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Defendants ask for dismissal
• They will present their dismissal arguments in the Darlington sexual abuse lawsuit on Dec. 18.

Several defendants in a lawsuit, which includes Darlington School, claim the law which provided the ability to file a lawsuit alleging decades old sexual misconduct by a teacher and others is unconstitutional.

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18 so defendants can orally argue why the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Several former Darlington students filed a lawsuit in June against the school, as well as a former teacher and student, saying they were sexually abused during the 1970s and 1980s and the school did nothing to stop it.

The lawsuit was filed in July shortly before the Hidden Predator Act expired. The 2015 law suspended the statute of limitations for civil suits against those accused of sexual abuse against minors.

An expanded measure, titled the Hidden Predator Act of 2018, was introduced to the Georgia House of Representatives in May but did not move past the second reading before the body.

The lawsuit names Darlington as well as former teacher Roger Stifflemire, Frederick Marquette — a resident of Wetumpka, Alabama — and David Ellis, who was a student at Darlington, as defendants.

The lawsuit states Stifflemire "preyed" on young boarding students in his dorm while he was an English professor at Darlington from approximately 1974-1994.

The lawsuit alleges the school did nothing when the incidents were reported and allowed Stifflemire to continue to supervise students.

The plaintiffs are primarily former students at Darlington during the 1970s and 1980s. Christopher Gaba, Mark Eubanks, William Knight, Timothy Lee, Hal Word, Kevin Simmons and three plaintiffs only identified as John Doe 1-3 say they were sexually assaulted while they were students at the school.

Amberly Waters Day, the mother of former Darlington student Charles Mark Day and representative of his estate as well as guardian of his minor child, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Day committed suicide in September 2016 and the lawsuit stated a primary reason for his suicide was his treatment at the hands of Stifflemire and Marquette.

Each of the defendants cites similar reasons why they feel the lawsuit should be dismissed. The first, in general, they claim the statute of limitations for bringing a civil lawsuit had expired.

Darlington itself states the law arguably allowed for a revival of claims of abuse by an individual but did not allow for an entity, such as the school, to be sued under that law — so the normal statute of limitations should apply.

A Cobb County judge recently granted a motion to dismiss in a similar case against the Boy Scouts of America.

Stifflemire, Ellis and Marquette claim the Hidden Predator Act is a retroactive law which violates the Georgia Constitution's statute of limitations. Their lawyers argue the law violates due process and equal protection rights.

Also, Stifflemire, Ellis and Marquette stated they were served the lawsuit several weeks after it was filed in court and the Hidden Predator Act expired. This delay showed a lack of diligence on the plaintiffs' part and the statute of limitations should be considered to have expired.

Read this story online to see previous reports about this case.

Read this story online to see previous reports about this case.

Love Feast fills void of family lost
Food, laughter, love and community

As she dabbed tears from her eyes with a tissue, Martha Quick looked out at those filling the Rome Civic Center on Thursday afternoon for the Love Feast and said, "It's like being around family."

Quick doesn't have much of her own family left anymore. Her two siblings live out of town and she lost her mom, dad and husband over a 15-month period three years ago.

But the 29th annual event, which she accompanied for the first time with her fiance, Michael Haney, helped fill the void left by the death of her loved ones. It's a void that is evermore present in her mind on holidays, she said.

The last year has been rough on Quick, who has been living out of her truck, filling out application after application for jobs she can never seem to secure. But on Thanksgiving Day some of those worries were put aside as she enjoyed a meal surrounded by those she has come to know through her hard times.

Despite all it seems that Quick doesn't have, she expressed thanks for the Lord and all he has given her.

About 3,000 people were expected to be served for the event, and with almost an hour left to go, 1,229 had come through the line for boxes and plates of Thanksgiving essentials.

"I just love helping people," said Patresia Johnson from her seat at the front door, where she handed out tickets and greeted all who came through, many of them familiar faces from the 17 years she's volunteered for the event.

"It's a family thing now," she said, with her daughter, a teacher at Anna K. Davie Elementary, and her grandson joining her.

She added that when the rest of her family comes into town "they know we're going to be here."

Madison Baker said she had three Thanksgiving meals she could go to, but that brought a thought to her mind.

Some people out there have no options for meals, she said, and she just wanted to help make sure they had at least one.

Walking around with a bag filled with gifts, Baker knelt down to hand them to kids, bringing a little something extra to their holiday.

Celebrating Thanksgiving for Faith Calhoun and her mom means giving back to the community.

"You being out here means everything to them," Calhoun said as she scooped out yams and plopped them down in to-go boxes, which were then bagged up and taken away by all whom the annual Love Feast aims to serve.

"Helping our fellow man," said volunteer Rob Wade, "this is what we're supposed to do."

'Helping our fellow man, this is what we're supposed to do.'

Rob Wade

Love Feast volunteer


Today's artwork is by Bo Bushnell, a fifth-grader at Berry College Elementary School.

Hike, bike ride may be healthy option to Black Friday shopping
• There are lots of great trails in Rome and within easy driving distance.

If you're not into all the Black Friday business, Friday may be a perfect day to get outdoors and enjoy a late fall hike.

Rome hiker Larry Madden, a former president of the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association, said you don't have to go far to enjoy some easy, moderate or even challenging hikes.

The approximately 3-mile trails at Jackson Hill are a virtual urban wilderness less than a mile from downtown Rome.

The new trails at Garrard Park, approximately 5 miles, are also easy, as are the trails at Lock & Dam Park.

The Simms Mountain Trail, part of the Pinhoti Trail, from Huffaker Road to Ga. 100, is another easy flat trail along an old railroad bed.

Logan Boss, another veteran local hiker and mountain biker, said several sections of the Pinhoti north of Rome are excellent day hikes, or bikes, within easy driving distance.

"The Dry Creek Trail System that the Pinhoti runs through between Subligna and Villanow is awesome," Boss said. "There is a fantastic trail system up near Cloudland Canyon, you can ride or hike all the way from downtown Chattanooga to Cloudland Canyon now. You feel like you're really out in the wilderness."

After the first couple of times the thermometer dips into the low 30s, Madden says snakes are not likely to be an issue. He does suggest hikers have good sturdy shoes, particularly if you pick a trail in the backwoods. Leaves that cover the trail can hide small potholes, or roots that could turn an ankle so he suggests a walking stick of some sort to help poke the ground in front of you as you walk.

Another issue related to leaves is that they can be slick and create some sliding problems, especially on a downhill slope.

A couple of the state parks in Northwest Georgia will be hosting special events today. Fort Mountain Park will host an Avoid the Madness Hike from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the park just east of Chatsworth. There is a $3 fee, plus the usual $5 state park parking fee.

Cloudland Canyon Park will hold a special Friday Night Hike from 5 to 7 p.m., a 2-mile walk along one of the more popular trails in the park. The night hike does have a $10 fee, along with the charge for parking.

None of which adds up to as much as you might spend in the Black Friday throngs.

County seeking volunteers for boards
• Commissioners are slated to discuss filling at least nine vacancies at their Tuesday meeting.

Kevin Payne

Floyd County commissioners are looking to fill several vacancies on volunteer boards, and to beef up the file of applicants for vacancies in the future.

Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace is slated to update the board Tuesday on efforts to fill a number of slots before the end of the year.

Commissioners caucus at 4 p.m. and start their regular session at 6 p.m. in the County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave. Both meetings are public.

On the agenda for discussion are two openings on the Development Authority of Floyd County, a seat on the Board of Health, two spots on the Library Board and a position on the Board of Assessors.

Volunteers in those slots are finishing their second terms, the limit for consecutive service set by county policy.

Three members of the Animal Control and Welfare Board have resigned early. Replacements are needed for Dr. Daniel Todd and Joan Fluegge, whose terms run through September 2019, and for Greta Willoughby, whose appointment was through September 2020.

Applications are available at the county clerk's office or online under the "How Do I?" section of the Rome-Floyd County website, A list of citizen boards is posted under the Government heading on the site.

Also on the agenda for Tuesday is a caucus presentation from Tax Comermission Kevin Payne about his plans to reorganize his office.

Commissioners also are expected to sign off on three new roads in the North Quarters subdivision development south of Kingston Road near Beard Lake.

North Quarters Drive, Sweetbriar Court and Hollow Crest Court passed inspection by the county engineering department and will be accepted as publicly maintained roads.