Six vagabonds caught illegally riding a freight train last month have been released after serving 38 days in jail.
The hoboes were arrested March 16 by CSX Railroad police when caught in Grovetown aboard a freight train they’d hopped in Atlanta, en route to St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Savannah. They didn’t post their $1,100 bonds and were held in the Columbia County Detention Center until their court date Tuesday.
William Robert Jackson, 26, of Graham, Wash.; Dennis James Kist, 24, of Okeana, Ohio; Jayson Arthur Willard, 23, of Williamston, Mich.; Megan Rose Tuck, 23, of Fort Worth, Texas; Jo Ann Heilberg, 23, of Florida; and Heather Bermudez, 22, of New Hampshire, were charged with hiding on a train for the purpose of stealing a ride, a misdemeanor. All were listed as homeless.
All pled guilty at the Tuesday hearing at the courthouse in Evans except Jackson and Tuck, who entered pleas of no contest. Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. sentenced each to the time they’d already served in jail since their arrest, and all were released after being processed out of the detention center, according to jail personnel.
Four dogs traveling with them had been kept at Columbia County Animal Services until their owners’ release.
Animal Services staff took the pets to the jail to reunite them with the owners, said Animal Services Manager Linda Glasscock.
“The reunion between then was wonderful, it really was,” she said. “The dogs knew who they were and came running out of the gate and just jumped on them. The dogs were almost smiling.”
The pets were cared for with “several” donations from the community, and Glasscock said she’s been told to expect an additional donation from the family of one of the travelers.
When inmates are released and are listed as homeless or otherwise have no local friends, family or accommodations, deputies seek help from the Salvation Army and will take released inmates there if they wish, according to jailers. It is not known if the train-jumpers received such assistance.
Glasscock said it’s her understanding that the travelers stayed at least one night in an Augusta hotel, and since have been seen panhandling in Richmond County.
Staff writer Barry L. Paschal contributed to this report.