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Top Stories
June 23, 2005 Issue

Officers are searching for this man, caught here on a surveillance tape leaving First State Bank just moments after taking an undisclosed amount in cash from a teller.

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Wrens bank robbed

Other Top Stories
Seventy-two plants found in man's garden
SPLOST passes
Newspaper takes home 10 awards

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Wrens bank robbed

Investigators are searching for the 40-50 year-old white male who robbed First State Bank last week

By Ben Roberts
Staff Writer

Wrens' main branch of First State Bank was robbed shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, June 17, when a man calmly entered the bank and handed a teller a note demanding an undisclosed amount of money.

Investigators are still searching for the suspect who is described as a white male, 40 to 50 years of age, somewhere between 5-feet, 5-inches and 5-feet, 9-inches tall and weighing approximately 200 pounds. At the time of the robbery, the man was wearing a white golf shirt, faded blue jeans, a khaki baseball cap and white and black tennis shoes. He is also missing more than one finger on his left hand.


Surveillance film of the robbery shows the man enter the bank through the Center Street entrance where he then appeared to be writing on something at the counter in the lobby's center. After another customer walks away from a teller, leaving the counter empty, the robber walks to the teller's window. The robber waits for about a minute, apparently saying little to the teller, before exiting the bank the same way he entered, apparently holding a brown envelope.

According to investigators, the robber never gave any indication of being armed and no one was harmed during the incident.

First State Bank president, Joe Gore, declined to discuss the bank's policies in dealing with a robbery attempt, but did say the teller handled the situation in the precise manner she should have.

"The teller did everything exactly as it should have been done," he said. "Our number one goal in one of these situations is to protect our people and anyone who is in the bank. The important thing is no one was harmed."

Officers from the Wrens Police Department (WPD) and deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office began a search of the immediate area but found nothing. It is unknown if the suspect parked a vehicle nearby or if he had an accomplice who drove him to and from the bank.

Gore said the bank's main branch, which is located at 300 Broad Street across the street from the WPD, remained closed the remainder of the day, although the drive-in reopened later that afternoon. The bank's U.S. 1 branch was not affected by the robbery and the main branch was back to its regular hours of operation on Saturday.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is currently handling the case, but admitted they had few definite leads so far.

"We're looking at some similarities with other robberies, but at this time we don't have anything concrete," said Gary Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge for the Thomson office.

Anyone with information regarding the robbery can contact the GBI at 706-721-3307 or the WPD at 706-547-3000.

Officers pull marijuana 72 plants found growing in a garden off Hwy. 17 North of Wrens last week. Sheriff Gary Hutchins looks on.

Seventy-two plants found in man's garden

By Parish Howard

Tucked behind the corn, in a neat row in the back of a garden, a stone's throw from Highway 17 North of Wrens, grew 72 marijuana plants, surprisingly healthy if you take the word of their owner who told officers he "just threw out a few seeds."

Officers with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office pulled and confiscated the plants last Wednesday afternoon.


Sheriff Gary Hutchins said that they had received a tip about the plants and upon arriving at the address, could smell the plants from the front yard.

According to a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, the plants, even immature and a little over waist high, have a street value of about $2,000 each.

Daniel C. Brown, 50, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and manufacturing marijuana.

Officers also arrested his neighbor, 24-year-old Larry Mitchell Thigpen for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

"It has been a while since we've had a find quite this big," Sheriff Hutchins said. "There have been a couple of plants here or there, but to have this many you have to have water readily available."

Dry weather over the last few years may have played a part in seeing fewer marijuana crops in the area, the sheriff said. However, with this year's rains, growers would not have to make as many elaborate arrangements for watering their plants.

"Some signs of possible drug activity to a marijuana crop would be suspicious amounts of traffic in a rural area," Hutchins said. "Later this year we will fly over, looking for some of these crops."

SPLOST passes

Voters approve extension of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for county

By Ben Roberts
Staff Writer

Proponents of the one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday evening with the new referendum passing by a vote of 817 to 271.

With its passage, the current one-cent sales tax will continue to be collected after the year's end when the old SPLOST runs out in December.


The new SPLOST is expected to raise $10.5 million over the next five years and will be divided among projects throughout the county in three distinct areas: fire/rescue, parks/recreation and economic development.

Of that $10.5 million, $3.1 million will go towards fire and rescue; $4 million to parks and recreation; and $3.4 million for economic development.

Turnout was not expected to be high for the one-item ballot, and those expectations proved correct with just 10.8 percent of Jefferson County's registered voters going to the polls. Of those 10,032 registered voters, only 1,088 cast a ballot.

Voting in the eight districts was as follows: Stapleton/Crossroads - 41 for, 13 against; Matthews - 28 for, 14 against; Wrens - 215 for, 31 against; Louisville - 206 for, 108 against; Wadley - 83 for, 45 against; Bartow - 67 for, 13 against; Stapleton - 59 for, 15 against; and Avera - 67 for, 10 against.

There were a total of five Absentee ballots with three voting for and two voting against; and 68 early ballots cast with 48 for and 20 against.

Newspaper takes home 10 awards

Special Report

The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter placed in 10 categories of the Georgia Press Association's 2005 Better Newspaper Contest and received plaques at the association's annual banquet held in Ponte Vedra, FL last week.


Among its recognitions were first place awards in Community Service, Lifestyle Coverage, News Photo and Photo Essay; second place awards for Religion Coverage and Spot News Photo; and third place awards for Education Coverage, Photo Illustration and Photo Essay.

The newspaper also took third place overall in General Excellence. For more information, see Page 4A of this week's edition.

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