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Top Stories
January 25, 2007 Issue

Alleged shooter sought
Rita Culvern will take over as Louisville's new mayor
Louisville Villas catches fire

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Alleged shooter sought

• Officers are looking for Jerry Gene Kemp Jr., 28, in connection to the shooting of a Wrens man last weekend

By Parish Howard

As of Tuesday, Wrens Police Officers and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office were still looking for a convicted felon that witnesses say shot a Wrens man Saturday afternoon.

"This is an on-going investigation and we still don't have all of the details," said Wrens Police Chief David Hannah.


"We still aren't sure about the motive for the shooting. The victim was going into surgery the last time I spoke with him, but I believe he is doing OK now and we plan to get more of his side of what happened later today or tomorrow."

According to Chief Hannah, witnesses claimed that Jerry Gene Kemp Jr., 28, and Henry Lewis Smith, 28, both of Wrens, were in some sort of argument at the home of Smith's brother in the 300 block of Highway 102 around 3:45 p.m. Saturday.

"I believe they were arguing through the back screened door," Chief Hannah said. "According to witnesses, when Smith saw Kemp pull a weapon he slammed the door.

Kemp then allegedly fired through the door, hitting Smith somewhere in the abdomen."

According to the Sheriff's Office, Smith was transported by ambulance to the Medical College of Georgia Trauma Center where he was listed in stable condition.

There is the possibility that Kemp could still be in the area, Hannah said. Law enforcement considers him armed, the chief added.

Kemp is wanted on charges of aggravated assault, possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Investigators are asking anyone with any information on his whereabouts to contact Chief Hannah at (706) 547-3000 or the Sheriff's Office at (478) 625-7538 or their local law enforcement agency.

Rita Culvern will take over as Louisville's new mayor

• Interim Mayor Ricky Sapp and Rita Culvern both qualify, Sapp withdraws from race

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Two candidates qualified last week to run for Louisville’s mayor seat. Jefferson Hospital Administrator Rita Culvern and Louisville’s Interim Mayor Ricky Sapp both qualified by deadline on Thursday to run for the elected office.

On Monday, Sapp withdrew his candidacy to run for mayor.


Culvern will now be the city of Louisville’s new mayor. Not only is it a major stepping stone for Culvern, but also for the city, since she will be the first woman mayor in the city’s history.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Culvern said Tuesday. “I have served the people of Jefferson County working with the hospital for 35 years and being the hospital administrator for 15 years. This is another opportunity to serve the community that I love and I am really looking forward to it.

“I understand that there are a lot of exciting plans in place for the growth of Louisville and I want to be a part of that.”

Culvern said the anticipated date for her retirement at Jefferson Hospital will be April 30. Culvern has made Jefferson Hospital one of the few rural hospitals that operate in the black each year and has implemented many programs including a partnership with the Medical College of Georgia to serve the needs of people in Jefferson County.

Sapp had served as the interim mayor for the past four months.

Before serving in that capacity, Sapp served on the Louisville City Council for 15 years.

Sapp’s seat on the council was left vacant after he had to give it up to run for mayor. Sapp said that the qualifying for the council seat will be held next week and the election for the seat will also be held on March 20, the same day as the mayor’s race would have been held.

“I qualified to run for mayor in order to make sure we had a qualified candidate on the ballot,” Sapp said.

“Mrs. Culvern is qualified and has the time and experience to do a good job as mayor. I have all the faith that Mrs. Culvern will be a mayor we can all be proud of.”

In an interview Monday, after qualifications results were announced, Sapp cited Culvern’s interest in the seat and his family as reasons he withdrew.

“I have a young family and I also have many other commitments,” Sapp said. “Time would be an issue for me. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice time with my kids while they are growing up.”

Sapp said he hopes that Culvern and other council members will be able to continue to have a dedicated and united council.

Culvern will be the first mayor to reside over the city after the death of Byron Burt. Burt served as mayor in Louisville for several years, before succumbing to what doctors believed was a heart attack last year.

Louisville City Administrator Don Rhodes said since Sapp has withdrawn from the mayoral race, there is no opposition and no need for a special election March 20 between him and Culvern.

However the election for Sapp's vacated council seat will be held depending on who qualifies for that at-large seat next week. Rhodes said that qualifying will be held Monday beginning at 8:30 a.m. until Wednesday ending at 4:30 p.m.

Both the city council term and the mayor’s term will begin the day after the election is held, Rhodes said. If there is a need for the special election, Rhodes said voting will be held at city hall.

The mayor’s seat and the council’s seat will not come up in the election again until 2009.

Louisville Villas catches fire

• Eight apartments damaged

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Some Louisville residents were left out in the cold after their homes went up in smoke in an early morning fire that sent three to the emergency room.

One of the Louisville Villas’ apartment buildings, owned by W.T. Lamb Investments, was heavily damaged early Tuesday after a fire broke out in Building C.


The Louisville Assistant Fire Chief Chester Johnson said all of the eight apartments in the complex were heavily damaged, more so on the top floor than on the bottom.

According to the report filed by the Louisville Fire Department, 911 received a call from Mildred Washington around 1:55 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, that the Building C of the Louisville Villas was engulfed in flames.

When members of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department arrived, some residents were still inside the building. According to the Louisville Fire Department, deputies assisted in the rescue of the residents who remained inside by exiting either the main entrance or breaking windows to get them to safety.

Johnson said that the Louisville Fire Department arrived on the scene at 2 a.m. and had the fire under control around 2:30 a.m.

Three residents were taken to Jefferson Hospital, two because of smoke inhalation and one had a puncture wound to the foot from stepping on a nail, Johnson said. As of press time, it was unclear which residents had to be transported to Jefferson Hospital.

Those assisting Louisville Fire Department included Louisville Officers Matt Sadoon and John Manning, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputies Chip Evans, Tim Moore and Gary McCord and the Hillcrest Fire Department.

Of the eight apartments in the building, only seven were being occupied at the time. Those leasing apartments at the time are Dianna Stone, Gladis Bostic, Shirley Whitfield, Avis Robinson, Sarah Lindner, Janice Farmer and Tony Stone.

Johnson said the fire is still under investigation by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and the Georgia Insurance and Fire Commissioner Arson Investigation Office.

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