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The year in review: Paugh's family is still struggling

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 Outside a modest house at the end of a short driveway in Hephzibah hangs a blue-and-white wreath. Each car in the driveway proudly displays a thin blue line decal. Inside the front door, the first piece of furniture is a motorcycle helmet encased in glass.

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Wayne Paugh tears up as his wife, Anita, talks about their son, Richmond County Deputy J.D. Paugh.  Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Wayne Paugh tears up as his wife, Anita, talks about their son, Richmond County Deputy J.D. Paugh.

The house holds grieving parents, Wayne and Anita Paugh. The house is flanked by two others holding grieving brothers, Robert and John Paugh.

Nearly two months after he was killed, Richmond County Deputy James D. Paugh’s family is still struggling. Tears interrupt their words frequently.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Oct. 23, Paugh stopped to check on a suspicious vehicle in the grass on the shoulder of Bobby Jones Expressway. Within seconds, he was shot nine times with an assault rifle by Army Spc. Christopher Michael Hodges, 26, before Hodges turned the weapon on himself. The coroner pronounced them both dead at the scene.

Paugh’s family has questions, but they also are not sure whether they want the answers. What they want is the pride and closeness that Augusta felt so strongly about the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to continue.

“J.D.’s phenomenon will fade over time. I understand that,” Robert Paugh said. “But let’s not let the respect and the honor for the police fade, ever.”

He said his brother would have been embarrassed over all the fuss Augusta made about him.

“I think the only thing J.D. would be upset about was that Augusta had one of the biggest funerals ever, and he wasn’t out front on his motorcycle,” he said.

J.D. Paugh’s decision to become a police officer was not a surprise to his family. When he was 28, he was working with his father and brother in New Orleans putting in fiberoptic cables for AT&T. He was in charge of scheduling the police officers for the site, and through that became close with them. One day, they made him an honorary deputy.

“He got to run with the police,” Robert said. “He was never the same after that. He had found something that he really wanted to do.”

His decision to join the motorcycle division was something Robert thinks had to do with the accessibility it gave him to people.

“He was able to interact with people in a way that the guys in the cars couldn’t really do,” Robert said. “He loved that.”

Robert said his brother would come home from work to his apartment building and rev the engine twice in the parking lot; all the children would come running out. He wanted to make sure that children saw the police as normal guys, not just a uniform that hauls people off to jail.

Someone put posters up at Paugh’s apartment building after he was killed, and the children in the building wrote messages on them. The signatures only went up about three-quarters the way up the door, as high as they could reach.

“One child wrote he wanted to be a policeman, just like J.D.,” his mother said.

The Paughs have been able to use their closeness to lean on one another and help grieve, but the people of Augusta have wanted to step in and help with that, too.

Robert said that sometimes when he is out and people see his last name, they wonder whether they should say something.

“It is very emotional,” he said. “But it is also good to know how many people J.D. touched.”

The funeral was emotional for Paugh’s family, not just because of what it was, but because of the community reaction.

On the way to the funeral, Robert said, there were so many people standing on the side of the road that it was overwhelming. He recalled driving by a man who was mowing his lawn on his riding mower. When the resident saw their car, he turned off his mower, got off and stood next to it.

“I never could have dreamed of what everybody did for him,” his mother said. “Flags at half-mast, blue ribbons everywhere. Signs are still up to this day.”

As a family, the Paughs have made the decision not to be bitter, not to hold on to the negative emotions that could easily come with such a violent act. The reality that Hodges is gone leaves some questions unanswerable, though.

“There are questions I wish we could ask the guy. Why?” Robert said. “I wish he would have had the courage to stand up and explain why.”

Instead, they choose to focus on helping one another heal and on protecting Paugh’s legacy and his love for the department.

“It’s like people say,” Robert Paugh said. “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. After J.D. became a cop, he never worked another day.”

THE SERIES

The Augusta Chronicle looks back at the big stories of 2011.

DEC. 24: The Augusta State men’s golf team showed its 2010 national title wasn’t a fluke.

DEC. 25: Lady Antebellum didn’t forget its local ties.

MONDAY: The Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, the Kroc Center and Costco opened.

TUESDAY: City Administrator Fred Russell managed to survive controversy.

WEDNESDAY: Richmond County school Superintendent Frank Roberson missed the first half of the school year after emergency brain surgery.

THURSDAY: Suspensions and retirements of top officials made for an eventful year at the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.

FRIDAY: Former Columbia County Commissioner Scott Dean was convicted of child molestation.

TODAY: Two law enforcement officers – Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy James D. Paugh and Aiken Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson – were killed in the line of duty.

Comments (9) Add comment
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seenitB4
98639
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seenitB4 12/31/11 - 05:06 am
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I can't even tell you the

I can't even tell you the sadness I feel while reading this---we will never know how many he saved that night....
Rest assured he won't be forgotten.

agustinian
723
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agustinian 12/31/11 - 08:43 am
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I wanted to write something

I wanted to write something to give you solace . . . I can't get through my own tears, I am so sorry.

beboisme
425
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beboisme 12/31/11 - 09:44 am
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Agustinian, sometimes saying

Agustinian, sometimes saying nothing at all is saying alot. Just knowing the hearts of so many people are still on the Paugh family and close friends is just plain perfect.

blacklion1001
23
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blacklion1001 12/31/11 - 11:24 am
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My Prayers are with the Paugh

My Prayers are with the Paugh Family during this time of loss and grief.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
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Crime Reports and Rewards TV 12/31/11 - 11:41 am
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J.D.'s killer was shootng at

J.D.'s killer was shootng at anything that moved with a high powered M4 assault weapon on B.J. expressway, and may even have shot towards Gordon highway too. If J.D. had not showed up and stopped this mad dog killer there is no telling how many people could have been killed. As far as we are concerned he saved the lives of countless people in Augusta and goes down in our book on the same level as one of the greatest men or women who ever lived in Augusta. Why aren't we taking up a collection for his family like Aiken is taking up a collection for Scotty?

beboisme
425
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beboisme 12/31/11 - 11:58 am
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Gee flipa where have you

Gee flipa where have you been? Collections are still on going for J.D.'s son's future and not a dime withheld for this hero's son and family. Our hometown hockey team just presented J.D.'s son with a 10,000. check, and so much more is yet to come. The people who raise the monies for the family dependant on J.D. should have a big shout out. Their work to raise money has been an on going and heartfelt effort for the family. Keep it going in memory of one fine human being, J.D. Paugh.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 12/31/11 - 01:37 pm
0
0
My dad had a stroke and i

My dad had a stroke and i have not been in the loop as much as usual. Also making a 2 hr movie for Rock Eagle where hundreds of scientist and those interested in the greatest debate of all time will fly in and pay about $300. each to hear about Y.E.S.
To all those giving to J.D. thank you from all of us who still haven't given enough. Thank you for the update bebosime:o)

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 01/01/12 - 08:18 pm
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A true hero...he gave his
Unpublished

A true hero...he gave his life and did his duty til the end. There is no greater sacrifice than to give your life to save others. Thank you JD!

bmt229
3
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bmt229 12/31/11 - 04:05 pm
0
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I remember the day Mark

I remember the day Mark Chestang stopped me to see if the apartment complex I worked at needed a Courtesy Officer .. he sent JD to see me. He came in with a smile that hid everything going on in his life .. it brightened my day many days, the last being a few weeks before he left this world. I remember the humbleness of his actions, his words when I showed him his apartment. He didn't care about anything else just where his "grill would go!" JD has left behind so many memories .. it's hard to see a RCSO motorcycle without smiling and thinking of him. Mr and Mrs Paugh, thank you for sharing such an amazing guy with this world! Yes, he made an impact and there are many people that want to leave this world a better place just as JD did because of him!! Many prayers continue for you and your family!

beboisme
425
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beboisme 01/01/12 - 08:27 am
0
0
Flipa so sorry to hear about

Flipa so sorry to hear about your dad, I hope he will have a good recovery.

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