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Latest from Sandra Parrish

    After three days of searching along the Appalachian Trail in Dawson County, the body of a missing hiker has been found not far from where the trail begins at Amicalola Falls State Park. Eddie Noonkester, 60, began his hike Friday but called a friend Sunday around 11 a.m. saying he was having medical issues. He then called 911 himself 30 minutes later saying he was disoriented.  Search teams found some of his belongings Monday afternoon after pinging his cell phone.  Dawson County Fire Chief Danny Thompson says his body was located Wednesday afternoon about a mile southwest of the hike-in trail. It was in an area with steep terrain that had not been previously searched.  “The team that actually found him… [it] was a team from Gilmer, Dawson… and Forsyth County,” he says.  Thompson would not release a possible cause of death but says Noonkester’s body has been taken to the state crime lab for an autopsy.  His brother, Wesley Noonkester, thanked emergency workers for their efforts. He actually came to the aid of another distressed hiker during his own search for his brother.  “It was not the outcome that I had hoped for. But at the end of the day our goal was to bring Eddie home, and we were able to do that,” he says.  Thompson says they have come the rescue of hikers along the trail before who suffered minor injuries or were lost, but never had such an extensive operation combining the efforts of multiple jurisdictions and more than 100 searchers.  He says the conditions have been treacherous the entire time.  “From heavy rain to lightening and now we’re looking at frozen precipitation up in this area and the rescuers and searchers have had to endure this,” says Thompson.  Wesley Noonkester says he will sleep well now knowing his brother is in a better place.
  • Search and rescuers will resume their efforts this morning along the Appalachian Trail in Dawson County looking for a missing North Carolina man.  Eddie Noonkester began his hike Friday at Amicalola Falls State Park, but called a friend Sunday saying he was having medical issues. The friend in turn called 911.  The 60-year-old then called 911 himself about 30 minutes later but couldn't give dispatchers his location and may have been disoriented.  Searchers pinged his phone in order to search the area where they did locate some of his belongings Monday afternoon.  “It’s a very, very treacherous area. The terrain is just very, very difficult. You couple that with heavy rains we’ve had… and will have over the next 72 hours,” says Dawson County Fire Chief Danny Thompson.  He says the Georgia Emergency Management Agency is assisting as well as multiple law enforcement agencies and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  Volunteers who want to help can also email their information to dcsar@dawsoncounty.org.  “When you email into that address, leave your name, a contact telephone number, your availability and your experience level of hiking,” says Thompson.  He says Noonkester was planning to hike the Appalachian Trail all the way to Maine which usually takes about six months.
  • For a week, Vanessa Prior’s Great Pyrenees named Ruth Bader has had a friend--a black coyote that researchers have been tracking since late December when it was first spotted in Smyrna.  It ended up in Prior’s backyard in East Cobb, where for a week it would show up every morning to play with Ruth Bader.  “(They were) playing together and jumping in the pool and chasing each other,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Wondering what the animal was, she posted on social media looking for answers.  “Was it a coyote; was it a fox; half dog-half fox? I really wasn’t sure,” says Prior.  It’s actually a melanistic coyote according to Chris Mowry, a biology professor at Berry College and co-founder of the Atlanta Coyote Project. He says while rare, it’s more common in the Southeast.  “In the West, for example, we rarely see black coyotes. But here in the Southeast, it’s in the gene pool,” he says. >>LISTEN TO SANDRA PARRISH’S FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. The coyote’s affection for dogs may also be a genetic trait that’s been discovered in wolves and dogs that Mowry would like to learn more about.  “This potentially gives us the opportunity to look for this gene in this animal. We don’t know for sure, but [I] have some suspicions that perhaps there’s a genetic basis,” he says.  That’s why he enlisted the help of licensed coyote trapper Brandon Sanders of Sanders Wildlife Incorporated and Lara Shaw, a known dog trapper with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue.  Both set up cameras in Prior’s yard and like clockwork the coyote would appear every morning for her play date.  “Ruth Bader—she is the hero. Because if she hadn’t been playing with the coyote, we wouldn’t be here right now,” says Shaw. Within two days, the coyote was caught in one of two traps set up in the backyard of a home behind Prior’s house. Sanders transported it to the Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary in Lilburn where it will live happily with another coyote and allow Mowry to continue his studies of it.  He had to get special permission for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to capture and relocate it.  “Biologists who study coyotes—we’re not in the business of capturing and relocating coyotes. But this was a unique situation in that this coyote was not acting aggressively but on the contrary was acting very friendly,” he says.  Prior says she’s happy the coyote will be saved but knows it will be missed.  “Ruth Bader is definitely going to miss her,” she says.
  • Gilmer County becomes the latest to declare itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary in a growing movement across the country to protect gun rights. The movement started in wake of anti-gun legislation being considered by the Virginia Legislature.  Jason Williamson of Ellijay joined a packed Gilmer County commission meeting Thursday night to present a petition with 700 signatures.  “It is clear that across the United States that we need to send a message to Washington D.C., state and local elected officials, that we, the people, do not want our right to bear arms infringed upon--period,” he told the commission.  Joene DePlanke, also of Ellijay, told commissioners it’s important for the county to join the movement.  “Our forefathers worked hard to give us these rights. And we just would like to make sure that Gilmer County is determined to protect our Second Amendment rights in the U.S. Constitution,” she said.  The three commissioners passed the resolution unanimously.  Chairman Charlie Paris tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish it’s important for all Georgia counties to come together on this.  “I don’t think that our current state folks would be threatening us. (But) I do believe the federal people, at any time, would love to start restricting gun rights,” he says.  Paris says the resolution makes a statement more than anything.  “That we’re opposed to this and that we would not willingly surrender our guns,” he says.
  • Facing budget cuts, the head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation gives state lawmakers an option to stay on top of testing rape kits even with fewer scientists. Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget includes the elimination of nine forensic scientist positions in the State Crime Lab something concerning to state Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) whose bill four years ago now requires all rape kits be conducted in a timely manner. “This is something that is incredibly important, and we’re just not going to accept going backwards into creating a new backlog—we’re just not,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
  • In his ongoing efforts to go after street gangs, Gov. Brian Kemp unveils new legislation that could have some of the most violent members facing the death penalty.
  • Former Gov. Nathan Deal has gotten his first look at the state’s new judicial building named for him. The Nathan Deal Judicial Center is the new home of the Georgia Supreme Court and the Georgia Court of Appeals. “The state of Georgia, I think can be very, very proud of this building and all that it signifies,” he says.  During his time as governor, Deal was essential in getting the $131 million in funding to build the six story, 215,000 square foot building at the corner of Memorial Drive and Capitol Avenue.  “This is a 100-year-old building. We intend to have this building for 100 years,” remarked Chief Justice Harold Melton before the tour for Deal and local media.  The building holds offices for 150 state employees who were crammed in a total of three buildings across the street from the State Capitol.  “Those who were close to it already knew that the quarters were very cramped in the old Law Building where they were located. Of course, as your recall, we expanded the size of both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  The new building features handmade desks and upholstered chairs made by inmates in Georgia’s prison system. It’s appropriate because Deal was a proponent of rehabilitation and giving prisoners a second chance at life.  “We have to make sure that those who are leaving our system have some skill sets and have as much support as possible so that they can make a successful entry back into civilian life. And to see those kinds of examples in person and in this building certainly is rewarding,” he says.  Deal met one of those former inmates, William Rutledge, during his tour.  “It is because of the rehabilitative programs that are in place within the Department of Corrections that I have become the man I am today,” says Rutledge.  The new building will also soon house Georgia’s new statewide Business Court championed by Deal as well. Cases are scheduled to begin in August.
  • A Georgia State House committee is expected to pass a bill Wednesday morning that could pave the wave for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins to run in a primary election against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. The bill would allow for primaries in all special elections--doing away with Georgia’s “jungle primary” in which all candidates would run in the same primary regardless of political party.  “Georgia is one of only a very few states in the country that still clings to this jungle primary thing. This just brings us in line with what the vast majority of states are doing,” says House Speaker David Ralston.  He supported amending the change onto another bill dealing with voter registration but denies it has anything to do with his friendship with Collins.  “This is not about personalities. This about making the elections more orderly, more sensible. And anybody who is running is going to have an equal shot at winning,” Ralston tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Collins came to the State Capitol Tuesday to eulogize his friend and former seatmate Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) who died before the legislative session began. Afterwards, he refused to comment on the rumors he would run.  “It’s a reminder that when you come into public service, it’s often you’re touched by the ones who step forward and have public service with each other. And I think that’s what I want to emphasize today. For the other question many of you may be asking, there will be more coming later,” he said as he quickly exited the room.  Once the bill passes the House Rules Committee Wednesday, it could go before the full House later this week and would then head to the State Senate. Gov. Brian Kemp has vowed to veto it.
  • The first bill of the new legislative session headed to the Governor’s desk would require online market facilitators to collect and remit sales tax to the state.  House Bill 276 would require online retail companies such as Amazon, online travel agencies like Airbnb and VRBO, and ride shares that collect payment on a product or service to also collect and remit sales tax to the state.  Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) sponsored the bill says it will put brick and mortar businesses on a level playing field.  “It’s clean across the board. It treats everyone the same. If you have a taxable product or service, it is taxable under this bill. If you do not, it is not,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  The measure is expected to raise $150 million annually for the state with some estimates are as high as $750 million.  “These marketplace sellers are from all over the country and the world that sell to our Georgia consumers. They currently owe taxes on these sales, but Georgia has not had an efficient manner to collect these taxes,” says Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) who pushed for the bill in the Senate.  He says 37 other states currently have similar laws in place.  It could take effect as soon as April 1 if Gov. Brian Kemp signs it.
  • Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor wants to make Georgia the Technology Capitol of the East Coast.During the Georgia Chamber’s annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast at the Georgia World Congress Center, Geoff Duncan announced the creation of the Georgia Innovates Task Force.
  • 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

  • Two people were arrested in an Alabama motel room after police discovered drugs and cash, including more than 8 pounds of marijuana, authorities said. Shane Antoine Tillman and Jennifer Gomez, both from California, were arrested by police at a Holiday Inn Express in Decatur, AL.com reported. Tillman was charged with trafficking in cannabis and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, according to an arrest report. He was taken to the Morgan County Jail and was being held in lieu of $6,000 bail, according to court records. Gomez was charged with trafficking in cannabis and was being held in lieu of a $5,000 bond at the Morgan County Jail. Decatur Police officers responded to a call reporting persons trespassing in a room at the motel, AL.com reported. According to police, authorities found 8.5 pounds of marijuana, prescription medications and a large amount of money in the room, AL.com reported.
  • A South Carolina family is grieving after a 7-year-old girl died while having her tonsils removed last week. Paisley Elizabeth Grace Cogsdill died Friday at a Greenwood hospital, WHNS reported. Paisley’s parents told the television station the girl’s heart stopped one minute into the tonsillectomy. The girl’s parents, Austin Cogsdill and Jasmine Cogsdill, said Paisley, a second-grader at Clinton Elementary School, was healthy and had shown no signs of medical issues, WHNS reported. “You don’t understand why these things happen but we know it was God’s plan and that’s the only thing that can get us through, cause we know it was God,” Paisley’s grandmother, Mary Beth Truelock, told the television station. An obituary posted online by Gray Funeral Home in Clinton described Paisley as “a gifted and talented student and a straight-A second-grader.' “Her full of ‘Joy’ attitude could be seen in everything she did, from playing T-ball and softball to performing hip-hop dance routines and gymnastics programs with her friends,” the obituary said. Autopsy results are expected sometime Tuesday, WHNS reported. A GoFundMe account was established to help pay for funeral expenses. The $30,000 goal was exceeded by Tuesday afternoon.
  • After watching a mother and her wheelchair-bound daughter tumble bloodied to the ground, Hamilton school bus driver Bob Thacker knew he had to do something to help. Thacker, a decade-long veteran of the city schools, dashed out of his bus to help mother Tonya Uhl and her special needs daughter Katelynn to right themselves and tend to their injuries. “She (Katelynn) was all bloody so I said, ‘I got to do something,’” Thacker said of the accident last month. The solution would be a wheelchair ramp, but Thacker said the Uhl family couldn’t get any local agencies to pay for and install it. “So I decided to build it myself,” he said, adding the ramp he created out of sturdy wood is detachable, portable and can be used on other stairs should the Uhls move from their Pleasant Avenue home. Uhl, whose seventh-grade daughter attends Garfield Middle School, said of Thacker, “he doesn’t know how much he did for us.” “It’s really appreciated. He went the extra mile to help us out like nobody else has before,” said Uhl. Becky Goosey, director of transportation for the city schools, praised Thacker for going far beyond his bus driving duties after witnessing how difficult it was for Uhl to push and pull Katelyn in her wheelchair up the steps of their home. “The student fell out of her wheelchair and had a significant injury to her mouth, and the parent had trouble getting up after she fell,” said Goosey. Joni Copas, spokeswoman for Hamilton Schools, said, “Bob is just one great example of our staff members going above and beyond the call of duty. “He saw a need and wanted to help Katelyn and her mother. He witnessed the daily struggle they had getting in and out of the house, so he took it upon himself and his own expense and built a ramp for them.” Thacker also arranged for another city resident to donate an electric, motorized wheelchair to Katelynn so she can more easily move about the neighborhood and school. “Sometimes, you just got to help people,” he said.
  • An Alabama man is charged with murder and other related charges after he allegedly opened fire on his ex-wife and her new boyfriend Monday evening following a Mardi Gras parade, killing the man and critically wounding his former wife. Anthony Orr, 49, also faces charges of attempted murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, according to Mobile County Jail records. >> Related story: Man fatally struck by Mardi Gras float Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said officers were called around 6 p.m. to the scene downtown, where they found the man dead and the woman injured. The city is currently celebrating Mardi Gras, which originated in Mobile, and was in the middle of the biggest party the community sees each year. The gunfire erupted less than an hour before the Infant Mystics parade was set to roll, AL.com reported. The victims were shot a couple of blocks from where the day’s previous parade had ended. “We are currently looking for a black male by the name of Anthony Orr, who is the suspect in this shooting,” Battiste told reporters at the crime scene Monday night, according to video from Fox 10 in Mobile. “We believe that this shooting is domestic-related. He chose to deal with the domestic situation here at Mardi Gras.” Orr had threatened his ex-wife, who was riding on a float, from the parade route as the festivities were underway, Battiste said. The chief asked anyone in the public who knew Orr or spotted him to call police. “Don’t harbor him. Please notify us,” Battiste said. Orr was taken into custody around 10 p.m., Fox 10 reported. Court records obtained by the news station show Orr was arrested Feb 18, just six days before the shooting, on domestic violence charges. The documents indicate the victim, Orr’s ex-wife, told police he had beat her, kicking her in the face, in October 2018. Orr was released on bail three days before the double shooting, AL.com reported. “This is a prime example of, potentially, where somebody may not should have had access to bail because of the offense he committed,” Battiste said. “Once a person has identified themselves as a shooter, it’s kind of hard to get them to stop.” Anthony Orr is escorted to jail by police officers in the video below, courtesy of WKRG in Mobile.  Alabama legislators are seeking to pass a constitutional amendment denying bail to suspects accused of violent Class A felonies. The bill, which the Montgomery Advertiser reported was approved last week by the state House Judiciary Committee, is named after Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old college student who was abducted from an Auburn convenience store and killed in October. At the time of Blanchard’s abduction, the man accused of the crime, Ibraheem Yazeed, was free on $295,000 bond, the Advertiser reported. Yazeed, 29, had been charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery and drug charges in a January 2019 attack on two men at a Montgomery hotel. He now faces the death penalty in Blanchard’s abduction and shooting death. “We really believe the constitutional amendment will speak to this type of issues that we’re dealing with tonight,” Battiste said. “We shouldn’t be dealing with something like this if this guy had a history that indicated he should have been denied bail.” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said Monday night that there were people who knew prior to the shooting that Orr had threatened his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. “There was enough information to be conveyed that this was an actual, valid threat. He was intending to carry out this threat,” Stimpson said. Battiste and James Barber, the city’s public safety director, told Fox 10 that Orr had threatened the victims Sunday night and Monday afternoon. He also actively tried to gain access to weapons throughout the day Monday, Barber said. “There are other people that knew there was a threat to kill the deceased, so it would have been very helpful if somebody had reached out to us. And maybe somebody had, but we haven’t been able to confirm that,” Stimpson said. “If you know that somebody has been threatened with their life and you know there’s a history of violence, you’ve got to tell us if you expect us to do something about it.” Police officials and the mayor tried to assuage paradegoers’ fear as the city prepared for Fat Tuesday, the final and biggest day of Mardi Gras season. “If anything, because of this situation, there is a heightened awareness on our part that we can’t let our guard down coming into the last day of Mardi Gras,” Stimpson said. “That’s when things can happen that you don’t expect to happen. But we have got everything that we have out there trying to make sure that everybody is safe.” >> Related story: Woman run over by Mardi Gras float dies The mayor urged the public to pray for the victims and their families. “How does your heart not break for those who have been shot?” he said. Court records obtained by AL.com show Orr’s divorce was finalized in September. In the woman’s March 2019 filing, she alleged he had been verbally, emotionally and physically abusive. The woman had obtained a protection from abuse order the year before, the news site reported. Orr pleaded guilty in August 2019 to resisting arrest, a charge that stemmed from a March incident in which his ex-wife called the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office to report he was breaking into her home. Deputies found him near the home, and when he refused to follow their commands, they stunned him with a Taser. “As we were helping Anthony Orr to his feet he made the statement he always wondered what a taser felt like and wondered if it really worked,” a deputy wrote in an arrest report, according to AL.com. “(Orr) stated that he is a believer now.”
  • A great white shark fitted last summer with a satellite tag has surprised researchers by showing up in the Gulf of Mexico and swimming past the mouth of the Mississippi River. The shark, a female named Unama’ki, has traveled 3,120 miles in 103 days, beginning in Nova Scotia, the Sun Herald reported. The 2,076-pound, 15-foot, 5-inch shark has been tracked by OCEARCH, a marine research group, according to WXXV. The shark has been lingering off the Louisiana coast and is heading toward Texas, according to the Sun Herald. “Is this a whole new piece to the white shark puzzle?” OCEARCH tweeted Monday. Earlier this month, Unama’ki was pinged about 100 miles from the Florida coast, Northwest Florida Daily News reported. In October, she was pinged off the coast of North Carolina near the Outer Banks, according to WVEC. Unama’ki was last pinged on satellite tracking at 7:12 a.m. Sunday, off Louisiana’s Marsh Island, according to OCEARCH. “She’s a shark on the move!” OCEARCH tweeted.
  • Ever wonder what kind of epic sports memorabilia David Ortiz has? Well, now is your chance to not only see it but also to own some of it. There will be an estate sale at the Weston home of the Red Sox legend Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., WFXT reported. The address will be released after 9 a.m. Friday, according to Exceptional Estate Sales. of Sudbury, which is organizing the sale. Sports memorabilia will include items Ortiz collected during his major league career, with most of them from his days with the Boston Red Sox, the estate sale company wrote on its website. Other items for sale include a poker table, a billiards table, furniture, a Route 66-themed chrome high-top table and stools, hand-knotted Oriental rugs, designer clothing, a white queen-sized four-post bed with matching nightstands and a mirror dresser, a rowing machine and a Rolls Royce neon sign. Ortiz put the five-bedroom, seven-bathroom home up for sale in February 2019 but later took it off the market, according to Trulia.com. The house is 5,214 square feet, according to the website. Ortiz played in the major leagues for 20 seasons, spending 14 years in Boston until his retirement after the 2016 season. He is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2021.