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Governor visits Chickamauga school, signs bills into law

On Friday, April 26, Gov. Brian Kemp landed on the practice football field of Gordon Lee High School in a Georgia State Patrol helicopter and was met by an entourage of luminaries that included Sen. Jeff Mullis of Walker County and Rep. Dewayne Hill of Catoosa County.

The purpose of the governor's visit was to publicly sign several bills into law and to share some of the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office.

Kemp has signed over 120 bills into law this year, many of them in the home towns of legislators who sponsored them.

Mullis was a sponsor of S.B. 77, a bill that provides additional protection to state monuments by allowing for extra fines in the case vandalism and prevents monuments and other publicly displayed historic items from being moved to museums.

Controversy has surrounded S.B. 77 because many believe that while it applies to all state monuments, the intent is to protect Confederate monuments. Before signing the bill, Kemp cited the monument of Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta and praised King's legacy of peace.

"It's true we have monuments that do not reflect our values," Kemp said, alluding to some Confederate monuments.

But he added that those monuments are also part of our history and we can learn from them.

Among other legislation Kemp has signed into law is H.B. 274, which cements the extra homestead exemption related to school taxes for Catoosa County homeowners aged 65 or older whose income is under $30,000 a year. The exemption will apply to $40,000 of the assessed value of a home.

H.B. 387 allows for liens against property in areas that are served by non-profit, volunteer fire departments in cases where the property owners have not subscribed to the fire protection service but request assistance in the case of an emergency.

H.B. 63 requires health insurance companies to allow patients to skip typical steps in drug therapies on the advice of the patients' doctors and to go immediately to stronger or alternative drugs as their doctors deem necessary as long as the drugs are covered by the insurance company.

H.B. 551 addresses the packaging and sale of kratom and specifies that it is illegal to sell kratom to anyone under the age of 18 and it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess kratom.

The bill also outlines labeling requirements that include listing ingredients and safe doses.

One interesting piece of legislation, S.B. 6, outlines the consequences of using unmanned aircraft to deliver contraband to prisons or to take unauthorized photographs of prisons. H.B. 353 makes it a crime to intentionally stage a motor vehicle collision, to intentionally cause a motor vehicle collision or to fabricate evidence of a motor vehicle collision for the purpose of insurance fraud.

The governor spoke in Chickamauga about his wife's efforts to help end human trafficking. First Lady Marty Kemp is heading up the GRACE Commission, committed to "eliminating sex trafficking and providing care to victims."

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.


To learn more about legislation signed into law by Governor Kemp, visit gov. georgia.gov/signed-legislation.

2 men arrested in Rossville for allegedly burning deceased body

Clarence Edward McCorkle

Ricky Lee Whittemore

Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk

Clarence Edward McCorkle

Ricky Lee Whittemore

Two men were arrested after the duo reportedly burned a woman's body and dumped it in Tennessee, authorities say.

According to Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk:

Ricky Lee Whittemore, 49, of Whittemore Hollow Road in Ringgold, was arrested April 27 on charges of concealing the death of another, tampering with evidence, and felony probation violation. He has been denied bond at this time.

Clarence Edward McCorkle, who officials say committed the acts with Whittemore, was arrested May 1. He faces the same charges of concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence, in addition to being a wanted fugitive out of Hamilton County, Tennessee.

Sisk says a body of a young woman was discovered in Marion County, Tennessee, on April 25. Subsequently, the body was sent to the Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy.

Two days later, on Saturday, April 27, the Walker County Sheriff's Office arrested Whittemore on unrelated warrants from their county.

Walker County deputies later discovered that the burned body actually died in Catoosa County and was transported to Tennessee.

"Catoosa County detectives along with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation responded and began conducting a joint investigation," Sheriff Sisk said. "During the investigation, it was found that during the night time hours of April 23, and into the early morning hours of April 24, an individual died at 385 Whittemore Hollow Road Ringgold in Catoosa County from a possible overdose."

Sisk says that Whittemore and McCorkle then moved the body to Tennessee.

"After the death, Ricky Lee Whittemore and Clarence Edward McCorkle took the deceased body from the Catoosa County residence and transported it to Marion County, Tennessee," Sisk explained. "Whittemore and McCorkle then set the deceased on fire and fled from Marion County."

Sisk added that Whittemore traveled to 103 Chastain Road in Rossville in Walker County afterwards and burned items that had been used to dispose of the deceased.

After the details of the incident came to light, Whittemore was transported to Catoosa County from Walker County on Monday, April 29.

Sisk says his agency has a good idea of the female victim's identity, but that the body has not been officially identified yet.

"Although we believe, based on the evidence collected and witness statements, that we know the identity of the victim, at this time, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has not officially identified the victim, so the name will not be released at this time," Sisk said.

Staff Writer Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker County-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009.

Health departments to provide free hepatitis A vaccines

Northwest Georgia health departments in Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, and Walker counties will provide free hepatitis A vaccine to individuals at risk of the highly contagious, highly preventable liver disease every Friday in May.

Clinics will be held at each health department on May 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Those at risk of hepatitis A include: individuals recently released from jail or prison; men who have sex with men; recreational drug users; homeless or transient individuals; and persons with close contact to someone with these risk factors.

"We urge individuals with one or more of these risk factors to get vaccinated against this vaccine-preventable disease,' said Dr. Unini Odama, director for the Department of Public Health Northwest Health District. "The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to practice good hygiene, proper hand washing, careful and sanitary preparation of food, and by getting vaccinated against the hepatitis A virus."

Georgia is one of 18 states experiencing a large number of cases of the highly contagious liver infection. Most of the Georgia cases are currently clustered in Northwest Georgia.

Therefore, health officials are encouraging everyone to actively prevent the spread of hepatitis A and asking healthcare providers to be aware of the disease and its symptoms, which include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, diarrhea, joint pain, and jaundice.

Nearly 300 turn out for 'Clean Catoosa'

On Saturday, April 27, 287 local folks, mostly from Catoosa County and its cities, showed up early in the morning to help make their community a more beautiful place.

Clean Catoosa was a giant cleanup and beautification project spearheaded by the Ringgold-based LIFT Youth Center.

"Events like this one," says Tina Pinkston, CFO of LIFT and coordinator of Clean Catoosa, "bring students and adults together alongside many partners and leaders in our area for a greater good. If we can help one student, one family or one company care more for their local environment then we think it's helping them to care for each other as well."

Pinkston says the cities of Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe created most of the 26 work projects planned for the day, but some were arranged by private groups. Helping to complete those projects were city and county employees, members of local businesses, schools and non-profits, and residents from the community.

Volunteers met up with their team leaders on the morning of the event, then spread out to pick up trash, plant trees and flowers, spread mulch and collect recyclables.

Some even took to boats, canoes and kayaks to clean up four sections of South and West Chickamauga Creeks. Teams also labeled storm water drains to warn people that they were installed for rain water and nothing else.

After several hours of intense work, everyone gathered at Northwest Georgia Amphitheater for lunch, entertainment and activities.

Pinkston says that 90 volunteers collaborated to make the post­work lunch and events a success. Members of the Catoosa County Fire Department served up the food and there were 18 activity booths for children and others.

Volunteers could make pollinator cookies, create recycled art, build bird houses and feeders, learn some yoga or how to juggle, hold kittens, get their faces painted, practice planting seeds and learn about composting. The "Butterfly Lady" was there with her butterfly tent, and groups were there to teach about water and conservation.

"Clean Catoosa 2019 was a great success," says Pinkston. "LIFT was honored to coordinate this event and is already looking forward to what Clean Catoosa 2020 will bring."

Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jenny Simpkins, who participated in the event, expressed her gratitude for the work that went into Clean Catoosa: "Thank you to LIFT's Tina Pinkston for taking the lead and organizing this outstanding community event. The city of Fort Oglethorpe is honored to support the Clean Catoosa effort, and we greatly appreciate all the volunteers who spent their Saturday planting flowers in our parks, placing informational stickers on our storm drains, and cleaning our roads and waterways."

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.


For more information about LIFT and to keep up with plans for Clean Catoosa 2020, visit lift-ringgold.org.

To see more photos of Clean Catoosa 2019, visit facebook.com/LIFTRinggold.