Cobb Police Coffee With a Cop meetings coming in Precinct 4

Submitted information about several upcoming Cobb Police Coffee With a Cop meetings, where the public is invited to bring questions and discuss crime and public safety issues with Precinct 4 community officer Nathalie Jegg:Northeast Cobb car crash, Cops on Donut Shops

  • Tuesday, February 11, 10:00 AM to noon at IHOP, 3130 Johnson Ferry Road
  • Tuesday, February 186:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Starbucks, 2424 Roswell Road
  • Monday, May 4 10:00 AM to noon at Jacobs Java 1350 Terrell Mill Road

Upcoming major/public events for Cobb Police Community Affairs:

  • Ride with the Blue Charity Motorcycle Ride on Sunday, April 19 at Jim Miller Park time TBA (for more info contact Officer Granell at, [email protected])
  • Copz, Kidz, & Chicken event at Zaxby’s, 2981 Delk Road, April 22 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. A portion of the proceeds to benefit Brumby Elementary School to pay down outstanding school lunch debts (for more info contact Officer Jegg at [email protected])


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Cobb rape cases from 1999 solved via advanced genetic testing

The Cobb District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday it’s been able to close three cold case rape files dating from 1999 using advanced genetic genealogy testing.Lorinzo Novoa Williams, Cobb rape cases solved

But the man identified by Cobb investigators as the suspect died in December, shortly after they took DNA samples from him in Arkansas, where he lived.

Lorinzo Novoa Williams, who was 48, went missing after Cobb investigators, with help from Arkansas law enforcement, executed a search warrant to collect his DNA samples, according to Cobb DA’s office public information officer Kim Isaza.

She said that after they returned home, Cobb investigators were told by their Arkansas counterparts that Williams was later found dead.

Isaza said the rapes took place within a three-mile radius in southeast Cobb between June and October 1999. In each case, the attacks took place during pre-dawn hours, with each woman waking up to find an unknown man standing over her.

She said each victim reported her attack to police, which took a rape kit, and that the DNA profile in all three cases was identical, meaning they were assaulted by the same man.

But the profile didn’t match an offender in the CODIS combined DNA index system at the time, according to Isaza.

Cobb Senior Assistant DA Theresa Schiefer began looking at the cases again in 2018 at the request of a cold case unit, and secured a $10,000 grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance to retest the rape kits with advanced technology, Isaza said.

Early last year, the profile was submitted to a private lab that constructed a genetic tree of the suspect, she said.

From there, the Cobb DA’s office sexual assault investigating unit and its cold case unit discovered the suspect lived in metro Atlanta at the time of the 1999 rapes. He had been arrested on peeping tom, indecent exposure and burglary charges in Cobb and Gwinnett, also during that time.

Isaza said that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Biology Section determined that the DNA collected from Williams matched the profile of the 1999 rape kits.

Isaza said Schiefer spoke to each of the rape victims after the match was confirmed.

“I feel very fortunate that we could provide some answers to these women after all this time. We want anyone who has experienced sexual assault to know that we will continue to work their cases in hopes that their turn will come, too,” Schiefer said.

According to his obituary, Williams worked for a construction company in Hampton, Ark., and was married with four children. He and his wife became Jehovah’s Witnesses in Macon in 2003.


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Top East Cobb stories for 2019: Homeowner charged with murder

Jake Horne, East Cobb shooting victim, East Cobb man indicted murder
Jake Horne was taken off life support after being shot outside an East Cobb home in March; the homeowner, Larry Epstein, was charged with his murder.

A quiet East Cobb neighborhood became the focus of an intense law enforcement presence one afternoon in early March 2019 after two home contractors were shot in what some residents thought was an active shooter situation.

Cobb Police ordered residents to stay inside as they closed off Wellington Lane, off Johnson Ferry Road, and sent in SWAT officers and a mobile command unit.

A nearby resident told East Cobb News she’d never seen so much police concentrated in the area, a situation drawing heavy metro Atlanta media coverage as well.

A resident of Kensington, the neighborhood in question, told East Cobb News that “they have us pretty blocked in but not giving any info. They are in SWAT gear with guns drawn.”

Read the stories

An hour or so after police came to the scene, the standoff ended peacefully when Larry Epstein, a resident of the Wellington Lane home where the shootings occurred, surrendered.

Two electrical contractors doing work at his home were rushed to WellStar Kennestone Hospital.

One of them, Jake Horne, 21, of Kennesaw, was taken off life support and pronounced dead the following morning after being shot in the head. Gordon Montcalm, 37, of Buchanan, Ga., was listed in serious condition and faced a long recovery.

Epstein, 69, was charged with murder and he remains in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center after being denied bond.

During his probable cause hearing, police said Epstein had accused the workers of killing pet ducks at the home, although there was no evidence of those acts.

The families of the victims were left to scramble to raise funds for medical and funeral expenses, and to comprehend what had happened.

“This is a boy that would give you the shirt off of his back. He had a heart of gold,” said Lisa Godsey, Horne’s aunt, who lives in California. “He thought of everyone else before himself.”

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UPDATE: Two men charged in Cumberland Mall shooting

UPDATE, Sunday, 12:45 p.m.

Cobb Police said they’ve arrested Zaire Dhanoolal, 18, of Marietta, on two counts of aggravated assault, and Joweer Ponce, 19, also of Marietta, who’s charged with reckless conduct and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

Cobb Police spokeswoman Officer Sydney Melton said both have been taken to the Cobb Adult Detention Center.

She said the person who was shot, Ethan Green, 18, is being treated at WellStar Kennestone Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Melton said Anthony Ezell, 21, was a victim of aggravated assault because the suspect pointed a gun at him before firing at Green.

Police have not indicated a possible motive for the shooting but are continuing to investigate.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Cobb County Police Department Crimes Against Persons Unit at 770-499-3945


Cobb Police said one person was shot at the food court at Cumberland Mall Saturday afternoon, prompting a temporary closing of the shopping center while they’re searching for a suspect.

Police said the victim was taken to a hospital but did not identify the person or disclose the severity of the injuries.

Police they were called at 1:18 p.m. and that out of an abundance of caution initial indications were that it was an active shooter situation, police said.

But police said when they arrived on the scene they determined there was no random shooting, which is what usually triggers an active shooter alert, and said that a dispute led to shots being fired.

The suspect fled the scene, and police did not have a description of the suspect or offer other details.

Law enforcement presence around the mall is heavy and motorists in the area are being asked to use alternate roads.

Updates to follow.

Man, dog found dead after Northeast Cobb house fire

Northeast Cobb house fire

The Cobb Fire Department said a man and a dog were found dead in a Northeast Cobb home after a fire broke out there on Tuesday morning.

The 46-year-old man has not been identified and the cause of the fire has not been announced. Capt. Joseph Bryant of the Cobb Fire Department said fire and EMS units were called to the home at 2235 Snug Harbor, off Sandy Plains Road, at 8:08 a.m. Tuesday.

That’s in the St. Charles Square subdivision, off Sandy Plains and near Scufflegrit Road.

The man and the dog were found in the master bedroom on the main level of the two-story, home, Bryant said.

He said the cause remains under investigation and foul play is not suspected.


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East Cobb man arrested after police raid vaping store

Royal Cigar, East Cobb vaping store arrest
Marietta PD photos

An East Cobb man who owns vaping and tobacco shops at the East Marietta Shopping Center has been arrested and jailed without bond on drug charges after Marietta Police conducted a raid on his businesses Tuesday.

Marietta Police said Wednesday that Billy Scott Christian, 28, was charged with three felony counts related to the possession, sale and distribution of marijuana and another felony count of possession of a firearm during the commission or attempted commission of a crime.

According to Cobb Sheriff’s Office records, Christian lives at a Yancy Road address, in a neighborhood near Sedalia Park Elementary School.

He is the owner of the Royal Cigar and Tobacco Store at 1514 Roswell Road, and the Endangered Botanicals Shop at 1510 Roswell Road, both in the East Marietta Shopping Center.

Police said during the raid that lab equipment to manufacture gummy edibles and capsules of what may be Kratom (an opiate) were confiscated, along with more than nine pounds of marijuana, multiple scales, baggies and three firearms.

More than 100 pounds of the gummy edibles and possible Kratom capsules were collected at the scene for further testing, according to police. Kratom is a substance with similar effects as heroin.

Marietta Police said in a release that following safety alerts issued by the Centers for Disease Control about deaths relating to vaping and THC oil (the key ingredient in marijuana), they began investigating the sale of hemp and CBD oil in the city.

Samples from Christian’s store were identified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as containing THC, not hemp, and Marietta Police said they secured search warrants as a result.

The police release said additional charges may be considered regarding the capsules “once the GBI confirms the actual chemicals” they may contain.

East Cobb vaping store arrest


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Cobb DA to hold candelight vigil for homicide victims

Submitted information:Cobb DA candlelight vigil

Cobb District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes announces that the annual Cobb County Candlelight Vigil and Homicide Memorial will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 19 in the Jury Assembly Room of the Cobb Superior Courthouse.

“This Evening of Remembrance pays homage to those who have been lost to violent crime. These victims were – and still are – held dear in someone’s heart,” District Attorney Holmes said. “As we see far too often, the actual victim of a homicide is not the only person the crime hurts. Those left behind suffer, too. We wish to recognize that and let them know that they are also not forgotten.”

Tangela Brooks, who lost her son, Jonathan, 22, to homicide in 2011, will be the guest speaker.

Law enforcement partners from around the county will be joining the District Attorney’s Office staff at the vigil. Kennesaw Police Chief Bill Westenberger, Cobb Police Deputy Chief Stuart Vanhoozer, and Acworth Police Chief Wayne Dennard will read the names of deceased victims during the ceremony.

“This is Cobb County’s second annual Evening of Remembrance. This vigil is important to those families who have suffered the ultimate loss of life due to murder or homicide in Cobb County in that it gives these families a special evening to remember their loved ones,” said Kim McCoy, director of the Victim Witness Unit. “Hosting an event such as this gives us, the service providers, an opportunity to honor those we serve and to remind us of why we do what we do on a daily basis. We are honored to share this event with our community.”

Gathering and refreshments will begin at 6 p.m. The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m.

Attendees may enter the Courthouse at the 70 Haynes Street entrance. Complimentary parking will be available at the Lawrence Street deck.


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Man gets 20 years for choking woman at her East Cobb home

A man who was convicted of choking the mother of his baby at her East Cobb home last year has been given a 22-year prison sentence, with 20 to serve.Derek Burns, East Cobb woman choked

Derek James Burns, 29, of Carrollton, was sentenced Monday by Cobb Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs, after a jury convicted him last week of aggravated assault (strangulation), false imprisonment, simple battery and simple assault.

According to the Cobb District Attorney’s Office, Burns, who has been in jail since the April 2018 incident, will get credit for time served.

Prosecutors said at the trial that Burns and the victim were arguing at her home on Bradford Lane, off Barnes Mill Road, on April 19, 2018. According to testimony, Burns put the woman in a chokehold until she lost conscious and control of her bladder.

Prosectors said the woman realized after she regained consciousness that she had been dragged across the floor and placed in a corner, and said that Burns threatened to shoot her if she looked up or raised her head until he was gone, and would “make it look like a suicide.”

Also testifying at the trial was a former girlfriend of Burns, who said he had choked her, also rendering her unconscious, when they were dating.

Grubbs, who said Burns was “vicious and harmful,” also ordered him to serve the final two years of his term on probation.


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East Cobb cityhood foes blast financial review as ‘baloney’

East Cobb cityhood financial review
A City of East Cobb fire department “will not have the resources to operate” at a top certified level of protection, according to a group opposing cityhood. (ECN file)

A group opposed to East Cobb cityhood is criticizing an independent financial review that concluded that a proposed city would be fiscally viable.

The five-member Independent Financial Group, consisting of East Cobb residents who are finance and legal experts, volunteered to examine a Georgia State University feasibility study and issued its report in September.

The East Cobb Alliance, which formed over the summer to oppose cityhood, said in a posting on its Facebook page over the weekend that “in the beginning, there were 5 people on the IFG, but the 5th guy resigned when he couldn’t stomach the baloney the other 4 were proposing…and, ‘baloney’ is putting it nicely.”

(Shailesh Bettadapur, a member of the IFG group, resigned two days before the report was released, according to Bill Green, another member of the review group.)

The ECA post further stated that “several members of ECA who have choked their way through reading this document consider it nothing but a bunch of mumbo-jumbo malarkey.”

The East Cobb Alliance took issue with the report above all over fire services. The Committee for Cityhood in East Cobb had state legislation introduced in March that would create a city of East Cobb with police, fire and community development services.

The ECA noted in its posting that in the IFG report, members of the review group and the cityhood group “are concerned the [GSU feasibility] Study may not have included all necessary fire protection expenditures.”

The ECA post continued:

“This is a group of 4 people, NONE of whom have ANY experience in the fire protection services world. No one on the GSU research team had ANY experience in fire protection services. No one on the Pro-Cityhood Committee has ANY clue as to what it takes to operate an effective fire department.

“Our County Fire Department, and our personal lives and property, should NOT be subjected to the whims of fools who have NO IDEA of what it takes to assemble, hire, train, OR operate a world-class Fire Department like we have right now.

“Tell your friends and neighbors about this IDIOCY being pushed upon us.”

The GSU feasibility study estimated an annual fire budget of $5.9 million. According to the IFG report (read it here), a city finance director in a nearby municipality said a City of East Cobb may have relatively lower costs for fire because it “has a low proportion of multi-unit residential housing and fewer tall buildings.”

The IFG, in its report, added $4 million for fire expenses estimates “as a placeholder” pending further budgeting information becoming available.

The East Cobb cityhood bill includes a proposed municipality of around 96,000 people, and five fire stations currently part of the Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services Department.

The ECA in recent days has examined other aspects of the cityhood proposal, including the possible purchase and use of the East Cobb Government Services Center on Lower Roswell Road, and the proposed cost of buying those five fire stations for the new city from the county.

The ECA also claims that a new City of East Cobb fire department “will not have the resources” to provide the top certified level of protection, also known as ISO-1. Cobb is one of around 240 fire departments nationwide to have that status, which is given by the Insurance Services Office, a non-profit that provides insurance information, including for fire and building codes.

“Should we kill a great Fire Department to build a new police department? Seems like kind of a weird trade-off,” the ECA asks.

Another topic covers police and jail services that have been proposed by the cityhood group. The GSU feasibility study suggested a 140-officer East Cobb police force, nearly double the number of officers on patrol in Cobb Police Precinct 4, which covers an area well beyond the proposed city lines. Currently Precinct 4 has a staffing of around 50 response officers, a shortage of less than 20 for what it’s been allocated.

“That just seems very bizarre to us when the land area will be half of their current coverage,” concluded the ECA. “Why should we vote to form a new city to correct a deficiency of 16 people . . . when the coverage territory of a new city will be 50% of the original precinct territory? For all we know, 71 people may be the ideal force for a PCEC.”

The East Cobb Alliance and the East Cobb cityhood group have been invited to a Nov. 12 forum hosted by the East Cobb Business Association.

The day before, on Nov. 11, the cityhood group will hold a town hall meeting at Wheeler High School.

The cityhood group’s public events, which follow town halls in the spring, also tentatively will include more meetings after the first of the year, when the Georgia legislature would take up the East Cobb cityhood bill.

That bill would have to pass the entire General Assembly for a cityhood referendum to take place in 2020.

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Murder indictment against East Cobb couple’s accused killer thrown out

A South Georgia man indicted for killing an East Cobb couple in 2015 has had the dismissal of his murder indictment upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court.Elrey and June Runion, murdered East Cobb couple

By a 7-2 vote, the state’s high court agreed with a lower-court ruling that a Telfair County grand jury that indicted Ronnie Adrian Towns was unlawfully constituted because “some of the grand jurors were not selected randomly.”

The ruling was announced on Monday.

(You can read the entire court ruling here.)

Towns was charged with the Jan. 2015 murders of Elrey “Bud” Runion, 69, and his wife June, 66, of East Cobb, who had traveled to McRae, Ga., to buy a 1966 Ford Mustang Towns had posted for sale on Craigslist.

After their daughters reported them missing, the bodies of the Runions were found in their car in a pond in Telfair County a few days later. Authorities in that southeast Georgia county said the Runions had both been shot in the head.

Prosecutors alleged that Towns tried to lure the victims with the prospect of buying the car, but intended to rob them.

Towns, who was 28 at the time of the Runions’ deaths, turned himself in, and he was indicted for murder by a grand jury.

According to the Supreme Court ruling, 50 prospective grand jurors were summoned to appear on March 16, 2015, but fewer than 16 showed up on time. The presiding judge ordered some of those who hadn’t appeared to be located by the Telfair sheriff, and asked the court clerk to identify four possible candidates for the grand jury from a list of prospective petit jurors who could show up quickly.

Two of those four reported, and others summoned for the grand jury later also reported, and a grand jury was empaneled on March 16.

That grand jury, with the two originally on the petit juror list, returned a murder indictment against Towns the same day.

Towns filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, alleging the two on the petit juror list were not chosen at random. Towns’ attorney said the clerk telephoned those four individuals, whom she knew personally. In a 2017 ruling, the trial court concurred and dismissed the murder indictment.

Prosecutors appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court. The high court majority concluded that while the petit jurors were selected at random from a master jury list, in selecting the two individuals who eventually served on the grand jury, the clerk:

” . . . relied on her personal knowledge of the prospective petit jurors, her own assessment of the extent to which she had the information necessary to contact them, and her estimate of the likelihood that they would be available to report immediately. Those selections were not ‘random’ in any sense of the word.”

The Oconee Circuit District Attorney, which prosecutes cases in Telfair and six other South Georgia counties, is seeking the death penalty against Towns.

The Runions, who lived in the Wendwood subdivision off Holly Springs Road, were married for 38 years. According to their obituary, in 1991 the Runions founded Forever Greatful Ministries, which helps families in need in the Marietta area. He was retired from AT & T and she was a preschool teacher at Johnson Ferry Christian Academy.

They were longtime members of Mt. Paran Church of God North on Allgood Road.


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Former business partner of murdered East Cobb man indicted

A Woodstock man has been indicted for the 2014 murder of an East Cobb man who was his former business partner and roommate.

Jerry Moore, murdered East Cobb man
Jerry Moore

Ross Allyson Byrne, 56, was arrested Aug. 30, 2018 for the killing of Jerry Moore, who lived in a neighborhood off Holly Springs Road.

That was just a few days after Johnathan Wheeler of Stockbridge was sentenced to two consecutive life terms without parole for the murder of Moore.

Byrne was indicted by a Cobb Superior Court grand jury on Oct. 3 on eight felony counts, including malice murder, felony murder, conspiracy to commit a felony and violation of rackeetering laws.

Another count alleges that in March of this year, Byrne asked an individual identified as “J.G.” to have Wheeler killed in exchange for money.

The indictment states that Byrne conspired with Wheeler to commit the murder of Moore, who was found stabbed to death multiple times with a knife in his home at 2808 Gracewood Drive on Jan. 25, 2014.

Byrne had been the owner of Best Dang Bakery Around in Woodstock, and Moore had been an investor, according to testimony presented at Wheeler’s trial.

Byrne lived at Moore’s Gracewood Drive home for seven years, according to the indictment, and each man had a 50 percent ownership stake in the bakery, of around $35,000 each.

By Jan. 2014, Moore wanted out of the business partnership, concerned about Byrne’s spending habits, according to the indictment, which stated that Byrne had moved of the East Cobb home by then.

The indictment alleges that Byrne and Wheeler, a former bakery employee who had served 10 years in prison in Ohio for armed robbery and other offenses, conspired to steal from Moore. The plot, according to the indictment, was to have Wheeler come to Moore’s home and commit assault, burglary and theft.

After Moore was found dead, the indictment states, the plot involved “tampering with evidence and false statements.”

Johnathan Allen Wheeler, East Cobb murder
Johnathan Wheeler

The indictment alleges that Byrne let Wheeler come to his home and shower after the killing, and that Byrne offered Wheeler a clean change of clothes.

According to the indictment, Wheeler confessed to the murder to his cousin, Cynthia Wheeler. She testified at Wheeler’s trial last year that they went back to Moore’s home to stage a crime scene and steal items.

The indictment said Byrne later stole Moore’s partnership interest, helped Cynthia and Johnathan Wheeler pay bills and paid for a trip Byrne and Wheeler took to the Florida Keys and for vehicles for Wheeler.

Byrne was interviewed by police two days after the murder and denied any role, according to the indictment. Wheeler was charged with homicide on Aug. 16, 2014.

In 2016, Cynthia Wheeler was sentenced for concealing a death, burglary and tampering with evidence, and agreed to testify against her cousin.

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Johnathan Wheeler is incarcerated at the Smith State Prison in south Georgia.


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East Cobb man indicted for vehicular homicide in I-20 crash

A man living on Terrell Mill Road and who was charged with the death of a motorist in a fatal crash on I-20 in July has been indicted on three counts of vehicular homicide.

The Cobb District Attorney’s Office said Mark Steven Ridling, 29, of 1550 Terrell Mill Road, was indicted by a Cobb Superior Court grand jury on Oct. 3.

According to the indictment, Ridling was driving a Hyundai Azera in Interstate 20 near Factory Shoals Road in South Cobb after 2 a.m. on July 7 when his vehicle, which was traveling well in excess of the posted 70 mph speed limits, changed lanes. The Hyundai then struck a Toyota Corolla driven by Brian Betts, 47, of Atlanta, who later died at Grady Memorial Hospital as a result of the crash.

The indictment also said Ridling was driving while under the influence, and that he was driving “in a reckless manner on reckless disregard of the safety of persons and property.” Betts’ car overturned and Ridling’s Hyundai struck a barrier on the interstate.

Ridling suffered minor injuries and also was taken to Grady. He was arrested the same day and remains in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center without bond, according to Cobb Sheriff’s Office records.


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