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Latest from Sandra Parrish

    A South Carolina group that advocates against gun violence among young people visits a Gwinnett County neighborhood where two teens lost their lives New Year’s Eve.  Jack Logan, founder of “Put Down the Guns Now Young People”, was so touched by the tragedy in which 15-year-old Devin Hodges took his own life after accidentally shooting and killing his 17-year-old friend Chad Carless, that he and a volunteer drove from Greenville to pass out more than 300 gun safety locks to neighbors in the rain.  “This is the worst gun violence in America to me. All of them are sad, but this one takes precedence over the rest of them,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Gwinnett County Police investigators say the two teens were among a group of four inside a make-shift shed when Hodges took out a handgun to show them. It went off, hitting and killing Carless before help could get there. As police arrived, Hodges was seen running between two homes where he then took his own life with the same gun.  “Out of all the malice with gun violence and all the other tragedies, this one has touched me the worst,” says Logan.  He says he is not opposed to legal gun ownership, but wants to promote safety.  “This could have been prevented,” says Logan. “We’re trying to prevent this from happening again in this subdivision or any other subdivision.”
  • A former Gwinnett County band director pleads guilty to 21 counts involving sex with four students.With his mother openly weeping in the courtroom, 45-year-old Villie Jones entered guilty pleas to 20 counts and an Alford plea to another—maintaining his innocence although admitting there was enough evidence to find him guilty.
  • Five years after allegations of tax evasion were first brought against him, Snellville Mayor Tom Witts takes a plea to avoid jail time. The 70-year-old entered what is called an Alford plea to 11 felony counts including tax evasion and making false statements -- meaning he is not admitting guilt, but acknowledges a jury would likely find him guilty based on the evidence.  “Quite honestly, if I had the physical condition and the financial wherewithal, I would have fought it until the end,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Instead, Witts will serve six months house arrest and 10 years of probation. He must also repay the state $40,000 immediately in back taxes and still faces an additional $112,000 in taxes owed that he says he will fight since he had previous business losses that carried forward.  “I don’t owe that money, I never did owe it. I have all my tax returns where they were filed,” he says.  But District Attorney Danny Porter disagrees.  “He’s been trying to sort of ride that business loss claim. But the truth of the matter is, he needed to claim that six years ago and he can’t now go back and claim it,” says Porter.  Witts was indicted in September 2017 on more than 60 counts for using campaign funds for personal expenses such as a cruise, rent, and porn. He is also accused of undercutting city bids so his own company could do the work.  Porter says the sentence is appropriate since Witts is battling colon cancer and is also caring for his ailing wife.  “I think we’ve accomplished what we wanted to accomplish as far as he’s concerned, but there are going to be people who wanted to throw him under the jail,” says Porter.  Witts also agreed to immediately resign as Snellville’s mayor and never serve in political office again.  “I’m very proud of everything I did for the city Snellville. I think I left Snellville in a better place than I found it,” he says.
  • The Georgia Bureau of Investigation celebrates 20 years of its ability to use DNA to solve crimes in Georgia. The agency began using the Combined DNA Index System or CODIS in 1998 which enables federal, state, and local forensic laboratories to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically. Since that time, it has solved nearly 7,000 cases and assisted in more than 9,000 others.  “The GBI is proud that DNA not only identifies the guilty, it also exonerates the innocent,” says GBI Director Vernon Keenan.  A prime example is the case of John Jerome White, who spent 22 years in prison accused of raping, beating and robbing an elderly woman in Worth County in 1979. In 2007, the Georgia Innocence Project took on his case and DNA evidence, which wasn’t available to test during his trial, pointed to another man. James Parham, who was already in jail, had been in the original lineup but the victim pointed to White instead.  Keenan says the technology the GBI crime lab uses has also improved over the past 20 years.  “When we started out, it required a sample the size of the bottom of a Coke can to be analyzed and three to four months of analysis work. Now, we can take evidence the size of the top of a pin and have the work done in two to three days,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  The latest technology being tested is a rapid DNA test that would take just a couple of hours and a sample size not visible by the human eye.
  • One Gwinnett middle school student is in custody, while another is being called a hero after a teacher is stabbed inside her own classroom at Trickum Middle School in Lilburn.  As classes were changing, eighth-grader Mason Watler watched as a fellow classmate pulled an 8-inch butcher knife from his bookbag and stabbed his favorite teacher in the chest.  “I saw he called over the teacher. I don’t know what he wanted; but when he did, he pulled out the knife and stabbed the teacher right under her breast,” Watler tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Watler immediately went to the teacher’s aide and held his hoodie on her wound until help could arrive.  He then saw the 13-year-old suspect hold the knife to another student before being apprehended by the school’s resource officer.  “We’re very pleased that the officer was able to take the weapon away from the student without any other injuries to the officer or other students or anybody else at the school,” says Gwinnett County Schools spokesperson Sloan Roach.  She says the student faces charges of aggravated assault and bringing a gun onto school property. He will face school disciplinary action as well.  Roach says the teacher was alert and talking when she taken to the hospital.  Counselors will be at the school Tuesday for both students and teachers. The school’s principal sent out a second email to parents Monday night.  “As part of our response, we are making personal calls to the families of students who were in the classroom during this incident. That said, we are taking steps tomorrow to ensure we can support our students and staff and to help them have as normal a school day as possible. We will have an additional police presence at school tomorrow to provide our students and staff with an additional sense of security and to calm any anxiety.”  Watler says he still cannot believe what he witnessed. His mother Nikki McCart says she is proud of her son’s quick action to help his teacher.  “There were several teachers that called and thanked me and his dad, as well, for the job that we’ve done (and) for his heroism and that he just acted fast,” she says.
  • School in a mall-- it might just be the dream of some students but one in Gwinnett County will be dedicated later today.Phoenix High School’s new satellite location at Sugarloaf Mills will open its doors to students on Monday. Intended for 45 students, enrollment has already more than doubled. “They may work in the mall. They may live close by. They may frequent this area. This is on the public transportation route. So, it’s a good opportunity for students to have a place where they can come work or it’s close to their home,” says Gwinnett Schools Associate Superintendent Steven Flynt.
  • A robber who has targeted Subway restaurants around Metro Atlanta has been arrested in Tennessee.In the latest robbery last week at a Subway on Medlock Bridge Road in Gwinnett County, police say 34-year-old Zachary Miller can be seen patiently waiting for a sandwich before he jumps the counter and orders the employee to open the cash register.
  • Gwinnett county police charge three teenagers in last week’s murder of a young man near Suwanee.The three, identified as 17-year-old Franecha Torres, 17-year-old Nicholas Evans and 18-year-old Khalil Miller, were already in jail for a couple of armed robberies in the city of Suwanee. Sgt. Jake smith says those crimes led to them as suspects in the murder of 21-year-old Willian Tunchez of Lawrenceville.
  • One person is dead after his car crashes into a Lawrenceville gas station convenience store.Incredible surveillance video shows the car barreling through the parking lot of the Exxon station at the corner of Hwy 29 and Johnson Road traveling between 60-70 miles per hour. It just barely misses the gas pumps before crashing into the store. Demetrius O’Brien was sitting at the red light here when he saw it happen.
  • The newest high school sport for girls in Gwinnett County begins its first games next week.  Each of the school district’s high schools now has a flag football team thanks to a $110,000 donation from the Atlanta Falcons that pays for the equipment and customized uniforms.  The district is among only a handful of school systems in the country to offer the sport.  The demand among girls wanting to play was so high that the county’s largest high school, Mill Creek, had 400 girls try out for the 20-member team. Duluth High School had more than 70 interested.  “I immediately had enough for a Varsity, JV, and 9th grade team,” says Duluth head coach Brett Wilson.  He tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish he’d like to see the sport approved by the Georgia High School Association and sanctioned statewide.  All the girls on his team play at least one other sport including Senior Morgan Noil who hopes to get a basketball scholarship in college.  “I think it’s amazing because girls have always wanted to play football, but felt like they couldn’t because it’s a masculine sport,” she says.  Kimberlee Mankin, coach at Collins Hill High, believes it will have a lasting impact on the players.  “Anytime you can be a part of a team and be part of something, that’s beneficial the rest of your life,” she says.  Each Gwinnett team will play 14 regular season games with an end of year tournament. The first games begin next Tuesday.
  • Sandra Parrish

    News Anchor Reporter

    Sandra Parrish has been a reporter for WSB Radio since 1995 and covers political, legislative, transportation, and educational news. She graduated from the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism in 1989 and worked as an anchor/news director for WPLO in Lawrenceville, an anchor/assistant news director for WNGC in Athens and an anchor/reporter for WDUN in Gainesville before joining the WSB news team. Over the years, she has received over a dozen Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for "Best Use of Sound", "Best Series", and "Best Sports Reporting". She's also received numerous awards from the Associated Press, Georgia Association of Broadcasters, Society of Professional Journalists, and National Association of Black Journalists. Sandra is a former member of the board of the Georgia Associated Press Broadcast Association. She is married with two daughters.

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News

  • Producers of the Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show are looking for people to participate in the halftime show at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 3. About 450 people are needed to be part of the “Field Team” that will help move the halftime show stages and scenic elements on and off the field. Maroon 5, Big Boi and Travis Scott are headlining the Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show. Our LIVE Team 2 Coverage of Super Bowl LIII continues on Channel 2 Action News starting at 4 p.m. We're getting a behind-the-scenes look at the Super Bowl Experience + talking with cyber security experts working to keep you and the city safe. “Field Team” members must be able to attend all scheduled rehearsals, be over the age of 18 and be in good physical health. No prior experience is required. Anyone interested in applying can view the rehearsal schedule HERE. If it fits your schedule, CLICK HERE to apply for a position. NOTE: “Field Team” members will not receive tickets or the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl. However, they will be an integral part of the halftime show.
  • A man identified by authorities Tuesday as the suspect in the fatal shooting of a teenager at a suburban Chicago mall was previously convicted of armed robbery and had been an acquaintance of the victim. Orland Park Police identified the suspect as 19-year-old parolee Jakharr Williams of University Park. The department said in a news release that Williams, who fled after the shooting and has not been arrested, should be considered armed and dangerous. Police said Williams and 18-year-old Javon Britten of Richton Park were arguing in a food court at Orland Square Mall Monday when Williams allegedly pulled out a handgun and fired several shots. Britten was struck and a bystander's leg was grazed by a bullet. Police said Britten staggered to a nearby clothing store, where he collapsed. He was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn a short time later. According to the Illinois Department of Corrections website and Orland Park Police, Williams was convicted of armed robbery in 2017, and that he served a little more than a year in prison before he was released in June last year. Orland Park is about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.
  • In the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, two New Orleans Saints season ticket holders have asked a judge to reverse the result of the NFC championship game that sent the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl — or order a do-over. Tuesday's state court filing says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should implement a league rule governing 'extraordinarily unfair acts.' Remedies include reversal of a game's result or the rescheduling of a game — in its entirety or from the point when the act occurred. At issue is the failure of officials to call interference or roughness penalties when a Rams player leveled a Saints receiver with a helmet-to-helmet hit at a crucial point in Sunday's game. The NFL hasn't yet responded. A hearing is scheduled Monday.
  • A man is under arrest in Utah after police say he posted on Facebook about 'killing as many girls as I see' the same weekend that Women's Marches were held around the U.S. Christopher W. Cleary, 27, wrote he wanted to be 'the next mass shooter,' because he had never had a girlfriend and he was still a virgin, according to jail documents filed by police in the city of Provo. He wanted to 'make it right' with women who had turned him down and also said 'there's nothing more dangerous than a man ready to die,' the documents said. Cleary is from Denver and Colorado police on Saturday contacted officers in Provo, south of Salt Lake City, where Cleary had checked into an AirBnB rental a day earlier. With help from the FBI, officers tracked Cleary to a restaurant and arrested him on suspicion of a felony threat of terrorism charge. The posts did not mention the marches but investigators were concerned because they were happening that day in Provo and Salt Lake City, along with dozens of other cities, the documents said. Cleary acknowledged making the posts, but said he deleted them after receiving threats in response, police said. He told investigators he had an impulse-control disorder and was suicidal. Colorado authorities said Cleary is on probation after stalking and threatening women there, according to Utah police documents. He was being held without bail in Utah, and authorities were expected to seek his extradition to Colorado. No attorney or publicly listed phone number was immediately available for Cleary.
  • Country singer John Berry revealed he is battling tonsil cancer, Billboard reported Tuesday. Berry, 59, announced the cancer in a video he recorded with his wife, Robin Berry, and posted to his Facebook page.  “We started off this year with a hiccup, and we want to tell you a little bit about that,” John Berry said in the video.  It is not the first time Berry has experienced a medical scare. On the day his song “Your Love Amazes Me” hit No. 1 in 1994, Berry had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor, Billboard reported. Berry said he became aware of his latest health issue in November before his latest tour, the magazine reported.“I had a little catch in my throat, it felt like, it felt exactly like, the skin of a Spanish peanut was stuck in my throat,” Berry said in the video.  After examining his tonsils Berry noticed they were swollen. Despite going to a doctor and receiving steroids and antibiotics, the problem persisted, Berry said. He completed his tour and then saw a doctor Jan. 4, Rolling Stone reported. A CT scan revealed two tumors in his tonsils, so he had surgery to remove them, the magazine reported. After receiving biopsy results, doctors told Berry he had tonsil cancer. Berry will begin a five-week chemotherapy and radiation treatment plan this week, Rolling Stone reported. “This particular cancer is one of the most highly treatable, and has an incredible cure rate,” Berry said in his video. According to his website, Berry had 20 singles on the country charts during the 1990s, six of which were Top 5 songs. He won a Grammy Award in 1996 for his participation in “Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel, Vol. 1.”
  • Atlanta police are investigating a sexual assault at Opera nightclub after video of the incident was posted on Facebook.  >> Read more trending news Officer Jarius Daugherty said the Atlanta Police Department began receiving calls from people who had seen the assault on a Facebook Live video early Sunday morning. The police department has opened an investigation into the incident at the club on Crescent Avenue in Midtown. The video “appears to show a woman being sexually assaulted in a local nightclub,” Daugherty told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Police have not released details on the alleged assault, but the woman filed a police report on the crime. It is the policy of the AJC to not name victims of sexual crimes. According to WSB-TV, the victim was celebrating her birthday Saturday at the popular Midtown nightclub when she was sexually assaulted. The woman told police someone put drugs in her drink and then sexually assaulted her on the dance floor, WSB-TV reported. The victim, who was already streaming her celebration on Facebook Live, captured the attack as it happened and continued to stream the video. According to media reports, the woman is heard in the video screaming for help. Video of the sexual assault has since been removed from Facebook. The woman later posted a video saying she is OK, WSB-TV reported.  In a statement posted to Facebook and Twitter, Opera nightclub managers said they are cooperating with the investigation.  “At this time we have met with the Atlanta Police Department and have provided them with everything they have requested,” read the statement posted Sunday. “We will continue to aid and support their investigation in any way we can.”