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Rossville man charged with murdering uncle

Bounmy Manhrasamy

A Rossville man was arrested Dec. 9 after allegedly shooting his uncle during an early morning domestic dispute, police say.

According to Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk, 37-year-old Bounmy Manhrasamy of Rossville is being held without bond at Catoosa County jail while facing charges of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

Sisk says the Catoosa 911 Center received an "active shooter" call at 9:14 a.m. Sunday advising that one man was wounded and that the shooter was still inside the residence at 218 Steele Road in Rossville off Mack Smith Road.

"Upon deputies' arrival, the shooter (Manhrasamy) exited the residence and surrendered to law enforcement," Sisk said via press release. "Deputies entered the residence and located the victim, identified as Somvang Vorachak with a gunshot wound to the chest."

Sisk says deputies began giving first aid to Vorachak until EMS arrived, but that the 60-yearold succumbed to his injuries.

Sisk said Manhrasamy was the nephew of Somvang Vorachak.

"The two lived in the same residence and were having a domestic dispute which led to the shooting," Sisk said.


Ringgold makes urban camping ordinance official
• With the ordinance in place, the Ringgold Police Department will issue warnings to anyone violating the ordinance.

Kelly Bomar

The city of Ringgold unanimously approved the final reading of its new urban camping ordinance Monday night, Dec. 10, which is designed to keep people from setting up permanent residences on public property.

Ringgold's homelessness, or "urban camping" issue, has been a hot topic of conversation in recent weeks after residents complained about a handful of men living under the bridge along U.S. Highway 41 next to the Ingle's grocery store.

Those complaints were received by Councilman Larry Black, who spearheaded the city's creation and implementation of the ordinance.

After approving the ordinance in an emergency capacity last month, the final reading on Monday, Dec. 10, makes it official.

The ordinance prohibits prolonged camping (living) in public parks and other areas of the city, as well as storage of public property in such locations for long periods of time.

A big part of the concern of residents business owners involved the fact that a few of the men living under the bridge were registered sex offenders.

Since that knowledge became public, those men have moved on from the bridge.

"We can't solve this problem overnight," Black said during November's first reading. "We as a City Council decided how we needed to go forward to address the concerns of our residents."

With the ordinance in place, the Ringgold Police Department will issue warnings to anyone violating the ordinance. Violators will then have a 24 hours to comply.

Prior to the final reading Monday (Dec. 10), Councilman Kelly Bomar questioned whether the 24-hour deadline was ample time for a person to get their belongings gathered up and possibly arrange for another place to stay.

However, the ordinance was officially adopted with the deadline in place.

Police Department Administrative Coordinator Wayne Thaxton, who attended the work session and meeting Monday night (Dec. 10), says officers will have discretion in the matter as they attempt to enforce the new city law.

In addition to the ordinance itself, a collection of local pastors, social workers, and homeless advocates have been holding meetings to organize services for people in Catoosa County who find themselves without a home or place to stay.

The group held its first public forum on Nov. 15 and was able to organize temporary hotel services for a gentleman who at the time was the last remaining camper under the bridge.

During the most recent meeting on Nov. 26, Ringgold United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Chris Bryant said other churches have stepped up and are willing to pay for the man's stay for additional weeks at the Ringgold hotel.

Bryant also stressed the importance of meeting regularly and formulating goals for how the group might create long-term solutions.

"There's an immediate need, which is area one, and then area two is what do we do long-term," Bryant said.

'There's an immediate need, which is area one, and then area two is what do we do long-term.'

Pastor Chris Bryant

Ringgold United Methodist Church


Schools launch Purposity program to help students in need

Catoosa County Public Schools has launched its participation in a new community program geared toward helping local students in need.

Purposity, a program that finds purpose through generosity, gives community members the opportunity to anonymously help students and others who may need assistance through an online portal.

The program involves teachers and administrators providing Purposity with details about the needs of a student or individual in the area, and then the organization feeds those stories into a network where those signed up can choose to help assist with those needs.

For example, if a teacher discovers that a student is in need of a winter jacket, the teacher can submit a request for assistance for that child. After that, a weekly notification will go out to all the people signed up for Purposity and give any of those people the chance to choose to fill that need by purchasing a jacket for that child anonymously.

According to Catoosa County Schools social worker and Homeless Liaison Melissa Holcombe, the program allows community kindness to exist without compromising the confidentiality of the student or person in need.

"We know that students need to have their basic needs met before they are able to focus on learning," Holcombe said. "Purposity allows the community to assist students and their families by meeting some of those basic needs."

The school also acts as a catalyst to make sure the information and items are secured for the students.

"If a child needs shoes, the need can be placed on Purposity with a short explanation of the situation and sent out in the weekly text," Holcombe said. "Community members will have the opportunity to then purchase the item through Amazon, and the item is sent to the school. Purposity allows people to feel a connection with the person in need without breaking confidentiality. No identifying information about the giver or the receiver is shared."

The Purposity program really took off a few weeks ago when Ringgold Mayor Nick Millwood, a middle school math teacher, shared information about the program on social media.

For a community to utilize Purposity, it must have 500 people signed up through Purposity.com. Catoosa eclipsed that mark within 48 hours and currently has more than 850 registered to help.

Millwood thinks the program will mean a lot to the community and the kids that'll benefit from it.

"The people most likely to identify those needs (our teachers, administrators, and counselors in the schools) actually have a community-wide tool to access help for our kids and families that are in the greatest need," Millwood said. "It also means that kids will see how compassionate and loving their community can actually be now that we have the ability to ease the suffering and embarrassment kids experience because of life situations they have no control over."

Holcombe says that different businesses and organizations can help sponsor the program, and that some already have.

"Georgia Power felt so strongly about the need for the program, they sponsored the entire state of Georgia," Holcombe said. "So every part of the administration of Purposity Catoosa is covered. All that is needed are participants to purchase the items."

In addition to local students, Holcombe says Purposity Catoosa will also help others in need.

"While our focus is on student's needs and the needs of their family, we are taking requests for the elderly and others in need," Holcombe said. "Those requests will be through Ringgold United Methodist Church. We are hoping to send out first text this week."

Those interested in assisting with Purposity can sign up for the weekly texts to assist individuals in need at Purposity.com.

"When you enter your cellphone number, you will be allowed to choose Catoosa as your community," Holcombe explained. "There is absolutely no obligation in signing up, you will just receive the weekly list and you choose to help with the need that touches your heart.

Anyone with additional questions about the program can contact Holcombe via email at mholcombe@catoosa.k12.ga.us.

'We know that students need to have their basic needs met before they are able to focus on learning.'

Melissa Holcombe

Catoosa County Schools social worker and Homeless Liaison


Ringgold's Down Home Christmas Parade ignites the holiday season

Woman accused of embezzling $250K
Bookkeeper had worked for the flooring company for 6 years

Judy Hicks

James Hicks

A Murray County, Georgia, woman was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 11, after a four-month investigation revealed that she allegedly embezzled more than a quarter-million dollars from her Ringgold employer over several years.

According to the Ringgold Police Department, 42-year-old Judy Michelle Hicks was arrested on charges of theft by taking over $25,000, first-degree forgery, and unauthorized use of financial transaction cards.

Hicks' husband, 41-year-old James Christopher Hicks, was also arrested on a charge of party to a crime for his knowledge of and benefit from his wife's crimes. Both have been released from jail on bond.

Detective Anthony Gregory said the investigation began in the fall when the owner of Happy Feet International, a flooring company in Ringgold, discovered that his bookkeeper, Hicks, had been stealing money for personal use.

Hicks worked for the company for about six years, and Gregory says the investigation revealed that the habitual thievery had been going on for awhile.

"It all went back a while," Gregory said. "She worked there for six years, but it's mainly been the past three to four years that this type of activity has increased. In a nutshell, they found out that a lot of different things were going on."

Gregory said credit card purchases led to the initial discovery.

"The owner was reviewing who in the company had credit cards," Gregory said. "There were charges on statements for her card that didn't make sense. She (Hicks) was also writing checks to herself and putting them in her bank account, like extra paychecks."

Once the owner picked up on the activity, Hicks was fired and Ringgold police were notified.

"They immediately fired her and then called us about it," Gregory said. "She was their only bookkeeper and the company has grown to be worth several million dollars, so they didn't notice some of the purchases. Plus, they trusted her."

In November the total amount Hicks had allegedly swindled from the company reached the $240,000 mark, but Gregory says a forensic audit of all of Hicks' activity revealed other amounts that'd been taken, which pushed to total well over $250,000.

"The forensic auditor was hired to look at the books," Gregory said. "It's a lot of paperwork and a lot of documentation to go through. Our case file is about a foot thick."

Gregory said the investigation revealed instances when money went into Hick's personal bank account, paid for her son's braces, another person's dental work, vacations, payments on her credit cards, student loans, groceries, personal items, and even her Sirius Satellite Radio subscription.

Arrest and future of the case

After getting all the evidence in the case lined up, Gregory said he traveled to the couple's home in Murray County Monday, Dec. 10, to make the arrests, but was unsuccessful.

"I went to their residence to get them on Monday," Gregory explained. "He (James) was there, but wouldn't come to the door. They have cameras out in the trees and on the property, so he knew it was the police. Their attorney called a couple of hours later and arranged for them to turn themselves in at Catoosa County jail."

Jail records show the couple was booked around 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, and that both were released by 5 p.m.

Although Judy Hicks is the main culprit, Gregory said there is enough evidence to implicate her husband in the case.

"James Hicks was arrested too and charged in connection with this," Gregory said. "Being charged with party to a crime is kind of like an accessory — it's if a person aides or helps facilitate the crime. He was aware of what was going on and was profiting from it the same as she was."

Moving forward, Gregory says he'll meet with the Catoosa County District Attorney's Office to discuss the case and that an indictment against Hicks will have to be presented to a Catoosa County Superior Court grand jury.