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Alternate traffic pattern to hit Ga. 151 in Ringgold starting Friday

Travelers of Ga. 151 (Alabama Highway) in Ringgold will soon have a slightly new traffic pattern to navigate for the rest of the year as construction crews begin working on the road's bridges beginning Friday, Feb. 16.

Last year crews began working on a nearly $35 million widening project for the road, extending a little more than two miles from U.S. Highway 41 to the Rollins Industrial Park at Holcomb Road.

Residents have been curious for the past few days after seeing flashing traffic signs along the route displaying notice of the pending work.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the new traffic patterns are due to the construction taking place on the two bridges along the highway — one that passes over Chickamauga Creek near Walgreen's, and the I-75 overpass bridge at the 348 exit.

The change is supposed to take effect Friday, Feb. 16, weather permitting, and is expected to last up to a year.

"For those traveling south on State Route (SR) 151 from Hwy 41 both north and southbound, traffic will be shifted approximately 10 to 12 feet to the east in order to perform stage 1 bridge construction on the bridge over Little Chickamauga Creek," explained Mohamed Arafa, public relations manager for GDOT. "Southbound traffic on SR 151 will then shift back to the west side of the roadway near the intersection of Lafayette Street and Boynton Drive in order to perform the roadway construction work in the now grass median area."

Arafa says the flow along the I-75 overpass bridge will also impact the entry and exit ramps for exit 348.

"Also, for traffic on both the south-and northbound lanes, the I-75 off-ramps will be shifted to the right," Arafa said. "Traffic turning left from these ramps onto SR 151 in both directions will be shifted to where the concrete island previously existed (the islands have already been removed and temporary asphalt installed to accommodate this shift.). Construction on the bridge over I-75 has already begun and the shift will extend the

construction zones on both sides of the bridge for work on bridge end bent and approach slab. Both traffic patterns will be in place for the entirety of stage 1 construction, which is expected to take 9-12 months to complete."

While it may create some congestion for motorists, the work is part of a huge project designed to ultimately remedy flow issues that have plagued the road for years. The widening of the road will alleviate a lot of the holdups near the 348 exit, as well as the ones at Poplar Springs Road.

The project as a whole is slated to be completed in a little less than three years.

"Work on this project began late June 2017," Arafa said. "The entire project is expected to be completed by the end of December 2020, at a construction cost of $34,596,916."

For the duration of the bridge work, GDOT hopes that drivers will be conscious of the changes, and be patient as the project develops.

"We certainly hope that all motorists watch out for these traffic shifts and be extra cautious while approaching this work zone," Arafa said. "We understand that this project may be causing the public some inconvenience, but upon completion, it will improve the flow of traffic in the area, make it safer, and help the public get where they need to go Ringgold and in Catoosa County."

Georgia Supreme Court overturns Catoosa woman's murder conviction

Georgia's Supreme Court has overturned a Catoosa County woman's 2004 murder conviction, nearly 17 years after her 1-year-old son was severely burned in a house fire that ultimately contributed to his death.

Suzette Marie Calloway, and her husband Christopher Pierre Hicks, were involved in the manufacturing and selling of methamphetamine in the early 2000s.

On Feb. 17, 2001, a batch of meth being cooked in the home caught fire and engulfed the apartment in flames. The couple's son, 15-monthold Chelton, was in his crib sleeping when the fire broke out, causing burns to the child's face, scalp, arms and leg.

The baby's burns covered 30 percent of his body, and he underwent 10 surgeries to receive skin grafting. Doctors also had to perform a tracheostomy and install a trach tube due to the damage to his airway from inhaling so much hot air.

Baby Chelton was eventually placed with a foster care mother in Georgia who was trained in caring for medically fragile children. However, after a doctor changed his trach tube during a routine visit, Chelton quit breathing and suffered brain damage. The child welfare agency contacted Calloway and Hicks, and they gave their

consent to withdraw care. The baby died on June 17, 2001.

After the fire, Calloway and Hicks told investigators that a wall heater had exploded and caught fire. Investigators later inspected the apartment and found evidence inconsistent with the couple's account of the fire. Instead, they found unnatural burn patterns and numerous items used in making methamphetamine, including pseudoephedrine pill bottles, latex gloves, coffee filters and fuel and propane cans.

A detective attended the baby's funeral, planning to take the couple into custody on felony murder charges following the service. However, Calloway and Hicks did not attend the funeral, opting instead to flee to Kentucky. The couple was arrested in July 2001, at which time officers found numerous meth-making items and ingredients in the vehicle Calloway was driving.

In December 2002, a Rome, Ga., jury convicted the couple of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, attempt to manufacture methamphetamine and creating a substantial risk while attempting to manufacture meth. Calloway was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Fourteen months later, in February 2004, Calloway was again on trial, that time in Catoosa County Superior Court facing a felony murder charge. Calloway was again convicted, and sentenced to serve life plus 30 years to run consecutively to her federal sentence. Calloway then appealed to the state Supreme Court.

In August, Calloway's attorney, LaFayette-based Jennifer Hildebrand, filed an appeal of the conviction that lead to the reversal.

On Monday, Feb. 5, Justice Nels S.D. Peterson wrote that under state law, because she already had been convicted in federal court of several crimes related to manufacturing meth, Calloway could not be prosecuted subsequently in state court for felony murder involving the same conduct.

"We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdicts, but Calloway's federal conviction for attempt to manufacture meth barred a successive prosecution for the state crime of felony murder predicated on manufacturing meth," Peterson's unanimous opinion said. "We therefore reverse her felony murder conviction."

In Monday's 20-page opinion, Peterson also wrote that through legal technicalities, District Attorney Herbert E. "Buzz" Franklin could still pursue a conviction for a possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute charge against Calloway if he so chooses. That specific count and the federal count of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine require different elements of proof for criminal conviction.

For now, Calloway is serving her time in Hawkinsville, Ga. prison, while Hicks is still serving a life sentence.