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The Isles comes out to support veterans
 lhobbs  / 

Marching through a jubilant gauntlet of flag-waving folks lining Mallery Street on St. Simons Island, Cooper Thompson wore his uniform with pride Saturday during the Veterans Day Parade.

His bearing was all military — shoulders squared, back straight, eyes locked forward.

Heck, the 12-year-old Boy Scout would not even break ranks to acknowledge his proud Mom as he walked past her spot on the parade route.

“Hey, Cooper!” Deborah Thompson shouted, as Cooper marched on without a hint of recognition.

But Deborah Thompson was touched by her son’s stone-faced demeanor. After all, he was marching among his heroes.

Boy Scout Troop 204 took part in the parade along with men and women representing veterans from World II to Iraq, ranging from Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts to the local Disabled American Veterans chapter and the College of Coastal Georgia Veterans Council.

Make no mistake, Thompson said, Cooper’s participation in this parade with all those veterans he so admires was a big deal for him.

“Oh, he absolutely loves it,” Thompson said. “He’s a huge World War II buff. He loves everything about (military) aviation. He really understands what this day is all about.”

A little further down the line, Myosha Leeper got the same cold shoulder treatment from daughter Mykaila, 15, who marched with the Glynn Academy JROTC. But this mom proudly wears Army boots, and would expect nothing less from Mykaila.

“She’s going to follow in my footsteps!” beamed Leeper, now an Army reservist after serving a four-year stint in that military branch.

Mykaila’s twin sister, Daila Leeper, stood along the parade route with stepsister Alijah Gore, 14. They especially liked the veterans parading on motorcycles. But in general, they held all who risk and sacrifice for their freedoms with equal esteem.

“It shows our respect for those we honor,” Daila said. “It’s good for us to recognize their sacrifice, to show the people that you appreciate what they did for us, right?”

The seasoned veterans who marched in the parade delighted in calling out the youngsters in the crowd, potential members of the next generation in America’s long tradition of military service.

“Thanks for coming out, kids!” said a tall, gray-haired man who marched with others under the Vietnam Combat Veterans banner.

Kadin Green was absolutely enthralled by such recognition from the old soldiers as they passed.

“I love Army people!” the 6-year-old said.

Kadin sat in the open hatchback of an SUV, along with brother Jamine Green, 10, and cousins Asher Webb and Gage Webb.

Angela Hall, mom of Kadin and Jamine, did not have to drag this crew out to show their support of veterans.

“My kids love Army people,” Hall said. “Anything military. Both my boys want to be in the Army when they grow up. So they had to get up early to come out and support the service members.”

The parade wrapped up at the waterfront end of Mallery Street, just in time for the Veterans Day ceremony from the Casino overlooking the green at Naptune Park. The parade and the ceremony that followed both were sponsored by the Veterans Council of the Golden Isles. The ceremony featured a crowd-pleasing mix of patriotic songs, jaunty military tunes, prayers and an assemblage of veterans addressing those time-honored themes of honor, duty and courage.

For those trying to keep up with the sequence of events, youngsters from Boy Scout Troop 204 walked among the crowd to hand out programs for the ceremony. Scout Ian Doering was happy to serve the few hundred folks who braved the chilly north winds and damp skies that accompanied Saturday’s ceremony. Doering, 12, is pretty certain that military service will figure into his future.

“It makes me feel nice because we get to show our respect for all these veterans who served in the wars,” he said. “And I want to serve so that I can support America and help protect it.”

Support. Respect. Serve. These are words that stir a veteran’s soul, Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey told the crowd.

“The key to a veteran’s heart comes from these five words: Thank you for your service,” said Harvey, himself a veteran of more than 20 years in the Air Force.

Glynn County Commission Chairman Bill Brunson, also an Air Force veteran, expressed frustration with athletes from the NFL to the College of Coastal Georgia who kneel in protest during presentations of the national anthem and American flag. He said it is ironic that military veterans have fought and died defending their right to protest in such a manner.

“They are protecting our way of life, a way of life that has been paid for in blood,” Brunson said. “Today, I applaud each and every one of you for honoring not only veterans, but also our flag.”

Zarak Hasbrouck, the veterans council’s 2017 Veteran of the Year, said such protests are protected by the U.S. Constitution that he vowed to defend. But the long-time Navy submariner said defending their right does not mean he supports it.

“I will always stand, and I will always honor our flag,” said Hasbrouck, a member of American Legion Post 9. “I will always respect that flag.”

Indeed, the controversy over athletes protesting the National anthem was overshadowed Saturday by a resounding show of gratitude for the service of this nation’s military veterans.

Army Col. Terrance Adams of Fort Stewart, the day’s guest speaker, said those sentiments serve as a bond that unites America.

“Our gathering is just one spark in a flame that burns across American today in honor of our veterans,” Adams said.

Hospice serves lunch for veterans
 lhobbs  / 

New Yorker Terrence Dingle took the long way to the Golden Isles, going first to Afghanistan.

The Army veteran did a tour of duty in that war-torn country in 2009-10. A recent graduate of College of Coastal Georgia, Dingle has found the region’s reputation for friendliness to be well deserved. A prime example was the free plate of Southern Soul barbecue he savored Saturday at a table in the parking lot at 520 Ocean Blvd., the offices of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services.

Dingle was among numerous military veterans who filled the tables in the parking lot at for a free lunch on Veterans Day served by Hospice of the Golden Isles. The informal luncheon followed the Veterans Council of the Golden Isles’ Veterans Day parade and ceremony nearby in the Pier Village.

In previous years, Hospice hosted a Veterans Day luncheon for veterans at its headquarters on Glynco Parkway. But organizers decided last year to move it to the Pier Village area to coincide with the Veterans Day events.

“We’re doing this as way of honoring the veterans,” said Amy Broderick, spokeswoman for Hospice of the Golden Isles. “It’s our way of saying, ‘Thank you.’ And we thought, why not just serve all the veterans where they are already gathered.”

Joining Dingle at the luncheon were several dozen veterans, representing all branches of the military, with some going back to service in World War II. Southern Soul’s generous participation and a $5-a-plate ticket for non-veterans helped offset the cost of hosting the veterans, Broderick said.

Dingle had marched in the parade earlier with GCCA’s Valor, a campus organization that helps veterans with the transition of entering college. He was joined at his table by several Valor members, including Dwayne Carson, an Air Force veteran and president of the club.

“This is great,” said Dingle, who has settled in Brunswick. “The funny thing, you always hear about Southern Hospitality. Well, it’s real here. This is just wonderful.”

Heinze attorney moves for new trial, cites missing evidence

A Glynn County jury found Guy W. Heize Jr. guilty in October 2013 of killing eight people — including his father — four years earlier at the New Hope Plantation mobile home park. But allegations of missing and mishandled evidence dogged the prosecution, and Nov. 6, Heinze’s attorney filed an amended motion for a new trial. The original motion was filed Nov. 1.

Christina Rudy, a lawyer with the Metro Capital Defender’s Office, represents Heinze. While a member of the Georgia Capital Defender’s Office was part of Heinze’s defense team, the office did not participate in the trial.

In the motion, she presents 11 errors committed during Heinze’s trial in Glynn County Superior Court.

Among those alleged errors:

• “The jurors that were empaneled in the trial of this case failed to comply with the instructions that the Court charged. The jury shifted the burden of proof to Mr. Heinze to prove his innocence, required him to provide evidence of an alibi, and rendered a verdict despite not understanding the evidence.”

• An item “… was destroyed without Mr. Heinze having had an opportunity to view or test the item. The State also elicited testimony concerning blood spatter on this item that was not disclosed to the defendant prior to trial, to which the defense objected and moved for mistrial.”

• “Upon information and belief, former Glynn County Police Chief Matthew Doering conducted fingerprint comparisons on the evidence collected in this case. The discovery provided to the defense does not contain any documentation concerning these fingerprint comparisons.”

• “Additional evidence related to the murders at Lot 147 — nunchucks and an Estwing Hammer — was found after law enforcement concluded processing the crime scene …. This evidence was turned over to Glynn County Police but is now missing and was not available for Mr. Heinze to examine, inspect and/or test prior to trial.”

• “The State suppressed an Internal Affairs investigation into the prior conduct by Investigator Michael Owens in which he admitted to collecting evidence in a criminal case, and failing to properly collect and preserve that evidence.”

• Additionally, “… the State lost or destroyed the audio recording of an interview with Joseph Bryant ‘Big Joe’ Anderson. The contents of the interview ere exculpatory in that Mr. Anderson provides information concerning alternate suspects.”

• The presiding judge made errors in his jury instructions before deliberations, and the lead prosecutor in the case stepped outside the bounds of closing arguments by making “… improper comments on the role of defense counsel at trial, improper comments concerning the magistrate’s role in the issuance of arrest warrants, comments contradicted by the evidence during the course of the trial, and impermissibly vouching for the credibility of witnesses.”

The motion also includes a notation of the unusual agreement during the trial between prosecutors and the defense “… which resulted in a (juror) being removed from the jury panel and replaced with an alternate and by the State (withdrawing) the Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty ‘in this case for this trial and any subsequent trial, should there be a subsequent trial.’”

During the trial, prosecutors argued Heinze, on his own and while high on crack, bludgeoned the eight victims and assaulted the ninth, a child, with a 20-gauge shotgun.

Investigators never found the murder weapon, though a hammer was discovered at the crime scene a year later. A forensic pathologist testifying for the defense said more than one person was likely involved in the crime, and a hammer would account for the victims’ wounds.

Prosecutors have until Dec. 15 to file a response to the motion. The defense then has until Jan. 15, 2018, to file a response to the prosecution, with a hearing scheduled for Feb. 13, 2018.

Deadline looms for TAD creation

A plan to revive downtown Brunswick is closing in on a deadline for local officials to act.

The tax allocation district proposed for the city’s historic core, its waterfront and Gloucester Street and U.S Highway 17 corridors must be approved by the county commission and school board by the end of the year, if they choose to participate.

City commissioners approved the plan Oct. 4. The county commission and school board will vote on the matter Nov. 21 and Dec. 12, respectively.

At stake is whether or not the school board and county commission will contribute future incremental tax growth from properties within the district.

If the TAD is established, property taxes would be set at a baseline level in the year the TAD is formed. Then, the city, along with private developers, revitalization. Roads can be repaved, run-down buildings can be demolished, and infrastructure can be upgraded, all to attract developers.

Government can finance these improvements through long-term loans, called bonds, or “pay as they go.” Over time, property values inside the TAD increase, so more property tax is collected. The difference between the baseline tax and the increase after improvement goes into a special account used to pay off bonds, or ensure the continuity of the “pay as you go” model.

According to the plan laid out by the consulting firm Bleakly Advisory Group, the proposed TAD could generate as much as $63.4 million is taxable value. That value could support more than $16 in bond proceeds, if nine hypothetic projects the plan spells out occur.

City Manager Jim Drumm said last week it was too early to discuss specific projects, and the types of proposed developments could change as new opportunities emerge.

The school board heard about the proposal in October and is still considering the issue, said board spokesman Jim Weidhaas last week.

During the discussion, some board members expressed concerns about how the TAD would be administered and requested further information.

County commissioners will hear about the proposal at a work session later this month, County Manager Alan Ours said.

Because of the way TADs work, only future growth in revenue would be used to pay off any bonds or projects. Taxes already being collected would continue to go to the respective taxing authorities at the same level they do today.

Ken Bleakly, president of the Bleakly Advisory Group, said that makes the creation of a TAD a relatively safe bet for tax payers and the three local taxing jurisdictions.

“It’s really a win-win situation,” he said last week by phone. “There’s really nothing to lose.”

Still, it seems city commissioners will have to wait until later this year to find out if the two other governing boards will sign on to the idea.