Eyewitness News at 11, 4-29-13

10:44 PM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
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Hello, everyone.

I'm Frank Malloy....and these are the headlines making news this Monday, April 29th.

A new leader...with 35 years worth of Central Georgia ties... will head up Bibb County Schools while the search for a permanent superintendent continues.

<I think the teacher's are the greatest asset to the school system.>



And a mother's heartbreak...after the man charged in her daughter's death gets a plea deal in a Houston County courtroom.

< Russell Holt gets 20 years. I'll never see my daughter here on earth... To hug her, to call her...the see her walk down the isle...and have children. >

More from Jessica Wolfe's mother...and an update on why Russell Holt won't spend life in prison.

Then... Jones County's coroner reverses a decision...not to pick up bodies without a designated funeral home.

But it's going to cost.

Today Jerry Bridges said he's doubling the price... to care for the county's deceased.

Plus.... A Macon native turned country star... Files for divorce.

Jason Aldean...saying he and his wife Jessica...have irreconcilable differences.

And... NBA player Jason Collins surprised some...garnered praise from others...

<So, I know the turmoil that he was probably was going through in holding that in. I held a lot, he and myself, with being molested as a youth. So, I know the turmoil that I felt. So, I'm glad he, you know, he took that step. And I know he feels liberated for doing it.>


<i feel like i need to pay back to this community that's meant so much to me. I'm willing to come in and do everything within my power within a year or so of time. I love Macon, it's always going to be a part of me, a part of my Wife. We want to see Macon prosper. Macon deserves better. The Bibb County school system deserves better, and there's no reason why we can't bring everything together. And if I can just be a small part in this, then I will feel very proud that I was able to contribute to make it more successful.>

Announcing in Sports Illustrated...that it was time for him to come out ...To the world...as a gay athlete.

But first tonight... We begin with new developments for Bibb County Schools.

Some people may remember him as Central High's principal or baseball coach Or a teacher at F-P-D'. But now Steve Smith will take over as the Bibb School district as interim superintendent.

Tonight the Bibb school board unanimously voted to offer him the job... Katelyn Heck was at that meeting... Katelyn, what can you tell us about the new head of the district?

Frank... Steve Smith told us tonight.. He spent 35 years of his career in Macon... And says now... It's time to give back.

Smith taught and coached baseball at Central High School for 7 years... then became principal for 11 years.

He also had a 5 year stint teaching at F-P-D.

The Macon native got his doctorate degree from Georgia State... Before leading the Pulaski County school district as superintendent... Then heading up Lowndes County schools for a decade.

But Smith says... Bibb may be his biggest challenge yet.

<obviously the biggest challenge I'll face going in will be the financial challenge. I'm pretty familiar with financial challenges, because every school system in the state has gone through financial challenges over the last four years. we had to make some tough decisions at Lowndes to enable us to survive the recession. There will be tough decisions that will have to be made at Bibb County and there's just no way to avoid it. The state has been under pressure with a reduction in their state revenue, and naturally education is the biggest part in the state budget.>

Smith says a reduction in force... Program cuts... And possibly furlough days are all part of the tough decisions ahead of the school board... and now him.... As the district continues to tackle it's financial struggle.

But some school board members say Smith's role as interim superintendent will have wide-spread effects outside the district as well.

<our community needs healing, and i think having a home person who has been a superintendent, who understands our system can help us heal now, and that was one of the main reasons that i thought he would be a good fit for our community because he can help us to heal. And I think the people will embrace him because they know him. Students know him, parents know him, our teachers know him, our community knows him, and he knows the culture of our community, and i think that's going to be a plus for him.>

Board member Wanda West says negotiations are still underway to determine a start date and salary for Smith.

She says the board agreed to not consider the interim for the permanent superintendent spot... However... Smith says that's just fine with him, he plans to go back into retirement when his term ends.


Also at tonight's meeting... The board selected a slate of officers.

Wanda West will take over as president... With Sue Sipe at her side as VP.

Newcomer to the board Thelma Dillard was elected treasurer.

The school board has two more meeting scheduled for this week... The first on Wednesday to hear a preliminary report on the district's accreditation status.

And on Thursday to continue hashing out budget issues.

We're told former Superintendent Romain Dallemand will be a part of the accreditation process...because of the historical knowledge he has.

A former probation officer accused of killing his girlfriend will serve a twenty year prison sentence.

That comes after Russell Holt pled guilty today to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Twenty years is the maximum sentence for manslaughter charges.

Holt will also serve five years probation for a weapons charge related to the case.

Russell Holt entered his plea this morning in a Houston County Courtroom.

Investigators say Holt shot Jessica Wolfe at his Warner Robins home last March.


Holt's attorney said the prosecution agreed to a plea deal because a pharmacologist was going to testify on Holt's behalf.

He said the expert was going to explain the effects of the anti-depressant drug Holt was taking combined with his alcohol consumption.


Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig did not prosecute the case since Wolfe worked for the Houston County District Attorney's office.

Instead the D-A from Coweta county did.

Earlier this month Judge Tillman Self refused to move the trial out of Houston County.

He said potential jurors would not be prejudiced by the fact that Holt once worked in the same court house as a probation officer.

In Macon...a woman died in an accident involving a street sweeper.

It happened on Eisenhower Parkway... Near the parking lot of Loosier's Furniture... In the early hours of the morning.

The victim is identified as 22-year old Kenyotta Jones.

So far... no charges have been filed against the driver of the street sweeper.

The investigation's still going on... But Macon Police say the section of Eisenhower Parkway where Jones was hit did not have streetlights, and that Jones was wearing all black clothing.

NBA player Jason Collins made headlines today...not for his prowess on the court....

but because of his announcement in a "sports Illustrated" interview...that he is gay.

Collins's announcement makes him the first openly gay male athlete currently playing in pro basketball or for any major American pro sports team.

The Celtics traded Collins to the Wizards this past season.. But he will be a free agent this summer.

Collins has Georgia ties too.

He previously spent two years with the Atlanta Hawks.

Hawks Coach Larry Drew talked about Collins's coming out.

<i'm very very proud of Jason. The fact that he had the courage to >

Collins says his goals were not to be the first gay athlete and that his sports career is still developing.

Collins did say that he plans to march in the Boston gay pride parade in June.

The 44th running of the AJC Peachtree Road race is still two months away, but just like the runners, the Mayor of Atlanta says police and first responders are already in training.

The race isn't just an Atlanta tradition.

It attracts runners of all skill levels... from all corners of Georgia.

But this year's event is different...after the Boston Bombing shattered a sense of security nationwide.

Rebecca Lindstrom... Of our sister station WXIA reports.



11:25:54 We will not allow the acts of two sick murderers to alter our way of life or our behavior.

Calling the Peachtree Road race an Atlanta institution, the Mayor says the event will go on, but admits it may feel different.

11:52:13 I don't want to paint a fairy tale picture. The city is not going to run normally that day. We're going to deploy extraordinary resources to keep it safe and it's going to be disruptive.

Disruptive because in the two weeks since the Boston bombing, police say calls in Atlanta to report suspicious packages have increased 30%, impacting businesses, banks, freeways and roads. While none were bombs, the Mayor says he wants that same vigilance at the race.

11:35:30 we need every single person, if you see something or know something about this race, please share it.

Police plan to train 30 more officers in SWAT skills, nearly tripling the number that can respond. And chief turner says he'll have more officers on the streets and reviewing video surveillance, as it connects more cameras to its command center.

11:41:27 we started off with about 50 cameras and now we have more than 1300 that are fully integrated.

The Atlanta Track Club which hosts the event says safety will come first, but shouldn't overshadow the importance of the day.

11:29:46 we have the opportunity to make the ajc peachtree road race a run for solidarity and freedom as 60,000 people make their way down peachtree road.>

The peachtree is the world's largest 10-k race...with an average of 60 thousand people participating.


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