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Cobb’s biggest, most important and most-read stories of 2018

Cobb County had quite the year.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote lots of stories that created lots of buzz throughout the sprawling county, home to three-quarters of a million people.

So let’s take a look back at five of the biggest, most important and most-read stories in Cobb in 2018. Sure, there are others, so feel free to comment with your five.

Todd Keeling was found dead at age 48 inside a walk-in cooler in SunTrust Park on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Courtesy of Nathan Churchill)

Man dies in SunTrust Park cooler: The death of Todd Keeling, a 48-year-old Minnesota father of four, inside a beer cooler at SunTrust Park drew attention from across the country in June.

The Cobb medical examiner’s office found in October that the he had been accidentally killed by carbon dioxide.

Keeling was in the cooler installing his new beer tap system that was set to slash pour times at SunTrust Park from a 14-second average to five seconds.

His family called him a fast-talking tinkerer who was a big kid.

Is Concord Road Covered Bridge worth keeping?: The Concord Road Covered Bridge is a conundrum clad in wood and steel.

The covered bridge, which has stood near what is now Smyrna for more than 145 years, keeps almost being destroyed by errant motorists. It has nearly met its bridge-maker 13 times since December 2017.

The bridge has a seven-foot clearance and the metal bar that protects it gets hit multiple times per year, either by U-Haul trucks or construction equipment. Cobb County averages about a call a month of someone almost hitting the bridge.

During the $800,000 taxpayer-funded overhaul at the end of last year, crews installed giant yellow metal staples to warn of the seven-foot clearance and so people hit the staples instead of wood.

They got hit so much this year that the staples had to be replaced in late October. Yes, the things that were made to be rammed into were rammed too many times.

Frequent offenders include U-Haul trucks driven by people who don’t know their vehicle height and aren’t familiar with the area. Some blame drivers not paying attention, others blame blind faith in GPS directions.

No matter who you blame, believe that the thing will probably keep getting almost hit in 2019.


Wrestling coach sexually abused boys: The mother of a Pope High School junior wrestler found herself frustrated by the lack of response from Georgia authorities about a man she believed was sexually assaulting her son.

The AJC published a story in February about that mother’s quest that showed how her digging prompted Pennsylvania police eventually issue a warrant for Ron Gorman.

Ron Gorman, a youth wrestling coach from Marietta, pleaded guilty in 2017 to sexually abusing two children. (Credit: Cobb County Sheriff’s Office)

Gorman pleaded guilty least year to molesting two boys in Pennsylvania, where he previously lived, but he has now been charged in Cobb, which prosecutors say ensures he will not be out of prison before his 20-year sentence is complete.

He pleaded guilty in November to sexually abusing a Pennsylvania boy at his Marietta home.

Gorman was a volunteer coach for the Pope Junior Wrestling program until he was forced out in 2011 after a parent found he had sent a sexually charged message to her son.

Still, Gorman continued to coach for Team Georgia wrestling, the state affiliate of the national Olympic wrestling organization. He also founded the wrestling program at Life University. 

Another effect is that Robert Horton, the chair of Team Georgia, is also under investigation by the U.S. Center for SafeSport for his handling of complaints against Gorman prior to his arrest.

Party scene near SunTrust Park missing one piece: Maybe the largest story of Cobb in the last five years has been the move by the Braves from downtown Atlanta to here.

There was the explosive announcement, the negotiation, construction, immediate satisfaction of opening, but we’re now entering an evaluation phase. How is the thing working?

In that spirit, the AJC took at look at how The Battery Atlanta, the 1.5-million-square-foot mixed-use development with bars and retail space outside the ballpark, was doing at its promise of drawing people even when there was no game.

Cobb County leaders said an important factor in subsidizing the cost of the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park was the team’s plans for The Battery Atlanta, a tax-generating development of restaurants, bars, shops, apartments, offices and a hotel beside the ballpark. Battery visitors include some who came hours early for a recent Braves’ game on a summer week night. MATT KEMPNER / AJC

“We like coming here more than Buckhead. It’s a better crowd and cheaper drinks,” one 23-year-old who has an apartment there said in August.

Giovanni di Palma, who owns Antico Pizza, opened in The Battery last year. He said sales are trending 30 to 40 percent above expectations. Even non-game weekends are doing a bit above projections.

The bars and restaurants may be doing well, but not all retailers.

Jonathan Brimer opened his Select Shades sunglasses store opened with no other stores open in his building. “We will go several days when no one comes in the store all day long,” he said. “Zero.”

In August, about 20 retail spots remained vacant, especially those farther from the stadium. And an early plan to draw day-time shoppers with women’s fashion stores had fallen flat.

From the story: “Deep in its second year of operation, only about 65 percent of The Battery’s already built retail and dining spaces are actually occupied, according to the Braves which owns and manages most of The Battery.”

Mother Anna: The AJC unspooled the complex life that led a woman to Cobb, where Anna Elizabeth Young was arrested during late 2017 in her 70s for allegedly murdering children when she was a cult leader decades ago in a rural part of north central Florida.

A picture and tribute to her mother, Anna Elizabeth Young, sits on a shelf in the home of Joy Fluker on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at her home in north metro Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

 

A story that ran in March showed the scars on the back of one of her victims, who also lived in Cobb, detailed life on the cult site and highlighted times where she slipped through the system.

The AJC interviewed cult survivors on video, visited the former Florida cult site and reviewed hundreds of police and court documents dating back to 1973 and stretching from Michigan to Puerto Rico that the AJC obtained from state and federal agencies via multiple open records requests. Some of the records were news to even the cult leader’s daughter, who also lives in metro Atlanta. Mother Anna awaits trial in Florida.

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Honorable mentions:

11 cows killed, 78 rounded up after tractor-trailer overturns in Cobb County

Shock, grief at retired Justice Harris Hines’ sudden death

$35M case of Cobb teen brutally beaten at Six Flags quietly settles

Was Cobb freshman defending himself or committing assault?



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