Severo Avila

Severo Avila is Features Editor at the Rome News-Tribune.

The day of reckoning is upon us.

City Manager Sammy Rich and I are going head to head and one of us might end up dead.

It’s time again for a murder (of sorts) to take place in Rome.

The annual murder mystery fundraiser for Floyd Against Drugs is coming up and you won’t want to miss it.

Every year the folks at Floyd Against Drugs put on a really popular murder mystery event. They get well-known in the community to dress up and become “actors” for a night.

It’s a dinner at The Forum River Center. People pay to have a wonderful meal but while they’re enjoying that, a murder will take place sometime during the evening and they’ve got to help solve it.

I’ve been asked to participate in this event for the past couple years and it’s been a blast every time — not only is the “cast” always incredible but the dinner guests have such a good time throughout the night.

I’m gonna give y’all a little synopsis of the plot of the evening and you’ll see why it’ll be a hoot.

It’s 1855, the end of the California Gold Rush. But rumor has it that there’s gold in the Seven Hills of Rome, Georgia. Would-be prospectors are flocking to our town to stake their claim. There’s outlaws, lawmen and old West gunslingers running around.

The Mayor of Rome (that would be me, Rich Sams) has decided to throw a town social to show the new visitors just how friendly Romans can be. But not everyone’s happy about the new people coming into our town.

Here’s a rundown of this year’s cast. These people will all be in period costume and interacting with visitors throughout the night, giving clues about what’s happening in town and the tensions bubbling just below the surface.

Brad Bushnell, Bo Bushnell, Rhonda Wallace, Scotty Hancock, Dr. Ryan Cox, Christa Jackson, Dr. Melinda Strickland, Elaine Abercrombie, Randy Quick, JJ Johnson, Cathy Kerce and Robert Smyth.

These folks will have names such as Willy the Kidd, Hank and Messy James, Frannie Stokely, Wild Phil Hiccup, Calamity Kate, Doc Hollandaize and DeWight Surp.

I can’t tell everyone’s backstory but as an example Ryan Cox will play Messy James, the younger hot-headed brother of the James brothers outlaw duo. He tends to fly off the handle so don’t him riled up.

Scotty Hancock plays Hyde Sparrow, the west’s most notorious con man. His sidekick is his girlfriend Connie Barker (Rhonda Wallace) who makes him do whatever she wants.

Elaine Abercrombie plays Bella Moon, the owner of a chain of saloons out west. She inherited the saloons from her dad who was gunned down leaving one of the saloons with that night’s profits and she’s bent on revenge, believing that her dad’s killer is here at the town social.

Every character has a reason to murder someone and every character has someone out to get ‘em. As I have alluded to before, y’alls city manager Sammy Rich (my arch nemesis in real life) will become my enemy for this event as well. Sammy will play DeWight Surp, the owner of Tombstone Enterprises. He’s Rome’s richest citizen and it’s no secret that he’s at odds with the town mayor (yours truly). DeWight runs the town paper, the Roman Record, which he uses to bash the mayor on a regular basis and he’s not too keen on the riff-raff that comes with the gold rush.

Every character has a back story like this. The cast is instructed to get in costume and to play up the characters, mingle with the guests and drop clues and bits of information throughout the evening. At some point, someone will be murdered. Not even the cast knows who it is until it happens.

Then y’all have to try to figure out who the murderer is.

The event will take place on March 21 at The Forum River Center starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 each and can be bought from some cast members and online.

There are also opportunities to get involved as a sponsor and to donate items for a silent auction that will take place during the event.

This is ALWAYS a sellout event so please don’t wait to get your tickets. Get ‘em now and you can see me and Sammy Rich go toe-to-toe in a saloon brawl or a shootout at high noon or whichever way this is gonna play out.

Get your friends together and reserve a table. I guarantee it’ll be a blast. Start looking for a babysitter now.

For tickets, go online at (or see cast members and FAD board members) and for sponsorship, call 706-291-5181. All the money goes to Floyd Against Drugs and the important work they do in our community.

See y’all there. Come solve a mystery and see Sammy Rich act a dang fool.


Severo Avila is Features Editor for the Rome News-Tribune