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Self-defense ruling expected
• The man accused of murder in the shooting death of Scotty Dale Graham is claiming he acted in self-defense.

Michael David Yates

Pete Sailors, Rome Police Department investigator

A man accused of killing another man on East 19th Street earlier this year claims he was acting in self-defense, which Judge Billy Sparks is expected to rule on today.

Michael David Yates, 22, of 8 Everett Springs Road, is charged with murder in the Jan. 13 shooting death of 38-yearold Scotty Dale Graham. The opening day of the trial is scheduled for Monday, but Sparks' ruling is needed to solve the legal matter before a trial can begin.

According to information presented in court:

During a hearing in Floyd County Superior Court Thursday, Yates' attorney, Robert Rutledge, attempted to lay out the events leading up to the shooting to show his client was defending himself from being robbed.

Rutledge said Graham and two others had planned to rob Yates, who had come to the concrete block home in a trailer park off East 19th Street in a stolen truck. Yates was warned he was going to be robbed, leading to an altercation between the two men that morning.

A fight ensued and Rutledge said Yates was hit in the head by Graham and pushed up against the bed of the truck before being taken to the ground. Yates then got up and pulled a pistol on Graham, firing two shots into his chest around 6:40 a.m.

Yates then fled the scene in the truck, which struck another vehicle down the road and he left on foot. Police arrested Yates following a traffic stop late that night in Bartow County.

Michael Wayne Huskins, a longtime friend of Graham's who was a witness to the incident, was called on by Rutledge to testify. He said he had been coming down from taking methamphetamine and was sleeping in the home that morning. He woke up around 6 a.m. and those in the house, which was a hotspot for selling drugs, were talking about money, but he didn't want anything to do with it.

Huskins said people at the home were upset with Yates' presence because he kept showing up with stolen items. He told Rome police investigator Pete Sailors in an interview, the video of which was played by Rutledge Thursday, that he told Graham not to take the truck Yates had and to leave it alone.

When he heard people arguing outside, Huskins went to the door and looked out, seeing the two men fighting.

Huskins said Yates was a couple feet away from Graham when he shot him.

" It was like time stopped," Huskins said. Yates is additionally charged with two counts of theft by receiving stolen property, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of an offensive weapon during the commission of a crime, two counts of aggravated assault, reckless conduct, and aggravated battery.


GE land a no-go for mulching operation
• Rome officials are looking for another site after being asked to move the yard waste dump before the end of the year.

Kirk Milam, Rome public services manager

Rome will have to find another location to process and store its mulch after plans to move it to the former GE property fell through.

"We learned this morning there are some restricted uses in the agreement," Public Services Manager Kirk Milam said Thursday.

The 2015 agreement covers the company's donation to the city of 123 acres next to its plant, at the intersection of Lavender Drive and Redmond Circle. Milam said staffers are now reviewing other potential sites.

"We're going to continue to collect yard waste, of course," he added. "We've just got to decide where we can carry it that will give us our best option."

The mulching operation on the edge of the city's public works compound must be moved before the end of the year. It is part of the 83 acres along Riverside Parkway that was sold to R.H. Ledbetter Properties last December.

Milam said the developers allowed the city to keep using the property but are now ready to start environmental work on the site.

Much of the land is in wetlands and Burwell Creek runs through the tract. Plans are to put most of it into a conservation easement and develop about 7 acres near the duck pond with retail.

The sale did not include the public works building complex on Vaughn Road, but Milam said crews have been using some of the surrounding land for storage of pipes and other large items. They're working with Ledbetter to see if they can continue using some of the property.

For now, the only deadline is to move the mulch operation by Dec. 31.

"We'll figure something out," Milam said. "The general public isn't going to notice any change in service. It's just a little bit of a hiccup on our end."


Revving up the Wolves

Second Avenue project on the move
• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to start the widening could be in hand by early 2018.

The widening of Second Avenue is back on the front burner, after an environmental delay connected with the levee.

Initially scheduled for bid in 2016, the estimated $5 million construction project will four-lane a 0.6-mile stretch of the road from the Oostanaula River north to Turner McCall Boulevard.

Part of the work will encroach into the levee, however, and a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is required. Public Services Manager Kirk Milam said Thursday the Georgia Department of Transportation has completed the studies it needs to show that the levee wouldn't be compromised.

A meeting is scheduled in January with engineers in the Corps' Mobile, Alabama, office.

"I'm cautiously optimistic we're close to having the permit," Milam said. "This is the farthest along we've been."

If all goes well, the state could call for bids in mid-2018. The project will take at least a year to complete.

Floyd Medical Center has asked for a traffic signal at West Fifth Street for easier access onto its campus but GDOT has deferred action until the road is widened.

Plans call for two lanes running in each direction, separated by a median that allows for turn lanes into the FMC campus and Heritage Park.

"It will also significantly reconfigure the intersection with Turner Mc- Call," Milam said.

The split in the road will be eliminated. Traffic from the downtown district will be directed straight — onto Martha Berry Boulevard or into turn lanes for Turner Mc- Call or Shorter Avenue.

"It will be a safety improvement and a capacity improvement," Milam said.

The engineering plans are ready and the right-of-way has been under wraps for several years, so the permit is all that's left to secure. Milam said GDOT has preserved the construction funding in its budget — although they won't know until the bids come in if the original cost estimate is still in range.

"But I'm optimistic, and they're obviously committed to making it happen," he said.


TODAY'S YOUNG ARTIST

Today's artwork is by Kaden Buffington, a student at Armuchee Elementary School.