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Top stories of 2008: County sees 10 die at hands of others

COVINGTON - Ten murders rocked the community during 2008 - two occurring in the city and eight in the county. Suspects have been arrested in all but two incidents.

The year began with a New Year's Day shooting of 38-year-old Dennis Rogers, who authorities say was shot in the back of the head while he sat in a car parked on Gum Tree Trail. Arrested and charged was Courtney Courtmentez Thornton, 25, of Atlanta, a passenger in the same vehicle.

· Only two weeks later, 43-year-old Catcilia Crowder was allegedly murdered by her estranged husband in their home at 120 Lake Lucinda Drive off Spring Road in western Newton County. The couple's 16-year-old daughter notified authorities that her mother had been shot around 5 a.m. on Jan. 16. The Crowders were in the midst of divorce proceedings. Darrell Antonio Crowder, 47, was arrested and charged.

· Later that month, a double murder occurred in The Falls subdivision at 695 Freeman Drive. Rachel Buser, 30, and Jeffrey Nevels, 40, were found dead at a residence located at 695 Freeman Drive. Authorities were alerted to the crime after being contacted by one of the victim's employers, who became concerned after the employee failed to show up for work. No arrest has been made in connection with these homicides, although Newton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Bill Watterson said at the time, "There was no forced entry into the house and we believe that our victims knew their assailant."

· In what Covington Police term, "a drug deal gone bad," 20-year-old Ashley O'bryant Vinson was shot and killed at the Magnolia Heights apartment complex on March 10. Authorities have said suspects Cecil Freeman Allen, 18, and Julian Antun Holloway, 18, were attempting to purchase marijuana from Vinson when a disagreement occurred. Vinson was shot in the head at close range with a .40 caliber handgun. Police say the perpetrators then transported the victim to a nearby residence, leaving his body in the backseat of the vehicle parked in the garage. Authorities found him there a short time later. Both Holloway and Allen were charged in connection with the murder.

· A woman returned from work on March 30 and found her 28-year-old son, Gary Lamar Jones, dead at her home located on Benedict Drive. A suspect was located in New Jersey and authorities later arrested Rodney Young, 40, of Bridgeton, N.J., who was apparently known to the family. Jones was a member of Springfield Baptist Church, which took an active role in solving the crime, offering a $10,000 reward for the capture of the person responsible.

· A man was accused of killing his roommate at a home in Trelawney subdivision in late April. Abel Torres, 28, was arrested as he fled on a bus en route to California after he allegedly killed 29-year-old Fernando Gonzales. Authorities learned of the murder after a Georgia State Patrol trooper was flagged down on Interstate 20 and advised by two Hispanic men that "there was a problem" at their residence. When NCSO deputies arrived at the scene, Gonzales' body was discovered.

· An afternoon argument on July 15 erupted in gunfire on Kirkland Road, leaving one man dead and two men wounded. Delaney Douglas Robinson, 22, of 451 Valley Hill Road, Riverdale, was arrested at a nearby business shortly after the incident. Seventeen-year-old Joseph Matthew Miller died and 18-year-old and 19-year-old shooting victims were treated and released from area hospitals.

· Murder was the outcome of an apparent domestic disagreement at a home located at 15 Ashley Court on Aug. 23. Carmen Guanchez, 27, the mother of two, was found dead after friends became suspicious because she had not shown up for work. When authorities arrived on the scene, the woman's children - a 3-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl - could not be located and it was first feared they were missing. It was soon discovered they were safe with relatives, but investigators zeroed in on the woman's husband, Porfiro Guanchez, 27, also known as Porfiro Roman, as their No. 1 suspect. A warrant has been issued for his arrest and he has not yet been apprehended. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Guanchez a/k/a Roman is asked to contact the U.S. Marshall's Office at 770-508-2500 or call the NCSO at 678-625-1406.

· A dice game ended with one man dead and three men wounded when 18-year-old Jamaal Pridgett of 214 East Richardson St., Oxford, allegedly began shooting inside a small apartment on West Street on Oct. 7. The CPD said the men were shot multiple times with a handgun and were all left fighting for their lives. Jerome Glover, 20, of 6122 Hudson St., Oxford, lost the battle and died two days later. The other victims were expected to recover from their wounds. Police say that Pridgett robbed the victims before shooting them.

By Crystal Tatum

Staff Reporter

A 32-year-old local man who tested positive for tuberculosis was arrested in May after he refused to follow his medical treatment plan.

Anthony Guinn Underwood of 170 Heritage Way in Covington, was jailed when he did not follow instructions to remain confined at home and take medication administered by the health department.

Officials with the East Metro Health District determined that Underwood infected at least 32 people, with six of those contracting active TB.

The investigation spanned several counties and approximately 250 of Underwood's contacts were tested.

Underwood is expected to remain confined for medication until late winter or early spring of 2009 to ensure the eradication of the slow-growing TB bacterium, according to an East Metro Health District spokesman.

SideBar: 3 died in house fires

By Barbara Knowles

News Editor

COVINGTON - House fires resulted in three deaths this year.

The City of Covington Fire Department responded to a call on the morning of Nov. 22 on College Avenue. Firefighters reported flames visible when they arrived at the scene and the result was the first fire death for the city in more than 20 years. Eighty-five-year-old Aubry Sego Whelchel died in the fire which began in the chimney.

Investigators said there were no smoke alarms in the home.

A fatal fire also occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 17 at a restored home on Elks Club Road. A neighbor summoned the Newton County Fire Department to the scene around 1 a.m. and when firefighters arrived, flames were shooting through the roof and setting nearby trees aflame. Officials said they believe the man who died in the fire fell asleep while smoking, tried to exit the house, but couldn't get out. 73-year-old Garland G. Umberger Jr.'s body was found about 3 feet from the front door.

Also, a 70-year-old woman died in a house fire on Emily Trace on March 14. A call was received from the woman at 911 dispatch around 8:15 and she said her house was on fire and that she couldn't get out. "She reported that her sofa was on fire and that she had a discarded cigarette in either a trash receptacle or an ash tray that had been knocked over, which started the fire," said Chief Mike Satterfield at the time of the incident. "She stated at that point that she could not get out of the house."

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.