Additional charges filed in McKinney murder case

Community, Featured Stories, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Additional charges will be faced in the murder of Justin McKinney and the assault of Anna Franklin.

Three of the 4 juvenile suspects charged in connection with the crimes that took place in the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 2018 appeared in Fannin County Superior Court on Monday, Jan. 7 for another first appearance hearing regarding new charges.

Fifteen year old Hunter Hill, 15 year old Dalton Manuel and 16 year old Lakota Cloer were all present with individual legal representation to hear the charges that they will now be facing.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Murder, 15 Year Old, Blake Dickey, Hunter Hill, Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court, Judge, Brenda Weaver, Public Defender, Clint Hooker, Attorney, David Farnham, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Justin McKinney, Anna Franklin, GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center, Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center, Fannin Regional Hospital, Drugs, Dalton Manuel, Lakota Cloer, Karen Shelley

Accused LaKota Cloer and Dalton Manuel sit with legal representatives as new charges are read.

Fifteen year old Blake Dickey (AKA Blake Dye) was not present as his lawyer, Defense Attorney David Farnham, was out of state and unable to attend. Farnham waived his client’s right to this first appearance.

Originally Cloer’s attorney had filed a motion for the appearance to be a preliminary hearing as well as bond hearing. After discovery of the new charges, however, Cloer’s attorney opted to keep these motions filed but move the hearings to a later date.

Emotions were high in the courtroom as family members of the victims as well as the accused were present. Not present was alleged victim Anna Franklin.

“She (Franklin) was notified of the proceedings,” District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee said explaining the absence of Franklin to the court. “She is not present today. She did decline to appear.”

Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver told those attendance the reasoning for the day’s hearing, ” One of the purposes of a first appearance, of course, is to allow the defendants to know what they are being charged with.”

Weaver then proceeded to read the charges against the teens. In the first warrants served in Fannin County for the year of 2019 all four suspects will be facing the same charges “individually and as a party to the crime”. These charges include:

1. One count of malice murder
2. One count of felony murder
3. One count of aggravated assault
4. One count of aggravated battery

Felony murder entails a murder that is committed during the process of another felony. Having initially been charged with only malice murder, the added charge of felony murder came after charges concerning the aggravated assault and battery of Franklin were added.

Weaver gave detail into the additional charges stating that aggravated assault is “when said accused assaulted Anna Franklin with a deadly weapon” and that aggravated battery is due to the extent of harm Franklin had received “by rendering a member of her body, her left arm, useless.”

Franklin who was shot during the Dec. 4 altercation deflected the bullet by throwing up her arm in a defensive manner. The bullet entered and exited the arm before entering Franklin’s face and becoming lodged in the neck.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Murder, 15 Year Old, Blake Dickey, Hunter Hill, Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court, Judge, Brenda Weaver, Public Defender, Clint Hooker, Attorney, David Farnham, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Justin McKinney, Anna Franklin, GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center, Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center, Fannin Regional Hospital, Drugs, Dalton Manuel, Lakota Cloer, Karen Shelley

Accused Hunter Hill listens to new charges in McKinney murder case.

In the state of Georgia malice murder means the intent to take a life without legal justification or mitigation. In this case the State does not need to prove a motive in order to obtain a conviction but instead will attempt to show that the person accused deliberately intended to take another person’s life.

Foreshadowing came to the future direction of the trial as Defense Attorney Karen Shelley, representing accused Hunter Hill, objected to media presence in the courtroom.

“I would ask the court to perhaps consider less media coverage because of the delicate nature,” Shelley presented her reason for objection, stating that the accused in this case are all juveniles and that media coverage could prematurely sway public opinion.

Ultimately, Sheley’s request that her client not be photographed or recorded was denied with Weaver stating that the hearing was “open to the public” and the media would not be providing information that was not readily available for anyone in attendance.

“There’s going to be a venue objection when we go to trial on this matter,” Shelley stated of Weaver’s ruling, “if the media is covering this case, which the community is already began to cover.”

The defendants were dismissed with Weaver stating of their rights that all accused “are presumed to be innocent until such time that they are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

A Grand Jury is expected to convene on Feb.18, 2019. The motion for a preliminary hearing and bond hearing could take place before this date.

 

Additional Articles Related to McKinney Murder Trial:

Details emerge surrounding murder case in Fannin County

Fatal Shooting in Fannin County

Two more arrested in McKinney murder case

McKinney murder, what happened that night? FYN Exclusive interview with survivor Anna Franklin

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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McKinney murder, what happened that night? FYN Exclusive interview with survivor Anna Franklin

Featured, News, Police & Government

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Shortly after midnight, in the early morning hours of Dec. 4 gunshots rang out at a home on Elrod Lane in Morganton, Ga. The shots resulted in the murder of 33 year old Justin McKinney and a critically wounded second victim, Anna Franklin.

Not many facts have been released regarding the McKinney murder case, but 4 juveniles have been arrested and charged with the crime.

Surprise came to Fannin County as the arrests were announced. Fifteen year old Blake Dickey (AKA Blake Dye), 15 year old Hunter Hill, 15 year old Dalton Manuel and 16 year old Lakota Cloer were detained. Citizens were shocked to learn that such crime would come from a group of teens.

Franklin sat down with FetchYourNews to discuss the events that took place that night and to dispel rumors surrounding the possible motive of the boys.

Franklin and McKinney were about to go to bed when the couple heard loud banging coming from their front door. According to Franklin, McKinney answered the door to find Blake Dickey and Hunter Hill asking to come in.

According to Franklin, Dickey and Hill had told the couple that they “had to jump out of someone’s car and run but they didn’t say who or why”.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Murder, 15 Year Old, 16 Year Old, Blake Dickey, Hunter Hill, Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court, Judge, Brenda Weaver, Public Defender, Clint Hooker, Attorney, David Farnham, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Justin McKinney, Anna Franklin, GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center, Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center, Fannin Regional Hospital, Drugs, Dalton Manuel, Lakota Cloer

Four teens charged in the murder of Justin McKinney (Left – Right): Hunter Hill, Blake Dickey, Lakota Cloer, and Dalton Manuel

“I would have never expected them two to do anything like that,” Franklin said about the boys. “Hunter and Blake always seemed like calm, good kids to me, and it does not make sense.”

Franklin acknowledged that the couple knew Dickey and Hill, and that McKinney had been friends with the boys’ fathers for years.

“All the Hill brothers used to come over and help Justin with his animals. He had a lot of animals and they would help him feed them and clean their cages and everything,” Franklin said recalling the relationship with the Hill family and added about Dickey, “Blake had always been real quiet.”

Once the boys entered the home, Franklin says that their demeanor became calm, not as it had been just moments prior when the boys where found banging on the door.

For the next fifteen minutes the two boys and McKinney spoke. Franklin says she sat on a nearby loveseat but didn’t hear what the three were talking about because she was distracted by her phone.

“There was no argument or nothing,” Franklin spoke of the interaction, “If somebody had raised their voice I would have looked up and payed attention.”

McKinney got up at some point to tend the fire, and that is when Franklin heard the first gun shot. She thought at first it was a loud crackle in the fire, but as the second shot came she quickly realized it was gunfire.

“After the second shot I looked over towards him (McKinney) and he wasn’t where he was,” Franklin continued, “I didn’t know if they were going to shoot at me or not. I just covered my face because I was scared.”

Two more shots were fired at this point, and one of those shots struck Franklin. The bullet went through Franklin’s arm and entered her face, shattering her jaw and lodging in her neck.

Franklin spoke of the bullet that is unable to be removed from her neck, “What they told me when I was at the hospital, it will cause more damage if they do it.” The wound has caused Franklin to lose feeling in the bottom half of her face.

After being shot Franklin said that she heard Hill yell Dickey’s name and the two boys fled.

“I didn’t see who pulled the trigger. I didn’t have time to look,” Franklin didn’t lower her arm until the boys were gone. “I don’t know if they thought I was ok or not, but they aimed at both of our heads.”

After Franklin uncovered her face she says she jumped up and shut the front door and locked it. She then turned her attention to McKinney.

“Then I ran to Justin. His eyes were open but I knew he didn’t see me. I tried to stop the blood with my clothes but couldn’t. It was pooling around my feet,” Franklin became emotional as she spoke of McKinney. “I had to leave him to go call them (911) on the house phone. My mind was not accepting that he was gone.”

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Murder, 15 Year Old, 16 Year Old, Blake Dickey, Hunter Hill, Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court, Judge, Brenda Weaver, Public Defender, Clint Hooker, Attorney, David Farnham, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Justin McKinney, Anna Franklin, GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center, Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center, Fannin Regional Hospital, Drugs, Dalton Manuel, Lakota Cloer

Anna Franklin with Justin McKinney. Photo via Facebook.

Franklin said that she never saw the other two boys (Cloer and Manuel) that have been charged in the case nor did she see a vehicle at her home.
Rumors have spread surrounding this case regarding a motive that would lead four teens to conspire to murder. Drugs have been a common theme among these rumors. Franklin wanted to set the record straight.

“It’s not what everybody keeps talking about,” Franklin said of the gossip about McKinney, “He smoked pot. He had nothing to do with meth or coke (cocaine) or anything like that. He was very against it. What they’re saying about those drugs aren’t true. He was very against anything that would hurt somebody like that.”

Hearsay has also come about that McKinney sold Hill’s older brother drugs that had an adverse effect on the young man and that the murder was revenge. Franklin said on this speculation, “That’s ridiculous. His brother might have had something, but it was not from Justin.”

Franklin acknowledged that it is possible that the boys had planned on robbing McKinney of his marijuana that night, but says that she didn’t feel like they were there long enough to have taken anything and said of her own speculation of a possible motive, “That’s something I can’t figure out.”

Franklin, who had been with McKinney for the last six years, wants people to know of the man who was murdered, “He was everything to me. He made sure that I was ok. He had a very good heart.”

“What happened will be forever burned in my mind,” Franklin spoke with tear filled eyes as she recounted the events that unfolded in the early morning hours of Dec. 4.

Related Articles:

Details emerge surrounding murder case in Fannin County

Fatal Shooting in Fannin County

Two more arrested in McKinney murder case

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

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Two more arrested in McKinney murder case

Featured, News, Police & Government

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Two more arrests were made in connection with the murder of Justin McKinney.

Fifteen year old Dalton Levi Manuel and 16 year old Lakota Ricky Cloer were detained last night. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI):

On Thursday, December 6, 2018, two additional arrests were made in this case. Dalton Levi Manuel, 15, of Morganton, GA was arrested and charged with murder and Lakota Ricky Cloer, 16, of Morganton, GA was charged with party to the crime of murder. Both will be housed in regional youth detention centers.

Still dressed in civilian clothing to pair made their way into a Fannin County courtroom for an initial appearance today.

Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver presided over the hearing and opened the court by questioning, “Have the families of the alleged victims been notified of today’s hearing?”

“They have not your honor,” District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee replied giving explanation: “We are waiting on information from the investigative agency, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, to get that final contact information.”

Weaver individually read the warrants against the boys charging each with the crime of murder and informed them of their rights.

Cloer, the older of the pair, told the court that his family would be hiring an attorney to represent his case, while Manuel expressed uncertainty and opted for a Public Defender.

Public Defender Clint Hooker was present in the courtroom again today to advise the defendants on their rights. However, there is an ongoing conflict of interest with Hooker’s team defending the boys due to having represented at least one of the alleged victims in the past.

“I have asked the public defenders office to sit and be with you today to make sure that none of your rights are violated,” Judge Weaver explained the presence of the defense team on hand in the courtroom.

Family members of the defendants were present in the courtroom, and the mother of Cloer spoke up about her son before dismissal.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Murder, 15 Year Old, Blake Dickey, Hunter Hill, Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court, Judge, Brenda Weaver, Public Defender, Clint Hooker, Attorney, David Farnham, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Justin McKinney, Anna Franklin, GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center, Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center, Fannin Regional Hospital, Drugs, Dalton Manuel, Lakota Cloer

(Left to Right) Lakota Ricky Cloer, age 16 and Dalton Levi Manuel, age15, of Morganton, GA was arrested and charged with the murder of Justin McKinney.

“Lakota has had death threats against him, at the Marietta youth detention center, so if we could request him to be sent to a different location,” Cloer’s mother spoke on her son’s behalf and clarified, “From other inmates. They told him that if he came back they were going to kill him.”

Sosebee offered to inform the proper parties of the threats that have been made and allow the detention center to take any action needed.

“He did let them know at the detention center and I don’t know what actions were taken, if any,” Cloer’s mother replied and added, “I just want my son safe.”

Weaver agreed with informing the detention center of the threats, and told Cloer’s mother that the wardens at the facility would be told directly.

“Do you know with the ongoing investigation will there be others who may need a first appearance Monday or Tuesday of next week? Do you know if anyone else might be arrested in this matter?” Judge Weaver questioned Sosebee before adjournment.

District Attorney Sosebee replied that she would not be able to answer that question with the investigation still ongoing.

More charges are expected to come in the case, including those related to a second victim, Anna Franklin, that was also shot in the early morning hours of Dec. 4.

 

Related Articles:

Details emerge surrounding murder case in Fannin County

Fatal shooting in Fannin County

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

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Fire and Ice a success in Blue Ridge

Community, Downtown Blue Ridge

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Once a year in the dead of winter, things get spicy in downtown Blue Ridge as residents and tourists alike experience a “chili” weekend in February.

The eighth annual Fire and Ice Chili Cook Off Festival, brought to you by the Blue Ridge Business Association partnering with the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, kicked off Saturday, Feb. 17, and brought in crowds despite the weather.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Fire and Ice, Chili Cook Off, Blue Ridge Business Association, Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, David Ralston, B. Alison Sosebee, Kay Kendall, Doug David, Bob Evans, Cesar Martinez, Cindy Trimble, People's Choice Award, Chester Brunnenmeyer's Bar and Grill, Blue Jeans Pizza, Blue Ridge Brewery, Project Chimps, Habitat for Humanity, Hot House Missionary Church, Grilling Gangsters, Kelly Barton, Pitstop Chili, Boar's Nesters, Mercier Orchards, Chuck's Moonshine Chili

Crowds enjoyed the live ice sculpting demonstration provided by Rock On Ice.

Visitors to the festival were welcomed to take part in the judging of the chili cook off where the contestant with the highest number of votes takes home the coveted People’s Choice award.

The Fire and Ice Festival also now holds the honor of being the largest ice sculpting display in the Southeast. Award-winning National Ice Carving Champion Rock On Ice created many unique sculptures sponsored by several area businesses and demonstrated their difficult art form firsthand with live ice sculpting demonstrations in the park.

Official Chili Cook Off judges were also on hand to judge this years 16 contestants and to award first, second, and third place in four different categories.

Among the guest judges were Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston, Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee, former celebrity chef Bob Evans, developer Doug David, and former chef and restaurant owner Kay Kendall.

“This is really one of the bigger events put on by the business association,” Blue Ridge Business Association President Cesar Martinez spoke about the festival.

Martinez explained that despite the unpredictable weather, this year’s festival saw a large turn out: “Better than last year. Last year, it rained actually more than this.”

Guest announcer Cindy Trimble took the stage at 3 p.m. for the moment that everyone had been waiting for, the announcement of 2018 Fire and Ice Chili Cook Off winners.

Trimble explained that judges were given five categories in which they had to rate each chili. These categories were aroma, color, taste, texture, and after-taste. Each category was rated on a scale of 1-to-10 and points from all judges were then added together to determine a winner.

The maximum number of points possible for a contestant to receive was 250.

The winners for each category were:

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Fire and Ice, Chili Cook Off, Blue Ridge Business Association, Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, David Ralston, B. Alison Sosebee, Kay Kendall, Doug David, Bob Evans, Cesar Martinez, Cindy Trimble, People's Choice Award, Chester Brunnenmeyer's Bar and Grill, Blue Jeans Pizza, Blue Ridge Brewery, Project Chimps, Habitat for Humanity, Hot House Missionary Church, Grilling Gangsters, Kelly Barton, Pitstop Chili, Boar's Nesters, Mercier Orchards, Chuck's Moonshine Chili

Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar and Grill took home the People’s Choice Award for a second year in a row.

Adult Individual
1. Grilling Gangsters with 176 points
2. Kelly Barton with 174 points
3. Pitstop Chili with 153 points

Team Adult
1. Boars Nesters with 175 points
2. Mercier Orchards with 162 points
3. Chuck’s Moonshine Chili with 155 points

Civic Team
1. Project Chimps with 178 points
2. Habitat for Humanity with 164 points
3. Hot House Missionary Church with 129 points

Restaurant
1. Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar and Grill with 168 points
2. Blue Jeans Pizza with 166 points
3. Blue Ridge Brewery with 165 points

Project Chimps, a sanctuary for chimpanzees, received the highest rating by the judges, and Trimble pointed out a uniqueness to their recipe: “This was a really unusually chili and you guys loved it.”

The recipe used by Project Chimps was “chimp friendly,” meaning that all the ingredients used were ingredients that the chimps could also eat and often do for their meals.

Finally, the coveted People’s Choice award was given. Out of 934 ballots turned in by visitors to the festival, Chester Brunnenmeyer’s received 185 of those votes, giving them the people’s choice chili award for a second year in a row.

 

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Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

County officials discuss the safety of our local schools

Community, GMFTO

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, returned to class today, Feb. 28, just two short weeks after one of America’s deadliest mass shootings in modern history took place in their halls.

In the wake of this tragedy, which claimed 17 lives, discussion have opened up about school safety and what can be done to prevent situations like this from occurring in the future.

Brian K. Pritchard (BKP), chief executive officer of FetchYourNews and host of Good Morning From The Office morning show, invited local officials from Gilmer and Fannin counties to address the safety of our local school systems.

Georgia, Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Fannin County, Gilmer County, School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Shanna Wilkes, Sheriff, Dane Kirby, Stacy Nicholson, School Resource Officer, SRO, Sergeant Greg Dodson, Lieutenant Darvin Couch, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Parkland, Florida, Shooting, School Safety, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

County officials from both Fannin and Gilmer counties met to discuss the safety of our schools.

In opening the discussion, BKP directly asked both Gilmer and Fannin County School superintendents how safe do they feel the schools in our area are.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney answered from a personal perspective: “My child is in a Fannin County school this morning.”

“We are always vigilant in watching what’s going on with our students, watching what’s going on on social media,” Gilmer County School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes said, explaining why she too felt the schools in her county were safe, “and staying in constant contact with our law enforcement.”

“What I feel has come out of Parkland (shooting) is a breakdown in the system,” BKP pointed out to the guest panel and questioned how officials have addressed any recent incidents.

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson replied that his department has had to respond to incidents almost daily for the past two weeks, but clarified that most complaints are not serious.

“The problem is law enforcement can no longer say that’s not serious. We have to take it serious,” Nicholson explained.

Modern times are different according to Nicholson and he stressed, “Pranks are no longer pranks. When it comes to school safety we will investigate and we will prosecute and arrest or send you to juvenile court.”

Many counties in Georgia do not have school resource officers (SRO) assigned to every school in their district. Fortunately, for both Fannin and Gilmer, this is not the case. All schools within each system has its own SRO, and all panel members feel that this is a major element in keeping our schools safe.

Georgia, Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Fannin County, Gilmer County, School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Shanna Wilkes, Sheriff, Dane Kirby, Stacy Nicholson, School Resource Officer, SRO, Sergeant Greg Dodson, Lieutenant Darvin Couch, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Parkland, Florida, Shooting, School Safety, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Gilmer County SRO Sgt. Greg Dodson discussed SRO training and duties.

“Are all the SRO officers armed this morning?” BKP directly asked the panel. Both Nicholson and Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby replied that all officers on all campuses were armed.

Gilmer County School Resource Officer Sergeant Greg Dodson explained the duties of an SRO: “A very large part of the job is visual security. It’s patrolling the interior and exterior of the school, checking doors, making sure that they’re locked, trying to monitor who comes and goes.”

“If you see someone at the schools that you don’t recognize, make sure they have a visitor pass, that they’ve gone through the office properly,” Dodson added.

Other duties include checking parking lots, bathrooms, hallways, and interacting and developing relationships with the students.

In Gilmer County, to become an SRO, a deputy must submit a formal letter requesting that position. A panel of the officer’s peers then formally recommends who they feel should be placed in that position. Sheriff Nicholson makes a final decision based on the panel’s recommendations.

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby confirmed that the process in Fannin County is very similar to Gilmer County and added, “That’s not a job (SRO) that you have just to draw a paycheck. That has to be something that the deputy wants to do.”

“From the very get go, it has to be what that person really wants to do,” Kirby said, explaining that the SROs in place are not only trained but also have a passion for that particular field.

Training for an SRO goes beyond that of a police academy. This training includes a School Resource Officer course, Crisis Intervention Training, Gun Safety, and in-service training such as active shooter scenarios.

Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee was present to discuss the legal aspects of threats against a school and what her department does in collaboration with law enforcement to combat any potential crimes.

“I just need one referral to start. I need one concerned student. I need one diligent parent. That’s what allows us to be able to initiate the investigation and to assess what we need to do next,” Sosebee described of the process of how her department can become involved.

Georgia, Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Fannin County, Gilmer County, School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Shanna Wilkes, Sheriff, Dane Kirby, Stacy Nicholson, School Resource Officer, SRO, Sergeant Greg Dodson, Lieutenant Darvin Couch, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Parkland, Florida, Shooting, School Safety, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby and Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson address law enforcement’s role in providing safety for our schools.

Sosebee said we are fortunate to live in a smaller community where residents feel comfortable speaking up when there is an incident that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Confirming Sosebee’s thoughts on residents willing to tip off authorities, Gilmer County School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes said, “In my experience, when we’ve had a threat that we needed to investigate, I have not gotten it from one person. I get it from 50 people within about an hour.”

“No matter how good you are technologically, there is no substitution for a good tip,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney expressed in similar views.

Both Fannin and Gilmer County school systems continue to take steps to improve safety measures in their schools. Gwatney is looking into extra safety measures using technology. This would include a large network of monitoring devices.

Wilkes is working to renovate Gilmer High School. She would like to implement scan cards for access to doors and is working to restructure the building to create a single point of entry through the front office.

With large campuses and multiple buildings, BKP asked, “Would you look at letting teachers or putting that program into place at your schools to allow weapons in there and how would it work?”

Texas has legislation, School Marshal, to allow teachers to carry weapons on campus, and Florida recently passed similar legislation. Currently in Georgia, there is no statewide legislation on the issue, but rather Georgia allows local school districts to create their own policies regarding this matter.

Gilmer County has looked at sample legislation from other counties in the past, but never voted to enact a policy. Wilkes said that she would favor a policy that would require the individual to qualify with a firearm and that would obligate the individual to attend an annual firearm training course.

Wilkes also would like there to be anonymity in which teachers are armed within the school.

“It would have to be very regulated. It takes the right person, like it takes the right SRO,” Wilkes shared of her stance.

Gwatney was not opposed to the idea but does not want it to negatively affect an educator’s job: “The purpose of a teacher to care for the kids and teach for the kids. We don’t want to create a situation where we force the teacher to try to take on a law enforcement role.”

The panel also expressed frustrations on a system that sometimes works against them in their efforts to keep our children safe.

On a criminal level, Sheriff Nicholson expressed disappointment in a system that seems increasingly unwilling to keep a juvenile in detainment: “It’s getting harder and harder to get someone detained. That’s frustrating.”

Georgia, Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Fannin County, Gilmer County, School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Shanna Wilkes, Sheriff, Dane Kirby, Stacy Nicholson, School Resource Officer, SRO, Sergeant Greg Dodson, Lieutenant Darvin Couch, District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, Parkland, Florida, Shooting, School Safety, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

BKP’s All Star Panel questions officials on a number of issues that the school systems face in regard to safety.

Sosebee confirmed Nicholson’s frustration and explained, “Part of that, the court system with relation to that, is the restrictions that are put on the court system as to when these juveniles can be detained and when they cannot be detained and that is where a lot of the hands tying is coming from, from the court system.”

Just like law enforcement, the school systems feel that there is legislation and policy in place that ties their hands when they witness “red flags”.

BKP pointed out the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has grown since it was first enacted and states that schools being a government agency must accommodate individuals with diagnosed disabilities.

Wilkes acknowledged that the ADA does play a heavy role in how schools can handle disciplinary situations: “In many cases, you’re dealing with students who have a disability such as an emotional behavioral disorder, which falls under special education.”

In such cases, if a student makes a threat or acts in a way that requires disciplinary action, the school must first have a Manifestation Hearing.

In a Manifestation Hearing, a panel is made up of a licensed school psychologist, the student’s special education case manager, a teacher that works directly with the student, an administrator, and the parents or guardians of the child.

The panel determines if the threat or infraction is directly related to the student’s disability. If it is deemed that it is in relation to the disability, then disciplinary action cannot be taken.

If it is deemed that the issue is not related to the child’s disability, then a tribunal is formed to determine what disciplinary actions should be taken.

“If a student has any disability at all,” Wilkes clarified, “even if it’s a learning disability in reading, and let’s say they try to burn down the school, then we have to have a manifestation hearing to see if that learning disability led to them trying to burn down the school.”

Due to this process and the strict rules surrounding juvenile privacy, Wilkes stated if it is related to a disability “our hands are tied as to what we can do.”

The panel agreed that collaboration between departments along with a proactive stance on safety is the best route to take when it comes to the welfare of our counties’ children but felt that changes could be made in legislation that would make providing our schools with this security a much more efficient process.

You can watch BKP’s Good Morning From The Office #AnythingGoes School Safety Special in the video below.

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Sworn in for second term, Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee

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Thursday, December 29th,  Pickens County Probate Judge David W. Lindsey administered the oath of office for Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee. Fannin, Pickens, and Gilmer counties make up the circuit. 

Sosebee, “I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the voters of Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties for being elected to another term as District Attorney of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit.  Being sworn in to a second term is both an honor and humbling that the citizens of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit have placed their trust in me. In looking forward to the upcoming term, each criminal case will continue to be evaluated on its merits and this determination will be made without bias or prejudice towards any person.  I also look forward to continuing and expanding the community outreach and prevention programs supported and sponsored by the District Attorney’s office.”

B. Alison Sosebee is a lifelong resident of Fannin County and she is the mother of two sons, Nathaniel and Grahym Maloof. She is the daughter of Robert L. Sosebee, Sr., the general manager of Tri-State Electric Cooperative for several years and Barbara Payne Sosebee.

B. Alison Sosebee is a lifelong resident of Fannin County and she is the mother of two sons, Nathaniel and Grahym Maloof. She is the daughter of Robert L. Sosebee, Sr., the general manager of Tri-State Electric Cooperative for several years and Barbara Payne Sosebee.

The Circuit’s Chief Judge Brenda S. Weaver made some brief comments concerning accountability courts. Weaver stressed how important it is to have the support of the District Attorney for the accountability courts to be successful.  Weaver thanked Sosebee for the DA’s committed support to the speciality courts.  The specialty courts consist of Appalachian Judicial Circuit Adult Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Adult Veterans Drug Court,  Family Drug Court,  & Juvenile Drug Court.

Sosebee will be starting her second term. She ran unopposed in both the 2016 primary and general election. Sosebee defeated incumbent Joe Hendricks and former superior court judge Harry Doss in the 2012 primary for her first term.

Watch the video below and meet DA. B. Alison Sosebee

#BKP Good Morning from the #Vault interview with District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee

GMFTO

B. Alison Sosebee is the District Attorney for the Georgia Appalachian Judicial District. The district includes Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties. In our interview at the #Vault in Blue Ridge we talk with Sosebee about her first term in office. We also talked to her about a program she developed for schools called Weapons of Mass Destruction. The program addresses sexting and other cyber crimes.

ETC Debates: District Attorney Run-Off Race

Featured Stories, Politics

FYN & ETC 3 brings you a one hour debate featuring B. Alison Sosebee and Incumbent Joe Hendricks.
ETC 3 will re-air the debate on Thursday 8/16 at 9:00 p.m, Saturday 8/18 at 11:00 a.m. and Monday 8/20 at 7:00 p.m. (more…)

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