Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Fire Department (FCFD) responded to a blaze on Tuesday, Sept. 10 that had early morning commuters concerned and commenting via social media on the size of the fire.
Dispatch came out at 5:23 a.m. that there was a commercial fire in the vicinity of 27 Patterson Lane, just short of the Gilmer/Fannin county line.
Emergency personnel were on the scene within 7 minutes, and found that the source of the fire was a structure housing multiple loads of stacked lumber. Also on the property, owned by Charles Sisson, were other structures similarly housing stored lumber.
“They were reporting that it was a structure that was fully involved,” FCFD Fire Chief Larry Thomas said explaining what those who were first to arrive witnessed as the fire was already raging and growing by the minute.
The FCFD was able to set up quickly and began to contain and extinguish the flames. Fannin County Sheriff’s Office parked along Highway 515 to provide the fire department with a visible barrier for commuters to see. This allowed fire engines to shuttle water from a main hydrant to the scene of the fire.
Among those to respond were Engine 1, Engine 11, Engine 12, Engine 16, Medic 1, Medic 11, and Brush 1. Brush 1 is a brush truck which is a smaller 4 wheel drive vehicle equipped with its own pump and capable of getting into areas where the larger engines can not go.
For a brief time the woods directly behind the structure also became involved with the fire.
“It wasn’t traveling at a high rate of speed in the woods,” Thomas said of the fire’s path and added, “We did call Georgia Forestry in.”
Georgia Forestry Commission is equipped to handle brush fires. A team of two arrived from the department with a bulldozer and helped to put out the small amount of spread left in the woods. They also established a fire break to help prevent any more spread to the wooded area from the large structure fire.
The Georgia Forestry Commission then used the bulldozer to move extinguished lumber away from the woods to prevent any spread through hot-spots left in the lumber.
The fire was contained to the single structure without spreading to neighboring structures and was extinguished. Crews left the scene at 12:48 pm.
In total 14 firefighters from the FCFD responded to the early morning emergency and all left the scene without any reported injuries. No workers from Sisson lumberyard were present at the time of the fire.
Tri-State Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) responded to the property and reported that there was no electricity running to the building at the time of the incident. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
“The team did a great job,” Thomas said of the efforts of all involved. He expressed thanks to the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.
Thomas added, expressing his gratitude for those on the roadway, “Traffic got a little heavy because of the morning commute, but everyone on the road yielded to our vehicles as we went to the scene, and while we were shuttling water.” He would like to give a special thanks to those citizens traveling Hwy. 515 that morning for using caution while passing through the area.
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Blue Ridge, Ga. – In what might be remembered as one of the most bizarre trials to be held in Fannin County in 2019, a jury has found 22 year old Hamond Mormon guilty and Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver handed down a 55 year sentence in the case.
Mormon, along with his mother Melisse Mormon (aka Melisse Marmon) and cousin Rashad Morman, were accused in the Labor Day 2017 armed robbery of the AT&T store located off of Scenic Drive.
According to law enforcement statements, as well as surveillance footage from the store, Rashad and Hamond entered the store, both armed, and forced employees to hand over cash, personal belongings, and cell phones.
Melisse waited outside for the two to return and drove the getaway vehicle. The resulting chase between the trio and law enforcement involved speeds over 100 mph and only ended when Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jacob Pless disabled the suspects’ vehicle through use of a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver.
A jury made up of 6 men and 6 women, with a female alternate, listened the state’s argument presented by Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney, B. Alison Sosebee and watched the antics of Defendant Hamond Mormon unfold for several days.
Mormon made his intentions known to the court that he would be defending himself and opted out of representation by a public defender.
Mormon also exercised his right to declare Sovereign Citizenship, a move that has repeatedly been struck down by higher courts and considered an invalid claim.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sovereign Citizens “believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or “sovereign” from the United States. As a result, they believe they don’t have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement”.
One of papers filed by Mormon to Judge Weaver and District Attorney Sosebee states: “As a true flesh and blood American and sovereign citizen, I refuse to participate in any colorable law schemes or practices”.
The first several days of the trial were anything but normal for members of the jury to witness and court staff to accommodate. Mormon, representing himself, would often refuse to acknowledge Judge Weaver as she gave explanations of court proceedings to ensure that he was aware everything that was going on.
Mormon also refused to wear clothes to court and instead sat in the courtroom cloaked in a blanket. Despite his seemingly odd behavior, an extensive mental evaluation was performed by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and found Mormon to be of sound mind and competent to stand trial.
On the day of closing arguments, Mormon refused to come to the courtroom all together, and Judge Weaver was putting her foot down as well stating that if Mormon did show he would be required to wear clothing.
Sosebee presented her closing argument to the jury and reminded everyone: “The State of Georgia is not required to prove the guilt of the accused beyond all doubt or to a mathematical certainty. It has to be a reasonable doubt.” Sosebee added to this, “We have in fact carried that burden.”
With Judge Weaver reminding the jury that Mormon’s behavior in the courtroom is not indicative of guilt and that the jury should only consider the evidence presented in the case, the 12 member (plus an alternate) was dismissed for deliberations.
Deliberation only took 21 minutes before the jury informed the court that they had reached a verdict in the case. The foreman stood and read a verdict of guilty on all counts. Weaver polled each jury member individually to ensure that each member had in fact reached this unanimous decision.
“This has been a little bit of an unusual trial,” Judge Weaver spoke directly to the jury before their dismissal, “I appreciate your patience with us.”
After the jury left the courtroom, Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Todd Pack was once again tasked with inquiring as to whether Mormon would like to enter the courtroom. Mormon had previously declined Pack’s offer for closing arguments and then again for the reading of the verdict.
Declining for a third time to enter the courtroom for sentencing, according to Pack, Mormon stated, “You are sentencing an artificial being. My name is not Hamond Dontel Mormon. I am not who they say that I am.”
Before handing down the sentence Weaver addressed her feelings on the case involving Mormon, “I guess of the three defendants I have a little more sympathy for him because of his background…than I have for the others.”
Weaver went on to explain that after having read Mormon’s evaluation by the state and given the details of his past that she felt “he never really had a chance”.
Mormon received a total of 55 years to serve 50 of those years in prison. A breakdown of the sentencing is as follows:
- Count 1 – Armed Robbery – 20 years to serve
- Count 2 – Armed Robbery – 20 years to serve consecutive to Count 1
- Count 3 – Aggravated Assault – Merge w/ count 1
- Count 4 – Aggravated Assault – Merge w/ count 1
- Count 5 – Aggravated Assault – Merge w/ count 1
- Count 6 – Aggravated Assault – Merge w/ count 1
- Count 7 – Kidnapping – 20 years to run concurrent with Count 1
- Count 8 – Kidnapping – 20 years to run concurrent with Count 1
- Count 9 – False Imprisonment – 10 years concurrent with Count 1
- Count 10 – False Imprisonment – 10 years concurrent with Count 1
- Count 11 – Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony – 5 years to serve consecutive to Count 2
- Count 12 – Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony – 5 years to serve consecutive to Count 11
- Count 13 – Possession of Tools for the Commission of a Crime – 5 years probation to run consecutive to Count 12
- Count 14 – Theft by Taking – Merge with Count 1
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