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Latest from Sandra Parrish

    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.
  • One of the top haunts in the country opens its doors this weekend at its new home in Gwinnett County. After 20 years at its old location along I-85 in Norcross, the attraction now sits along West Park Place Road in Stone Mountain.  “We think that the new location is going to be incredible both for the show and for our patrons. It’s a much bigger location (and) we own the building, so we can make the modifications we need to really do this justice,” says co-owner Ben Armstrong.  He tells WSB Radio’s Sandra Parrish parking will be much better too with three lots available at no charge. And having queue lines both inside and outside is expected to move guests through faster.  Just like at the old location, there will be two shows this year: one with scary mummy-type monsters and the other a science-fiction thriller. As always, expect monsters to scare patrons as they wait in line or walk through the midway.  Armstrong, who was known to dress up himself through the years, says he now takes a supervisory role due to the size of the attraction.  “In a week or two I’ll know what I like and what I want to change. Right now, I just want them to see it,” he says.  Netherworld employs more than 400 people including 125 actors during its month-long season. Armstrong says the old location would typically see 75,000 visitors during that time and he hopes they’ll see as much, if not more, at this new one.  After this weekend’s preview on Friday and Saturday nights, the show will close for the week and then open nightly from Oct. 5 through Nov. 4.  The new location also includes three escape rooms which are open year-round.
  • A Gwinnett County woman, who reported to police she had been kidnapped at knifepoint, is now facing felony charges for making it all up.Detectives with the Gwinnett Police Department are waiting for 33-year-old Hillary Black to turn herself in on charges of falsely reporting a crime.Cpl. Michele Pihera says she told investigators a Hispanic man used a box cutter to threaten his way into her car after she withdrew money from the ATM at the Publix on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.
  • Lawrenceville Police investigators say a man arrested for the fatal hit and run of an elderly woman last week has an address less than a mile from the scene.  Tran Hong, 79, was hit and killed by someone driving a small U-Haul truck as she walked along Johnson Road to go the grocery store September 10th.  Lt. Jake Parker says 51-year-old Leonard Decouto ditched the U-Haul truck with front-end damage within two days of the accident. U-Haul recovered the vehicle in Duluth and notified police.
  • 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

  • A co-founder of the Shepherd Center died “peacefully” Monday morning, the hospital confirmed. James Harold Shepherd Sr., 90, was a fourth-generation Atlantan who helped found the private nonprofit hospital that specializes in spinal cord injury treatment and research, hospital spokeswoman Jane Sanders said in a news release. Shepherd, who had five siblings, started Shepherd Construction Company with his brothers, and his family oversaw the construction of hundreds of miles of interstate highways in Georgia and several surrounding states in addition to thousands of miles of city and county streets since 1949, the release said. In 1973, Shepherd sustained a spinal cord injury in a bodysurfing accident, which helped motivate him to found the Shepherd Center along with his wife, Alana, their son, James, and Dr. David F. Apple Jr., the release said. The center opened in 1975.  “He wanted to be here, talk to people, to be around the hospital and watch as it grew,” said Julie Shepherd, his granddaughter, who is a case manager at Shepherd Center. “He often talked about how proud he was of Shepherd Center. His construction career had been rewarding in one way, but he was even prouder of what they’d done here (at the hospital) and the lives they’d changed.” The Georgia General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution to designate a section of Peachtree Road in Buckhead to be renamed J. Harold Shepherd Parkway. A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Peachtree Presbyterian Church at 3434 Roswell Road. 
  • President Donald Trump's intensifying legal troubles are unnerving some of his fellow Republicans. Despite his brash stance, they believe the turmoil has left him increasingly vulnerable as he gears up for what is sure to be a nasty fight for re-election. Trump, ever confident of his ability to bend story lines to his will, mocks the investigations into his conduct as candidate and president as a 'witch hunt' and insists he will survive the threats. But a shift began to unfold over the weekend after prosecutors in New York for the first time linked Trump to a federal crime of illegal hush payments. That left some of his associates fearful that his customary bravado is unwarranted. For some Republicans, the implication that the president may have directed a campaign finance violation, which would be a felony, could foreshadow a true turning point in the Republican relationship with him when special counsel Robert Mueller releases his report on the Russia investigation. 'I'm sure there's going to be a lot more that's going to come out from the Southern District (of New York) and from, at some point, from the Mueller investigation as well,' Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber's incoming No. 2 Republican, said Monday. 'What they're implying there, obviously, is something I assume at some point the president will have an opportunity to respond to.' Thune continued: 'Campaign finance violations are something that ... they are serious matters, but obviously it depends a little bit on how it gets treated.' As the legal drama plays out, political challenges that could threaten Trump's re-election are piling up. Republicans are still coming to terms with their drubbing in last month's House elections and looking for someone to blame. The departure of John Kelly as White House chief of staff has set off a disorganized search for a replacement who could stay in the job through the 2020 campaign. After Trump's top choice, the vice president's chief of staff Nick Ayers, passed on the job, few of the remaining candidates have political experience. Also, Democrats will soon take control of the House of Representatives, wielding subpoena power and potentially exploring impeachment proceedings. Meanwhile, financial markets have been jittery, in part because of Trump's trade wars and concerns that higher borrowing costs could ultimately trigger a recession. Facing pressure from Mueller and an impending onslaught of Democratic investigations, Trump could hew even further to the right, catering exclusively to the base of voters he is concerned about losing, according to a Republican close to the White House who has consulted on the early re-election efforts. That instinct would echo the president's double-down, scorched-earth response to the crises that hit his 2016 campaign, including the Access Hollywood tape about forcing himself on women, and could make it harder to woo the independent voters or disaffected Democrats he may well need. Could Trump face a primary election challenge from within his own party? He doesn't seem concerned. The president is eager to unleash his re-election machinery and begin to collect pledges of loyalty from across the GOP to quell any hint of an insurrection, according to a campaign official and a Republican familiar with the inner workings of the campaign but not authorized to speak publicly. The Trump team has discussed the possibility of a challenge from someone such as outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. A week after the midterm elections, Kasich traveled to New Hampshire for a public speech and private meetings with prominent Republicans. Flake, who has tangled repeatedly with Trump, isn't making any personal commitment, but his feelings about a challenger are clear. 'Somebody needs to run' against Trump, he said Monday. 'I hope somebody does.' While some Democrats eying the White House are expected to announce campaigns in the first few weeks of 2019, a Republican challenger could move more slowly, according to two GOP operatives who have been involved in hypothetical discussions about taking on Trump. Waiting until early spring, for example, could give Republicans time to assess whether Trump will be weakened by Mueller's investigation or a downturn in the economy. One leading House Republican said the situation surrounding Trump remains volatile and has urged colleagues to wait for the Mueller report, which some believe could emerge early next year. That Republican, who demanded anonymity to assess the situation candidly, has urged fellow GOP lawmakers to not defend the indefensible but to also not believe every charge. The lawmaker expressed hope that the special counsel's findings come out sooner rather than later so there will be more time before the 2020 elections. For all the private and not-so-private party worries, many close to Trump predict he not only will survive the Russia investigation but will be re-elected in two years. They point to his remarkable ability to shake off scandal, the sway he continues to hold over his base of GOP voters, the fear his Twitter account has instilled among many Republican elected officials and what they believe is the lack of top-shelf talent among Democrats who could face him in 2020. Echoing the president, they contend the special counsel has come up empty-handed in his efforts to prove Russian collusion and is ready to settle for a campaign finance charge they believe is minor and will be ignored or not understood by most voters. The president has said the lesson of the 2018 midterms is that Republican candidates abandon him at their own peril. And the Republicans who remain in Congress after that election aren't likely to back away from him. 'Remember that the Republicans who are left have won in fairly solid Republican, Trump districts,' said moderate Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who is retiring. 'So he is very popular with the base. I would not think that they would want to distance themselves or have any fear of associating with him.' ___ Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Fram at http://twitter.com/@asfram
  • Officials from Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana are still figuring out how much damage an agitated naked man caused Sunday to its Dayton residential re-entry facility. >> Read more trending news   The naked man, who police haven’t identified, spent more than four hours on the roof of the organization’s Gettysburg Avenue facility after he disrobed and burned his clothing, officials said. The man, who was a resident at the center, also stabbed himself several times with a sharp object and wrote “Pig for Life” in his own blood on a wall, witnesses and police said. The man is expected to face criminal charges, possibly including felony vandalism after he damaged multiple cameras, windows and other equipment, police said. “This certainly was an unusual and very out-of-the-ordinary Sunday afternoon for us,” said Nicole Knowlton, vice president of communications for Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana. At about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, staff at the Volunteers of America called police after a resident climbed a chain-link fence and managed to get onto the roof of the facility, located at 1931 S. Gettysburg Ave. The facility provides programming and treatment to help ex-offenders integrate back into the community, Knowlton said. The organization has four half-way houses in the state, including the Gettysburg facility, which can hold about 120 people. >> Related: Naked man on top of Dayton building causes disturbance for more than 4 hours The man shed and then burned his clothing, police said. He jumped from rooftop to rooftop while naked. He stabbed himself with a sharp object and smeared blood on the top of the one-story building, officials said. Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana locked down the facility and restricted where clients could go for their safety, Knowlton said. The man broke two security cameras, six windows, some wiring and the fans of the heating and cooling units, Knowlton said. Officers lined up mattresses on the sidewalk below the roof to try to cushion a potential fall. Authorities used a ladder truck to eventually retrieve the man. Knowlton said she believes he remains in the hospital.
  • A polygamous group based on the Utah-Arizona border is letting go of the sprawling building where its members worshipped, in the latest sign that the sect run by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs is crumbling and losing control of the community it ruled for a century. The group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, now has nowhere to gather for worship services after the nearly 53,000 square-foot (4,900 square-meter) building was taken over last week as part of government-ordered evictions that have taken away about 200 homes and buildings from members who refuse to pay property taxes and $100-a-month occupancy fees. The meetinghouse with capacity for several thousand people is valued at $2.8 million and sits on about 7 acres (2.8 hectares) in the remote red rock community, on the Arizona side of the border. The building has a stage, a church-like setup for services and classrooms for religious education but has not been used for at least six months, Jeff Barlow said Monday. He is the executive director of a government-appointed organization that oversees a former church trust that has properties in the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The FLDS doesn't have a spokesperson to comment about the development. The sect is experiencing a major leadership void with Warren Jeffs serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides and his brother Lyle Jeffs serving nearly a five-year sentence for his role in carrying out an elaborate food stamp fraud scheme and for escaping home confinement while awaiting trial. Members have said they have been worshipping at home on their own. The lack of local leaders meant nobody stepped up to take responsibility for the building when Barlow's organization warned an eviction was imminent, said Christine Katas, who lives in the community and serves as an intermediary between Barlow's organization and the FLDS. Rank-and-file members don't believe they have the authority to do so, she said. 'It's very sad for the FLDS. I've seen people cry over it,' Katas said. 'Both sides are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Everybody wishes there was a different outcome.' The evictions have led many FLDS members to take refuge in trailers around town or move away, while former members have purchased the homes and buildings and moved back. Group members don't believe they should have to pay for what belonged to a communal church trust that the state of Utah took over more than a decade ago amid mismanagement. The evictions are part of the shifting demographics in the sister cities of about 7,700 people. Non-sect members last year won control of the mayor's office and town council in Hildale, Utah and nearly did the same in municipal elections in Colorado City. The town government and police are being watched closely by court-appointed monitors after a jury found past town and police leaders guilty of civil rights violations. Sprawling homes that used to belong to Warren Jeffs have been converted into beds and breakfast and sober living centers. Members of the group still consider their leader and prophet to be Warren Jeffs, even though he has been in jail in Utah or Texas continually since 2006. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it. The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the eviction of the meetinghouse. Barlow said the board of the organization he runs, called the United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust, will meet on Jan. 5 in a public meeting to discuss what to do with the building, constructed in 1986, Barlow said. One possibility is converting it to a civic center, though that would likely require seeking grant funds, he said. The UEP board will make the final decision.
  • The 2018 college football bowl season kicks off with the fourth annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. The game will feature champions from the Mid-Eastern Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences. In a rematch of the first Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, the North Carolina A&T Aggies will go head-to-head with the Alcorn State Braves.  Starting at 11 a.m., Channel 2 WSB-TV presents a live half-hour program, “The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Countdown.”  Channel 2 anchors Fred Blankenship and Carol Sbarge host the pregame show for this event. Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein will break down the strategies of both teams, the players, coaches and each team’s strengths and weaknesses.  Following the countdown will be a special edition of Channel 2 Action News at 11:30 a.m. with weather, game day traffic and news of the day. At noon, the battle for the championship begins. In addition to the game, organizers will host the first annual “A Celebration of Service.” The service project will bring together “The Divine 9” Greek letter organizations to collect food donations that benefit Hosea Helps. Other attractions include a special fan experience and the ultimate HBCU Greek homecoming tailgate. MATCHUP Alcorn State (9-3, 6-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) vs. North Carolina A&T (9-2, 6-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). TIME/LOCATION Saturday at noon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Pregame coverage starts at 11 a.m., followed by the game at noon. TOP PLAYERS Alcorn State QB Noah Johnson has thrown for 2,079 yards and 15 touchdowns while also running for 960 yards and nine touchdowns. North Carolina A&T is led by veteran QB Lamar Raynard and a running game that's averaging close to 200 yards on the ground per game. NOTABLE The Braves are back in the Celebration Bowl for the first time since the inaugural game in 2015. Alcorn State is led by coach Fred McNair, the older brother of the late Steve McNair, who was a star quarterback for Alcorn State and in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. The Aggies are back in the Celebration Bowl for the third time in four seasons. North Carolina A&T beat Grambling 21-14 last year to give the MEAC a 2-1 edge in the game over the SWAC. LAST TIME North Carolina A&T 41, Alcorn State 34 on Dec. 19, 2015. BOWL HISTORY The Braves are in the Celebration Bowl for the second time. The Aggies are in the Celebration Bowl for the third time.