A case that prosecutors described as one of the worst incidents of domestic violence in Floyd County came to a close Friday, with a Rome man being sentenced to 44 years, to serve 20 in prison and the remainder on probation.
"He is a monster," Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson said of the 31-year-old Daniel Dominguez, who received his sentence in Superior Court Judge Jack Niedrach's courtroom Friday.
The weeklong trial ended the night of Jan. 26 with Dominguez being found guilty of felony aggravated assault under the Family Violence Act, two counts of second-degree cruelty to children and a violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act, pertaining to methamphetamine possession.
He was also found guilty on misdemeanor charges of third-degree cruelty to children, four counts; battery under the FVA; criminal trespass; possession of less than an ounce of marijuana; and possession of drug-related objects, two counts.
Dominguez had been indicted by a grand jury Nov. 4, 2016, on 22 counts — a guilty verdict was not delivered on counts of false imprisonment, rape, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated assault.
Johnson said that over the course of the week preceding Dominguez's arrest on July 8, 2016, he had held a woman captive in a Towers Drive home and had beat her beyond belief in a meth-fueled attack, resulting in 67 bruises of various shades of bright blue, yellow and pink, some the size of grapefruits.
"She was a classic battered woman," Johnson said, adding that Dominguez had a "manipulative hold" on her and had beaten her with a chair, a stick and shoes, along with stabbing her with a pocket knife and a screwdriver.
Dominguez would make the woman smoke meth, telling her the drug would take her pain away, Johnson said. He choked her until she was unconscious, to the degree that capillaries in her neck burst and petechiae — red spots — formed on her eyes due to the flow of blood to her brain being cut off.
Three of the woman's children, all under the age of 10, as well as Dominguez's toddler son, were in the home at this time. When her three kids were inside, he forced them to stay in their rooms and wouldn't feed them — their mother would take the little food provided to her and give it to them.
The oldest of the woman's children took the stand — a "heartbreaking" moment, Johnson said — saying they would only have two meals in a week.
"They were just bones really," Johnson recalled the boy — who went from a size 8 to a size 14 in a year after the incident — responding to her question if his brothers had lost weight.
"Yeah, we would even have big bumps and knots on our heads," Johnson repeated the boy's words concerning Dominguez using a metal belt buckle to strike them on the head.
Dominguez had kept at least one of her kids with him to dissuade her from escaping, Johnson said. But, when he had passed out on a comedown from his meth high, the woman was able to climb out a window with the kids. As she walked up the road, carrying shoeless kids, a nearby resident had spotted her and called police.
Defense attorney Jamey Wyatt declined to make a statement, while defense attorney Arnold Ragas could not be reached.
Sustainability and responsibility will be keys to the future success for Rome's 60-plus year old International Paper plant, according to Corporate Communications executive Jenna Guzman. She briefed members of the Rome Floyd Chamber Economic Development Committee on operations at the plant Friday.
"Trees make a lot of wonderful things," Guzman said.
At the Rome plant, part of IP's industrial packaging division, Southern pine is used to create brown paper used largely in cardboard or corrugated paper boxes. She told the business group the Rome plant does not actually make boxes, but ships its paper out to box plants across the Southeast, including plants in Atlanta and Cleveland, Tennessee.
Guzman described the process of converting raw timber to paper as a process a little bit like making mashed potatoes.
"We're maximizing fiber recovery, we're supporting the ecosystem and we're keeping forest land forested," said Guzman.
She explained that IP does not actually own land, but purchases timber from private landowners who are committed to best practices as it relates to sustainability.
"Everybody that sells to us has to go through our third-party sustainability forestry initiative," Guzman said. At one point, one timber owner had an issue with woodpeckers. "We stopped the whole thing and put approval on hold until we could figure out how to deal with the little group of woodpeckers," she said.
The plant in Rome, opened in 1954, is in the process of a multi-million dollar mechanical and technological upgrade. Guzman said while the company does purchase power from the grid, it also converts steam generated at the plant to help fuel much of the operation. "We reuse everything," Guzman said.
Guzman said the Rome mill has one of the best quality control systems in the entire IP network of plants.
"We have a full wastewater management system," Guzman said. She stated that wastewater put back into the Coosa River is cleaner than the water withdrawn from the river.
The company has been focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the plant.
"Every year we get better," Guzman said. "We're 100 percent in line with that. We've never had any permitting issues."
Guzman said the company offers a lot of different job opportunities for the future workforce, particularly electrical and instrumentation jobs.
The plant is currently in the midst of a routine shut down for maintenance.
Today's art is by Ayden Maddox, a third-grader at Model Elementary School.
Decades ago, riverboats were a major form of transportation for Romans. Friday, an 86-year-old riverboat, the Myra H found itself floating, not down a river, but around the West Bypass and down Alabama Highway on the back of a 64-foot lowboy trailer. The boat was moved from Lock & Dam Park to General Electric property in West Rome where work to restore the boat will take place.
A group of river enthusiasts are leading the effort to restore the old watercraft and eventually find a prominent location to put it for future generations to see.
The Myra H was built in 1932 for Roman Pierce Harris.
"When that came off the pedestals, it was the most exciting thing I've seen in the past few years," said Jimmy Lovelace. "This is a wonderful day."
Lovelace is the stepbrother of Kyle Vasser and Linda Studard, who are grandchildren of the original owner of the boat.
Two massive cranes contributed by Miller Crane Service of Cedartown carefully hoisted the 54-foot boat off the pedestals it was displayed on at the park on the Coosa River. A crew of about half a dozen people used a variety of hand signals to help the crane operators maneuver the boat around a large tree and load it onto the back of a lowboy trailer contributed by Taylor Transportation of Cartersville.
The trailer then hauled the boat out Black's Bluff Road to U.S. 27 South to the bypass around Alabama Highway and Redmond Circle before reaching the building at General Electric where the boat will be restored inside a high-roofed building, protected from the weather which has taken a toll on the boat over the last 30-plus years.
Lovelace said Bob Harris and Dennis Nordeman have been leading the effort to have the boat restored.
"My neighbor Pat Coffey is an excellent woodworker and he wants to be involved in it," Lovelace said. "I think enthusiasm for the project is really going to rise."
Former Rome Assistant City Manager Jim Dixon, said the Myra H is one of the last survivors of its type. "It was used basically for touring and hunting I think," Dixon said. "It's just something that there's nothing else like it."
No decision has been made yet as to where the boat will ultimately be put on display.
Post-election studies show that 81 percent of white voters who identified as evangelical Christians supported Donald Trump — but that doesn't necessarily mean Evangelicals embrace the president.
"Forty percent of the electorate didn't vote, and we don't know how many of them are Evangelicals" said theology professor Vincent Bacote, director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College in Illinois.
"We know about the 81 percent who did vote, so they are getting a lot of attention," Bacote said during a special lecture at Berry College. "That makes it look like they're speaking for all Evangelicals."
Several hundred students attended the Lumen Lecture, which focused on faith and politics and the obligation of Christians. Bacote said there's a long tradition of fundamentalists, people who live by the fundamentals in the Bible, staying apart from government.
It was only when the world started intruding into religious life that some started to get more involved. Bacote said the first alert came in 1970, with a court decision revoking the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because it barred interracial dating. It gathered steam with Roe v. Wade, and other abortion cases.
But he noted that Democrat Jimmy Carter was the first modern president to put religion center-stage in the White House, prompting Time magazine to dub 1976 The Year of the Evangelical. Their support switched to President Ronald Reagan and Republicans in the 1980s, Bacote said. "But it wasn't always that way. And still, they're not sure it's what Christians should be doing. It's too worldly," he said.
It's just been in the past 20 years or so that a faction of Evangelicals have ramped up their involvement, Bacote noted, when they were actively courted by President George W. Bush — and Trump.
"Meanwhile, a younger generation emerged with concerns not just about abortion and gay marriage but about issues like poverty and war," he said.
In the end, Bacote told the students, it's up to the individual to decide how to merge their faith and politics. But he said that he believes Christians have a responsibility to participate, to bring their values into the public realm.
God gave men and women dominion over the world, Bacote said, quoting from Genesis.
"But it does not mean do whatever you want," Bacote explained. "God gives humans the responsibility to manage his creation. ... Politics is one of the ways we manage the world."
He also said a Christian's commitment should be to the long game; not all changes happen quickly. He told them to remain "engaged, and patient and steady at the wheel through the peaks and valleys," and to remember that a commitment to God requires them to "love thy neighbor."
It's a complicated balance, he said, but it's important to chart a path instead of complaining about the state of the country but only reacting to crises. "They will take the direction of politics wherever they want to go because other people have checked out."