Eyewitness News at 11, August 14, 2012

11:22 PM, Aug 14, 2012   |    comments
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Our top story tonight...
   A Fort Valley woman suspected of scamming several elderly people out of money is now in custody.
   We first brought you this story last night at six...and Bibb County Lt. Sean Defoe says calls started pouring in right after the newscast. The count is up to 40. 
Defoe says ...Katina Hope Wright...will be charged with at least two felonies and two misdemeanors.
Investigators said she approached senior adults...told them that she knew them from their doctor's office... and needed money to fix her car. 
  One of Wright's alleged victims in Warner Robins is speaking up. Judy Le spoke to 71-year-old...Barbara McMahon ...who was at Wal-Mart off Watson Boulevard when she was scammed. 


Barbara McMahon walked into Wal-Mart looking for bird feeders when a woman approached her. 
<And she says hi barbara, how are you. And I looked at her and thought who Is she? I says I'm having a senior moment>


She says the woman asked her for money. The 71-year-old refused to go to the bank to take money out...but ended up paying for the woman's drinks...gave her cash...and her prescription pain reliever cream. It totaled over 60-dollars....it's money she has not been repaid. 
<McMahon says at the time, the scammer introduced herself as Jenny, who used to work at Dr. Dulla's office. Dr. Dulla is McMahon's doctor who works down the street from her house. >
There have been a string of the same incidents reported. Bibb Investigators says Katina Wright is the suspected scammer targeting senior shoppers using the same tactics she used on McMahon. McMahon fell victim because she was caught off guard
<If you had someone glued to your body like super glue and everything happening so fast. Cause I've had other friends that say, how did you do that. And I say, I know it was stupid.>
Wright is currently in police custody...giving McMahon a sense of relief.
Judy Le...13wmaz...Eyewitness news.


The Bibb County sheriff's office says they're working with Houston and Peach Counties where Wright has allegedly scammed more elderly people. 
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  Police and fire pension board members say they're less reluctant to move forward with the changes to their retirement plan.
Earlier today, they met with city council members to air their concerns.
Katelyn Heck explains what happens next in the approval process.


After confrontation broke out during last week's meeting...
<we were all in a quandry that day over what was what >
Members of macon city council and the police and fire pension met on more agreeable terms Tuesday.
<now here we are a week later and we've had this work session today and we've confirmed, clarified that the attorney is advising that the police and fire pension plan is in agreement and the attorney that's representing the city is in agreement>


The group sat around a table and discussed their concerns about changes to the retirement plan with the city's advising attorney.
Councilman Henry Gibson... who is also a retired police officer... says he's most worried about not getting his retirement income.
<could the city reneg in any way and in other words put us in default with our retirement plan to prevent us from receiving retirement? That's one of the most important things.>
But over the phone... Attorney Jeff Banish reassured Gibson and others in the room that all of the changes were necessary to keep the retirement plan in compliance with I-R-S standards.
<there's nothing in the plan that would say your benefits are being changed or being cut back >
But pension board members say they still want time to read over the document before giving their stamp of approval.
<you've got 1300 people's lives and their beneficiaries hanging on this.>
With an October 2nd deadline just around the corner... Mayor Robert Reichert hopes Tuesday's meeting put an end to the discussion so they can move forward.
<council has got to pass these changes to the plan on two consecutive regularly-scheduled council meetings and get them submitted to the secretary of state>
He says if council does not make their deadline... It could affect the tax status of pension recipients and the city would have to pay a fine.
Katelyn Heck 13WMAZ Eyewitness News
  The pension board will discuss the changes again during their meeting this Thursday.
  Reichert says the city could place the plan on next week's council agenda for a vote.
   If it is approved, council could vote again on September 4th...That would be less than a month away from their deadline.
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 Today was the last day on the job for the controversial interim director of Macon-Bibb Animal Services.
     Deborah Biggs signed a 60 day contract which ended today.
     We were told Biggs was too busy to meet with us today. This video is from earlier this summer.
     Commissioner Lonzy Edwards says Biggs was hired on as a consultant.. And she made several recommendations for the future of animal welfare.
<she came in and offered assistance on an interim basis . That assignment comes to an end and Mr. Layson will proceed until we get a  full time director in place. >
     As Edwards said.. County C-A-O Steve Layson will head the department until they hire a replacement.
   He said he expects that to happen within a month.
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 Former Bibb County Commission Chairman And long-time public servant Larry Justice died today.   
  Justice was first elected to the county commissioners in 1969 and served on the board for 31 years... the last 10 as chairman. 
    He also served on the State of Georgia Local Health Advisory Commission and was a past president of the Macon Board of Realtors.
    Commissioner Joe Allen remembers Justice as a man who treated everyone equally.
<I think the memory that comes back most to me is before I became a Commissioner, And I was looking at the some property on Lake Tobesofkee, And how Larry went with me talked to me. He wouldn't talk to me like a person that was a politician he would talk to me like a friend>
 Bibb County Commissioner Chairman Sam Hart said Justice never held grudges on issues.
 <larry is the kind of person again that if  he disagreed with you on an issue, he would stand his ground and wouldn't bend at all. By the same token when it was over and you started another point and another issue Larry might be your closest ally. so it just depends on the issue  and I think we would look at what I think he believed was in the best interest of the community>
   Long-time city council member Ed Defore also talked about Larry Justice's legacy.
<he cared about people. He was what you would call a public servant not a politician. He was quiet, moved slowly, get things done slowly, but when it was done, it was done right>
There is no word yet on funeral arrangements.
    Larry Justice was 74.


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  The Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Protection Division has tightened its restrictions on sewage treatment plants, and what pollutants they can release. 
     13wmaz went to a treatment facility in Perry to find out how they're going to meet the new standards. 
The state did a three year study on all of the rivers and streams in Central Georgia, including the Ocmulgee. 
Now they're limiting what plants, statewide can release. In an effort to give the creeks a chance to recover from previous years. 
The filters at the Water Treatment plant in Perry are fifty years old and Brandon Lewis, Operations Supervisor, says they've always met the state's standards and upgrading their filters will help them continue that streak.  
<"phosphorus and biochemical oxygen demand puts a heavy load on the creek and it impairs the ability for the fish to thrive for recreational use even for the whole biological system in the creeks to continue on naturally if we load it with too many pollutants.">
  The plant, which won Plant of the Year in 2011... is in the planning process now, and has two years to meet the new standards.


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  Last week, we told you about a Colorado man claiming more than 400 acres of land in Twiggs County, including almost 40 homes and a church.  
   After going to court last Thursday, a final ruling is still up in the air.
  In the meantime...some residents say they are struggling with financial and emotional hardship. But as Tom George tells - they're not getting much sympathy from the man who claims the land is his..


<We can't borrow any money, we can't sell. If we wanted to do any improvements to the property it would be a waste of time because in the event that he did win, we would be benefitting him and not us>


A Colorado man...Allan Evans took about 40 property owners to court...arguing his family has a right to more than 400 acres. Last Thursday...both sides made their case to Special Master Jim Nelson...who will present his findings to a judge within a few weeks.  But in the mean time....


<We're just waiting ... It's kind of aggravating not knowing if you're gon' still own a home, but we're all hanging in there.>


Dozens of families are struggling with the lawsuit...and other serious issues as well.
<We have a lady, her family's being sued ... She has brain cancer, may have to have more surgery and I know that it's been hurting them real bad. >


Kay Shipes missed the court hearing because of chemo treatment. Her husband Vernon....said...he's also out of work....and they're grateful for the communities support during their struggles.


We spoke with Evans on the phone from Colorado. He believes he's "already won the case"...and when a judge confirms that...he says he'll give people a week to pack up and leave.


When asked how that would affect the homeowners...he said...quote.."Maybe its time they get a new perspective on the world." He says people should be grateful they've been living on his family's property...rent free.
<Evans even told the Twiggs County Sheriff's Department that their firing range belonged to him...unless they them, but to him unless he moved it.
>
But people along Old Gordon Road say...they're confident they'll win.


< I hope he loses, that's the one, cause if he loses, we win.>
In Dry Branch, Tom George, 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.
    Special Master Jim Nelson says with a lot of cases to handle, he expects to give his ruling to Judge Jon Helton sometime after September 1st. 
    We'll keep you updated on this case here and online at 13WMAZ.com


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 A reality t-v show is causing quite a stir in Central Georgia..
   We're talking about T-L-C's  "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"... The show shot in the tiny Wilkinson County town of McIntyre.
    The show's star is 6-year-old Alana Thompson who first starred on the network's "Toddlers and Tiaras"
     She and her family were so popular that got their own spin-off...with two episodes airing so far.
     The show is characterized by less than refined behavior..including passing gas, fatty foods and a ton of southern stereotypes.
      People who know the family say what you see is real..<probably the farting and stuff on TV, but that's stuff they do. If you went to the house now, they're liable to do that." 
I don't think they telling that bunch what to do, from what I hear now. They might be bleeping out a bunch, but that's about it.>
A few of you had some things to say about "Honey Boo Boo" on our Facebook page..
   Sonya Cox Mullis posted this comment:
 Most people never even heard of McIntyre , Ga. Until Honey Boo Boo came along! Honey Boo Boo put McIntyre on the map! Go girl
    Joni Dees says:
  "Leave these people alone if you don't like it don't watch it.... and just because you may live in same state as them it doesn't define who you are as a person I mean really folks y'all would fuss about anything.
  Courtney Rowe posted:
 "Bless it!!! Stop putting people from Georgia on TV!!!!! What a hot mess!!!"
   "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"  airs Wednesday nights at 10 on T-L-C.

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