Officers looking for store burglar
By Carol McLeod
Three stores in Wrens were broken into Friday, Oct. 15, around 3 a.m., police said this week.
David Leonard, an investigator with the Wrens Police Department, said in an interview Tuesday, Oct. 19, all burglaries were on South Main Street and all are presumed to have occurred in the same time frame.
“We do believe that more than one person is involved in this; although, we do believe only one person entered the buildings,” Leonard said.
“While I was at the Jet, the police department received two other calls when two other businesses were opening up. Those businesses are The Tire Town, which used to be Wrens Tire Service Center; and Reese Chevron Service Station. We think they were all done at approximately the same time by the same individuals. I don’t know which was first, second or third,” he said.
The cash register drawers were taken at the time of the burglaries, with whatever change was inside the drawers, the investigator said.
Leonard said a door at each of the buildings was damaged. He estimated the damage to be more than $500 at each business.
“We are being assisted by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office,” Leonard said.
“A reward is offered for any information that would assist in the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. Confidentiality is assured,” he said.
Anyone with information about these burglaries can call the Wrens Police Department at 706-547-3000 and ask for Chief David Hannah or Investigator David Leonard or contact the JCSO at 478-625-7538 and ask for Lt. Robert Chalker or Sgt. Barrow Walden, Leonard said.
Bullets enter home
By Faye Ellison
“She will shoot back if she had the chance,” Phil Hancock said.
“Us old women have got to take care of ourselves,” Phil’s mother laughed.
While she might have jovially said that, she does have a pistol and what she faces is no laughing matter. At night she has trouble getting to sleep, wondering if tonight someone will shoot her house again. But taking up arms to protect themselves is what many Jefferson County residents have done in the past, and what his mother said she will do to continue to feel safe.
Since December 2008, Nell Hancock has had bullets enter her Highway 17 home twice, the first time with a rifle, and the second time with what is believed to be is a shotgun.
The first shot came through the right side of Nell’s home, through several walls and over the bed she slept in. Her son found it days later, when he came to her home.
“The first time the game warden came out here, we could see where the bullet clipped the trees,” Phil said.
The second time the bullet came through the left front of the house shattering a small wooden bench and stopping embedded in a chest of drawers in a spare bedroom.
“We wonder if this time it was done deliberately,” Phil questioned. “This is the second time in two years. It is not something that has happened all the time in the past.”
Nell said she believes the second shot came through her home on Saturday, Oct. 9.
“This time it came from the highway,” Phil explained, showing that her house faces Highway 17.
“I heard something fall,” Nell explained of the Oct. 9 incident. “I thought one of the cats had knocked over something.”
Nell said she later found the bullet lodged in the chest of drawers, which is where it still sits. She and her son are scared to remove it, in case law enforcement needs the bullet for evidence.
Nell and her son, Phil, have a suspicion that the shooting may be caused by hunters or people attempting to shoot a deer at night while in the roadway.
“There is a lot of shooting that goes on around here,” Phil said. “We do have a lot of hunters around here.”
Phil said his mother has a hunting club that hunts on her Highway 17 property. After contacting the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office the first time, the first bullet was removed and Game Warden Grant Matherly was contacted. The second time, Nell said she called Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins, who also contacted Matherly again.
“The Game Warden came out here the first time and walked up the road into the fields,” Phil said. “The first shot was up more, this time it hit at a little more than six feet.”
Game Warden Matherly explained that hunters are not supposed to hunt from the road at anytime.
“They have to be at least 50 yards off the road to be legal,” he said. “This is an ongoing problem in that area, but also all over the county. It is not just that one area. We get calls for improper hunting all over the state. They are not necessarily shooting in houses, but hunters are riding roads at night looking for deer or pigs to try and shoot them out of their vehicle.”
Depending on the animal and time of year, some nocturnal animals are allowed to be hunted after dark.
“We get out and work these complaints,” Matherly said, who cover five counties total. “We actively work every complaint that we get like that. I haven’t looked at the new one; but they have had complaints out there for several years now. There is only one game warden in most counties. This is the case that I am actively working, but until we catch somebody, we have no way to match it up to a gun. It is hard to pin it on somebody, unless you can catch them doing it.”
Matherly said hunters can face multiple charges from discharging a firearm on a public roadway, hunting on a public roadway, hunting at night or hunting deer from a public roadway.
“They would be taken to jail,” he explained. “But the judge sets the fines. They could face a year in jail and lose their hunting license, but it is all up to the judge.”
Matherly said those wanting to make a complaint, may call 911 and request to speak to a DNR agent in the area.
“They get in touch with us and we contact them back as quickly as possible,” he said.
Phil said after the first incident, he went to a Department of Natural Resources meeting in Savannah where he proposed a law to be made making it a felony to discharge a firearm from a roadway.
“They said that maybe the hunters could lose their license after the second or third time,” Phil sighed. “But it only takes one time to hit someone and kill them.”
Nell has lived in her home since 1934.
“I have never had nobody to bother me,” she said. “It makes you feel like you don’t know whether to go outside or to even get in your car. At night, I am scared to go to sleep.”
“You can’t let everybody go hunting,” Phil added.
“They think cause I’m an old woman, I will turn it over and let them do what they want,” Nell said.
But assuredly, she said as long as she is breathing whoever is causing her harm will not have the run of her property.
Program helps prisoners get GEDs
By Carol McLeod
Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins and Jefferson County Correctional Institution Warden William Evans attended a ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 8, that is close to the hearts of both men.
On that day, two young men received their GEDs.
A program provided by Sandersville Technical College allows men in the county jail or in the prison to attend classes to help prepare them to take the test for their GED.
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Kenneth Foy, 22, and Clifton Outler, 21, had been taking classes for months before being ready to take their exams.
Foy, who is from Sylvania, is currently serving time in prison and wants to be an auto mechanic when he completes his sentence.
“An officer told me about (the program) and I thought it could help me,” he said. “It couldn’t hurt me.”
Foy said he was a sophomore when he left high school.
“Back then, I didn’t see a reason for it,” he said of school. He spent about six or seven months in the GED classes, he said.
“I want to thank everybody,” he said, smiling.
Clifton Outler, 21, is from Wadley and said he had been taking the GED classes for seven months. He is serving time in the county jail and said he had been in the ninth grade when he dropped out.
“When I went to alternative school, it was the teacher giving me a hard time,” he said, adding he’s proud of himself for getting his GED and that it was worth the work.
“Thankful that I’ve accomplished something since I’ve been incarcerated,” he said.
Elizabeth Brown, Outler’s mother, attended the ceremony and said she’s proud of her son.
“I’m glad he enrolled in this class. I’m just glad they have this program to help young people,” she said, adding it keeps them thinking of positive things.
Sebern Brown, Outler’s 17-year-old brother, also attended the event.
He is a junior at Jefferson County High School and said his favorite class is carpentry.
“I’m just proud of him,” he said.
Besides presenting the young men with their GEDs in a ceremony, the sheriff also holds a reception with a cake.
Hutchins said he started offering inmates at the jail the chance to earn their GEDs in 2004, holding a reception to show them how important it is.
“I was running for office and it was something I wanted to do,” he said, adding he told the citizens he would have the program if he won.
“I just wanted to give a person a chance,” Hutchins said.
Getting a GED helps a person get a job, he said. He also works with those inmates who want to further their education at Sandersville Technical College. Hutchins is on the school’s board of directors.
“It’s a two-part thing,” Hutchins said. “It helps the person and helps the community.”
The sheriff said he knows it can be difficult for a person to rise above difficult circumstances.
“If you’re pushed down and pushed down, you’re going to stay down,” he said. “Life has so much to offer.”
The JCCI warden said he’s been at the prison for 12 years and the program was already in place.
“These are state inmates,” Evans said of the men at JCCI.
“That’s one of the things the state offers and Sandersville Tech does that for us, just like they do the jail,” he said.
Evans said the number of participants who can be in the program are limited by space.
“My class right now has about eight people in it. The classes don’t graduate together,” he said. When the instructor feels the student is ready, he sets up the test, Evans said.
“I think it makes a big difference. It gives them an opportunity to open some doors. To have that education, to have that GED,” he said, pointing out so many jobs require a GED or high school diploma.
“I think it’s a great program,” he said. “It’s just another one of those things to try to cut the recidivism and to see if we can provide these individuals with a better opportunity for success.”
Terrell Moore is an instructor who works for STC helping students prepare for the GED.
He also teaches GED classes for the public in Wadley and Wrens, he said.
Shanique Odwin is with STC also and has been a GED examiner for five years.
“There is no cost for the classes,” she said. “The students do have to pay to take the exam. There are five portions at $19 each.”
The examiner has to be certified by the state to give the examination, she said.
Moore said he has encountered some level of illiteracy in more than half of the students he’s taught.
“I’m just really proud of them,” he said of Foy and Outler.
“They worked really hard. It’s a big step for them in a positive direction,” he said.
Odwin said it’s always good to see GED graduates.
“They’re taking an impossible and turning it into a possible,” she said.
Erica Harden, another STC employee, said the headcount for adult education at STC is 1,024 and that covers a five-county area.
“Of those, 386 are in Jefferson County,” she said.
“Our program in the last two years has been the highest for level completers,” Harden said. “I think people need to view education as an opportunity.”