WRD Area Manager Helps Capture Thieves

Authorities recover over $100,000 in stolen merchandise from recent burglaries.

Jessica Newberry | November 2, 2007

On most days, Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) Area Manager Eric Wood can be found watching over Coopers Creek WMA southwest of Blairsville. But on Monday, Sept. 17, Eric’s trip home for lunch put him face-to-face with two area burglars.

“I came home around 11:45 that morning and found two men in my driveway,” he said. “One was standing outside the vehicle with a clipboard, and another came around the house on a cell phone.”

The men claimed to be searching for a construction client, but Eric did not recognize the name the men gave.

“It seemed pretty suspicious, but I wasn’t sure, so I got their names and tag numbers,” he said.

Eric contacted the Towns County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) later that day with the information and discovered that there were outstanding warrants for the arrests of both men.

“They had just burglarized a neighbor’s house, and I think they planned to burglarize mine, too,” he said. “It was just fortunate that I was there at the right time because usually I don’t come home during the day.”

According to TCSO investigator Robert Kerns, Paul Worley, of Hiawasee, and Mark Johnson, of Snellville, were both wanted for theft by receiving.

“The burglaries had been occurring probably since April, with at least 50 in Union County, 30 in Towns and eight in Fannin,” Robert said.

Both men were arrested on Sept. 17, 2007, at 5:15 p.m. on charges of theft by receiving. The Towns County Sheriff’s Office recovered approximately $100,000 in stolen jewelry, as well as guns, chainsaws and other merchandise.

“We haven’t recovered half of what was stolen,” said Robert. “We needed somebody out in the public to see them and call, and Eric happened to be our man.”

The Union County Sheriff’s Office also recovered a collection of stolen items in a storage building using a search warrant.

The Rabun and Fannin counties sheriffs’ offices were among the law-enforcement agencies involved in the case, according to Robert.

There are also outstanding warrants for Worley and Johnson’s arrests in DeKalb County for theft by receiving. These warrants involve two gold coins that were stolen from NASCAR driver Bill Elliott.

The coins, valued at $980,000, were sold by Worley and G.O. Johnson for $40,000.

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