Eyewitness News at 6: June 24, 2013

6:03 PM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us.

I'm Frank Malloy.

And I'm Leah Johnson.

Our top story tonight... Michael Brett Kelly pleaded guilty to murder last month... But a judge let him take that plea back today in court.




Bibb County judge Howard Simms let Kelly withdraw his guilty plea.

That means Kelly will once again face the death penalty.

Kelly and three others are accused of killing legal secretary Gail Spencer last year.

Last month...as part of a plea bargain...Kelly agreed to plead guilty...and accept a life sentence.

But now that Kelly has changed his mind... district attorney david Cooke plans to put the death penalty back on the table.

<now we're ready to get justice for ms. Spencer and her family and the community. We gave him the opportunity to take mercy and to make this right he's taken it back so we're ready to go to trial >

Michael Brett Kelly's attorney Debra Gomez says she met with him several times... Spoke with his mother and father and tried to explain the pros and cons of his plea... Before he made a decision.

<this man was eighteen years old when was accused of this crime. There are two families who are losing here. There are two families that are suffering and his parents did not support his decision I can tell you that. >

Gomez says she's known michael brett kelly since he was five years old... And says details in the case will come out at the trial... But she won't be a part of it.

She says because her firm is small... It can't handle a death penalty case.

A Warner Robins teen is recovering after an ATV wreck Friday that killed his passenger ... Tom George found out more... and how to keep safe while riding off-road vehicles.

Flowers and a cross mark the corner where 16-year old Theresa Bridges was killed...

Her boyfriend, 17-year old Josh Ryals lost control of the dune buggy ATV he was driving near Minick Street in Houston County....and both were ejected.

< According to the Houston County Sheriff's Offich both Ryals and Bridges were not wearing seatbelts at the time. They say Ryals tried to make a left turn onto this side street, but was going too fast, which caused it to flip over.>

One expert says driving dune buggies on the streets....can create a dangerous situation.

<Normally dune buggies, they are designed to be off road, and you have to kind of adapt to be on road, and you're abusing the steering and let the suspension do the work on it, it can flip very easy.>

Ariel Pellegrini owns D and A Cycles in Macon...

He says in addition to the basics... like putting on seatbelts and wearing the proper gear....people must know the limits.

< I mean everybody's been a teenager before, we know how it feels, you think you can handle everything and then today, we've been seeing a lot of teenagers get hurt just because you think you can handle it.>

We went to Ryals home Monday....and answered the door wearing a sling and cast on his right arm.

He didn't describe his injuries.... but said he's feeling better and expects a long recovery.

He did not discuss the accident before a family member cut off the interview.

Lt. Michael Stokes says he'll meet with Ryals this week...and plans to file charges.

In Warner Robins, Tom George, 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.

The funeral for 16-year old Theresa Bridges will be this Wednesday at 3:30 with a burial to follow at Magnolia Park Cemetery in Warner Robins.

Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday evening from 7-9 p.m. at McCullough Funeral Home on S. Houston Lake Road in Warner Robins.

Warner Robins man is accused of aggravated assault....after a drive by shooting at a home.

The Houston County sheriff's office says it happened between 3 and 4 a.m. Sunday...at a house on Sweetwater Drive.

A news release says 10 people were there.. including several children.

Reporter Judy Le went to the home today...and saw thirteen bullet holes in the front.

Investigators say a car at the home was also shot up.

The sheriff''s department says...

32-year-old ... Antonio Ross was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor for possession of marijuana.

If you have any information on the case...you can call the sheriff's department at ... 478...542...2085 again... That's 478...542...2085

Tax rates for Houston County homeowners will stay the same for the fourth year in a row.

That's if commissioners vote to approve the proposed budget tomorrow night.

Houston County commission chairman Tommy Stalnaker says the general fund budget is about 51 and half million dollars.

That's slightly more than last year... After a small up-tick in the county tax digest.

Stalnaker calls the budget "bare bones"... And the toughest to make during his three years in office.

<I think everyobody knows that works in this county the economic climate that we are in. Everybody needs to understand they need to do everything they can to live within their means, where people are not continuing to go back and ask people for more taxes all the time, because there's limitations in our opinion of what people are able to pay.>

Stalnaker says the county's 650 employees will get a 2 and a half percent cost-of-living raise.

Merit pay will stay frozen for a third year in a row.

Commissioners vote on the budget tomorrow night at 5-30 at the County Annex on Carl Vinson Parkway in Warner Robins.

A former Warner Robins city council member...convicted in a highly publicized extortion case...will be released tomorrow.

John Williams spent the last year in federal prison...and most recently, a residential re-entry center somewhere in Central Georgia.

That's according to a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of prisons.

Williams is 74 years old...and last elected to the council in 2008.

He was convicted last year of extortion... Lying to an FBI agent...and tampering with a witness.

Prosecutors said Williams tried to take a kickback when the city bought a new truck.

As a convicted felon, he can't run again for office...unless he receives a pardon.

After more than seven years as President of Fort valley State university....Larry Rivers will leave the college this month.

Austin Lewis talked to Rivers about his time at F-V-S-U.

...At least it was....when Larry Rivers was a student.

Rivers attended Fort Valley State in the early 70s...but knew then he would always be a part of it.

<Dr. Larry Rivers: I said my sophomore year to anyone that would listen that one day if it was the lord's will I would return to my alma mater as the President of the Fort Valley State University and the lord allowed that to happen. >

In 2006...Larry Rivers became president.

Rivers list his biggest accomplishment...as tackling the school's financial problems.


<Dr. Rivers: When I came in I found out that we had some issues like other universities have. But the big issues is that we had a 5.5 million dollar deficit so I had to get on top of that. And with a group of prominent citizens and the Fort Valley State family we were able to eliminate the deficit. >

Finances was one reason that Fort Valley State faced losing its accreditation in 2011...but under Rivers' leadership the school kept its status.

Another issue he faced was a faculty no confidence vote...which was later rescinded.

<Dr. Larry Rivers: I am a researcher teacher at heart and I looked at our faculty and I simply wanted to encourage them to do more research because when you do your research you can take it to the classroom and you can be more exciting with what you deliver. >

Rivers says he's proud of bringing new buildings...and helping to renovate State University Drive.

He says it's part of an larger effort to connect the school to the community.

<Dr. Larry Rivers: I thought that there were many citizens living in Fort Valley for 30, 40 years who had never crossed the tracks to come and see Fort valley state university. >

While he will miss walking this campus everyday...he's glad he could pay the school back...for what it did for him.

<I started getting around the wrong people and I had some aunts to call from Georgia to encourage me to come to Fort Valley state. I believe coming to Fort Valley state leaving the Pennsylvania venue for Fort Valley state absolutely saved my life. >

Now it's time to see where other paths will take him.

Austin Lewis 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.

Rivers says he will pursue his other passion...by teaching history at Valdosta State University.

Here is some breaking news from Wilkinson County.

The city of Ivey's water superintendent... Kenneth Helms... was arrested today... and charged with stealing city money.

That's according to J.T. Ricketson... the agent in charge of the GBI's Milledgeville office.

He said the GBI got involved in the case at the request of Ivey police.

They're still investigating... And Ricketson could not say how much money was involved... or how it was taken.

Helms is 39 years old... and so far... he faces a single count of theft by taking... a felony.

And although the heat wasn't record breaking today....it was still enough to make you sweat.

Elise Brown learned about heat stroke and exhaustion today...when it comes to your kids this summer.

While it may sound obvious, Dr. Clark says it's worth a reminder not to leave kids in the car, even just for a few minutes.

Thanks for joining us. We'll be back tonight at 11.

But remember... The news is always on at 13WMAZ.com.

The evening news is up next.

Have a safe night everyone.


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