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December 2, 2004 Issue

Officers are still identifying the owners of a hoard of stolen property recently recovered in connection to a seven-county string of thefts allegedly perpetrated by at least two local men.

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Two arrested in seven-county theft ring involving Louisville man

Other Top Stories
New sheriff elected in Glascock
Teenager charged in shooting

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Two arrested in seven-county theft ring involving Louisville man

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Two arrests have been made by Jefferson County Sheriff's investigators along with the recovery of a nearly endless quantity of items valued at $80,000-$100,000 from thefts that have occurred since March in Jefferson and surrounding counties.

Thirty year-old Louisville resident Fabian Terry was charged with burglary and is facing numerous pending charges, according to a spokesman for the sheriff's office. Also charged with burglary and theft by taking a motor vehicle, along with numerous pending charges, was 39 year-old Warthen resident Melton Lawrence, investigators said.


Though they usually worked independently of each other, Terry and Lawrence would sometimes team up for the thefts, investigators said.

Items stolen by the two over the past few months came from Jefferson, Emanuel, Washington, Burke, Jenkins, Jones and Baldwin counties. The items stolen by Terry were hidden mainly in Jefferson County while those stolen by Lawrence were usually hidden in Emanuel County.

Terry had been recently released from Jefferson County Correctional Institute (JCCI) where he had served three years for a Talbot County conviction for theft by taking. During his time at JCCI, Terry operated a road grader for the county Roads Department and at the landfill on Mennonite Church Road. Terry and Lawrence apparently met after Terry's release. Both men were employed at the Sandersville office of Atlanta-based Shepherd Construction Company and had done work for the company in Jefferson, Burke, Jenkins and Richmond counties, investigators said.

The investigation began after Jefferson County Sheriff's Office received a tip that Terry was attempting to sell diesel fuel at a reduced price. When they arrived at Terry's Gough Road residence, they found a large quantity of stolen items scattered around the yard. Some of the items had been reported stolen months earlier.

Among the items recovered were a 500-gallon storage tank, a 550-gallon storage tank with an electric pump and a 1,000-gallon storage tank that had been buried.

Also seized in locations around the yard and inside a shed were welding equipment, lumber, a 750-gallon tank, dozens of sections of new hydraulic hose valued at $2,500 and other items.

Once stolen together or separately, the two men would often hide the merchandise in wooded areas.

The list of stolen items recovered thus far is voluminous. They include large diesel storage tanks, several flatbed and enclosed trailers, one track hoe, a fishing boat and outboard motor, CB radios, chainsaws, car stereos, hydraulic jacks, generators, numerous power and hand tools, four-wheelers and riding lawnmowers, welding equipment and tanks, barbeque grills, small propane tanks, ladders, wheelbarrows, wet/dry vacuums, heavy duty extension cords, 12-volt batteries, tires, gardening tools, hydraulic hose and lumber. Also stolen and partially recovered were approximately 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel stolen from Jefferson County landfill, construction companies and logging operations.

Along with items recovered from Jefferson and surrounding counties, investigators said they recovered numerous items from Shepherd's local supervisor.

Investigators said at least $30,000-50,000 in additional items is known to be missing, including numerous trailers, hand tools valued at $20,000, a large pressure washer along with numerous four-wheelers and riding lawnmowers. Along with recovery of the remaining stolen merchandise, the objective now is to return the stolen property to the owners, investigators said.

Those individuals who have received the stolen items will not be charged with theft by receiving only if they voluntarily contact Jefferson County investigators and turn in the items, the spokesman said.

The investigation into these and other burglaries is ongoing and additional charges are pending.

Anyone with information pertaining to the thefts is asked to contact Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at (478) 625-7538.

New sheriff elected in Glascock

Dean Couch wins sheriff's race 627 votes to incumbent Bryan Bopp's 509 votes

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

What began in the primary election in July and continued in the November general election ended in the Nov. 23 runoff election for Glascock County Sheriff with Dean Couch defeating incumbent Bryan Bopp.

A total of 1,161 out of 1,552 voters, nearly 75 percent of those registered, turned out for the runoff contest. The tally showed Couch with 627 votes, or 55.19 percent, while Bopp secured 509 votes, or 44.81 percent.


Gibson precinct voters gave Couch 152 votes (51.35 percent) of the votes compared to 144 (48.65 percent) for Bopp. The Edgehill precinct went largely for Couch, with the challenger securing 53 votes (71.62 percent) compared to Bopp's 21 votes (28.38 percent). The results were opposite in the Mitchell precinct, where Bopp took 106 votes (54.64 percent) and Couch received 88 (45.36 percent). In the Mill precinct, Couch received 153 votes (57.09 percent) while Bopp got 115 votes (42.91 percent). Couch also took the majority of absentee votes, receiving 181 (59.54 percent) compared to 123 votes (40.46 percent) for Bopp.

Couch is a 17-year veteran officer, working both with the Louisville and Gibson police. Reflecting on the outcome of the election and his upcoming responsibilities, Couch said Sunday that law enforcement must continue to meet the ever-changing challenges presented by an increasingly mobile population, even in a rural area like Glascock. Those changes, such as more land being freed up for sale and more people moving into the county, can bring in the bad with the good, including an increase in illegal activities.

"The voters of the county put their confidence in me and I intend to fulfill my campaign promises," said Couch. "I intend to work with everyone by being visible, keeping communications open and letting the citizens know that I have a personal interest in their welfare. I feel I was elected to give it my best shot to do the best I can do, and that's exactly what I'm going to do."

Contacted Monday, Bopp expressed appreciation to his supporters, saying he felt privileged to have served the county in a law enforcement capacity for 16 years.

"I did not start out as a politician, only as a compassionate lawman. And today, I'm still not a politician," he said. "I've spent about half my life in law enforcement. The election results kind of made me ask myself if I had wasted that part of my life. But when I thought about it, I knew I wouldn't have done anything different."

Teenager charged in shooting

Officers say 15-year-old boy pointed gun at Purvis and pulled the trigger in an attempt to scare him

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Fifteen year-old Avera resident Alex Justin Waller was charged with felony involuntary manslaughter Monday night in the Nov. 20 shooting death of 16 year-old Stapleton resident Jeffrey Mark Purvis. Currently being held at the Sandersville Youth Detention Center and charged as a juvenile, Waller is also charged with misdemeanor pointing a gun at another, according to a spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

The incident occurred Nov. 20 at 4:30 p.m. when Purvis, 17 year-old Nathan Norton and Waller were at Norton's home on US Highway 1. The three Jefferson County High School students had returned to the residence from target shooting and were inside when Purvis was shot.


Investigators said Waller allegedly pointed the .223 caliber rifle at Purvis, attempting to play a joke on him. Waller apparently did not know that the rifle was loaded and pulled the trigger attempting to frighten Purvis, investigators said. The circumstances determined by investigators varied from the accounting provided at the scene on Nov. 20, when the many friends and families of the three that rushed to the residence were told that the rifle had fallen to the floor and discharged as Purvis and Waller were exchanging the weapon.

On Nov. 20, first responders, deputies, investigators and paramedics arrived at the residence within minutes of the call to 911. EMTs soon transported Purvis to Jefferson Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5:30 p.m.

Funeral services were held Nov. 24 in the Jefferson County High School gym.

All three students participated in the high school's ROTC program. Tuesday was the occasion for the unit's annual inspection and formal ceremony. At that ceremony only Norton was present. Waller was in custody. Purvis was dead.

The incident Nov. 20 that took the life of Mark Purvis sent shock waves through the high school and across Jefferson County.

"This was a tragic incident that has altered the lives of some very fine young men and their families forever," Principal Molly Howard said Tuesday. "I hope that the incident can be used as an educational tool for other young people to help them understand the safety and responsibility that goes along with handling weapons, especially during this hunting season which is such a large part of our local culture and recreation."

Mark's mother, Susan Buckner, expressed her appreciation Tuesday for the wealth of help and support shown to her family since the death of her son. She spoke of recent deaths of others close to her and how Mark's untimely death is affecting her.

"It just breaks my heart, from thinking it was one thing and finding out now it's another," Susan said, her obvious strength being tested in the grip of personal tragedy. "I just don't know if my heart can break anymore than it already has."

Editor's Note: Although the law does not bar the use of juveniles' names, The News and Farmer prefers not to use them unless, as in this case, it involves a serious crime and the public interest is served by identifying the juvenile involved.

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