Jasper, Ga. – A small plane has collided with multiple vehicles at the Pickens County Airport today, November 28, causing minor injuries to two.
Public Information Officer Kris Stancil of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office stated that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a government agency, would be conducting the interviews and investigations on why the crash occurred, but the Sheriff’s Office was called to assist with the incident.
Stancil said that at this time, it appears the plane may have lost control at some point in its landing process and “clipped another parked plane on the runway and then drove into, actually three different vehicles that it made contact with. One took the brunt of the front of the plane more than any of the others.” Stancil did note that the vehicles were unoccupied resulting in the two in the plane being the only injuries from the accident.
Stancil said the two people only received minor injuries and are being treated now for those injuries.
As for the three vehicles, the plane had veered off the runway and struck them near a garage. Stancil said that while one took the plane’s impact head on and another received significant damage including busting out the windows, the third vehicle only received scrapes and minor damage. Authorities were able to move the third vehicle from the scene.
Though Stancil said that no major fires erupted after the accident, he did note that fuel had been spilled onto the pavement. One plane was reported to have been delayed for take-off at the time of the accident.
At this time, NTSB is taking over the investigation of this unusual incident.
JASPER, Ga. – A full extra mil on taxes, that is what citizens could expect if no cuts are made to the over $1.1 million difference between the 2018 and 2019 budgets for the Sheriff’s office.
The difference accrues over a loss of revenue including an end to the housing inmates from Sandy Springs in the Pickens Detention Center as well as $448,043 increases in the Sheriff’s Administration, Uniform Patrol, Detention Center, and School Resource Officers areas alone.
Although the budget already had at least one point ready to cut as it covered two contingencies involving either continuing overtime pay for certain staff or hiring new employees to spread the work among them. Craig noted there are 11 openings in the office that he is seeking to fill.
Like the other offices and departments, the Sheriff’s Office is seeking the 2.5% increase in salaries for employees. There are other increases such as repairs and maintenance in the office as Craig says some of the older cruisers are showing their age, with some vehicles dating back to 1996.
While the county is attempting to push some of the costs like newer vehicles among other things into the county’s next SPLOST cycle, there are many things that Craig said need immediate attention. He also noted that many of the increases involve things the Sheriff’s Office can’t control saying, “I can’t cut employees, and I can’t cut the services we have.”
He also noted increases to the demands on the office including 37,000 in call volume in this year alone. He said there hasn’t been a major increase in staffing in recent years despite doubling the call volume in the last decade.
Plans for an additional School Resource Officer and upgrading computer systems are just a small part of the changes coming. But citizens need not wait until next year to see them beginning as December will see the office going live with the upgraded Caliber System. Next year will see the $117,965 payment for the system, though.
As the Board of Commissioners are still working on the budgets, the Sheriff’s Office is working along with them to deeper analyze the office’s revenue and expenses. Chairman Jones did note that he believed the county could handle up to a $300,000 increase in the budget without needing to change the millage rate.
FYN reached out to Chairman Jones to ask when the last time a major increase like this occurred in the county’s budget. He replied saying that the county raised the Sheriff’s budget three years ago by about $700,000 to cover inadequate salaries.
If approved as is, the Sherriff’s budget will reach $7,092,649. For comparison, Pickens’ northern neighbors, Gilmer County’s Sheriff’s Budget is proposed for 2019 to total $5,673,394, that’s $1,419,255 less for a county of similar size and population.
However, this is still early in the budget process for Pickens County. As both the Board of Commissioners and the Sheriff’s Office have agreed to continue working on the budget, citizens can continue to stay informed through the county’s work session, Thursday, November 1, and special called meetings that may arise in the coming month.
One thing to note as talks continue and a final budget is set. Though discussed and agreed to under the county budget meetings, it is ultimately the Sheriff’s budget and responsibility as the elected official in 2019.
Jasper, Ga – Authorities have met a major incident as they executed a search warrant at the local A1 Smoke Shop in Jasper, Georgia.
During the execution of the search warrant today, September 14, members of the Drug Task Force, Pickens Sheriff’s Office, and Jasper City Police were exposed to an unidentified substance that immediately brought down one detective. Others also became exposed in attempts to help treat the detective. According to an official release by Sgt. Jody Weaver, Administrative Services Division of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, “As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.”
Unconfirmed reports indicate the substance may have been made airborne during the search, but reports at this time indicate the exposure is not life-threatening.
According to their official release, “The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire.”
Additionally, authorities have closed businesses in close proximity to the location and evacuated citizens from the area for safety.
With Haz-Mat teams investigating the substances, authorities are declining to release certain details of the active investigation, but indicate that they will be releasing more information about the incident later.
With the recent rise of vaping devices being used to inhale drugs ranging from Methamphetamines to THC Oil to Synthetic Marijuana, it is likely this warrant could be part of an official response to the trend in our schools, though no official statement identifies why they were executing a search warrant. The District Attorney’s office is currently undertaking a series of assemblies at the middle and high schools of Pickens, Fannin, and Gilmer.
At this point, it is actually quite common to find controlled substances in vape devices across America, especially in schools as reports continue to flood the media about students falling unconscious or having severe reactions, even seizures because of what they may or may not know they are inhaling.
See the full media release below:
“Pickens County law enforcement have encountered a suspected unknown powder substance during execution of a search warrant – Deputies and other public safety adversely affected.”
On the morning of Friday, September 14, 2018, the Drug Task Force, along with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jasper Police Department executed a search warrant at the A-1 Smoke Shop located at 684 West Church Street in Jasper, Georgia. During the search of the premises, a Detective with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office came in contact with an unknown substance which immediately resulted in the Detective experiencing adverse health conditions and symptoms. The affected Detective was transported to the local hospital for immediate treatment. Public safety personnel who were exposed while treating the affected Detective also began experiencing similar reactions. As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.
The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire. Businesses in close proximity to the location have been evacuated as a safety precaution, and Haz-Mat teams are preparing to enter the premises to thoroughly investigate and identify the cause of the health issues with our public safety personnel.
As this is an active investigation, more information will be provided as it becomes available.
Jasper, Ga – The Pickens County Board of Education hosted a no-threat lockdown today on the campus of Pickens High School.
Parents and citizens saw the Pickens County Sheriff respond to concerns saying:
We currently have a team of deputies and K-9 units participating in a controlled sweep of the Pickens High School campus. While the school is being checked, students are being placed in a non-emergency lockdown status. Students are safe and no threat exists at the school.
When questioned about the lockdown, Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson said the K-9 sweep was scheduled for a few weeks ago, but had to be pushed back due to scheduling conflicts with Cherokee County who supplies the K-9 units. As the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has retired its last K-9 unit for medical reasons, Wilson stated it is a part of the agreement with Cherokee County to utilize theirs.
With the lockdown and sweep completed, Wilson informed FYN that no drugs were located during the sweep today. Though he noted it was not directly related to the rising use of vape devices, Wilson did respond to questions about the trend saying that it is a concern in the school system.
Sweeps like this is a part of the school’s enforcement of its code of conduct as well as state and federal law. Though Wilson said there is more going on behind the scenes in the system’s response to the rising vape concerns and to school security in general, he declined to release details saying, “There is a number of things that we are doing and things that we are working with the Sheriff’s Office, some of that we just can’t publicize at the moment.”
More information on these steps like the K-9 sweeps and other programs the school already has in place over its years in operation can be found at the upcoming Monday, September 24, day of events involving the Office of the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and Pickens School district as they hold a meeting for parents for information and the ‘Chat with the Superintendent’ at Pickens High School at 6 p.m.
Wilson went on to note that the school system is being forced to change the way it views vaping devices. While he notes that it is against the law for underage kids to possess cigarettes and vaping devices and they have enforced the law, he did state that the school system may have, at times, not utilized the most extreme forms of discipline available in every situation involving the use of nicotine. He went on to say, “Now that this added ability of being able to vape just about anything, that brings it to a whole different level.”
As part of the school’s efforts to inform parents and students about the dangers that vapes present with not knowing what is in them, the board is working with the District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office. Wilson said, “We may have looked at vaping in the past as more of a replacement for a cigarette, and not as a delivery device for drugs… Going forward, we probably would.”
He added later, “We’re going to have to really start disciplining to the fullest extent that we can, given to us by our Code of Conduct or either by the Law to keep our children safe.”
Jasper, Ga. – The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has arrested and released reports for warrants and booking for one Charles Daniel Hamrick.
According to the Arrest Warrant, Hamrick is accused of using his position as a peace officer to convince a person to send nude and semi-nude photos to him. The offense violates his oath as a public officer.
The warrant alleges that Hamrick convinced a lady that she was a confidential informant for him and that she could have potential criminal charges brought against her. He then allegedly told her that he had destroyed her confidential informant file in return for the photos.
Having been arrested and booked on the charges, Hamrick has since paid a $1,000 bond and been released. As the official charge states Violation of Oath by Public Officer, it is charged as “a violation of the Oath taken by Hamrick as a Deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Deputy Commander of the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force…”
JASPER, Ga – Arrested on June 24 for charges including cruelty to children and false imprisonment, Neil Roger Farrell and Janet Lynn Farrell met for a hearing on setting Bond for the couple pending their criminal case.
Facing allegations of confining their daughter Olivia to a bedroom with limited restroom break and periods where she was simply given a bucket as well as allegations of striking Olivia on her feet with industrial size glue sticks, the Farrells have already attended a bond hearing in late June. At that time the defense asked for and was granted a continuance for the case. The court reconvened at the Pickens County Courthouse, Superior Court, under Judge Frank Mills on July 18 at 10 a.m.
Lasting until after 6 p.m., the case’s arguments centered on the possibility of setting a bond for the Farrells or not. The prosecution requested denial of any bond while the defense requested a $50,000 bond for each defendant. Both Neil and Janet are being represented separately in the case by Scott T. Poole, of Grisham & Poole, and J. Daran Burns, of Burns Law Group, P.C.
District Attorney for the Appalachian Circuit, B. Alison Sosebee, presented the case against the Farrells with two witnesses, Captain April Killian and Detective Michael Jaques. The state contends that evidence indicates that Olivia Farrell, adopted daughter of the defendants was confined to her room with the door lock reversed, so she could not leave at will, as well as a contact alarm on the door that would sound if it was opened.
They also allege that Olivia was beaten on her buttocks and feet with 10-inch, industrial glue sticks. An allegation that Sosebee says was corroborated by Neil Farrell’s own admission as well as from the couple’s other daughters.
After Olivia went missing, officers were told by the Farrells that Olivia suffers from a disorder known as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)as well as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) since before they adopted her, this plays into the charge of Exploitation and Intimidation of Disabled Adults.
With the bond hearing focused directly on the idea of setting a bond for the defendants in the case, the day focused on if the courts should allow the Farrells out of jail on bond until the official case commences.
One of the prosecutions main points for denying bond was concern over the defendants tampering with evidence. With evidence of video footage collected in the house from security cameras set up to monitor Olivia’s room, the prosecution stated that the Farrells had removed everything from Olivia’s room as punishment for her stealing her sisters ipad. However, once they discovered her missing, they went back to the room and put everything they had removed back into the room before searching and eventually having a gate guard call 911 to report the missing person. They claim this as the Farrells having already tampered with evidence as they took time to return all the furniture and items to her room before contacting the police, further delaying their own search as well as an official police response and search for the child.
Further, the prosecution offered up a witness, Cpt. April Killian of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office. Killian has been a part of the search and investigation and testified that when officers found Olivia, she said she did not want to go back home. As the police began interviewing her, they began discovering points of the case. Killian also testified that when she returned to the residence on June 24, the cameras in Olivia’s room had been moved.
When the Farrells arrived at the Pickens County Detention Center after Olivia had been found and were waiting in the lobby, Killian noticed the couple were utilizing their electronic devices. After getting a search warrant for the devices, officers confiscated these devices and downloaded the devices. Yielding 23,000 pages of data in messages and photos and other data, Killian noted a few of the messages found. Later in the case, investigations into the phones usage at the time the Farrells were at the jail revealed they were looking at GPS monitors and ankle monitors.
Continuing the argument of tampering with evidence, the prosecution points to an email sent from Janet Farrell to Ashlyn, the Farrells oldest daughter. The email instructs several things in an itemized list. One of these items instructs the daughter to, as read in the courtroom, “go onto my FB account and deactivate it, and if anything on there is bad due to news on my wall delete for me…” The email also gives information and passwords to accounts including the Arlo Camera account, the security cameras placed in Olivia’s room.
Killian also testified that when she turned on one of the Farrells laptop seized during the investigation, an email program popped up. She noticed the number of emails in the inbox decreasing as she looked at the screen. As if the emails were being deleted. Killian says she turned off the laptop and waited “a substantial amount of time” and then turned it back on. At that time, the loss of messages did not continue.
Moving past the concerns of evidence tampering, Sosebee told the court that the prosecution was also concerned with the possible flight risks of the Farrells if bonded out before the trial.
The prosecution’s second witness, Detective Michael Jaques testified that he dealt with four search warrants into the Farrell’s home. When he entered the home on July 6, Jaques said he noticed the office was not in the same way it was on previous searches. He noticed a black backpack on the floor open. Inside he found checkbooks and passports for the family except for Olivia.
While he was unaware of who had been in the office and gotten into the pack, a later witness, Jezekiel Vanderdecker, admitted he had gone to the house at the request of Neil Farrell to get a checkbook and glasses out of that pack. The state alluded to this being additional evidence to tampering as well as a show of intent and means to flee the country if allowed a bond. However, in Vanderdecker’s testimony, he could not recall if he had seen passports in the bag or not.
The state also put forth financial records for the Farrells as evidence of substantial means for leaving the country. The financial reports presented for observation by the court confirmed the Farrels income into the hundreds of thousands over the last two years as well as a brokerage account close to $1 million. They also presented tax assessors reports on the Farrells property into the hundreds of thousands. Additional reports indicated foreign income and “ties” to foreign countries that could indicate aid in escaping the county.
The prosecution noted that the Farrell’s eldest daughter is also a missionary in Papua New Guinea as well as several trips the Farrells had taken during their life as expertise in travel and previous experience in traveling to Australia and other locations. Stating that the numerous trips and connections to the countries could also make it easier to flee, the prosecution adamantly asserted that the flight risk of the Farrells was substantial.
The state also alluded to concerns about the Farrells intimidating witnesses and affecting testimonies. While they indicated much of the allegations against the Farrells including the use of the industrial gluesticks that had been used on Olivia. They also noted that other daughters had corroborated the stories. While it was not stated specifically, the state could call upon these daughters to testify in the trial about these allegations and their witness to the actions.
A joint defense was presented during the case on behalf of Scott Poole and Daran Burns during the day. Providing six witnesses of their own, the defenses main contention in favor of bond was an overwhelming show of support from the Farrells community as to their character and trustworthiness to appear in trial after a bonding out of jail. Also responding to many of the points the prosecution had made, the defense presented their case to say that the Farrells were, in fact, so rooted in their community spiritually, interpersonally, and financially, that they would never think of running, but needed the time and space to prepare their case with access to their lawyers not limited by the detention center.
Responding to the state’s concerns of tampering with evidence, the defense questioned Killian what the Sheriff’s Office had left to do in the investigation. Pointing to the electronic devices and data that Killian said was still being gone through, the defense asked Killian where the data was located. Killian responded by saying that most of the data was on hard drives and flash drives. The defense suggested these devices were in police custody and out of reach of the Farrells. Additionally, they noted that the Arlo camera footage account had had its passwords changed by authorities and could not be accessed by the Farrells.
They noted the email the prosecution presented with Janet instructing her daughter to deactivate her Facebook account saying that the email was a preemptive move to protect herself against social media. They stated that the deactivation of an account does not delete the account, and they noted that the email was simply asking the daughter to delete any posts that may have been mean or hurtful words against her. It was not an attempt to tamper, but rather an attempt to protect her reputation.
Killian also stated that the continuing investigation would likely result in further interviews being necessary with those involved in the case. A fact the prosecution suggested could be an opportunity for the Farrells to affect or intimidate such testimony. The defense’s responded that most of the people involved had already been interviewed and if new information was found, it would be reinterviewing people that have, at this point, already gone on record with recorded testimonies that they cannot change. They continued saying that most of the witnesses of the prosecution would be officers, suggesting that they could not be intimidated by the Farrells.
As for the financial status of the Farrells, Poole noted that simple means of escape cannot be assumed as a substantial threat of escape. The defense went on to say that the success of Neil’s business and the Farrells financial status were actually roots tieing them here. The prosecution’s suggestion of foreign ties because of $5,000 in foreign income was a ludicrous assumption without supporting evidence. The finances also indicate over $100,000 in charitable giving. The defense even called a witness, Joel Barrere, pastor of Life Bible Church in Holly Springs, who affirmed the Farrells were faithful attendees as well as faithful givers to the church.
The defense asserted that the financial means available would not have been so heavily spent on their defense, such as hiring two law firms to represent them, if they had plans to flee.
Providing 5 other witnesses to affirm their belief in the Farrell’s connections and efforts in the community, the defense also offered numerous written statements to add weight to the assertion that the Farrells are actually grounded into their community both financially and interpersonally.
Marshall Thomas, a fellow church member at one time, noted he also had a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. He testified in his time spent with the Farrells never caused him concern and called them “good, loving parents.” He went on to testify that he had never seen them discipline any of their children without cause.
He did testify that corporal punishment was not a good idea with his child suffering from RAD, saying that the child would not respond well to it. He noted that kids with RAD could potentially develop deep or inappropriate relationships with people. He noted that it would be a great cause for concern if Olivia was walking alone across the county.
Asking each of the witnesses if they had any reason to believe the Farrells would not show up for court if let out on bond, if they had any reason to believe the Farrells would intimidate witnesses or commit a crime, and if they would have concerns with continuing their relationships with the Farrells. With all six confirming their trust and connections with the Farrells, the defense set their point of the quality of the Farrell’s integrity in the community.
The prosecution revealed details of the allegations to the witnesses asking if it caused the witnesses concern to learn of the details, an action that the defense pointed to in their argument saying the prosecution twisted witness testimonies with unproven allegations. They continued saying that the Farrells were more than willing to voluntarily surrender their passports and submit to any conditions the court would place on bond.
At the end of the day, Judge Frank Mills returned to the court with his ruling on the bond hearing. He did preempt his ruling with explanations saying that he could see the Farrells possibly tampering with evidence or thwarting the investigations, but not so far as to intimidate witnesses that are now protected. However, he would not deny bond on that point alone. He went on to say that he could not find that they would not likely flee. He stated he based this decision not just on means and capability, but on past experience and passports readily available. He did state, “I don’t know of many defendants that I’ve had that have more knowledge about how to do things than these defendants, both in terms of knowledge of computers and finding information about computers and propensity to do so… also in having the experience in traveling outside the country, the connections outside the country, and the passports readily available.”
Judge Mills went on to say that he believed that the fears of tampering with evidence and fears of leaving the country could be alleviated with conditions on the bond. Stating “being out is better than being in,” Judge Mills ruled to set bond at $100,000 each for Neil and Janet Farrell, but also with set conditions set: Surrender Passports, no internet access, GPS monitoring, home confinement, and no contact allowed with the victim or witnesses for the state. The Judge did note that he would alleviate the no internet access after 60-days with the ability of either side to request a change later.
There will be details worked out among the attorney on how to deal with the internet access restrictions and how to have Janet taken to a doctor for existing medical conditions.
JASPER, Ga. – After May’s primary election night, Kirk Raffield pulled out a close victory of 272 votes to his opponents 262. With the 50.94 percent results, Raffield attended the city of Jasper’s June council meeting to be officially sworn in as a part of the council.
With it being his first meeting, Raffield swore his oath preceding the official call to order in their council meeting and officially took his seat after this. With many in attendance to watch the ceremony, one citizen, Regina Mosley Camp, took a moment to comment on the event saying she knew Raffield as a younger child. “I am truly excited for him because I know the quality of man he is,” said Camp.
Camp volunteered in Raffield’s campaign for the council, noting that she was fervent in her support because of what she has seen him do throughout her time with him.
The special election came after former council member Jim Looney stepped down to take the interim city manager position for Jasper. The seat has been empty up to this month.
With such a close race, Raffield moves forward on the council with a question on him constantly asking what he will bring to the council meetings and what he will accomplish for the city. Sitting in his first meeting, Raffield was not shy about his new seat, speaking fervently on an annexation issue specifically. Check out more by reading City Council discusses Sharktop Ridge annexation.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Continuing his campaign for Governor, Hunter Hill made a stop in Ellijay on May 2 to speak with local citizens about his plans for the office if elected.
Hill spoke to local citizens over breakfast at Mike’s Ellijay Restaurant on Highway 282.
Hill is a former Army Ranger who has been in the State Senate for five years now. After resigning his seat in August to run for Governor, Hill has been focusing on his vision for Georgia and spreading that message to rally voters. Today, he spoke with citizens in Ellijay about the ideals for “less government, less taxes, and more freedom.”
With “career politicians,” as Hill noted, in office, it is an undermining of our values as a nation. He called out those politicians saying they were not even willing to risk their next election to uphold their oath.
Focusing more specifically on the recent issue of sanctuary cities. Adamantly against the topic, Hill said, “If a city or county in this state were to claim itself a sanctuary city, they would not receive a nickel of state funding.”
His second point on his vision for the office reiterated his opinions and intention to eliminate the state income tax. With bordering states already without an income tax, the competitive disadvantage is hurting our state, according to Hill. He went on to say replacing the income tax with a consumption tax setup would alleviate the tax burden from honest Georgians and redistribute that to everyone including visitors to the state and even those making money in illegal ways. Hill stated, “A broad-based consumption tax allows us to have more people that we’re bringing money in from, which allows us to do so at lower rates.”
On a personal note, Hill mentioned his faith pushed him to focus not only on the points of pro-life, pro-second amendment, and also religious liberty. FYN asked Hill if he would be seeking a “Faith Restoration Act” in his first year to which he replied, “Very good chance of that, yeah.”
Hill did confirm that he wanted to pursue faith-based adoption as a part of it saying, “We’ve got to protect our faith-based adoption agencies. We’ve just got to do it. A lot of the reasons that faith-based adoption agencies get involved is to be helpful in congruence with their faith. If you don’t protect their ability to do it in congruence with their faith, then they will just stop doing it altogether.”
Protecting people of faith and their ability to live and work based on that faith was a focus of Hill’s speech about the governor’s office, but also on his words about his future view of the state. He noted after winning on key policy issues aligned with our values and principals, he wanted to remind senators and house members of the values and principals that they were elected for, providing a singular vision to move forward under.
“Fighting for the people of Georgia” is what he says his focus is as Hill says he sees polls with him ahead of Kemp and closing in on Cagle. Separating himself, Hill says he’s not the career politician like Cagle and is very different than Kemp on issues like the income tax and limited government. But when comparing, Hill said he wanted to focus on his campaign and his vision to protect liberties and endorsements like the Georgia Right to Life to be a different candidate.
While most of those present were already Hill supporters like retired Gilmer county citizen, George Winn, who said he’s been a Hill supporter “all the way.” Based upon his stances as a military, Christian conservative who is a believable and trustworthy conservative.
Others like Ken Bailey find themselves supporting Hill as the best candidate. Following the campaign because “Hunter is not a politician. He is a fresh, young face and not a part of the established system, which needs to be broken up I think. I think he’s got good ideas. We don’t need to have a state income tax, that puts a handicap on us.” Bailey went on to say that he liked some of the other candidates and even knew some personally, but felt Hill was the best choice.
He also commented his appreciation of the choice in the election. With fine candidates available, Bailey said its great to not have to pick the best of a bad selection.
Hill continues his bus tour across Georgia with his final stop at the Cobb GOP Headquarters in Marietta on Saturday afternoon, May 2.