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Gum Branch lawman recalls notable arrests

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POSTED: July 22, 2014 9:00 a.m.
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Carlyne and Myles Groover celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary earlier this year.

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“It was the middle of April in 1954, and Myles and I were coming from Tampa, Fla., to Gum Branch to meet his parents and family,” Myles Groover’s wife, Carlyne Groover, recalled. “We had been married just two weeks.
“On the way from Jesup to Ludowici, we crossed many wooden bridges, which sounded as though they were going to give way with us and dump us into the water, but they didn’t. After that, we drove down a long, dusty and washboard road to get to their family’s home,” she continued. “Little did I know that we would be moving back to Gum Branch in December to spend the rest of our lives in Liberty County. Myles’ daddy wanted him to come home and help him farm. His daddy had a heart attack on the third day of March in 1955 and died.
“Myles farmed that spring,” Carlyne explained. “Billy Floyd was the Hinesville police chief, and he and Myles were talking one day, and the chief asked Myles if he would like to be a policeman. Myles told him he would and began working on Oct. 1, 1955. This was the beginning of a long career that ended in 1993.”
Sitting in his recliner in their beautiful country home in Gum Branch, 83-year-old Myles takes up the story with enthusiasm and a sparkle in his eyes as he vividly recalls many incidents that happened during his years of working with law enforcement.
“The police car was our office, and the telephone was on a utility pole at the corner of the courthouse,” Myles said. “The phone could be heard all over town. Dave Mobley’s son Royce loved to hang around and answer the phone for the officers when they were away from it.
“The MPs (military police) from Camp Stewart rode with the police on duty at night. I was the assistant chief under Chief Dave Mobley,” he continued. “I initiated getting the first uniforms for the police department. I loved my job and stayed with the Hinesville police until Jan. 1, 1969.
“At the beginning, we used the old jail on Main Street. Carlyne cooked all the meals for the prisoners in the jail,” Myles said. “I have been involved with many scary, bad and funny things in those many years. One time, a big woman was so drunk that one officer had to pull on her arms and the other had to push from the backside to get her up the stairs in the old jail.”
As I looked through the scrapbook that Carlyne had put together for Myles’ retirement dinner in 1993, I asked about some of the clippings from the Coastal Courier. One write-up described Myles as being a “hound dog” when it came to making drug arrests during traffic stops. He was given a tag for his truck with “hound dog” on it.
“You just have to be very observant,” Myles said. “Times may have changed and there have been many changes in procedures and the officers are better-educated, but people are still the same. They will act real nervous, and you can tell when something is wrong.”
Knowing when something or someone is suspect is a skill that has served Myles well over his long law-enforcement career.
Because of that skill, he is credited with making the largest single cocaine arrest and seizure in the department’s history.
On Oct. 17, 1984, he stopped a speeder from Virginia on Interstate 95 and found two balls of pure cocaine — that had a street value of $3.2 million — hidden in a shoebox in the trunk of the car.
A month later, Myles stopped a speeder from North Carolina and found marijuana residue and $99,950 in a briefcase, which was confiscated.
In May 1985, he stopped another speeder on I-95 and arrested two North Carolina men and confiscated 12 pounds of cocaine and $47,360 in cash. The cocaine was found in a bowling ball bag and the cash in a suitcase and briefcase. The street value of the cocaine was in the millions.
“Despite the inherit danger that comes with the job, I never had to shoot anyone,” Myles said. “I’ve come close a couple of times, but I’ve never had to. They’d always put their guns down.
“I remember when the county was tracking down drug smugglers who were using large trucks and shrimp boats in Midway and Sunbury, I was radioed to stop a large 10-wheeler van suspected of carrying drugs,” he continued. “I had the driver open the back of the van, and there were three suspects with guns in it. That was a heart-stopping moment as I never expected to find men in the back. I told them to put their guns down, and they put the guns on the floor.
“Detective George Stagmeier, now the Hinesville police chief, drove up as the driver opened the van. I credit Stagmeier with saving my life,” Myles said. “Later, I found out that the men had been told to kill me. But Stagmeier driving up at that precise moment changed their minds. That sophisticated drug operation brought 41,870 pounds of marijuana into Liberty County. God has certainly been good to me.”
In September of 1992, law-enforcement agencies seized a patch of marijuana plants growing in the middle of a young pine grove in the Sandy Run community after Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents spotted the plants in a helicopter.
The plants were as tall as 14 feet, and as the older ones were removed, younger plants replaced them so there always would be a ready supply. Detective James Rogers said that patch was the best one he had ever seen grown in Liberty County. The ideal growing conditions of that year really led to a bumper crop. About 300 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $660,000 was destroyed. Not surprisingly, Myles was right in the midst of that seizure as well.
Drug arrests were not all the Myles did, though.
“One time, a group of satanists were going into the Flemington Presbyterian Cemetery and breaking up tombstones, which cost hundreds of dollars to repair,” Myles said. “Other officers and I had been called to the cemetery. By the time we arrived, the group of vandals had scattered. I noticed a very distinct set of footprints at the sandy scene and knew of a hotel nearby that might yield something useful.
“When I got there, I found a set of muddy footprints leading to an apartment,” he continued. “After I arrested the suspect, I asked him what possessed him to destroy sacred tombstones. He told me, ‘Satan told me to do it. How’d you find me?’”
“God told me where to find you,” Myles answered.
Law enforcement runs in the Groover family. Myles’ brothers, Tracy and Maurice, were Military Police while in the Army.
Maurice was Hinesville’s police chief for a number of years. Tracy worked with the sheriff’s office and was the first jail administrator at the regional jail.
Their uncle Bill Phillips was the sheriff of Liberty County a few decades ago, and a cousin is in the FBI.
Myles’ son Fred was a policeman but now serves as a security guard at Memorial University Hospital in Savannah.
“When it gets in your skin, you can hardly get it out,” Myles quipped.
After serving under three sheriffs, Myles retired from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office as a sergeant in March 1993.
But Myles couldn’t be satisfied, so he served as a bailiff in the courthouse for 17 years before he finally gave it all up.
Myles’ wife worked in law enforcement as well.
“I was the first female police in Hinesville,” Carlyne said.  
“I began in February of 1967 and quit in January of 1969 as I was pregnant.
“My main job was to check cars that were parked to make sure they didn’t go over an hour,” she explained. “If they did, a red ticket went on the windshield, and it had to be paid.
“I also directed traffic at Washington and Main Street during lunch hour,” Carlyne continued. “I made a daily trip to the bank with the bank deposit.
“It fell to me to search females who were arrested. I had to search two who were arrested for shoplifting. This is the one job that I detested,” she said. “I loved to be outside and walk the streets and stick my head in some of the stores. Back then, there were the Shave’s Five and Ten, Elsie’s Dress Shop, LeRoy’s Men Shop, Polk’s Jewelry, Saunder’s Hardware and the White Way Café. There were very few boring days.”
Today, Myles and Carlyne are satisfied staying at home and doing whatever they want. Myles spends a lot of time tending to his huge flock of chickens. He has four hens!  
Productive blueberry bushes just outside their back door give them both something to do at this time of the year.
Sometimes, Myles reminisces while looking through his scrapbook, which is filled with many letters, certificates of appreciation and achievement awards, plus all the newspaper clippings and reminisces.
Myles and Carlyne both say retirement is good and that God has richly blessed them through the years.

 

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