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It's a boy!
• The first Floyd County baby of the New Year is Tim and Jessica Minter's fifth child, and their first boy.

Tim and Jessica Minter of Silver Creek gazed with wonder Monday at their son, Timothy Minter Jr. — Floyd County's first baby of 2018.

Timothy, who will be known as Buddy after Tim's father, was 8 pounds, 3 ounces, and 19 1/2 inches long, when he was born at 4:25 a.m. on New Year's Day at Floyd Medical Center.

"I'll be taking him to work with me as soon as he's able," Tim said with a smile. Asked who's going to help the most with the newest addition to their family, the hands of Buddy's four sisters shot up simultaneously. Ranging in age from 19 to 6, they each voiced plans for their baby brother that will likely keep him busy the rest of his life.

"When I found out I was pregnant, I thought, 'we're never going to have a boy,'" Jessica said. "Then we had the ultrasound ... "

'When I found out I was pregnant, I thought, 'we're never going to have a boy. Then we had the ultrasound ...'

Jessica Minter

Tim said the couple didn't look at the results then. They put it in the hands of their best friends, who planned a gender-reveal party.

Everyone was blindfolded and divided into two groups: Those who thought the baby was a boy and those who thought it was a girl. Then they picked up water guns that had been secretly filled with colored water and had at it.

"When it was over, we took off our blindfolds and everyone was covered in blue," Tim said. "Even then, I still wasn't sure I believed it."

Buddy's sisters immediately embraced the idea of a new brother and were at FMC to welcome him into the world. They each donned the matching shirt their mother had made, gray jerseys with hot pink sleeves.

Emblazoned on the chest in glittery script was Little Sister, for Mackinnah, 6; Big Sister, for Malia, 10; Bigger Sister, for Madeline, 17; and Biggest Sister, for Macie, 19.

"It was a last-minute thing," a tired but happy Jessica said. "But he came a day and a half early and I didn't get to make his."

New Year's Day Polar Plunge draws 47 plungers, crowd
Temps plummet but plungers plunge

Despite temperatures dipping into the low 20s, nearly 50 people braved the spring-fed water of Rolater Lake for Cave Spring's annual New Year's Day Polar Plunge.

"I'm not cold," insisted Larry Washington, who came back for his second year wearing nothing but Hawaiian trunks and a gold neck chain.

Most of the others — plungers and spectators alike — were bundled in layers as they waited for newcomers to register and the clock to tick high noon.

"It's a way to start off the New Year with something active, aquatic ... and memorable," said Rome High swim coach Joey Powers, who convinces at least a handful of his pupils to jump with him each year.

But not necessarily their parents.

Julie Waguespack huddled against the ticket building, out of the wind, with a dry towel for her daughter Anna draped over her insulated winter coat like a blanket. Her son Spencer said he wasn't planning to join his sister, either.

"Once was enough," he said with a laugh. "I didn't leave anything in the water so I don't need to go back in."

The Plunge is a yearly tradition for Paige and Dylan Eubanks. The couple arrived in sweatsuits, and she had flip-flops on her feet.

"That's going to be the least of my problems," she said about her shoes. "It's helping me get used to it."

In the end, 47 people paid their $25 to jump in the frigid lake. Most popped in and popped out, but about 20 paddled around for a few more seconds and a hand handful of those hardy souls swam across the lake and back. After the plunge, participants joined non-jumpers for a meal of greens, black-eyed peas, pork and cornbread.

"It was a good day; no one had a heart attack," said a smiling Susan Miller, who drove up from Dallas with her husband just to watch.

The Cave Spring Historical Society has sponsored the plunge since the first one on Jan. 1, 2013. The money is earmarked to research and restore the hand-hewn cabin found behind the skin of the old Green Hotel downtown.

'It was a good day; no one had a heart attack.'

Susan Miller

2 NW Ga. men facing federal child pornography charges

A 27-year-old Cartersville man who told agents he liked to dominate underage girls and get them to send him explicit photos now faces federal child pornography charges.

Shawn Ryan Budovic, 27, of Cartersville, told investigators he had met his fiance, who lives in Michigan, when she was 14 years old and had been "instructing his fiance to take explicit images and videos of her minor sisters, ages 3, 4 and 9," according to a narrative by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Special Agent James Rives.

Agents were alerted to Budovic after a 15-year-old Minnesota girl's foster mother discovered messages between the girl and Budovic on a "secret" Facebook account.

When confronted, the girl admitted she had been messaging Budovic since she was 11 or 12 years old.

"At first she did not send a photo as requested by Budovic, but she eventually did, she explained, because Budovic constantly asked and she felt that he was getting angry," Rives wrote in a criminal complaint.

Police arrested Budovic on Oct. 31 at this Bartow County home and admitted that he "likes seeing" child pornography. They searched his iPhone 7 and found multiple sexually explicit conversations and images on the device.

On Oct. 18, in one conversation with a minor, he stated "I like little girls there I said the younger the better. You can freak out now and leave me."

Budovic also faces sexual exploitation of children and computer pornography charges in Bartow County. He was released on bond from Bartow County Jail in November and was arrested and being held in federal custody without bond.

Another area child pornography case is pending in district court in Rome.

Robert Lee Dean was arrested in Bowden on Dec. 14 on charges that he distributed "at least one visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct," according to court records.

There are two counts — one that he distributed an image or video of a minor on May 26, 2017, and the other stated he had a computer and computer storage device which had at least one visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

He was arraigned on Dec. 14, 2017, on the charges and pleaded not guilty. Dean was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

Bikers getting ready to BRAG
• The second oldest cross-state bicycle tour will come to Rome in June.

Lisa Smith

Anne Hortman

Bike enthusiasts, get ready to ride, as the 2018 Bike Ride Across Georgia will begin in Rome. Organizers of the annual event released the route information on their website Monday.

The event is scheduled to begin June 2 in Rome, with the first leg taking the riders to Dalton. Day 2 will go from Dalton to Jasper, Day 3 Jasper to Dahlonega, Day 4 is Dahlonega to Clarksville, Day 5 is Clarksville to Toccoa, with the final leg to end on June 9 in Hartwell.

"I think it's great, especially with the timing in conjunction with the Rome Shakespeare Festival on the Town Green," said Lisa Smith of the Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Anne Hortman, the director of Rome Sports, worked tremendously hard to get Rome as the starting point."

Hortman was delighted to comment on the news as well.

"We are thrilled that BRAG has chosen to start their 2018 'Big BRAG' journey in Rome. Hosting over 800 cyclists in Rome with all of the great things Rome has to offer, is an honor." said Hortman. "With the success that TRED has with their 'Up the Creek' ride in the spring — we are certain that many of those cyclists will return in June — and bring their friends."

BRAG is on its 38th year and is the second oldest cross-state bicycle tour in the country. It was originally known as the Great Georgia Annual State Bicycling Event. The first ride started in Savannah and ended in Columbus.


Today's artwork is by Unity Christian School student Samantha Bradford.