Columbia County releases illegal train riders

Some of the travelers picked up last month in Grovetown after being discovered illegally riding a CSX train reunited Tuesday at the Columbia County Detention Center with their dogs, which had been kept at Columbia County Animal Services pending their release. Pictured are Jo Ann Heilberg (left); Jay Willard (center, kneeling), with Raleigh; Heather Bermudez (standing); William Jackson (right, kneeling), with Sheila; and Megan Tuck, with Ami.

Six vagabonds caught illegally riding a freight train last month have been released after serving 38 days in jail.


The six were arrested March 16 by CSX Railroad police when caught in Grovetown aboard a freight train they’d hopped in Atlanta, en route to St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Savannah. They didn’t post their $1,100 bonds and were held in the Columbia County Detention Center until their court date Tuesday.

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 were listed as homeless.
All pleaded guilty at the Tuesday hearing at the courthouse in Evans except Jackson and Tuck, who entered pleas of no contest. Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. sentenced each to the time served in jail since their arrest.

The six were reunited with four dogs that were traveling with them that had been kept at Columbia County Animal Services, Animal Services Manager Linda Glasscock said.

“The reunion between them was wonderful, it really was,” she said. “The dogs knew who they were and came running out of the gate and just jumped on them. ”

The pets were cared for with several donations from the community, and Glasscock said she’s been told to expect a donation from the family of one of the travelers.

When inmates are released and are listed as homeless or otherwise have no local friends, family or accommodations, deputies seek help from the Salvation Army, according to jailers. It is not known whether the train-jumpers received such assistance.

Glasscock said it’s her understanding that the travelers stayed at least one night in an Augusta hotel and since have been seen panhandling in Richmond County.

Staff Writer Barry L. Paschal contributed to this report.


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