Drug offenders suspected of avoiding Hiawassee

City Police, News
Hiawassee Police Department

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Department announced a “new low” in felony drug arrests, and the suspected reason for the decline is surprising.

According to Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, word of his department’s vigilance has spread, and individuals possessing illicit substances may be traveling an alternate route to evade city law enforcement.

During Hiawassee City Council’s regular session on Tuesday, April 3, Chief Smith recalled an incident involving a drug-related arrest. Smith stated that the suspect readily admitted that he should have avoided Hiawassee, specifically mentioning Highway 288 as the passage the driver divulged should have been chosen instead.

Highway 288, also known as Sunnyside Road, winds south of Hiawassee’s perimeter, beyond the city police department’s jurisdiction.

In comparison to the first three months of the previous year, 2018 has witnessed a noticeable decrease in the number of drug arrests conducted by Hiawassee Police Department.

From January until March of 2017, nine misdemeanor drug arrests and 17 felony drug arrests took place. The current year-to-date statistics show only two misdemeanor drug arrests, along with eight felony drug charges.

“There was another person that let us look through their phone after we arrested them, giving us consent to search their device,” Chief Smith disclosed in an interview with FetchYourNews (FYN). “Someone had messaged them, saying something along the lines of, ‘Why did you go through Hiawassee?'”

A patrol officer with the Hiawassee Police Department relayed that, he too, has heard rumors of Highway 288 being the preferred course of travel for perpetrators hoping to avoid city law enforcement.

The majority of drug arrests occurring within the city limits of Hiawassee are the result of traffic stops initiated for citation-related offenses, such as speeding or improper vehicle requirements.

FYN contacted Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton for his thoughts on the theory that drug offenders are skirting Hiawassee in favor of Highway 288, a route which falls under his department’s jurisdiction.

“I am unaware of any official statement by the City of Hiawassee making such a claim. My office has received no criminal intelligence, much less evidence, of any such criminal methodology,” Sheriff Clinton stated via email.

In contrast to 2017 data, Hiawassee Police Department’s self-initiated reports have decreased by 25 percent this year.  The agency has seen a 40 percent increase in dispatched calls, however, in the first quarter of 2018.

Hiawassee Police Department has generated a total of 868 case numbers in the past three months.  The amount is a combination of traffic stops, citations, and calls for service.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Questions surface after school lock-down drill

News

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On the morning of Wednesday, March 14, 2018, a lock-down training exercise took place at Towns County School at 10 a.m. While there was a call for a nationwide walk-out in remembrance of the 17 lives lost Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many schools across the nation chose a proactive approach.

FetchYourNews (FYN) learned of the drill and hoped to highlight the positive measures taken.

In the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, FYN has reported on the subject of school safety in Towns, Gilmer, Fannin, UnionLumpkin, and Dawson County, Georgia, as well as Cherokee County, North Carolina.

While the safety of students is not being called into question, with FYN maintaining conviction that security is of the utmost concern for Towns County School administrators and Towns County first responders, unexpected questions arose during our research.

Towns County GA lockdown drill

Letter sent to the parents of elementary school students

In a letter forwarded to FYN, dated March 13, 2018, and signed by Towns County Elementary Principal Dr. Sandra Page, parents of elementary school children were advised a day in advance that the drill would occur. The letter reads, in part, that “during an active shooter drill, it is necessary to reenact the scenario of a shooter on campus in order to find strengths and possible weaknesses in our emergency plans.”

The letter goes on to state that “local agencies such as the police, EMS (emergency medical services), and the fire department will be involved in this drill and will be arriving on campus.”

Following an unsuccessful, in-person attempt to acquire sufficient information on the active shooter drill from the Towns County Sheriff’s courthouse office, FYN contacted the emergency agencies listed as participants in the training exercise.

FYN was surprised to learn that the Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Towns County Fire and Rescue, as well as the Towns County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) were not notified that a drill was scheduled, and therefore did not participate.

At a Movers and Shakers meeting held Feb. 23, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton, along with Towns County School Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong, spoke with concerned citizens regarding school safety. The sheriff divulged that a few years had passed since an active shooter drill was conducted.

Sheriff Clinton opened his speech by recalling a recent conversation with Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith.

“The chief and I were just discussing this, what, a week ago maybe, that it’s about time that we do another one, and that we do it together,” Sheriff Clinton assured.

Sheriff Clinton continued, “How do we make our children safer? Now. Not some place down the road at some philosophical perfect normal for you, but right now. How do we do that? Frankly, at the end of the day, we have to make it a harder target.”

After referencing the 1999 Columbine tragedy, Sheriff Clinton asked, “What’s been done by the government to make our children safer? Not a single thing. Because a lot of people think they can get up and talk about it, and they can harp on whatever their pet issue is. I’m pro-gun, I’m anti-gun, whatever, but as long as they’re talking about it and people are listening, they are getting political mileage out of it, and they really don’t care. I’m sorry, but I care.

“I’m coming to silence the gun. I’m not coming to survive it. I’m coming to silence the gun,” Sheriff Clinton emphasized. “Frankly, that’s what I expect from every deputy sheriff and every law enforcement officer in this nation. God help me if I have to walk past my own children while they bleed. I’m coming to silence the gun.”

At the conclusion of the forum, Sheriff Clinton acknowledged a need to ensure all first responders are familiar with the school’s campus and lock-down procedure. The sheriff told those in attendance that it is up to the community to decide what level of security they want in place. “I work for you,” Sheriff Clinton reminded.

FYN contacted Sheriff Chris Clinton on the evening of the lock-down in anticipation of learning why his plans to include other emergency agencies had changed.

Sheriff Clinton failed to provide an explanation, focusing rather on garnering the individual identities of FYN’s sources. Shortly after asked if proper protocol was followed, a concern brought to the attention of FYN by an emergency official, Sheriff Clinton ended communication.

The following day, Thursday, March 15, FYN Chief Executive Officer Brian Pritchard sat down with Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, and Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland, reconfirming the lack of communication and coordination.

FYN met with Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong on Friday, March 16, in search of further clarification.

Berrong revealed that the active shooter drill was implemented between himself and Sheriff Clinton, following the Movers and Shakers forum.

When the question was posed concerning the absence of agencies, Berrong replied, “Well, (the school) wasn’t sure of everyone who was involved. I think there were some of those individuals there.” Upon learning that was not the case, Berrong stated there may have been a miscommunication in verbiage, saying, “Personally, for me, it wasn’t about the fire department. It was about the police officers.”

Berrong was then asked to recap the drill.

“At 10:00, Mr. Perren came over the announcement through all three schools and informed them we were going into a lock-down, that there would be police officers walking through the hallways, make sure to keep your doors locked, and to keep the kids in a safe area,” Superintendent Berrong explained. “While that was going on, police officers were making their rounds through the building, just to make sure they were still familiar with what the campus actually looks like, what’s going on during a lock-down, where can you go and where can’t you go in case there is a shooter in the school, and what areas can we access. They made their rounds through the school while we were in lock-down. We were in lock-down probably ten minutes. Our school isn’t a very big building, you can make a round through there fairly quickly. So ten to fifteen minutes, and pretty much that was the end of the drill.”

FYN inquired if there are plans to hold a subsequent active shooter exercise. “We may have further drills. We don’t have any planned currently,” Dr. Berrong said. “Sheriff Clinton and I are in discussion about this summer, getting together with all personnel, fire department and everyone, just to sit down and make sure everyone has plans of the school building, and make sure everyone has access to the ‘Crisis Go’ app, which alerts people when there is an emergency on campus, and just have another round-table discussion about what we are going to do when something like that happens, how do we shut the campus down. We had one of those several years ago, but it’s about time we had another one.”

FYN contacted Towns County School Facility Director Roy Perren. Director Perren relayed that the exercise was exclusively planned for the Towns County Sheriff’s Office and that there was never an intention to include other emergency agencies. The facility director added that a Towns County School meeting will be held in conjunction with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) April 13 concerning the involvement of all first responders, should an emergency situation arise.

Elementary School Principle Dr. Sandra Page returned FYN’s request for comment on the afternoon of Monday, March 19.

Page stated that to her knowledge, the active shooter exercise was changed to simply a lock-down drill on the morning of March 14, shortly before the training occurred, excluding the need for the involvement of  agencies other than the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. “I just wanted to get the information out so that students, parents, and teachers were aware that a drill was going to take place,” Dr. Page said. “That was my main concern.”

This left FYN with more questions than answers, considering that none of the emergency agencies listed in the letter had been notified that an active shooter drill had been scheduled.

Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County EMS, Towns County Fire and Rescue, and Towns County EMA state that their departments expect to take part in future training exercises.

 

 

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Towns County pursuit ends in Clay County arrest

News
Ryan Turbyfill

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – An officer with the Hiawassee Police Department attempted to stop a vehicle with an inoperable taillight near the Valero gas station on state Route 76, shortly before 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26.

The vehicle fled, emergency dispatch was notified, and law enforcement followed in pursuit from Towns County, Georgia, into Clay County, North Carolina.

Towns and Clay County deputies pursued the vehicle on state Route 69 near Byers Road. The driver proceeded to advance onto Cherry Road.

The vehicle then crashed into a ditch on Watters Road, striking a Towns County Sheriff’s Office vehicle.

A brief foot chase followed into the nearby woods, ending with the apprehension of the driver by a Towns County deputy.

The driver of the 1999 GMC Sonoma, Ryan Turbyfill, had outstanding warrants from Union County, Georgia, and New Hanover, North Carolina, for larceny.

Turbyfill, 39, of Wilmington, North Carolina, was arrested and charged with Felony Flee to Elude Arrest, Resisting a Public Officer, Driving While Impaired, and Reckless Driving.

In addition, the suspect was served a larceny warrant from New Hanover County, North Carolina, and a fugitive warrant for charges in Union County, Georgia.

Turbyfill was taken into custody, transported to the Clay County Detention Center, and is being held on a $20,000 bond.

 

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

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Stolen vehicle recovered after police pursuit, suspects arrested

News
Hiawassee Police Department

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, a Hiawassee police officer attempted to make a traffic stop of a 2009 white Ford F-150 within the city limits. The driver of the pickup refused to stop, proceeding on Highway 76 west.  The pickup turned onto Cedar Cliff Road when the two occupants jumped out and fled from the vehicle, which had been stolen out of Nashville, Tennessee.

John Shillibeer

John Shillibeer

Towns County Sheriff’s deputies responded and apprehended the fleeing suspects after two deputies located the suspects near the area where the pickup was abandoned.

The female suspect, Monica Pez Benitez, was arrested without incident.  The male suspect, John James Shillibeer, fled from deputies and was apprehended after attempting to hide in the crawl space under a nearby residence.

John James Shillibeer, 29, of Armuchee, Georgia, was arrested and charged with one felony count of theft by receiving stolen property, one count of violation of Georgia’s Controlled Substance Act (VGCSA) for possession of amphetamine, one count of VGCSA possession of marijuana, one count possession of drug related objects, one count of driving with a suspended license, one count of reckless driving, one count of fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement, one count of failure to maintain lane, one count of obstruction of a law enforcement officer, and one count of criminal trespass.

Monica Benitez

Monica Benitez

Monica Pez Benitez, 29, of Adkins, Texas, was arrested and charged with one felony count of theft by receiving stolen property, and one count of making false statements to a law enforcement officer.

In addition, John James Shillibeer is being held for Cook County Sheriff’s Office in reference to a probation warrant.

Due to the teamwork and cooperation between the Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County Sheriff’s Office, Towns County Fire Department personnel, and a ranger from the Department of Natural Resources, the suspects were apprehended and taken into custody in short order.

 

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

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee Police Department 2017 year-in-review

City Police, News
Chief Paul Smith

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Hiawassee Police Department (HPD) had an eventful and busy 2017. Chief Arvel Walls retired in May after dutifully serving the citizens of Towns County for 33 years. Paul Smith was named acting police chief until he was sworn in as police chief on Aug. 1, 2017.

In May, a fifth full-time officer was hired to help combat the growing problem of drugs in our community. Until this point, Hiawassee Police officers had served individual 12-hour shifts. Having a fifth position allowed for an officer to focus on drug and traffic interdiction, but also provide back up for other officers.

With a new position dedicated to drug interdiction, felony drug arrests nearly doubled over the previous year. By the end of December, the Hiawassee Police Department had arrested 107 individuals for drug-related crimes. Of those 107 arrests, 61 were felony drug crimes, and the remaining 46 were misdemeanor drug crimes. In addition to the drug arrests, HPD officers arrested 110 other individuals on non-drug-related charges, many of which were traffic-related crimes.

November ended with an armed robbery at Save-A-Lot, the first armed robbery on record in Hiawassee. Detective Brandon Barrett took the lead on the investigation and, within two weeks, had arrested the individuals responsible for the crime.

Hiawassee Police Department made over 1,500 traffic stops during 2017, resulting in over 800 citations, 200 written warnings, and 500 verbal warnings. Officers responded to over 1,600 calls for service, including incidents from an armed robbery to livestock in the roadway.

Hiawassee Police Department thanks everyone for their support and looks forward to continuing to serve the citizens and visitors of Hiawassee in the coming year.

(Featured Image: Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith)

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

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

UPDATED: Female suspect in Thanksgiving Eve armed robbery apprehended, BOLO issued for accomplice

News
Daniel Walls

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 22, at 8:25 p.m., the Hiawassee Police Department responded to an armed robbery at the Save-A-Lot located at 236 N Main Street.

Chelsea Alferink

Chelsea Alferink is being held without bond at the Towns County Detention Center

It was reported that a masked man, armed with a handgun, locked one employee in a cooler while another person emptied the safe at gunpoint. The suspect reportedly fled the scene on foot.

Following an extensive investigation, an arrest warrant was issued Dec. 4, 2017, for Chelsea Alferink, the assistant manager at Save-A-Lot, for the offense of false statements and writings. She was taken into custody without incident.

The following day, arrest warrants for the offense of armed robbery were issued for Alferink and her boyfriend, Daniel Walls.

Alferink is being held at the Towns County Jail without bail.

Walls has not been apprehended at this time. The featured photo is from an earlier arrest.

Towns County Sheriff’s Office offered Hiawassee Police Department assistance in confirming the robber’s identity, although Hiawassee PD states they were investigating Walls as a suspect days prior .

UPDATE: Sheriff Chris Clinton tells Fetch Your News that Daniel Walls surrendered without incident at 5:56 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7.

This investigation is still on-going, with the possibility of further charges being filed.

All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Anyone who has any information is asked to contact Detective Brandon Barrett at 706-896-2888  ext. 3

Follow Fetch Your News for future developments surrounding this 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

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee Police Department: November Incident Report

City Police, News
Hiawassee Police Department

Calls For Service
Dispatched 138
Self-Initiated 185
Total 323

Reports
Incident 23
Miscellaneous 1
Accident 11
Citations 140
Total 175

Arrests
Felony 0
Misdemeanor 10
Felony Drug 1
Misdemeanor Drug 4
Total 15

Citation Report
BRAKE LIGHTS AND TURN SIGNALS REQUIREMENTS 5

NO PROOF OF INSURANCE 8
DRIVING WITHOUT LICENSE ON PERSON 3

NO TAIL LIGHTS 1
DRUGS TO BE KEPT IN ORIGINAL CONTAINER 5

OPEN CONTAINER VIOLATION 5
DUI – ALCOHOL – ENDANGERMENT OF CHILD UNDER AGE 14 1

OPERATING VEHICLE W/SUSPENSION 1
DUI 2

POSSESSION AND USE OF DRUG RELATED OBJECTS 5
FAIL TO STOP FOR SCHOOL BUS LOAD/UNLOAD 1

POSSESSION OF OUNCE OR LESS OF MARIJUANA 4
FAIL TO YIELD WHEN ENTER/CROSS ROADWAY 1

RECKLESS DRIVING 1
FAILURE TO MAINTAIN LANE 2

SAFETY BELT VIOLATION (ADULTS) 4
FOLLOWING TOO CLOSELY 2

SAFETY BELT VIOLATION (CHILD UNDER 8) 1
IMPROPER BACKING 1

SPEEDING 43
IMPROPER LEFT OR RIGHT TURN 1

TAG LIGHT REQUIRED 5
IMPROPER LIGHTING EQUIPMENT 2

TAGS: ALTERATION/IMPROPER PLATES/REGISTRATION 1
IMPROPER USE OF CENTRAL TURN LANE 4

TAGS: OPERATE VEH W/OUT REVALID TAG/DEC 2
LICENSE: 60 DAYS TO CHANGE NAME/ADDRESS 1

TAGS: REGISTRATION AND LICENSE REQUIRED 4
LICENSE: DRIVING WHILE LIC. SUSP/REVOKED 5

TAGS: USE OF TAG TO CONCEAL IDENTITY 2
LICENSE: DRIVING WHILE UNLICENSED 4

TIRE REQUIREMENTS 1
LICENSE: DRIVING WITH EXPIRED LICENSE 2

TOO FAST FOR CONDITIONS 1
LICENSE: VIOLATION OF LIC. RESTRICTIONS 1

VIEW OBSTRUCTED (WINDSHIELD/OTHER) 4
LIGHT REDUCING MATL. AFFIXED TO WINDOWS 1

WRITING, SENDING, OR READING TEXTS WHILE DRIVING (ANY AGE) 1
NO INSURANCE 2

Total (including warnings) 140

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Horse struck and killed after Christmas parade

News
horse parade

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County’s Christmas parade ended on a tragic note on Saturday, Nov. 25, for a horse participating in the annual procession. Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith told Fetch Your News (FYN) the incident occurred on Main Street, near Tater Ridge, shortly before 7 p.m.

A Ford Focus, red in color, struck the horse from the rear, dismounting the rider and injuring a female nearby. The male rider suffered neck and back injuries, losing consciousness prior to airlift medical transport. The female was taken via ambulance to a nearby facility.

Chief Smith was the first responding officer on scene. The chief tells FYN the driver stated she gazed down to adjust the heater in the vehicle and did not see the horse on the darkened road prior to impact.

Sadly, the horse perished on site.

Chief Smith says he plans to work alongside Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Sheriff Chris Clinton to construct a plan allowing equestrian trailers to park at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, the route’s destination, during parades to avoid tragedies such as this in the future.

Georgia State Patrol is investigating the accident.

 

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

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

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