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Manhunts measured
Authorities weigh risks, results of searches
Oscarville Robbery 2 es
Sgt. Bill Franco investigates the robbery of Oscarville Country Store on March 17. - photo by Emily Saunders

Three times last week Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies and dogs fanned out in the woods searching for suspects.

The unusual frequency of the incidents, which authorities say are unrelated and occurred over a five-day span, drew attention to the risks and results of such situations.

“A lot of things come into play, but one of the things is how much of a threat is this person if we don’t catch him,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Mark Flowers, commander of the north precinct, which handled two of three searches.

Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Gene Moss, commander of the law enforcement bureau, said parameters are set up almost any time someone is on the run.

“We try to set up some kind of containment if we’ve got the manpower available and depending on what it is that they’re running from us for,” he said.

Moss said shift commanders and supervisors make the decisions about whether searches are conducted and how.

In the most recent search, deputies scoured north Forsyth on Friday afternoon after a trailer was taken from a Karr Road residence.

As a result, Julie Hammond Fowler and Joel “Bucky” Wood, both of Forsyth County, were arrested, as was Rodney Mark Brown of Duluth.

Fowler, 40, was charged with possession of a Schedule 4 narcotic, possession of methamphetamine, theft by taking and pills out of their original container.

Wood, 40, and Brown, 47, were each charged with theft by taking and obstruction.

Fowler's bond has been set at $16,350 and Wood's and Brown's is $6,150. All three of them remained in custody Wednesday, a jail spokeswoman said.

Flowers said a resident who recognized the trailer as his neighbor’s called 911 about 11:30 a.m. after he saw it being pulled by an unfamiliar truck.

“We got there and confirmed that the trailer had been stolen and hadn’t even been reported,” Flowers said. “He knew who owned the trailer and these people shouldn’t have it.”

If the resident hadn’t been paying attention and called that "trailer would’ve been long gone,” Flowers said.

He said deputies arrived and took Fowler, who was driving the truck, into custody. He said Wood and Brown ran off.

Using a German shepherd and a bloodhound, deputies tracked the men and caught up with Brown quickly, but spent the rest of the afternoon searching for Wood.

“He had a lot of experience running in the woods, so he was a little hard to capture,” Flowers said, adding that Wood was finally caught early Friday evening after deputies circled him in a pasture on Karr Road.

“What was good about it was an observant citizen,” he said. “He noticed the trailer and knew it was not theirs ... he made the phone call and got us involved quick and we took it from there.”

Earlier last week, on March 17, authorities searched for two suspects in an armed robbery at Oscarville Country Store on Browns Bridge Road, near Waldrip Circle in northeastern Forsyth.  

One of the suspects cut an employee on the finger with a knife. An undisclosed amount of cash was taken.

The next day, authorities searched for suspects on the southwestern side of the county after a house burglary on Drew Road across from West Forsyth High School.

So far, no suspects have been caught in connection with the store or home incident.

Sheriff’s dogs was called in to help with both hunts.

“It was an unusually busy week for tracking,” Flowers said. “The dogs got a lot of work.”

He said the dogs are invaluable, joking that they haven’t told the bloodhounds they’re "tracking bad people sometimes."

The bloodhounds also are used for finding lost children and adults.

Flowers said in the Oscarville case, deputies considered that the incident occurred about the time school buses would be running in the area.

He said they were concerned there could have been two armed suspects in the woods who might have had a vehicle waiting nearby.

“We didn’t want those school buses coming and unloading if we had two guys running through the woods knowing we were after them,” he said.

“So it was imperative upon us to do everything we could to rule out them being on foot.”

Flowers said buses were not allowed in the area until it was cleared.