Shooter, victims in Thursday murder-suicide identified

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Kelley James McDonald Jr.

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Kelley James McDonald Jr., 39, a fugitive wanted in Florida for multiple counts of domestic abuse, has been identified as the shooter in Thursday’s murder-suicide that took the lives of three adults and sent one unidentified teenager to the hospital.

The deceased have been identified as McDonald, his ex-wife Kelly Garrison, and her sister Tracy Runnels.  An unidentfied 16-year-old female also suffered a gunshot wound and was transported to an Atlanta-area hospital where she underwent surgery Thursday. Her injury is not believed to be life-threatening.

A 13-year-old female and a 2-year old female suffered only minor scratches in the incident but did not need to be transported to the hospital. Authorities declined to identify them because of their age.

At approximately 8:20 a.m. Thursday, Lumpkin County deputies responded to a “shots fired” call. Upon entering the residence, they found Runnels’ body and the 16-year-old female, who had been shot, in the upstairs portion of the home. As they began to clear that floor, they heard three more shots coming from a lower floor.

Downstairs, they discovered the bodies of McDonald and Garrison.

During a Thursday press conference, Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said it appears the incident started as a domestic incident in Florida and that Garrison fled the state to come to Lumpkin County to hide at her sister’s home.

Authorities do not know how McDonald made his way to Lumpkin County. There was a report that an unidentified Ford Explorer SUV was seen leaving the vicinity around the time of the shooting.

However, it now appears that vehicle did not play a part in the incident. There is some construction work going on in the area, and it looks like the SUV was in the area to drop off one of the workers.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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Lumpkin County School Board tackles school safety

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. – In the aftermath of the shooting that killed 17 students and faculty in Parkland, Florida, and threats to “shoot up” schools in White, Dawson, Hall, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties last week, an anxious community filled the meeting room at the Lumpkin County School Board office Wednesday to discuss the only item on the agenda: school safety.

School Superintendent Dr. Rob Brown opened the meeting by saying, “School safety is the first consideration in every decision we make. We want to have an open conversation to include thoughts and ideas from everyone.”

In the two hours that followed, parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, school counselors, social workers and representatives of city and county government participated in a free-wheeling, constructive dialogue. The overwhelming sense of purpose that filled the room was “not-in-my-schools.”

Ideas that were explored included installing additional video monitors and metal detectors, locking all doors and having one single entry point, manned guard shacks at all schools as a first-line of defense and being more diligent about getting troubled kids help or getting them out of school.

Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said, “Every measure you put in place is a good measure. The more stringent they are the better.”

Georgia Mountain Education Charter High School Assistant Superintendent Tracy Sanford said, “There is no foolproof plan.” However, he cautioned school officials not to limit their attention to guns. He pointed out that the shooters who killed 13 people and injured 20 others at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 intended to use a bomb to blow up the school. He said the next tragedy could be a truckload of fertilizer driving into a school building.

Sheriff Stacy Jarrard discusses security at Lumpkin County Schools during the Board of Education meeting.

Sanford praised the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office: “As you all know, I work with 15 counties and their SROs (school resource officers). I guarantee this is by far the best and easiest to work with in north Georgia.”

Arming teachers is an issue that has sparked heated debate at the national level. Four of five Lumpkin County School Board members said they are open to the idea if a teacher is willing and has extensive firearms training. Only Craig Poore did not support the idea.

Brown said mental health issues have been at the root of many of the active shooter incidents the nation has experienced over the last couple of decades.

He said the school staff has been proactive in trying to address that issue. “Our social worker and school counselors have been offering a Parent Education Night since last spring to address an issue that is very, very important when we talk about school safety,” Brown stated.

Brown commended school social worker Joni McElwaney.  “She works directly with families to ensure they know what community resources are available to them. She is usually the first one our administrators contact when they know there is an issue with a child, especially if there is a mental health concern,” the superintendent added.

The school board is expected to review the ideas presented and begin to implement some, or all, of them as soon as possible.

Another recommendation was that schools become more diligent in getting rid of students who cause trouble. Board member Mera Turner said state law makes that issue extremely difficult for educators to address. State law requires that every student be given a public school education until they reach the age of 18, or 21 if they are in a special education program.

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

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4-H Leader Charged With Child Porn Out On Bond Again

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Paul Travis Williams

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Paul Travis Williams, director of the Wahsega 4-H Center who is charged with accessing child pornography from the center’s computer, has once again been released on bond.

Williams, 48, was initially charged after authorities found one image on his computer. He was released on $10,000. But he was re-arrested Oct. 26 after authorities say they discovered thousands more images.

On Wednesday, Williams was released again, this time after paying a $50,000 bond according to Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Lt. Alan Roach.

The initial investigation was conducted by the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the University of Georgia Police Department, following a cyber tip that showed someone uploaded child pornography from inside the 4-H Center.

Williams’ attorney Catherine Bernard said her client is innocent and she accused the Sheriff’s Office of employing “deceptive tactics” to re-arrest him.

“The sudden re-arrest on October 26th was unnecessary,” she said. “On October 11th, the lead investigator called Travis and informed him that a warrant had been issued and that he could turn himself in the next day. At that time, the investigator specifically volunteered a promise that he wasn’t going to ‘play the game’ of having Travis re-arrested on new warrants for the same charge as the investigation continued.”

But Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said, “(The investigator) never would say that because he had no way of knowing how many more counts may be coming.”

Bernard also said, “It appears the Sheriff’s Office is attempting to try this case in the media before even making any evidence available to a grand jury or to Travis and his counsel.”

“We held only one press conference and that was so we wouldn’t have to respond to so many media inquiries at different times,”Jarrard said.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Lumpkin County Commission to meet Tuesday

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners will have another full schedule when it meets on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Two key issues on the agenda include the acceptance of a federal government grant and the proposed adoption of a timber ordinance that raised some questions during a recent commission meeting.

Commissioners applied for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Award in 2015 and were notified two weeks ago that they had been awarded the grant to fund two fixed generators, one for Fire Station #4 and one for the 400 Water System Well #1. The total project costs are $82,315, with $61,736 funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), $8,232 funded by the State of Georgia, and $12,347 to be funded with local dollars.

The purpose of the timber ordinance is to regulate timber harvesting in the unincorporated area of Lumpkin County and to provide procedures, rules and regulations governing persons, firms, businesses, companies and corporations engaged in timber operations to protect the citizens and the environment and to assure the public’s safety. Private land owners raised questions about whether the ordinance applied to them or to the companies that harvest the timber.

Sheriff Stacy Jarrard will address the board to ask for a modification to the county’s noise ordinance aimed at eliminating loud, offensive and disturbing noises, including the use of loudspeakers that attract attention but disturb the public.

Other items on Tuesday’s agenda include:

  • A discussion about renaming the intersection of Little Creek Road and Little Mountain the Crane Intersection in honor of the Crane family which has owned and operated Crane’s Store at that intersection for the past 75 years;
  • A request by Finance Director Allison Martin to declare several items as surplus and to advertise them for sale on GovDeals.com website. The items include a 1995 Ford Super Club Wagon, 1983 Ford, 1984 Hahn Fire Truck and 1989 Chevy tanker;
  • Appointment of members to the Library Board of Trustees and Veterans’ Affairs Advisory Committee.

Contracts to be discussed, include:

  • The Tourism Contract with the Chamber of Commerce;
  • Go Green Medical Waste Solutions Service Agreement for proper transportation and disposal of regulated medical waste;
  • Government Scrap Tire Abatement Reimbursement Program;

Also on the agenda will be discussions about placing a commemorative plaque at Fire Station No. 2 in honor of Lottie Ledford and the workforce development plan.

These and other issues will be discussed during the work session that begins at 4 p.m. and may be voted on during the regular meeting which follows immediately.

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Commissioners to Meet in Work Session Tuesday

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DAHLONEGA — Sheriff Stacy Jarrard will request the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners approve a budget amendment of $36,700 for his office due to the disbandment of the Special Services Division when the Board meets in a work session Tuesday, April 4 at 4 p.m. in the Administration Building Boardroom, 99 Courthouse Hill.

Special Services, which is comprised of the K-9 unit, school resource officers, drug agents, victims services, records and community relations programs, was disbanded earlier this year to allow consolidation and a reduction in the number of divisions and command structure. The services provided by the unit will not go away. The 14 employees who worked in Special Services have been reassigned to other Divisions.

Commissioners are also expected to discuss:
⦁ The appointment of a representative to the Upper Etowah Alliance;
⦁ The appointment of a representative to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Advisory Planning Board;
⦁ The appoint of a member to the Planning Commission;
⦁ Abandonment of Shadowstone Subdivision Road;
⦁ An amendment to the Animal Control Ordinance;
⦁ Recommendations for Hospital Authority Board appointment;

Commissioners will also review a number of contracts and agreements, including:
⦁ The intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the City of Dahlonega & Lumpkin County regarding municipal elections;
⦁ The Senior Center Operating Contract;
⦁ Georgia EPD Local Government Scrap Tire Abatement Reimbursement Program Contract;
⦁ An addendum to the Legacy Link Nutrition Program Services agreement;
⦁ GDOT Wimpy Airport Tree Removal Reimbursement contract County Administration.

Other items to be discussed include:
⦁ A bond for Window Renovation Project Bid;
⦁ Plans for Fire Station Property Agreement
⦁ Legion Field Rehabilitation;
⦁ A Quit Claim Deed for Ralph Dodd Property, 575 Roy Grindle Road.

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County Commission Work Session Set for Tuesday

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. — The Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners will hold a work session Tuesday Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. in the Board Room of the Lumpkin County Administration Building, 99 Courthouse Hill in Dahlonega.

The purpose of the work session is to discuss items that will be voted on at the regular meeting which will begin immediately following the work session.

Commissioners are expected to consider appointments to the Board of Health, Park & Recreation Citizens Advisory Board the Joint Development Authority of Dawson, Lumpkin and White Counties , Georgia Resource Management Authority and Public Building Authority.

The Board will also consider creating a five-member ad hoc sign committee to recommend updates to the county’s sign regulations and adopt roads in Brookwoods Subdivision (Brookwoods Lane, Brooks Drive and Baker Street) and Misty Hollow Subdivision (Misty Hollow Drive).

Emergency Management Agency Director David Wimpy will ask the Board to consider adopting the Local Emergency Operation Plan (LEOP).
Senior Center Director Linda Kirkpatrick will request approval of a Community Development Block Grant fund for expansion of the Senior Center.

Public Works Director Larry Reiter will ask the Board to execute a roundabout lighting assistance contract for the intersections of SR 52 at SR 115/CR 41/Copper Mines, SR 9 at SR 52 and SR 9 at SR 60.
Sheriff Stacy Jarrard will request commissioners to approve the Gatekeeper System a video system that films school bus stop arm violators.

• OTHER ITEMS
• Award of Bid for F-350 (Finance Director Allison Martin)
• Award of Bids for Two F-150s (Finance Director Allison Martin)
• Election of Vice-Chairman
• Re-Charging the Library Task Force

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Sheriff Jarrard, Georgia Sheriff’s Association Oppose Expanding State’s Medical Marijuana Laws

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Georgia lawmakers rejected an expansion of state law that would permit a limited form of medical marijuana last year, but determined lawmakers like State Reps. Allen Peake, R-Macon and Renee Unterman, R-Buford may be tempted to try again during the 2017 General Assembly.

Proponents have even expressed the desire to allow an in-state program to grow and cultivate cannabis in Georgia for medical purposes.

At the recent Eggs & Issues Breakfast at the University of North Georgia, Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard urged State Senator Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega and State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville to oppose any such effort.

In an interview with fetchyournews.com, Jarrard said, “Myself and the Georgia Sheriff’a Association strongly oppose expanding the current law and allowing the cultivation of marijuana in the state. It’s a gateway to other drugs and it’s always been that way. I’ve been to Colorado since they legalized marijuana and officials in their school districts say it has caused a lot of problems. I teach a D.A.R.E. program and I know that marijuana is three times more likely to cause cancer than tobacco.”

Jarrard, like many law enforcement officials, is concerned that expanding the law could have the unintended consequences of an uprising in drug addiction and crime.

Testifying before a senate committee last year, Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk said, “I have been in law enforcement for 25 years and I have never seen or met a drug addict that at some point in time hasn’t stated that they started their usage with marijuana. It’s only continued to develop further.”
White County Sheriff Neal Walden agrees with Jarrard and says he too supports the Georgia Sheriff’s Association position.

That position is as follows:
Oppose the legislation of marijuana for all social, recreational and industrial purposes;

Oppose the cultivation of marijuana for all purposes;

Support the use of chemicals derived from cannabis for medical use for certain well-defined serious health conditions;

Oppose the medical delivery or application of chemicals derived from cannabis plants through smoking;

Oppose legislative proposals where appropriate controls and security measures do not exist ans where strict civil and criminal penalties are absent.

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Dahlonega Man Killed in Golf Cart Accident at Achasta CC

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. — A Dahlonega man was killed and three others injured today when the golf cart they were riding apparently lost its brakes, sped down a steep grade and overturned at the Achasta Country Club in Lumpkin County.

According to Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard, 83-year-old James “Jim” Hansard was pronounced dead at the scene and three others were transported to the hospital with undisclosed injuries. “Their injuries did not appear to be life threatening,” Jarrard said.

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