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State in Brief: Police: Elderly passenger dies aboard Atlanta-bound flight

ATLANTA (AP) An elderly passenger died aboard a Spirit Airlines flight traveling from Las Vegas to Atlanta on Tuesday, police said.

The man appears to have died of natural causes, Atlanta police investigator James White said. He did not immediately have additional information, including the man’s age.

Spirit Airlines offered its condolences in a statement that also thanked “crew and medical professionals on board for their quick response to assist.”

The airline said its flight attendants have “in-depth training to respond to medical emergencies.”

Georgia Supreme Court upholds conviction in toddler’s death

ATLANTA (AP) The Georgia Supreme Court has refused to overturn the murder conviction and life sentence of an Atlanta woman accused of killing a toddler she was babysitting.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the court ruled unanimously Monday that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find Mary Ann Spence guilty in the 2011 death of Samuel Miller.

According to the high court, Spence’s 5-year-old grandson testified that he saw Spence pick up the crying toddler and slam him on a bed.

Samuel was the son of a friend of Spence’s daughter. An autopsy concluded that he died from blunt force trauma to his head.

Spence said she put him down for a nap and then found him unresponsive and foaming at the mouth about an hour later.

Her attorney, Edward Silverbach, said the case depended entirely on circumstantial evidence.

MT timberland purchaser promises continued public access

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) A Georgia-based investment group has confirmed it is buying 1,000 square miles of timberland in Montana from Weyerhaeuser.

An attorney for Southern Pine Plantation told the Flathead Beacon the timberland investment company is buying the land and has no plans to change Weyerhaeuser’s long-standing practices related to public access, forest management, grazing, existing outfitting agreements and conservation easements.

James Bowditch, the company’s legal counsel, said they felt it was in the public interest to “provide this assurance to concerned Montanans.”

Seattle-based Weyerhaeuser announced the $145 million cash sale on Dec. 17 without naming the buyer.

Bowditch acknowledged Southern Pine Plantation’s recent purchase of timberland in Idaho only to sell it to private investors.

“We feel like there was concern that this was a bunch of Wall Street investors buying up property for a quick flip,” Bowditch said Saturday. “That is not what is happening at all. This is a timber company and they intend to manage the land for timber.”

Weyerhaeuser owns 1,375 square miles of timberland in Montana. The sale is expected to close by June 2020.

South Carolina educator to lead University of West Georgia

CARROLLTON, Ga. (AP) A South Carolina educator will be the next president of the University of West Georgia.

The Georgia Board of Regents voted on Monday to name Brendan Kelly, now the leader of the University of South Carolina Upstate, as president of the 13,000-student public university in Carrollton. Kelly will start work on April 1.

Kelly had been named the sole finalist for the position last week. Kelly and his wife visited the West Georgia campus on Thursday to meet with students, faculty, staff and university supporters.

Kelly has been chancellor of the South Carolina campus in Spartanburg since 2017. He served briefly as interim president of the entire University of South Carolina, including its main campus in Columbia, earlier this year.

“”His strong communication skills and strategic planning experience will benefit a campus that has seen its graduation rates, degrees conferred and fundraising on the rise,” University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in a statement. “I am confident he will build upon that momentum while being an advocate for West Georgia’s students, faculty and staff.”

Kelly was previously a faculty member and administrator at the University of West Florida.

He earned his bachelor and master’s degrees from Eastern Michigan University, while earning a doctorate in rhetoric and political communication from Wayne State University in Detroit.

Kyle Marrero was president at West Georgia until earlier this year, when regents tapped him to lead Georgia Southern University. Micheal Crafton was interim president, but stepped down Monday after campus protests over possible faculty layoffs because of budget cuts. West Georgia’s enrollment fell 3.6% this fall, sparking a $3.1 million shortfall in the university’s $212 million budget.

Stuart Rayfield, vice chancellor for leadership and institutional development for the University System of Georgia, is now interim president at West Georgia.

4 arrested on drug charges at Economy Inn

Two of the four people arrested together on drug charges at a local motel were released from jail Tuesday after posting bonds.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Crystal Leigh Bollen, 35, of 84 Compton Circle in Rockmart; Michael Rece Hall, 33, of 132 Padlock Mountain Road in Cave Spring; Walter Jefferson Simpson Jr., 38, of 1377 Bells Ferry Road; and Cassie Lynn Cowart, 36, of 15 High Bluff Road were all arrested Monday in Room 217 of the Economy Inn, 1803 Martha Berry Blvd.

Each is charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, and possession of drug-related objects. Simpson is additionally charged with two counts of felony probation violation and was being held without bond.

Bond was set at $5,700 each for the others. Bollen and Hall were released, Cowart remained in jail Tuesday.

Rome man charged with selling meth

A Rome man remained in jail Tuesday on multiple drug charges.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Lee Roy Casey, 63, of 5 Hopewell St., is charged with felony sale of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, and possession of methamphetamine.

A warrant for his arrest alleges that he sold a quantity of meth to a cooperating witness on Sept. 13 at a location on Olmstead Street.

Blake Silvers, Roman Record editor

Woman accused of smuggling items into prison

A woman has been charged with conspiring to furnish prohibited items to her husband, Brandon Mullis-Vonbehren, an inmate at the Floyd County Prison on Black’s Bluff Road.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Brittany Danielle Mullis-Vonbehren, 34, of 1066 Flowery Branch Road, Kingston, turned herself in at the Floyd County Jail Monday evening to face charges of conspiracy to commit a felony and items prohibited for possession by an inmate.

The warrant for her arrest claims that, on Dec. 19, Brittany Mullis-Vonbehren put a quantity of marijuana and two packs of Bugler tobacco into a trash can at the Shannon recreation complex where it was to be picked up and smuggled into the prison.

She was released from jail on bond.

Doug Walker, associate editor