Originally created 06/07/01

Ex-deputy gets 30-year sentence



A former Columbia County sheriff's deputy who admitted to a string of burglaries at area schools was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison.

Joseph Howard Peebles, 43, whose residence is now in Twiggs County, was sentenced in a Richmond County Superior Court hearing room.

Before Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Mulherin Sr. handed down the sentence, Mr. Peebles apologized to the court and the family of Caleb Galeas. Mr. Galeas, who attends the Georgia Institute of Technology, was once a suspect in a break-in at Greenbrier High School in October 1999.

"I would give anything if I could change what happened," the former deputy said. "I made some mistakes, and I'm here because of it."

Defense attorney Kirk Gilliard pleaded with the judge for a lesser sentence, citing an injury his client suffered after his Nov. 9, 1999, arrest for the burglaries. Mr. Peebles continues to need medical treatment for the injury and for a heart condition, his attorney said.

Brenda Galeas attended the hearing on her son's behalf. Mr. Galeas, then a student at Greenbrier High School, was in Athens, Ga., on a school trip when the deputy broke into his 1984 Volvo station wagon, took his shoes form the car and placed them near the school's entrance.

"I'm very happy that he received 10 years for the charges that involved my son and a year for the misdemeanor charge," Ms. Galeas said.

Mr. Peebles was arrested after he was caught breaking into the high school during a sting operation coordinated by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

He also faced a false-public-alarm charge involving a fake bomb found in a classroom at North Columbia Elementary School two days after the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. And he was charged with burglary in connection with three break-ins at Greenbrier High and a break-in at Little River Marina.

Reach Ashlee Griggs at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 109.