The next step in the process of trying a man on murder charges stemming from a January quadruple homicide in Rockmart starts this morning as he presents himself back in court as the week gets underway.
The court hearing this morning to arraign Daylon Delon Gamble will also determine whether District Attorney Jack Browning will seek the death penalty against the sole suspect in the shooting deaths of four and wounding of a fifth on the night of January 24.
Gamble, arrested in Indianapolis, Indiana after fleeing from two different murder scenes in Rockmart, is accused of killing Helen Rose Mitchell, 48, and Jaequnn Davis, 19, both of 503 Williamson St., and of Arkeyla Perry, 24, and Dadrian Cummings, 26, both at 319 Rome St. in Rockmart.
In an April court proceeding, attorneys for Gamble sought to have the arrest warrants against him dismissed to no avail before Tallapoosa Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Meng Lim.
Lim ruled at the time there was probable cause in issuing the warrants and enough evidence to proceed in the case. That hearing included some of the state's case against Gamble provided by GBI Special Agent Amanda Carter.
She testified at the time that prior to the shootings, Gamble was hanging out with Cummings and Perry along with witnesses up until 7:44 p.m. Cummings' cousin, Deandre Cummings, was the last to see the two alive after he left to go get milk for his kids, according to Carter.
Carter also testified at the time that all five of the shooting victims including the sole survivor Peerless Brown were shot in the head.
Witnesses in the case said Gamble was believed to be under the influence of alcohol and drugs at the time of the crime, Carter told the court.
Brown was interviewed twice by investigators, including a session with Carter and Rockmart police detectives. He was able to identify Gamble and knew him very well — the accused shooter used to babysit him as a child.
A gag order was placed on those involved in the case by Lim. Court proceedings are expected to get underway and move through the docket this morning.
Drivers on Prospect Road near the convenience center have probably passed the trio of headstones that sit near the road many a time and haven't given much thought as to why the family was buried in that particular spot.
Those particular graves are the final resting spot of William Freeman and his family, who were buried at the Cotton Hill Cemetery in Aragon in the years before and after the establishment of Shady Grove Methodist Episcopal Church that later moved. They are just a few of the more than 180 graves found within the cemetery that at one point in recent months was a swampy, thick wooded mess.
Now volunteers are collaborating to not only preserve what is left of Cotton Hill Cemetery, but also to save the rich history the final resting places of African Americans from Polk County contain as well.
The effort began during the winter when J.R. Forsyth took up efforts to begin cleaning up around the headstones for Freeman and his family.
He decided earlier in the year to cut down the grass, and as he began to explore the land he became curious as to what all was being hidden by the thick undergrowth of consecrated ground that was reclaimed by woods and water.
"All of this was a swamp," Forsyth said. "I thought it was kind of bad for the graves to be in that shape. I brought my weed eater down here and my scythe and got around those first headstones. After I did that a few times, I thought maybe I should try and get in touch with whoever owns the land."
He wrote a letter to the church after he put in some research time, and "a little while went by. I was at home one day and the phone rang, and one of the members called me up and told me the story."
Now the goal of the group of volunteers organized on Facebook is to preserve what is left of the cemetery, and attempt to find all the graves within. It isn't an easy task, since clearing work continues on the property that was formerly home to a church now moved to Highway 101, not far from its first home in the cemetery.
"I enjoy going to old cemeteries and looking at old headstones, and it's cool to find something like this in our hometown," Forsyth said. "It felt to me like it was something that needed to be preserved, and once I saw how much work was involved — which was a lot — I ran an ad on Facebook and a few of my buddies (Mike Walker and Robbie James) here saw it, they got with me and we started volunteering."
Most of the graves so far have been found through dowsing rods, which point or cross each other in the hand of those familiar with their use to point out whether a grave is underfoot. Through that effort, some 186 graves and counting have been found. Additionally, Forsyth said some of the original headstones were uncovered and have been propped back up.
Volunteers aren't 100 percent certain, but they believe that Shady Grove Methodist Episcopal Church was built after the cemetery was in use. The church, established and built in 1915, is younger than some of the headstones that remain at Cotton Hill Cemetery.
Stories of tragedy are found in Cotton Hill Cemetery. Take the story of Ella Eliza Stocks, a three-day old child who was buried on the grounds.
The infant had suffered a stomach aneurysm in the few days following her birth. Her grave is the smallest thus found by volunteers, and information was known about her because of historical data on hand for her death. Her funeral included an escort by the Fraternal Order of Police's Lodge No. 6425 more than a century ago.
Another is the story of the Davis brothers, who died two years before the establishment of Shady Grove Church.
Ozzie and Thomas Davis both worked together at the Aragon Mill and died in a workplace accident side-by-side on January 13, 1913. The pair were involved in an elevator shaft accident, and their headstone can still be found in the cemetery as well.
It was one of the first headstones that Forsyth found in his exploration of the property. They've had to excavate some headstones in the process of the cleanup, which is still ongoing.
Though some stories like this exist due to the historical record, a majority of the graves at Cotton Hill are unidentified people. They were buried with either a simple wooden cross or pieces of slate, and markers have long since disappeared.
The reason why markers are gone has more to do with the disposition of the roadway and the land. When Prospect Road was improved and paved, the roadway itself was moved several feet above the level of the cemetery, and no ditching work was completed to keep the site from flooding. Forsyth said this a real concern for future preservation efforts of Cotton Hill, since any work they do now might be washed away by future flooding events.
Forsyth said he learned that at one point a bulldozer was brought in to level the property which also disturbed a majority of the headstones on sight.
"No one really knows how big it is back here," he said. "When I got their permission to clean up, and once the water dried up, you couldn't hardly walk through any of the area."
Greg Gray, local historian and president of Polk's cemetery association, said that the organization was aware of the existence of the graves for the Freeman family near the roadside and had attempted cleanup efforts in the past, but didn't get far in the process.
He said the association is participating with the volunteer efforts and have plans to also provide them with signage for the cemetery itself.
The volunteer group preserving Cotton Hill have also received assistance from local businesses, who provided help with materials for a driveway and materials they'll use to build a flower bed where the church's foundation was in past years.
Shady Grove Methodist Episcopal sat at the Cotton Hill site from 1915 when it was built until 1946, when it was moved due to heavy flooding. The church was organized by Frank and Octavia Hutchens, Tobe and Dora Burge, Claude and Lizzie Freeman and Steven and Ida Hudson, among others. The entire structure was picked up and moved to avoid damage from water.
Plans include utilizing the cornerstones to make a flower bed to help beautify the area.
Church members have also gotten involved in helping to track down information.
What the volunteer group hopes to achieve is finding all the graves they can, and then if donations can provide materials put up a slate marker at each of the 180-plus final resting places within Cotton Hill.
"We've done all this without any money. Every bit of this," Forsyth said. "All we want to do is preserve this for future generations."
He also is seeking additional information about who might be buried at Cotton Hill Cemetery. They don't have a lot of information, and what research they've been able to accomplish is based on the headstones found and stood back up, or pieced together.
"We enjoy doing this, we'd like to have a little more help," Forsyth said.
Forsyth requests that if anyone can provide historical information about Cotton Hill Cemetery or wish to help with making donations of time or materials to help with cleanup efforts, contact him at 678-246-8741, or Tina Williams at 770684-6730.
Donations can be sent to the Polk County Cemetery Preservation at P.O. Box 203 in Cedartown. Find the group on Facebook by searching for Restore Cotton Hill.
The time has come for parents to make sure the backpacks are loaded up with supplies and to drop off their children on time for the first day back to classrooms in the Polk School District.
Friday is the day that students come back to campuses around the district for the opening of the 2019-2020 school year, and no major changes are expected for the coming start of the year when they return for the August 2 start.
Superintendent Laurie Atkins said the district is ready, and are expecting a routine return to business this week.
"Even with the construction at Cedartown High School, things are going great," Atkins said. "The crane work at the high school will be completed and moved so as to not impede parking."
Starting on Wednesday, July 31, schools will begin hosting their annual open house evenings for students and parents to get a jump on opening day and receive information they might need ahead of Friday morning.
Cedartown and Rockmart Middle Schools host their open house Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m., with Cedartown Middle hosting a special session for sixth graders only from 3 to 5 p.m. That will allow them the opportunity to get acquainted with the building layout before they begin classes this week.
On Thursday evening, August 1, local elementary schools across the county open their doors to parents and students from 2 to 4 p.m. to learn where their classes are and meet their teachers.
Seniors at Cedartown and Rockmart High School are also expected to report to their open house session from 2 to 3 p.m., followed by the freshmen through juniors from 4 to 6 p.m.
Those who are coming back for the start of the school year will need to ensure they have checked out school supply lists provided by the district — especially at the elementary school level — and have updated vaccination records on hand.
Middle and High School level supply lists will be made available based on each teacher's requirements for subjects during the Open House sessions coming up Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
Polk School District will take the weekend off after the opening of the year on Friday and return back to work fully on Monday, August 5.
The only ongoing construction at this time that might affect students as they return to campus is the continuing work on the new Fine Arts wing of Cedartown High School.
Atkins added some other notes of interest as well as the school year is set to start. Cedartown and Rockmart Middle schools will both be adding health classes for students this year.
She also reminded those interested that bus numbers and routes are available on the Polk School District's website on their transportation page.
Finally, Atkins announced that a new principal will be starting the year at Van Wert Elementary. Dr. David Wilds takes over leadership at the Rockmart-area school as the week begins.
"Wilds has been working all summer at Van Wert," Atkins said. "He is excited to meet the students and families this week during our upcoming open house sessions."
As the term of Development Authority of Polk County President and CEO Missy Kendrick comes to a close, she leaves behind a solid foundation for whoever is next to take the lead in helping business and industry grow locally.
Successes marked her three-year tenure as head of the DAPC, from providing assistance to existing industries like Meggitt and Kimoto Tech to expand their production capabilities, to finding a new home for a group like the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 926's training facility.
"We've made a lot of progress and had a lot of successes," Kendrick said. "I want that to continue. I want whoever comes behind me to pick up and push forward."
She also added that in her time heading the Development Authority has seen renewed cooperation between the cities to see good growth come out of officials working together to bring new business partners to the county.
"I feel like to a certain extent we've bridged that gap," Kendrick said.
She also was excited to have been a part of the renewal of the LEAD Polk program, having mentored and directed the past two groups of graduates in 2017 and 2018. Kendrick also thanked those she served with on the DAPC Board of Directors and the opportunity she was given to provide her services to the community.
"Our existing industry program, and the relationships we built with the Development Authority is also a real positive for Polk County," she said. "Now our existing industries come to us when they need assistance."
She also believes the DAPC board will find the perfect fit for Polk County once she begins her new role in Rome.
"I know that the momentum that we have now will continue," she said. "That's the only thing that I expect to happen."
Kendrick, who finished out her final day on Friday, July 26, heads just 30 minutes north to take up her new duties as president of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority with hopes that her experience in Polk provides opportunities for both communities.
"I'll have a relationship with whoever comes in, because we'll be neighbors," Kendrick said. "I look forward to strengthening the relationship between Floyd and Polk counties because I believe there are some areas where we can work together."
Before her tenure as the DAPC's president and CEO, Kendrick came to Polk County having served as the executive director for the
Barnesville-Lamar County Industrial Development Authority for 11 years, and was executive director of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority for almost four years.
Also, she served as chair of the Georgia Economic Developers Association in 2018.
The Cedartown Farmer's Market has a new location and time for the 2019 season. Market-goers are invited to come out to the corner of Ware and South Main Street in Cedartown starting in recent weeks and continuing on Tuesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Contact Five Cedars Farm to participate at 678-246-1216 to learn more about becoming a vendor.
RCAC has classes for toddlers, children and adults at the Rockmart Cultural Arts Center in drawing, painting, photography, yoga, chorus, piano, whittling, and pottery. For more information, call 770-684-2707 or email email@example.com
Give a child a safe place to go after school and learn valuable lessons about community, life and academics by getting involved in the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Georgia in Cedartown. Visit their center at 321 E. Queen St., Cedartown from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and bring your children ages 5-18 for afternoon activities. For more information on how to participate or volunteer, call our office at 770-749-0869 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rockmart History Museum on South
Marble Street in downtown Rockmart is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and on Saturday 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. The Museum welcomes visitors and group tours. Contact Pat Sampson at 678-764-5201 for information. RHM meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month and volunteers are welcome and encouraged to take part.
Interested in becoming a Foster or Adoptive Parent? Open your heart to a child in need and find out how you can help. Join others who seek the love of a child every second Tuesday night of each month at 6 p.m. at Polk County Division of Family and Children Services office, 100 County Loop Road in Cedartown. Information sessions explain what is required to become a foster or adoptive parent in Georgia. For more information call Robin Forston at 404-895-6517 or email email@example.com or call 1-877-210-KIDS. Visit www.fostergeorgia.com for more information.
The Polk County Democratic Committee Meets on the second Saturday of every month at 9:30 a.m. In the "even" months (February, April, June, August, etc.) the organization meets at The Rockmart Library at 316 N. Piedmont Ave., Rockmart and during the "odd" months (January, March, etc.) they meet at the Cedartown Welcome Center, 609 Main St., Cedartown, GA 30125.
The American Legion in Rockmart is hosting their monthly all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner coming up this Wednesday, August 21. Meal of spaghetti, meatballs, garlic toast and salad, $5. They hold dinners on the third Wednesday of every month. Join the group for a good meal and to support veteran and children's programs. The Legion is located at 1 Veterans Circle, Rockmart.
USAPA Pickelball Ambassador Daneen England is holding a free pickleball clinic every Monday (weather permitting) from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Rockmart Tennis courts, located at 436 Hogue Avenue, Rockmart. Loaner paddles and all necessary equipment will be on hand to learn t he sport. This is a free event for anyone and they just need to wear comfortable gym clothes and tennis shoes. Contact England at 770-356-1282, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The office of Exceptional Students of Polk School District is available to assist with the identification of children with disabilities and provision a free appropriate public education beginning at the age of three through the age of 21. If you suspect your child is experiencing any developmental delay or you suspect your child might have a disability and would like assistance or for more information about services available through Polk School District, contact the PSD Exceptional Student Services office at 770-684-8718.
Lutheran Services of Georgia's Heritage Adoption Program partners with DFCS to find Forever Families for children waiting in Georgia's foster care system. Information Sessions are held on the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Rome Office, located at 336 Broad St., Suite 200. Individual sessions may be scheduled to accommodate families as needed. For more email email@example.com or call 706-506-0649.
Did you know that nationwide the American Red Cross assists 53 people every 60 seconds during personal and local disasters? Our Northwest Georgia Red Cross Chapter serves Polk County. If you'd like to do some meaningful volunteering, please contact Arthene Bressler at 762-231-9896 and visit our website at www.redcross.org/local/georgia.
Save the date: The Boys and Girls Club of NWGA is hosting a Polk County Golf Tournament on Friday, Aug. 16 at 9 a.m. at the Cherokee Golf and Country Club. Find more information at bgcnwga.org or call 706-234-8591.
Do you think you might be pregnant? You can know for sure. Contact Life Matters Outreach today to schedule a free pregnancy test. You have a right to know all the options available to you. We offer free evidence-based education and resources so that you can make a well-informed decision. The services provided at LMO Pregnancy Care Center are free of charge. Clients are treated with respect and unconditional acceptance. We are here to help YOU. Call 770-748-8911 for more information.
Victory Baptist Church's Bread of Life Food Pantry is now open. One bag of nonperishable food, five items to pick from produce, eggs and milk and two items from frozen meats, breads and others will be available. ID is required. Limit of two IDs per address. Regular hours are Mondays, 1 to 3 p.m.; Tuesdays, 5 to 7 p.m.; and Thursdays, 8 to 10 a.m.
Community Share Ministries is hosting "Hope for the Hungry" on the first Tuesday of every month to provide food assistance to the community. They'll be in town again on Tuesday, June 4. Food is provided free of charge, and no identification is required to get help. Those interested can visit Community Share Ministries Cedartown thrift store at 1116 N. Main St., Cedartown.
The Georgia Legal Services Program's Claire Sherburne will be on hand at One Door Polk in Cedartown every fourth Monday to help those in need with free civil legal services to low-income persons. This will include all cases related to housing, employment, education, domestic violence, consumer fraud, wills, healthcare and other issues involved in the legal complications of everyday life. Call 404-206-5175 for more information.
The Polk County Alzheimer's Caregiver Support group will meet monthly on the first Monday at 11 a.m. at Polk Medical Center. Those interested can join for fellowship and lunch in the cafeteria. For more information call John Giglio at 678-246-8188.
Aragon First United Methodist Church offers a food pantry for the community to use if they need assistance. They are open Mondays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A picture ID is required to participate. Call 770-684-4855 for more information.
Celebrate Recovery meets every Monday night at the First Baptist Church of Rockmart starting with dinner at 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Large Group at 7 p.m. and Small Share Group at 8 p.m.
Soup and Savior, a local nonprofit organization, meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to provide needed items to deserving people. This includes a free meal (soup), clothing and gives other assistance. Meetings are held at Glad Tidings, located at 703 Robert L Parks Blvd. in Cedartown. Donations are accepted.
Just Us Ministries Inc. Food Bank has distribution every Tuesday and Thursday at 904 Young Farms Road in Cedartown. On Tuesday the distribution is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. A picture ID is required. For more information call 770-687-1009 or 678-901-3354, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Justusministries.com.
A caregivers support group meets on the second Monday of each month at 11 a.m. at Rockmart Presbyterian Church. Call 770-684-6289 for more information.
Take back your life and get help. Narconon can help you take steps to overcome addiction in your family. Call today for free for screenings or referrals at 1-800-431-1754.
The Rev. Gilbert Richardson and the Ware's Grove Church family of 200 Potash Road, invite everyone to join the Impact Service held each Sunday at 9:45 a.m., followed by regular worship services at 11:15 a.m. Bible class is held Wednesday nights at 7 p.m.
Anna Kresge United Methodist Church invites children, kindergarten age through middle school, to come to Kresge Kids each Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Supper is provided. There is also a high school youth program as well. For more information, call 706-346-3100.
Rockmart First United Methodist Church invites the community to come out and join in worship on Sundays and Wednesdays at the church located at 135 W. Church St. Sunday morning worship begins with Bible study at 9:45 a.m., followed by Sunday school at 10 a.m. for all ages, and an 11 a.m. worship service. Wednesday night includes at 5 p.m. community meal on the last Wednesday of every month, 6 p.m. Bible study and choir practice at 7 p.m. Weekly children's events at the church include a 5:45 p.m. children and youth meal, 6:15 Children's music and MYF, followed by L.I.F.E. at 6:54 p.m. All are invited to join in. Call Rev. Thomas Hall at 706-836-7378 or email email@example.com for more information or questions. The church also updates weekly on their website at rockmartumc.org.
Harmony Baptist Church, 882 Little Harmony Rd, Cedartown (Esom Hill area) invites everyone to attend their weekly Sunday morning Services. First Sunday morning service begins at 9:45 a.m. with Sunday School followed by worship service at 11 a.m.. Our doors are open to all and we are looking forward to seeing you. For more information visit our Facebook page, Harmony Baptist church, Cedartown.
Shiloh Baptist Church would like to invite the community to come participate in worship services weekly at their sanctuary at 433 Shiloh Road. Join the church for Sunday school at 10 a.m., followed by 11 a.m. service or Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. Call Pastor Jamie Newsome for more information at 404-425-8510.
Cedar Lake Christian Center is a non-denominational community who invites anyone looking to find the Holy Spirit within them to come join in worship services on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. with the Rev. Neil Hopper, along with Hispanic services as well to the community. Those interested in participating can join in at Cedar Lake Christian Center, located at 1890 Rome Highway, Cedartown. For more information call 770-608-0651.
Join the Church of God of the Union Assembly, 32 Prospect Road, Rockmart, for praise and worship weekly. The church welcomes anyone to come and worship regularly on Sundays and Wednesdays as well. Praise and youth services are held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday nights, and services start at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday following Sunday School at 9:45 a.m. Call Pastor Jesse Starnes at 678-757-4572 for more information.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides opportunities to local residents interested in hearing the message of Jesus Christ. For more information about how you can speak to local Elders, contact 687-852-7497, or visit their meeting house at 10005 N. Main St., Cedartown for worship services at 10 a.m. on Sundays.
Need to get an item onto the Area Calendar of Events? Email firstname.lastname@example.org today! All items must be in at least two weeks before the event to appear in the Standard Journal on time.