2017 in Review: Tragedy and drama top stories for the year in Cherokee

Tragedy, both avoided and endured, marked 2017 in Cherokee County, as did the march of progress in suburban Atlanta’s fastest growing county. And, as the year wound down, residents dealt with a curveball from Mother Nature as a predicted trace of snow turned into much more.

As 2018 barrels toward us, here’s a look back at some of the most significant events that touched Cherokee County residents in the past year.

Students accused of attack plot

On Oct. 25, Cherokee County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a pair of Etowah High School students on charges they planned a violent attack against fellow students and faculty. The arrests of Alfred Dupree, 17, of Acworth, and Victoria McCurley, 17, of Woodstock, were made after police received a tip about potential threats made against the school, located a journal naming their intended victims and found an “incendiary device” at one of the student’s homes.

Both were charged with three counts of criminal attempt to commit murder, four counts of terroristic threats and acts, one count of criminal attempt to commit arson and one count of possession and/or transportation of destructive device/explosive with intent to kill, injure or destroy any public building, police said.

Teacher resigns following T-shirt controversy

The decision of a math teacher at River Ridge High School to ask two students to hide the “Make America Great Again,” slogans on their T-shirts gained national attention and eventually led that teacher, Lyn Orletsky, to resign. A video of Orletsky comparing the political slogan associated with President Trump to Nazi swastika symbols was spread widely on social media. Prior to her resignation, the school system placed Orletsky on administrative leave and said the shirts do not violate system policies.

Traffic deaths rise dramatically

Woodstock High School cheerleader Madilyn Taylor Phillips, 16, of Ball Ground, was killed Sept. 8 in an early morning, two-vehicle car crash on Ball Ground Highway.

While still in shock from the news, students and the Woodstock High community celebrated Phillips’ life that night at a football game where she would have cheered.

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office officials said in August that 2017 already was one of the deadliest ever on local roads with a dozen deaths in unincorporated parts of the county alone, plus two more at that time in local cities.

Three pedestrians were killed in Woodstock in September while crossing a street. As of Tuesday there had been 29 total traffic deaths in Cherokee County.

Student’s suicide inspires action

The October suicide of Sequoyah High School student Shawn Murphy tore a hole in the hearts of his family, fellow students and his teachers. Murphy’s father, Don, said his 17-year-old son’s death sprang from an incident of rejection mixed with cruel words. “He told a girl, ‘I like you and I’d like to go out and talk to you.’ She told him he was worthless and he didn’t have a future,” Don Murphy said.

In response to Shawn’s death, Sequoyah students started a new club called YANA, which is an acronym for “You Are Not Alone,” to promote the practice of students treating each other with kindness.

“We wanted to create a kindness legacy, and show others they are not alone, and prevent anything like that from happening again,” said Kerrison Carter, one of the students behind the club’s creation.

Two killed in Canton shootout

A late-night shootout in Canton on June 25 left two men dead, with 23-year-old William Kendrick Randall’s body found by police lying in a in a grassy area in front of St. Paul AME Church on Crisler Street. The other victim, 26-year-old Tony Samples, was discovered in a vehicle nearby.

“We do know it was two opposing groups, a confrontation if you will, that turned to gunfire,” Canton Police Chief Mark Mitchell said.

Four men, Akilee Zakee Wilson, 17, of Dallas, Jeremy Ulysses Zellous, 29, of Marietta, Temarlos Marquarous Turner, 22, of Canton, and victim Tony Samples’ brother Brody Austin Samples, 23, of Ball Ground have all been charged in the case.

Adidas sprints to Cherokee with first U.S. factory

German athletic shoe manufacturer Adidas chose Cherokee County as the site for its first U.S. factory, settling on a site in Cherokee 75 Corporate Park off Ga. Highway 92 for its 74,000-square-foot plant.

The agreement with Adidas was named by the state of Georgia as the state’s economic development, “Deal of the Year.” Adidas is expected to hire 160 people over the next five years to work at its local factory. Cherokee County previously won the 2013 Georgia Deal of the Year for Inalfa Roof Systems, a global sunroof manufacturer, also located in Southwest Cherokee.

Northside opens new hospital, starts expanding it

In May Northside Hospital Cherokee opened its new facility to replace its 1960s-era Canton hospital, and almost immediately was faced with the need to expand it, officials said.

Construction has begun on an additional two floors, adding eight patient beds, as well as operating rooms and other facilities. The $43 million project is expected to be completed by next November. Northside had received a certificate of need in July as well that allowed for reconfiguring a portion of the hospital to add an additional 13 patient beds. That began in July and is just wrapping up, spokeswoman Katherine Watson said. According to the Georgia Department of Community Health, that project cost $1.4 million.

Once the two projects are complete, the total capacity of the hospital will be 126, Watson said, which the state agreed the hospital needed to add to meet needs anticipated through the year 2022.

The hospital is also expanding its parking deck to almost double the number of spaces, adding an additional 625 to reach a total of about 1,500.

Snow prediction was way off

The National Weather Service on Dec. 6 began to report a slight chance of snow expected to follow two days later. While their confidence that there would indeed be some snow grew as Friday approached, it was still expected to be a dusting and no more. When Friday arrived, a heavy snow fell over Cherokee County and much of suburban Atlanta, causing schools to dismiss early, power outages and dangerous roads. Some county residents reported up to 10 inches.

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