Georgia News Stories May 27: Renting Stolen Homes

By: AP
By: AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- Atlanta police say an alert witness helped them catch a church burglar in the act. Police arrested a man early today inside the office of Bible Christian Ministry Church. An alert tipster called police after spotting the suspect pacing back and forth in front of the church after midnight, then going in the front door.

Ga. pardons board granting more medical reprieves
ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia corrections officials are releasing a growing number of sick and elderly inmates to save millions of dollars in medical spending.
State data obtained by The Associated Press show the use of medical reprieves has almost doubled since fiscal year 2008, jumping from 51 in 2008 to 89 in the most recent fiscal year.
Brian Owens is the commissioner of the Department of Corrections. He says it's an effort to build a better relationship with the pardons board. The exact savings is difficult to calculate, but the department said it's helped save millions of dollars from the cost of medical bills.
Pardons Director Michael Nail says cost-savings is one of many factors considered. He says the most important factor is whether the prisoner is likely to commit another crime.

Ga. coast braces for holiday soaking from storm
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Coastal Georgia is bracing for a holiday soaking from a sub-tropical storm forecast to dump 3 to 6 inches of rain over Memorial Day.
The National Weather Service had the entire 100-mile Georgia coast under a tropical storm warning Saturday. The storm, named Beryl, is forecast to make landfall between South Carolina and northern Florida by late Sunday or early Monday.
Glynn County emergency management director Jay Wiggins says residents should expect a "three-day thunderstorm" that may flood some roadways and cause scattered power outages. Waterfront homes on St. Simons Island may be at risk for minor flooding.
Cumberland Island superintendent Fred Boyles says he may evacuate about 100 campers before nightfall Sunday but he'll likely still allow day trippers to come to the federally protected island Sunday morning.

Middle Ga. man found not guilty in stabbing case
PERRY, Ga. (AP) -- A jury has acquitted a middle Georgia man of aggravated assault charges in the 2009 stabbing of his fiancee's grown son.
Benjy Merriweather was found not guilty Friday by a Houston County jury after five hours of deliberations.
The 60-year-old defendant was charged with stabbing Rocky McElroy, the son of his fiancee, during a domestic dispute in October 2009. Defense attorney Nick White argued successfully that Merriweather wounded the man in self-defense.
The Telegraph of Macon reports that White says his client is "very thankful" to be able to get on with his life now that the case is over. He says Merriwhether and McElroy's mother remain together as a couple.

One dead, 5 sent to hospitals in Columbus crash
COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) -- Police in Columbus are investigating a car crash that killed a woman and sent five people to the hospital, including two toddlers.
The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports two cars collided Friday evening outside an elementary school. Deputy Coroner Charles Newton confirmed a woman was dead, but her name was not immediately released.
Columbus police Lt. James Walton says two toddlers were air lifted to Egleston Children's Hospital in Atlanta, but their conditions were unknown. Three other people were taken to a local hospital.
Walton says police are still investigating what caused the wreck.

Ga. man gets 40 years for renting stolen homes
SMYRNA, Ga. (AP) -- A metro Atlanta man is heading to prison after a jury convicted him of stealing abandoned homes and renting them to tenants.
WSB-TV reports that a Cobb County judge sentenced John Harris on Friday to 40 years in prison. A jury last week convicted Harris of 34 counts of racketeering and theft.
Authorities arrested Harris last fall. Prosecutors say his company, New Life Granted, essentially took over dozens of abandoned, foreclosed homes by changing the locks. The homes were then rented to tenants who were clueless that Harris and his company didn't own the properties.
Chiquella White, one of the tenants who rented from Harris, says she'll sleep better knowing Harris is going to prison and "this chapter is closed."

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