Police in both Rome and Floyd County are searching for the motive behind a shooting spree Tuesday night that left one man dead and another hospitalized after shootings at two convenience stores in West Rome.
Parmjit "Rimi" Singh, 44, owner of the HiTech Quick Stop at 500 Burnett Ferry Road, died from multiple gunshot wounds. Parthey Patel, clerk at the store at 204 N. Elm St. was listed in critical condition at Floyd Medical Center on Wednesday after he was shot during a robbery minutes after the shooting on Burnett Ferry Road.
The shooter, identified as Lamar Rashad Nicholson, 28, of 1347 Redmond Road, was arrested after Sheriff's deputies spotted a vehicle that matched the description of a SUV that fled from both locations.
Nicholson is charged with murder, aggravated assault with the intent to murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and armed robbery.
Maj. Jeff Jones with the Floyd County police said officers did recover security video from the initial location and it shows the suspect walked into the store and immediately fired three shots at Singh, who was standing behind the counter.
A second employee, a woman, was standing off to the side and was not injured.
Jones said there was no attempt to rob the store, that Nicholson simply walked in and opened fire.
Nicholson left and went to the Elm Street location where he robbed the store before shooting Patel in the torso.
Lt. John Walters with the Rome police said there were two witnesses inside the Elm Street store who immediately hid in a cooler when they saw Nicholson pull out the 9mm handgun. Those witnesses were able to give police a good description of the getaway vehicle, a silver or grey Jeep Patriot, and it matched the description from the Burnett Ferry Road shooting.
Sheriff's deputies stopped the Jeep near the intersection of Redmond Road and Redmond Circle. Jones said they took Nicholson into custody without incident and recovered the gun believed to have been used in both shootings.
Security video from Elm Street was used to help confirm Nicholson as the shooter, Walters said.
A search warrant was obtained by investigators who later recovered money which Jones said he believes was taken from the Elm Street location.
Rome and Floyd County officials are starting a push to have additional lanes included when the Turner McCall Boulevard bridge over the Etowah River is replaced.
"One of the worst things would be to have everyone detour around the construction, go through all that mess ... and then have it look just like it did," County Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace said.
DeWayne Comer, district engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said preliminary design work is already underway and construction is expected in the next three to four years.
An average of 37,000 vehicles pass over the bridge each 24-hour period, according to the state's latest traffic counts. Comer said about 50 percent of that traffic comes all at once, during peak morning and afternoon hours.
"This is probably the biggest bottleneck we've got (in Floyd County)," he said. "But GDOT only has money for the bridge. It's (funded with) bridge money."
Comer met with city and county representatives this week to say he's advocating to expand the four-lane bridge replacement to six or eight lanes. However, GDOT needs to hear that the local community backs the move and is willing to participate financially.
Wallace and Rome Mayor Jamie Doss said they'd send a letter of support and seek a face-to-face meeting with GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry. Plans are to include the state legislative delegation in the lobbying effort.
"This is a tremendous quality of life issue for Rome," Doss said.
County Manager Jamie McCord noted that the area is "a unique terminus," with traffic from U.S. 27 and Ga. 20, 53 and 293 all converging at the end of the bridge. A portion from Ga. 101 also heads that way instead of taking Second Avenue.
The commercial corridor is ripe for further development, City Manager Sammy Rich said, but he noted that residents are already weighing the congestion when deciding if they'll go to the stores.
"You get those turn lanes moving, though, and the whole thing will change," Rich said.
Comer estimated the state would need about $3 million to $5 million more for construction if lanes are added.
There's also the expense of moving utilities and acquiring right of way along the route, which fronts businesses such as Chili's, Home Depot and CVS.
A $2 million earmark to help widen the bridge remains unspent from the 2006 special purpose, local option sales tax package. However, collections dropped significantly during the recession and total revenue fell short by nearly $4 million when the SPLOST ended in 2010.
Local officials on Tuesday said they are committed to trying to find a way.
"I think we'll be shortchanging our grandchildren if we don't do this," County Commissioner Wright Bagby said.
Meanwhile, as GDOT moves ahead with the plans on its books, Comer said he expects at least one town-hall meeting to be held regarding the proposed detour during construction.
Some of the children's first memories were of Mark David Wagner beating and molesting them.
Life was a hellish place for the young children left in Wagner's care, said Assistant District Attorney Natalee Staats. They were beat, they had food forced down their throats and they were raped.
When that wasn't enough for him, Staats said, Wagner had his friends come over. They also sexually assaulted and abused the children. When the children fought back, Staats said, they'd spin them around until they couldn't fight back anymore and then continue the abuse.
A Floyd County jury found Mark David Wagner, 40, guilty of aggravated child molestation, child molestation, aggravated sodomy and several counts of cruelty to children late Wednesday.
The two very young children suffered for years, Staats said, but are now well taken care of.
His then wife, Brandy Nicole Wagner, 32, is also charged in the case and was re-arrested after not showing up for court. She is charged with two counts of third-degree cruelty to children for having knowledge of a victim under the age of 18 being physically abused by her husband, Mark Wagner, and allowing it to continue.
Judge Bryant Durham ordered a pre-sentencing investigation and Wagner will be held without bond until sentencing.
"It was one of the worst cases of child abuse we've seen in some time, and we will be seeking the maximum at sentencing," Patterson said.
Through detective work, Floyd County police investigators tracked down one other man reportedly involved in the assault, Staats said. Jimmy Harold Duncan, 38, also faces charges of aggravated sexual battery in the case.
As word about a sexual assault in a Berry College dormitory was spread around campus in spring 2016, another female student, who had yet to come forward, came to the realization that she wasn't Anu Tafari Campbell's only victim.
"The thought of this happening to me and someone else I knew just a few weeks apart by the same person also never crossed my mind," the Berry College student said in a statement read in Floyd County Superior Court Wednesday.
According to information presented in court:
Campbell was someone both of the women knew — or thought they knew. On April 24, 2016, Campbell, then a 19-year-old Berry student from Lawrenceville, was arrested at Dana Hall following an investigation by the college's police department, conducted by Maj. Jonathan Baggett and Sgt. Lee Carter.
Berry police submitted a sexual assault kit to the GBI, after meeting the woman at the hospital and having her go to the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia. The duo questioned Campbell the same day, leading to them moving forward with his arrest.
Upon hearing of this, another woman disclosed that prior to this incident she, too, had been sexually assaulted by Campbell in her dorm room.
"For a long time, I felt like I was the one to blame for what happened to (the other victim), but I wasn't," the woman said in a statement. "It was Anu's choice, he chose to do what he did. He chose to change his and both of our lives forever."
On Wednesday, Campbell pleaded guilty to two felony counts of aggravated sexual battery and two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery. His sentencing is scheduled for March 2 at 10 a.m.
Judge Jack Niedrach permitted Campbell to remain out on bond until the sentencing — the prosecution objected to this, wanting him to be jailed following the plea. Campbell's defense attorney, Bernard Brody, submitted a stack of character references on his client for the judge to review before sentencing.
One of the women, who had her private parts touched by Campbell while she slept, got up and spoke in court, sharing her experience of feeling betrayed by Campbell.
"I considered Anu a friend and trusted him as such only to have him turn around and misuse that trust to violate me in the most intimate way possible," she said.
"It is important to promote accountability and provide reassurance to other victims that silence is not their only option, and that there is a system in place that will protect them," she continued.
District Attorney Leigh Patterson said in cases like this, earlier victims are driven to come forward after hearing of an incident following another person after them.
"These two young ladies were brave to come forward and tell about their experiences," Patterson said.
Today's artwork is by Model Elementary School fourthgrader Mallory Moore.