Originally created 06/19/00

Longtime agent heads GBI office



Martin Moses says he's no celebrity.

"I'm not famous for anything," said Mr. Moses, the newest agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation field office in Thomson. "I've never worked any high-profile cases. I've just been around for 100 years."

The 6-foot-3-inch Mr. Moses is a congenial man with a heavy and slow-paced south Georgia drawl. But since September, he has been the regional head of one of the area's leading law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Moses, 53, came to the Thomson office in September from Eastman, Ga. where he had been assistant agent in charge since 1997. At the Thomson office, he supervises 10 agents.

Created in 1937, the GBI has 15 regional offices charged with assisting local law enforcement agencies in investigations where manpower, equipment or expertise is needed. The GBI also has the authority to investigate gambling, narcotics and prostitution on its own, without being requested to by local authorities.

The Thomson office serves Lincolnton, Wilkes, Taliaferro, Warren, Glascock, Jefferson, Burke, Richmond, Columbia and McDuffie counties.

When he came to the Thomson office, Mr. Moses inherited 22 unsolved homicide cases, the most recent occurring in 1994.

"We review them from time to time to see if any new leads can be developed," he said, holding a 2-inch-thick case file on Holice McAvoy, a Columbia County man found shot to death in his mobile home in 1984.

"Several of these 22 have some pretty interesting twists to them," Mr. Moses said. "But when you solve the case, law enforcement wants to have information nobody else has. You hold back some of the details so if someone does confess, you'll know if you've got the right person."

With case notes wrapped in manilla folders, Mr. McAvoy's case keeps company with the case of Craig Steven Fallow, a West Lake subdivision security guard shot to death in 1978 near the guard shack, possibly by a burglar. Another case involves Kay Radford. On March 28, 1974, she was reported missing from her apartment in Augusta.

Because it is a state agency, the GBI has the money and the ability to acquire specialized training and equipment.

"Being a bigger department, we can afford to send our people to more specialized schools," Mr. Moses said. "Whereas, if you are a small rural sheriff's department with only two deputies, you could hardly afford to send one of them off to attend a class."

One of the officers at the Thomson GBI office, for example, is a crime scene specialist. He is an expert at collecting evidence from crime scenes and has the basic laboratory equipment needed to analyze evidence.

"Evidence obtained at crime scenes is critical," Mr. Moses said. "A lot of equipment is too cost prohibitive for smaller departments, not to mention the training that's required to operate it. We can check for narcotics content and process fingerprints, which is a great help to local authorities."

Three of his agents are narcotics investigators. Though there are many reports in the media of an increase in "club drugs"- such as the date rape drug Rohypnol, or roofies; gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), commonly known as liquid ecstasy; and MDMA, ecstasy pills - Mr. Moses said it's largely been business as usual.

"In my tenure here, we've not seen any change," he said. "We're not seeing any exotic dope on the streets. We deal with the basic three: marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine."

Drug investigations consume most of his department's energy, while they see little gambling and prostitution. But that may soon change, he said, when South Carolina outlaws video poker. Currently, in Georgia, $5 is the largest prize that can be won in video poker. But enterprising video poker machine owners may try to circumvent the law to entice players.

"I feel like it will have an impact on their operations," Mr. Moses said.

By his own admission, Mr. Moses' career has not been glamorous. But what it lacks in excitement, he has made up for in experience.

He has been with the GBI since 1976, when he was assigned to the regional office in Milledgeville for two years. After that, he spent two years in the Dublin regional office. In 1990, he was promoted to assistant agent in charge of the regional office in Douglas, and, in 1997, he served as assistant agent in charge of the Altamaha Drug Task Force in Baxley.

A graduate of Georgia Southern College, Mr. Moses received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He began his law enforcement career as a military police officer and then became a license examiner for the Georgia State Patrol.

He and his wife, Kathy, have two grown children. They live in Louisville. She works with handicapped adults in Dublin, so they split the drive to work each day.

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113.