A case involving a murder that took place in Peachtree Corners last month took a new turn Tuesday night when police found the suspect dead in an apartment in the city.
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Police: Suspect in Peachtree Corners homicide from April found dead in apartment on Tuesday
A case involving a murder that took place in Peachtree Corners last month took a new turn Tuesday night when police found the suspect dead in an apartment in the city.
Cpl. Ryan Winderweedle said Gwinnett County SWAT officers were called to help sheriff’s deputies serve a warrant on Aaron Woods, 22, at an apartment on Hillandale Drive in Peachtree Corners and arrest him Tuesday night. Woods was the suspect in the murder of Kendall Reid, 22, who was shot and killed in front of a convenience store in the city on April 25.
“Deputies believed they had located Woods inside an apartment in Peachtree Corners, but were unable to make direct contact with Woods,” Winderweedle said. “The decision was made to call Gwinnett Police SWAT Team, believing Woods was possibly barricaded in the apartment.
“After several hours and numerous attempts no contact was made with Woods. Gwinnett Police SWAT Team made entry into the apartment and located Woods deceased of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
Detectives, crime scene investigators and the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office were called in to investigate Woods’ death.
Woods was wanted aggravated assault and felony murder charges in connection with Reid’s death. Police previously said investigators believed the pair were family acquaintances and got into an altercation at a store in a strip shopping center located at 3330 Peachtree Corners Circle before Woods allegedly shot Reid last month.
Police responding to the call about Reid’s shooting found him laying on the ground between two cars in the parking lot of the shopping center with at least one gunshot wound.
Reid died at the scene of the April 25 shooting.
Chattahoochee Elementary School throws party, drive-by parade to celebrate retiring principal Jeff Lee
Chattahoochee Elementary School Principal Jeff Lee told his staff that, if they were going to do anything to commemorate his retirement, they should just do something “low-key.”
He didn’t want a long ceremony where people sat around watching one speaker after another get up to make speeches.
So, naturally the school’s staff organized a sidewalk party with teachers dancing to music, a parade of cars with parents and current and former students passing by to greet him and arranged to have Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris stop by to present a Jeff Lee Day proclamation from the city.
Signs with sayings such as “Retirement Ahead” and “You can’t retire from being amazing” were also installed around the front of the school.
“This is their version of low-key,” Lee joked afterward.
After 13 years of leading Chattahoochee Elementary School as its principal, Lee’s official last day at the school is July 30. The last day of classes, however, was Wednesday and the school’s teachers will be leaving for summer vacation soon. That made Friday one of the last opportunities for the school community to celebrate with Lee.
In a surreal coincidence, Lee’s tenure as principal at the school matched the length of the educational careers of students who started school during his first year at the school.
“The kids who graduated this year from Duluth High School started in kindergarten here with me 13 years ago,” Lee said. “It was really exciting. They came back last week, a lot of them, just to come back and see the students and see their teachers and classrooms and things.
“That’s what brings us so much happiness as teachers to see the impact we’ve had on kids.”
Harris said Lee is popular with Chattahoochee Elementary parents. The school is part of the Duluth High School cluster and, since it is part of the Duluth community, Harris hears from its parents often.
“I’ve had so much admiration for you for many, many years,” Harris told Lee. “And, as mayor, I can tell you frequently parents come up to me and brag about this school, all of you (staff members) and this leader. I hear (about Lee) more than any principal in the cluster — and we have an excellent, excellent cluster.
“So, I hear great things about the school and, Jeff, you are really loved. You really are so we are going to make this Jeff Lee Day in the city of Duluth.”
Fourth-grade teacher Linda Heckman said Lee created a friendly and welcoming environment at the school for staff and families with an open door policy. In addition to being a Chattahoochee Elementary teacher, she also has a daughter, Audrey, who is a rising third-grader at the school.
Heckman said Lee is widely loved at the school and just about all of the staff cried when he announced he would be retiring at the end of this school year. As for the environment he fostered, she recalled her interview for a job at the school as one example of the welcoming environment Lee fostered at the school.
“It was just he and I, and the assistant principal, and it was very laid back,” she said. “I felt an immediate connection. He just made the interview so comfortable, and I just knew that I wanted to work here at Chattahoochee after meeting him.”
Audrey Heckman added, “I like that he’s nice, funny and he does a really good job as principal.”
Lee has been an educator for 28 years, all of which have been in Gwinnett County Public Schools — which is the same school system that he grew up in as a kid.
He started his career as a teacher at both Knight Elementary School and Freeman’s Mill Elementary School, where he also eventually served as assistant principal. Chattahoochee is the only school where he has served as principal.
“Kids bring me joy,” he said. “Being around kids — kids are happy, they’re excited, they have a love of learning and what I really wanted us to have was a school that was a happy place that kids wanted to be in.”
Lee explained that he is retiring to spend more time with his family, and to help take care of his mother. His father passed away last year, and he said retiring will allow him to have the time to take his mother to doctor appointments and other appointments.
Trying to juggle his duties as a principal with helping his mother meant that his mind was always on two subjects at the same time.
“What happens is when I go spend time with her, I wonder about what’s going on at school and, when I’m at school, I’m wondering what’s going on with her, so I just want to be present with my mom and have that time with her,” he said.
One thing Lee said he will miss is the spirit of teamwork and camaraderie at the school.
“The main thing I will miss is just the relationships with families and getting to know teachers,” he said. “We are a family here. We spend more time together here, the adults, than we spend with our families at home sometimes.
“We have been a part of people getting married, having kids and us growing up as adults and learning and growing as well. So, that is what I will miss most is just the connections that I am able to make with the community.”
And, as for the version of “low-key” that his staff came up with for a retirement bash, Lee said it was just about perfect.
“It was exactly what I would have wanted, although I didn’t really know what I wanted,” he said. “It was exactly what made me very happy about ending my career.”
Duluth's new downtown library branch is a key to future developments, growth
The latest addition to downtown Duluth is bit more scholarly that most of its neighbors.
Officials from the city of Duluth, Gwinnett County government and the Gwinnett County Public Library system gathered in downtown Duluth on Tuesday for a ribbon cutting for the city’s new library branch. The ceremony was a prelude to the library’s officially opening, which occurred Wednesday.
Duluth leaders have been working with county officials for years to get the city’s library branch relocated to the downtown district, and Tuesday’s ribbon cutting was a culmination of those efforts.
“We’re excited,” Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris said. “It’s activating an end of the city that we were looking forward to activating. We’ve got a lot of things planned down here, so it’s good.”
The new branch, which is located within walking distance of City Hall at 3180 Main St., is designed to harken back to Duluth’s past. The exterior is designed to resemble the old Cricket box factory that once sat on the site.
Harris said oversized cricket box art sculptures will be installed next to the library to further evoke the history of the site. A train viewing platform will also be built next to the library and a co-working office building is also being planned for that part of Main Street.
But, the library branch is more than a hook for future development. It also features a lot of traditional and special amenities.
“Libraries used to be a brick and mortar building with books, and you’d go in and check them out and return them, and that’s it,” Gwinnett County Library Board Chairwoman Wandy Taylor said. “That was the library, but it’s so much more today.”
It has: 22,038 square feet of space; two learning labs; a meeting room that can seat up to 120 people; a collaboration room that can seat up to 10 people; a kitchen a la cart; two group study rooms; makers space for projects involving 3-D printing and fashion design; Amazon lockers; computer access; USB charging ports; and physical books as well as E-books and E-Audio books.
The library is, in a way, part of a set of education-related bookends for downtown Duluth’s commercial district.
It sits on one end of a street dominated by several restaurants, small shops and City Hall. Meanwhile, Coleman Middle School sits on the far end of that commercial corridor, just past Parsons Alley.
“It’s so interesting because this has actually an amenity that has been causing a lot of residences downtown to sell,” Harris said. “People want to buy because they known they can walk to the library. It’s just another great thing that you can do downtown.”
Buford man faces charges for role in cattle and marijuana Ponzi scheme
Federal prosecutors have accused Buford resident Ron Throgmartin, 57, of working with two other people to orchestrate a large-scale Ponzi scheme involving bovines and pot.
Throgmartin — as well as Galesburg, Illinois resident Reva Joyce Stachniw, 69, and Mark Ray — has been accused of getting victims to give them more than $650 million by claiming they were making short term investments in cattle, or sometimes marijuana, for more than a year, from late 2017 until early 2019.
Throgmartin and Stachniw were indicted by a federal grand jury in Colorado earlier this month, while Ray was charged in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois February 2020 for his role in the scheme.
“Most often, the conspirators fraudulently represented to victim-investors that their investments were backed by short-term investments in cattle,” prosecutors said. They also used false and fraudulent pretenses to solicit money from victim-investors for the conspirators’ Colorado-based marijuana business, Universal Herbs LLC. Other victim-investors gave the conspirators money based on false promises that investment money would be used for legitimate business activity related to cattle or marijuana, without having the investment money linked to specific investment opportunities.”
Throgmartin and Stachniw face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to engage in more transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. They made their first appearance a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on May 11.
Essentially, the three people allegedly involved in the scheme are accused of getting people to pay them money, many times so they could pay off other investors but also to make money themselves.
“In all three variations of the conspirators’ investment fraud scheme, victim-investors were promised returns of approximately 10% to 20% over periods as short as several weeks,” Prosecutors said. “At no point did Stachniw, Throgmartin, or Ray tell victim-investors that they were primarily using their money to repay other investors in a Ponzi-style investment scheme, or to enrich themselves. Stachniw and Throgmartin allegedly received millions of dollars from the scheme, despite putting little to none of their own money into it.”
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General Chicago Regional Office and the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office are handling the investigation into the scheme while the U.S. Department of justice is prosecuting it.
Federal officials said Throgmartin and Stachniw face decades in prison if they are convicted. Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank frauds carries a $1 million fine and up to 30 years in prison while the wire fraud charge carries a $250,000 fine and up to 20 years in prison and the conspiracy to engage in money transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity carries a $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
Crews recover body of kayaker who went missing on the Chattahoochee River
Gwinnett County fire swiftwater rescue technicians worked with their Forsyth County and Johns Creek counterparts, as well as local law enforcement, to search for a kayaker who went missing on the Chattahoochee River sometimes around Monday night or in the very early morning hours on Tuesday.
The body was recovered about 7:30 Tuesday night, Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials said. They identified the body as 41-year-old David Southin.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help cover funeral expenses for Southin, and to help his family. The campaign can be found at bit.ly/3fNg70E.
“David Southin was a loving husband, father, and son,” said campaign organizer Julianne Vogt, who is a coworker of Southin’s wife, on the GoFundMe page. “He was a bright spark in this world and will be deeply missed by countless family & friends.”
Forsyth County’s swiftwater search and rescue team called in Gwinnett’s help to find the missing kayaker at about 1:23 a.m. since the missing person’s kayak was potentially located on the Gwinnett County side of the river. Gwinnett swiftwater search and rescue technicians entered the river at the McGinnis Ferry boat ramp and a helicopter was brought into help with the search, but its spotlight was not working and its infrared system could not locate any bodies.
“After several unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the rope attached to the kayak, operations were moved to the banks,” Firefighter Lieutenant Donald Strother said. “The search was discontinued once fog conditions created low visibility and hindered further travel. At 3:30 a.m., the command decision was made to restart the search during daylight hours.”
Gwinnett swiftwater crews went back to the river at 7:17 a.m and reentered the water at 8:30 a.m., with an air helicopter providing aerial assistance. The Johns Creek Fire Department, Forsyth County dive team, National Park Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and Suwanee Police Department are also providing assistance in the recovery efforts.
Driver receives multiple traffic citations after truck flips on North Berkeley Lake Road
An accident that occurred at the intersection of Pleasant Hill and North Berkeley Lake Roads last week has provided a new meaning for the phrase “What a mess.”
The Duluth Police Department released a video Monday that shows a semitruck which was pulling an open top trailer taking a turn onto onto North Berkeley Lake Road last Friday. That might sound mundane, but as the truck was making the turn, the trailer began to tip to one side before completely flipping on its side just as the truck was turning.
Scrap metal, including crushed vehicles, was inside the trailer and spilled out on North Berkeley Lake Road, and a turn lane coming off Pleasant Hill Road after it turned over. The trailer took the truck cab with it as it rolled onto its side.
No one was injured in the incident, but the truck driver received two traffic citations from Duluth police, as well as five citations from the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
Gwinnett Recorder's Court gains first Asian-American female judge
Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court is celebrating a milestone with the appointment of its newest judge.
The county’s State Court bench has picked Norcross resident Mihae Park to join the Recorder’s Court bench, making her the first Asian-American woman to serve as a Recorder’s Court judge. She is also the second judge of Korean descent to sit on the bench, following in the steps of Judge Ramón Alvarado, who was of Korean and Puerto Rican descent and who died last summer.
Park — who is set to be sworn in May 28 — will fill out the unexpired term of retired Judge Michael Greene, who stepped down April 30 to enter retirement. Her term lasts through Dec. 31, 2023.
Park is a native of Seoul, South Korea who become a U.S. citizen when she was 19. She is also a University of Florida law school graduate who previously worked in the Gwinnett County Solicitor’s Office for more than a decade after college, starting in 1988. During her time in that office, she handled motions, appeals and more than 60 hearings. Those hearings included jury and bench trials.
More recently, she has worked as an attorney at Taylor Lee and Associates, where she handled DUI cases, and served as a solicitor in Suwanee Municipal Court.
“Park is certified to argue before the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Georgia Supreme Court, and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia,” county officials said. “As a member of the Gwinnett County Bar Association, she served for many years as the co-chair for Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
“She was a board member of the Korean American Scholarship Fund and continues to be a liaison between the Korean community and the Gwinnett Judicial System. She is a member of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.”
Gwinnett police honor Army recruiters who saved life of man shot in apparent road rage incident
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Richard Borges and Sgt. Austin Childers are trained to administer first aid in case they ever need to do so on a battlefield. But they recently got to use those skills in a civilian setting far from any war zones.
Borges and Childers, who work at the Army’s recruiting office near the Mall of Georgia, were at a store at a shopping center by the intersection of Buford Drive and Pucketts Road on April 5 when they heard gunshots in the parking lot. They ran out to find a man in the parking lot who had been shot three times in an apparent road rage incident. Nearby was the person who shot the man.
That is when their instincts kicked in and they put their training to use, applying tourniquets to the man’s arm and leg and a chest seal to stop bleeding from a wound on his chest.
“We knew something was going on,” Borges said. “First off, we just wanted to figure out what it was and (Childers) saw the guy laying on the ground first, and thank God he did, and I don’t know, instinct just took over for me.”
Borges and Childers actions did not go unnoticed by law enforcement. Gwinnett County Police Chief Brett West dropped by the recruiting office where the soldiers work to offer them tokens of his appreciation on Monday.
West presented the pair with certificates and medallions for their actions in the moments following the shooting. The chief said the tourniquets and chest seals that Borges and Childers applied to the victim were crucial in preventing the shooting from becoming a murder.
“These tasks were completed in the first 10 minutes following the incident, which ultimately helped save the life of the victim,” West told the pair. “You both went above and beyond in an attempt to save a person’s life and you were both talking to the victim, reassuring him that he would be OK and that he was not going to die that day.”
West said Borges took off his uniform shirt and used it to provide shade to cover the victim. The pair also provided paramedics with details about what happened, where the wounds were and how extensive the injuries were.
Even after the paramedics arrived to take over, the soldiers did not abandon the victim, according to the police chief.
“Even then you stayed by the victim’s side and attempted to help him in any way,” West said. “Once paramedics completely took over, you both became valuable witnesses and cooperated in our investigation.
“This reflects your courage and selfless service. We often hear of brave men and women in our armed forces doing honorable things during combat, however we don’t often see that firsthand within our community. On this particular day, we did.”
Meanwhile, West and Army officials said the gunman was still at the scene when Borges and Childers came across the victim. Since they work at a recruiting station, the pair were not armed themselves, but they said that did not faze them at all.
“We were so focused on the young man with the bullet holes in him and trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with him,” Borges said. “He was screaming pretty bad.
“We knew there was a gunman. Obviously, we heard shots. We didn’t know how many. There was a lot (going on) in background behind him going on so we were trying to figure out — while administering first aid — how many there were and who had a gun exactly, but the main focus was just pretty much saving a young man’s life.”
West said the gunman laid down on the ground himself in a sign of surrender after seeing Borges and Childers run to the scene.
Childers said the victim was panicking after he was shot in the chest, forearm and and leg, and even punched him in the face at one point as he tried to apply a tourniquet to the man’s hand.
“His finger was just completely shot so I put a tourniquet in him and he punched me in the mouth,” Childers said. “He was sort of freaking out and coughing up blood.”
Borges added, “He swore up and down that the tourniquet was too tight and we were assuring him it was supposed to feel that way.”
Childers said they were trying to help the victim deal with with shock as it was setting in.
“You always want to keep the patient (occupied) and get their mind off of it and ... even if something bad is going to happen, at least give them that reassurance that you’re there,” he said.
But, Childers said he just took the punch in stride.
“It wasn’t the first time I got punched in the face,” he said.
Borges and Childers praised the training they received in the Army and said it proved to be valuable on the day of the shooting.
“It’s always good to know the basics of first aid and how to apply a tourniquet and chest seal,” Childers said. “That can happen in a car crash, somebody breaks their leg and ruptures an artery or something like that. Just learning how to apply basic first aid just really helps us out.”
Gov. Brian Kemp lifts mask mandates in schools as COVID-19 threat declines
ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Friday prohibiting schools from requiring students or employees to wear masks.
The lifting of mask requirements was among several restrictions the governor is eliminating as the coronavirus pandemic winds down in Georgia.
“As hospitalizations, cases, deaths, and percent positive tests all continue to decline — and with vaccinations on the rise — Georgians deserve to fully return to normal,” Kemp said.
“With safe and effective vaccines widely available and the public well-aware of all COVID-19 mitigation measures, mandates from state and local governments are no longer needed.”
Effective Monday and continuing through June 15, Kemp’s order eliminates COVID-related rules for restaurants, bars, conventions, live performance venues and child-care facilities. Previous executive orders repealed regulations for camps and sporting events.
The order lifting mask mandates in Georgia schools comes as school districts are wrapping up their 2020-21 terms. Most students won’t return to the classrooms for the fall semester until early-to-mid August.
While the executive order covers various institutions, the biggest impact in Gwinnett will be on the ongoing debate over mandatory face masks in schools and other district facilities. The mandate that had required face masks be worn in Gwinnett County government facilities had already been lifted, and all signs of mitigation efforts — including social distancing — were absent from facilities such as the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center earlier this week.
Several cities in Gwinnett, such as Duluth and Peachtree Corners, had already lifted their own mask mandates in their facilities as well.
That leaves the schools, which have required face masks be worn by students through at least the end of the current school year, which ended Wednesday.
The debate over continuing to require students and visitors to district facilities was the topic of a large protest during the Gwinnett County Board of Education meeting earlier this month, causing the start of that meeting to be delayed by 40 minutes.
“It was just really a shock to me, but we’ll be looking forward as a board to reading the actual language,” Gwinnett County Board of Education Chairman Everton Blair, Jr. told Daily Post news partner Fox 5 Atlanta prior to Kemp officially signing the order.
Gov. Brian Kemp bans vaccine passports in Georgia
ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Tuesday prohibiting state agencies, state service providers, and state properties from requiring COVID-19 vaccine passports.
The order also forbids vaccine passports as a condition for entering Georgia and prohibits state agencies from treating unvaccinated employees differently from those who have received vaccinations.
“While I continue to urge all Georgians to get vaccinated so we continue our momentum in putting the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview, vaccination is a personal decision between each citizen and a medical professional — not state government,” Kemp said in a prepared statement.
“This order also clearly states that data held by the Georgia Department of Public Health and their immunization system will not be used by any public or private entity for a vaccine passport program.”
Other Republican-led states have taken similar steps to ban state agencies from requiring vaccine passports, while some have gone further by banning private businesses from requiring such documentation.
But some countries have moved to require travelers to show proof they’ve been vaccinated against the virus or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test as a condition for entry.
In California, venues can allow more people to enter if they prove they have received vaccinations.
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- Schumer moves to shut down debate on infrastructure bill in key step toward final vote
- Duluth attorneys honored by State Bar of Georgia’s Young Lawyers Division
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- Gwinnett school board officially hires Calvin Watts to be GCPS' new superintendent
- Eleven Gwinnett schools have new principals this fall
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