The Top 12 Stories on WRDW.com for 2017

Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017

(WRDW/WAGT) — With the final day of the year 2017, we’re On Your Side with the top 12 stories that you clicked on and read this year from January 1 to now.

12: Death of Richmond County Sgt. Greg Meagher / Investigation into Xytex incident

Greg Meagher

Richmond County Sergeant Gregory Meagher, a 30-year veteran on the force, died in the line of duty while trying to save Xytex worker Anita Wylds during a liquid nitrogen leak at the facility on Sunday, Feb. 5. Wylds remained hospitalized for months after the incident.

The incident led to many fines and sanctions against the nitrogen supplier, AirGas, and against Xytex. The family of Sgt. Meagher also filed suit asking for at least $5 million for the loss of their father, and at least another million for medical bills in the wake of their father’s death. The case should go to trial in 2018.


11. Two SCDOT workers killed in deadly hit-and-run

Lonnie Miller

Two SCDOT workers were hit and killed on Augusta Road near Atomic Road in Clearwater back on March 13, 2017. Anthony J. Redmond, 54, and Robert Clark, 64, were pronounced dead at the scene. According to the Coroner’s Office, a third DOT worker received minor injuries.

Lonnie Dean Miller was arrested in connection with the fatal collision, and is facing charges including 2 counts of hit and run involving a death and hit and run involving injury.


10. Teen killed while sneaking into home of girl in Grovetown, shot by girl’s father

Jordan Middleton
Many of you read the story about 17-year-old Jordan Middleton, who deputies say snuck into a Coventry Drive home in Grovetown to visit a teen girl and was shot by the girl’s father. The incident happened on Saturday, Feb. 25. At last check, no charges have been filed in the case and Middleton was laid to rest on March 4, 2017.


9. Family, law enforcement remember Deputy Kesli Padgett

Kesli Padgett

Off-duty Aiken County deputy Kesli Padgett was killed in a motorcycle crash on Huber Clay Road in Warrenville back on June 21.

“She was well liked by everyone here and a hard-working person, comes from a good family,” Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt said, “she’s very energetic about her job… she did a good job.”

The death highlighted the danger of that stretch of roadway, particularly the curve where Padgett died on Huber Clay Road, with residents telling News 12 that more should be done to fix the roads in the area so no one else has to lose their life. News 12 spoke with SCDOT back in June who said there have been 22 crashes on Huber Clay Road alone since 2014, and they are not aware of any significant public concerns.



8. Tonya Tripp and Leon Tripp granted bond in Janell Carwell’s disappearance

Leon Tripp and Tanya Tripp are accused in the death and disappearance of their daughter, Latania Janell Carwell

The search for missing Richmond County teen Latania Janell Carwell back in April, the investigation, and the subsequent determination by investigators that Carwell is dead had many of you demanding answers, particularly of Janell’s parents Leon and Tanya Tripp.

Leon Tripp, Janell’s stepfather, at some point told investigators that Janell was dead and that he would lead them to her body. However, District Attorney Natalie Paine said Tripp changed his mind about leading them to the body after speaking with his lawyer.

Both Leon and Tanya Tripp remain behind bars in the disappearance and murder of Carwell, though bond has been granted for both of them at $500,000. Carwell’s body has still not been recovered.


7. The arson of Twin Peaks by disgruntled former employee Roland Evan Croyle

Twin Peaks Fire

The massive blaze at Twin Peaks in the Augusta Exchange back on June 26 was one of the big stories of the year, including the subsequent arrest of former employee Roland Evan Croyle who was accused of setting the fire.

With people inside the restaurant, investigators said Croyle rammed his SUV into the front of the building before throwing propane tanks inside and setting the place on fire.

He later pled not guilty in court to the crimes and charges against him. Twin Peaks has stated they will rebuild and hope the new Twin Peaks restaurant will be reopened in 2018.


6. Call For Action: Substitute sleeps while student choked, punched

Snoozing Substitute Teacher

One of the more “viral” stories of 2017 started out as a call to our Call for Action department. An angry mother told News 12 her child was choked and punched, all while a substitute teacher slept at Hephzibah Middle School.

The story was posted to WRDW.com on May 9 and was viewed over 121,000 times since then. It was also widely talked about on the News 12 NBC 26 Facebook page, with many of you calling for the substitute to lose her job. News 12 learned the sub is not allowed to go back to Hephzibah Middle.


5. Hunter goes missing, found dead in Phinizy Swamp

Jonathan Amerson

Jonathan Amerson went hunting in Phinizy Swamp on Tuesday, Nov. 21 and was reported missing early Wednesday morning. Investigators soon discovered Amerson’s body during the search around 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22.

Many of you read the sad story of this discovery, just one day before Thanksgiving. Amerson’s body was taken to the GBI Crime Lab where the results were found inconclusive. It will be after the New Year before the results of toxicology and cell and tissue tests return with a cause of death.


4. Six kids hospitalized after DUI crash, driver has blood alcohol content of .451

Belair Road Crash

Six children were seriously injured in a DUI crash on Belair Road back on June 2. The driver of the Honda Civic, Tara McConnell, was the only one buckled with a seatbelt. She also had a blood alcohol content of .451, the legal limit in Georgia is .08.

McConnell was sentenced to 30 years in prison on DUI charges on December 18.

Two of the more critically injured in the crash, sisters Arwen and Violet Bargeron will suffer the rest of their lives. Violet, who was 6 years old at the time of the crash, is paralyzed. Arwen, who was 11 at the time of the accident continues to suffer from a traumatic brain injury, which her family says will affect her learning and memory the rest of her life.


3. Six arrested, two indicted in the homicide of an off-duty Richmond County deputy

Six arrested in the death of off-duty Dep. Gregory Cooke

At least six suspects were arrested in the murder of an off-duty Richmond County deputy off Windsor Spring Road back in June. It was believed to be a domestic incident.

Two of the suspects were indicted back in September. Donelle Osborne, Jr. was indicted for murder and armed robbery and Rashad Na’eem Caldwell was indicted for murder, armed robbery, and possession of a pistol by a person under 18.

Judge Ashley Wright ruled Osborne, Jr. had probable cause to commit the murder.


2. The search for escaped Putnam County inmates Ricky DuBose and Donnie Rowe

Ricky DuBose and Donnie Rowe

One of the largest, longest multi-county and multi-state manhunts in recent history happened in 2017, and was the second-biggest story you read this year on WRDW.com.

Ricky DuBose and Donnie Rowe were described by investigators as “dangerous beyond description”. They were wanted in connection with the deaths of two corrections officers on a prison bus. One of the prisoners, Rowe, was serving a life sentence without parole. DuBose was serving a sentence that would have had him in prison until 2034.

The escaped inmates ransacked houses and stole multiple vehicles along their journey and put the entire state’s law enforcement agencies on high alert. A reward for their capture topped $130,000.

The two inmates were eventually captured in Tennessee after they held a couple hostage in the home at gunpoint, ate their beef stew dinner, and stole their Jeep.

The manhunt caused the Georgia Department of Corrections to revisit policies and procedures, and implement some changes to transport buses. Bond was denied for both DuBose and Rowe, and both are currently facing the death penalty.


1. Community and law enforcement searches for Janell Carwell

Janell Carwell

The biggest story of the year on WRDW.com was the community and law enforcement search for 16-year-old Latania “Janell” Carwell, the investigation into her disappearance, and the subsequent arrest of her mother and stepfather.

Carwell’s disappearance resonated with you on social media and led to community-wide efforts to find her including search parties, billboards and prayer vigils.

A Josey High School student, Carwell disappeared the night of her 16th birthday on April 17 with her stepfather, Leon Tripp.

Tonya Tripp, Janell’s mother and then-viewed as a victim, spoke with News 12 about her daughter’s disappearance.

“It’s getting harder and harder for me,” said Tanya Tripp, “It’s not the same because I am so used to hearing my daughter.”

Leon Tripp was believed to have kidnapped Carwell, and was arrested in DeKalb County on May 23 on an aggravated stalking charge unrelated to the case. Carwell was not with him. Hours later, Tanya Tripp was arrested and charged with hindering the apprehension of a criminal.

The search was on for Carwell with billboards going up in Augusta and Atlanta. Rewards were put up for information regarding her disappearance. After a missing child investigation turned up nothing, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office turned it into a homicide investigation.

Carwell has still not been found, though the community continues to pray and wants answers.


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