at rental housing units by using identifying data of Jefferson Energy employees, investigators said.

"Most of the phone accounts totaled over $1,000 each before being disconnected. Several months after the telephones were disconnected for non-payment, the victims of the thefts were contacted by collection agencies attempting to collect the unpaid balances," the sheriff's spokesman said. "At that point, the victims realized that someone other than themselves had been using their identities for fraudulent purposes. After several employees began to hear about each other's dilemmas it became apparent that there was a pattern involving Jefferson Energy Cooperative."

The months-long investigation required obtaining accurate phone records from the numerous phone companies involved, along with providing the appropriate paperwork required by phone companies to release the records, investigators said. Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Gene Staulcup & Associates and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation participated in the investigation.

The investigations revealed that while an employee of Georgia DOL in 2002, Kerri Jordan had made a copy of a quarterly payroll tax report sent by Jefferson Energy listing the names, social security numbers and salaries of more than 100 company employees. Investigators said it is currently unknown whether Jordan made copies of other reports sent in by other companies in Georgia.

After leaving DOL, Jordan sold and/or gave the stolen information to friends and relatives who, in turn, used Jefferson Energy employee's confidential information to establish telephone accounts at their homes, investigators said. Aside from Kerri Jordan, who was arrested earlier, the remaining nine individuals were arrested in Atlanta on Nov. 17.

Sheriff's investigators said additional arrests are likely if other Jefferson Energy employees are contacted by phone companies or collection agencies attempting to collect unpaid balances. All current and former Jefferson Energy employees were advised to obtain a copy of their credit report every six months for the next five years to determine if any irregularities exist.

Jefferson Energy CEO Kenneth Cook mirrored investigators concern for his staff, citing the potential for additional fraudulent charges. Cook said the company still has a concern about other individuals that may have obtained personal information on Jefferson Energy employees. The company, he said, will continue to keep employees informed of any identity theft situations if they arise and will assist those who are victimized.

Cook added that the joint effort of the agencies involved in the investigation led to the arrest last week of those known to be involved in the thefts.

"Jefferson Energy Cooperative is pleased that the cause of the identity thefts has been determined and those involved arrested," he said. "I appreciate the efforts of private investigator Gene Staulcup, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Their teamwork and tenacity expedited the investigation and brought some closure to the matter."





Teenager killed in accidental shooting

Funeral services were scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Jefferson County High School's gymnasium

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A tragic accident late Saturday afternoon claimed the life of 16 year-old Jefferson County High School junior Jeffrey Mark Purvis.

The incident occurred at 4:35 p.m. at the home of a friend on US Highway 1 north of Warrior Trail. The county 911 Center received a call that someone at the residence had been shot.

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Though the details of the incident are not known at this time, Purvis and two friends had apparently returned from hunting and had been at the friend's home when the incident occurred.

First responders, deputies, investigators and Rural Metro Ambulance personnel arrived at the scene within minutes. EMTs worked to attend to the single gunshot wound to the upper right side of Purvis' chest.

Sheriff's investigators said he was transported by EMS personnel to Jefferson Hospital's emergency room where he passed away at 5:50 p.m. Investigators from the sheriff's office and GBI said they are questioning witnesses to determine the circumstances surrounding his death. An autopsy was performed Monday.

Funeral services were scheduled for Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. in the high school gym. Purvis was son of Marty Purvis and Susan Buckner.

JCHS Principal Molly Howard said Mark was "a wonderful young man, one of great honesty and integrity and a major force in the school's ROTC program."

Supervisor of the ROTC program, Commander Charles Lewis spoke of the many unit functions and challenge areas where Mark had participated and succeeded during the past three years. A Cadet Ensign in the program, Mark was team captain of several teams, including the color guard, orienteering team, the shooting team and others and had attended a number of leadership and training exercises, he said.

Lewis said Mark embodied so many of the characteristics that make a leader, a patriot and a friend.

"Mark was very active, very patriotic and a really good kid," Lewis said. "He will be missed by this unit and by so many friends."

There are those occasions in life where no words are adequate. And there are seldom times where mere words can define a life. Yet Susan Buckner, fighting back tears Monday afternoon, said in only a handful of words what every parent, every friend who has ever lost a loved one, instantly recognizes deep inside their own heart.

"He will be so missed," she said through tears that tear at the soul. "He was a good boy."


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