The year 2020 will be a year folks will remember for a long time. From local elections, to a worldwide pandemic we have seen a lot in Liberty and Long County this year Here is a look at some of the top stories from the first half of 2020.
The stories selected were the ones with the most pageviews or comments by our readers.
In January the year got off to a bad start as two people were killed in Long County New Year’s Eve. Mark Richardson was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home on the 1400 block of Tommie Hines Road. Authorities found Shamica Richardson suffering from a gunshot wound at her home in the 1500 block of Tommie Hines Road. She was taken to Winn Army Community Hospital on Fort Stewart, where she was later pronounced dead.
Walthourville elected new leadership and in mid-January Larry Baker stood in a packed room at the Pleasant Grove AME Church’s multipurpose building before 200 people or more to be sworn in as the City’s new Mayor. Baker defeated long-time Mayor Daisy Pray.
On Jan. 23, Long County Sheriff Deputy Sheldon Gordon Whiteman was killed during a vehicle pursuit on Highway 57 about a mile from Tibet Road. On January 30, 2020, Jerry Jonathan Englum, 22, of Ridgeland, South Carolina was arrested for Homicide by Vehicle, Fleeing and Attempting to Elude, and Reckless Driving.
Whiteman’s funeral was held Feb. 1 at the Long County High School gymnasium. Everyone who attended was encouraged to wear blue.
On Feb. 10, a bomb threat was called in at Bradwell Institute. Hinesville Police Department Capt. Terranova Smith said a call was made to the school about the threat shortly after 9 a.m.
Bradwell was cleared for re-entry around 10:30 a.m. According to the LCSS IT and Mass Communications Coordinator Cathy Lane, classes resumed according their normal schedules.
Two weeks later six people were killed in a head-on collision on Interstate-95 in the Liberty County area. Liberty County Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Jason Colvin said around 2 a.m. the Liberty County 911 issued a look out advisory on a white Lexus traveling southbound in the northbound lane. As deputies were headed to the interstate a call came out that a wreck had occurred on I-95 at exit 76 in Midway. When deputies arrived, they found two vehicles which had collided head on. Killed were the Lexus driver, whose vehicle had Florida license plates, and two adults and three children in an SUV with Virginia tags.
On Feb. 24, authorities identified the man who was found dead in Long County as Omari S. Alexander, 18, of Hinesville. Alexander’s body was discovered by a motorist near a private drive on County Line Road near Rye Patch, according to Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles. His death was ruled a homicide and an investigation was started.
Everyone’s day-to-day routines would soon be thrust in turmoil as the community began to deal with a deadly new virus, COVID-19. On Friday, March 20 at 7 p.m., City of Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown issued a Local State of Emergency for the City to take effect at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 21. The City’s operational hours were adjusted, employees began working remotely and many facilities were ordered closed. The first confirmed cases of, were reported in Liberty County March 23 and in Long County March 25.
Trying to make the best out of a bad situation Georgia’s oldest drive-in movie theater in Jesup provided a spark of entertainment while also providing a “socially safe” environment. The Jesup Drive-In owned by Ralph and Jamie Hickox provided a safe and controlled entertainment option during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic by online only payment options as well as food delivery while patrons enjoy their movie.
On April 1 the Liberty County School System closed in-person learning and moved to digital learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year due to the pandemic. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued a shelter in place order April 2, encouraging social distancing, limiting gatherings to 10 people and placed restrictions on certain businesses while closing down others completely. The Board of education met in April to discuss graduation options for the senior class of 2020.
On April 13, Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden was assigned as the prosecutor regarding the shooting of an unarmed African American, Ahmaud Arbery a case that would soon thrust Hinesville and Brunswick into the national news after video of Arbery’s shooting went viral online. Two previous DA’s had recused themselves from the case as there was a conflict of interest with the possible suspects. It was revealed that the shooting took place Feb. 23 and no arrests had been made.
In the first week of May Durden requested the assistance of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They started their investigation May 5, and within two days arrested Gregory and Travis McMichael. A third suspect, William Roddy Bryan, the man who took and released the video, was arrested one week later. Two weeks later the nation witnessed the brutal death of another African American, George Floyd, this time killed by white police officers in Minneapolis.
Meanwhile the class of 2020 would have a graduation ceremony like no other, one without a prom and a drive-thru graduation ceremony for the students of Liberty County High and Bradwell Institute.
The first week of June a peaceful protest was held in the City of Hinesville as people seek justice for the deaths of Arbery, Floyd and Breonna Taylor. On June 4, the Long County Sheriff’s Office arrested two people allegedly involved in the murder of Omari S. Alexander on Feb. 24. Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles said his department worked with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Community Supervision in securing the arrest of Stefphon I. Woods, 23, and Victoria B. Davis, 23, both of Hinesville. In June, the residents of Liberty County voted in a new Sheriff in William Bowman who ran against incumbent Sheriff Steve Sikes. Meanwhile two Bradwell Institute alumnae went to New York to help in the fight against the pandemic. Archaiela Murfree, a respiratory therapist living in San Diego, Calif., and Olivia Deigh, a registered nurse living in Atlanta, contracted with Krucial Staffing after they saw the need for help. The Liberty County Board of Education approved the Superintendent Contract for Dr. Franklin Perry. The contract is effective July 1 and, unless renewed, runs through June 30, 2023. Under the new contract Perry’s salary will be $195,292.50 per year. He is also eligible to receive the same salary percentage increase approved by the District Board of Education for all certified employees.
In next week’s Courier we will bring you the top news stories for the second half of the year.