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July 9, 2009 Issue

Man captured after search
Soda pop bandit busted
Celebrating the Fourth...
Man shoots friend then self

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Man captured after search

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Police arrested two men last week after both attempted to cash what authorities say are counterfeit checks at a Jet Store at 201 Thomson Highway in Wrens about 4 p.m. Thursday.

One man, identified as Marcos T. Johnson III, 30, from Decatur was arrested at the scene by the Wrens Police Department and charged with one count of forgery in the first degree, which is a felony.

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The second man fled the scene and was the subject of a three-hour search from area law enforcement agencies, including a K-9 team and a helicopter.

Lt. David Leonard, an investigator with the Wrens Police Department, said police gave a brief foot pursuit and then got into cars to follow the suspect.

“We enlisted assistance from the Columbia County K-9 tracking unit and Georgia State Patrol aviation unit,” he said.

Leonard besides those officers, deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and an officer from the Stapleton Police Department also assisted Wrens in the search.

The investigator said no money was lost because neither check was cashed.

Each man presented a separate check in excess of $470, Leonard said. The checks were presented as payroll checks from Central Steel Building Systems on Clarks Mill Road in Louisville.

“It is a legitimate company, but the checks are not,” Leonard said. “The checks are counterfeit.”

Leonard said the police department received a phone call from the store’s manager about the checks.

The manager, Michael Gordon, said what made him suspicious was how the checks looked.

“The checks seemed to be duplicated. Faded,” Gordon said. “They were not plain checks.”

Gordon said one of the two men talked for them both.

“When I told him I didn’t have enough money to cash the checks, he asked for half in cash and half in a money order,” Gordon said.

“These are young guys. They’re not going to want money orders. They want cash in their pockets. With the holiday, it’s going to be hard to cash a money order,” he said.

WPD Chief David Hannah said about 7:30 p.m., 30 minutes after the search was suspended, he went back to the area.

“I rode up around the elementary school and came back out, rode by the housing projects on Highway 17. I saw the subject on his cell phone. He saw me. He turned his head. I went to the Jet store where everything took place and parked,” Hannah said.

About that time, Hannah got a call from dispatch notifying him that one of the neighbors on Cemetery Street had found a shirt hanging outside on the water faucet.

“It was the shirt that the suspect had taken off when he fled. I recognized the guy already from looking at the video from inside the store. When he passed me, I already knew what he looked like,” Hannah said.

The chief said he called one of his part-time officers, Tracy Neal, who met the chief at the store.

“We got in his unmarked car. By that time, the suspect had crossed the street. Also I had a phone call from some concerned citizens in the neighborhood who were directing me to his location. He had gone over and sat at one of the porches in the area and taken off his shoes. Made himself at home. Myself and Officer Neal stepped out and placed him under arrest at that time without incident. He couldn’t run that time. We had him right where we wanted him,” Hannah said.

Leonard identified the second man as Travis D. Roberson, 25, from Decatur. WPD has charged him with forgery in the first degree.

“Travis Roberson was also charged with forgery in the first degree on another check drawn against another company, which apparently is bogus,” Leonard said.

“It was passed on about the 8th day of June at the Hadden’s IGA in Wrens with another fellow who has not been positively identified,” he said.

Several cases of counterfeit checks have also occurred in nearby Louisville in recent months.

Lt. Teddy Jackson, an investigator with the Louisville Police Department, said Tuesday that LPD has two checks that were cashed at Ingles on Tuesday, June 9.

He said those checks are tied to the same group of people as those involved in the incident in Wrens last week.

“Everybody should be leery about taking checks from companies they don’t know,” Jackson said.

“They should be real leery of taking payroll checks on companies they’ve never taken from in the past or taking checks from people they don’t know,” he said, adding that usually the identification used by the people trying to cash the checks are out of town IDs.

“I want to thank everybody who came out and helped, everybody who participated with us,” Hannah said.



Soda pop bandit busted

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A man referred to as “the soda pop bandit,” was arrested last month on a burglary charge and a probation violation.

He has subsequently been charged with numerous misdemeanors for breaking into Pepsi and Coke machines and taking the change, investigators said.

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Daniel Kevin Wilcher, 22, of Wrens was still in jail from his arrest Tuesday, June 9, by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office on the burglary and probation charges when investigators with JCSO and Wrens Police Department filed the other charges.

Friday, an investigator with the JCSO filed three counts of theft by taking and five counts of criminal damage to property against Wilcher.

WPD obtained warrants Tuesday morning and were expected to file 13 counts of criminal damage and 12 counts of theft by taking against Wilcher later this week.

Wilcher is also suspected in similar cases in McDuffie, Warren, Wilkes, Columbia, Richmond and Burke counties, Lt. Robert Chalker, an investigator with the JCSO, said Monday.

“That we’re aware of, there are probably as many as 70 incidents,” he said, adding several of the machines were broken into more than once. Each time and each machine is considered one incident, he said.

The burglary charge stems from an incident that occurred in April.

“He broke in and stole a garden tiller out of a locked building in Wrens,” he said. The building was just outside the city limits and therefore in the county’s jurisdiction, Chalker said.

“That tiller was recovered,” he said. The stated value of the tiller was $460, Chalker said.

The investigator said the burglary is a felony.

Because Wilcher was on active probation when he was arrested on the burglary charge, he was in violation of his probation, Chalker said.

“Each (soft drink) machine is an incident and each incident will involve a criminal damage to property and a theft by taking charge, except for one in Wrens where he hit the machine and there was no money in the machine,” said David Leonard, an investigator with WPD.

Leonard said WPD is charging Wilcher with 13 counts of criminal damage and 12 counts of theft by taking.

“Between Wrens and Jefferson County, there would probably be about 35 warrants all together,” Leonard said.

“They are all misdemeanors,” he said.

Leonard said the machines were damaged and cash was taken.

“Each machine may have had between $15 and $150, depending on how active that machine was,” he said.

Chalker said the incidents date back to February.

The Coca-Cola Bottling Company has spent more than $20,000 in repairs, travel expenses and man hours because of the damage to the machines, Chalker said.



Celebrating the Fourth...

  

The Louisville Lions Club held its 19th Annual Fourth of July Celebration Saturday with a fireworks show and live entertainment by local bands.

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Man shoots friend then self

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Charles Heggs, 52, of Wadley has been charged by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department with aggravated assault in a shooting incident that occurred last weekend.

Lt. Robert Chalker, an investigator with JCSO, said deputies and ambulance personnel responded to a call about a shooting on E. A. Goodson Road near Wadley about 6 p.m. Saturday, July 4.

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Upon their arrival, they discovered Heggs with a gunshot wound to his lower right leg, Chalker stated in a press release.

Deputies were told another man suffering from a gunshot wound had already left the scene with a friend heading to Jefferson Hospital in Louisville.

Heggs was transported by ambulance to Jefferson Hospital, Chalker said.

“Deputies recovered a revolver in the yard of the residence,” he said.

Chalker said investigators went to the hospital to interview the other man who had been shot. He had a gunshot wound to his neck, Chalker said.

“According to statements, Heggs exited his home and yelled for people to leave before firing several shots,” he said.

One shot struck the subject in the neck and a second shot struck Heggs in his leg. No one else was injured, Chalker said.

“Heggs was treated and released from Jefferson Hospital before being transported to the Jefferson County Jail where he will be charged with aggravated assault,” Chalker said, adding the other man was transported by helicopter to the Medical College of Georgia in stable but serious condition.

“Both men had been drinking and were under the influence of narcotics,” Chalker said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting the JCSO in the investigation.




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