Rossville Exchange Club Officer of the Year Award 2015

Pictured from left to right: Alan Norton (Assistant District Attorney), James Harris (Special Agent, Georgia Bureau of Investigation), Johnny Lanham (Detective, Fort Oglethorpe Police Department), Tammy Davis (Detective, Fort Oglethorpe Police Department),  David Eubanks (Chief of Police, Fort Oglethorpe Police Department), and Steve Blevins (Commander, Detective Division, Fort Oglethorpe Police Department).

On March 5, 2015, the Rossville Exchange Club presented its Officer of the Year Award to Detectives Tammy Davis and Johnny Lanham of the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department, Special Agent James Harris of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Assistant District Attorney Alan Norton of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.

This group was nominated by Steve Blevins, the Commander of the detective division of the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department.  The letter of nomination stated that Davis and Lanham were originally assigned to investigate an alleged embezzlement by Deborah Holt in her position as the manager of the Gateway Mall in Catoosa County.   The detectives discovered Holt was having an extramarital affair with a local public official, Mark Lindsay, the chief building inspector for the City of Fort Oglethorpe.   Holt admitted that she had provided Lindsay with many gifts from the embezzled proceeds.  Police Chief David Eubanks, upon realizing that the investigation might lead to the arrest and prosecution of a city official, requested the assistance of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.  Special Agent James Harris was assigned to assist.  The joint investigation led not only to the arrest, prosecution, guilty plea and imprisonment of Holt but also to the arrest, prosecution, conviction and imprisonment of Lindsay.  The investigation revealed Lindsay had even used some of the stolen money to finance an unsuccessful run for public office in Fort Oglethorpe.  Commander Blevins noted the inherent difficulties in prosecuting a local public official in a small town and further observed that it was the unwavering dedication of the officers and the prosecutor to the pursuit of the truth and justice that led to the appropriate outcome.

Mark Lindsay Convicted and Sentenced

Mark Timothy Lindsay, age 48, was tried before Judge Ralph Van Pelt, Jr., in the Superior Court of Catoosa County, Georgia for multiple offenses of Theft by Receiving Stolen Property. The two day bench trial was concluded on January 14, 2015, with convictions for five counts of felony Theft by Receiving Stolen Property and two misdemeanor counts of Theft by Receiving Stolen Property.

The evidence disclosed that beginning in September of 2005, Lindsay, while employed as the chief building inspector for the City of Fort Oglethorpe, began an extra-marital affair with Deborah Holt.  Holt was the manager of Market Place Leasing, LLC doing business as Gateway Mall in Catoosa County.  Holt embezzled large sums of money from her employer.  Lindsay received stolen items from Holt over a period of time with an estimated value of between $50,000 and $75,000.  When interviewed by Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent James Harris, Holt disclosed that Lindsay would ask Holt for specific items and Holt would secure those items for Lindsay.  A search of Lindsay’s residence by the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department located the majority of the stolen property.

On January 14, 2015, Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt, Jr. sentenced Lindsay to serve ten (10) years in the Georgia State Prison System.

Lindsay was represented by Mr. Larry B. Hill and Mr. William Davis Hentz, attorneys from Lafayette, Georgia.

The case was prosecuted by Catoosa County Senior Assistant District Attorney, Alan C. Norton.

Herbert E. (Buzz) Franklin
District Attorney
Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit

Marcus Eugene Sutton Enters Guilty Pleas

On November 6, 2014, Marcus Eugene Sutton, age 21, entered pleas of guilty in three separate pending criminal cases in the Superior Court of Walker County.  Judge Jon B. Wood sentenced Sutton to an aggregate sentence of 40 years with the first 30 years to be served in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections with the balance of 10 years to be served on probation.

On September 29, 2013, Sutton and Tyler Roberts called Terrance Dillard via cellphone and told him they were coming to kill him.  The two drove to an apartment building in Rossville, Georgia, where they believed Dillard to be.  Sutton stopped the car in the roadway where Roberts got out and fired several shots into the apartments.  After the shooting, Dillard told officers with the Rossville Police Department that he was across the street at the time and witnessed the shooting.  Shell casings from a .40 caliber firearm were recovered at the scene.  Later, Dillard denied having witnessed anything.  No gun was ever recovered.  Sutton entered pleas of guilty to three counts of Aggravated Assault and one count of Criminal Damage to Property in the First Degree.  He received a sentence of 20 years with the first 10 years to be served in custody, to be served consecutively to his sentence on the Voluntary Manslaughter charge.

On October 30, 2013, while at a residence in Rossville, Georgia, Sutton got into an argument with Anderson Watts.  Sutton shot Watts seven times with a .40 caliber handgun and Watts died as a result of these wounds.  Sutton immediately fled the scene.  A joint investigation by the Walker County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was commenced.  Ultimately, the investigation led state and federal authorities in both Georgia and Tennessee to begin an intensive search for Sutton.  On November 5, 2012, Sutton was discovered hiding in the residence located on Fifth Avenue in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  He was taken into custody by officers with the Chattanooga Police Department and the United States Marshal Fugitive Task Force.  Sutton was transported to the Walker County jail.  No weapon was ever recovered in connection with the shooting.  Sutton entered a plea of guilty to a charge of Voluntary Manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of Watts and received the maximum sentence of 20 years to be served in confinement.

On March 27, 2014, while in the custody of the Walker County jail on the above charges, Sutton and another inmate, Brandon Chase Lonas, assaulted a third inmate, Steven Adam Powell.  This assault resulted in significant injuries to Powell.  Sutton entered pleas of guilty to charges of Riot in a Penal Institution and Aggravated Assault.  On these charges, Sutton was sentenced to serve 20 years with the first 10 years to be served in custody, consecutive to the sentence for Voluntary Manslaughter and concurrently with his sentences for shooting into the apartments.

The cases were prosecuted by District Attorney Herbert E. (Buzz) Franklin.  The defendant was represented by David Dunn, Chief Public Defender.

Steven Lee Waldemer

On September 30, 2014, Steven Lee Waldemer entered pleas of guilty to two separate indictments accusing him of Aggravated Battery on a Peace Officer, Aggravated Assault on a Peace Officer (3 counts), Harming a Police Dog, Possession of Explosives by a Convicted Felon, Sexual Battery, and other related charges.  Waldemer also consented to a forfeiture of his real property where the crimes occurred and other personal property.  Basically, Waldemer received sentences of fifty years with the first twenty-five years to be served in custody.

On June 12, 2014, a female neighbor of Steven Waldemer came to Waldemer’s residence in the Head River community of Walker County with her seven year old son.  While the son was outside feeding some goats, Waldemer physically assaulted her and told the woman he intended to have sex with her.  The woman cried out for her son who rushed back to his mother.  Waldemer struck the son in the head, knocking him to the floor.  The woman pulled her son outside with her.  Waldemer chased her down and wrestled her to the ground and put her in a chokehold.  He forced her back into the residence.  Using the threat of a shotgun and a handgun, Waldemer forced the woman to submit to various sexual acts.  Eventually, she prevailed upon Waldemer to release her upon a promise that she would not say anything about what had happened.

Shortly after securing her release from Waldemer, the victim notified local authorities of what had occurred.  It was discovered that Waldemer was on parole out of Idaho for a kidnapping.  Given the fact that Waldemer was heavily armed, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team together with local parole officers mobilized to serve a parole warrant and a sexual assault warrant on Waldemer at his residence.  After Waldemer refused the police commands via loud speaker to come out, officers deployed pepper spray canisters into the residence.  Waldemer still refused to come out.  Finally officers approached the residence and shouted they were sending a police K9 into the house.  Waldemer shot the police dog, “Tanja”, as she entered the house with a shotgun blast that also injured Deputy Donnie Brown.  Tanja died as a result of the shooting.  Waldemer escaped out a back window and was ultimately arrested nearby.  Waldemer had a SKS rifle in his possession at the time of arrest.  At his residence, Waldemer had a large quantity of explosive materials and firearms.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Beth Evans and the Defendant was represented by John Robert Greco of Marietta, Georgia.

Gary Lynn Kritlow

          Gary Lynn Kritlow, Jr., age 39, was tried before a jury in the Superior Court of Catoosa County, Georgia, for the offenses of Aggravated Sodomy, Aggravated Sexual Battery, Aggravated Assault with the Intent to Commit Rape, False Imprisonment, and Sexual Battery. The three day jury trial was concluded on June 26, 2014, with convictions on all counts.

          The evidence disclosed that on December 16, 2013, Kritlow, who was doing work at the adult female victim’s residence, forced the victim into a bathroom in the residence.  Kritlow then forcibly penetrated the victim and committed forcible sodomy upon the adult victim.  Although Kritlow denied any sexual contact with the victim, forensic analysis revealed that seminal fluid recovered from the victim’s clothing was a DNA match to known samples of Kritlow’s DNA.

          Kritlow had multiple prior convictions for illicit sexual contact with minors and an adult female from the states of Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee.  On July 11, 2014, Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt, Jr. sentenced Kritlow to serve the remainder of his natural life in the state prison system without the possibility of parole.

          Gary Lynn Kritlow, Jr., was represented at trial by Sean J. Lowe of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit’s Public Defender’s Office.

          The case was prosecuted by Catoosa County Senior Assistant District Attorney, Alan C. Norton.

Update on the Center for HOPE

The PreTrial Drug Diversion Program through the Center for HOPE is continuing to progress well.  According to Executive Director Dr. Denny Whitesel, there has only been one participant who has failed to successfully complete the program.  So far, there have been 35 active participants.  Of that number, 22 have graduated and 12 are currently active in the program.  Part of the success of the program is due to aftercare follow-up.  Of the graduates who successfully completed the program, four have either completed or are working towards completion of their GED; two have returned to study for advanced degrees and all are either in full or part time employment.  Furthermore, from a criminal justice system perspective, the most important finding from the information currently available is that there have been no participants who have re-offended.

James Martin Ferris Convicted of Child Sex Crimes

James Martin Ferris, age 34, was tried and convicted in the Superior Court of Catoosa County, Georgia, for forty-six separate counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery, Child Molestation, and Sexual Exploitation of Children after a six day jury trial which was concluded on April 21, 2014. Between January 1, 2012 and March 24, 2013, Ferris had illicit sexual contact with five juvenile female victims ranging in age from 12 years old to 14 years old.

At the time of his arrest, Lt. Freddie Roden of the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Department seized Ferris’ cellular telephone and several media storage devices. A forensic analysis of Ferris’ cellphone by Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent James Harris uncovered videos of Ferris sexually abusing one child victim who was unconscious at the time.  Analysis of the media storage devices revealed numerous images of child pornography and child erotica.

On April, 22, 2014, Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt, Jr. sentenced James Martin Ferris to serve his natural life plus two hundred and fifty years in confinement in the state prison system.

James Martin Ferris was represented at trial by Mr. Steven A. Miller of Summerville.

The case was prosecuted by Catoosa County Senior Assistant District Attorney, Alan C. Norton.

Georgia Supreme Court Reverses Court of Appeals ruling in Cosmo Case

             In March of 2012, Dennis Cosmo was convicted by a Catoosa County Jury of Computer Pornography, Attempt to Commit Pandering and three counts of Criminal Solicitation. Cosmo has communicated by email with a law enforcement officer purporting to be the parent of two underage children being offered up for sexual contact.  Cosmo appealed his conviction to the Georgia Court of Appeals which set aside the conviction based, in part, upon the court’s opinion that direct communication with the person believed by the defendant to be a child was necessary.  The District Attorney’s Office for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit asked the Georgia Supreme Court to review this decision and the Court took the case for this purpose.

Today, April 21, 2014, the Georgia Supreme Court decided the Court of Appeals erred in its opinion and reversed the decision of that court as to that issue.  Under the statutory law and in consideration of the language of the indictment, the Court held that such direct communication was not necessary to a conviction and that communication with a person the defendant believed to be a parent of the child would be sufficient.  The Court noted that the federal courts had interpreted similar federal statutes to the same effect.

The ruling does not change the Court of Appeals holding that the trial court erred in failing to charge the jurors on the issue of entrapment and a retrial is necessary for that reason.

Terry Saxton sentenced to serve 20 years for Voluntary Manslaughter

On April 9, 2014, Terry Saxton appeared for a  sentencing hearing in the Catoosa County Courthouse before Kristina C. Graham, the Superior Court Judge who presided over the September, 2013, jury trial in which he was convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter.  Family members of the victim, Vicki LaCombe, testified at the hearing about the impact the crime had upon them.  The Defendant made a brief statement and denied any responsibility.  Judge Graham noted the Defendant’s failure to take responsibility for his crime and recounted that the trial testimony established that the killing was of a particularly brutal and savage nature.  The judge sentenced the Defendant to serve twenty years in prison for the offense.  The Defendant was represented by Dan Ripper and the State was represented by District Attorney Herbert E. (Buzz) Franklin.

CONVICTION AND SENTENCE OF LOPEZ AFFIRMED

On April 2, 2014, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the conviction of Emanuel Leonardo Lopez in the Superior Court of Catoosa County for the offenses of Computer Pornography and Criminal Attempt to Commit Aggravated Child Molestation. Lopez had been indicted by the Catoosa County Grand Jury on July 7, 2010 based upon an investigation conducted by the Innocent Images Task Force, a group consisting of local law enforcement working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Lopez was tried by a Catoosa County jury and was convicted on March 30, 2011.  The State was represented by Chief Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt and the defendant was represented by McNeil Stokes, an Atlanta area attorney.  Judge Jon B. Wood presided over the trial.  The defendant was sentenced to a term of fifteen years with the first ten years to be served in the state prison system.

Herbert E. Franklin 4/2/2014