As we move into 2014, the Courier takes a look back at events that shaped our community in 2013. This is part one of a two-part series. Note the dates listed are the dates on which the Courier published these stories, not when the events occurred.
• Man stabbed at hunting club — Jan. 9
A Liberty County man was found stabbed to death in the early morning of Jan. 6, 2013, in Riceboro. According to Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Detective Brian Barnes, Davis Williams, 28, of Fleming, was found dead shortly after 1:30 a.m. in Ernest and Corine Park on the site of the 12 Gauge Hunting Club on Lewis Frasier Road. Williams had been stabbed multiple times in the back as party goers were leaving a birthday party. Several days later, Justin Deon Gordon, 24, was arrested in Williams’ death.
• VA clinic breaks ground — Jan. 16
Military and civilian leaders broke ground Jan. 14 on the Hinesville Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic. The 23,348-square-foot building will have six primary-care professionals, as well as pharmacy, radiology, optometrist, women’s health and transition and case management services, according to Tonya Lobbestael, public affairs officer for the Charleston-based regional VA system. The project is slated for completion this spring.
• Superintendent of schools resigning — Jan. 18
After five years on the job and with one year left in her contract, former Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer informed the school board in mid-January she was resigning, effective May 31. Her initial three-year contract was for an annual salary of $184,550 and, in 2011, she had signed another three-year agreement. Dr. Valya Lee was named superintendent in late June. Lee was offered a three-year, $170,000 contract.
• Alleged FEAR member in court — Feb. 1
Accused FEAR militia member Heather Salmon was arraigned Jan. 31 on 13 counts, including charges of malice murder, felony murder, violations of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act and making a false statement. She pled not-guilty in Long County Superior Court. Salmon was a suspect in the December 2011 shooting deaths of Michael Roark, 20, and Tiffany York, 17, near Ludowici. Atlantic Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Isabel Pauley told the judge that her office’s investigation revealed Salmon was one of the highest-ranking FEAR members, and that she served as the militia’s CEO for finances.
• Georgia Trend: Hinesville is Renaissance City — Feb. 6
Georgia Trend Magazine chose Hinesville as one of Georgia’s top eight “Renaissance Cities” for the magazine’s February 2013 edition. According to the article, the cities on the list were Blue Ridge, Columbus, Dahlonega, Decatur, Hinesville, Roswell, Savannah and Statesboro. Hinesville public-relations manager Krystal Hart said $35 million was invested from 2008-12 in downtown public projects like the Liberty County Justice Center, a new Hinesville City Hall, the Azalea Street Townhome project and redevelopment of Memorial Drive.
• BoE opts to not renew contracts — Feb. 15
Rejecting recommendations from the Liberty County School superintendent, the board of education on Feb. 12 made two significant personnel changes. Contracts were not renewed for Bradwell football coach Jim Walsh Jr. and transportation director Tony Norce. Walsh resigned from his teaching position in April. Norce was appointed principal of Snelson-Golden Middle School in June 2013.
• Quinones strikes plea deal — Feb. 24
Robert Quinones, a former soldier accused of taking hostages at Winn Army Community Hospital on Fort Stewart on Labor Day 2010, pled guilty to one count of assault with intent to commit a felony, kidnapping. Quinones was sentenced to 86 months. The judge recommended the Bureau of Prisons evaluate Quinones’ mental health and place him in a facility that would provide him mental-health treatment. Quinones had been medically discharged from the Army due to severe post-traumatic stress disorder following several deployments to Iraq.
• Child's death labeled suspicious — March 1
Hinesville police arrested the parents of a 3-year-old Hinesville girl who police said died Feb. 27 of suspicious causes. Torres Boles and his wife Candice Boles were arrested and charged with cruelty to children in connection with the death of their daughter, Andraia.
• State auditing LCSS test scores — March 1
The Liberty County School System received a report from the state indicating there were questionable findings in the district’s spring 2012 standardized test scores. The audit was triggered when the state found an irregularity in the number of wrong answers changed to right answers. The investigation was closed in June 2013 because no evidence was found to support cheating had occurred.
• Development authority taking shape — March 31
The Hinesville Development Authority began to take shape in March 2013. With members selected by the city council, the authority met for the first time March 19 to discuss its purpose, bylaws, officer elections and other concerns. Assistant City Manager Kenny Howard agreed to serve as executive director until the authority could run smoothly on its own. Howard had said the HDA is to develop Hinesville within the city limits but outside the downtown area.
• Armstrong campus to become reality — April 5
After years of planning, Hinesville welcomes construction of an Armstrong Atlantic State University campus on Memorial Drive. The state’s fiscal-year 2014 budget, adopted near the end of the 2013 General Assembly, included $4.75 million for the project. The Armstrong Liberty Center, once built, will serve populations within Liberty and surrounding counties, including dual-enrollment high-school students to working adults, military members and their families.
• BoE votes to keep class times — April 12
The Liberty County Board of Education voted to retain current school times despite hashing out the issue in two previous meetings and two community forums. Elementary and pre-K students still begin and end their school days earlier than their middle- and high-school counterparts.
• Camden assistant new BI football coach — April 19
Adam Carter, formerly the defensive coordinator for Camden County High School, was hired to coach Bradwell footbaIl. The recommendation came from Bradwell’s Principal Scott Carrier, who placed Carter as a health and physical-education teacher by day.
• Kingston announces Senate candidacy — May 3; Carter running for House — May 8
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston and state Sen. Buddy Carter announced their bids for the U.S. Senate and House, respectively. Kingston has served as a representative for 20 years, and Carter was elected a state senator in 2009.
• BoE travel more than $22K in 2012 — May 31
• BoE travel more than $22K in ’12 – May 31
Information from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts indicated that four of seven Liberty County Board of Education members were in the state’s top 25 for travel expenditures in fiscal year 2012. During that year, the board spent almost $23,000 on travel.
• Census estimates Liberty's growth lags — June 9
U.S. Census Bureau population estimates released last spring indicated the Coastal Georgia region continued to grow, but the population inside Liberty County had not kept up with growth projections between 2010 and 2012. Long County, however, showed increases in the annual federal population estimates.
• New 3rd ID commander tapped — June 12
The Army announced Maj. Gen. John M. Murray would take command of the 3rd Infantry Division. Murray took command in August, after former 3rd Infantry Division commander, Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, returned from a 12-month deployment as commander of Regional Command-South in Afghanistan.
• Fort Stewart to lose brigade — June 26
The Department of the Army had announced that it intended to reduce the number of active-duty soldiers by 80,000 by 2017 — and Fort Stewart stood to lose 1,300 soldiers under the plan. U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston’s office confirmed that the installation would lose a brigade combat team, but reported that several battalions would be added to reduce the loss.