The murder and homicide count for 2013 in Troup County has increased from 2012.
“Last year at this same time, there were three (murders),” detective Chris Pritchett of the LaGrange Police said earlier this month. “This year, we are at four, which is a 33 percent increase.”
On Dec. 18, former Troup County Sheriff’s investigator Wesley Gaddy was shot and killed following a fight with a resident in Pine Mountain. Troup County Sheriff’s spokesman Stewart Smith said the shooting is classified as a violent crime, since it was an act of self defense.
On Dec. 13, Larry Strickland Jr., 36, was shot and killed outside a home on Boulevard at Ashton Street. Police located and arrested Erwin Brewer, 30, of LaGrange on Dec. 23 in Manchester and charged him with murder in the incident.
Also on Dec. 13, police found the body of Pamela Hardy, 43, of LaGrange at her home. She had apparently been assaulted and suffered fatal wounds to her head. Her estranged husband, Charlie Hardy, 40, of LaGrange was arrested in Knoxville, Tenn., on Dec. 23, and was awaiting extradition to Troup County to face murder charges.
In August, Thomas Eugene Sessions, 55, of LaGrange was charged in the shooting death of 21-year-old Douglas Cameron during an alleged drug scheme. In May, in another incident on Brown Street, Domonique Morris, 24, of LaGrange was arrested and charged with fatally shooting Deandrea Morris, 24, of LaGrange.
Three of the four murders this year involved a shooting. Last year, only one murder involved a shooting, which was the shooting incident that occurred at the American Legion in Hogansville in April 2012.
The other two were stabbings. One in March 2012, where Teleasha Wynder, then 23, stabbed Taraben Patel, 64, owner of the Budget Inn on Hill Street, to death. Wynder pleaded guilty to the murder. The other was in September 2012 when Coronza Sterling, 34, of LaGrange got into an argument with Tony Gilham, 29, over a $10 debt and Sterling allegedly stabbed Gilham multiple times in the chest.
Over the past five years, the number of murders in LaGrange has ranged from three to five, with five in 2009 and three in 2008. The last time four murders were recorded was in 2011. There were no murders in 2010.
According to the FBI crime index for Georgia in 2012, last year LaGrange had the second highest amount of murders for cities with a population between 23,000-35,000, and tied with Gainesville with three murders. East Point had the highest amount with 12.
“It is difficult for the department alone to prevent murders from occurring,” LaGrange Police Lt. Dale Strickland said. “An issue that we continue to see is the growing recidivism rate. Three of the four murder suspects this year have significant criminal histories, one to include a prior murder arrest. The number of criminals being released is growing and law enforcement and prosecutors see these same individuals committing both violent and property crimes over and over again.”
Although tough to predict, Strickland says that the department is taking major steps in helping prevent these types of violent crimes from happening in the future.
“The department assigned a full-time investigator to co-investigate reported crimes involving street gang members,” Strickland said. “This investigator has also provided awareness training to community groups including school officials, the faith community and school students. Members of the police department have coordinated with the Troup County (District Attorney)’s office and other local law enforcement agencies in creating a Multi-Jurisdictional Counter Gang Committee. The committee meets on a quarterly basis to share information about active cases and intelligence gathered by each participating agency. Several key gang members have been arrested as a result the initiative which has prevented further criminal activity.”