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Illegal hunting report led to bomb arrests

By Sherri Ellington Seth Bennon Roberts, 24, and Wesley Robert Peters, 22, of 170 Lamar County Line Road, Griffin, were again denied bond at a preliminary/ committal and probable cause hearing in Lamar County Magistrate Court last week. Roberts already has a superior court bond hearing set for 9 a.m. Thursday, June 7. Roberts, represented by Virgil Brown and Eric Hearn; and Peters, represented by Stacey Flynn Morris of the Ricky Morris firm, argued for the lessening and/ or dismissal of their multiple charges. Judge William Thomas found the state has probable cause and sufficient evidence to bind the case over to Superior Court. A request for bond was met with Thomas’ suggestion the attorneys meet with the District Attorney’s office for a possible consent order. Both are charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of firearms or knives during the commission of a felony, possession of drug related objects ‘“ a charge not listed on Roberts’ upcoming bond hearing ‘“ and manufacture or possession of destructive devices. Brown argued Lamar County might not have jurisdiction in the case, questioned whether the initial search was legal and if it was legal to detain the men while a search warrant was being sought. ’Georgia owns all the wildlife and Department of Natural Resources rangers are the folks who manage it,’ said assistant district attorney Scott Johnson. ‘They have more leeway to search than other law enforcement officers due to the nature of hunting.’ Brown and Morris discussed the difference between fireworks and destructive, explosive or over-pressured devices described in the statute under which the men are charged. ’If it pops and explodes, it’s a destructive device,’ said Johnson. ‘You can make one with Alka-Seltzer. Besides the powder, there was shrapnel in these devices.’ Hearn alleged the amount of marijuana is not considered proof of intent to distribute under a Georgia Appeals Court ruling. Johnson argued it does. Judge Thomas said it was enough for probable cause. The defense attorneys also asked for disclosure of the name of a third person who was found at the home on May 14, the day of the initial investigation by DNR Ranger First Class Keith Page. That person has not been arrested. Page was the only witness called in the hearing. He described his actions after receiving a call from Spalding County DNR ranger Travis Sweat about a wounded deer found at a Morgan Dairy Road residence behind Roberts’ property. While Page said he never saw the deer, he did meet the witness who called in a gun-shot doe with a fawn. He followed its blood trail from the woman’s home, even using a canine trained in tracking wildlife at one point. ’The blood trail just fizzled out,’ Page said. Still working on the hunting out of season case, Page and other officers canvassed the neighborhood where he determined the shot came from. They talked to four Lamar County Line Road residents, he said, ‘and every one of them told us the same story, pointing at the 170 address. They heard lots of shots and noises they described as heavy artillery sounds, louder than any hunting rifle they’d ever heard.’ Page and DNR ranger Billy Bryant went to the residence but no one was home despite a car in the yard and a TV being on. Upon knocking on the back door to make sure, he testified, they came upon a large amount and variety of spent shell casings. ’Some looked and smelled fresh so we backtracked from there to see if we could find the deer,’ he said. ‘On a pine stump we found a detonated pipe bomb. Further into the woods we found the cap with a fuse hole in it.’ He said the device still had gunpowder in it so he put it in his pocket, transferring it to his toolbox before turning it over to the GBI. Page began trying to call the GBI bomb squad from his cell phone, which had no service. Bryant left and was replaced by Georgia State Patrol Trooper Keith Wilson. They found the two suspects and unidentified third person at home after allegedly hearing gunfire from the back yard. This time Page went to the garage entrance, since the door was open, and claimed to have seen a second metal object that looked like an explosive on the steps. He did not pick it up but knocked on the front door. Roberts answered and the three came outside for an interview in which the subjects denied knowledge of the deer and described the devices as sparklers and smoke bombs. The GBI was called in that night but it was decided to put off the search until the next morning. ’Most people would come to the door with a gun at 1 a.m.,’ said Page. Roberts and Peters were arrested May 15 after Lamar County deputies, DNR officers and the GBI bomb squad reportedly found them in possession of multiple firearms including antiques and an Airsoft gun and eight explosive devices in a grocery sack, two marked Tacks O’Hoy and Nails O’Hoy. Those two were destroyed outside by the bomb squad ‘“ and found to contain tacks and nails as marked ‘“ while the rest were taken apart inside the bomb squad truck. Roberts refused to sign a consent to search form and called his attorney during the hour a search warrant was being secured. ’He admitted to having cannon fuse, gunpowder, more pipe and fireworks, none of which are basically illegal,’ said Page. ‘When you put the puzzle together they become illegal.’ The alleged marijuana ‘“ two pounds found in a lock box in one man’s bedroom and more than an ounce found in a bag in the other’s ‘“ makings for more explosives and drug-related paraphernalia including pipes and scales were found in their residence during the search. ’I had to pick the lock on the box because they denied any knowledge of it and said they didn’t have a key,’ Page said. Their bond was denied in a first appearance hearing the day after their arrest. ’I’ve thought about that issue ever since bond was denied on May 16,’ said Judge Thomas. ‘The court stands by that, but this is not the end of the line.’

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