Fire At Benny's In Trion

Firefighters battled a large fire at Benny’s Convenience Store on Highway 27 in Trion on Thursday morning.  Several area fire departments responded to the blaze.  Early reports indicate that the fire may have started in the kitchen area of the store.  The store was known for their deli and served breakfast starting at 5 AM.  WZQZ News has had no reports of any injuries in connection with the fire.  Both lanes of Highway 27 were closed due to the fire.  We will have more information as it becomes available.


Highway 27 at the Selman Drive entrance is still blocked. No traffic is allowed through because of fire hoses across the highway. It may still be a little while before the highway is opened back up. Roadways are blocked at Rossville Boulevard on Highway 27 for southbound traffic and at Back Penn Road on Highway 27 for Northbound traffic. Please use alternate routes if you need to travel from Summerville to Trion.

Shooting Victim Passes Away

Sheriff Mark Schrader says that Daryl Marsh has passed away.  Marsh was the surviving victim from the August 27th shooting below Holland.  He was still being treated in a Chattanooga Hospital, according to the sheriff.  Marsh passed away this morning.  Sheriff Schrader says that Steven Mauldin, the suspect in the shooting, will now be facing additional charges. WZQZ News will have more information as it becomes available.

Arrest Report - Thursday September 19, 2019

Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Thursday September 19, 2019:


One Airlifted In Armuchee Accident Wednesday

Hometown Headlines reports that a Wednesday afternoon collision on U.S. 27 near Stonebridge Drive and the former Piggly Wiggly critically injures one driver, according to the state patrol.

From the Georgia State Patrol:

A 2006 Chevrolet Silverado was traveling north on U.S. 27.  The Chevrolet traveled across the central turn lane and into the southbound lanes of the highway.

The Chevrolet struck a 2018 Jeep Compass in the right southbound lane.  After the initial impact, the Chevrolet truck left the west edge of the roadway, overturned several times and came to a final rest on its passenger side.

The Jeep traveled off the roadway and overturned before coming to rest on its top.  The driver of the Chevrolet pickup was life flighted.  The driver of the Jeep was transported for minor injuries.  The driver of the Chevrolet is suspected to have been impaired at the time of the crash and charges are pending.

Post 38, Rome, is the handling the investigation and the names of those involved have not been given at this time.

Hometown Headlines

Three Remaining Democrats Say They Aren't Changing Parties

After a round of defections from the Chattooga County Democratic Party this week that included Magistrate Judge Tracy Maddux, Clerk of Court Kim James, Sheriff Mark Schrader and Tax Commissioner Joy Hampton, three officials say that they are sticking with the Democratic Party.  Chattooga County School Board Member Eddie Elsberry, Chattooga County Probate Judge Jon Payne and Chattooga County Coroner Earle Rainwater all confirmed to WZQZ News that they have no plans to change parties.

Judge Jon Payne has stated that he will not seek reelection next year, but did tell WZQZ News on Wednesday afternoon “I see no reason for changing parties.” Payne did say that if he were seeking reelection he would have to consider how he would run, but did say that the local Democratic Party had been loyal to him during his ten terms in office as Chattooga County’s Probate Judge.

Chattooga County Coroner Earle Rainwater told WZQZ News “I am not jumping ship.  I have been asked that question several times because of what has happened, but I’m not going anywhere.” The longtime coroner added, “I believe that you don’t forget where you came from and you remain loyal to the people that have been loyal to you.” Mr. Rainwater indicated that if he does seek reelection in 2020 it will be as a Democrat.

Chattooga County School Board Member Eddie Elsberry, who was first elected as a Democrat in 2004 and was appointed to the board this year has told WZQZ News that he has not made up his mind if he will be seeking a full term on the board of education, but has said that he will remain a Democrat.  Elsberry is the only Democrat serving on the Board of Education and was appointed to the position by the other four members who are all Republicans. Elsberry told WZQZ News “I am a free thinking, gun totin’, God-fearing, baby kissing Democrat. If it was good enough to get me elected then, it is good enough now.” Elsberry added, “Folks just need to know the candidates are not defined by the party. The candidates define the party.”

Mr. Elsberry told WZQZ News on Thursday morning in response to comments on social media, “I don’t have plans to run but like I say ‘ I like to keep my options open’. I would run if I felt led to run.”


Gaylesville Man Arrested In Chattooga County After Chase

A Gaylesville, Alabama man is behind bars after attempting to elude Alabama law enforcement officers on Monday afternoon.

According to Cedar Bluff Police Investigator Chris O’Neal, while patrolling on Highway 68 K-9 Officer Chris Vaughn observed an S-10 pickup truck without a tag and recognized the driver as Waylon Dale Epps, who Vaughn knew had outstanding arrests warrants.

When Vaughn turned around and attempted to initiate a traffic stop, Epps sped away through Gaylesville onto County Road 91 and traveled onto County Road 56 then County Road 97 and back on County Road 56 into Chattooga County, Georgia.

With assistance from the Chattooga Sheriff’s Office, Epps was stopped on Highway 100. Officers found a quantity of meth in addition to a shotgun. Chattooga County authorities have charged Epps with drugs and weapons charges and possibly other pending charges.

Epps will also face charges for warrants from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar Bluff Police and Floyd County. Epps was wanted on outstanding warrants for assault and driving while revoked in Cherokee County and for a seatbelt violation and for failing to appear out of Floyd County.

Cherokee County deputies and the Georgia State Patrol also assisted.

WEIS Radio

Governor Kemp Coming To Northwest Georgia Tomorrow

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is expected to be in Northwest Georgia on Friday.  According to the governor’s itinerary, he is scheduled to be at Roper Corporation tomorrow.

The visit is part of the governor’s “Georgia-Made Tour”. Governor Kemp announced the statewide “Georgia Made” tour is to raise awareness and show support for local businesses and manufacturers providing jobs and opportunity to communities across Georgia. Kemp said, “For the next several months, I look forward to highlighting what local businesses are doing to employ hardworking Georgians in rural communities and how we can help those businesses continue to succeed.”

The governor is visiting Roper Corporation to highlight the $43 million investment at the LaFayette plant that is expected to create 100 new jobs.


Man Drunk At Dollar Store In Summerville


Summerville Police were called to the Dollar General Store on Commerce Street in Summerville on Monday of this week after a man was reportedly running his shopping buggy into shelves and stumbling around the store.  Police arrived and found forty-nine-year-old Tony Grant Colbert unable to keep his balance.  Officers say that Mr. Colbert “kept falling asleep while (they were) speaking to him”.  Colbert told officers he had three beers.  He was arrested for public intoxication.

Georgia's Graduation Rate Inches Upward


Georgia’s 4-year high-school graduation rate continues to inch upward-but state education officials who released the news on Wednesday say there’s more work to be done. Georgia Department of Education spokeswoman Megan Frick notes the rate reached 82% for this past school year, up from 81 point 6% the year before. The national rate is 85 percent and Frick says to further improve the Georgia percentage they’ll be rolling out new programs.

Frick says that the key to better graduation rates is addressing things from an early grade.  She says “you can’t start in high school to address your graduation rate.”

Frick says she thinks a new emphasis on trade and technical skills and schools may be spurring students on to finish high school. by presenting alternatives to what’s been the conventional wisdom that a college degree is the be-all to end-all.

Frick says showing students alternatives to college while in high school can keeping them engaged.



World War II POW Honored Yesterday

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Each year the United States’ national  Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action recognition day is held in honor of prisoners of war. On this day military personnel and veterans across America are honored for their service and sacrifice as a POW or MIA.  Mr. Leo Lanier is Chattooga County’s only surviving prisoner of war.

Staff Sargent Leo Lanier served from 1942-1945 as part of the 8th Air Force 303 Bomb Group in Germany. On October 4th, 1943 he flew his first mission over Frankfurt, Germany. He was a ball-turret and waist gunner. On his first tour he flew 21 missions to Germany, 4 missions to France, and 1 to Karbonn, Norway. After these missions Sgt. Lanier was stationed at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where he was a tail-gunner with the 486th Bomb Group. On April 10th, 1945 Lanier flew his 7th mission where he was shot down over Berlin at Brandenburg, Germany. There he was captured and held with the Russian prisoners in Stalag 3A- camp in Luckenwalde, Germany. The Russian Army liberated him and he was brought back to the Elbe River where he was rejoined with American forces.

For his service to our country Sgt. Lanier was awarded the following medals:

WWII Victory Medal

Air Medal With 4 Oak Leaf Clusters

European Theater Ribbons with 3 Bronze Stars

Distinguished Flying Cross

Presidential Unit Citation from President Roosevelt

POW Medal

Mr. Lanier was honored yesterday with a luncheon at Jim’s Restaurant in Summerville that was attended by several elected officials and fellow World War II veterans, Mr. Bobby Lee Cook and Mr. Billy Locklear along with Mr. Hoyt Williams.

Chattooga Graduation Rates Released Wednesday Morning

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Chattooga County School Superintendent Jared Hosmer notified local media outlets on Wednesday that the Georgia Department of Education has release 2019 graduation numbers for the Chattooga County School District.

Currently the district includes Chattooga High School and Chattooga Academy.  The rates show improvement for both the high school and the academy.  Chattooga High School’s graduation rate is at 96.7%  and the Chattooga Academy graduation rate is 66.7%, giving an overall district-wide, four-year graduation rate of 87.3%.

Supt. Hosmer said, “After examining the 2019 graduation rates released by the Georgia Department of Education, I’d like to say that I’m extremely pleased with the progress that we are making. We will continue to work diligently until the Chattooga County School system reaches a graduation rate of 100%.”

LaFayette Fly-In This Weekend

LaFayette’s annual Fly-In & Cruise-In will be Saturday, Sept. 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at LaFayette Regional Airport. Admission is free. Free plane rides for ages 8-17. Free inflatable bouncers for children. Also helicopter and bi-wing plane rides available for purchase. Lunch served, all profits benefit Stocking Full of Love. 50/50 helicopter golf ball drop (winner receives 50% of funds raised). Fun for the entire family. See classic cars and airplanes in one location. For more information contact the airport at 706-638-7071.

Sheriff Announces Resignation From Democratic Party

Chattooga County Sheriff Mark Schrader announced today (Wednesday) that he has submitted his resignation to the Chattooga County Democratic Party. 

In a letter to the local party, the sheriff said that responses to a post he made over the weekend in which he said that his officers were helping Lumpkin County officials with an “antifa protest”.  Here is the post, that has since been deleted:

Some out of town Democrats took issue with the sheriff’s post and labeling the event his deputies attended as an “antifa protest.”  There were also KKK elements involved in the pro-Trump rally in Dalhonega that the sheriff did not mention in his post.  Sheriff Schrader told WZQZ News that he realized in retrospect that his post could be taken the wrong way and issued an apology and took the post down.

The sheriff told WZQZ News on Wednesday “I see where I could have worded the post differently.  The hateful comments were, by and large, from out of town Democrats and not our local Democrats.  However, I think that looking back on it, someone would have to have been looking for a reason to be upset about the post.”

Sheriff Schrader said that because of the backlash over the post and the hateful comments received by him and others in his department, he made the decision to not be aligned with the Democratic Party.  WZQZ News questioned the sheriff about that decision.  The sheriff admitted that he had already been considering not running as a Democrat for the next term.  In fact, the sheriff told WZQZ that he even considered running as an independent in the last election in 2016.

The sheriff submitted the following letter to the Chattooga County Democratic Party on Monday:


Sheriff Schrader added that he has not made up his mind how he will run in the next election.  He says that several Republicans have asked him to join their party, but no one from the Chattooga County Republican Party has reached out to him at the party level.  The sheriff said that he and his wife will continue to pray about the decision as to how he will run for re-election, and is leaving the door open to running as an independent.


Distracted Driving Scholarship For Alabama Students

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The partners at Morris, King and Hodge P.C. are happy to announce their 2020 Distracted Driving scholarship for Alabama students. Three scholarship winners will receive funds to go towards education expenses. Prizes will range from $2,000 to $1,000. Applicants must be seniors in an Alabama high school or freshman in an Alabama college in order to be eligible to apply. To apply, students must submit an essay of at least 1,000 words on the following topic:

What can we do as a community to convey to young drivers that texting and driving leads to serious and avoidable accidents?

The partners at Morris, King and Hodge hope that the scholarship will raise awareness about the growing issue of distracted driving in Alabama along with helping some deserving local students with college expenses. The deadline to apply is April 10, 2020. Students can apply online here:

Floyd County Police Seek Suspect

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Police are searching for a man who shot at officers Tuesday night.

According to Floyd County Police, the incident occurred while officers were serving a warrant on Sam Harris Road.

Jefferey Tyler Aycock should be considered armed and dangerous.

All info is confidential. Crime Line 706-236-5000

Arrest Report - Wednesday September 18, 2019

Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Wednesday September 18, 2019:

Tax Commissioner's Office Promoting Organ Donation

Tax Commissioner Joy Hampton and her staff promoting “LifeLink”

Chattooga County Tax Commissioner Joy Hampton announced that her office has partnered with LifeLink to promote organ donation. 

From Tax Commissioner Hampton:

The Tax Commissioner’s Office is sporting new T-Shirts as part of our partnership with LifeLink.  We have recently joined up with LifeLink to promote organ donation, and have lots of materials available in the office, from question and answer books to sign up forms.  
We will be doing lots more with LifeLink during National Donate Life Month in April, but I wanted to get an early start.  I have friends and family whose lives could be or have been improved by organ donation, so I am excited to help spread the word.  I have already learned some things I didn’t know about organ donation since meeting with LifeLink representatives- I didn’t realize that in many instances, a person can be helped by a living donor!

LaFayette Man Charged With DUI After Being Given A Ride By Police

A LaFayette man was arrested for driving under the influence and damaging property this past Sunday morning. 

LaFayette Police were called to a domestic dispute where they encountered Brennon Tate Causey.  Causey was advised by police not to drive home, and police then gave Causey a courtesy ride to his apartment.

A short time later Causey was found to be fighting with a different man.  Police responded and broke up the fight, but officers noticed that Causey’s truck was now located in his yard at his apartment.  When questioned by police, Causey admitted to walking back to where police had given him a courtesy ride and driving the vehicle back to his apartment.

In the meantime, a nearby resident said that someone in a truck that matched the description of Causey’s vehicle had hit and damaged a fence in their yard.

Causey was charged with DUI, failure to maintain a single lane and striking a fixed object.

Damage to the fence was estimated at $500.


Applications Being Accepted For Tillotson Grants

It’s that time of year again.  The Tillotson Menlo Charitable Foundation will now begin accepting grant applications for 2019.  The Foundation began in 2005 with a $1,000,000 donation from Tillotson Corporation and over the next five years the Tillotson Corporation contributed an additional $9,000,000 to the Foundation.  The amount of grant money is generally determined by the amount of interest accrued each year on the principle amount in the foundation account.

According to the Tillotson Menlo Charitable Foundation’s mission statement, “the Foundation shall seek to support, promote, improve and maintain the health, educational and cultural institutions serving the citizens of Menlo and Chattooga County and some surrounding areas”.

The Foundation intends to further its purpose by awarding financial assistance grants in the following areas:  educational and individual skills improvement; healthcare; economic development; community enhancement; individual and human development; the arts, culture and social welfare; and environmental improvement.

The foundation’s board members include Theresa Canada, Menlo; Paula Buice, Menlo; Jon Payne, Summerville; Robert McWhorter, Summerville; Arch Farrar, Summerville; Eddie Robertson, Centre, Ala.; Jeffrey Richardson, Cedar Bluff, Ala.; Bill Alico, Buffalo, New York; and Janet Tillotson Munchak, Roswell, GA.  Carol Mitchell, Menlo serves as Administrative Coordinator for the Foundation.

Over the past thirteen years a total of $4,924,351 has been awarded to provide funds for 576 worthwhile projects.   The foundation hopes to award grants for 2019 and encourages all eligible groups and organizations to apply.

Organizations recognized as tax exempt under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code are eligible to apply for these grants, as well as other public agencies.  Please note this year all 501(c)(3) organizations are required to attach written verification of their current tax-exempt status.    Those organizations not generally eligible for support are religious programs, individuals and start-up organizations.

All applicants should be aware any previous version of the grant application will not be accepted.  Any questions regarding the grant process should be directed to the Foundation’s Administrative Coordinator, Carol Mitchell.  Blank applications can be picked up at Menlo City Hall Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

All applications must be received in hand by the Tillotson Menlo Charitable Foundation’s Administrative Coordinator Carol Mitchell by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, October 25, 2019.   The recipients of the grants will be announced in December of this year.

Checks Stolen From Summerville Used Car Dealer

A used car dealer in Summerville says that someone stole business checks from his car lot and tried cashing one of the checks in Tennessee last week.

Summerville Police say that Paul Marks of Marks Auto Sales told them that the checks were stolen from an office manager’s desk at the car lot located on Commerce Street in Summerville.  The car dealership was not aware of the stolen checks until they were contacted by a bank in Tennessee.

Regions Bank in East Ridge called Marks after a person identifying himself as “William Hill” of West Virginia, attempted to cash a $3,980 check.  The person trying to cash the check told the bank in Tennessee that Marks had made the check out to him.

Paul Marks told Regions Bank in East Ridge that he didn’t make out the check and asked to see a copy of the check.  Mr. Marks told police that it was not his signature on the check.  The bank in Tennessee refused to cash the check for the individual.

The case has been turned over to an investigator.