WEEK IN REVIEW – Feb. 7 through Feb 13, 2022

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Week In Review for the week of Feb. 7 through Feb. 13...If you like what you read and find enough value in what you read, please consider becoming a COMMUNITY SUSTAINER. It helps keep us going.


POSTED MONDAY

The Department of Justice last week released a press release about a man who pleaded guilty to "engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places" after reportedly carrying on a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl while doing missionary work in Uganda.

The entire press release can be read by CLICKING HERE.

The press release identified the man as "Eric Tuininga, 44, of Milledgeville." Different news outlets around Middle Georgia and other parts of the state then basically re-worded parts of the press release and ran with the headline "Milledgeville pastor..."

What, exactly, was Tuininga's connection to Milledgeville, however? The missionary work in Africa was based out of a church in Oregon, and it was not a church in Milledgeville. Tuininga's Facebook profile has "Issaquah, Washington" as the place where he lives, although the profile hasn't been updated in several years. Tuininga has no jail history or criminal record here in Baldwin County.

"It was all news to us, too," Maj. Scott Deason told Baldwin2K.

Well, thanks to a Wordpress blog that the Tuiningas kept for several years, there's more clarity on the topic. Tuininga, his wife and their children moved to Milledgeville at some point in 2019, according to the chronology of the blog. They were members of Covenant Presbyterian Church on North Columbia Street, the pink church closer to town. Tuininga was never the "pastor" of the church, however. He was just a member for a relatively brief amount of time.

According to the blog, the Tuiningas were the parents of nine children, six "homegrown" and two adopted from Liberia and one from Uganda,

“Tuininga was supposed to be someone that could be trusted, but instead he abused that trust and victimized a child,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “HSI and its law enforcement partners will continue to utilize every resource available to identify, arrest and prosecute those who prey upon children.”

Tuininga "faces a maximum 30 years in prison to be followed by a term of supervised release up to life and a maximum $250,000 fine," according to the DOJ press release. He also must register as a sex offender upon his release, however far down the road that is.

POSTED MONDAY

Overnight rain has pushed back the opening of the Kings Road/Stembridge Road roundabout, which previously was tentatively scheduled to open this evening.

Striping work remains, and the contractor responsible for striping the roads must wait for the asphalt to dry out, according to County Manager Carlos Tobar.

Compounding matter, the sod was scheduled to be laid today, but that too was rained out.

"Hopefully by this weekend" is the new general target opening date, according to Tobar.

The new roundabout will be the very first in Milledgeville/Baldwin County. Some locals are skeptical, which is natural. The idea, however, is to reduce the risk of serious and fatal accidents. According to the DOT's roundabout web page, "roundabouts reduce severe crashes at intersections by about 80 percent."In theory, someone is significantly less likely to be seriously injured in an accident when the speed limit is 20 or 25 miles per hour as opposed to 55 miles per hour.

POSTED TUESDAY

With new COVID-19 cases in the school system down roughly two-thirds relative to several weeks ago, Superintendent Noris Price announced at Tuesday's regular School Board meeting that a "mask optional" policy is in the works.

Price identified Feb. 21 as the possible date, assuming that case counts continue to fall in the school system and the community.

The district began this school year back in August with a mask mandate only on school busses. After several days of school, however, masks once again were required inside of all school facilities. Those policies were eased as the semester went on. However, the stricter mask policy was brought back after students returned from Christmas break and currently remains in place.

Unlike some other nearby counties, there hasn't been any organized protests from parents or palpable tension over the Baldwin County School District's mask policy here in Milledgeville.

POSTED WEDNESDAY
T
hanks to a security camera right above the cash register, the general manager at the downtown Golden Pantry was able to detect a pattern of theft among one of her employees.

That employee – Linda Ruth Wise, 20 – ultimately was arrested for felony theft by taking, meaning that the threshold was at least $1,500.

Wise essentially is accused of ringing up costumers, "giving the customer the proper change, then waiting until the customer left (and) voiding the transaction on the register and pocketing the money for herself."

Added the incident report: "(An officer) then made contact with Wise who stated 'I have been going through some tough times.'"

The manager began with the Jan. 31 footage and worked back to the beginning of January, added the incident report.

POSTED WEDNESDAY

Blue lights lit up the Town & Country Shopping Center in south Milledgeville Monday morning, after a Wilkinson County man reportedly pulled out a shotgun and threatened to kill a man at the laundromat property at 905 S. Wayne Street.

Prior to that, the same man is accused of causing an even more bizarre scene at the Courthouse, threatening to kill another man, parking in the middle of Wilkinson Street and shouting at a sheriff's deputy to "shoot me," according to an incident report.

When it was all said and done, James Kendall Ayers, 32, was charged with three counts of obstruction of an officer, one count of terroristic threats and one count of criminal trespass. He was denied bond.

Ayers was listed with an Ivey address.

It all started around 9 in the morning, when the first victim was looking for a parking place in front of the courthouse. The victim said that a man in a gray Ford 150 "stopped in the street beside him and began pointing at his vehicle."

Added the incident report: "(The victim) stated he believed the male was pointing out something wrong with (the victim's) vehicle, so he stopped and rolled down his window to speak with (Ayers). (The victim) stated (Ayers) asked, 'Aren't you from Atlanta with the Atlanta tag,' to which (the victim) did not reply. (The victim) stated that (Ayers) parked his truck in the middle of the street and ran up to his vehicle while reaching his hand into his pocket. (The victim) stated he drove his vehicle away from the male and parked in front of the front of the front doors of the Baldwin County Courthouse, but (Ayers) continued to run in his direction while cursing at him and stated he would 'kill him.' (The victim) advised that he did not know (Ayers.)"

A second witness, who was near the lobby of the Courthouse, then was interviewed by investigators. According to the incident report: (The second witness) stated she witnessed the male screaming about 'starting a fire in his city.' (The second witness) stated (Ayers) was seen walking towards (the first victim) stating if he came back around, 'he would kill him like he did his brother.' (The second witness) stated (Ayers) walked into the Courthouse, screamed at a deputy in the lobby area and asked if there was a fire the night before. (The second witness) stated (Ayers) tried to walk around the metal detector, and the deputy advised he needed to walk through it. (The second witness) stated the metal detector alerted when (Ayers) tried to walk through it. (The second witness) stated the deputy stated she would deploy her taser, and (Ayers) replied 'shoot me.' (The second witness) stated the male finally left the location soon after the deputy told him to leave."

Investigators then interviewed a third witness. According to the incident report: "(The third witness) stated he observed an unoccupied gray in color Ford F-150 parked in the middle of North Wilkinson Street in front of the Baldwin County Courthouse with its driver door opened. (The third witness) stated he saw a white male exit the Courthouse and turned toward him screaming that something was burning and asked, 'Do I need to to go to Harrisburg?' (The third witness) stated (Ayers) jumped in his direction and then ran to his truck and left the location at a high rate of speed."

A truck matching the description then was spotted in the Town & Country Shopping Center, south of the Piggly Wiggly and north of the Dairy Queen, and law enforcement officers responded in large numbers. Ayers was "irate at the entrance of the laundry mat." An officer then drew his gun, according to an incident report, and waited for "additional officers to arrive." After several minutes, Ayers began walking towards his truck. A taser was deployed, and Ayers "fell to the ground, where he rolled before standing and running." A foot chase then ensued, as Ayers began running in a little circle around the laundromat. Ayers eventually was tackled and handcuffed.

Ayers relayed to officers and deputies that he "may have been under the influence of an unknown substance or experiencing a mental health crisis or diminished mental capacity." An ambulance was called out but Ayers "declined their assistance.

A shotgun then was found in the passenger seat of Ayers' pickup truck.

POSTED THURSDAY

In a small town, when the first roundabout opens, it's a really big deal.

Such is the case with the new roundabout across the river, the subject of much speculation on Milledgeville Facebook. Now, County Manager Carlos Tobar has announced that the new roundabout officially will open to the public on "Friday morning," although a specific time was not offered.

Despite that, some work will remain ongoing.

"Tree cutting on Kings Road continues for the next two weeks. That will complete all the right-of-way tree and brush clearing from the roundabout to Highway 22," wrote Tobar. "Sod will be placed next week at the roundabout Expect minor delays from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday."

Overnight rain previously pushed back the opening of the Kings Road/Stembridge Road roundabout, which had tentatively scheduled to open Monday evening.

The new roundabout, as aforementioned, will be the very first in Milledgeville/Baldwin County. Some locals are skeptical, which is natural. The idea, however, is to reduce the risk of serious and fatal accidents. According to the DOT's roundabout web page, "roundabouts reduce severe crashes at intersections by about 80 percent."In theory, someone is significantly less likely to be seriously injured in an accident when the speed limit is 20 or 25 miles per hour as opposed to 55 miles per hour.

Tobar also gave some shout outs.

“Baldwin County also thanks County Engineer Brian Wood, Road Department Superintendent Keith Green, Road Department Assistant Superintendent Deryl Nelson and the entire road department staff for their hard work," he wrote.

POSTED FRIDAY

The four-month stretch between October 2020 to January 2021 was brutal for car break-ins around Milledgeville.

Not in recent memory had so many entering autos been reported in such a short period of time, more that 100 altogether. The break-ins seemed to be clustered in two areas – the Brantley Way apartments off of Ivey-Weaver Road, as well as Irwin Street in west Milledgeville and the college kid apartments in the area.

Then, late one Thursday night, a fed up woman on Irwin Street realized that her car had been rummaged through. She then spotted someone going through her neighbor’s Toyota Camry on Irwin Street. The woman initially went to her car to grab her gun and confront the man, “but realized her gun was missing,” according to an incident report. She then called 911 and city officers responded.

Eventually spotted hiding and crawling underneath a house was Ma’Tyious Matthews, 19 at the time. Numerous items then were reportedly discovered in Matthews’ backpack, including a teal .9 millimeter Glock pistol, a pink and black .9 millimeter pistol, a Louis Vuitton purse and marijuana.

Roughly one year later, Matthews finally had his day in court, pleading guilty to a whopping 48 separate counts of entering auto in Superior Court earlier this month. Matthews was sentenced to 17 years on probation and three years behind bars, with credit for time served since January 2021. Even after he’s released, Matthews will face mountains of restitution from more than two dozen victims who have requested restitution.

POSTED FRIDAY

Republican gubernatorial candidate Vernon Jones, a Donald Trump loyalist who’d been polling at around 10 percent, announced earlier this week that he was dropping out of the race and instead will run for Congress.

Jones previously had spent months crisscrossing the state and actively seeking Trump’s endorsement for governor. That endorsement ultimately went to David Perdue, however. Trump’s decision apparently didn’t hurt Jones’ feelings too bad, though, as Jones continues to align himself with Trump and praise the former president, who has now given Jones “a complete and total endorsement” for the District 10 Congressional race.

A recent poll from the venerable Quinnipiac University polling service previously offered plenty of new context and perspective leading up to the May 24 Republican primary for Governor. The Quinnipiac poll had Gov. Brian Kemp at 43 percent among the 666 “likely Republican voters” who responded to the poll, Perdue at 36 percent, Jones at 10 percent and Kandiss Taylor at 4 percent.

Perdue, Jones and Taylor are all Trump enthusiasts, and the overwhelming majority of Jones supporters now will likely turn their support toward Perdue.


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All candidates for public office in the May 24 primary must receive a majority of the vote, regardless of how slim, to avoid a runoff. Many veteran political pundits around Georgia would tell you that a Republican runoff would only benefit Stacey Abrams, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor. Runoffs typically lead to dirty politics, and a runoff inevitably would lead to some resentment from supporters of the runoff loser. Whether that resentment would be enough to sit out the November general election and theoretically increase the Democrat’s voter share, however, is to be determined.

The recent Quinnipiac poll actually included the Trump factor. According to the poll's results: “Former President Donald Trump has endorsed both Herschel Walker and David Perdue in the Republican primary races. Half (50 percent) of likely Republican primary voters say if Trump endorses a candidate, it does not make a difference to them, 44 percent say they are more likely to vote for that candidate, and 5 percent say they are less likely to vote for that candidate.

The same Quinnipiac poll recorded Kemp's approval rating as governor, among all respondents, at 42 percent and his disapproval rating at 49 percent.

Among registered Republicans polled in the survey, "inflation" was the most "urgent issue" at 34 percent, followed by "election laws" at 18 percent and "crime.”

POSTED SATURDAY

The skyline of downtown Milledgeville, if you can call it a skyline, is beginning to look a little different, as Georgia Military is moving forward with its ambitious new Fine Arts Center, dubbed the "NewDay USA Center for Leadership at Georgia Military College."

The metal skeleton of the new facility was erected in a relative hurry and already is visible from much of the southeastern part of downtown.


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At some point later in the year, GMC hopes to debut the new facility that will change the physical landscape of downtown Milledgeville, as well as the the performing arts landscape of Baldwin and surrounding counties. The school last November broke ground on the project. New Day USA is a Virginia-based mortgage loan company for veterans, and a $2 million donation by the company helped secure the naming rights for GMC's new facility. Prior to teaming up with New Day, the working title of the project around campus was "the new fine arts center."

The centerpiece of the new 28,837-square-foot facility will be an 820-seat theater, which will roughly double the capacity of the Goldstein Center for the Performing Arts, which currently serves as the centerpiece for the fine arts program around GMC. The New Day USA Center will be four stories tall, at its highest point, and one of the tallest buildings in Milledgeville. Plans for the new facility also include classroom space, a dance studio, as well as a large lobby that would double as an arts studio, complete with "gallery quality lighting," the school previously stated.

POSTED SATURDAY

The John Milledge Academy boys basketball team capped off a dominant regular season with their fifth region title in the last six years. JMA treated a packed Trojan Center to a blowout win as the crowd favorites stormed past the Bethlehem Christian Academy Knights 68-33 Friday night.

The Trojans went undefeated in Region 4-AAA play this season and moved to an incredible 19-2 overall record with the title-clinching victory. The Knights ranked second in the region this season with a 17-9 record.

Eighth-year head coach David Gallagher was all smiles after watching his players hoist another region trophy.

“The guys earned it,” Gallagher said. “They bought in this year, and the way they are playing defense together will give us a chance to win a lot of games. I’m just so proud of the guys and happy they got to experience this.”

Right from tipoff, the Trojans gave their fans a lot to cheer about. They opened the game in dominant fashion with a quick 15-5 run, highlighted by several steals and transition buckets for the home team. Belmont University commit Keith Robbins set the tone with 12 first-quarter points. Although he watched from the bench with his fellow starters for most of the second half, the senior star still finished the night with 17 points in just over 19 minutes of action.

In the blink of an eye, the Trojans ballooned their first-quarter advantage as they ended the period up 27-11. JMA junior Briggs Eady knocked down two triples to help extend his team’s lead, ultimately finishing the game with seven points. Eady also delivered several pretty passes, tying his twin Banks for a team-high five assists.

In the second quarter, JMA completely ran away with it. Senior Marcus Prestwood led the team with seven points in the quarter. Prestwood hit the glass hard all night long, posting a phenomenal double-double with 12 points and 18 rebounds.

The suffocating Trojan defense allowed just four points in the second period, executing their full-court press to perfection. At halftime, they headed into the locker room with a whopping 46-15 lead.

The JMA lead only grew larger in the third as Robbins nailed a three-pointer to begin the second-half scoring. Halfway through the quarter, the starters left the floor, and the younger reserves were able to finish out the game.

JMA sophomore Jalan Butts led the second unit with nine points, four dimes, and four steals. Butts made his presence known on both sides of the ball, displaying his athleticism and energy throughout the evening. Seniors Grayson Aldridge and Tommy Collier also provided contributions off the bench. Aldridge drained two of his three attempts from beyond the arc while Collier tallied six points of his own on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting clip.

Both coaches emptied their benches for the entirety of the fourth, and while the Bethlehem reserves cut into the lead slightly, it was too late for a final push. The Trojan Center erupted as players and coaches celebrated the victory with classmates and parents.

JMA has emphasized team basketball all season long, and tonight, the ball was flying everywhere for the Trojans as they dissected the Bethlehem defense with a remarkable display of ball movement and team play. The region champs finished the contest with 22 assists on 26 made baskets, shooting an efficient 50% from two-point range.

Despite their clear offensive talent, the Trojans lean on defense as their team identity.

“It (defense) definitely is our identity,” Gallagher said. “It’s the defensive rotations, how we play defense as a team, and winning the first three seconds on transition, both defensively and offensively. Our defense creates a lot of offense for us, and that definitely happened tonight.”

The Trojans will look to carry their momentum into the GISA AAA boys state tournament. The top-seeded defending champions will begin their title defense Wednesday when they return to the Trojan Center to host the first round of the playoffs.


POSTED SUNDAY

Although Jamie Wilson was from next-door Hancock County, he left quite an impression on Milledgeville, and he had many friends here.

Wilson, 40, on Saturday afternoon was laid to rest. Wilson spent almost half of his life, 19 years, as a dispatcher at the Milledgeville Police Department.

"Today we laid to rest Dispatcher Jamie Wilson. Jamie will be missed by his family, friends and coworkers," wrote the MPD on its Facebook page. "While we are sad he is no longer with us, we know he is in a better place and we are doing our best to keep smiling just like Jamie always did. Jamie’s funeral brought a lot of past members of the department together today and we had fun catching up and sharing stories about Jamie."


POSTED SUNDAY

The John Milledge Academy Girls took down Westfield School 44-17 Friday night in the Trojan Center for the GISA Region 4-AAA Championship.

Allie Osborn led the offensive charge for the Trojans with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The sophomore made her presence known on both sides of the court using her tall stature. Osborn had five blocked shots and five steals in the Friday night region championship. The second-leading scorer was Maggie Prestwood with 14 points. The sophomore added four steals and seven rebounds to her box score. Jordan Prestrige added to the rebounding effort nabbing four rebounds.

The first quarter was a slow start for both squads at 11-5. The first eight minutes showed both teams have a tough defensive scheme. There were a good bit of missed shots on both sides of the court which allowed for a plethora of rebounds. Come the second quarter the Trojans stepped up their offensive game as they netted 14 points to lead 25-11 going into the half. JMA took advantage of the gaps in the Westfield defense as they primarily shot from behind the arc.

As the game progressed the defense from JMA kept getting more aggressive as the Westfield offense was not able to run a scheme. The defense played a full-court press defense which pushed the Westfield offense to counter without using a scheme.

Entering the half Prestwood led the scoring with 10 points and Osborn right behind her with nine, as JMA entered the half with the 25-11 lead. Coming out of the half the opposing team was able to make an offensive adjustment and run a scheme. The Trojan defense was too tight for them to get shots off. This third quarter was the most defensive quarter of the contest on both sides of the court as JMA led 39-15 going into the final quarter.

Both offenses took more shots from being the arc instead of driving to the basket. The JMA defense carried over from the third quarter as there were several blocked shots from Osborn and the other forwards. The Trojans finished out the matchup strong and got the 44-17 win.

“We really worked on playing inside out,” said head coach Jeremy Mayweather. “Once we establish ourselves in the paint then things open up for us on the outside. we have players capable of making those shots.”

Westfield came in last season and knocked JMA out of the postseason run.

“It feels great,” said Mayweather when asked how this win felt. “I was not here last year but I know how much it means for the JMA community to get this one back to avenge this loss. I also know how much it meant to the girls to be pegged as a young team…I know how much it means to this team."

The Trojans are back in action Tuesday, Feb. 15 for the first round of the playoffs against Westminster. They will play in the Trojan Center, as tipoff is still TBA


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