Ellijay man arrested in North Carolina on drug charges, wanted by GBI

Tracy Shirley, arrest

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Cherokee County, North Carolina, Sheriff’s Office has confirmed the arrest of a man from the Ellijay area in relation to drug charges. Shirley was wanted in connection to the massive drug bust with gang ties that took place last week in Pickens County.

According to the incident report, Cherokee County Deputies arrested Tracy Shirley, 47,  after finding narcotics in his possession. He was arrested Monday, June 29, 2020, at 9:41 p.m. near the city of Murphy, North Carolina.

The incident report stated that authorities began surveillance on a vehicle operated by Shirley on June 27, 2020, two days earlier. A later press release from the Sheriff’s Office stated that they conducted an investigation into Shirley, determining that he was returning to Cherokee County with an additional amount of methamphetamine to sell. From surveillance of Shirley, they caught up with him in the Wolf Creek area. At the time of the stop, Shirley collided with a Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office vehicle and a residence. Reports indicate that no one was hurt in the collision.

Also noted as seized property with the arrest was a Red Lexus vehicle. The arrest came after charges indicate they found Shirley in possession of methamphetamine.

Currently being held at the Cherokee Detention Center according to the reports, Shirley faces charges of Conspiring to Traffic Methamphetamine,  Possession of Methamphetamine, Resisting Public Officers, and Injury to Real Property among others.

He is also facing a probation violation in Fannin County as the report says, “Probation violation, second-degree burglary, theft by taking out of Fannin.”

His first court date is set for July 9, 2020, in Cherokee, North Carolina. According to Cherokee’s website, Shirley has bond set for the charges totaling $275,000.

A press release from Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the June 28, 2020 arrest of Tracy Ev Shirley, a 47-year-old male from Ellijay Georgia, Miranda Kathaleen Gibson, a 29-year-old female from White County, Georgia, and the June 29, 2020 arrest of 41-year-old, Travis Bateman of Andrews, North Carolina for violations of the North Carolina Controlled Substance laws.

The releases stated, “During the month of June 2020 Investigators with the Cherokee County North Carolina Sheriff’s Office received information from Investigators in North Georgia Counties that Tracy Shirley was involved in a large scale distribution operation of illegal drugs and was presently distributing the drugs in Cherokee County North Carolina. Additionally, information supplied was that Shirley was wanted and was presently a fugitive from justice.”

Travis Bateman

From additional information obtained in the investigation, Travis Bateman was identified as a co-conspirator in the distribution operation in Cherokee County. In a search of a residence that Bateman had been occupying in the Ranger Community to distribute methamphetamine, several marijuana plants were found growing as well as other illegal controlled substances.

Tracy Ev Shirley was charged with CONSPIRE TO TRAFFIC METHAMPHETAMINE X 2, POSSESS METHAMPHETAMINE, MAINTAIN PLACE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE, RESISTING PUBLIC OFFICER, INJURY TO REAL PROPERTY, EXTRADITION/FUGITIVE OTHER STATE, The North Carolina Magistrate set a $275,000.00 secure bond. Shirley is currently in the Cherokee County Detention Center awaiting a Cherokee County District Court date on July 09, 2020 for his initial hearing.

Miranda Kathaleen Gibson was charged with CONSPIRE TO TRAFFIC METHAMPHETAMINE, POSSESS METHAMPHETAMINE, POSSESS MARIJUANA UP TO 1/2 OZ. The North Carolina Magistrate set a $150,000.00 secure bond. Gibson is currently in the Cherokee County Detention Center awaiting a Cherokee County District Court date on July 09, 2020 for her initial hearing.


Miranda Gibson

This is not the only arrests seen recently from what authorities are calling “Operation the Real McCoy.” Pickens County has also seen new arrests and drug seizures as a part of this operation.

FROM THE DESK OF THE SHERIFF – Crime Suppression Unit

News, Police & Government


On June 1, 2019 the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office created a new unit for the purpose of proactive
crime suppression with an emphasis on violent felons, drug activity, and high priority warrants.
The Crime Suppression Unit (CSU) targets specific areas of the county where statistics and citizen
complaints show a higher level of criminal activity. This unit was created to support the Uniform
Patrol Division while they answer calls for service from the community.

The creation of this unit has benefited the community greatly in its efforts to proactively target
Gilmer County’s worst offenders. The Crime Suppression Unit, in conjunction with the Criminal
Investigations Division and the Uniform Patrol Division, has worked together to solve many cases.
I am pleased to offer the following stats generated by the Crime Suppression Unit over the past
seven months: CSU has seized five pounds of meth on combined cases and has given information
to other jurisdictions that resulted in an additional nine pounds of meth being seized. They have
seized $11,000 in currency, recovered three stolen vehicles, seized 35 weapons and made and/or
assisted in 58 arrests, most of which were felony offenders.

I would like to encourage the community to contact the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office Criminal
Investigations Division to report any activity in their area they feel is suspicious. To speak with a
CSU member call 706-635-4646 or dial 911 if you have an emergency.

Two more Ghost Face arrests in Gilmer County

Ghost Face Arrests
ANTHONY JOE “AJ” STARKS, age 29, Ghost Face Arrests

Anthony Joe “AJ” Starks, age 29.

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Two more arrests have been verified relating to the Ghost Face gang after Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson offered the following Press Release.

On Thursday, January 9, 2020, Sheriff’s Deputies, U.S. Marshals, and State Probation Officers made two additional arrests in an ongoing methamphetamine trafficking and gang and terrorism investigation.

The first arrest was ANTHONY JOE “AJ” STARKS, age 29, in the Pleasant Valley Road area of Gilmer County. Starks was wanted for a probation violation. Upon his arrest, three illegally modified “sawed off” long guns were found. Starks will be charged in addition with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, Possession of an Illegal Weapon, Possession of Methamphetamine, Gang and Terrorism Act and Obstruction of an Officer.



GLENN CLEVELAND CALLAHAN, age 39, Ghost Face Arrests

Glenn Cleveland Callahan, age 39.

The second arrest was GLENN CLEVELAND CALLAHAN, age 39, in the 3000 block of Hwy. 382 in Gilmer County. Callahan will be charged with Trafficking Methamphetamine. Deputies are still looking at the possibility of Gang and Terrorism Act violations.

14.110 ounces of methamphetamine were seized, an estimated street value of $20,000.

Both Starks and Callahan have been validated by the Department of Corrections as being affiliated with the Ghost Face Gang.

Sheriff Nicholson states, “The excellent relationship between the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, Dept. of Corrections (Community Supervision), and the U.S. Marshals Service Task Force is paying great dividends. I appreciate the work my deputies, along with K-9 Novak, are doing and the cooperation they are receiving from the Marshals Service and DOC.”








Piedmont Hospitals Support National Drug Take Back Day

Piedmont Mountainside

Jasper, Ga. (April 16, 2019) – From 1999 to 2010, opioid-related deaths in Georgia increased by 500 percent. In 2016, there were close to 1,000 deaths involving opioids in the state and those numbers are continuing to increase. Facing those statistics and knowing that all healthcare systems need to play a role in attempting to stem this epidemic, Piedmont Healthcare is examining its pain management policies and connecting its hospitals with stakeholders in the community in an effort to address this crisis.

National Drug Take Back Day, which is sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is Saturday, April 27, and will feature activities between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Local law enforcement agencies will provide a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs. The majority of teenagers abusing prescription drugs get them from the home medicine cabinet. Using pharmaceutical drugs without a prescription or a doctor’s supervision can lead to accidental poisoning, overdose and abuse.

“One of the most important things we can do as individuals, especially as we try to protect our families and children, is to dispose of unused, unwanted, and expired prescription drugs,” said Piedmont Mountainside CEO Denise Ray. “That’s why we’re supporting the efforts of our local public safety departments and letting our employees know about National Drug Take Back Day and what they can do on a personal level.”

In 2018, Take Back Day brought in more than 900,000 pounds of unused or expired prescription medication. Disposing of those drugs safely keeps them off the streets and protects the environment as well. On its website for Take Back Day, the DEA has a collection site locator that allows individuals to find the closest take back sites to where they live: https://takebackday.dea.gov/.

Throughout its 11 hospitals, Piedmont will be coordinating with various local law enforcement and public health agencies on Take Back Day.

From a system level, Piedmont, the largest healthcare provider in Georgia, convened an Opioids Task Force in 2018 and is seeking to provide patients with optimal pain management while preventing the potential for opioid abuse. One of the key tenets to Piedmont’s plan is to increase education and awareness among both patients and staff. There are times when the use of opioids is appropriate and necessary, but Piedmont’s new protocols, created by its physician leaders in consultation with clinical staff, will consider non-opioids and alternate pain management modalities such as topical therapy, local injections, massage, physical therapy and more. Piedmont will also focus on establishing system-wide standardization and coordination of prescribing protocols in key risk areas.

“It is important to reduce the stigma around opioid addiction,” said Ray. “Unfortunately this is a sweeping epidemic, one that is effecting people across the country, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. No one person, organization, city or state can tackle it alone, but Piedmont Mountainside is proud to join our sister hospitals and play a role alongside our patients and partners in the community.”

Learn more about Piedmont at piedmont.org

Traffic stop finds a quarter of a kilogram in drugs

News, Police & Government

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer authorities are reporting today that a routine traffic stop led to much more as officers and a K-9 unit discovored almost a quarter of kilo of what they suspect to be Methamphetamine.

Officers have taken two men into custody earlier this week when officials say that officers noticed the truck, turned on their lights, and proceeded to follow the vehicle before finally getting it to stop.

The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office has released the following information:

On Tuesday, March 19, 2019, at approximately 1937 hours, Deputies from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office attempted to stop a green Ford Ranger for an expired tag, defective equipment, busted windshield, and tire requirements on Mountaintown Road. The green Ford Ranger failed to stop for Deputies and threw a brown plastic grocery bag out of the vehicle. Once Deputies got the vehicle stopped, Mr. Richard Drennon Sanford, age 63, and Mr. Charles Leon Hollifield, age 53, were taken into custody.

Deputies then deployed a K-9 for an open air sniff of the vehicle. The K-9 alerted on the vehicle. A probable cause search of the vehicle revealed the following: a clear plastic Ziploc bag containing a white crystal substance (suspected methamphetamine), a set of black digital scales with residue, hypodermic syringes, a food vacuum sealer with vacuum sealing bags that were cut.

A search incident to arrest of the suspects revealed that Mr. Sanford had $7,413 in U.S. currency, and Mr. Hollifield had a small amount of marijuana along with $998 in U.S. currency. The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office seized the $8,411 in U.S. currency.

Deputies conducted a search of the area and recovered the brown plastic grocery bag that was thrown from the vehicle. The bag contained six vacuumed-sealed bags containing a white crystal substance (suspected methamphetamine) that weighted approximately 223.4 grams (7.880 oz.’s).

Mr. Sanford is charged with the following: V.G.C.S.A. Trafficking (Methamphetamines), V.G.C.S.A. with Intent to Distribute (Methamphetamines), V.G.C.S.A. (Methamphetamines), Drug E Related Objects, No Seat Belt, Expired Tag, Defective Equipment, Littering, Tampering with Evidence, Open Container of Alcohol, Fleeing and Attempting to Elude, Reckless Driving, and Driving on the wrong side of the road.

Mr. Hollifield is charged with the following: V.G.C.S.A. Trafficking (Methamphetamines), V.G.C.S.A. with Intent to Distribute (Methamphetamines), V.G.C.S.A. (Methamphetamines), Drug Related Objects, No Seat Belt, Littering, Tampering with Evidence, and Possession of Marijuana less than 1 oz.

CDC reveals deadliest drug in America

Health, News

According to the latest numbers from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, Fentanyl is now the most commonly used drug involved in overdoses. 

The new report says that the rate of drug overdoses involving the synthetic opioid increased by about 113% each year from 2013 through 2016.

What is fentanyl?

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. 

It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States.

However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl. It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product–with or without the user’s knowledge–to increase its euphoric effects.

Illicitly-made fentanyl use is on the rise

The rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, doubled from 2015 to 2016. Roughly 19,400 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids other than methadone in 2016.

Reports from law enforcement indicate that much of the synthetic opioid overdose increase may be due to illegally or illicitly made fentanyl. According to data from the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, confiscations, or seizures, of fentanyl increased by nearly 7 fold from 2012 to 2014. There were 4,585 fentanyl confiscations in 2014. This suggests that the sharp rise in fentanyl-related deaths may be due to increased availability of illegally made, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, and not prescribed fentanyl.

The number of states reporting 20 or more fentanyl confiscations every six months is increasing. From July to December 2014, 18 states reported 20 or more fentanyl drug confiscations. By comparison, six states reported 20 or more fentanyl drug confiscations from July to December 2013.

What can be done?

CDC suggests the following actions in response to increases in fentanyl-related overdose deaths:

Improve detection of fentanyl outbreaks

  • Public health departments:
    Explore methods for more rapidly detecting drug overdose outbreaks, including fentanyl.
  • Medical examiners and coroners:
    Screen for fentanyl in suspected opioid overdose cases in regions reporting increases in fentanyl confiscations, fentanyl-related overdose fatalities or unusually high spikes in heroin or unspecified drug overdose fatalities. Not all jurisdictions routinely test for fentanyl.
  • Law enforcement:
    Law enforcement can play an important role identifying and responding to increases in the distribution and use of illegally-made fentanyl.

Expand Use of Naloxone

Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid-related overdoses, including heroin and fentanyl, and is a critical tool in preventing fatal opioid overdoses. Depending on state and local laws, this medication can be administered by EMS, law enforcement, other drug users, or family and friend bystanders who have obtained the medication.9

  • Health Care Providers:
    Multiple doses of naloxone may need to be administered per overdose event because of fentanyl’s high potency relative to other opioids.10
  • Harm reduction organizations:
    Conduct trainings on naloxone use to persons at risk for opioid-related overdose and their friends and family members.



DA Sosebee begins information campaign in schools

News, Videos
District Attorney Alison Sosebee speaking to GHS students about Vaping and drug use.

ELLIJAY, Ga – The Appalachian Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney, Alison Sosebee, began her campaign today in Fannin Middle School and Gilmer High School with presentations for students about the rising trend of vaping in all forms.

Speaking to the students she shared some of the responses that authorities have begun included harsher penalties for vape devices in general, not to mention the felonies possible with controlled substances. Using drugs in the vape devices like the popular Juul brand devices is only a part of growing concerns as authorities and administrations fear for students who expect non-nicotine flavored water vapor in devices they may find friends with when in reality these devices could contain anything from Heroin to Synthetic Marijuana.

Sosebee also invited Georgia Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Dustin Hamby to speak about the Bureau’s involvement. Hamby noted that almost 90% of his cases tied to drug usage in some way. He goes on to note that he’s had three murders in his career directly related to drug usage.

Sosebee recalled the story of a case she and Hamby shared about a guy who had taken drugs with a close friend. Under the influence, he grew greatly agitated at his friend and violently murdered him without full realization. He spoke further about how little it takes to blow up into major consequences in situations like vaping unknown substances.

Sosebee also noted that they are finding that many students and users of vape devices believe them safer than regular cigarettes. She noted that not only is there zero research to support his claim, but there is also no research or regulations on vaping devices right now. No one can tell you everything that is in Vape Juice, nor if people at smoke shops are adding extra ingredients. She called the students this generations guinea pigs for testing if vaping as they would be the cases that doctors study thirty years from now to determine the actual effects that Vaping can have in both short-term and long-term effects.

Only the first day, Sosebee is expected to travel to Fannin High, Pickens High, and Pickens Middle schools in the next two weeks along with possibly adding Gilmer Middle as well.

PHS lockdown and what’s next in the Vaping Campaign


Jasper, Ga – The Pickens County Board of Education hosted a no-threat lockdown today on the campus of Pickens High School.

Parents and citizens saw the Pickens County Sheriff respond to concerns saying:

We currently have a team of deputies and K-9 units participating in a controlled sweep of the Pickens High School campus. While the school is being checked, students are being placed in a non-emergency lockdown status. Students are safe and no threat exists at the school.

When questioned about the lockdown, Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson said the K-9 sweep was scheduled for a few weeks ago, but had to be pushed back due to scheduling conflicts with Cherokee County who supplies the K-9 units. As the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has retired its last K-9 unit for medical reasons, Wilson stated it is a part of the agreement with Cherokee County to utilize theirs.

With the lockdown and sweep completed, Wilson informed FYN that no drugs were located during the sweep today. Though he noted it was not directly related to the rising use of vape devices, Wilson did respond to questions about the trend saying that it is a concern in the school system.

Sweeps like this is a part of the school’s enforcement of its code of conduct as well as state and federal law. Though Wilson said there is more going on behind the scenes in the system’s response to the rising vape concerns and to school security in general, he declined to release details saying, “There is a number of things that we are doing and things that we are working with the Sheriff’s Office, some of that we just can’t publicize at the moment.”

More information on these steps like the K-9 sweeps and other programs the school already has in place over its years in operation can be found at the upcoming Monday, September 24, day of events involving the Office of the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and Pickens School district as they hold a meeting for parents for information and the ‘Chat with the Superintendent’ at Pickens High School at 6 p.m.

Wilson went on to note that the school system is being forced to change the way it views vaping devices. While he notes that it is against the law for underage kids to possess cigarettes and vaping devices and they have enforced the law, he did state that the school system may have, at times, not utilized the most extreme forms of discipline available in every situation involving the use of nicotine. He went on to say, “Now that this added ability of being able to vape just about anything, that brings it to a whole different level.”

As part of the school’s efforts to inform parents and students about the dangers that vapes present with not knowing what is in them, the board is working with the District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office. Wilson said, “We may have looked at vaping in the past as more of a replacement for a cigarette, and not as a delivery device for drugs… Going forward, we probably would.”

He added later, “We’re going to have to really start disciplining to the fullest extent that we can, given to us by our Code of Conduct or either by the Law to keep our children safe.”

“Vaping” incident part of a larger problem


Ellijay, Ga. – An incident report from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office confirmed reports of a student “blacking out” and suffering seizures after inhaling a substance from a SMOK Vape device.

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

The male student was hospitalized from the incident and later released. The incident, however, did prompt officials to call in K-9 units to search for other drugs. Authorities found two additional SMOK Vapes with one testing positive for containing marijuana. While the

original vape has been tested, no official response is available identifying the substance in the original device.

However, according to the incident report, it was reported that the student was told by a fellow classmate that “there was a vape in the boy’s restroom and he should go smoke some of it.”

With the investigation in Gilmer CID’s (Criminal Investigations Division) hands, no names of the students nor additional information is available.

However, FYN spoke with Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs who confirmed the incident is part of a larger problem facing the schools today. She told FYN that last year, the school system confiscated eight vape devices over the course of the entire year. This year, they have already collected 25 devices since the beginning of school a few weeks ago.

Each instance results in disciplinary action for the student as it is a violation of the code of conduct, according to Downs, but as the rise in using other substances in the devices continues, the charges against students get far more serious as they deal with controlled substances.

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Downs went on to say that she has spoken with other Superintendents to see if Gilmer is alone in the rise of vape usage. Though she declined to name which counties she had spoken with, she did confirm that Gilmer was not alone.

Confirming the rise in popularity of these devices in several counties, the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee made a press release stating, “Within the last week, several teens in Pickens, Gilmer and Fannin counties have experienced medical emergencies as a result of “vaping,” by use of electronic cigarettes. These medical emergencies necessitated treatment by both EMS and treatment at hospitals.”

Many of the vape devices found being used are very small handheld devices easily concealed within one’s palm or bag, like a purse or book bag, or even in one’s pocket as several designs become thinner and shorter. Downs confirmed they have found Juul brand vapes and last weeks incident report confirmed the males vape was a SMOK brand. Sosebee notes, “Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items.”

As the use of vapes themselves are intended to be used with nicotine for adult smokers, the rising concern is the ability to swap out the common “juice” for homemade cocktails or drugs. Downs confirmed that reports have been made of students crushing Adderall and other things to make the “juice.”

According to Juul’s website, “These alternatives contain nicotine, which has not been shown to cause cancer but can create dependency. We believe that these alternatives are not appropriate for people who do not already smoke.”

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Photo provided by Office of District Attorney, Appalachian Judicial Circuit

Sosebee also commented on other substances that have been found in the devices saying, “The liquid that is inhaled, known commonly as “vape juice,” can contain any number of substances: it can contain flavoring; it can contain nicotine; it can also contain drugs and illegal substances such as THC oil, fentanyl and LSD. Of great concern, the user may or may not know what they are inhaling, what their reaction will be to the substances, what they are exposing others to and may erroneously believe that they are simply inhaling “harmless water vapor.” There is nothing harmless about what is occurring.”

Downs went on to say that some parents may have purchased vapes for their kids not knowing that they are swapping out the contents. The feeling was echoed by Sosebee as she called for parents to “be aware of the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.”

With concerns rising from parents, administration, and law enforcement alike, investigations are continuing as programs and events are attempting to educate the community about the devices and their popularity.

Downs said the Gilmer Administration is stepping up efforts in educating and building awareness in their staff about what to look for and also to educate our parents in the community saying, “I feel like there is a real lack of knowledge and lack of understanding among our community in relation to this… This has blown up overnight to the point that I feel like its almost epidemic.”



Substance at vape shop hospitalizes five

Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office

Jasper, Ga – Authorities have met a major incident as they executed a search warrant at the local A1 Smoke Shop in Jasper, Georgia.

During the execution of the search warrant today, September 14, members of the Drug Task Force, Pickens Sheriff’s Office, and Jasper City Police were exposed to an unidentified substance that immediately brought down one detective. Others also became exposed in attempts to help treat the detective. According to an official release by Sgt. Jody Weaver, Administrative Services Division of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, “As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.”

Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office

Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office

Unconfirmed reports indicate the substance may have been made airborne during the search, but reports at this time indicate the exposure is not life-threatening.

According to their official release, “The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire.”

Additionally, authorities have closed businesses in close proximity to the location and evacuated citizens from the area for safety.

With Haz-Mat teams investigating the substances, authorities are declining to release certain details of the active investigation, but indicate that they will be releasing more information about the incident later.

With the recent rise of vaping devices being used to inhale drugs ranging from Methamphetamines to THC Oil to Synthetic Marijuana, it is likely this warrant could be part of an official response to the trend in our schools, though no official statement identifies why they were executing a search warrant. The District Attorney’s office is currently undertaking a series of assemblies at the middle and high schools of Pickens, Fannin, and Gilmer.

At this point, it is actually quite common to find controlled substances in vape devices across America, especially in schools as reports continue to flood the media about students falling unconscious or having severe reactions, even seizures because of what they may or may not know they are inhaling.

See the full media release below:

“Pickens County law enforcement have encountered a suspected unknown powder substance during execution of a search warrant – Deputies and other public safety adversely affected.”

On the morning of Friday, September 14, 2018, the Drug Task Force, along with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jasper Police Department executed a search warrant at the A-1 Smoke Shop located at 684 West Church Street in Jasper, Georgia. During the search of the premises, a Detective with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office came in contact with an unknown substance which immediately resulted in the Detective experiencing adverse health conditions and symptoms. The affected Detective was transported to the local hospital for immediate treatment. Public safety personnel who were exposed while treating the affected Detective also began experiencing similar reactions. As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.

The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire. Businesses in close proximity to the location have been evacuated as a safety precaution, and Haz-Mat teams are preparing to enter the premises to thoroughly investigate and identify the cause of the health issues with our public safety personnel.

As this is an active investigation, more information will be provided as it becomes available.

Drug Investigation Continues With 13 Arrests

Arrest Made in Gilmer Drug Bust

ELLIJAY, GA – According to the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, an ongoing investigation into a local “drug network” has brought 13 new arrests.

Gilmer deputies worked alongside agents of the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force and other entities to perform the arrests warrants yesterday, September 6. The charges currently stand as Conspiracy to Violate the Ga Controlled Substances Act and Use of a communication device to facilitate a drug transaction. Those arrested include Eddie Adame, Brittany Alexander, Charles Bentjen, Ethan Bradburn, Dakota Burgess, David Cates, April Defoor, Tonya Garrett, Joseph Mann, Daniel Rittenberry, Brandon Sanford, Todd Stewart, and Bryson Timms.

When questioned about the arrests, Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson stated it was an “extremely good job by the drug task force with the investigation they have done.” These arrest come on the heels of 5 other recent arrests by the task force. Nicholson also told FYN the continued arrests are prime examples of the teamwork between the local counties and the task force.

FYN further questioned Sheriff Nicholson on his deputy’s role in the investigation’s success, to which he replied, “I attribute a lot of the success of this investigation to three things; hard work by the drug task force, the additional man power assigned to the task force by the Pickens,Gilmer, and Fannin Sheriff’s Offices, and last, but not least, the free flow of drug information that has come about in the last couple of months, not in light of, but after some untimely deaths in which drug use was involved.”

Be sure to read the full press release below:

September 7, 2017

The investigation of a methamphetamine distribution “network” continues.

Agents of the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force, along with deputies from Gilmer, Pickens and Fannin County Sheriffs’ Offices, officers from Ellijay and Jasper Police Dept, Probation Officers and DA’s Investigators conducted a “round-up” operation on Wednesday, Sept. 6th, serving arrest warrants on individuals involved in the ongoing methamphetamine investigation. Thirteen (13) individuals were taken into custody. These individuals have been charged with Conspiracy to Violate the Ga Controlled Substances Act and Use of a communication device to facilitate a drug transaction.

Those charged are: Eddie Adame, Brittany Alexander, Charles Bentjen, Ethan Bradburn, Dakota Burgess, David Cates, April Defoor, Tonya Garrett, Joseph Mann, Daniel Rittenberry, Brandon Sanford, Todd Stewart (Pickens) and Bryson Timms.

At the time of this release, no bond has been set and they remain in jail.


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Drug Task Force Arrests Four in Month Long Investigation

Arrest Made in Gilmer Drug Bust

ELLIJAY, GA – At this time, FYN can confirm the arrests of four individuals in relation to an investigation by the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force.

Crystal Norton, Russell Scoggins, Benji Sanford and Rusty Marshall have all been arrested. As a recent press release from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office states, charges among the four range from drug possession to RICO violations. According to Justice.gov, RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, states  “It is unlawful for anyone employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.”

The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office has made the following Press Release, but after several attempts to obtain the booking reports for those arrested, FYN is still awaiting reply for our Open Records Requests.

On August 18, 2017 at approximately 5:36 am, agents of the Zell Miller Mtn Parkway Drug Task Force and deputies from Gilmer and Pickens counties executed a search warrant at the residence of Crystal Norton off of Forestry Dr in Ellijay. During the execution of the search warrant, approximately 40 grams of methamphetamine and 33 xanax pills were seized.
Later that day, a consent search was conducted at the residence of Russ Scoggins off of River Hill Rd. During this search, approximately 5 grams of marijuana was seized.
These searches were pursuant to a several month long investigation by the ZMMPDTF into methamphetamine and prescription pills distribution.
The following individuals have been arrested in connection with this investigation: Crystal Norton, Russell Scoggins, Benji Sanford and Rusty Marshall.

Charges range from the possession of the drugs located during the searches to Conspiracy to VGCSA, RICO and use of a communication device to commit crimes.

Arrest Made in River Hill Shooting


CHERRY LOG, GA – According to recent information from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation  (GBI), an arrest has been made in relation to the shooting death of Charles Patrick Thurman, 26, of Ellijay.

Brenton Thaddeus Pastuzka, 27, of Ellijay, was arrested earlier today, July 26, on charges of possession of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. The GBI has stated the charges are a direct result of the investigation of the death, but the investigation is still continuing onward.

The GBI’s full news release states:

On Thursday, July 20, 2017 at approximately 4:00 AM, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was requested by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office to assist with a death investigation. At approximately 3:30 AM, a 911 call for assistance in reference to a shooting was received by the Gilmer County 911 Center. Deputies responded to a location near River Hill Rd. where they found Charles Patrick Thurman, 26, of Ellijay, deceased from an apparent gunshot wound. The person responsible for shooting Thurman has been identified. The shooting appears to be the result of a domestic dispute.

On Wednesday, July, 26, 2017, Brenton Pastuszka, 27, of Ellijay, was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. These charges were taken as a result of the investigation into the shooting death of Charles Patrick Thurman. Pastuszka was the other person involved in the domestic dispute which resulted in Thurman’s death. The investigation is still ongoing. Upon the completion of the investigation it will be submitted to the District Attorney for review and prosecution.

Check out FYN’s previous information on the Shooting Death in “Alleged Murder in Gilmer County” and “GBI Issues Statement on Shooting Death.”

Locals charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana and Possession of a Schedule One Drug


Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said “We are still fighting the war on drugs in Gilmer County”

as Gilmer County Sheriff’s Deputies and Detectives raided two homes early Friday morning, March 31st, as part of an ongoing drug investigation.

Larry Hill


Larry Hill, age 70, was arrested at his residence at 6129 Chatsworth Highway on Friday after the execution of a Search Warrant by the Criminal Investigations Division. He was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana and Possession of a Schedule One Drug, a highly concentrated THC oil. Weighing scales and a money counter was also confiscated along with almost $31,000 in cash which authorities say are all fruits of the crime of drug distribution.

Simultaneously, authorities executed a second Search Warrant at the residence of Larry Hill’s son, Danny Hill,Danny Hill

age 51, at 11362 Chatsworth Highway. Authorities confiscated additional processed marijuana and 117 marijuana plants from a multi-stage indoor marijuana growing operation. Danny Hill was charged with Manufacturing Marijuana and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Other charges related to possession of marijuana will be forthcoming.

Both father and son appeared to have been conspiring together to provide the illegal substance here in Gilmer and Murray County

Drugs, Weapons, & Cash seized in Gilmer Deputy’s traffic stop

L-R: Deputy Jason Jw Holcombe, K-9 Hella, and Corporal Andy Page

L-R: Deputy Jason Jw Holcombe, K-9 Hella, and Corporal Andy Page

According to the Gilmer County Sheriff’s office a traffic stop resulted in a drug bust.

Wednesday at approximately 1:30 a.m. on January 4th, Corporal Andy Page conducted a traffic stop on Hwy. 515 south of the Hwy. 382 connector on a blue in color Chevrolet Malibu.

Upon making contact with the two occupants, Cpl. page smelled the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. A subsequent search of the occupants and vehicle by Page and Deputy Jason Holcombe yielded approximately 12.5 grams of marijuana, 11 Hydrocodone tablets, 25 Ecstasy tablets, and over $3,300 in cash. A Smith and Wesson handgun was also seized during the stop. Both occupants were arrested

Great job by Cpl. Page, his beloved partner K-9 Hella, Deputy Jason Holcombe and the entire “A” night shift for their assistance.


Traffic Stop Leads to Drug Bust


According to an incident report filed with the East Ellijay Police Department, an arrest was made on Demarcus Antonio Hobson, 22, and Zachariah Nicely, 18, at 1:40am on November 1 after a traffic stop led to discovery of drugs in the vehicle.

Lieutenant Shane Bowman has reported that both suspects could face similar charges including Possession of Firearms During a Crime, Possession of Cocaine, and Possession of Marijuana over an Ounce.

Within the Incident Report, Officer Tommy Long stated he “observed a vehicle traveling North on Highway 515 in the area of First Avenue failing to maintain its lane of travel.”

As he proceeded to stop the vehicle, he noticed a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicles and both men inside the vehicle acting nervously which led to him calling an additional officer, Tony Heath, for backup.

Between the two officers, the report has indicated several drugs located in and around the vehicle including Marijuana, Crack Cocaine, Powder Cocaine, and Xanax Bars.

Though both denied knowledge of the drugs, they were taken into custody without incident.

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