Officials say a small aircraft crashed in Gordon County on Saturday afternoon, killing the pilot. The plane went down shortly after takeoff from the airport in Calhoun, crashing close to a neighborhood, officials said. Channel 2's Michael Seiden was at the scene, where officials said the aircraft was an experimental, amateur-built plane. The pilot has been identified as Richard Hogan, 63, of Cartersville. Hogan owned Commuter Craft, a company that designed airplanes. Seiden learned that Hogan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he planned to build an unusual-looking propeller plane called The Innovator. Officials said he crashed it Saturday during a test flight. Seiden spoke to neighbors, who said that the crash sounded like a bomb going off. 'I was sitting out front with my neighbors, and we heard an engine come across the hill,' Jody Miller said. 'We heard a loud blast, like a bomb going off.' Miller said he never saw the plane coming. 'We all shot to the backyard and didn't see any smoke, but we saw a wheel here in the pasture and then we saw a cloud of dust coming out of the trees,' Miller said. TRENDING STORIES Family goals: Mother and daughter pilot Delta flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta Police to reopen and retest evidence in Atlanta child murders case 2 teens charged with arson after fire destroys house, damages 8 others Miller told Seiden he rushed toward the crash, hoping the pilot was still alive, but he quickly realized it was too late. “I went out there myself and got about 10 feet from there, and I turned around and walked back,' Miller said. Miller called 911. Investigators said they are still working to determine the cause of the crash, but they say the pilot was flying an experimental plane and something went terribly wrong. Miller and his neighbors are shaken but glad the aircraft didn't go down on any of their homes. 'If it had gone down earlier, it could've been in this house or that house ... or any house in this neighborhood,' Miller said National Transportation Safety Board investigators are expected to arrive at the scene Sunday morning.
In the wake of a police raid on a Gwinnett County nonprofit for disabled adults, some of the residents said they feel scared, confused and left in the dark about what’s coming next. The nearly two dozen physically and mentally handicapped adults who live at the seven Wishes 4 Me homes off Towler Road had their lives inadvertently disrupted last Thursday morning because of the nonprofit owner’s alleged defrauding of the Georgia Medicaid program. The raid, conducted by Gwinnett police on the behalf of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, involved the residents being interviewed for hours, their medical records and personal documents being seized and their healthcare muddled, according to residents, parents and former caretakers. “My concern is the trauma the residents are faced with,” Charlotte Mayo, the mother of two residents, told AJC.com. “They had no idea of what was going to take place or what did take place. It seems to me that there was no planning on the part of whoever initiated this. They didn’t start with the end result in mind.” About 8:45 a.m. that day, Mayo’s 53-year-old daughter, Inge King, said her and the other four people she lives with heard a loud knocking on the door. King, who has been wheelchair-bound since she was hit by a car at the age of 3, said the next few hours were filled with confusing questions, many of which she called weird. “There was lots of confusion. They said we’re not in any trouble, but they need to ask questions. They asked about two and a half hours worth of questions about if we liked living here and if we had somewhere else to go, would we,” King said. “But we love the house we’re living in. If it wasn’t for this place, we would have nowhere to go.” Mayo’s son, 40-year-old Chris Mayo, is moderately mentally handicapped, and said he and many of the other residents with mental disabilities were unable to understand what was happening and why, scaring them. “It’s like they said your mom was being removed from your house, and you might have to get up and move from here,” Charlotte Mayo said. “They were all very, very upset and were wondering what would happen to them.” Wishes 4 Me is a unique nonprofit that was founded around 2002 by Jennifer Lynn Robinette, who the residents referred to as Lynn. The organization aims to provide structured living for disabled adults, giving them a sense of independence and community, caretaker Mariann Marksberry said. “It’s not just living in someone’s home where you have parents. It gives everyone a sense of independence” Marksberry said. “Everyone lives in a home with other residents that are like them.” However, the AG’s office announced last Thursday that Robinette and three other women were indicted on several charges, including racketeering, medical fraud and conspiracy to defraud the state, AJC.com previously reported. RELATED: Gwinnett nonprofit allegedly scammed disabled adults for Medicaid funds Prosecutors accuse the nonprofit of funding itself “almost entirely by defrauding the Independent Care Waiver Program (ICWP),” which is a Georgia Medicaid program intended to help disabled adults live in their homes more independently. Robinette allegedly forged the residents’ names on documents submitted to the Department of Community Health instead of allowing them to hire and schedule their own caregivers. In a statement, AG spokesman Shawn Conroy said, “It has been of paramount importance to our office that residents of Wishes 4 Me have a safe and secure environment available to them and endure as little disruption to their lives as possible while also pursuing those who defraud the Georgia Medicaid program.” King qualifies for the ICWP, and she has since hired Marksberry as her caregiver. However, many of the other residents either under-qualify or over-qualify for the program, meaning each resident has a different healthcare path to follow based on their needs and qualifications. Conroy’s statement continued and said, “The Department of Community Health, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and Department of Human Services have been working diligently with residents to inform them of the services available to them as well as to assist them in obtaining those services.” The raid kicked off a “difficult transition period,” as Conroy called it, which has led to a lot of change very quickly. Marksberry said both the atmosphere of Wishes 4 Me and the morale of the residents have taken a big hit since the raid. “It’s not the same anymore. It’s not the same sense of family,” said Marksberry, who had been a caregiver at the facility since February 2018. “Everything was running fine. We had happy people and were one big, happy family.” Mayo seconded that, saying the organization has been a “real blessing for our family” and “ideal for our needs,” so they’re worried about the changes to come. Under the ICWP, residents are supposed to set the hours for their caregivers and receive personal support services on a one-to-one basis. Marksberry admitted that’s not how it used to be, since she and the other caregivers worked shifts by house, not resident. “Apparently, I was just supposed to be working for one person and being the caregiver just for them,” Marksberry said. “How it was and how I thought it was supposed to be was that caregivers were assigned to a house.” The AG’s office alleged that all the residents, regardless of ICWP qualification, were receiving support services from the caregivers at the same time, meaning the ICWP recipients weren’t getting the one-to-one services that were billed. “Residents of Wishes 4 Me who are Medicaid recipients have been able to speak directly to representatives from the Department of Community Health and have been encouraged to work closely with their case managers to establish continued care within their current programs,” Conroy’s statement also said. Now that each caregiver works only for their resident, some residents are receiving less care than they were, and Marksberry said she and a few others have been stepping up to volunteer. That also means Marksberry and the residents have to fill out their own time sheets to submit to the Department of Community Health, which Marksberry and the AG’s office said Robinette used to do. “What I have found out since is that we weren’t supposed to send in our time to Lynn. We were supposed to have time sheets that we fill out, and that our employers, who are the residents, were supposed to be hiring us and signing off on our hours,” she said. “In the year I was there, I never filled out a time sheet. I didn’t know they were necessary or available.” She said one of the biggest issues was caused by the residents’ medical papers, birth certificates, personal money and other documents being seized as evidence by Gwinnett police, which involved breaking into a safe. It took nearly a week for them to get these documents back, which she said caused issues with residents’ medicine dosages. “For almost a week, some of these people went without, and some of these people really, really need this medicine and can’t come off the medicine. So it was a guessing game,” Marksberry said. “It’s just terrible what police and the state did. They had no idea what they were doing.” The other three facing charges, Tonya Joy Ward, 62, Bethany Braga, 41, and Ronnika Barton, 42, also allegedly participated in the scheme by signing and submitting fake time sheets. They turned themselves into the Gwinnett jail March 13, while Robinette turned herself in the next day. All four are out on a $5,700 bond, jail records show. Robinette also allegedly assumed control of residents’ bank accounts and identifying information, using them to obtain additional funds for Wishes 4 Me and herself through bank transfers. She’s accused of using their accounts to send money to her other businesses, Star Vacations, Inc., and Accounting Options, Inc., in addition to using their information to apply for other state benefit programs, such as the Georgia Food Stamp Program, without their knowledge. They all face two counts of Violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), four counts of Medicaid fraud and eight counts of exploitation of a disabled adult. Robinette, Ward and Braga face an additional count of conspiracy to defraud the state and four counts of first-degree forgery. Robinette was also charged with 19 counts of false writings. Despite those alleged crimes, Marksberry said the residents miss Robinette and are waiting for her to return. “They all really miss her and are wondering when she'll come back, and I don’t have an answer for them,” Marksberry said while crying. “She did some great things. Did she do them the wrong way, it sure sounds like it, but she did some great things.” In other news:
A University of Georgia fraternity has been suspended after a video appearing to show some of its members using a racial slur and mocking slavery went viral on social media. (Content warning: The video is attached to the tweet below and includes the racial slur.) The video appears to show one student playfully hitting another with a belt while telling him to “Pick my cotton” and using a racial slur. Further details behind the content of the video have not been reported at this time. In a letter to the student body, UGA’s Student Government Association said Friday evening it was aware of the video being circulated online and that the school’s fraternity chapter has been suspended amid an investigation into the students involved. “The executive officers of the Student Government Association are aware of a video circulating on social media that depicts individuals identified as members of a UGA Greek organization using racist language and engaging in behaviors that mock the suffering of enslaved peoples,” the letter reads. “We have been notified that the chapter is currently suspended, and we can confirm that there is an investigation underway regarding the students involved in the video.” Several Twitter users and media outlets identified the students in the video as members of UGA’s Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. In a statement sent to AJC.com Saturday evening, a spokesman for the fraternity’s national chapter said the organization is “disgusted, appalled and angered” by the four students’ remarks and the students have been expelled from the fraternity. “TKE will not tolerate any actions such as these that would be defined as racist, discriminatory and/or offensive,” the statement reads. “After being alerted to the incident yesterday, Tau Kappa Epsilon professional staff and members of the Xi-Lambda chapter at University of Georgia immediately began a thorough investigation into the actions of these four men.” According to the statement, members determined the video was not recorded during a fraternity function or on chapter premises. “These four individuals acted outside the expectations of our membership and their chapter and therefore were removed from both,” the statement reads. “Temporary suspension is a standard procedure so we can conduct our investigation,” the national chapter said in its statement. The university also released a statement about the incident. “The University of Georgia condemns racism in the strongest terms. Racism has no place on our campus. We will continue our efforts to promote a welcoming and supportive learning environment for our students, faculty and staff. “The fraternity has been suspended by its national organization. “Whenever we receive complaints of racist or discriminatory conduct, we refer such matters to our Equal Opportunity Office in accordance with applicable laws and policies.” In other news: