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2007 not without chuckles, headscratchers

Each year on New Year's Day, the Citizen examines those stories that made our eyes twinkle, our brows rise or our jaws drop in the annual 2007 News of the Weird review:

Rockdale Sheriff's Office gets the finger

The evidence pointed to something sinister in August.

However, upon further examination into what was thought to be a severed human finger found in the back yard of a south Rockdale County residence, investigators declared it a false alarm.

A family reported to the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office one evening that they found a human finger on their back deck. Investigators quickly collected the finger, sealed it in an evidence bag and sent it to the medical examiner's office.

The next day, RCSO deputies and K-9 units conducted a sweep of the area along Ga. Highway 138 South, just north of Union Church Road. A Georgia State Patrol helicopter was also called to fly over the area in search of a possible body.

However, further review of the severed finger by the examiner's office confirmed that the lost digit was not human but actually made of rubber. The search was called off and investigators were then left wondering who was responsible for giving them the finger.

Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington said the deputies were doing their due diligence in investigating what could have been a dead body.

He added the rubber finger was good enough to fool the residents.

"It had a fingernail and everything," he said. "It has jagged skin like it had been torn away and everything. I've actually never seen anything that looked that real."

'Grandpa bandit' strikes seven banks

In an alleged case of an elderly bag-boy gone horribly wrong, a 69-year-old Covington man was arrested and charged in November in connection with a string of seven bank robberies in Georgia and Tennessee.

The suspect, identified as Bobby Joe Phillips, is accused of starting off his crime spree with the First Georgia Community Bank on U.S. 278 in Covington in September before going on to rob the First Tennessee Bank on Cedar Bluff Road in Knoxville on Oct. 1 and again on Oct. 12; Sun Trust Bank in Suwanee on Oct. 24; the Tennessee Members First Federal Credit Union in Knoxville on Nov. 1 and Nov. 9; and the Warner Robins Bank on Nov. 8.

"He confessed to the robbery in Covington," said Sgt. Arvo Bowen, of the Covington Police Department. "He said he had just lost his job at Kroger and just decided to rob a bank. He did it the next day."

Phillips worked at the register and bagged groceries at the store, which is located just behind the First Georgia Bank in Newton Plaza, Bowen said.

Phillips was apprehended outside a motel in Perry after he was seen driving his red Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck by an police officer.

Fake cop offers Indian tracking expertise

A Tennessee man who reportedly made a false claim to be an agent with the U.S. Marshal's Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation was taken into custody by Newton County authorities last year after offering his assistance in the search for a dismembered woman's remains.

The suspect, Derrick Ethan Strong, 40, of East Ridge, Tenn., claimed in an interview with investigators to be an Apache and Creek Indian Nation chief, saying that he could help them find the rest of the victim's body, according to Investigator Mickey Kitchens.

He also reportedly told authorities that he held "badge No. 2" with the U.S. Marshal's Service and FBI, which was later determined to be false.

"Needless to say, the U.S. Marshal's office said they had never heard of him and the FBI said they don't have a badge No. 2," Kitchens said.

Strong was charged with one count of impersonating a law enforcement officer.

Newton County teacher marries on roller coaster

COVINGTON - Nancy Hall and Steve Bushell were married in July.

She wore a white wedding gown. He wore a tuxedo. And the couple's friends acted as best man and maid of honor. But those were about the only things conventional about their wedding.

The ceremony wasn't held in a church - or even on solid ground.

The Covington couple said their vows at 7 a.m. on a Saturday in July atop Goliath, a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia.

They know they aren't an ordinary couple, so they didn't feel the need for a normal wedding day.

"The response I get from friends when I tell them is, 'This sounds exactly like something you would do,'" said Hall, a second-grade teacher at Rocky Plains Elementary School and co-owner of Healing House Yoga.

Newborn residents offended by movie prop

NEWBORN - Some Newborn residents passing through town in early August were shocked with the addition of a new sign on one of the buildings.

At a vacant building on North Johnson Street was a sign with a picture of a woman with propellers on her breasts advertising a gentleman's club.

Little did passersby know that the sign was being used as a prop for "Good Intentions," a film starring Elaine Hendrix, LeAnn Rimes and Luke Perry, that was filmed in and around Newborn in August.

Newborn Mayor J.W. Cummings said he received the first call from a concerned citizen about the sign around 4:45 a.m.

"It was all one big misunderstanding; they didn't know a movie was being filmed," Cummings said about the complaints that continued throughout the day. "Based on the information given to me, I had no idea (the props) would be in such poor taste."

In a statement, he assured residents that any other movie filmed in Newborn would be "scrutinized more closely."