Originally created 12/24/06

Across Georgia



Apartment complex fire ruled accidental

NORCROSS - Authorities have ruled as accidental a fire that displaced more than 60 people from an apartment complex days before Christmas.

The fire, which damaged 12 units of a 24-unit building at Oakbrook Pointe Apartments, started Friday afternoon in a ground-floor unit, Gwinnett County Fire Department Lt. Thomas Rutledge said.

A small child was playing with a lit candle in an apartment, and the couch caught on fire. The fire then extended to the second and third floors of the building, Lt. Rutledge said.

"Flames were through the roof when the fire crews arrived," he said.

The child's mother, who was in a separate room at the time, suffered a minor injury.

American Red Cross officials provided food, water, clothing and shelter.

President pardons jailed bootlegger

GAINESVILLE - It took five years, but a Dawson County man finally got the presidential pardon he sought for a 37-year-old bootlegging conviction.

President Bush signed off on the pardon of Thomas "T.R." Reece on Thursday. Mr. Reece, a 56-year-old homebuilder, had been convicted 37 years ago.

"The past is the past," Mr. Reece said. "I tried bootlegging at 19 and I got caught."

Mr. Reece was one of 16 people pardoned Thursday, and one of 97 Americans pardoned in Mr. Bush's six years in office. Seven of the pardons involved bootlegging offenses.

Teenagers arrested in Christmas vandalism

SAVANNAH - The Grinch struck Friday morning on Whitemarsh Island.

Police said two teenagers took a lesson from the Dr. Seuss character when they ransacked several front yards filled with Christmas decorations.

Officers from the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department arrested Nichols Stephen Trist, 18, and an unidentified 16-year-old Johnson High School student on charges that they stole and damaged holiday decorations, a police spokesman said.

Clarke County joins school funding suit

ATHENS - The Clarke County School District has joined more than 50 school systems in Georgia that are suing the state for what they say is inadequate funding.

Clarke is the fourth district in Northeast Georgia to join the suit; the Oglethorpe, Madison and Elbert County school districts already are part of the Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia.

The suit will cost the district about $12,000, or about $1 a pupil.

Board Vice President Chester Sosebee said the amount isn't important considering the amount of state revenue the district loses each year and a new law that requires school districts to spend 65 percent of budgets in classrooms. If the consortium wins, Mr. Sosebee said the district could receive enough money to more than offset the cost of joining.