May 2012 brings murder trial, pair of attacks

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Year in Review

By Alice Du Pont

The closely watched murder trial of Kevin Marquis Johnson ended before it began in early May. Johnson, who brutally beat 92-year-old Eunice “Sunny” Lester in her front yard Dec. 17, 2010, pled guilty. He was sentenced to two life sentences plus 30 years by Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom.

Johnson entered a guilty plea to all charges on the first day of jury selection. The state intended to seek the death penalty if he had been found guilty.

Lester was a popular citizen who was known to help others and spent a lot of time volunteering at local nursing homes and in her church. She was severely beaten about the head and face before Johnson took her checkbook, cell phone and car.

Recent violent incidents in downtown Quincy had law enforcement officials and city leaders looking for answers in May. One of the incidents, a shooting, left 37-year-old Carlos Allen dead. Less than 24 hours later, a woman suffered non-life threatening injuries after someone attacked her with a box cutter on the sidewalk.

The county-owned parking lot behind the Edward Butler Governmental Complex became a destination, according to law enforcement, where people came to hang out on Friday and Saturday nights, frequently consuming alcohol and drugs.
 With winter gone, outdoor events took center stage. Tanyard Creek Park became the site of Cinco de Mayo on May 4 and Quincyfest on May 5. Music and food were the buzz words that drew crowds from North Florida and South Georgia.
 In Gretna, Tallahassee Nights entertained folks who participated in the annual Gretna Day. This year the party was held at Creek Entertainment and included hamburgers, hot dogs, games for children and no-betting barrel racing.

 The Quincy Airport made plans to grow. The Quincy City Commission, during an April 24 meeting, approved a request from the Airport Authority for an additional hangar. The proposed development would add approximately 14,000 feet to the existing airport. Janice Watson said the process began as far back as 2008, and is fully funded by the Federal Aviation Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation.

 Gretna wasn’t going to be left out of growth, either. “Rebuilding Gretna: One Brick at a Time” was officially launched May 1 when members of the city council held a groundbreaking ceremony for an $825,000, six-street paving project. The total streets are a little less than two miles, but are a large part of the city’s overall growth plan. Paved streets include: Dogwood Drive, Lake Gretna Drive, Maple Avenue, Richardson Street, South Avenue and Thomas Avenue.

  A National Day of Prayer was observed in Gadsden County as participants from the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office, Quincy Police Department, Quincy Fire Department, the Gadsden County School Board, the Gadsden County Baptist Association and other local religious organizations met on the steps of the courthouse to pray for peace locally and worldwide. Hundreds of spectators attended the event.

 Sgt. Tara Bryant of the Quincy Police Department was named Gadsden County’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year during the annual law enforcement luncheon sponsored by Quincy civic organizations. Bryant was nominated by Chief Walt McNeil, saying she approached her job with determination, tenacity and a special knowledge of the community. In 2011, Bryant’s extraordinary efforts led to the arrest of suspects in a series of automobile burglaries and a series of arson cases.

 A Gadsden County jury found Midway City Manager Auburn Ford Jr. guilty of assault on a firefighter and obstruction of a firefighter. The incident occurred March 29, 2011, at Ford’s Lake Yvette home. The six-member jury deliberated for less than 15 minutes before reaching a verdict May 22. Ford said he was shocked by the decision.

  On a lighter note, Barbara Arielle McFarland and Robert Kenon III were crowned Queen and King of the East Gadsden High School Prom. Alex Gay and Haleigh Corbally were Prom King and Queen at Robert F. Munroe Day School.

 The end of May signaled graduation time for seniors. Top honors went to: EGHS: valedictorians (tie) Brandi Pringle and Keyunna Reynolds and Shavaria Pride was salutatorian. WGHS valedictorian was Eric McMillan Jr,. and salutatorian was Lakendria Crittenden. Robert F. Munroe Day School valedictorian was Abigail Kathleen Stewart and salutatorian was Maulin Paresh Patel. Tallavana Christian School valedictorian was Justin Scott and salutatorian was Kelsey Ross.