Local News

May 28, 2014

Sheriff: More arrests possible in Ellijay sexual battery case

ELLIJAY — Three Calhoun High School seniors who were not allowed to go through graduation ceremonies last week for their roles as suspects in a post-prom sexual battery in Ellijay were arrested Wednesday — and the Gilmer County sheriff said more arrests could be forthcoming.

Fields Chapman, 609 Shenandoah Drive, Andrew Haynes, 263 Thornwood Drive, and Avery Johnson, 321 Doubletree Drive, all 18 and 2014 graduates of Calhoun High School, were each charged by the Gilmer County’s Sheriff’s Office with one count of aggravated sexual battery and one count of possession of alcohol by a minor.

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said all three are represented by different attorneys and that their lawyers were contacted and told to let their clients know they needed to turn themselves in to the Gilmer County jail by 11 a.m. Wednesday. They were all booked, given $51,000 bonds each and bonded out.

The victim in the case, an 18-year-old female Calhoun High student, told a Calhoun Police Department officer May 11 that she had been raped by “multiple guys” at a post-prom party the night before at 20 Edgewater Drive in Coosawattee River Resort. Nicholson said more than two dozen participants brought enough alcohol to “float a canoe down the Coosawattee River.”

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Nicholson pointed out that the charges against all three are aggravated sexual battery, a felony, not rape. He said that could mean a sentence of 25 years to life if convicted.

“Being aggravated sexual battery, that means an object was used,” he explained. He did not say what the object was or if it was recovered in the investigation.

Nicholson said more arrests could be made including underage drinking charges against many of the 27 who attended the post-prom party. The sheriff said they had no evidence that the victim was under the influence of any drugs and none were found at the party.

He said the assault happened in a bedroom at the cabin but she said she found herself “passed out” in a bathroom.

He also explained that she did not spend several days in a hospital, as reported earlier. “She was taken to the hospital in Calhoun and because it occurred here in Gilmer County, she was brought here. She spent several hours here.”

When asked if there was a lesson to be learned from this incident, Nicholson replied, “Teenagers and alcohol just do not mix. All too often it leads to tragedies like this.”

Each of the teens was involved in Calhoun High athletics, according to stories in regional newspapers and posts on the seniors’ own Facebook pages. Haynes posted a photo of himself in December 2011 receiving a pass with a caption that read, “State Champs ... enough said,” after the Yellow Jackets won the Class AA state football championship that season. In the “2014 Senior Superlatives” found on the Calhoun High website, Johnson was voted “Most Mischievous” and Chapman was selected as “Most Attractive” and for having “Best Hair.”

The parents of a Calhoun High female senior owned the cabin in Coosawattee, but Nicholson said he did not think they played a primary role in providing alcohol and that they allowed their daughter to use the cabin to have six or eight friends over after the prom.

There were 16 Calhoun High students and one Southeast Whitfield High School student interviewed after the party, according to a sheriff’s office incident report. The Southeast Whitfield High student, Rhett Harper, was listed as the fourth suspect in the incident report, but a warrant was not issued for his arrest.

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