An investigation into multiple armed robberies in Floyd, Carroll and Walker counties, as well as other locations in Northwest Georgia, culminated in the arrest of a Rome man last week.
Anthony Lavell Williams Jr., 26, was arrested at his home at 309B Ross St. on July 22 by a multi-jurisdictional task force including the Rome Police Department and Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
An investigation by Rome police alongside the GBI and FBI turned up evidence that Williams had robbed at least nine stores in Floyd County between December 2019 and April 3 and then moved on to other cities, RPD Assistant Chief Debbie Burnett said.
Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle confirmed Williams is also a suspect in cases locally and that charges will likely be filed soon.
Williams is also facing at least one armed robbery charge in Carroll County and has warrants for his arrest in Fort Oglethorpe. He is suspected of robbing at least one CVS store and stealing prescription medications, Burnett said.
“In each of the robberies there was a consistent description of the suspect,” Burnett said. “He always wore a hoodie with a mask and we had the same description of the gun, height, weight and bushy eyebrows.”
Such a subject robbed the Dollar General on Oothcalooga Street in Calhoun on Feb. 13. Reports two say men who had just closed the store late at night were approached by a black man with a silver semi-automatic handgun in the parking lot of the store. The man first demanded the money they had in their wallets and then forced the two men back inside the store, where he had them disable the alarm.
The man then demanded they open the safe, which the victims told the suspect was on a timer and could not be opened for nine minutes. He made them lie on the floor until the safe could be opened, then the safe was emptied into Dollar General bags. He then put the two men in a back room and took their cell phones and the store phone. At least $1,900 was taken during the robbery.
Williams is currently accused robbing the following Rome stores: the Dollar General Store at 1605 N. Broad St. on Dec. 12, 2019; the Citgo at 1901 N. Broad St. on Dec. 21, 2019; the Dollar General Store at 25 Central Plaza on Dec. 29, 2019; the Circle K at 910 N. Broad St. on Jan. 4; the Circle K at 2401 Garden Lakes Blvd. on Jan. 4; the North Broad Food Mart at 1416 N. Broad St. on Jan. 9; the Dollar General Store at 1100 N. Fifth Ave. on Jan. 11; the Dollar General Store at 1804 Redmond Circle on Jan. 24; and the CVS at 1915 Maple Ave. on April 3.
Williams fits the description for several other armed robberies in the Northwest Georgia region, including one in Summerville.
The Visual Arts Guild at the Harris Arts Center announced this week its newest art show, titled “Pursuing the Extraordinary Nature of Nature.” Husband and wife artists, Carl McCleskey and Betsy Scott, will have their bronze sculptures and photography on display through Oct. 16. Free and open to the public, the arts center is open Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
McCleskey and Scott moved from Marietta to the “deep woods along the Alabama/Georgia border near Cloudland” in 1984. They desired to get back to the “civilized society of animals and creeks and trees,” stated Scott in a 2008 interview with publisher of The Lookout View, Holly Midgley. The couple met five years earlier when Scott stopped into McCleskey’s blacksmith shop to learn about the trade, and the two have been working together since. At times they collaborate on a piece, and other times they work independently on a project.
Over the years the couple has honed their craft, and they now agree that McCleskey has a better sense of structural balance while Scott is better at the finer details. Neither of the two artists have a formal art education. McCleskey attended Georgia Tech, studying mechanical engineering for a short time, and Scott was an Emory University grad who studied creative writing.
Their creations began as a hobby. The two did not realize there was a chance to make a living selling their art until they participated in a one-man show at Wofford College and sold a piece of art. Shortly thereafter, McCleskey was invited to the Southeast Wildlife Art Show and later began showing his work at other venues. It wasn’t long before he began getting regular commissions for work.
Along the way, Scott took up photography. This began when there was a need for the couple to take photos of their artwork for advertising and took off from there. Scott has since developed her skills and displays her photographs alongside McCleskey’s bronze works. Today their artwork can be seen in the United States, Australia and England and right here at the Harris Arts Center.
The Arts Center is located at 212 S. Wall St. in Calhoun. For more information, contact the center at 706-629-2599.
After months of preparation, the Voluntary Action Center will serve its first dinners on Tuesday as part of its highly-anticipated dinner meal program. Hot meals will be served every Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. as part of the program, with a second night of meals to be added in October.
“We’re so excited to finally do this. It’s a blessing for us. It’s a blessing for the clients and the folks who come out and serve. The volunteers for our lunch program love it and look forward to doing it,” said Executive Director Stacy Long. “Our goal is to make sure no one in Gordon County goes hungry, and providing dinner is going to make a big difference.”
Long said those seeking meals will be asked to check in at the VAC office. They will then receive a special card that they can exchange for a dinner plate. For now, all meals will be to-go in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, but she said the center hopes to start serving in the dining room soon.
VAC employees and board members will be prepping and serving to-go plates to clients on Tuesday, however the center is actively looking for volunteer groups and organizations to help with cooking and serving in the coming months. So far, four churches — Trinity Baptist Church, Belmont Baptist Church, Rock Bridge Community Church and Calhoun First United Methodist — have agreed to take on the task for a day or more every month.
“We would love to get more groups who are committed to that one day a month,” Long said. “We’re especially looking for a group that can volunteer on the first and fifth Tuesdays in September.”
Volunteer groups can opt in at different levels of involvement. Some choose to purchase food and ingredients, cook the food, serve the meals and do clean up afterward. Others choose to come in and cook a meal with ingredients provided by the VAC, serve the meal and provide clean up. Others choose to come in, heat up a meal cooked by VAC employees, serve the meal and clean up afterward. All of these different ways of getting involved are greatly appreciated, Long said.
“In a nutshell, volunteers come in, they heat the meal up or cook it, put it in plates and hand it to the folks who are coming in to eat. We ask that they clean up afterward, but that’s it,” she said. “We want this to be as easy as possible for our volunteers.”
Those interested in volunteering should contact Long at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The roll-out of the VAC’s dinner program was made possible thanks to donations made to the center since January. In particular, Long credited the anonymously-funded $25,000 match grant that began in May with providing a large chunk of the funding necessary to get the initial phase of the program off the ground.
“We are so thankful and appreciative of the support, both from our donor and the community,” Long said. “Everyone who made a contribution made a difference for families here in the county.”
Included in that matching grant was a $5,000 donation from myDOCTORplan.
“myDOCTORplan’s generous donation will help ensure individuals and families continue to receive support through our hunger and homeless outreach programs. Together, with other donations like myDOCTORplan’s, we were able to raise $60,000, $10,000 more than our original goal,” said Long.
The VAC is located at 343 S. Wall St. in Calhoun. Dinners will be served on Tuesday, beginning at 5 p.m.
The Calhoun Gordon County COVID-19 Task Force met this week as the number of local confirmed cases rose dramatically and two new local deaths were reported.
“We knew that numbers would increase when business and industry started opening up. The Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends saw many gatherings across the community which could’ve also contributed to some spread of the virus. Much of this increase is due to increased testing in our community as well as persons testing multiple times with positive results,” said County Administrator Jim Ledbetter.
The Georgia Department of Public Health, in their 3 p.m. daily report Thursday, updated Gordon County’s numbers to 958 total cases, 63 hospitalizations and 23 deaths. Two of those deaths were reported Tuesday.
Of those numbers, 109 cases, 12 hospitalizations, and three deaths occurred within the previous week.
Within the past two weeks, Gordon has added 331 new cases, 15 hospitalizations and five deaths.
AdventHealth Gordon officials reminded the task force members this week that the hospital and intensive care unit is built to support the needs of the community. At this time approximately 20% of all patients admitted to the hospital are due to COVID-related illnesses, but not all of those are Gordon County residents.
“As of July 28, 16 persons are hospitalized with COVID-19, and this number has not risen above 21 at any given time,” said Garrett Nudd, director of marketing and communications for the hospital, adding that the number of patients can fluctuate multiple times a day as patients are discharged and new patients are admitted. “We are confident in our ability to care for the needs of our community and are appreciative of the local task force and our community partners.”
School leaders expressed their gratitude for the COVID Task Force and community partners who have donated supplies and assisted with reopening efforts, and City Administrator Paul Worley encouraged students and educators to follow guidelines as schools reopen.
“As schools prepare to reopen, it is important to reinforce the CDC guidance and to encourage all of our community members to be diligent in their efforts to wash hands frequently, cover coughs, social distance and wear a mask. The Governor has made it clear that he feels that we do not need a mandate to do the right thing. As responsible citizens and leaders in our community, we agree. We need to hold each other accountable to do the right thing and wear a mask when it is not feasible to social distance and we also need to continue these best practices at home,” Worley said.
The local task force will meet again on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 9 a.m. Free COVID-19 testing is available at the Gordon County Health Department, 310 N. River St. in Calhoun, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until noon. No appointment is needed for testing and patients will remain in their vehicles to be tested.
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