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May 30, 2013 Issue

We will remember
Cooper gets 45 years
County working to reduce bus miles

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We will remember

Members of American Legion Post 229 saluted their fallen brethren during Memorial Day ceremonies Monday, May 27, at the Wrens Memorial Cemetery. Post members who have died in the last year include W.C. Holley, Ray Huff, Earl Terry, C.F. Mauney, William Wren and R.G. Rabun. Wrens United Methodist’s pastor Dr. Stan Littleton was the speaker at the program and members of the Jefferson County High School NJROTC presented colors, raised the flag and placed the wreath.


Cooper gets 45 years

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A Jefferson County jury deliberated until the evening on May 22 before returning guilty verdicts against Joe Willie Cooper III of Louisville.

“The jury came back around 8 p.m. Wednesday night,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Hayward Altman last week. “He was given 45 years to serve.”


Jefferson County Chief Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer presided over the trial.

Cooper was found guilty of false imprisonment, aggravated battery and aggravated assault, among other charges.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred during August 2012 when Cooper was 29.

Lt. Robert Chalker, an investigator with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, said last year a woman, who was not identified, said she was at Cooper’s home on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012.

“He started beating on her and wouldn’t let her leave,” Chalker said at the time. The investigator said the victim was able to escape on Monday, Aug. 6, and went to the hospital about 11:30 p.m. Chalker said he was called in and made contact with the woman after midnight.

Chalker said Cooper had been on probation, which was revoked upon his arrest.

He said the victim stayed at Jefferson Hospital for a few hours and then was sent to Georgia Regents Medical Center, formerly MCG, in Augusta.

“The DA’s office is extremely proud of the jurors in Jefferson County because of the work they did in two recent cases, the Outler murder case and the Cooper kidnapping case,” Altman said. “As a result, two very dangerous individuals will be in prison for a very long time.”

Cooper was charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. The jury decided which of the two charges fit the evidence.

Clifton Leandre Outler was found guilty of murder earlier this month in a case where the victim, Anthony Holmes of Dublin, was discovered in Wadley in May 2011.

Holmes had suffered a gunshot to the head.

Altman recognized the work of his staff in the two cases.

“Tony May in the Outler case and Kelly Jenkins in the Cooper case as well as Leah Wiley and Al Evans, investigators, and Donna Moore of victim services all did an excellent job in these cases as well as local law enforcement,” he said. May and Jenkins are assistant district attorneys.

Jenkins said Cooper’s defense was that his actions were consensual in nature.

“He said this victim was a willing participant,” she said.

“He actually had three plus victims. He has three other pending felony cases, not related to this case. One of the victims actually testified. Another, her statement was used to cross examine him,” Jenkins said. “The defendant alleged the victim was a willing participant but there is no question she was not. Obviously the jury believed her.”

Jenkins said the jury deliberated for more than an hour.

“The evidence was really overwhelming,” she said, adding he had been charged with multiple counts of aggravated battery.

“They allege various objects with which the defendant assaulted the victim,” she said.

“These include a steam iron, that you would iron your clothes with; a metal bed rail, his hands and feet, knives. It wasn’t a part of the indictment; but, it was included in the case. He beat her with a tennis racket. Robert Chalker found all of these items with blood and hair on them.

“There were no forensics in this case, no crime lab analysis in this case because the perpetrator admitted to Chalker there would be blood in the house because he admitted there had been an altercation with the victim in the house.

“His defense is that she attacked him; which was wholly unsupported by any physical evidence,” Jenkins said.

“A second victim testified about this harrowing ordeal with the defendant that happened several years ago where he held her against her will for about a month and beat her one day. He injured her so severely she could not get away from him and he stayed by her side for about a month. He had beaten her from dusk to dawn,” she said.

“He testified. He had two prior felony convictions which when he takes the stand become admissible. He took the stand against the advice of his attorney. His felony convictions were not violent; they were entering an auto and forgery.

“He’s got related acts – he’s facing one count of aggravated battery, he’s got another case with a third victim for false imprisonment and aggravated assault,” Jenkins said.

County working to reduce bus miles

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In an effort to improve safety, Tracy Walden, Jefferson County Board of Education’s transportation director, and Dr. Molly Howard, the school board’s superintendent, have made some changes in the way students ride school buses.

Howard said Walden has been looking into moving the transportation system from a dual system to a single system.


“We’ve already run single until 1994 when the high school was built,” she said. “The decision was made to go to a dual system where elementary school children are on one bus and middle and high school (students) another.”

Howard said under the current system some students are picked up in the mornings as early as 6 a.m. and ride the bus up to an hour and 45 minutes.

“We believe we can reduce this to where no student will ride longer than 50 minutes,” Howard said. “Most bus fatalities occur at route stops when students are getting on and off the bus. These changes drastically reduce the number of stops as well as the time students spend on the bus on the road.”

Howard said there is not only a safety factor but a financial one, as well.

The changes being considered will reduce the bus routes by a total of about 100,000 miles annually, Howard said.

She said Walden rides the buses throughout the year and not only for this purpose but also to evaluate drivers and monitor road conditions.

Parents of affected students were notified of the bus route changes in writing. Walden said the schools sent letters home.

“We have had four different calls from parents with concerns,” Howard said, adding they have been able to address those concerns in three of those cases and are continuing to work with the other situation.

At least one parent has expressed concerns over their elementary students riding with older students and also having to change buses midroute.

“All the feedback I’ve had from the bus drivers has been extremely positive. Safety was the first priority,” she said.

Walden explained the changes will not affect Wadley buses.

“We made more express routes,” he said. “There’s one in Louisville and one in Wrens.”

Walden said the express routes are for high school students only. On these the students are picked up and transported directly to the high school.

“We eliminated three buses from going to the high school,” he said. “One bus driver retired and we consolidated that route.”

Walden said he is basically trying to consolidate routes and cut down the length of time students have to ride the bus. He said he rode each of the 36 routes.

Additionally, some students transfer buses at one of the schools. Walden said this takes place only at the middle schools.

This reduces the number of buses that take students to either the high school or to one of the elementary schools. For example, students from several different buses might get off at one of the middle schools and then travel on one bus to either the high school or an elementary school.

The primary concern officials agree is to provide a safe ride to and from school for all students who ride school buses. Saving fuel and wear and tear on the vehicles is an added bonus.

“We’ve gotten a lot of kinks worked out will work on it more over the summer to make it even better,” Howard said. “I just hope the students and parents will give us the chance to show them how we can work this out in a positive way for everyone.”

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Last modified: May 30, 2013