Sheriff highlights quarter of a million dollars in illegal drugs siezed

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Recent highlights have shown major steps in our county by the Sheriff’s Office and cooperating agencies and agents with cases like the recent arrest of a wanted member of the Ghost Face gang to arrests made after Gilmer Deputies uncovered the murder of a woman in Cherry Log.

Today, the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Stacy Nicholson released information pertaining towards the seizure of illegal drugs, guns, and operations in the county. Totaling a quarter of a million dollars, this number is only made more alarming to know that it is only the total amount captured in the first half of 2021.

Sheriff’s deputies and agents of the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Operation have reported the majority of captures as Methamphetamines, a drug that has been a problem for Gilmer County for years. Along with the information, they listed many of their seizures and the dates of occurrence:

DrugsJan. 7 – 3.5 gr Meth
Jan. 13 – 3.5 gr Meth
Feb. 21 – 6.8 gr Meth
Feb. 24 – 22 gr Meth
Feb. 24 – 1 oz. Marijuana
Mar. 1 – Meth
Mar 11 – 10 gr Heroin
Mar. 17 – 8 gr Heroin, Meth, Ecstacy
Mar. 23 – 32 gr Meth, 31 gr Marijuana, 25 Schedule IV pills, $1,800 Cash
Mar. 30 – Dismantled “chop shop” operation
Apr. 1 – 1 gr Meth, 30 oz. Marijuana
Apr. 17 – 3.5 gr Meth, 28 Schedule IV pills
May 20 – 14 gr Heroin 4 gr Meth, firearms, 4 gr Meth, 20 THC vapes
May 28 – 40 Ecstasy pills
May 29 – 7 gr Heroin
June 3 – 8 Ecstasy pills, Firearms
June 8 – 3 oz. Meth, 1 oz. Heroin (along with West Metro/Fulton Co.)
June 11 – 167.1 gr Meth, 94.2 gr Heroin (along with GSP/Fannin Co.)
June 12 – 3.5 gr Meth, 5 gr Heroin
June 21 – 3.5 gr Meth
June 28 – 1 kilo Meth, 3 gr Heroin
July 7 – 1 lb. Marijuana, 1 kilo Meth
July 16 – 1.38 lb Meth, 6 gr Heroin

According to the Sheriff, this is not an exhaustive list. During their release “from the desk of the Sheriff,” Nicholson states, “This post highlights some of the more significant drug cases that GCSO Detectives, Crime Suppression Unit (CSU), K9 Deputies and Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement (ARDEO) Agents have made for the first half of 2021. This doesn’t include all cases made, however it does highlight the more significant ones.”

Another point to think about is that this is the amount they seized, continuing operations still have more and more drugs circulating through the streets.

During these operations alone, 33 people have been arrested. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a study in 2018 showed 67,367 deaths by overdose in Georgia alone. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 2020, a year with most people at home in isolation and quarantine, Gilmer County alone saw 534 Emergency Department visits over the year related to Drug Overdose specifically. That number is only those who made it to the Emergency Room to be treated.

Many others offer alternative stories. Stories like a boy who overdosed on his own couch, and rather than call 911 to get help, his friend leaves him to die so he doesn’t get caught with the drugs.

Gilmer still has no bids for pool project

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Board of Commissioners is reporting another round of advertisements for their ongoing pool project with no official bids.

Despite receiving no bids, the county has gotten interest in the project with contractors questioning and discussing the advertisement. Project Manager Loy Jarrett shared with the the board and the public that many of those showing interest declined to submit a bid as they are very busy with projects currently. He went on to add that the advertisement held a completion date by Memorial Day in 2022.

The board did debate whether they should rerun the advertisements with a completion date. However, the county is not rerunning the advertisement at this time. While this was considered and even thought to possibly have an effect on the bids, other considerations by the board pointed to current costs of supplies and continued fluctuations in those prices. Rerunning the advertisement without a completion date still might not get bids due to the instability of prices.

Chairman Charlie Paris also indicated he wants to see completion sooner rather than later. However, the board as a whole said they want to consider all options and possibilities.

A couple of those possible options on a path ahead could include the county operating as its own general contractor hiring each crew and overseeing the project by themselves. Another option is hiring a construction project manager.

From the public, a suggestion was made to scale back the project to a smaller scale so the county could have something and then added onto later.

Paris noted that a pool like this isn’t something you can put in and then just expand. The county also decided on the current size based on requested uses from swim teams utilizing lanes for competition and practice to some looking for classes like water aerobics. However, the county did discuss the subject as a possibility, whether it scaled back size or just features.

Rebidding could see a halt until at least next year if the county decides to follow other paths or simply wait until some of the contractors are not so backed up, but another possibility could see the county rebidding in the next couple of months.

The county did offer more news in the regular session to point them down the path toward rebidding the project sooner rather than later. Paris noted that the county had been in contact with a commercial pool builder that showed some interest. Paris said that talking further with the company and as they gain more information, the board could reconsider paying for one more round of bidding if given assurances that this company would bid. This way, the county would know they would be getting some kind of bid from at least one company.

Rodriguez arrested in Delgado murder, extradition could mean trial in Georgia

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CHERRY LOG, Ga. – Joint releases continue from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) as another arrest has been made for involvement with April 2021 murder of Rossana Delgado, this time for Juan Ayala-Rodriguez.

Reaching all the way back to the original warrants for their alleged involvement, the GBI, working in partnership with the United States Marshal’s Service (USMS) Atlanta and San Diego, coordinated the transfer to U.S. custody of Juan Ayala-Rodriguez, age 35, after his arrest in Mexico.

Rossana Delgado, Rodriguez

Rossana Delgado was discovered in April of 2021 in Cherry Log where she was allegedly murdered.

On April 24, 2021, FYN reported Rodriquez, of Gainesville, Georgia, along with three other suspects, as wanted in connection to the murder. Later, in May 2021, reports came of the arrest of two of those original four alongside a fifth suspect. Now, Rodriquez is the third of the original four arrested.

According to the GBI, “Rodriguez was arrested in Durango, Mexico on Saturday, June 26, 2021.  The USMS-San Diego and Customs and Border Protection oversaw the transfer of Rodriguez to USMS custody and subsequent detention at a California facility. Rodriguez is pending extradition to Georgia to face murder charges.”

No specific information is available on which court Rodriguez may face the charges in. Delgado was last seen in Doraville, Georgia on April 17, 2021. Her husband and authorities tracked her phone as a possible location of Delgado to Covington Highway, which is more on the southeastern side of Atlanta. Eventually, her body was found in a residence in Cherry Log, Georgia, in Northeast Gilmer County.

The GBI stated, “USMS and the United States Department of Homeland Security (HSI) have worked diligently to assist the GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office in this case and in this arrest.  The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office are very grateful for the support and efforts of the USMS, HSI and all agencies involved in effecting this arrest.”

The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office continue to actively investigate this case and the individuals involved in the murder of Rossana Delgado.  With three of the four original warrants executed and in custody, the fifth suspect arrested and in custody, the GBI asserted that a coordinated effort to locate and arrest the other three murder suspects, Mario Alberto Barbosa-Juarez, Carolina Jazmin Rodriguez-Ramirez and Maria Chavez is active and ongoing.

As always, the GBI requests that anyone with information to please contact the GBI. Tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.

Gilmer Board of Education announces Superintendent Finalist

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Schools has initiated the final steps in inducting its new Superintendent into the system. With a formal motion over the weekend to announce the finalist, they have also released information on him.

That finalist is Dr. Hal Brian Ridley.

The school system is already making plans for a formal motion to employ Dr. Ridley and is hoping to have him in position before school starts again. This plan has been in place since the announcement of Dr. Downs retirement earlier this year.

Gilmer Schools has issued the following press release about Dr. Hal Brian Ridley.

The Gilmer County Board of Education named Dr. Hal Brian Ridley as the single finalist for the position of Superintendent of the Gilmer County Schools at a called meeting on June 26, 2021. The Board voted to name Dr. Ridley as the single finalist for the fourteen-day period of public notice as required by Georgia law.

After reviewing applications and interviewing a number of excellent candidates, the Gilmer County Board of Education determined that Dr. Ridley is the best applicant for the position of Superintendent. The Board selected Dr. Ridley from among the pool of 29 applications received from across Georgia and the Southeast. The Board voted unanimously to name Dr. Ridley as the single finalist for the position and announced its intention to name him as Superintendent after the 14-day period of public notice.

Because of the importance of Superintendent selection, the Board devoted a great deal of effort and time to the Superintendent search and followed a structured and deliberate process over a three-month period. The Board advertised the position widely and considered community and employee input to develop the profile and selection standards that were used in the search process. In making its decision, the Board considered skills of each applicant, knowledge of and familiarity with Gilmer County schools and the community, and fit of applicant leadership style with the people and needs of the system. The Board also considered each applicant’s potential and previously demonstrated ability to unify the school community, to work collaboratively with all categories of employees, and to raise important measures of student achievement such as graduation rates and career and college readiness. The Board specifically sought a Superintendent who would work with all elements of the community and school system to establish goals and who would lead the school system to achieve those goals over time.

Dr. Ridley currently serves as Assistant Superintendent of Haralson County Schools. He has 25 years of experience in education including time as a Middle School Principal, Elementary School Principal, and Band Director.

In the coming weeks, details of Dr. Ridley’s employment will be developed by the Board and formal action to employ him as Superintendent is expected at the next regular Board Meeting. After action to formally employ Dr. Ridley, he will cooperate with Ms. Kim Cagle, Interim Superintendent, to transition into the Superintendent’s position.

Dr. Ridley has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Berry College, a Master of Music Performance Degree from the University of West Georgia, a Specialist in Education Administration and Supervision from the University of West Georgia, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of West Georgia.

Dr. Ridley said about himself, “I am a principle-centered leader with a “no excuses” attitude and a focus on problem solving through innovation. I exhibit strong conflict resolution skills and I am experienced in dealing with difficult public relations and personnel issues in a professional manner. I am adept at building relationships among various stakeholder groups and fully intend to serve as a positive school representative within the community. I am truly excited by the possibility of bringing my dedication and knowledge to your school district.”

Currently the Assistant Superintendent of the Haralson County School System in Tallapoosa, Georgia, a system with a work force of over 500 employees serving approximately 3,500 students.

As part of the process, Gilmer Schools is publishing their release along with Dr. Hal Brian Ridley’s Resume and Cover Letter for 14 days to allow public input and feedback before the next Board of Education Meeting. They have also provided his Ridley Certificate to Publish.

As the process continues, citizens are invited to comment and add their input on Ridley. If wishing to speak publicly, the Board of Education allows public comments at their work session, or citizens could speak at the Regular Meeting if they sign up early.

 

Authorities offer statement to warn of possible severe weather conditions

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – The National Weather Service (NWS), Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), and Gilmer County Public Safety are alerting citizens to a possible hazardous weather condition over the coming weekend.

According to the statement released, areas of North Georgia could see increased risks of Flooding “Saturday night through Tuesday.” Public Safety told FYN that they receive their information directly from and work closely with these agencies like GEMA in preparing and readying the local response.

Authorities over the North Georgia Region are currently looking for more information to better estimate the exact amount of rainfall. The current information predicts between 3 and 7 inches of rainfall but the NWS did say there remains a large amount of uncertainty regarding the rainfall totals.

The NWS stated, “The combination of a Gulf tropical low and a cold front will create a one-two punch for Georgia beginning late Saturday and continuing through Tuesday. There remains a good deal of model uncertainty with the timing and coverage of the heaviest precipitation and changes to the forecast rainfall totals can be expected with subsequent forecast packages.”

GEMA’s release was also shared by local Public Safety as they are attempting to give citizens information about the possibility. The release stated, “The highest amounts of 5 to 7 inches are expected over portions of north and northeast Georgia where the topography will enhance rainfall activity.”

Part of the reason for concern comes as the recent storms in the area have kept streamflow normal at most river gage locations. The heat and dryness could help soil absorb some rain, but “persistent heavy rainfall over an area will create runoff issues quickly, especially across urban areas and north Georgia’s complex terrain.”

With this advisory, authorities are suggesting that people consider the possibility and prepare by cleaning drainage systems on or around their homes and property. As Gilmer is heavily rural, quickly accumulating rainfall can also produce widespread flooding of smaller, fast-responding creeks in the area.

Stay alert to changing forecasts. “A Flash Flood or Flood Watch may be issued for portions of north and central Georgia in the next 24 to 48 hours if forecast totals remain similar.”

Gilmer has had a number of devastating storms in recent years, many locals know which creeks and rivers will rapidly rise, for those aware and those unaware, Public Safety is sharing information at this point to keep citizens from potentially being caught off guard.

Sheriff’s Office takes Dillon Andrew Godfrey into custody

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Godfrey

ELLIJAY, Ga. – An official statement from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that Dillon Andrew Godfrey has been taken into custody over the weekend.

Godfrey, 28, fled from authorities in the area of Gunstock Creek Road according to the Sheriff’s Office. Now captured, he faces charges including Aggravated Child Molestation, 2 counts of Child Molestation, Cruelty to Children, Probation Violation, 3 counts of Obstruction.

The office thanked citizens for tips and help in spreading information, but did not comment on exactly how he was taken into custody. They have been seeking Godfrey’s whereabouts since Monday, June 7, 2021, and asking for information and help in locating him. Several comments on their Social Media post mentioned possible location, but the Sheriff’s Office also encouraged people to call in at the Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division.

FYN will follow the arrest as more details become available.

 

 

Pilgrim’s closed during the JBS Cyber Attack

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Pilgrim's

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s local chicken plant, a Pilgrim’s processing facility, shut down this week in light of “communications systems” within the facility. Pilgrim’s is owned by JBS USA, the target of the recent major cyberattack.

JBS S.A. is a Brazilian multinational company, acknowledged as one of the worldwide food industry leaders. Headquartered in Sao Paulo, the Company is present in 15 countries.

The local branch of the company informed employees late Sunday afternoon May 30, 2021, that they would be cancelling shifts at the plant. Sunday is when JBS USA says it was targeted by an “organized cybersecurity attack”

The facility stayed closed until informing employees that the company would resume at their normal scheduled shifts on “Tuesday night and Wednesday morning” according to the company’s public statements.

According to the Associated Press, “The FBI attributed the attack on Brazil-based meat processor JBS SA to REvil, a Russian-speaking gang that has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months.

Locally, Pilgrim’s has recovered and reopened faster than most in the parent company according to public statements that they expected to return by Thursday and be running close to full capacity. However, this statement was speaking to its entire global operations.

JBS USA said in a public statement that it utilized the company’s own global network of IT professionals and third-party experts to recover from the attack which may have helped Ellijay’s facility return to operations after only two days of shut down.

JBS USA stated, “The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation.”

In a separate statement released on June 2, 2021, Andre Nogueira, JBS USA CEO, stated, “JBS USA and Pilgrim’s continue to make significant progress in restoring our IT systems and returning to business as usual. Today, the vast majority of our facilities resumed operations as we forecast yesterday, including all of our pork, poultry and prepared foods facilities around the world and the majority of our beef facilities in the U.S. and Australia.”

Request for 8th Graders to march with band denied

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – In March 2021, the latest revisions to Board Policy IDE(3) were made for Competitive Interscholastic Activities. This month, Band Director David Wiebers submitted a request to allow a waiver to the policy for the band.

That waiver would allow a small number of students in the 8th grade to march with the high school band. Wiebers told the board that the waiver would help the band as it has had middle schoolers march before. With stated benefits to the students, retention rate, the high school band, and the middle school band, the request would allow the continuation of the practice in spite of the policy.

Policy IDE (3) states,

The Board of Education (“the Board”) hereby adopts this policy regulating competitive interscholastic activities.

1. Each middle and high school principal is responsible for properly supervising and regulating competitive interscholastic activities in his or her school and shall ensure that all staff members adhere to the school system’s athletic guidelines, this policy, and related rules of the State Board of Education. The principal may delegate responsibility for supervising one or more student activities and clubs to a member or members of his or her professional staff, provided such individuals must act under the principal’s direction.

2. A student wishing to participate in interscholastic competitive activities must be enrolled full time in the school that sponsors the competitive activity. (Dual Enrollment students are included in the “enrolled full time” group eligible to compete.)

3. Retention of students for athletic purposes is prohibited by the Gilmer County School System.

4. Each principal of a school covered by this policy is responsible for ensuring and maintaining documentation of adherence to the requirement of this policy.

5. Permission must come from the Superintendent or Superintendent’s designee for a coach to have practice on a non-school day (Ex: snow day).

Because of line 2 in the policy requiring a student to be “enrolled full time in the school that sponsors the competitive activity,” a student of Clear Creek Middle School cannot be allowed to march competitively with the Gilmer High School band.

Wiebers said that middle schoolers who have marched with the high school return to their middle school program with stories and experiences to share, increasing interest in the high school program. It also increases the level of excellence for those students involved as they are introduced to the higher level program earlier than normal. Wiebers said that since only the highest level members of the middle school band are allowed to participate, it keeps the number lower while maintaining quality.

Wiebers said, “I don’t view it as a high school position, I view it as a six through twelfth grade band program.”

Assistant Director Holly Kinsey also spoke during the meeting supporting the request with her own story of when she was in middle school band and was given the opportunity to march with the high school. She spoke about how the experience reinvigorated her desire for band. She said she was bored with band at the time, and it was the gifted program for marching with the high school that gave her a bit of a push to continue.

However, all of this would be in direct violation of the policy due to IDE(3). Thus, the request for a waiver.

Even with participation, students have faced restrictions and extra requirements when participating in high school band as a middle schooler, according to Kinsey. They must be accompanied at all times as Kinsey spoke about busing the students and following in her car to the high school. Additionally, in long or overnight trips, these students must be accompanied by their parent and they would room with the parents in overnight situations.

The board also unanimously approved the policy, as it currently exists, in March, two months ago. Additionally, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs stated in the regular meeting, “I can’t, in good conscience, with the feedback we’ve received, recommend a change to that policy.”

Much of the board agreed as the motion came to approve a waiver from board member Joe Pflueger. A second to the motion never came, meaning the motion died and a waiver was not approved. Thus, eighth grade band members cannot participate in high school band due to the standing Policy IDE (3).

Gilmer Schools lifts masks mandate on buses

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Step by step, little by little, Gilmer County is lifting restrictions and slowly moving back to far more casual life. Leaving behind masks and other PPE, the entire nation is taking steps as people are returning to sports arenas and school events like proms and graduations are showcasing the step back to life without certain constraints.

This week saw Gilmer’s Board of Education take another step on that same path as requests came for the board to lift the mandate for masks on buses.

This mandate has been in place all school year since Gilmer welcomed students back into class with the options for in-person or virtual learning. Now, a week before graduation, the board unanimously agreed that the time has come to step back from such restrictions. This does not mean you won’t see masks anymore. Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs made note that lifting the mandate only means they are optional now. Each student and parent are still the ones talking about the choice. According to Downs, many students do still wear the masks and have their own ready.

Downs said that many drivers have noted that students who don’t wear masks throughout the day will tend to forget them in a classroom. Bus drivers have some available, but the need for more has gone up as more students have laid down their masks throughout their standard day.

Board member Ronald Watkins, who has voiced opinions in favor of personal choice before, commented in the work session saying, “I say let them take them off.” Watkins advocated in favor of the request as he said to give the kids the option to wear them or not.

When questioned, Downs said that she has seen more masks used in elementary levels as opposed to higher grades.

While some comments were made among the board that this is only taking effect in the final days of this school year, it does set an indication as to what the board plans moving forward. As of now, this means that masks will continue to be optional on buses into the next school year.

Of course, should things change, the Board could always reinstate, but for now, it is 5-0 vote for lifting the mandate and allowing students and parents to make their choice on masks.

Three arrested in Delgado murder investigation

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Rossana Delgado

CHERRY LOG, Ga. – Three arrests have been made, according to the Georgia Bureau of Ingvestigations (GBI), in relation to the April 20, 2021, murder of Rossana Delgado in Cherry Log, Georgia.

After weeks of searching for the suspects and asking the public for help in identifying persons involved, the GBI released a statement today confirming the capture of three suspects, providing progress to the investigation and refocusing some public support.

The GBI stated, “On Saturday, May 15 2021, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, working in partnership with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta, HSI Harlingen, Texas and Attaché Matamoros, Mexico coordinated the arrests of Megan Colone, 30, and Oscar Manuel Garcia, 26.  The fifth suspect (previously identified in news releases by photographs) in this murder was located with Oscar Manuel Garcia and was identified as Juan Antonio Vega, 25.  A warrant was taken for Vega for the murder of Rossana Delgado.”

According to GBI information, Vega is a Cobb County resident.

Megan Colone AKA Grace Beda

Oscar Garcia

The fifth suspect allegedly involved in the Delgado murder has now been identified as Juan Antonio Vega.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since the murder, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, whose deputies discover Delgado as they conducted a welfare check at a residence in Cherry Log, Georgia, have passed the investigation to the GBI who have pursued the case up to these arrests.

All three suspects were apprehended in Mexico. GBI did not state specifically where in Mexico they were located, but did confirm that the suspects have been returned to the United States saying, “HSI Harlingen and Customs and Border Patrol oversaw the transport of the suspects to Texas detention facilities.  All three are pending extradition proceedings to Georgia to face murder charges.”

GBI credited all agencies involved in the case as they noted that HSI has worked diligently to assist the GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office in this case and in these arrests.  They stated, “The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office are very grateful for the support and efforts of HSI and all agencies involved in affecting these arrests.”

However, with three suspects in custody, the case is still ongoing continuing the search for the additional suspects, Juan Ayala-Rodriguez, 35, of Gainesville, GA, and Mario Alberto Barbosa-Juarez, 29, of Oklahoma City, OK. The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office continue to actively investigate this case and the individuals involved in the murder of Rossana Delgado.

Other aspects of this case are still pressing in that investigation as the GBI is still searching for the identity of one of the last people to interact with the victim, Rossana Delgado. Releasing a video of April 16, 2021. As one of the final people to see Delgado, GBI are seeking more information on the woman in the video with Delgado as a person of interest. Any information could be vital to aiding in capturing these suspects or in finding more details of Delgado’s final hours.

The GBI reiterated the push for the additional suspects saying, “A coordinated effort to locate and arrest the other two murder suspects, Juan Ayala-Rodriguez and Mario Alberto Barbosa-Juarez, is active and ongoing. Anyone with information as to the identity of the woman pictured in previous news releases are asked to contact the GBI. Tips can be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.”

During their original release, the GBI stated that Colone may have been traveling under the alias, Grace Beda and was believed to be traveling with her minor children. They have since confirmed that Colone’s children were safely returned to the United States during these arrests operations.

County renames park to Ralston River Park

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Honoring the entire Ralston family for contributions to the county and the park specifically, including that of Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to rename the riverside park along Old Highway 5 to “Ralston River Park.”

Ralston

In April of 2018, Speaker David Ralston attended the opening of the new playground at River Park which a state grant aided local funds in creating.

Originating in this month’s meeting as an agenda item to rename the walking path for the Ralston family, discussion turned to the 28 years of service the county has received through numerous efforts from the family as a whole. Parks and Recreations Director Kevan White spoke during the Commissioners Work Session on the topic saying that some of those efforts include employment with the Parks and Rec Department, officiating basketball games over the years, memberships to the Parks and Rec Advisory Board, coaching various sports, GRPA awards and recognitions, state level service with  public service since 1992, state legislation since 2002, volunteer services in disasters like Hurricane Isaac, state-level support in the recent upgrades, county level public service in the commissioners office, and more.

The original proposal the White spoke of was to name the path the “Ralston Riverwalk.” However, Post Commissioner Hubert Parker offered a step-up alternative in naming the whole park instead of the just the walking path. While White said he had thought about it, but didn’t propose it at first, he noted that several parts of the park, like the tennis courts, bear names of people who have dedicated great services to the county and the Parks and Recreation Department as well. White also noted that he has further plans for other dedications in the Clear Creek area as well.

Ralston

Kevan White speaks to the Gilmer BOC in May of 2021 about renaming the park as “Ralston River Park.”

Ultimately, no objection came, and a unanimous agreement to increase the dedication from the walking path to the park in general was made. The BOC May Regular meeting saw the formal motion to add the honorific.

The official name change completed, Chairman Charlie Paris did tell FYN that the county would be placing some sort of plaque or signage bearing the name in the future. But does not currently have a sign ready for it.

Ellijay sees surge at gas pumps with Colonial Pipeline shutdown

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the recent news of both the Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown and restart, many citizens have resorted to stocking and gathering extra gas. While citizens have reported people filling extra cans and tanks in Gilmer County, nothing has yet been reported as some photos on the internet show in major cities where people are filling everything from trash cans to plastic bags in order to store and collect gasoline for future use.

Despite the lines and crowds of this week, today saw gas stations across Ellijay with very few cars waiting and very few stations closed.

On Tuesday, Governor Brian Kemp suspended Georgia’s gas tax and prohibited price gouging. The Murphy gas station in the Walmart parking lot in Ellijay had an attendant walking pump to pump on Tuesday, some said the attendant was monitoring vehicles to make sure no one person was filling too many extra tanks. However, the attendant declined to comment with the media directly.

But Murphy is not the only station that would be doing this. One resident living in Pickens, Mark said that he found the BP in Jasper limiting the amount of gas citizens could buy as well.

Lines have formed over the last few days as people continue either topping off their tanks or collecting extra, and Green’s Country Store at the corner of Old Highway 5 and Highway 515 did have its sign shutdown on Tuesday. The Conoco next to the Walgreens in Ellijay also had pumps closed one day. However, despite some closures here and there and lines for only a couple days, the county has not seen mass shutdowns or devastating effects like some major cities.

gas

Shutdowns have occurred in Gilmer County, but not to the extent of some larger cities. Still, some stations like the Valero on Highway 382 have seen the effects of the surge in the county.

That does not mean that authorities are not responding and trying to help citizens. Gilmer’s Public Safety Department posted to social media yesterday saying “The Georgia Consumer Affairs Protection Division has set up phone lines for the purpose of reporting price gouging.”

Federal authorities are saying that many places will see a “return to operations” by the weekend. In fact, as pictured, most gas stations in Gilmer today are devoid of the lines from the past few days, and few have been seen closed.

Attacked by hackers, media reports have indicated that Colonial Pipeline paid the ransomware attack to the tune of $5 million. Nobody knows if that cost is going to keep gas prices high in the coming weeks. Gilmer alone saw many of its stations hovering around and just under $3 per gallon over the last few days, while before the attack, most prices were closer to $2.70 per gallon.

Although there have been no current reports in Ellijay or East Ellijay, citizens have feared over the last few days that some might seek to take advantage of the shortage by hiking prices to outrageous amounts. For those cases of extreme hikes, Gilmer Public Safety’s post about price gouging included some directions for reporting.

The Division has been overwhelmed with calls and asks that you review and confirm the elements of price gouging, as outlined below, before calling their office.

They can be reached at 404-651-8600 or Toll Free 1-800-869-1123 if outside of the Metro Atlanta calling area. Representatives are available weekdays between 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM on Friday.

Price gouging in Georgia is defined as follows:
Selling items or services determined by the Governor during a declared state of emergency to be necessary for public safety at a higher cost than they were immediately prior to the declaration.
Charged as a deceptive or unfair trade practice (and investigated by the AG as such); an additional civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation if “disaster-related.”

One day ago, massive lines and wait times plagued gas stations like this one in Blairsville, Georgia.

Chamber cancels Taste of Ellijay

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The Gilmer Chamber has confirmed cancellation of the May “Taste of Ellijay” event this week after an email was sent out with information on the decision.

According to the Chamber, “This was not a quick or easy decision to make. Taste of Ellijay is a favorite event for locals, visitors, and restaurants alike.”

Statewide staffing issues and problems in labor have attributed to major issues across the state with numerous reports on the COVID crisis, unemployment, and other issues as contributing factors.

The Chamber said that they have tried to make the event work in many ways, pursuing efforts across the county and with individual business owners.

They said, “ We spoke with, emailed, and visited several restaurants to see what assistance the Chamber could offer in helping make their participation possible and one theme was clear: the current staffing crisis has hit our restaurants especially hard.”

It is because of this that the official cancellation came saying, “We cannot in good conscience hold Taste of Ellijay knowing that less than a quarter of the regular vendors would be able to participate, nor can we ask our restaurants to stretch themselves even thinner.”

Citizens are not happy with the cancellation, voicing opinions on the current situation. Citizens like Eric Ward who said it is a “sad state we’re in,” when speaking on staffing crisis and the effects it has.

Messages of support for both the Chamber and Gilmer restaurants are also coming as some are referencing the shutdown and saying the community will adjust again.

President and CEO of the Chamber, Jennifer Grimmer just started her position this year in February and has already taken on challenges from events planning and cancellation, severe storm damage to the Chamber building, and economic and developmental shortcomings in the economy.

In early April, the successes and efforts paid off with the announcement and permit approval for the Taste of Ellijay event. Grimmer said in a Board of Commissioners meeting that Taste of Ellijay, along with the Apple Festival, would be making their anticipated return this year after suffering cancellations from the COVID-19 outbreak last year.

Now, another crisis arises, another roadblock in the path of returning to life as it was.

This has not stopped the Chamber from its job, however. They offered another comment in their statement. Supporting a community is part of what a Chamber does and their statement continues that saying, “If you love events like Taste of Ellijay, we ask that you show that love to our local restaurants. Please extend our servers, chefs, restaurant owners and support staff kindness next time you go out to eat and remember that they are facing staffing shortages, supply chain shortages, and other challenges as we approach our busy Summer season.”

GTC confirms 515 alternate path to Boardtown road project

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515

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – An official statement from the Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) today has given relief to the Boardtown road community, through Highway 515, who have been vocally opposing the major project’s plans to build on the road.

The community and its leaders often stated that they supported the project and agreed with it being a needed upgrade, but wanted the project relocated to a different location. Many specifically stated Highway 515 as an alternative.

Even GTC said they had originally looked at 515 but were turned down.

515 515Today, with the aid of House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, the GTC said, “Following months of extensive analysis at the request of the local community, Georgia Transmission has determined that Highway 515 is a viable corridor for the Whitepath Electric Reliability Project. Conversations are underway with the Georgia Department of Transportation to develop a proposed route for the project adjacent to Highway 515 that meets engineering and safety constraints.”

GTC gave specific thanks to Ralston and Gooch and the community saying the result was a culmination of efforts and input from “community partners including citizens, civic organizations, and elected officials.”

As plans continue for the official path the 46 kV sub-transmission line will take, a preliminary path has already been laid out in consultation with Speaker Ralston. GTC said that this new path involves purchasing easements to minimize the impact of the line on rights of way owned by both the public and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

In late September of 2020, GTC said they were beginning “an extensive look” into the 515 and another alternative path. Just over seven months later, they are confirming this path as viable.

The opposition started last year after a series of public information meetings showed a pathway leading down Boardtown road after GTC had already ruled out the 515 path and one along a CSX rail line.

GTC said the Highway 515 path was denied due to limitations including a request denial by GDOT. 

Now, with the path approved, House Speaker Ralston said, “This outcome demonstrates that workable solutions can be achieved when parties come together in cooperative spirit for the betterment of the community. Sen. Gooch and I are pleased that our partners at Georgia Transmission and Amicalola EMC have done their due diligence in service to the community and are now able to take the next step in ensuring reliable electricity for households and businesses in Gilmer County.”

Ralston was brought in on the project discussion after Gilmer County’s Board of Commissioners drafted letters to him and Gooch last year. Citizens flooded into the county’s monthly meeting asking for help in discussions to find an alternative path from Boardtown. With the board’s letters and offers to set up additional meetings for citizens, they pledged to aid in what ways they could.

With the confirmation of this alternative path’s viability, Georgia Transmission Vice President of Project Services John Reese said, “Georgia Transmission is proud that we were able to honor our word to the community while fulfilling our mission of helping to keep the lights on for Gilmer County. Although considerable work remains to be done we appreciate the active engagement of Amicalola EMC and its members, and the leadership of Speaker Ralston and Senator Gooch, in identifying a solution to the critical electric reliability need in the area.”

According to GTC’s statement, they will soon begin undertaking the process necessary for “advancing the route along Highway 515.” This process involves finalizing the route, contacting property owners in the area, and more public meetings.

For citizens wishing to continue following this project, Georgia Transmission will offer updates on the project page of their site.

GBI searches for new person of interest in Delgado murder

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CHERRY LOG, Ga. – Today the GBI released a video pointing out a specific person of interest that they are searching for.

The GBI is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying and locating the woman in this video.

According to the GBI’s Press Release, the woman is one of the last people to interact with the victim, Rossana Delgado. This video was noted in other reports and was taken on April 16, 2021. As one of the final people to see Delgado, GBI are seeking more information. The GBI has identified four suspects and has already released information seeking the identity of an unknown fifth suspect.

Now, this person of interest could have vital information on the case, the GBI is asking that anyone with information call the GBI Tipline at 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), report the information online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the mobile app, See Something Send Something.

Missing Mother of two discovered in Cherry Log murder

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GILMER, Ga – Last seen in Doraville, Georgia, on April 17, Rossana Delgado was discovered as the victim of a murder in Cherry Log on April 20, 2021.

Delgado

Juan Ayala-Rodriguez

The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Department continued investigations and offered a report on the activity clarifying, “We DO NOT feel that there is a current threat to our citizens in the area.” The Sheriff’s Office was working alongside the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in the death investigation.

Since then, FYN has confirmed with authorities that the victim was Rossana Delgado. A mother of two has been missing from the Barrow County area since last Friday. The GBI now has four suspects with a possible fifth. Pictured are those suspects.

According to other reports, Delgado’s last known location was in Doraville, Ga. on April 17. They also indicate that she spoke to her husband at about 7 p.m. last Friday night. This was before picking up a person for her job. Reports say she drove a red 2017 Ford Focus as part of a job with a taxi service. However, it is unclear whether it was with Lyft, Uber, or another similar service.

Mario Barbosa-Juarez

While her husband did track her through her phone for a while, he and authorities did not find Delgado as her phone was discovered in public storage on Covington Highway. Unfortunately, that search ends today as Gilmer County Sheriff’s Deputies identified the victim of a murder in Cherry Log.

Since Thursday, April 22, 2021, social media has been covered in theories, reports, and rumors that citizens have spread about the crime while authorities have tracked evidence and worked with the GBI in the investigation. Now, they are releasing more information on their discoveries. As with most police investigations, details are limited due to the ongoing investigation and other duties like notifying family members first.

The GBI has officially issued murder warrants for suspects in the Gilmer County murder of Delgado.

Megan Colone AKA Grace Beda

The GBI stated, “The suspects that are wanted in connection with this murder are Megan Alyssa Colone, 30, of Stone Mountain, GA, Juan Ayala-Rodriguez, 35, of Gainesville, GA, Oscar Manuel Garcia, 26, of Austell, GA, and Mario Alberto Barbosa-Juarez, 29, of Oklahoma City, OK.  It is believed that the four suspects plus a fifth suspect, that has yet to be identified, may no longer be in Georgia.”

It is also noted that Colone may be traveling under the alias, Grace Beda. Colone is believed to be traveling with her minor children. Authorities nationwide have been alerted about these individuals.

According to the GBI’s press release, “On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at approximately 7 a.m., the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office conducted a welfare check at a residence in Cherry Log, Georgia.”

Concerted efforts to identify the fifth suspect are ongoing.

Oscar Garcia

The GBI asks anyone with information about the whereabouts of Colone, Ayala-Rodriguez, Garcia, or Barbosa-Juarez are asked to call the GBI Tipline at 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), report the information online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online or by downloading the mobile app, See Something Send Something.  If you see any of these individuals do not approach them, call 911 immediately.

The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office has asked for patience and understanding with this case. The GBI echoed the sentiment saying that this investigation is still very active.  The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office continue to coordinate with the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office, the DeKalb County Police Department, and the Chamblee Police Department, as well as multiple state, local, and Federal agencies to locate and hold the responsible parties accountable.

As the investigation continues and authorities continue to release information, FYN will continue to update this story and new articles as it becomes available. The GBI stated that the autopsy results are pending, but upon completion of this investigation, the file will be provided to the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney for prosecution.

Full press release from GBI below:

Ellijay, Georgia (April 24, 2020) – Murder warrants have been issued for suspects in the Gilmer County murder of Rossana Delgado, 37, of Bethlehem, GA, that occurred on April 20, 2021.  The suspects that are wanted in connection with this murder are Megan Alyssa Colone, 30, of Stone Mountain, GA, Juan Ayala-Rodriguez, 35, of Gainesville, GA, Oscar Manuel Garcia, 26, of Austell, GA, and Mario Alberto Barbosa-Juarez, 29, of Oklahoma City, OK.  It is believed that the four suspects plus a fifth suspect, that has yet to be identified, may no longer be in Georgia.  Colone may be traveling under the alias, Grace Beda.  Colone is believed to be traveling with her minor children.  Authorities nationwide have been alerted about these individuals.

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at approximately 7 a.m., the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office conducted a welfare check at a residence in Cherry Log, Georgia.  Gilmer County deputies responded and then requested the assistance of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) Regional Investigative Office in Cleveland, GA.  The victim found at the scene was later identified as Delgado.  Delgado was reported as a missing person in Barrow County, Georgia on April 16, 2021.  She was last seen in DeKalb County on April 16, 2021.

Concerted efforts to identify the fifth suspect in this case are ongoing.  Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Colone, Ayala-Rodriguez, Garcia or Barbosa-Juarez are asked to call the GBI Tipline at 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), report the information online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online or by downloading the mobile app, See Something Send Something.  If you see any of these individuals do not approach them, call 911 immediately.

This investigation is still very active.  The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office continue to coordinate with the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office, the DeKalb County Police Department, and the Chamblee Police Department, as well as multiple state, local and Federal agencies to locate and hold the responsible parties accountable.

The autopsy results are pending.

Upon completion of this investigation, the file will be provided to the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney for prosecution.

See more press releases and updates as the GBI and Gilmer Sheriff’s Office continue the investigation with updates about the fifth suspect and asking for citizens help in identifying another person of interest.

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