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Traffic Team fundraisers benefit Toys for Tots Captain Herb loved so much. He loved his family, his job, his colleagues and his community. One of the many charities he helped was metro Atlanta Toys for Tots. To honor his legacy, the WSB Traffic Team, Karen Emory, and Fred’s BBQ House recently hosted their annual toy drive. Despite the rain and cold, WSB listeners and the community came through for kids! $62,000 plus SO many toys were donated to Toys for Tots! THANK YOU! Thank you and congratulations to our Traffic Trooper Mike Haney “Disc Golf Driver” and to Steve Winslow for putting together another successful disc golf tournament back in September. The group raised more than $6,300 for metro-Atlanta Toys for Tots and, not to mention, a truckload of toys that were also donated! To see some pictures from that day, view the Facebook album here. Call our traffic center with traffic incident 24/7/365 at 404-897-7358. You can also get through to us using the “Triple Team Traffic Alerts” app, free in your phone’s app store! The app provides real-time, traffic incidents recorded by WSB radio traffic reporters. Powered by BriteBox Electrical.

The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • This may be a niche topic, but electric scooters were in the headlines last week in Atlanta. The Atlanta City Council passed new regulations on the scooters, adding both some structure and complication to this easy and unilateral mode of transport. » RELATED: Atlanta City Council lays down law on scooters Pending Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ signature on the ordinance, riders will now no longer be able to ride on sidewalks or go above 15 mph. They also have to limit per-scooter-ridership to one person and cannot use cellular devices while operating the scooters. Scooter companies like Bird, Lime, and JUMP will also have to pay at least $12,000 per year in permit fees to the city. No one should be surprised that the city wants a cut of this burgeoning industry. The most disruptive part of the new set of rules is the requirement for scooters to stay off of pedestrian sidewalks. They can still use bike lanes and multi-use paths like the BeltLine. But forcing riders without helmets to putter along the side of the road, right next to traffic, and without helmets seems like a recipe for injuries. Riders partially have themselves to thank for this. There have been quite a few complaints about inconsiderate scooter riders putting those on foot in danger by zooming close by or running into them. This sounds similar to skiers’ complaints about snowboarders doing just the same on the slopes (guilty). A speed disparity and a recklessness create the need for separate lanes. » RELATED: Uber joins e-scooter war in Atlanta This newest transportation fad sees riders in a layer between cyclists and walkers. They can go quite a bit faster than pedestrians, but not as fast as bicycles. So Atlanta has moved scooters to the few bicycle lanes the city has. But cyclists are more committed to their longer trips and can go faster than the flippant, on-off scooter riders. That coexistence just doesn’t seem smooth. Scooter-riders, this ordinance should be a wake up call about an aspect of this technology that you love. The most charming part about scooting is how disposable using one can be. But you need to start treating scooter-riding as you would driving a car. You need to be considerate of those around you (on the roads and sidewalks). And you need to be extra-alert, as your foot-shuffling will now be often in shared lanes with automobiles. The city ordinance didn’t address the problem of scooters being left in random places all over. If users continue to leave their small, rented rides haphazardly on sidewalks, rules on that are sure to follow. The new Atlanta electric scooter rules seem to mean well and should help keep pedestrians safer. But with scooters now closer to traffic and with riders not wearing helmets, there could be some major problems. Another transportation mode is well entrenched among us - heads-up.  » RELATED: Athens mulls law banning electric scooters as hundreds are impounded Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • As pellets of information whiz by our eyes simultaneously and at breakneck speed, retaining even just the most important bits becomes difficult. The fact that most of this information resides within a few clicks or thumb flicks makes us less reliant on our ability to remember. The speed of the news cycle pushes stories in and out of sight so quickly that we forget which celebrities died or that such-and-such politician had the exact opposite stance just two months ago. This same cognitive sloppiness applies not just to citizens trying to follow traffic laws, but also sometimes to the agencies tasked with enforcing them. » RELATED: What Georgia law says you should do when a school bus stops Rules regarding school bus safety changed on both the user and the enforcement sides on July 1, 2018 in Georgia. House Bill 978 began allowing agencies to catch school-zone speeders with cameras on buses, a provision met with heavy resistance. The compromise that allowed this automated enforcement loosened the restrictions on when vehicles can pass stopped buses in the opposite direction. The revised law eliminates the requirement of a raised or divided median for oncoming vehicles to be able to pass stopped school buses that are loading or unloading. The compromise eases the “median restriction” to including a turn lane. In other words, a turn lane now counts as a dividing median for the purposes of oncoming vehicles being able to advance past a bus in loading mode. As we talked about in an August Gridlock Guy column on the issue, this new freedom is not one motorists should take lightly. Sure, buses only unload students on the same side of the road as bus stops. But drivers in all surrounding areas should use absolute caution. One small distraction could cause an error that puts our most precious citizens in danger. And any relaxation in bus-passing does not change the restriction on speeding. Remember how easy speeding is to enforce under this new law. » RELATED: Georgia’s top lawyer confirms fears about change to school bus law But enforcement is only as smooth as the enforcers. A friend who will go unnamed told me that they got an automated ticket for passing a stopped bus in the opposite direction — when they had a turn lane in between them. One of the new automated cameras caught her and the jurisdiction mailed her the ticket. She went to court to fight the ticket and actually used the aforementioned August Gridlock Guy column as proof that she did not break the law. The judge threw out the ticket. Another unnamed friend got a similar ticket and wasn’t so lucky and had to pay. So the police and courts need to get on the same page as the law. Motorists do also. A former WSB co-worker, Noelle Stettner, emailed the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center last month with the opposite problem. She said she observes motorists on Highway 9 in Roswell and Sandy Springs stopping when they do not have to. They either are not aware of their new freedom or they are afraid to pass someone else that has erroneously stopped. Stettner wasn’t just annoyed by the unnecessary stopping, but legitimately concerned that stopping in error could increase rear-end crashes. An increase of crashes in a sensitive zone near a bus is never a good thing. The biggest ambiguity in the new law about passing school buses is not in the language itself. The law allows for oncoming vehicles to pass stopped buses, as long as there is at least a turn lane separating the two sides of the road. Period. The ambiguity therein is in how well both motorists and law enforcement are aware of the rule. If you get a ticket in error, look up the bill (or, apparently, this column) and go to court and plead your case. And make sure you aren’t speeding, or the case is moot anyway.  » RELATED: Why a small change in Georgia law could create danger for students Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • This is a scenario that often unfolds in the hours of gridlock that thousands happen upon in holiday travel. I-75 on the south side, for example, may have bumper-to-bumper traffic in either direction for 20 miles. There may not even be a cause for the jam, but traffic is sitting still. Suddenly, that Cracker Barrel sweet tea follows gravity’s nudge and lands at the end of the line. You’re miles away from the next exit and traffic still hasn’t moved. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: If you play the traffic blame game, play it right This may seem like an elementary problem that requires a simple solution. Most people would say to hold it or to pull over and go. But neither choice is that simple. First, waiting to relieve one’s self is only a true option if there is an end to the traffic jam in sight. But despite the niftiness of “ETA” features on GPS apps and devices, those fly out of the window when a freeway is completely shut down. Just last Wednesday, a tractor trailer fire and ensuing cleanup shut down almost all of I-75/southbound in Spalding County for hours. This hullabaloo in the middle of the post-Christmas exodus created more than two-hour delays. It also created bad enough northbound delays that a total stranger Facebooked me to tell me that people were in fact pulling over to use the woods. Even though I-75/northbound was open and technically southbound had one lane open, people had no idea when they would reach the next exit with bathrooms. And the further one gets from Metro Atlanta, the longer the distances are between exits. But before bonding with nature, there are a few things to consider. First, most states and cities have some form of public indecency laws. People have gotten popped with tickets and even felonies for public urination in the wrong places. So if nature calls with urgency, people should make an effort to get as far out of view as possible. The best bet is to try to get to the woods. But if this conundrum occurs in an area not near some natural partitions, antsy motorists must make some sort of effort to cover themselves. People often have a fellow passenger hold up a blanket or towel and use the car door as another barrier. Not taking this effort is not only inconsiderate to those also stuck in the mess, but it could subject the lazy urinator to a ticket. Remember that whole indecency thing? » RELATED: SEE: Man busts a move during traffic jam, entertaining drivers with his dance moves Several years ago, a listener called me in the WSB Traffic Center, while stuck in a horrible holiday backup on I-85 northeast of town. The poor woman was in tears, because she really had to pee and was more than a mile away from an exit and not moving. I felt awful for her and admittedly had never taken a call about this kind of predicament. She asked if she could drive for a mile on the shoulder up to the exit or try and call the police to escort her down the shoulder. She really had to go. I told her that she was far more suited to try and pull over and go in the woods. Driving in the emergency lanes is for true emergencies. Someone driving a woman in labor to the hospital is an emergency. Rescue units rushing to a crash scene is an emergency. Emptying 20 ounces of Starbucks from one’s bladder is not. And when one car drives in the emergency lane, it invites others to do so and blocks the lane from being used for true emergencies. Don’t do that. Truckers often use empty bottles, so they do not have to pull over on long trips. I advise against this also. For one, this really only works for men. That aside, truckers are above others in traffic, so no one can see them do their business. A motorist in a regular vehicle may not cover all of their privacy bases, if they try to relieve themselves in a bottle. And then people are prone to chucking these “pee bombs” out of the window and creating nasty litter. Imagine picking these up. Gross. This thought exercise here should at least remind us all to be prepared. Keep napkins and hand sanitizer in the car, along with some snacks and water, in case a traffic RED ALERT gets us helplessly stuck. And if nature calls for desperate measures, we should execute those maneuvers with as much modesty and consideration as possible. Yes, safely pull over and go. No, don’t throw bottles out of windows or drive on the shoulders to find an exit. Happy travels and Happy New Year.  » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Minimizing dog distractions behind the wheel Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • This story has been updated. Rain always hurts the Atlanta commute, but you can make a difference on your drive and those around you. Take our advice. » RELATED: Flash flood warnings issued for NE Georgia counties Headlights on, flashers off: Most cars have automatic light-responsive lights, but this aid doesn’t do the job when rain falls in daylight. This means turning them on is incumbent on the driver. Georgia law leaves no daylight here - always operate them in any precipitation. Turning on the headlights in the rain is simply the safe, considerate thing to do. On the flipside, driving with the hazard lights or flashers on is not good protocol. Hazard lights are meant to alert drivers that you are in danger or that your car has a problem. If conditions are such that cars have to slow well below the speed limit and drive with their hazards on, the best move is to pull onto an exit or into a parking lot and wait out the storm. Georgia hasn’t outlawed driving with flashers in non-emergencies, but it isn’t safe. » RELATED: Why you should never use your hazard lights while driving Rain can add 30-50 percent more time to your trip: A general rule of thumb the WSB Traffic Team uses is that your normal, every day trip time is will get that much worse just because of rain. The worse the rain and the closer the the height of rush hour your commute is, the more the percentages increase. A 30 minute-trip with normal delays in rush hour becomes at least 45 mins in heavy rain. And crashes make the times even longer. Distractions and speed make it worse: In the rain, vehicles take longer to stop, there are more wrecks, flooding occurs, vehicles have less traction, sharp turns are harder to negotiate, other people drive poorly and delays are worse. All of these factors require more reaction time; distracted driving and speeding have an inverse relationship with reaction time. To quote Jim Morrison, “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.” » RELATED: Everything you need to know about a flash flood Stay away from standing water: You may have no choice in the matter, but try not to drive through water, unless you have an idea of how deep it is. During downpours, people stall their cars often in what they think is only a big puddle. In 2017, a large puddle turned into substantial flooding at end of the I-85/southbound ramp to the Buford-Spring Connector/Hwy. 13 - which is downward sloping. Vehicles nudged forward through both pools and we did not notice any getting stuck, but HERO units soon blocked the ramp. However, if that water was only a few inches deeper, it could have entered the engine compartments on the cars and caused real trouble. Also, if cars hit these large aqua plains at speed, they hydroplane. Try and dodge big puddles in flooding and if you cannot, either turn around or go slowly. Telecommute or take MARTA: Non-vehicular ways to work are not options for everyone, but the best way to avoid the terrors of stormy rush hours is to avoid the roads all together. MARTA stations are sheltered from the rain and the trains have hardly the delays the roads have. Sure, buses get stuck in traffic, but at least they help remove the stress of operating a vehicle in bad conditions. And choosing to strategically work from home during inclement weather eliminates commuting stress altogether. » RELATED: Want some extra cash? Here’s how you can make money during your Atlanta commute Prepare with the WSB Traffic Team: The last piece of advice is to know your commute before and while you go. Start your drive with the south’s biggest, most experienced traffic team 24/7 on News 95.5/AM750 WSB and the WSB Radio App. Watch Mark Arum’s reports on Channel 2 Action News every weekday morning. And get a full rundown of the wrecks around town on the WSBradio.com traffic page and @WSBTraffic on Twitter. » For a detailed forecast, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weather page. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com
  • I’ve had dogs on my mind quite a bit in the last month. After going more than a decade without a pup, I adopted a year-old stray: a Belgian Malinois mix named Stallz. Accessories Unlimited, a company that does commercial bathrooms, found Stallz and appropriately named him. I minted him with the full name Lord William Byron Stallworth Turnbull III. After a proper greeting, the first thing I did was load my new best bud into my SUV, having no clue how he would react. Fortunately, he was a great passenger on the 20-minute ride back from Stone Mountain to my condo in Chamblee. And Stallz has been a great navigator on our many trips in the last month-plus since. » RELATED: Trucker saves dogs thrown from vehicle on New York highway But every once in a while this high energy dog gets restless and will stand up on the center armrest to jump in the back or nuzzle his head in the cup holders right next to me. Or Stallz will struggle to keep his balance if I make a turn while he is shifting positions. The most distracting thing Stallz does is decide to stand up — and sometimes on the center armrest — while I am trying to check my blind spot. So all of this got me thinking about if there is a certain protocol or even a law about animal behavior in moving vehicles. I reached out to Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood for insight. “While we don’t have data on dogs in cars, it is safe to conclude that having a pet on the loose in the front seat can contribute to distraction,” Blackwood said. I think most would agree that we see dogs riding in front seats all the time and doing so without seat belts. No laws require restraining dogs in the car, but Blackwood said belting in pets is a good idea. “Many pet product manufacturers offer various safety devices for pets in cars. Dogs are also safe in traveling crates, particularly for longer trips.” This is especially good advice this time of year, as many take longer rides to visit family and friends in the holidays. Chewy.com offers an assortment of affordable pet restraint devices. For as cheap as $10 or $15, dog owners can buy small leashes that either tether to a fastened-in seat belt or that actually have tabs and can click into a seat belt receptacle. These may not keep a dog from stirring around and certainly wouldn’t stop them from barking. But dog seat belts limit the perimeter in which a pooch can mull. On the same Chewy.com search there are dog booster seats, which are padded boxes (without tops, of course), in which smaller dogs can sit. » RELATED: Ohio town to issue citations for distracted drivers holding animals while on road These devices help restrain dogs and minimize distractions, but they also keep the hounds safe. In the event of a sudden stop or collision, a loose pet can go flailing and flying and get more seriously hurt than a human. In bigger vehicles, Blackwood offers another option. “Another alternative is to place the pet in the back of an SUV and use the safety netting to keep them from being thrown forward in a crash or sudden stop.” With all the talk about the Hands-Free Georgia Act this year, many bemoaned the amended law’s scope. They argued that many other actions outside of talking on a phone are distracting. The most common one I got is, “What about eating a cheeseburger and driving?” For some reason, it always had to have cheese. Add a loose dog to that list of extracurricular driving distractions. But remember that there is another distracted driving law that covers anything that impedes drivers from operating their vehicles correctly. Police can apply that law if they determine an outside factor, like burger-eating, putting on makeup, and taming a hound, caused a crash or another traffic violation. You’re probably reading this right around Christmas Day, and a new dog might be on your child’s wish list. Take these concerns about distracted driving with dogs into consideration as you start chauffeuring this new member of the family. And if you got a cat, this piece isn’t for you. No one drives around cats and cats couldn’t care less anyway. Merry Christmas.  » RELATED: Driving dog crashes truck trying to get to container of bacon grease Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.

News

  • After a dramatic ending to a sentencing hearing on Monday, Channel 2 Action News has learned former Mayor Kasim Reed’s top aide, Katrina Taylor Parks, made nearly a dozen recordings related to the bribery probe at Atlanta City Hall. As a judge read the sentence against Park on Monday, she passed out and was taken out of court on a stretcher.  In August, Parks pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a city vendor in exchange for city work.  In court, prosecutors reveled parks took $15,000 in cash and gifts over an 18-month period starting in 2013 and lied to FBI about it at least twice. Why experts say those recordings were not enough to keep her out of prison, on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m.
  • Washington state's lieutenant governor declined to preside at Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State speech Tuesday, saying he was concerned people might bring concealed weapons to the joint session of the Legislature. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat, noted that the state House of Representatives, where the speech was given, does not have a policy banning concealed weapons, The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported . 'There is no specific threat to me. There is no specific threat we know of, period,' Habib said. 'It's about the policy.' The House and Senate ban openly carried weapons in their galleries, and in the Senate, where Habib is the presiding officer; he extended that ban to cover concealed weapons as well. Habib, who is blind, said he was concerned the House policy leaves elected officials vulnerable. Other statewide elected officials, from the nine Washington Supreme Court justices to the commissioner of public lands, attended. In an emailed response, the office of the chief House clerk, Bernard Dean, called Habib's decision regrettable. 'Washington state law is clear: Properly licensed concealed carry permit holders are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the state capitol campus, including the galleries,' the statement said. 'Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action.' Democratic Rep. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, the speaker pro tem in the House, presided over the joint legislative session for Inslee's speech in Habib's absence. Inslee, who is mulling a possible 2020 Democratic presidential bid, highlighted climate as his top issue in his annual address to lawmakers, who started their 105-day legislative session this week. ___ Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com
  • The White House says Ivanka Trump will take part in the nomination process for a new head of the World Bank. The senior adviser was asked to participate by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin because she has worked with World Bank leaders on a variety of projects. The White House said she is not a contender for the post. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank, announced last week that he is resigning. With Kim's exit, President Donald Trump will have the opportunity to nominate his own choice to fill the position. The leaders at the 189-nation World Bank have all been Americans. But other countries have complained about this pattern. Kim's permanent successor will be decided by the World Bank's board of directors.
  • President Donald Trump's pick to become the next attorney general said Tuesday that he would 'not go after' marijuana companies in states where cannabis is legal, even though he personally believes the drug should be outlawed. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, William Barr said he would not use limited government resources to target cannabis businesses that are complying with state laws. Businesses in the marijuana industry relied on Obama-era guidance that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal, but those guidelines were rescinded by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year. Pointing to the growing marijuana industry and investments in cannabis companies, Barr said he didn't want to 'upset settled expectations.' 'To the extent that people are complying with the state laws, distribution and production and so forth, we're not going to go after that,' Barr said. Despite his affirmation that he would not target cannabis businesses, Barr said he would personally support a federal law that 'prohibits marijuana everywhere.' The largely hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement set forth during former President Barack Obama's administration allowed the marijuana industry to flourish into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar market that helps fund some state government programs. Days after California's broad marijuana legalization went into effect, Sessions rescinded the Justice Department's guidance — known as the Cole Memo — and decried it as allowing a 'safe harbor' for marijuana by allowing states to flout federal law. Since the guidance was rescinded, there has been concern about the future of the growing cannabis industry. Despite medical and so-called recreational cannabis legalization in dozens of states, federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. But Barr said the current system is 'untenable' and 'almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law.' He called for members of Congress to come up with a way to handle marijuana enforcement across the U.S. 'I think it's incumbent on the Congress to make a decision as to whether we are going to have a federal system,' he said. 'Because this is breeding disrespect for the federal law.' ___ Michael Balsamo is a member of AP's marijuana beat team. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 . Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: www.apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana
  • The partial government shutdown continues and many federal workers haven't been paid in weeks, so a local church stepped in to help its members who have been impacted. [READ MORE: Government shutdown becomes longest in U.S. history] Church members at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church were able to raise enough money to give fellow members affected by the government shutdown nearly $300 each in cash. Pastor Jamal Bryant, who joined the church in December, said he felt he and his congregation had a responsibility to help those in need. He said 30 people went to the altar Sunday seeking aide. [READ MORE: Jamal Bryant named as new senior pastor of New Birth] “When the government shuts down is when the church needs to be wide open,” Bryant said. Channel 2's Tom Jones has the full interview with Pastor Bryant on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m. TRENDING STORIES: Police: Officer attacked with own Taser after dangerous suspect resists arrest Former Kasim Reed aide collapses in court as judge sentences her to prison Passengers arrive hours early at Atlanta airport after massive security lines
  • Before the boy died and went into a secret grave by the family dog pen, Elwyn “JR” Crocker Jr.’s dad complained about the 13-year-old to police in Georgia. The father claimed JR stole, fought when told to take a bath and was a “bully,” which was why he was homeschooled, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Cpl. Kurtis Smith took the boy aside and asked what was wrong, according to an incident report. JR acknowledged he did get angry a lot. He was upset mostly because he didn’t have many friends. The Rincon police officer advised JR to listen to his family, everything would be fine. Two and a half years later, this past Dec. 20, Effingham County Sheriff’s deputies found JR and his sister Mary Crocker, who was about two years younger, buried behind their trailer, some 30 miles from Savannah. They arrested every member of the family who lived there, including Elwyn Crocker Sr., the father who turned 50 on Christmas and until recently played Santa at a nearby Walmart. The suspects, who authorities say don’t have attorneys yet, remain jailed on charges of child cruelty and concealing deaths. The cause of death for the children could remain unknown for weeks or months as medical examiners perform tests on the remains. The officer’s 2015 encounter with JR was just one of many times when authorities and other got close to the family without realizing something would go terribly wrong, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found. Interviews with those who know the family, as well as public records obtained by the AJC, show the children endured a tumultuous home life from an early age. Police were summoned multiple times, responding to fights between the adults around them. Child welfare agencies in South Carolina and Georgia investigated. There were strange punishments — especially for JR. Some witness accounts of mistreatment for one reason or another went unreported to authorities. Viewed together, the information paints an unsettling picture of how isolation and a hesitancy by authorities and neighbors to intervene more forcefully left the kids vulnerable. Then there was one big alleged lie, a statement that could have changed the course of the children’s lives. A picture, a reality There is a picture on Facebook of the family, taken in 2010: Crocker and his wife, Candice Crocker, beaming, crammed onto a loveseat with the man’s three kids, Mary, JR and James, the youngest, who suffers from cerebral palsy. They’re dressed like they just came from church and they look happy. But family portraits don’t tell all. Two years before, the father was in South Carolina with a different woman. Rebecca Grantham Self gave birth to James on Nov. 1, 2007. (JR and Mary share a mother, who couldn’t be reached for comment.) Self lived with Crocker and all three kids in the little town of South Congaree, southwest of Columbia. In Self’s telling, things were mostly fine until April 27, 2008. On that afternoon, she dialed 911 and told police Crocker had just flown into a rage after she woke him while feeding the baby, according to an incident report. He accused her of feeding James the wrong food, snatched the bottle and grabbed her by the throat, pressing her back against a window while she was still holding the infant, Self told an officer. Crocker had allegedly left a large red mark and a scratch on James’ head. The baby was taken to the hospital to get checked out. Sgt. Joshua Shumpert called the South Carolina Department of Social Services. A worker came and took the baby from the tearful mother. DSS declined to comment, but records provided to the AJC by Self suggest the agency believed her accusations against Crocker, at least before her alleged lie. ‘Ruined credibility’ The next day, Crocker told a police investigator that he and Self had been in a “verbal” fight and a “physical struggle for the bottle,” which resulted in the marks on the baby. He wasn’t charged and JR and Mary apparently remained in his custody. Nine days later, Self showed up at the police department with an awful-looking black eye, claiming Crocker had punched her. Shumpert, the same cop who’d called DSS, remembers feeling concern — then suspicion. He got Self a wet cloth and asked her to wipe her eye. The blackness came off — it was makeup, Shumpert said. “It ruined her credibility,” Shumpert, who is now the police chief, told the AJC recently. Crocker was never charged with grabbing Self by the throat or hurting the baby. Shumpert said he isn’t sure why, because he wasn’t involved in the investigation and couldn’t locate investigative records, but he suspected the “black eye” could’ve had something to do with it. Self was also later convicted of assaulting Crocker, court records show. She maintains today that she actually had been punched by Crocker and was angry that police hadn’t charged Crocker with hurting the baby. DSS later gave the father custody of the baby. Fights and long silence Crocker soon moved to Georgia with his new wife, Candice Crocker, who is 17 years younger. The Division of Family and Children Services investigated the family around 2012 but the agency has not yet commented or released any records on the case. At some point, the Crockers ended up in Rincon, on 9th Street, where the two dozen or so trailers in the Brother’s Keeper mobile home park are planted. Former neighbor Marvin Gills said he knew them well. Gills told the AJC he thought Elwyn and Candice Crocker were OK people. The kids were great. JR, a professional wrestling fan, would come roughhouse with Gills and help him work in the yard. Mary would spend the night with Gills’ daughter Daniella. After beginning home school at the start of the 2018-19 year, Mary still walked Daniella to the bus stop. Gills said the family’s home life took a turn when Candice Crocker’s mother, Kim Wright, and brother, Mark Wright II, started coming around more. Daniella said she saw Kim Wright hit Mary “upside the head.” James was forced to sleep in bathtubs and closets because he’d been “bad.” One day, Daniella saw strange purple marks on Mary’s hands. Mary said it was from swimming, Daniella said. On 9th Street, the most significant times police were called was when Elwyn Crocker complained about his son and when Kim Wright called about Elwyn Crocker. She said her son-in-law had busted her lip on June 7, 2016, after the family had agitated him by waking him up, according to an incident report. She told the responding officer she didn’t put up with the man’s “nonsense” like the rest of the family. It was the same officer who’d told JR to listen to his family a year earlier. Kim Wright said she didn’t want to press charges. The cop told them to try and get along. Later, the Crockers moved in with Kim Wright, her son and her boyfriend in her double-wide on Rosebud Place, outside the city of Guyton. The last known sighting of JR was two years ago, Mary in October. Both were 14 when last seen. Deputies found them in the dirt on Dec. 20 after someone called 911 concerned about Mary. In Rincon, the Gills family was brokenhearted by the news and reports that Mary always seemed scared on Rosebud Place. “The sad thing is, people around there never saw her smile,” he said. On 9th Street, she’d smiled often. This story was written by Joshua Sharpe for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.