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Code Enforcement officer won't be charged

Posted: July 6, 2012 - 7:22pm

Twitter @ValerieRowell

A Columbia County Code Compliance officer accused of going into a Martinez woman’s home uninvited won’t face criminal charges.

The Columbia County sheriff’s investigators completed an investigation Friday into a Monday incident where Code Compliance Officer Jimmy Vowell was accused of entering a Martinez woman’s home without permission.

Capt. Steve Morris said Vowell won’t be charged and the findings of the investigation were released to Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson.

Erica Masters said she woke Monday to Vowell talking to her from her bedroom doorway.

“I had on no glasses or contacts,” Masters said. “I could see his figure in my doorway.”

Vowell was there to serve a violation notice to Masters for having overgrown grass. He claimed he smelled something coming from the house and called out several times, according to a Facebook message Vowell sent to The Columbia County News-Times Publisher Barry Paschal. When he knocked, Vowell said the front door swung open.

“I had no idea who lived there or even if anyone did,” Vowell wrote in the message. “I had no idea if someone was hurt, dead or what. ... From what I saw and (smelled), I reacted on instincts telling me something was not right in that house.”

Masters said everything was alright except that she was scared when she was woken from sleep by a stranger in her home. Vowell asked Masters to come outside to sign the notice and waited in her living room as she dressed.

Masters said she called 911. But when the dispatcher found out the man inside her home was a county employee, the dispatcher transferred her to Vowell’s supervisor and didn’t send a deputy to her home.

“I just feel like, ‘I’m violated and you’re not going to send a deputy to my house to check on me to make sure I’m okay?’” Masters said.

She left a message with the supervisor and the sheriff’s office contacted her for a statement Tuesday morning. Masters also provided footage of the incident from surveillance video cameras inside and outside of her home.

Johnson said Vowell was put on administrative leave during the investigation the sheriff’s office conducted.

“Certainly it is an issue that is troubling,” Johnson said Wednesday. “We feel it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

The policy on entering a home is to never enter a home without permission unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Masters said Vowell entering her home was scary.

“I wake up every hour or every other hour, I want to check all the locks,” Masters said Friday. “I’ve never been this way, so it’s a big blow.”

Masters said Vowell might have knocked, but she didn’t hear it in the bedroom.

She said she intends to seek civil action against the county for not properly handling the complaint by sending a deputy to her home. She also contends the county didn’t properly check Vowell’s background before hiring him.

Vowell, a former Richmond County sheriff’s sergeant, resigned in 2004 after he admitted taking a laptop computer that was slated to be destroyed from the evidence room, according to a story published at the time in The Augusta Chronicle.

Now, Masters said she plans to move out of Columbia County.

“I still think the county was neglectful,” she said. “... This is going to create animosity between me and the county. ... I really can’t trust the county not to hire the right people not to do this again.”

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Comments (56)

georgiaboy38

gbi

i believe the gbi or even the fbi should take over this case.mr.vowell has worked for years along side the same investigators who investigated him.come on ccso u know him well.mr vowell is friends with almost everyone in the criminal investigations division.also wasn't his son just arrested for armed robbery in west lake-go figure

Riverman1

SweetSon

Well, she may very well go to Magistrate's Court about issues associated with this case, but it won't stop there is what I'm hearing.

Riverman1

Soldout, Thanks

Thanks. There was a complicating factor.

Riverman1

Vowell

If anyone knew this man's and family's past issues you would think it was some kind of soap opera. I won't even go there because you wouldn't believe me if I told you.

Sweet son

@Riverman

Wasn't trying to pick a fight but I knew (thought) Magistrate Court was too light for a big civil suit. I happen to have been named as the defendant on one that was high dollars. Didn't like the trial but I won!

georgiaboy38

riverman

you are so right about vowell and his family.this man is embarassment to the goverment of columbia county.he says he smelt something he smelt money to spend on his 40,000 harley davidson

georgiaboy38

thief

once a thief always a thief-period.

Sweet son

Columbia County Employees:

Hire two left over Richmond County Deputies!

georgiaboy38

sweetson

i like that one,if i was ms masters i would be contacting the attorney general's office in atlanta for some justice and clarification

RogueKnight

In this day and age, who

In this day and age, who leaves their doors unlocked, whether at home or not? If you want to keep out unwanted visitors, lock your freakin' doors!

IknowEverything

We should all show up at the

We should all show up at the commissioners' meeting and speak during the allotted public speaking time. We need to let the commissioners know how we feel. We don't need someone like this representing our county!

Staffwriter-12

Relative Act

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/crime-courts/2012-05-31/three-arrested...

Does anyone know if the above article published in The Augusta Chronicle on May 31,2012 is related to this incident ?
Last name is the same. Only difference is they used a gun on this one !

What is going on here ?

easy breezy

Really??

Does it matter how many times this man was married? Seems like everyone is getting carried away with this story. Let the Law Enforcement do their job and let it go.

soapy_725

in his own words from AC & CCNT and his victim

7/2/02 "It's getting to the point in this day and time that you can't leave anything out in the open anymore," property crimes Sgt. Jimmy Vowell said. "You've got to lock things up."

6/1/03 If something is stolen, police suggest filing a report. Sgt. Vowell said items can sometimes be recovered, depending on what was stolen and whether it is traceable.

2/17/04 Sgt. Jimmy Vowell, 42, the head of the property crimes division, resigned Friday rather than "bring further embarrassment" to the sheriff's office, Sheriff Strength said. A criminal investigation is pending. "(Sgt. Vowell) said he thought about it, and once he thought about it, he knew it was wrong," the sheriff said.

7/12/06 James A. Vowell and Dorendra J. Vowell divorced in CC.

9/26/07 So far this year, Jimmy Vowell, a county erosion and sediment inspector, said there have been fewer violations at sites. Lately, he said, key areas of interest for inspections have included Mullikin Road, Chamblin Road and the developments of River Island and Ivy Falls as there's a greater concern for state waterways there.

Between 2007 & 2012 in the CCNT Vowell talked about thefts from unguarded construction sites.

7/8/12 The video shows Vowell knocking on the woman’s door before walking into the house and then to the doorway of her bedroom. The county’s policy is to never enter a home without permission.

7/8/12 Erica Master’s Erica says, "Jimmy Vowell needs to stop getting government jobs. Our tax dollars are paying for a guy that is going beyond the law. He thinks he's above the law and I don't think that's right. I don't think my tax dollars should go to somebody that thinks he's above the law."

7/8/12 Good Morning Augusta reports Erica Masters has filed charges against Jimmy Vowell.

Riverman1

Magistrate Said It's a Civil Matter

She tried in magistrate's court today to press charges against Vowell, but the judge said it is a civil matter. Disappointing, but I hope she continues with the civil suit against him and the county.

Barry Paschal

Vowell terminated

The county administrator just told me Vowell has been terminated. Follow-up story is on the way.

Riverman1

Vowell Was Just Fired

The county fire Vowell minutes ago and informed the young lady of their actions.

Riverman1

She emailed me and is happy

The young lady is happy about the firing, but will probably continue with the civil suit. She feels much better already.

Sweet son

AH HA!! The Connection

Now we know that Riverman has a close connection and that is alright! Sounds like maybe she needs to forget the Magistrate and go visit Steve Morris in CCSO investigations! Bet he can get a warrant if it is deemed necessary.

Riverman1

SweetSon

No secret. She asked me to email her on here when she saw I supported her. I get lots of people asking my thoughts and telling me their problems. I know the facts about what happened is the important part. How many times did he go to the door? That's a key point that's been glossed over.

Sweet son

Like I said!

Not trying to pick a fight and if criminal activity occurred it will also support her on civil action. Thanks for helping this lady out! Son

georgiaboy38

tv and news papers

mr vowell and this case has made todays ny daily news and glenn beck's paper the blaze read more comments at www.theblaze.com

meriwether123

Further than that

Apparently it's going to be on both The Today Show and Good Morning America tomorrow. And Thursday is it slated to air on Inside Edition. Atlanta even has a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about it, and most news outlets there are reporting on it too.

If it wasn't big before, it definitely is now. Hello world, meet Columbia County.

Devils__Advocate

What's happening when it goes to just one screen?

What single woman, who feels the need to set up surveillance cameras, sleeps with an unlocked door?

All four camera angles should be shown at once, without being focused down to one-screen, to really prove this case.
Was there any interaction off screen on her part while we all were restricted to just the one screen?

And if something HAD happened to her and she was laying there dead, someone would've found a reason to blame HIM for NOT investigating the bad odor, specially with his LE background, and for sure would've sited the number of notices left at her door. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

In retrospect, when one has a clear mind and time to process all of this, things could've been handled differently, such as him calling 911 to report a suspicious situation and waiting for an officer to arrive, and being truthful from the very beginning.

(And personally, why ruin a perfectly good laptop--at least erase the drives and sell/donate it!)

WAG

People this womans medical

People this womans medical history or the number of cameras she had is no ones business! She was at home minding her own business and this nut comes in! He has never had any respect for rules and for that matter certainly no respect for women!
No matter what how long computer was there it was not his...Can I go downand get what I want just because it is just sitting there..NOT Leave the victim alone Jimmy Vowell is the menace here not her.....I feel sorry for his family. All he ever does is embarrass them....Maybe he was dropped on his head when small...

meriwether123

That's what is wrong with

That's what is wrong with this area to begin with. People want to nit-pick about someone's history without knowing them now, or make assumptions based on what little bit they see without knowing why. But they don't want to pay attention to the bigger problem here, which is a man breaking the law. A huge number of people out there have depression and it's supposedly different for everyone. I probably have it too! So what difference does it make?

And prior to this story, I only WISHED I had enough to install surveillance cameras around my own house. But apparently this system doesn't cost nearly as much as I thought it would - only a couple hundred - so I might get some for myself now!

Critical thinking here. Why does any of that matter? Fact is she caught someone who works for the county, breaking the law. The rest is a moot point and all speculation.

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