As we close the door on 2012, the Courier recalls stories that grabbed attention, piqued our interest and affected the community in the past 12 months. This is the final segment of a four-part series.
• Toddler dies of self-inflicted gunshot wounds — A 2-year-old Hinesville boy died Aug. 16 at Liberty Regional Medical Center after sustaining what officials believe were accidental self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Officials investigated the matter but did not file charges after declaring the incident an accident.
• Liberty inmate escapes jail, later caught — Liberty County jail inmate Shorell Brown, 30, of Midway escaped in mid-August by climbing over a wall in the outdoor recreation yard, according to Liberty Sheriff Steve Sikes. Brown, who had been convicted of several counts and was awaiting transfer to another facility, was apprehended Sept. 4 in Brunswick.
• Former Allenhurst clerk arrested — Former Allenhurst city clerk Jeffrey McClure was arrested Aug. 14 and charged with theft by taking pertaining to government funds, according to Cathy Sapp, special agent in-charge of the Statesboro GBI office.
• Liberty BoE votes to close Jordye Bacon — The Liberty County Board of Education voted Sept. 11 to discontinue elementary school operations at Jordye Bacon Elementary School and relocate the Coastal Academy and one of the Ombudsman programs to the campus. The move came after months of contemplation, a financial analysis that indicated the district has one too many elementary schools for financial efficiency and a districtwide site assessment that said the school needed significant renovations. As a result, district six elementary zones have been redrawn and staff will be reassigned.
• Hinesville marks 175 years — The city of Hinesville on Sept. 12 celebrated its 175th birthday with a cake reception and community mural unveiling by the Hinesville Area Arts Council.
• Tomato Patch killer gets parole — After serving 14 years of a life sentence, Long County murder suspect Billy Crowder — who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and armed robbery in connection with the death of his grandfather, Thurman Martin — was granted parole in mid-September. He was released Nov. 28.
• Former soldier convicted, gets life in child’s death — Former Fort Stewart soldier Robert Gonzales on Sept. 19 was found guilty of murder and aggravated battery in the March 2011 death of 3-year-old Samuel Joseph Carroll, a child he was babysitting. Gonzales was sentence to life for murder and 20 years for the battery charge.
• Poole’s Deli closes up shop — Longtime lunch favorite Poole’s Deli closed its doors Oct. 11 after more than 20 years in business. Owner Susan McCorkle cited economic factors for driving the decision.
• Court declares Moody dead — Long County probate Judge Marie Middleton on Oct. 18 declared missing resident Debora Gail Moody dead after nearly five years of uncertainty. Moody’s husband, Jeffrey Moody, had requested she be declared dead three years ago, but it was then denied on grounds that the court had not shown “a diligent search” in surrounding states where the woman had relatives.
• Cay Creek stabbing suspect sentenced — Kenneth Allan Turner was sentenced to 12 years confinement and eight years probation Oct. 15 after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault in the 2011 stabbing death of Benjamin O’Neal.
• Few surprises in 2012 elections — The Nov. 6 general election brought few surprises in Liberty. The county went blue along with the Electoral College, re-electing President Barack Obama. District 1 U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston kept his Liberty seat though Democratic challenger Lesli Messinger received 53.58 percent of Liberty votes; Liberty County Board of Commissioners District 4 incumbent Pat Bowen retained his seat despite a Republican challenger in Ted Eby, and government newcomer Justin Frasier — son of Liberty County Democratic Party chairman and Hinesville City Councilman Charles Frasier — was elected to fill the BoC District 2 empty seat.
• United Way tops campaign goal again — The United Way of the Coastal Empire Liberty County, which offers grants to community-aid organizations, announced Nov. 17 that it raised $205,615 in its fall campaign, blowing away its $195,000 goal.
• Hinesville, BoE and BoC all raise taxes — After rounds of public hearings that drew questions and heat for some local leaders, the Hinesville City Council, Liberty County Board of Education and Liberty County Board of Commissioners each raised their millage rates in early December. The BoE and BoC votes were unanimous, while Hinesville’s vote was a contentious split.
With council members David Anderson and Charles Frasier in support of raising the rate and Keith Jenkins and Kenneth Shaw opposed, Mayor Jim Thomas cast the tie-breaking vote for the raise. Councilman Jason Floyd, who was on his honeymoon during the meeting, later said he would have voted for the raise because he voted for the budget that prompted a revenue increase.