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Train-hopping hoboes' pets await reunion in Columbia County

Friday, March 22, 2013 7:41 PM
Last updated Saturday, March 23, 2013 12:16 AM
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While six hoboes in the Columbia County Detention Center await their day in court, their four-legged traveling companions are awaiting a reunion.

Linda Glascock, the director of Columbia County Animal Services, and field officer Eric Atkinson play with the four dogs that were picked up with a group of people who were caught riding a train in Grovetown.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Linda Glascock, the director of Columbia County Animal Services, and field officer Eric Atkinson play with the four dogs that were picked up with a group of people who were caught riding a train in Grovetown.

The six were arrested March 16 by CSX Railroad police when caught aboard a freight train in Grovetown. Though they have little prospect of paying their $1,100 bonds and being released before their court date next month, the four dogs accompanying them won’t be adopted or euthanized in the meantime, said county Animal Services Manager Linda Glasscock.

William Robert Jackson, 26, of Graham, Wash.; Dennis James Kist, 24, of Okeana, Ohio; Jayson Arthur Willard, 23, of Williamston, Mich.; Megan Rose Tuck, 23, of Fort Worth, Texas; Jo Ann Heilberg, 23, of Florida; and Heather Bermudez, 22, of New Hampshire, were charged with hiding on a train for the purpose of stealing a ride, a misdemeanor. All are listed as homeless.

Glasscock said the four dogs are Sheila, a golden retriever mix belonging to Tuck; Ami, a pit bull belonging to Jackson; Raleigh, a German shepherd mix owned by Willard; and DP, a basset hound mix owned by Heilberg.

“I’m keeping them safe and secure and sound until they get out,” she said.

The county holds misdemeanor arraignments once a month, with the next date set for April 23, said Madonna Little, an assistant district attorney.

By then the six would have been in jail for 38 days, but there’s little way of knowing whether any of them would be sentenced to time served and released, Little said.

Typical misdemeanor sentences “run the gamut,” she said. “Obviously it depends on their history, what they’ve done, if there were any damages, that sort of thing.”

Misdemeanor charges in Geor­gia carry a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one year in jail.

Jackson has an extensive criminal record, including convictions in Washington state for domestic violence, malicious mischief and obstruction of an officer; a domestic assault conviction in Missouri; and criminal trespass convictions in Texas and Indiana, according to Columbia County sheriff’s Maj. Rick Whitaker.

Kist has been convicted of felony and misdemeanor drug possession and misdemeanor theft in Ohio, and criminal mischief and graffiti in Texas, Whitaker said.

Willard and Tuck each have a past conviction for public drunkenness, while Ber­mudez and Heilberg have no prior criminal offenses, Whit­aker said.

The six had gotten on a stopped train in Atlanta with the intention of riding to Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day, but were discovered when the train stopped in Grovetown, according to a police report.

Romantic notions aside, riding trains illegally isn’t a crime the railroad takes lightly, said Gary Sease, a spokesman for CSX Railroad.

“It’s certainly illegal, but more than that it can be deadly,” Sease said.

In 2012, 442 pedestrians – which includes those trying to ride trains – were killed on railroad property, he said. Georgia ranked ninth in pedestrian deaths with 14.

CSX police made 1,387 arrests for trespassing in 2012, Sease said. That number includes those caught illegally riding trains.

Keeping the pets at the shelter until their owners are released is far longer than animals generally are held, but Glasscock said she took special interest when she saw the pets’ conditions.

“If these animals had not been as well taken care of as they are, and not have been vaccinated, microchipped, had come in here in horrible condition, I would not be doing what I’m doing today,” she said. “These animals are better taken care of than some that we have in this county.”

Under normal circumstances, animals brought into the shelter are kept a minimum of five days before being evaluated for adoption or, if deemed unadoptable, euthanized. That won’t happen with these four dogs, Glasscock said.

“These people, that’s their only partner in life is that animal,” she said. “I don’t want to take that from them. That’s what one of the guys told me; that’s all he has to talk to, maybe for days on end, him and that dog.”

Glasscock visited the owners at the jail to discuss the pets and got to know more about the subculture of young travelers. The six weren’t traveling together until they all boarded the same train in Atlanta.

“They have this big network of people, apparently,” she said. “It’s amazing – I’m learning a lot. They’re just wayward children who want to go do their own thing. They’re all over the United States; they have this network with each other. They all have cellphones.”

The county charges a $30 fee for pets picked up as strays, plus $10 per night for their care until the owners pick them up. That represents the county’s expense, Glass­cock said. The four dogs are considered confiscated rather than stray, so she said she isn’t sure how the costs are accounted for.

Family members of two of the owners have called to offer to help pay for the animals’ care, she said, and residents have called the facility offering to make donations for the pets.

“I’m not going to put them down,” she said.

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I'm Back Again
I'm Back Again 03/22/13 - 09:08 pm
38 days in jail and 1000 fine

38 days in jail and 1000 fine for hopping on a train. That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Not to mention bond is 1000 but bail is 1100. They'd be better off paying the fine and hopping on a train out of Columbia County. I'm not sure why this paper continues to call them hoboes, as if they are some sort of contagious disease. People get convicted of murder all the time. You don't see the headline "Murderer sentenced to life". It will read man sentenced to life in prison for murder. This paper needs to move on to bigger and better things. Leave these people alone.

Horseswagled 03/23/13 - 02:00 am
Or New source jury tampering?

...CSX police made 1,387 arrests for trespassing in 2012...Ya always just throw in undocumented hear say? CSX might have 5 cops in the country and to be trespassing some deterrents have to be used. This dog and pony show right after the railroad killed three people in Mobile.

So why not the real story ----CSX charging 5X the real fuel costs---robbing us blind on bridge projects---crossing projects---utility projects---passenger rail---etc.

paladin5 03/23/13 - 05:15 am

Thanks to Linda Glasscock. A dog probably saved my brother's life when he returned from Viet Nam. I have no problem donating a 44lb bag of good dog food to the cause.

Riverman1 03/23/13 - 07:10 am
Hobo culture

Hobo culture. Interesting.

soapy_725 03/23/13 - 11:29 am
Irresponsible yet industrious?

Dropping out of society yet using its benefits to drop out. Prison inmates, homeless people and now railroad vagrants have a system. They know where to sleep, eat and ride the system all over the USA.

How do they fund they organized enterprises? They should be in a hospital being treated for "Peter Pan Syndrome". The mental refusal to grow up and be a productive adult.

This ain't funny. Just another example of lost souls. New hippies?

itsanotherday1 03/23/13 - 01:39 pm
10-4 paladin. I will help.

10-4 paladin. I will help.

Jake 03/23/13 - 01:57 pm

Did you by chance get my message yesterday about Sarge?

itsanotherday1 03/23/13 - 03:11 pm

I don't check that email account often. I just looked at it and yes. See reply.

TrulyWorried 03/23/13 - 04:34 pm
hobo dogs

Is there any site that one can send money to so the Columbia County animal shelter gets some relief? To know that it actually goes to the cause meant for would be good.

Barry Paschal 03/23/13 - 05:48 pm
Animal services

You can find Columbia County Animal Services through the county's web site at

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