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Walker County detention officer charged with son's murder

Patrick Ray Wooten

The Walker County detention officer who is charged for the murder of his son on Saturday had a lengthy career in law enforcement and worked as an emergency medical service director as well.

Sheriff Steve Wilson said Patrick Ray Wooten had worked as a Walker County detention officer for about seven years. Prior to his employment at the jail, Wooten worked for the Chickamauga and Rossville police departments, was a deputy at one time with the Walker County Sheriff's Department and was one the EMS directors for Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe.

On Saturday, May 6, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was requested by the Chickamauga Police Department to conduct a death investigation at the 1009 Hood Avenue address in Chickamauga.

Around noon, Chickamauga police received a 911 call that a person had been shot in the chest at the residence.

Once officers arrived, the victim was identified as 30-year-old Patrick Lance Wooten.

Wooten was pronounced dead at the scene and his body was sent to Decatur where an autopsy will be performed at the GBI Crime Lab.

The victim's father, 58-yearold Patrick Ray Wooten was charged with one count of malice murder and is currently being held at the Catoosa County jail.

Wilson said due to the conflict of Wooten working at the Walker County Jail, Wooten was sent to the Catoosa County jail.

Pat Wooten lived at the residence on Hood Avenue with his son. Patrick Lance

Wooten (called Lance) has had a history of arrests for simple battery under family violence.

According to Chattanooga news reports, friends close to the family said an argument between the father and son occurred the day of the murder due to the son's recent arrest for simple batteryfamily violence.

On Tuesday, April 25, Patrick Lance Wooten was arrested for simple battery-family violence. Wooten was arrested prior to this charge for simple battery-family violence on Feb. 24 as well as on Jan. 25 for the same charge. In October 2016, he was arrested for offense against a public order.

Wooten was arrested for obstructing or hindering persons making emergency phone calls, simple battery in August 2016. He has arrested for simple battery on multiple occasions dating back to 2014.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the GBI Calhoun office (706-624-1424) or the Chickamauga Police Department (706-375-3172).

Grandmother pleads guilty to hot car death of infant, gets 10 years probation

Barbara M. Pemberton

A woman whose grandson died of hyperthermia after she left him in a vehicle for several hours in January 2016 pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received 10 years probation on Monday, May 1, in Walker County Superior Court.

According to court documents and District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin's office:

Barbara Michelle Pemberton, 48, of the Kensington community will not go to prison but will carry a 10-year probation. She was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and court fees.

Pemberton was also initially charged with second-degree cruelty to children, but that count was merged with the second-degree murder conviction.


Pemberton purposely left the child in her 2005 Ford Focus that was left in direct sunlight (the outside temperature was about 52 degrees) with the heater running, and the temperature rose to more than 100 degrees, Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said in January 2016.

Shadoe Braxton Pate died of hyperthermia while in the care of Pemberton, Wilson said on Jan. 14, 2016.

The 13-month-old's death was the result of Pemberton leaving him for more than 5 hours — strapped in a car seat but unattended — while she visited friends at 42 Circle Drive in Rossville, off North Jenkins Road, in the Fairview community.

The grandmother supposedly was babysitting while Braxton's parents were working.

Pemberton arrived at her friends' house about 10:30 a.m. for a visit that lasted into the afternoon, Wilson said.

The couple she was visiting asked about the child still in the car, to which Pemberton would check on by looking out the home's window.

When Pemberton went to leave the residence after more than five hours, she found the infant unresponsive, Wilson said. The couple and Pemberton attempted CPR and called 911.

The infant was pronounced dead upon his arrival at Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe.

Wilson said in January 2016, Pemberton appeared to be fully aware of her surroundings and aware of what was going on that day. He said there was no sign of drugs or alcohol inside the house.

Wilson said there was not outward evidence that she was impaired.

The couple told investigators they encouraged her on several occasions to go check on the child

and she would look out the door, look out the window, and (then) start talking about something else, Wilson said.

He said the car was too far away for a visual check on the child.

"She would gesture with her head and eyes looking toward the car. But the car was about 35 to 50 yards from the home," he said. "We can't fathom how she could have checked on the child, even visual, much less physically looked in on the child.

"I think it is obvious that, for whatever reason, she chose not to go back and check on him, which is difficult to understand and comprehend," Wilson said.

Georgia losing patience with drug treatment tourists

RINGGOLD, Ga. — In the northwest corner of Georgia, where cows and crops vastly outnumber people, a small cluster of privately owned treatment centers have sprung up in recent years for heroin and prescription painkiller addicts.

And most of the patients aren't even from the state.

Relaxed rules in Georgia and stricter regulations in Tennessee created a recipe for the facilities to locate a few miles from the state line. Each year, the Georgia centers draw thousands of addicts from Tennessee, some who drive for hours to get treatment. Locals are fed up with the onslaught of out-of-towners who pick up their meds and leave, and they complained so loudly that Georgia legislators recently passed a law essentially preventing any new clinics from opening up in the area.

"Georgia is getting inundated with these treatment centers and they're really drawing patients in from outside of our area and that's a big concern," Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk said. "We can't be the solution for all the surrounding states."

Georgia leads the South in number of treatment centers with 71. Florida, with twice the population, has 69.

Last year, one in five people treated at an opioid treatment center in Georgia came from out of state, according to state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities records obtained by The Associated Press under an open records request.

In the northwest corner of Georgia, two out of every three patients were from out of state.

Sisk has been with the sheriff's office for 27 years. He said that with the growth of the treatment industry, he worries about increasing crime, including parking lot brawls and people driving after abusing their medication.

Patients and treatment center owners say the sheriff's concerns are overblown and perpetuate the stigma of trouble around facilities that are often disparagingly called "methadone clinics." A 2016 report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that, in general, there is more crime associated with a convenience store than opioid treatment programs. Counseling is also a large part of successful treatment.

"Medication is really the smallest part of what we do," said Zac Talbott, the owner of Counseling Solutions in Chatsworth, Georgia, one of the five facilities near the state line.

The shortage of treatment facilities is a problem nationwide. More than a dozen states have fewer than 10 clinics each.

In 2015, fewer than 20 percent of people who needed addiction treatment received it, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human services.

One of Talbott's patients is

Ashley Gardner, who lives two hours away in Maryville, Tennessee. The 34-year-old woman said her addiction started in the seventh grade when she wanted to numb the pain after she was sexually assaulted. She was assaulted another time, and saw both fathers of her two children die from an opioid overdose.

She said her parents disowned her, and by the time she was ready to get help, she was sneaking pain pills out of an emergency room and shooting up in the hospital parking lot.

Gardner has tried treatment facilities closer to her house in Tennessee, but she said they were overcrowded and expensive. Instead, she travels to Georgia where methadone, her preferred medication, is cheaper. Tennessee Medicaid doesn't cover the drug, and she pays for it out of pocket in Georgia.

"It's about half a tank of gas to get down here. But it's worth it you know? I mean, it's saving my life," she said. "It wouldn't really matter if it was a full tank to me."

When patients first start receiving methadone, they have to take the medicine at the center and are only permitted to take one dose home per week. As patients build trust with their therapist and pass drug tests, they are slowly allowed to take a few doses home at a time. It takes two years of continuous treatment before a patient can take home a month's worth of methadone.

Other drugs approved by U.S. regulators to treat opioid addiction do not need to be administered at special treatment facilities the way methadone does, and doctors have been turning to them more often in recent years.

Vivitrol, an injection of the drug naltrexone, is meant to help a patient stay sober after detox by blocking the effects of opioids. Suboxone, a combination of the opioid buprenorphine and naloxone, which blocks the effects of opioids, is meant to help reduce cravings from opioids while also preventing people from feeling a high.

Methadone has been used to treat opioid addiction for 40 years and is cheaper. While some maintain that addicts should aspire to complete abstinence, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Surgeon General and several federal agencies have all come out in support of medication-assisted treatment.

Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis represents much of the northwest corner most affected by the influx of treatment centers. The Republican led a push this year to pass a new set of statewide regulations on the industry.

The new rules will require programs to demonstrate a need for their services, similar to the certificate of need licensing program already used in Tennessee. Previously, open competition was really the only constraint on the number of clinics in Georgia.

Mullis's bill also limits the number of centers that can open in newly established regions around the state. His region will already be at capacity as soon as the bill is signed.

"It's really an issue of distribution," said Mullis, explaining that he doesn't have a problem with the treatment centers, but he is opposed to being the provider of service to neighboring states.

Tennessee state Rep. Ryan Williams said community resistance and strict rules there are the biggest barrier toward expansion of treatment centers.

"The challenge is that there's not a lot of education out there," the Republican said.

"Georgia is getting inundated with these treatment centers and they're really drawing patients in from outside of our area and that's a big concern. We can't be the solution for all the surrounding states."

— Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk