10 stories you cared most about in 2016

Thousands spent their precious time reading these stories this past year. As measured by online analytics, these stories received a balance of the most clicks and time spent on the story.

12 indicted, almost $1 million drugs seized in investigation of ‘Lenox Park Cartel’

Almost $1 million worth of drugs were seized and 12 people indicted in March following a 10-month investigation into a group known informally as the “Lenox Park Cartel.” The investigation turned up 20 pounds of methamphetamine, a half pound of cocaine and 6 pounds of marijuana, according to the Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad. Half of them have pleaded guilty, and the other half are scheduled to have trial in the new year.

Former Gainesville Scoutmaster, church targeted by civil suit claiming sexual abuse in 1985

A former Gainesville Scoutmaster is accused of sexual abuse in a civil lawsuit filed in March. Royal Fleming Weaver Jr. is accused of raping a boy in 1985 at a scouting event. Weaver served as the scoutmaster for a troop sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. Weaver and the church claim they can’t be sued because the statute of limitations has passed. The case is still under advisement by a judge.

Family of 3 kids killed in wreck: ‘Remember them as who they were’

A June wreck in South Hall killed a 16-year-old, 9-year-old and 4-year-old. All three were remembered fondly by their family, friends and teachers.

GBI: Suspect tried to drown trooper before being shot, killed

A man was shot and killed by a Georgia State Patrol trooper after the man fled authorities and tried to drown a trooper during a struggle, according to the patrol. The man had fled a road check on Ga. 53 just south of Interstate 985. Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said in October he has been reviewing the statements from law enforcement and interviews with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to decide whether to bring charges against the trooper. The Department of Public Safety said Thursday the case is still pending. 

Witnesses detail man’s final hours before drug death in murder trial

A Flowery Branch man’s desire to try LSD ended in his 2013 death, according to testimony in this February trial against Jacob Scarborough, who was accused of selling him the drugs. Austin Brantley, 19, of Flowery Branch died of “complications of methylone,” according to Hall County Coroner Marion Merck. Scarborough was acquitted of all charges in the death.

2 Injured Hall firefighters ‘disappointed,’ ‘saddened’ by county’s decision to end their employment

Two of the three Hall County firefighters injured in a July 2014 training incident called their separation from the county disappointing, one saying he was “saddened by the county’s decision.” The other could not be reached for comment for this February story. TJ Elliott, Will Griffin and Stephen Jackson all suffered severe injuries in a July 22, 2014, training incident when the bucket on a ladder truck fell 44 feet. Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said the three had received full benefits and workers’ compensation since the incident and were “encouraged to review a list of other available job openings within Hall County government.”

Shooting victim’s sister awoke to gunshots, her brother lying on the ground outside

Jaquerian Harrison, 21, of Gainesville was shot multiple times in April while hanging out in the Orchard Brook Apartments common area. His sister recounted what she heard that night. Three men were charged with felony murder in the case. This month, a motion filed with the courts noted the bullet that killed Harrison was not from the guns found in the possession of three co-defendants. One co-defendant pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and a tentative trial date has been set for January.

Area homeless agency board members quit as same-sex couple applies

Half the members of the board of Family Promise resigned in May as a same-sex couple was being welcomed into the program. Acting president at the time, Rustin Smith, confirmed there were disagreements about accepting the couple; he also said some board members left for other reasons. Lakewood Baptist Church, attended by several of those who resigned, pulled its support as a host in the wake of the departures. Family Promise partners with area churches to host homeless families and provide them with support to overcome homelessness.

Former resource officer chief used tax money for $10K buying spree

The former supervisor of the county’s school resource officer program, Lt. Earl Roach, spent thousands of tax dollars on guns and gadgets he kept after his retirement in February and only returned after an investigation into the purchases was launched by law enforcement. All of the purchases were made between November 2013 and October 2015 on a Hall County Board of Education credit card and were registered under the name of Lt. Earl Roach, who retired Feb. 29, according to a Sheriff’s Office internal affairs report obtained by The Times. According to GBI Region 8 Special Agent in-Charge Kim Williams, the case is still open and under investigation.

Fireworks ignite July 4 festivities

Fireworks displays were aplenty in Northeast Georgia this year, and apparently they were pretty popular.

10 stories you cared most about in 2016

Gainesville man charged with child exploitation

A Gainesville man is accused of having photos of underage girls, according to authorities.

Phillippus Rudolph Uys, 56, of Gainesville, is charged with child exploitation. He was booked Thursday into the Hall County Jail, where he remains.

According to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Uys allegedly had in his possession photos “of females under the age of 18, engaged in lewd exposure and sexual activity.”

Uys also has an immigration hold.

“We have a couple of investigators who work these types of things and get alerted when people are downloading or sharing videos or images,” Lt. Scott Ware said. “At the point that that occurred, investigations were initiated.”

The case is still under investigation by the sheriff’s office.

Gainesville man charged with child exploitation

Extras needed for numerous productions

Whether you’re an aspiring actor or just looking for for a new hobby, being an extra can be a tough but rewarding experience from both sides.

In 2017, a ton of movies and TV shows will film in Georgia and they will need extras. Two Netflix original series, “Stranger Things” and “Ozark,” will continue filming at the start of the year, according to extras and a website dedicated to casting, http://ift.tt/MUkyaf.

If the film industry is something that interests you professionally or recreationally, there are several places to start off.

Jazz Wages, a Gainesville Theatre Alliance alumn, has used several casting companies throughout her career.

“In regards to gaining set experience and overall industry knowledge, I like being an extra. I notice extras a lot more now in movies,” Wages said.

The Flowery Branch woman, who has been in movies like “Identity Thief” starring Jason Bateman and television shows like “The Vampire Diaries,” suggests Tammy Smith Casting for those interested in becoming an extra. “The Vampire Diaries,” as well as its spinoff “The Originals,” will both film this upcoming year.

Tammy Smith Casting has a website, http://ift.tt/1cVGRYd, and a Facebook page where they post the most up-to-date information. On any given day, posts will request specific people for specific roles and what they will be doing.

For instance, they might ask for brunette women ages 30-35 to shoot in Atlanta. If you meet the required listing, you need to simply send in photographs and wait for a response.

She has also used Marinella Hume Casting and CL Casting for various roles.

The pay can be dependent on the company, how many hours working, how featured the role is, and other factors. Some roles range from minimum wage to much more per hour.

When Wages was a part of the extra crew for the film “Endless Love” in 2014, she was paid for 10 days of work, which is more than usual for the job. Most extra positions only last one or two days, she said.

“I know someone who earned $3,000 in one summer doing extra work,” she said.

Conor Brophy, another GTA alumni, recently got his big break in the sci-fi adventure film “Passengers” as an extra.

“It was a first-class experience all the way. It was a dream come true to be there,” Brophy said.

The movie features big-name actors like Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, who Brophy saw on set.

“I especially enjoyed watching the actors rehearse with the director, Morten Tyldum, and observing how each shot came together,” Brophy said.

The movie was filmed at the new Pinewood Studios stage in Fayetteville. Brophy’s involvement was mostly limited to last January.

“The stage and set was absolutely incredible and watching all the creative teams coming together to produce art was inspiring,” Brophy said.

Extras needed for numerous productions

Domestic violence center in need of goods, volunteers

As the holidays draw to an end, the demand for help from Gateway Domestic Violence Center tends to increase, the center’s executive director Jessica Butler said.

“We’re really grateful that we’ve had so much good community support in the last year, so we are hopeful that it will continue in 2017,” she said.

Butler said the center is asking for donations as well as volunteers wishing to lend a hand in person.

“Some of the things we always need are just things we use to operate a household,” Butler said, including items such as trash bags, laundry detergent and disinfecting wipes.

A full “needs list” is available on the center’s website, gatewaydvcenter.org. Other items include batteries, cleaning supplies and umbrella strollers.

Monetary donations can also be made on the website.

Donated items can be taken to the center’s thrift stores, which can be found at 1080 Dawsonville Highway and 1642 Park Hill Drive.

Butler said volunteers will help answer crisis calls, work with children support groups and take care of other household duties.

“We use a lot of interns as volunteers, so we’re hoping that we’ll be having a new group of volunteers starting with the new semester in school,” Butler said. “We always need people to help with children support groups on Monday and Thursday evenings.”

Most of the training is on the job, Butler said.

People interested in volunteering should contact Shelby Kinsey at the shelter’s main number 770-536-5860 or at sreidkinsey@hotmail.com.

Domestic violence center in need of goods, volunteers

School leaders look ahead to 2017

Looking ahead to the new year, Gainesville and Hall County school officials remain committed to managing growth and funding capital projects, while staying focused on student achievement.

Gainesville School Board Chairwoman Delores Diaz said that adding to the challenges ahead will be “adjusting to a new funding formula from the state.”

The funding formula proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission is expected to be enacted by Georgia lawmakers. According to analysis by the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, the proposed funding formula won’t keep pace with costs, will eliminate the annual adjustment for teachers’ salaries in the current formula and shrink spending on each student over time.

“This formula directly impacts our budget planning that is imminent,” Diaz said.

However, Hall School Board Chairman Nath Morris said the current funding mechanism in place since 1985 known as Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding is inadequate.

“It’s time to reevaluate how we fund education when local school boards have no options in  dealing with significant increases in costs of employee health premiums and retirement plans that are set by the state,” Morris told The Times. “The remaining portion of funding not covered by QBE, is borne locally.”

Morris said that Hall’s 21 percent exemption rate from school taxes — one of the highest in the state —  has kept the county from keeping pace with neighboring counties since the recession, even though home sale values have exceeded the rate of growth.

“The bottom line is we need to take a serious look at where our priorities are and fund accordingly,” Morris said. “I feel education should be at the top.”

Diaz and Morris agree that the school systems need to do a better job at giving all students the opportunity to succeed.

Diaz cites “generational poverty” and the many social issues that accompany it as an impediment to students’ achievement and better college and career ready performance index (CCRPI) scores.

Morris said achievement goals such as achieving reading level by the third grade “can be challenging with our diverse population.”

Diaz said that Gainesville school officials will be faced in 2017 with selecting a new superintendent to replace the departing Wanda Creel.

“Each superintendent has a personal leadership style and vision for education” Diaz said. “We must prepare for the transition and adapt to changes.”

Hall’s School Superintendent Will Schofield calls on education leaders to reevaluate the “one-size-fits all K-12 system,” which he said often misses the mark.

“Millions of students leave U.S. schools every year with little or no hope of participating in post-secondary training,” Schofield said. “We need to provide numerous additional pathways to graduation. “This will be fundamental if we are to prepare students who come with incredibly varied interests and aptitudes for the high-paying jobs of the future.”

School leaders look ahead to 2017

Gainesville cop shaves head for boy battling leukemia

Lt. Andy Smith tied his own aqua-blue bib and sat down for a haircut.

His barber for the day was 6-year-old Riley Johnson, a Gainesville boy battling B-Cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia who was giving him a shave similar to his own.

“We’re twins now, and he’s not in it alone,” Smith said.

Gainesville Police and former Atlanta Falcons Jerious Norwood and Chris Owens surprised Riley at his Gainesville home Friday, presenting him with a signed Falcons helmet.

On Sunday, Riley will be an honorary team captain at the Georgia Dome when the Falcons play the New Orleans Saints.

Riley was diagnosed in May and has been going weekly to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Scottish Rite hospital for chemotherapy. The Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research chose Riley to be the honorary captain at Sunday’s game.

“This has been such an experience,” Riley’s father J.R. Johnson said Friday, as his son and the former Atlanta Falcons played with his train sets. “This entire community has wrapped their arms around us and just shown us that they’re in it with us.”

Standing on a footstool, Riley took the clippers while Norwood and Owens praised his haircutting technique.

“As football players, you know what we do? We’ve got to finish the drill,” Norwood said, as he shifted Riley to shave the other half of Smith’s head.

After the haircut, Riley, Norwood and Owens took to the front yard for a quick game. Evading the would-be tacklers, Riley spiked the ball at the end of the lawn.

“Just to be at the game is a big deal, but to see Riley flip a coin and be captain for the day is breathtaking,” J.R. Johnson said.

The game will be at 4:25 p.m. Sunday on Fox/WAGA-5.

Gainesville cop shaves head for boy battling leukemia

Oakwood man accused of having pics of underage girls

An Oakwood man was accused last week of having pictures of underage girls, according to authorities.

Adam Christian Gregorio Mecomber, 21, was charged with child exploitation. He was booked into the the Hall County Jail Dec. 22 and released on Dec. 24.

An attempt to reach Mecomber for comment was unsuccessful Friday.

According to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Mecomber allegedly had possession of “images of females under the age of 18, engaged in lewd exposure and sexual activity.”

The case is still under investigation by the sheriff’s office.

“We have a couple of investigators who work these types of things and get alerted when people are downloading or sharing videos or images,” Lt. Scott Ware said. “At the point that that occurred, investigations were initiated.”

Oakwood man accused of having pics of underage girls

Uruguay define su plantel para el Sudamericano Sub-20 en Ecuador

La selección uruguaya fútbol Sub-20 masculino definió el plantel de jugadores que participarán en el Sudamericano de esa categoría que se realizará en Ecuador a partir del 18 de enero, y que otorgará cuatro cupos al Mundial de la categoría, en Corea del Sur en 2017.

Uruguay define su plantel para el Sudamericano Sub-20 en Ecuador

Giménez rescata al Atlético

Dos acciones de José María Giménez levantaron al Atlético de Madrid en el segundo tiempo de su amistoso en Arabia Saudí contra el Al Ittihad, al que doblegó desde la determinación del futbolista uruguayo, primero como origen del penalti del 2-2 y después como goleador de cabeza en el 2-3 final.

Giménez rescata al Atlético