By Natalie Simms
The homicide rate is on the rise in Northwest Georgia with a combined 40 percent increase this year over 2017 in Rome-Floyd County and Cartersville-Bartow County. And that’s with four weeks left to go before the new year.
Fourteen murders have been reported so far in 2018 within the two counties, compared to a total of 10 last year. Of those cases, investigators are still actively working four of them, plus two other ‘suspicious’ deaths not yet ruled a homicide.
Some of the cases have been stunners, including a young woman who’s dismembered body was found at a Bartow County landfill and a man — still unidentified — who’s weighted-down remains were discovered in Allatoona.
According to Assistant Chief Debbie Burnett, a total of six homicides have occurred this year in Rome, which is a 50 percent increase over last year’s total of three. One additional case, the June 27 beating death of Joseph Dye, has not yet been ruled a homicide pending the GBI autopsy results. Burnett says Rome has averaged about four homicides per year over the last five years.
“For the cases in 2018, two were a result of domestic violence, two were a result of a disagreement between subjects that knew each other and two are still open and active,” says Burnett. “There is no way to predict when a homicide will occur. The increase in stats appears to be arbitrary and not a result of a change in the community.”
A look at 2018 cases:
- May 24: Martez Harris, 25, was found dead after a shooting at Three Rivers Gardens Apartments off Tamassee Lane in West Rome. Arrested: Demonte Tywon Penn, 26, with felony murder. Burnett says murder was result of domestic violence.
- June 15: John A. Allen Jr. was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds outside a home at 302 Wright St. in Rome. Arrested: Grady Harper Jr., with felony murder, after his arrest in Savannah two weeks later. Burnett says the shooting happened after a disagreement between the two subjects who knew each other.
- June 16: Crystal Vega, a mother of five, died from bullet wounds she received earlier that day at her home. Arrested: Her boyfriend, Nakotah Smith, 33, charged with murder. He was apprehended July 1 at a home in Lindale. Burnett says this murder was result of domestic violence.Police are still trying to identify the suspect who shot and killed Hugh Don Wyatt at his home on Nov. 23.
- June 27: Joseph R. Dye, 49, was found severely beaten and later died from his injuries at Floyd Medical Center. This case has not yet been ruled a homicide pending autopsy results. “We do not have a time frame for when the autopsy results for Dye will be back, we just have to wait,” says Burnett. Arrested: John Mostiller has been charged with aggravated battery but those charges could change once the autopsy report is completed.
- July 25: LaMario Majors, 37, was found shot inside a home at 814 Maple Ave. and later died from his injuries on July 30. Arrested: Keilan Orr, 18; he has been charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and possession of firearm during commission of crime. Burnett says the shooting happened after a disagreement between the two subjects who knew each other.
- Sept. 23: Tamaine Deshaun McKnight was found shot at 510 Calhoun Ave. around 4:20 a.m. Three others also were shot including Evanda Spivey, Sammy Riles and Ladory Robinson and were treated at Floyd Medical Center. Background. According to Burnett, this case is still active and no arrests have been made at this time.
- Nov. 23: Hugh Don Wyatt, age 77, was found shot and killed at his home at 1501 Maple Ave. in apparent robbery. Witnesses stated that they heard gunshots and observed a young black male with short dreads running from Mr. Wyatt’s residence through the wooded area toward East 14th Street. This case is active and no arrests have been made at this time. Anyone with information can contact Investigator Aaron Thacker at 706-238-5126 or the anonymous crime line at 706-236-5000.
Floyd County has recorded two homicides so far in 2018, which is one less than last year’s total of three, according to Maj. Jeff Jones with Floyd County Police. The county averages between 2-3 murders per year. In addition to the two homicides, the Nov. 7 death of Hope Parr, who was found dead on the side of the road off U.S. 411 near Cunningham Road in Cave Spring, is currently under investigation as a suspicious death.
A look at 2018 cases:
- Feb. 6: Parmjit Singh Dhrim, a store clerk at the Hi-Tech Fuel at 500 Burnett Ferry Road, was found shot several times from an apparent armed robbery and died from his injuries at the scene. Witnesses observed a black male fleeing the scene, driving a silver Jeep Liberty. A short time later, the suspect was apprehended. Arrested: Lamar Rashad Nicholson, 28, charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, use of firearm by convicted felon during commission of crime.
- April 13: A 2-year-old child was found unresponsive at a home on Dodd Boulevard and transferred to Floyd Medical Center. The child was found to be severely injured from a beating, suffered multiple internal injuries and later died as a result of her injuries on April 15. The act was committed in the presence of a 5-year-old. Arrested: Hassan Shareef Rashad, 38, the boyfriend of the child’s biological mother. He was charged with felony murder, aggravated assault and aggravated battery. The child’s mother, Sydney Dean, 28, also was arrested and charged with cruelty to children and murder in the second degree after it was discovered she had knowledge that her child was injured and needed medical care but neglected to seek attention for several hours and waiting until the child was unresponsive.
- Nov. 7: The death of Karen Hope Parr, 32, is currently being investigated as a suspicious death and not yet ruled a homicide. Parr’s body was found on U.S. 411 near Cunningham Road in Cave Spring. There was no sign of trauma; she apparently had been out there for up to 18 hours before being discovered. According to Jones, the case is still active but the police department is awaiting autopsy results from the GBI in the case. “We have no final opinion from the medical examiner. We will be lucky to have it by February (2019) or later with the backlog they have had in the past … it can take six months or longer,” he says.
Including homicides, so far this year, Floyd County has investigated 94 deaths that include everything from car accident fatalities, drug overdoses, suicides and other causes.
The City of Cartersville has had one murder so far in 2018, according to Lt. Mike Bettikofer with Cartersville Police Department. There were no murders reported in 2017. The city’s homicide average over the last five years would be slightly less than 1, says Bettikofer.
A look at the 2018 case:
- June 20: Attorney Antonio Mari, was found shot and killed at his law office at 605 N. Tennessee St. The initial call into 911 indicating that the homicide had taken place was from the suspect’s (Walter Radford) recently divorced ex-wife. Radford called his ex-wife to notify her of the homicide immediately after while fleeing the scene. Cartersville investigators determined Mari had been shot by Walter Radford who fled the scene in a late model Ford pickup truck. Cartersville Police Officers, with the assistance of the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, located the pickup truck at 68 Willow Bend Drive, Cartersville. Officers and deputies made forced entry to the residence and found Mr. Radford deceased from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The Bartow County Sheriff’s Office has investigated five murder cases so far in 2018 compared to four in 2017, according to Sgt. Jonathan Rogers, Criminal Investigations Division. The county averages between five and eight murders a year. And so far this year, BCSO has responded to 69 death investigations (includes homicides, accident fatalities, suicides, overdoses, etc.), which is higher than last year’s total of 58 death investigations.
A look at the 2018 cases:
- Feb. 21: James “Sam” McCoy, 83, was found shot and killed inside his home at 53 Norton Road in Kingston. Arrested: The victim’s wife, Kim McCoy, 58, was charged with felony murder.
- May 17: Paul David Archer, 57, was shot and killed at home at 4 Franklin Drive. Another man was also shot in the incident but recovered from his injuries. Arrested: Justin Lee Wade, 27, of Rome, was later arrested and charged with murder, aggravated assault and gun violations.
- July 7: Teresa Ann Pacetti, 62, was shot and killed at a home on Young Street in an apparent domestic dispute by her live-in boyfriend, Stanley Burton Smith, 61. He then turned the gun on himself and died later on July 9 at an Atlanta hospital.
- Aug. 13: The body of Courtney Nicole Dubois, 20, from Fairmont, W.Va., was found dismembered at the county landfill; her remains had discarded at the Cedar Creek Collection Center at 15 Cedar Creek Road. Authorities believe the bags with her body parts were left between 3 and 6 p.m. on Aug. 11 before they were discovered nearly 48 hours later by a sanitation worker. It took nearly three weeks to positively identify Dubois. Rogers gave this update on the case, “The Dubois case is still under investigation by local, state and federal agencies, and there is no new information available at this time.” There have been no arrests or suspects identified to date.
- Sept. 1: The body of a white male, who is has still not been identified, was found in Allatoona Lake near Bethany Bridge. The victim had been in the lake for approximately three to five days at that time. He is described as being between 55 and 65 years old, approximately 230 pounds and about 5 feet 10 inches tall. He was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, black swim flippers, and a backpack. His backpack had rocks and sand inside and he was wearing small ankle weights on both feet as well as having a small boat anchor tied around his waist. He had suffered a gun shot wound to his right temple. No identification or markings were found on his body. The GBI Medical Examiner performed the autopsy on Sept. 4. Thus far, fingerprint comparisons and facial recognition software have not identified the man. A sketch from the GBI is attached of what the man may have looked like prior to his death. Anyone with information on who this man may be is asked to call the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 770-387-5100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Rogers says they have received more than 100 calls to the tip line but they are still working to identify the man.