For more extensive coverage of these
and other stories, please see next week's Herald-Leader.
02/23/17 GBI arrests Ryan Alexander Duke in the 2005 murder of Irwin County Teacher Tara Grinstead. Duke was taken into custody yesterday and charged today with murder. He is being held in the Irwin County Jail.
01/27/17 At last night's 90th annual meeting of the Fitzgerald Ben Hill Chamber of Commerce Judge Bobby Chasteen received the chamber's Lifetime Achievement Award, Covered Wagon Trailers was named Industry of the year and My Flower Basket was awarded Business of the Year.
01/27/17 A mother and her 8 year-old daughter were shot and killed on West Orange Street last night. A suspect has been arrested, Veartis Tyrone Wallace, 38.
11/2/16 Dr. Edd C. Jones III pled guilty in U.S. Federal Court yesterday for conspiring todistribute and dispense controlled substances. He will forfeit his medical license. He faces a potential sentence of 20 years imprisonment, a $1 million fine, or both. He was taken into custody and is expected to be sentenced in 60 days.
(09/22/16) Herbert Robinson, III, age 16, who was being being sought by Fitzgerald Police on warrants charging him in the shooting death of Michael Alan Moore on August 18, was arrested yesterday in Waycross.
(09/6/16) Officials at the high school just announced that Saturday's football game time at Macon County has been changed to a 6:30 p.m. kick-off.
(09/01/16) Governor Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency for 56 South Georgia counties currently under a tropical storm warning, including Ben Hill. Ben Hill County Schools will be closed tomorrow. Monday schools will be closed for the Labor Day holiday. The Ben Hill County Health Department will also be closed tomorrow. Wiregrass Georgia Technical College will close this afternoon at 5 p.m. All evening classes and activities scheduled for this evening have been canceled. Wiregrass is closing all campuses. The college will also be closed on Monday for Labor Day. Campuses will re-open with normal activities and working hours on Tuesday.
All non-essential city offices will be closed tomorrow. The Fitzgerald Police Department and Fitzgerald Fire Department will continue regular operations and all city employees will be prepared to assist with storm damage and other issues as required. The Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Library will also be closed tomorrow.
Most county offices will be closed tomorrow. Ben Hill Transit will continue normal operations today. Tomorrow services will not begin until noon and only dialysis patients will be transported.
Irwin County schools are also closing Friday. The Irwin County Indians football game has been rescheduled to 4 p.m. Monday in Ocilla. Wilcox County Schools will also be closed tomorrow.
At 12:34 p.m., the National Weather Services updated its local Tropical Storm Ermine forecast for Ben Hill County. Peak winds are expected to be 35-45 miles per hour with gusts up to 55 mph from early Friday morning to sometime in the afternoon. A flash flood watch is in effect and rainfalls of 4-8 inches are anticipated. Isolated tornadoes are a possibility.
(08/23/16) Herbert Robinson, III, age 16, is being sought by Fitzgerald Police on warrants charging him in the shooting death of Michael Alan Moore on August 18.
(08/19/16) Michael Alan Moore, 26, of East Oconee Street was shot and killed at his home last night. Fitzgerald Police are handling the investigation.
(05/5/2016) The Ben Hill County Board of Education named Dr. Shawn Haralson of Statesboro as the sole finalist for School Superintendent. The final vote will be taken on May 19 at 6 p.m.
(03/18/2016) Due to inclement weather, the Bushmen concert and street dance will be moved indoors to the Grand Theatre. "Everyone is invited to come and enjoy the evening. Those who reserved tables will have access to the VIP Lounge and recieve their perks," says Brandy Elrod, executive director of the arts council, which sponsors the event. Please help spread the word.
(01/21/2016) An early man home invasion on Lobingier Avenue has claimed the life of one man. Ben Hill County Sheriff's investigators, along with the GBI, are processing the crime scene and are working the case. No suspects have been named.
(1/6/2016) An error was made in a story in this week's print edition. The final paragraph of the front page story about about the regional NAACP meeting to be held in Ocilla did not reach print. The meeting will be held at noon this Saturday, Jan. 9, at the Ocilla Neighborhood Center located at 402 N. Oak St. For more information, email Unit5634@naacp.org or call 425-6444. We regret the error.
(12/5) The Fitzgerald High School Purple Hurricane football team defeated Jefferson County last night 40-20 to advance to the state championship game Saturday, Dec. 12 against Pace Academy in the Georgia Dome at 1 p.m. Pace Academy defeated Greater Atlanta Christian last night, 45-20.
(7/24) The Ben Hill County Board of Elections has announced that it will be able to give voters four extra days of early voting for the House District 155 run-off to be held August 11. Clay Pirkle of Sycamore and Horace Hudgins of Ocilla are in the run-off for the seat vacated by Jay Roberts. Early voting will begin on JULY 28. The Board of Elections office will be open from 7:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m. on week days. There will be no early voting on August 10, the day before the election.
(6/3) Four people have qualified to run for the State House of Representatives District 155, formerly held by Jay Roberts. They are: Scott Downing (Ben Hill County); Horace Hudgins (Irwin County); Sherry Miley (Tift County) and Clay Pirkle (Turner County). The elction is on July 14. Early voting begins on June 22. All qualified as Republicans.
(5/11) Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Rep. Jay Roberts Friday to be the planning director for the Georgia Department of Transportation.Roberts is expected to resign his seat on Friday creating a vacancy to be filled by a special election on June 16. Ben Hill County Commissioner Scott Downing has announced that he will run for the open seat.
(5/4) FHS baseball and girls soccer teams advance this week in GHSA playoffs. Boys and girls track teams will compete in state competition this weekend (girls) and next weekend (boys).
(3/11) Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has
ruled an overnight mobile home fire that claimed the life of a women
in Ben Hill County accidental. Shirley Ann Ford, 60, died in the fire at 105 Cato St.
(1/23) At the annual meeting of the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill Chamber of Commerce last night, the following awards were made: Lifetime Achievement — David Malcolm; Industry of the Year — Agri-Products; Business of the Year — Colony Discount Drugs and Community Spirit Award — Steve O'Neal.
(12/1) FHS will play at home Friday night against Greater Atlanta Christian, the number one ranked team in AA. The semi final game will determine who plays for the state title next Saturday. December 13, in the Georgia Dome. Reserved seat tickets are on sale through Tuesday. Reserved tickets are $16, general admission tickets are $15. The ticket office will open at Jaycee Stadium at 5:45 p.m. on Friday.
(11/23) After defeating Model High School 48 -14. The Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane will host Pace Academy next Friday night at Jaycee Stadium. Reserve seats can be purchased at the FHS front office on Monday, November 24. Cost will be $14.00. General Admission tickets, $12.00, will be sold on Tuesday.
(10/07) The Atlanta Falcons have named FHS Head Football Coach Jason Strickland as the High School Coach of the Week.
(10/1) The regular monthly meeting of the Ben Hill County Commission, usually held on the first Tuesday of the month, will be held instead on Monday, October 6, at 6:30 p.m.
(6/30) Today is Jemea thomas Day with a rally tonight at Jaycee Stadium at 7 p.m. Mayor Massee will proclaim today Jemea Thomas Day to honor the former Hurricane football star and now New England Patriot player.
(6/02) Fitzgerald Police Department are seeking information on two rapes that have occurred in Fitzgerald — one on April 21 and one on May 27. Police have very little information to go on with one victim being attacked from behind and knocked unconscious. Chief William Smallwood cautions women against being out alone after dark. Anyone with any inforamtion may called the Fitzgerald Police Dept. at 426-5000.
(1/29) Ben Hill County schools will be closed for students for a second day on Thursday, January 30. Faculty is to report to work, according to Superintendent Nancy Whidden. Schools will re-open on Friday.
Wiregrass classes are also cancelled for Thursday with faculty and staff to report at 10 a.m.
(1/28) Due to possible ice and snow Ben Hill County Schools will be closed Wednesday and are expected to re-open on Thursday. City of Fitzgerald and Ben Hill County offices will also be closed Wednesday, except for emergency personnel.
(1/16) A CSX train stuck a semi in the industrial park on Anderson memorial Church Road late this morning. No one was injured.
(11/10) The mini-playoff between FHS, Cook County and Early County will be at 7 p.m. Monday at Worth County High School in Sylvester. The playoff will determine third and fourth place seeds in the state football playoffs for Region 1AA.
(11/06) Unofficial election results in Tuesday's Municipal General Election give overwhelming victories in both contested races. Mayor Mark Massee was re-elected, taking 74% of the total votes in the three-candidate field. Tommy Hatcher defeated Al Johnson 484 to 168 to claim the 4th Ward seat on the Water Light & Bond Commission.
(10/3) According to the Ben Hill County Sheriff's Office, one arrest was made regarding the shooting incidence yesterday.
(10/2) Ben Hill County Elementary School was locked down briefly this morning after gunshots were reported near the school. An investigation by the Fitzgerald Police Department could not discover any source of gunshots. The lockdown was lifted by 9:10 a.m., according to Superintendent Nancy Whidden.
(8/30) Qualifying has closed for the November 5 Municipal Election and there are two contested races. SherrySue Davis and Dana Truitt are challenging Mayor Mark Massee, and Al Johnson and Tommy Hatcher are facing off for the 4th Ward WL&B seat held by Bill Herlovich, who is not seeking re-election.
(8/16) Tonight's scrimmage game — FHS vs ECI — has been moved to Jaycee Stadium. ECI's field is flooded due to heavy rains. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
(8/13) Two people are arrested in connection with the April 22 double homicide at an Eastside Church Road residence. A Fitzgerald man is charged with two counts of murder.
(8/5) Attorneys representing the parents DJ Searcy, who died while at football camp in August of 2011, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Ben Hill County School District and Florida Bible Camp, where the football camp took place. The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.
(8/1) The Ben Hill County Board of Education and the Ben Hill County Commission both set 2013 millage rates for property taxes last night. Both bodies chose the rollback tax rate, leaving tax rates slightly lower than last year. The BOE set 15.739 mills and the County set 14.740 mills. Because of growth in the tax digest each body will see about $130,000 more in tax revenue.
(7/8) Jeff Davis Highway between Wenona Way and Benjamin Hill Drive will be closed for maintenance Tuesday July 9 and Wednesday July 10.
(6/6) The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Ben Hill County Sheriff's Office and the South Central Drug Task Force has concluded a months-long investigation involving methamphetamine trafficking in Ben Hill County. Nine arrests have been made.
(5/23) The Ben Hill County Board of Education last night appointed Bill Bryant to fill the District 3 seat left vacant by the resignation last month of Johnny Mobley.
(5/8) Former Wilcox County Sheriff Stacy Bloodworth, who pleaded guilty last year to assaulting a prisoner in his custody, was today sentenced to 10 years in prison.
(4/22) The FHS girls track team won the Region 1AA championship last Friday. The boys team are region runners-up. The teams send 20 contestants to state sectionals on Saturday. Shaq Smith, Deion Bivens, Leah Ward and Chandler Eckler each won individual titles in their respective events.
(4/10) Johnny Mobley, District 3 member of the Ben Hill County Board of Education, resigned his seat last night. The board will appoint his successor.
(4/10) The Ben Hill County Commission voted last night to designate the portion of Benjamin Hill Drive between the Ocilla Highway and Jacksonville Highway in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The City Council is expected to vote at meeting later this month to designate the portion that lies within the City limits.
(4/4) Dr. Ray Perren, president of Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, will take of as president of Lanier Technical College on May 1. A search for Dr. Perren's replacement will be conducted in coming weeks.
(2/11) An attempted homicide and a subsequent suicide between a husband and wife occurred at Jack Allen Apartments earlier today. Preliminary reports from law enforcement indicate the death resulted from a domestic dispute. The man was dead at the scene and the woman died later Monday in a Macon hospital
(1/30) The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has announced that it is recommending five-year rotation for Ben Hill County Schools.
(12/20) After a lengthy public hearing, the Ben Hill County Commission, by unanimous vote, passed a pared down $8.6 million budget for 2013.
(12/20) In a called meeting last night the Ben Hill County Board of Education re-elected Chairman Gary Smith and Vice Chairman Shirley Brooks to their respective positions for 2013. The votes were unanimous.
(12/6) A female pedestrian was struck by an SUV last night on North Merrimac Drive. She did not survive the accident. Sheriff Bobby McLemore said that he does not expect charges to be made against the driver.
(12/5) Mike Martin defeated Lonnie Curry in a run-off for Wilcox County Sheriff yesterday.
(12/1) The Jefferson Dragons outlasted the FHS Purple Hurricane in an offensive slugfest last night to end the Canes season in a 53-51 victory. The Dragons will meet Greater Atlanta Christian to determine who will challenge the winner of the Calhoun-Lamar Co. contest for the AA state championship.
(11/26) There will be no school in Ben Hill County on Friday, November 30. The FHS Canes re playing Friday night in Jefferson, approximately four hours away. FHS students may apply to FHS Principal Stacey Bell for limited bus seating on a student Pep bus for transportation to and from the game. Cost is $20, which includes the $12 admission ticket to the game.
(11/24) The FHS Canes handled the unbeaten Vidalia Indians in Vidalia last night, 52-20. They will face Jefferson, the number one seed out of Region 8AA, in Jefferson next Friday night.
(11/17) The Purple Hurricane defeated Northeast-Macon last night at Jaycee Stadium, 35-19. FHS will face Vidalia next week in the second round of the playoffs. Other Region 1AA teams — Brooks County and Early County — will also advance.
(11/10) The FHS Canes will face NE Macon in the first round of the playoffs Friday night at Jaycee Stadium.
(11/6) In unofficial voting today in Ben Hill County, it appears Daniel Cowan has defeated incumbent Western District County Commissioner Kathy Davis 1,843 votes to 1,280 votes. It also appears that Magistrate Romelle Green has defeated challenger Bobby Clark 2,994 votes to 2,753 votes. Tyler Harper ha
s won the District 7 State Senate seat with 71.5% of the vote. Harper garnered more votes that Gene Mitchell in Ben Hill County for District 7 State Senator — 3,038 to 2,664. Barack Obama won re-election to second term. Mitt Romney carried Ben Hill County over Barack Obama — 3,395 to 2,508. Both Constitutional amendments passed statewide.
(11/3) Angela Booth, BHMS media specialist, was named Ben Hill County Schools 2012 Teacher of the Year at half-time last night.
(11/3) The Canes took down region foe Thomasville last night, 35-14, sealing second place in Region 1AA. Brooks County faces Berrien next Friday night in Nashville to cinch first place in the region.
(10/27) Fitzgerald High School's Purple Hurricane football team took down a scrappy Early County team last night at Jaycee Stadium, 17-14.
(10/23) Former Wilcox County Sheriff Stacy Bloodworth and his son Austin pleaded guilty today in federal court on charges relating to assaulting a prisoner in the Wilcox County jail in 2009.
(10/20) The Purple Hurricane defeated region foe Berrien County in Nashville last night, 42-18.
(10/13) The FHS Purple Hurricane lost a heartbreaker to region foe Brooks County in Quitman last night, 27-24.
(10/6) The FHS Canes defeated region foe Cook County at Jaycee Stadium by a score of 21 to 15.
(9/29) The Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane defeated Pelham in the first Region 1AA contest of the season by a score of 40-11.
(9/26) The Ben Hill County Commission set the millage rate for property taxes for a second time yesterday afternoon, taking a one mill increase.
(9/25) City Administrator Henry Tyson told the City Council Monday night that he would retire at year-end.
(9/22) The Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane blew away the Charlton County Indians last night — 37-0.
(9/11) The Georgia Supreme Court yesterday dismissed an appeal by Milton Herring on a residency challenge by Cam Jordan. Herring qualified to run for Ben Hill County Commission Chairman. Jordan challenged his residency. The Board of Elections ruled his residency valid. Superior Court Judge John Pridgen overturned the ruling. Herring appealed Pridgen's ruling. All Justices concurred in dismissing the appeal.
(9/8) The Purple Hurricane shut out the Irwin County Indians last night at Jaycee Stadium, 31-0.
(8/25) FHS Canes football team topped 3AAA Jefferson County warriors by a score of 23-6 in the season opener for the Canes.
(8/24) Last night, the Ben Hill County Commission adopted a one mill property tax increase for 2012. The Commission also accepted the proposed school taxes for 2012, which did not reflect a rate increase.
(8/22) The Fitzgerald City Council, in a called meeting last night, proposed to leave the 2012 millage rate at 2011 levels — 10 mills.
(8/2) The Ben Hill County Commission rejected its own proposed millage rate last night and instead proposed a one mill tax increase as the body struggles to find answers for the County's dire financial crisis. The Commission also voted to lay County employees off for three weeks between now and the end of the year.
(8/1) Tyler Harper has won the District 7 Republican Primary race for District 7 Senate seat with 63% of the vote (72% in Ben Hill County), and will face Democrat Donald "Gene" Mitchell in November. The T-SPLOST vote failed in the Southern Regions with 58% voting NO — 63% in Ben Hill County. The tax referendum failed in 9 of the state's 12 regions.
(7/25) The Ben Hill County Board of Education last night appointed Johnny Mobley to fill the District 3 seat formerly held by the late Harrison McNease. Mobley's term expires December 31, 2014. He will be sworn in prior to the August 14 board meeting.
(7/18) Milton Herring has filed an appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court to reverse Superior Court Judge John Pridgen's order declaring Herring ineligible to be a candidate for Chiarman of the Ben Hill County Commission due to residency requirements. Judge Pridgen's order reversed a decision by the Ben Hill County Board of Elections that declared Herring a valid candidate.
(7/13) The deadline for submitting resumes to the Board of Education to fill the District 3 seat vacancy on the board formerly held by the late Harrison McNease is Friday July 20. Resumes shoudl be delivered to the board office on West Palm Street.
(7/11) Fitzgerald Police are looking for two men involved in a shooting Monday night at the Eastside Game Room. Two men were shot, though the wounds are not life threatening. Any one with information on the shootings may call the FPD at 424-4005.
(7/11) The Ben Hill County Commission voted to hold the line on taxes last night, taking the rollback millage of 13.75 mills even though County Manager Frank Feild proposed 15.66 mills. It's unclear where the body will not make up an estimated $375,000 shortfall for 2012.
(6/29) Superior Court Judge John Pridgen has ruled that candidate for County Commission Chairman, Milton Herring, is not eligible to run for the office due to failure to meet residency requirements.
(6/25) Superior Court Judge John Pridgen is reviewing an appeal by Cam Jordan of a Board of Elections decision that candidate Milton Herring is a legal resident of Ben Hill County. Herring is challenging incumbent County Commission Chairman Philip Jay in the July 31 Democratic General Primary. Judge Pridgen expects to render a decision later this week.
(6/13) Received too late for this week's paper: The Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Development Authority will meet at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 20, at the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Chamber of Commerce office at 805 S. Grant St.
(6/7) Yesterday, Cam Jordan filed a complaint with the Board of Elections and the Ben Hill County Democratic Party challenging the candidacy of Milton Herring who qualified to run for Chairman of the Ben Hill County Commission. Jordan alleges that Herring does not meet residency requirements. A hearing has been set before the Board of Election on Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the County Commission meeting room of the courthouse annex.
(6/6) April McDuffie, a dean at Wiregrass Tech, will sign copies of her new book, "Faith Rebuilt," on Sunday, from 2-4 p.m., in the social hall at the Fitzgerald Church of God. Books will be available to purchase during the event.
(6/4) County Commission Chairman Philip Jay suffered a heart attack over the weekend. He is recovering at Phoebe Putney Hospital in Albany.
(5/25) Although qualifying is not official until noon on Tuesday, only 3 local races are contested. Commission Chairman Philip Jay will be challenged by Milton Herring; Commisioner Kathy Davis by Daniel Cowan and Chief Magistrate Judge Romelle Green by Bobby Clark.
(5/9) Stacey Bell, currently principal of Worth County High School, was hired by the board of education to be the principal of Fitzgerald High School, replacing Randy Garrett, who resigned to take a position in Douglas. Bell will be on campus May 21.
(4/10) Preliminary information has been received that plans to build a coal-fired power plant have been cancelled by the developer, Power4Georgians.
(4/5) Today's Easter egg hunt, scheduled for downtown Fitzgerald, has been canceled because of the 70 percent chance of rain in today's weather forecast. The Easter egg hunt has been postponed until Wednesday, April 11, from 4-6 p.m., according to Donna Studstill of the Colony Business Association, which sponsors the event.
(4/3) Late yesterday, Dr. Ray Perren, president of WGTC, announced that the college's Chidl Development Center will remain open for FY2013, which begins July 1.
(3/21) Dr. Ray Perren, president of Wiregrass Technical College, held a meeting last night with parents and other concerned citizens to inform them that the Wiregrass Child Development Center will close July 1 due to budget constraints. The center currently serves 85 children.
(3/21) A vigil in memory of balloonist Ed Ristaino will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Paulk Park, where he launched his final flight a week ago. A balloon release is planned and people are asked to bring balloons with "For Ed" written on them.
(3/19) 2:30 p.m. - Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore says balloonist Edward Ristaino's body was found off Grouse Road, about 7-8 miles from Fitzgerald. A woman who saw the balloon when it fell, but did not know what she was seeing or that anyone was missing, called this morning to report what she had seen. Her information led to the discovery of the crash site.
(3/7) Ben Hill Countians voted with Republicans across the state, giving Newt Gingrich the majority (55%) of local votes in yesterday's Republican Presidential Preference Primary. Gingrich easily carried Georgia.
(2/24) The Ben Hill County Commission, in a called meeting this morning, passed a budget for 2012 by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Bennie Calloway and Kathy Davis voting no.
(2/22) Wilcox County Sheriff Stacy Bloodworth has been forced to resign his office, according to U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. Bloodworth pleaded not guilty to charges of beating three inmates, trying to cover it up and lying to federal investigators. He is released on $25,000 and will not be allowed to run for re-election while the charges are pending.
(2/17) Jason Strickland, head coach of the Lamar County Trojans football team, has been hired as Fitzgerald High School's new head coach. The board of education voted to hire Strickland in a called meeting tonight. The Trojans were 12-1 in 2011, losing to Appling County in the AA state quarterfinals.
(1/27) At last night's annual meeting of the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Chamber of Commerce, former Mayor Gerald Thompson was awarded the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award. Southern Veneer, owned by Ken Adams, was named 2011 Industry of the Year. The Smith Company, owned by Wayne and Susan Smith, was named Business of the Year. Louie Harper was awarded the first-ever Downtown Spirit Award.
(1/18) Head Football Coach Robby Pruitt has accepted the head coaching position at Coffee High School in Douglas. Schools Superintendent Nancy Whidden told the board of education last night that the position will be advertised soon.
(1/17) The Ben Hill County School District has been named one of four Title I Distinguished School Districts in Georgia for academic achievement by economically disadvantaged students in 2011.