THE GRIND: West Forsyth's Taylor Ashcraft
About this series
Over the next two issues, the Forsyth County News will take a look back at the top 14 most viewed articles at forsythnews.com. Up first are stories 14 through 8, with the top seven to follow in Sunday’s edition. For more on each of the news events, as well as related content, explore our website.
FORSYTH COUNTY — Despite what some national pundits would have us believe, those in the news media can’t actually predict what’s going to happen. Like the rest of us, they likely hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
In that vein, 2014 was as unpredictable as most years. A quick scan of the headlines from the Forsyth County News’ most viewed stories offers evidence of that.
With few exceptions, the articles reflect breaking news posted online at forsythnews.com as it unfolded.
Join us now as take a look back at the 14ththrough 8th-most viewed stories in today’s edition. On Sunday, we’ll continue the countdown, presenting articles seven through one.
June 26, 2014
A man who drowned Thursday night while swimming in Lake Lanier near Little Ridge Park has been identified as a 32-year-old off-duty Lawrenceville policeman.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said the body of Cannon Trent Callender, who also lived in Lawrenceville, was recovered about 7 p.m. in the same area of the lake where he had last been seen.
Callender, who was found in water about 10 feet deep and some 35 feet from the shore, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Divers with the Forsyth County Fire Department recovered Callender’s body after searching for about an hour.
Several visitors to the park, which is off Lanier Beach South Road, as well as people on a nearby island called 911 about 5:35 p.m. to report that a swimmer had started yelling for help before going under.
Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers said the water in that area of the lake was clear and divers were aided by the good visibility.
Cpl. Eric Sanders with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources noted that it appeared Callender had “just parked here and went for a swim.”
Both he and Shivers cautioned against swimming alone in the lake.
June 18, 2014
A 41-year-old Cumming man faces animal cruelty and traffic charges after he was spotted Wednesday afternoon driving a pickup truck that was dragging a German shepherd behind it along Ronald Reagan Boulevard.
According to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, Miguel Sanchez remains in custody at the local detention center.
Bond has been set at $4,680.50 on the charges of animal cruelty, driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license, all of which are misdemeanors. In addition, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed a hold on him.
According to the sheriff’s office, the incident began about 4:30 p.m. when Forsyth County 911 began receiving reports from motorists that a truck was dragging a dog tied to a leash along on Ronald Reagan (Hwy. 141) near The Collection outdoor mall.
A sheriff’s investigator in an unmarked car reportedly spotted the truck, but did not see a dog.
Several motorists then alerted the investigator to the truck, which he stopped at Ronald Reagan and Majors Road. Inside, according to sheriff’s reports, he found an injured German shepherd.
Deputies determined the dog, which was bleeding heavily, needed immediate medical attention. They took it to a nearby veterinarian’s office, where it was treated for what were described as injuries to the front paws and bruising around the neck.
It appears the dog, which had been tied down in the bed of the truck, fell out during the trip. It was not immediately clear how far the dog was dragged before Sanchez realized what had happened, stopped and put him inside.
June 26, 2014
Two construction workers face charges for their roles in a fight Tuesday afternoon at the site of the new Costco.
According to Cumming police, Ernesto Gomez Garcia, 49, of Tucker has been charged with aggravated assault, a felony, while 22-year-old Adan Rivera faces one count of battery, a misdemeanor.
Bryan Zimbardi, a spokesman for Cumming police, said three men were involved in “some kind of physical altercation” at the property off Market Place Boulevard and Bald Ridge Marina Road near Ga. 400 at Exit 15.
According to Zimbardi, Garcia cut 21-year-old Jairo Rivera Rodriguez with a trowel, and Rodriguez head-butted him.
In the aftermath, Rodriguez was taken to Northside Hospital-Forsyth, where authorities said he received 12 stiches to close a wound from the trowel.
According to Zimbardi, the fight broke out after Rodriguez urinated on the floor of the construction site, angering Garcia.
Rivera, Rodriguez’s brother, then joined in the fight and received minor wounds that did not require a trip to the hospital, Zimbardi said.
Costco is expected to open Aug. 29.
Feb. 12, 2014
An afternoon of fun in the snow turned into a frightening ordeal for several young men Wednesday afternoon.
According to Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers, four sledding incidents involving boys ages 9 to 17 resulted in trips to the hospital.
The most serious incident, which happened about 2:30 p.m., involved a 17-year-old who suffered serious injuries while sledding with a group of friends behind Liberty Middle School in northwest Forsyth.
Shivers said the teen apparently lost control of his sled on a hill and crashed headlong into a fire hydrant.
"He was unconscious when we arrived on scene and we quickly loaded him to transport him to Northside Hospital-Forsyth," Shivers said. "It was a very serious situation … he hit the hydrant with his upper body."
The teen, whose name has not been released, was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Shivers noted that ground transportation was required because all of the air ambulances in the area were grounded due to the weather.
"We checked with all of them, and no one was flying, so we had to take him by ground."
March 24, 2014
Authorities have released the name of the 13-year-old girl who died Saturday afternoon following a two-vehicle wreck at Martin and Shadburn Roads in northeastern Forsyth County.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office identified the teenager as Kayla Pirkle.
According to the sheriff’s office, Pirkle was a passenger in a 1998 Acura TL driven by her 19-year-old sister, Kori Pirkle, when it was struck broadside by an F-250 Ford pickup about 1:30 p.m.
The Pirkles were traveling east on Martin Road, a well-traveled rural road about a half mile east of Ga. 400, when the Acura turned left at Shadburn and into the path of the pickup, the sheriff’s office said.
The pickup, driven by Jason Kenney of Cumming, struck the Acura on the passenger side, right where Kayla Pirkle was sitting, according to the sheriff’s office.
Kayla Pirkle was flown to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, where she later died from her injuries, according to the sheriff’s office.
Kori Pirkle was taken by ambulance to North Fulton Hospital, where she was reportedly treated for minor injuries and released. Neither Kenney nor his two passengers were injured.
According to the Forsyth County school system, Kayla Pirkle was a seventh-grader at Little Mill Middle school, where a vigil was held for her Monday morning.
Nov. 4, 2014
Allegations of a school shooting planned for Tuesday at a Forsyth County high school were unfounded after authorities investigated the social media account on which they appeared and arrested the student they say was responsible.
Emmanuel Godswill, a 19-year-old student at South Forsyth High, reportedly created a false Twitter account in the name of an actual former student from the school, according to Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for Forsyth County Schools.
Godswill, who’s a defensive standout on the school’s football team, began tweeting back and forth Monday night between the fake account and his real account, eluding a shooting would happen at South the next day.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office investigated the claim that night, Caracciolo said, and kept all involved parties, including South’s administration and staff and the district safety team, up to date through the process.
Godswill has been charged with disruption of a public school and public defamation, both misdemeanors. He was also charged with impersonating another or a witness, which is a felony.
The motivation for the incident was not immediately clear. As of Thursday, the exact disciplinary action had not been announced.
School system officials declined to say when, or if, Godswill would be allowed to return to school, though it appeared highly unlikely he would play in Friday night’s football game against rival Lambert.
Doug Rainwater, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said jail time will probably be associated if Godswill is found guilty of any of the three charges.
Dec. 9, 2014
A college student interning at a Forsyth County elementary school was arrested Dec. 4 after she reportedly stole an iPad from a 6-year-old student and sold it online in an effort to get Christmas shopping money, authorities said.
Instead of keeping the $200 she received for selling the device for through her boyfriend’s Facebook account, 21-year-old Kelsey Rose Salie of Flowery Branch returned the money, according to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
Doug Rainwater, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, confirmed the misdemeanor theft arrest and bond amount, but referred additional comment to school personnel.
According to a sheriff’s report, Salie told deputies she took the iPad from the child’s backpack on Nov. 19 after students went to another class at Chestatee Elementary School.
According to Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for Forsyth County Schools, the “unfortunate situation.” She declined to say anything further on the matter, deferring instead to the college, where Salie is enrolled and through which the unpaid internship was arranged.
“The situation will be referred to a student conduct process … which will go on concurrently with any investigation with local authorities,” said Kate Maine, director of university relations for UNG.
Until that process is resolved, Salie, a junior, will not face disciplinary action from the college, although classes and the internship have ended for the semester.
From the college’s standpoint, Saile faces charges of violating the professional and UNG student codes of conduct, as well as off-campus laws, and theft.
According to Maine, possible sanctions could range from an oral reprimand to expulsion.
Authorities were alerted to the theft by the child’s parents, who had been contacted by a Hall County woman who bought the iPad off Facebook.
The buyer had noticed the parents’ contact information appeared when she activated the device, according to the sheriff’s report.
The woman said she bought the iPad for her father, who was the one who had met with Salie to complete the sale.
The report went on to note that Salie’s boyfriend returned the $200 after learning the iPad was stolen.
Salie was identified in her boyfriend’s Facebook photos by the student. Chestatee’s principal confirmed in the report that Salie had finished her internship Nov. 21.
When the iPad was returned to the parents, the case was missing. Salie later stated she had thrown it in a trash can at Chestatee, according to the report.
She told investigators that she took and sold the device in an effort to make some money to buy her family Christmas presents. She used her boyfriend’s Facebook account “because he has more friends.”