The top five stories of 2013 unfortunately dealt with tragic events in Troup County including the deaths of three generations of one family in a fatal wreck on West Point Road and two murders in one day in LaGrange.
An analysis of the most-read articles from the LaGrange Daily News online by Google Analytics gave the following stories as the five most popular over the last year.
5. LHS teen struck, killed by vehicle
A teenager was struck by a vehicle and killed while riding a bicycle Nov. 25 on Wares Cross Road.
Brandon James Truitt, 15, of Roanoke Road was struck by a vehicle in the 400 block of Wares Cross Road. Officials at 911 received the call at 6:42 p.m. Coroner Jeff Cook pronounced the teen dead at the scene at 7:54 p.m.
Truitt’s family members said he was visiting friends on Wares Cross Road. Grandmother Helen Hunter said the teen was “a wonderful person, just a bright young man.”
Truitt was a pitcher on the baseball team at LaGrange High School, where he was a sophomore.
“He loved baseball,” Hunter said.
Truitt’s brother, Darren Hairston, said he was passionate about the sport. He said Truitt had been on the team since his freshman year. He also described his brother as a comedian.
“Brandon was funny, he liked to joke a lot,” Hairston said. “… He was a lovable brother who enjoyed being around his family.”
He said the family was trying to hold things together in the wake of his brother’s death.
“It’s devastating and a shock that we lost him,” Hairston said.
4. Former THS coach Daniel killed in head-on wreck
Longtime Troup High School wrestling coach and teacher Dariel Daniel was killed Nov. 19 in a head-on wreck in Upson County.
Daniel, 65, was driving back from a wrestling match in Thomaston for Long Cane Middle School. According to Tracey Watson, of the Department of Public Safety, at about 7:40 p.m. Daniel was traveling west on Ga. 74 in Upson County in a 2005 Toyota Camry and attempted to pass a vehicle on the left, which was stopped awaiting to make a left turn. Daniel then struck a Ford F-150 head-on. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
While he was the head wrestling coach at Troup, the team won nine team state championships before he retired following the 2002 season. He was an assistant coach in Allen, Texas, where he helped that team win a few state championships before he returned to LaGrange.
Scooter Weathers, the head wrestling coach at LaGrange High said he knew Daniel extremely well and also coached against him. Daniel also helped out at a wrestling camp that Weathers runs each year.
3. Peter Mallory sentenced to 1,000-year prison term
Former TV33 owner Peter Mallory was sentenced Feb. 12 to 1,000 years in jail.
Mallory was convicted in December on charges including 60 counts of sexual exploitation of children. Troup County Superior Court Judge Dennis Blackmon sentenced Mallory to 20 years for each for the first 50 counts of sexual exploitation of children to be served consecutively, a total of 1,000 years, with a concurrent sentence of five years for each of the last 10 counts.
Mallory also was sentenced to concurrent five-year counts on three invasion of privacy charges and a concurrent 12 months for tampering with evidence. He will serve the sentence in a state penitentiary.
Mallory’s sentencing day was an emotional day for not only his family, but witnesses and victims as well — even the judge.
Before Blackmon sentenced Mallory, witnesses had one last chance to sway Blackmon with their statements.
Two victims, whom Mallory had recorded with a hidden camera under his office’s desk — which brought Mallory invasion of privacy charges — a former TV-33 employee and her juvenile daughter, were the first to give their statement to the judge.
The girl explained how the video recording her private area has changed her life. She explained how embarrassed she was when she found out that the man she referred to as her crazy uncle secretly recorded her. Her Thanksgiving break was ruined because she spent most of it testifying in court and she missed a lot of school for court.
She said it was not herself she felt bad for, however, but it was the people around her that cared, especially in court.
“When I would look up while testifying, and see people crying and they looked sick, it was heartbreaking,” said the daughter.
The daughter closed out her statement with encouragement to herself. “I’m not embarrassed anymore because I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Her mother said that she trusted Mallory and is sickened by the “monster.”
“For seven years we laughed and cried together,” the emotional and tearful woman said. “He craved our love for some sick gratification.”
She explained the sleepless nights she has had worrying about her daughter and how her family was humiliated by Mallory. The hidden cameras have now caused paranoia to the family, she said, and will have them always looking over their shoulders.
“This is a sick and twisted monster who we called friend,” she said with disgust. “It makes me vomit to think about what he may have done while watching those videos. Never allow him to walk free. Peter Mallory should never have the capability to ever hurt another human being again.”
Lagrange Police Sgt. Robert Kirby described Mallory as the worst kind of monster.
“He placed a lot of blame on other people,” he said. “He’s never accepted any responsibility.”
2. Two murders in one day kept police busy
LaGrange police had to to contend with two murders that occurred on Dec. 13.
At about 11:45 p.m., LaGrange police responded to a call of an unknown problem at a residence in the 800 block of Colquitt Street.
Upon arrival, officers met with the man who made the call and he said he was unable to contact the people who lived in the house. The officers checked the inside and outside of the home and found evidence of a possible assault. As officers checked around the outside of the house, they found an unconscious woman who had apparently been assaulted.
Paramedics were called and Pamela Hardy, 43, of LaGrange, was pronounced dead at the scene. The report said Hardy had sustained wounds to her face and head.
Police suspected her husband, Charlie Hardy, 40, of LaGrange of the crime.
In another incident earlier that day, police investigated a shooting death that occurred on Boulevard.
One man was killed outside a home at Boulevard and Ashton Street after an apparent argument led to a fatal shooting.
LaGrange Police Capt. Mike Pheil said police received a call at 3:41 p.m. reporting a shooting in the 300 block of Boulevard. When officers arrived, they found Larry Strickland Jr., 36, fatally shot in the chest.
Strickland allegedly got into an argument with a man at the house, identified as Erwin Brewer, 30, of LaGrange. The two went outside and residents reported hearing two gunshots. When they came outside, they saw Strickland shot and laying in the street.
Brewer allegedly fled the scene. An arrest warrant was issued for him in the shooting and law enforcement officials were still trying to locate him this morning.
The two suspects suspects were arrested on Dec. 23 with the help of federal marshals.
Brewer was arrested that morning in Manchester.
According to LaGrange police, at around 9:30 a.m. U.S Marshal’s Office assisted by the Meriwether County Sheriff’s Office and Manchester Police responded to the Hilltop Apartments located in Manchester, and arrested Brewer without incident.
Brewer has been returned to LaGrange where he is currently being held in the Troup County Jail.
Hardy was arrested that afternoon in Knoxville, Tenn..
According to police, at around 4:30 p.m., the U.S. Marshal’s Office assisted by Knoxville Police arrested Hardy without incident. LaGrange Police and the Troup County District Attorney’s Office are working with Tennessee authorities to have Hardy extradited back to Troup County.
1. Tragedy: Five killed, two injured in head-on crash
A driver ignoring a no-passing zone on West Point Road crossed into oncoming traffic and crashed head-on into another car on Feb. 8, killing himself and four others, including a 1-year-old boy.
The crash killed three generations of one family
The deadly wreck occurred at 6:40 p.m. about three quarters of a mile north of the the intersection of West Point Road and Old West Point Road, and injured two teenage passengers who were airlifted, in critical condition, to hospitals in Atlanta and Columbus, said Georgia State Patrol spokesman Gordy Wright.
The deceased include Willie L. Hooks, 28; Melanie Kay Lemmon, 23; Miranda Hurston, 37; Quamauri C. Harrison, 1; and Tridarius Harrison, 16, all of LaGrange. Miranda Hurtson is the mother of Tridarius Harrison and grandmother of Quamauri. Lemmon was pregnant.
Two of Hurtson’s other children, 15-year-old Jayvianna Hurston and 18-year-old Shaquavious Harrison, were taken to West Georgia Medical Center before being flown to hospitals in Columbus and Atlanta. Both were listed in critical condition.
According to the GSP, Hooks was northbound in a 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass and passing a car in a no-passing zone when he collided with a 1995 Pontiac GrandAm driven by Lemmon, who was southbound on West Point Road.
Lemmon’s Pontiac carried six passengers, including Miranda Hurston, who rode in the front seat, and the children who died.
Only Lemmon and Miranda Hurston wore seatbelts, police said. The infant, reportedly the son of Shaquavious Harrison, was held by a back-seat passenger.
Alcohol was suspected as the cause, Wright said.
“Alcohol is suspected as a possible contributing factor,” Wright said in an email. “And blood was drawn from Mr. Hooks to determine a blood-alcohol content.”
John Hart witnessed the horrific crash and described the scene in a telephone interview.
“It was the awfulest thing I have ever seen and I’ve seen a few car crashes,” Hart said.
Hart said he was driving toward LaGrange on West Point Road with his wife and three grandchildren after a pizza dinner at Johnny’s Pizza in West Point, when an older gold or brown Oldsmobile Cutlass passed him at a high rate of speed and collided with a white Pontiac traveling southbound. Hart said he was driving about three quarters of a mile north of the intersection of Old West Point Road when he noticed the passing car, driving in the opposite lane, and continue up a slight knoll. The Pontiac had just come over the other side of the knoll when the Cutlass collided with it at full speed, without braking.
“By the time you saw the headlights of the Pontiac come over the other side of that knoll, it was maybe two seconds before the cars crashed,” said Hart. The Pontiac looked like it had just started to veer to the right when they hit head on and came to a complete stop.”
Hart said the back end of the Cutlass lifted off the ground about five feet and its front end was crumpled.
“It looked like the back end of that car passed the front end. The car was bent like an L, and the back end was raised so you could see the gas tank and the shock absorbers,” he said.
Hart said his wife, the people from cars behind him and the single car in front of him got out and tried to render assistance to the victims while he called 911. He said his wife and others checked for pulses of the man in the Cutlass and the women in the Pontiac, but there were none.
“There was just complete silence; no moans, not a sound,” he said.
Hart said he was driving 55 mph and was about four car lengths behind the car in front of him when the Cutlass accelerated past him. He said he applied his brakes to give the speeding car more space to move back into the northbound lane.
“He had plenty of room to get back over, and it was like he had to pass that one car in front of me. I said, ‘please Jesus, please Jesus, don’t let anyone be coming the other way on the other side of that knoll,’ and that’s when the crash happened.”
Hart said the male driver was on the floorboard of the crumpled Cutlass. He saw four females in the Pontiac not making any noise. He said one seemed like she was gasping for breath, but not making any noise.
Hart said the state trooper at the scene told him there were five dead and two injured. Hart said he did not see the two others among the mangled wreckage. He said rescue workers had to use the jaws of life to try and extricate the victims from the wreckage.
Troup County Coroner Jeff Cook confirmed the five fatalities.