There’s been a lot of stories this year coming from the community, and some more tragic events transpire that have topped the headlines during 2017.
As the year comes to a close, we take a look back at those stories that made an impact on the community and kept people talking — and will continue being covered in the months to come as the new year starts.
Here’s some of the highlights of the year that drew a lot of attention here:
Police investigate reports that Polk girl live-streamed her own death
The story of a Katelyn Davis, a 12-year- old Polk County girl who live-streamed video of her own suicide in December 2016, went viral on the internet. The girl posted the video and people apparently shared not only the video itself, but also portions of her online journal.
Police opened an investigation into the incident and are still looking into claims of abuse which were reportedly made in her journal.
The story also brought the subject of teen suicide into the forefront of many people’s minds and opened that discussion.
Polk County Coroner Tony Brazier said the story of Katelyn Davis stuck in his mind and a rise in suicides in Polk County made him want to take action.
Each case is different, he said but depression is usually a common factor.
“There’s got to be a common catalyst in all suicides, and that common catalyst is generally the psychiatric norm of chronic depression,” Brazier said.
One positive outcome of Davis’ death in late 2016 was the creation of a Middle School-age one-on-one mentoring program Take Back Polk. The program started by teacher and Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Hulsey partners community leaders and at-risk middle school students in monthly meetings to provide them encouragement and improvement goals in academics. They recently held their fourth meeting since it kicked off in September.
Polk officer killed in shooting identified; second suspect arrested
Polk County Police Detective Kristen Hearne was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 29.
The veteran detective was loved by her community and mourners lined the road as her remains were brought to rest.
“Words can’t express the sorrow and hurt we feel right now as an agency,” Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd said “Our heart goes out to the family. Kristen was the type of officer who lit up any room she was in.”
Hearne is survived by a husband, Matt, her parents and her son Isaac.
Tallapoosa Circuit District Attorney Jack Browning said he already plans to seek the death penalty against alleged shooter Seth Brandon Spangler and Samantha Michelle Roof.
Spangler, 31, and Roof, 22, both face charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, theft by receiving stolen property and obstruction of law enforcement officers. Spangler was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to provide a trust fund for her young son Isaac.
Polk man indicted on over a hundred animal cruelty, dog‑fighting charges
A Polk County grand jury indicted a man on 107 counts of felony aggravated cruelty to animals and 107 counts of felony dog fighting in a case which began with police discovering 70 dogs at a Cashtown Road address.
Devecio Ranard Rowland, 32, has remained in jail since his arrest in late August, at first on animal cruelty charges stemming from the discovery of 70 dogs on property he formerly owned at 569 Cashtown Road.
He alone was indicted in the case, which is expected to head to court in early 2018, Polk County District Attorney Jack Browning said.
Police found more than 100 dogs at two locations back in late August after officers went out to investigate complaints.
Severe weather and hurricane impacts
What a weird year for weather 2017 has been.
It started out with officials worried about the impact of drought conditions, and has ended in a soggy mess after Polk County has experienced all the different conditions for the year: rain, sleet, snow and sunshine, among others.
Early concerns over potential problems with dry weather causing more brush fires have given way to a wet spell in Polk County, with some summer events having gotten thunderstorms, and others not.
One that avoided rain until time to hand out trophies to the winners was the 2017 Cedartown Wheelchair 5K Road Race, which got underway early and then saw the crowd scatter just a few minutes after the last competitor crossed the finish line in a downpour.
The weather worked out for the 2017 Homespun Festival, who weren’t forced to push back their fireworks show until later in the year due to usual issues with rain during the July event, and parades and festivals got a break without having to contend with less-than-perfect forecasts.
Yet when the severe weather hit, it sure did come in with a wallop. For instance, the inland impact of Hurricane Irma that followed evacuees inland, and local residents always find reasons to complain about the snow.
The pre-winter weather felt in December knocked out power for thousands of local residents as at least 9 inches of snow fell.
Cedartown man charged with murder after Lindale man dies
A Cedartown man was charged with murder charge after the man police say he attacked on Dec. 28 died from his wounds.
A dispute over money led to the fatal confrontation between Corey Demarcus Gardhigh and Paul Anthony Grady at Grady’s home at 15 S. Central Ave. in Lindale, police said. Gardhigh worked for Grady, who was a painting contractor.
Gardhigh was arrested and charged with felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor simple battery and several counts of third-degree cruelty to children.
Grady later died at Floyd Medical Center as a result of head injuries. Police then charged Gardhigh with felony murder.
Woman found dead in Polk Memory Gardens
A murder remains unsolved as of the year’s end after police found a woman shot and stabbed in Polk Memory Gardens across from the hospital last spring.
Police found the body of Tammy Wolfe on April 5 in Polk Memory Gardens after cemetery staff noticed her car sitting in a secluded spot that had sat there for several hours without any activity.
A month later in May, Polk County Police arrested a man they called a “person of interest” in the case on firearms possession charges in place for convicted felons, but later had to let him go when the Standard Journal learned he had been given his right to possess back several years ago in a pardon.
Police hadn’t yet sought anyone else in the murder, or had any updates in the investigation as of press time.