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August 13, 2009 Issue

Williams charged in mother’s murder
Final station cleared of price gouging
Back to School
Deputy catches thieves in the act

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Williams charged in mother’s murder

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writers

A 23-year-old Wadley man has been charged with murder in connection to the death of his mother last week.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office arrested Eddie Williams Jr. Thursday, Aug. 6. His mother, Janice Williams, 52, was found injured at home Tuesday, Aug. 4. Her husband, Eddie Williams Sr., had left the home earlier that day. When he returned home sometime around noon, he found his wife, Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins said last week.

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The sheriff said his office received a telephone call from the woman’s husband at 12:25 p.m.

Eddie Williams Jr. was brought in for questioning and was later released.

Jefferson County EMS Director Carl Wagster said the victim was taken to an Augusta hospital.

“She had some laceration on the head,” Wagster said, adding the victim was unconscious.

“She was critical and we elected to transport her by air due to her injuries,” he said.

The victim died shortly before midnight, according to a spokesman with the JCSO.

On Thursday, Aug. 6, about 5:15 p.m. officers from the JCSO and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Williams without incident at his home on Hudson Road, where he lived with his mother and father.

GBI Special Agent in Charge Gary Nicholson confirmed Monday that the GBI crime lab in Augusta performed an autopsy on the victim.

Nicholson said the cause of death was blunt trauma, adding they believed Williams used a weapon.

“But I can’t go into what kind,” he said.

A spokesman with the JCSO stated in a press release that Mrs. Williams died from massive head trauma and her death had been ruled a homicide.

“Investigators from the JCSO, the GBI and the FBI worked nonstop obtaining evidence leading to the arrest of Eddie Williams Jr. for the crime of murder,” the press release stated.

Williams is currently being held at the Jefferson County Jail.

Judge Lanora Hutchinson, a Jefferson County magistrate, held his first appearance hearing Monday, Aug. 10. She said she told Williams the charges against him, advised him of his rights and told him a superior court judge would have to hold his bond hearing.

During the bond hearing, which is the next step in the process, a superior court judge will either set or deny bond in the case.

“(This) is a very serious, very violent crime,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Hayward Altman.

“The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, particularly (Lt.) Robert Chalker, and the GBI – they did an excellent job on the investigation. We have a special appreciation for the FBI for some technical assistance they could provide us,” he said.

Hutchinson said Monday she told Williams he has the right to an attorney and one would be provided for him if he could not afford one.

“He said he would take a public defender right now,” she said.



Final station cleared of price gouging

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

The last of five gas stations in Jefferson County investigated by the state for price gouging has been cleared, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs said Monday.

Gov. Sonny Perdue declared a state of emergency Sept. 12, 2008. Perdue extended this status for another 30 days beginning Oct. 10, 2008.

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Complaints against stations throughout the state began after the state of emergency was declared. In October, the office had already received between 1,500 and 1,600 complaints, a spokesman said.

Stations under investigation have to answer subpoenas within 30 days of receiving them.

A state of emergency allows stations to continue to earn a profit, but only at the retailers’ current profit margin. Retailers are not supposed to raise the price of gasoline already in the ground at their store once the state of emergency begins.

When the state stopped accepting complaints for price gouging, more than 2,000 complaints had been made, Shawn Conroy said. The office opened 196 investigations because of these complaints.

Conroy, a spokesman with the GOCA, said in January that four of the Jefferson County stations had been found not to have engaged in price gouging.

The last station was still being investigation as of the end of last month.

Owners of stores where price gouging has been found must repay overpayments to consumers and may be assessed a fine.

The GOCA does not release names of stations under investigation. The names are released only if it is determined price gouging has occurred.



Back to School

Jennifer Holley gives son Zackary a kiss on his first day of kindergarten at Wrens Elementary. Corey Hall Sr. adjusts the laces on Jr.’s new shoes outside of his pre-K classroom Monday morning. Zoie Grace Irby gives father Jason one last kiss before starting her first day of pre-K. Paraprofessional Eileen Hutchins dries a few first day tears at Louisville Academy.

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Deputy catches thieves in the act

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Jefferson County Deputy Michael Dallas caught two suspects in the middle of a theft this weekend, after he turned into Young’s Automotive Repair waiting to stop a vehicle on Highway 1 between Louisville and Wrens early Sunday morning.

Around 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 9, Dallas said he pulled into Young’s to turn around, when he saw movement around the automotive shop.

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“I got out of my car with a light and began walking toward the sheds,” Deputy Dallas said Monday. “I shined it on the first shed and there was nothing and then I shined it on the last shed and two men stood up. When my light hit, they knew I was there.”

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Clark Hiebert said that no alarm had gone off and there was no call for authorities at the point when Deputy Dallas happened upon the two alleged thieves.

“It was a coincidence that he was going to stop a car,” Hiebert explained.

Jason Wooten and James Christopher Toler, both 31 and of Hazlehurst, will be charged in the attempted theft of a car port from the repair shop. The two had cut the fence in the back of the business and drove their pickup truck through, where they took one of the shop’s wenches to pull the stakes holding the building beside the road.

“They were attempting to pull the building around the back to disassemble it and take it with them,” Hiebert said. “They had purchased driving sockets and electronic drills from the Wal-Mart in Soperton. Toler admitted everything.”

Hiebert said the pair told Deputy Dallas that the owner of Young’s, Albert Young, had asked them to move the carport near the shop so that he would be able to repair vehicles out of the sun.

“I ordered them to come to the fence,” Dallas stated. “I wanted to get them secure. I leaned over the fence to cuff them. I put a handcuff on one and then the other cuff on one.”

“As he was putting a cuff on Toler, both snatched away and began running to the woods toward the hedgerow,” Hiebert said. “Once in the hedgerow, the two separated at some point.”

Hiebert noted that though Deputy Dallas was able to put a cuff on Toler, it was not tightened before the two ran.

“Toler’s hand was loose in the handcuff and he was able to squeeze his hand together to pull it through,” he said.

Backup was called and a search for the two men commenced. Hiebert said that the Hillcrest Fire Department was contacted for assistance to secure the perimeter around Young’s, as well as a K-9 officer and dog from Richmond County were called to help track the two men.

“The K-9 was a young dog and we were in a very rough area to search with some stuff three to four foot tall,” Hiebert said. “But the dog did pick up a track and we knew he was headed in the right direction because we saw footprints in ant piles from them running and the dew had been knocked off in some areas. Officers had to literally crawl over some of the brush and other stuff to search the area thoroughly.”

Hiebert said that at some point, the K-9 officer believed he heard a phone being dialed. Officers proceeded to check the area, but Wooten was able to escape. Toler had proceeded to run across the field and laid beside a telephone pole near one of the fire trucks, where he waited until the searchwas finished. With the tracking dog tired and the area search turned up no suspects, officers called off the search.

“We think it is possible that they were still in the perimeter while we were searching, because the weeds were so thick and tall in some areas, you could not see over it,” Hiebert explained. “So we backed out and called off the search.”

Law enforcement alerted residents in the area of the potential suspects.

Between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, Hiebert said Deputy William Schmidt was traveling on Highway 1 from Wrens where he passed a white male fitting Toler’s description between Jones Grove Baptist Church and Wasden Realty.

“When he (Schmidt) went around the curve and came back, he (Toler) was gone,” Hiebert said.

Toler had crossed the highway running through the woods to Louisville in an attempt to deter Deputy Schmidt from locating him. Law enforcement met at the Department of Transportation to organize a plan to capture Toler.

“I got in an unmarked car and asked for deputies to stay back,” Hiebert stated. “I was going to try to lure him into the car. Just as I left officers at DOT, Toler was coming off of a porch where he was knocking on the door. I was able to get close enough to apprehend him.”

After interviewing Toler, Hiebert said Toler stated that Wooten had items to store under the building and he was helping him retrieve it.

With one man apprehended, law enforcement worked to capture Wooten later Sunday night through text messaging. Toler’s phone was left in the truck, but Wooten had his phone on him at the time and was able to contact a friend who came to pick him up and took him home.

“We made him think Toler was in the woods behind Ingles,” Hiebert said. “We texted him and he said he would be there at 10:40 p.m. He arrived at 11:04 p.m. and at 11:30 p.m. drove a white step-side pickup behind Ingles to pick Toler up. He spotted the patrol cars and attempted to give chase, but the officers surrounded him and he gave up.”

Hiebert noted that the handcuff was no longer on Wooten’s arm, but he did have several marks and bruising from him removing it.

When searching the truck the two left at Young’s Automotive Repair, a GPS unit was in the window containing locations the pair intended to visit or had visited, including some in the area.

“We are attempting to pursue an investigation on some of that,” Hiebert said.

Both men are currently facing charges that include, but are not limited to criminal trespass, criminal attempt to commit offensive theft by taking and criminal damage to property.




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