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Unusual crime stories of 2017

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There were a number of crime stories in 2017 that dabbled in the extraordinary: A pretend-cop pulled over an actual one, footprints in the snow lead to an arrest, and a thief climbed through the ceiling of a convenience store to steal cigarettes.

Here are a few of those that stuck in memory:

Report: Fake cop targets the wrong driver — a real police officer

A man accused of impersonating a police officer found out the hard way that the woman driver he tried to pull over was an off-duty police officer.

“He picked the wrong person,” then Floyd County Assistant Police Chief Mark Wallace said in February.

Tony Arden Ruth, 43, of 100A Reeceburg Road, was arrested shortly before 10 p.m. Feb. 14, after a report that he was using flashing lights and driving aggressively in an attempt to conduct a traffic stop on another motorist.

The report came from the driver, Floyd County police investigator Amy Nails, who was on her way home from an evening in Cartersville.

Ruth started flashing auxiliary lights in his grill and shining what appeared to be a handheld flashlight at her car, Nails said.

As he followed her down Turner McCall Boulevard, Nails called 911 and told the dispatcher what was happening.

“Fortunately, there were city and county officers close by. I don’t know if he saw them and got nervous, but he pulled into Kmart on Hicks Drive and was taken into custody.”

Ruth was charged with felony impersonating an officer and misdemeanor aggressive driving and reckless driving. He also faces three counts of cruelty to children in the second degree because there were three young children in Nails’ car.

The arrest report notes that Ruth’s wife was with him in his car, begging him to stop. Nails said he told the investigating officer he thought she was speeding and he was going to make a citizen’s arrest.

“The only reason I didn’t stop was I had three kids in my car, one in a car seat,” she said. “I’m confident if I would have stopped, he would have approached the vehicle. I don’t know what he would have done then.”

Ruth was indicted by a Floyd County grand jury in August.

Report: Police follow footprints in snow to man holding stolen guns

Following footprints left in the snow, a Rome police officer came to an Avenue A home where an 18-year-old man was holding onto the stolen items from a burglary police were investigating, reports stated.

According to Floyd County Jail and Rome Police Department reports:

Trevon Cornell Lee, 18, of 502 Avenue A, is charged with felony theft by receiving stolen property. He said two other men committed the Dec. 8 burglary and gave him the items to hide.

The burglary occurred at Carter Machinery, 528 1/2 Fifth Ave. — someone had broken in and stolen three guns, some gun parts, machinery and tools. Shoe prints and fingerprints were found in the shop.

While waiting for a fingerprint team to arrive, an officer followed the footprints to Lee’s address. He knocked on the door, was invited in and saw some of the stolen items in plain sight.

Almost $3K in Newport cigarettes taken from Maple Quick Stop — theft involves man climbing through ceiling

A duo stole $2,805 in Newport cigarettes from the Maple Quick Stop in late August while the store was open, in a scheme involving a woman distracting the cashier and a man climbing through the ceiling to get into the manager’s office, reports stated.

According to Rome police reports:

On the morning of Aug. 29, just after 8 a.m., the theft of 55 cigarette cartons and multiple boxes of cigar wraps began at the convenience store at 1912 Maple Ave.

Video footage shows the woman enter the store, followed by the man. The woman starts talking with the cashier as the man heads to the storage closet at the back of the store. He goes inside and doesn’t come back out for 15 minutes.

During this time, he stacked boxes next to the wall that divides the closet and the manager’s office, where tobacco products are stored. A ceiling tile was pushed up so he could climb over the wall. He grabbed the cartons and boxes from the office and tossed them through the ceiling opening and into the closet.

The man climbed back through the ceiling and walks out of the closet and then the store, only to return with an empty backpack moments later.

He chats with a few customers and acts like he’s going to the bathroom. But upon seeing the cashier was busy, he goes to the closet, where he stays for a couple of minutes and then emerges with a stuffed backpack.

He leaves and then returns with an empty backpack, going right back to the closet and loading up the rest of the items. He walks out of the store and doesn’t come back.

Inmate who escaped from the courthouse sentenced

An inmate who escaped from the courthouse on May 8 was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to escape charges.

Floyd County Superior Court Judge Billy Sparks sentenced Dustin Earl Cotton to five years for the escape charge and five for an interference with government property charge. The sentences will run consecutively.

Cotton escaped the courthouse by slipping his leg cuffs and running from the courthouse. The daylong hunt ended that night when law enforcement officials pulled him out of the Etowah River around 10 p.m.

Local and statewide law enforcement officials searched along the Etowah River most of the day and ended up finding him on the riverbank near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Glenn Milner Boulevard.

A Rome-Floyd Fire Department crew used a thermal imaging camera to see Cotton through the underbrush.

Man stabs woman after she refused to return money he’d given her for sex

A Rome woman was punched in the mouth and stabbed in the chest by an Alabama man on Nixon Avenue in the early morning hours of Nov. 24 after she refused to refund the money he’d given her for sex, reports stated.

According to a Rome City police report filed Friday:

The woman told police the Alabama man, who was driving, and his brother had picked her up while she was walking down Hardy Avenue. She only knew the brother, who was in the passenger seat.

They went to a Wilson Avenue home, where the woman was paid to have sex with the driver. When all three were back in the vehicle, they then went to buy drugs.

While on Nixon Avenue, the driver complained about the sex he just had, and told the woman to give him his money back. But she refused.

The man stopped the car and got out. He opened her door, punched her in the mouth and stabbed her in the chest.

She got out of the vehicle and was able to make it to the front steps of a Nixon Avenue home around 1:37 a.m. to bang on the door and rouse the homeowner from bed, telling him, “I got stabbed, call 911.”

Police found a blood trail running from the driveway of 214 Nixon Ave., where the woman pleaded for help, to across the street. The homeowner said he found the woman sprawled out across his front steps and called 911.

The woman was treated and released from Floyd Medical Center later that day, according to hospital spokesman Dan Bevels.

Cartersville man, who threatened judge, pleads guilty but mentally ill to murder of cellmate

A Cartersville man, who gained viral fame for his profanity-laden exchange with a Floyd County superior court judge, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the murder of his cellmate in 2015 and was sentenced to life without parole Dec. 11.

Denver Fenton Allen, 33, decided to enter a guilty plea after Judge Billy Sparks denied a motion in which Allen claimed he killed Stephen Rudolph Nalley in self-defense.

Not only was the act premeditated, Floyd County Assistant District Attorney Luke Martin said, Allen then used the killing of the much smaller man to pump himself — and his reputation — up at the jail.

This wasn’t the first time Allen had a hearing and attempted to enter a guilty plea, at one time telling a judge he just wanted to get it over with. Local attorney Dan Morgan, Allen’s public defender, argued the 33-year-old Cartersville man was unable to assist with his own defense. He’d been temporarily declared unfit for trial and sent to Central State Prison in Milledgeville for a lengthy evaluation.

The state evaluation stated he was fit for trial but did suffer from delusions and schizophrenia, among other maladies.

When he was brought back to court Allen continued the same physically and sexually threatening courtroom behavior that gained him an amount of fleeting fame. In June 2016, the transcript of a heated exchange with Superior Court Judge Bryant Durham was made into a cartoon video that quickly went viral.

Durham recused himself from the case and gave a public apology for his part in the exchange.

On Nov. 14, as jurors, who had just found him competent to stand trial, were leaving the courtroom, Allen started calling them “trash” and claimed that one of them was a pedophile. He was removed from his competency trial in superior court after disrupting the testimony of a state clinical psychologist shouting, “That bitch is committing perjury.”

The day before in court, despite being quiet for much of the daylong proceedings, he had interrupted Sparks and both attorneys several times with sexually-based profanities and claims of falsified records, multiple health issues and a court pedophilia ring. Twice he described how he’d like to go to someone’s home with a shotgun and kill that person and his family. He was removed from the courtroom twice Nov. 13.

Allen had been housed in the Floyd County Jail by Bartow County after he’d threatened several deputies and the Bartow County sheriff. He was only in the Floyd County Jail five days when he killed Nalley.

“He’s a dangerous person,” Martin said. “He needs to be in prison until he dies.”

Before his most recent incarceration, Allen had burglarized homes in a Bartow neighborhood and said he’d go back and instead of breaking into homes would go on a killing spree in that neighborhood, Martin said.

Rome News-Tribune Staff Writers Diane Wagner and Spencer Lahr along with Managing Editor John Bailey contributed to this report.