While the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election will probably rank in most people’s minds as the top stories nationally in 2020, Butts County had its own fair share of top local stories during the last 12 months, including pandemic-related news.

The Progress-Argus is presenting a four-part series on the top story for each week of 2020, along with honorable mentions, based on the opinions of the staff. The Jan. 6 edition had the months of January-March, this week will be April-June, followed on Jan. 20 by July-September, and ending Jan. 27 with October-December.

April 2020

♦ April 1

Butts County prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more

The Butts County Board of Commissioners has amended their Declaration of Local Emergency to prohibit community gatherings of 10 or more people; require bars, taverns, nightclubs and similar establishments outside of city limits to be closed; require restaurants outside of city limits to close to the public except to provide takeout, delivery, drive-through, or curbside service, and require all businesses remaining open to ensure everyone in them remain six feet apart as much as possible.

♦ Honorable mention

School Meals on Wheels: Butts County School System providing almost 3,000 meals a week to students

♦ April 8

Manhunt after Sunday murder narrows to two suspects

A search for a suspected killer and possible female hostage has changed into a search for two suspects after the Butts County Sheriff’s Office determined Autumn Keara Finlay, 21, may be aiding Cody Bryce Matthews, 20, to evade apprehension. Matthews is wanted for the shooting death of William Ryan Ray, 30, of Jenkinsburg. Ray was gunned down near the pool and tennis courts on Sunday, April 3, in the Jackson Glenn subdivision west of Jackson off of Ga. Highway 36 near I-75. Witnesses told investigators several children were playing near the pool when shots rang out.

♦ April 15

Cody Matthews captured in Williamson; Autumn Finlay found safe

The hunt is over. The Butts County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia State Patrol, and United States Marshalls apprehended Cody Bryce Matthews. Autumn Keara Finlay was also found and is safe. Matthews was wanted for the shooting death of William Ryan Ray, 30, of Jenkinsburg. Ray was gunned down near the pool and tennis courts on Sunday, April 3, in the Jackson Glenn subdivision west of Jackson off of Ga. Highway 36 near I-75. Matthews was hiding in at a residence in Williamson in Pike County. He is being transported to the Butts County Jail.

♦ Honorable mention

Spirit of service: Churches are stepping forward to assist community during COVID-19 pandemic

♦ April 22

Two deaths, 82 cases reported in Butts County

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has confirmed the first two deaths from COVID-19 in Butts County, both patients at Westbury Medical Care and Rehab, and 82 confirmed cases countywide.

♦ April 29

126 confirmed cases, 3 deaths in Butts County

As of noon on Tuesday, April 28, Butts County had a total of 129 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, 3 deaths, and 9 residents who were hospitalized at the time their doctors reported to the Georgia Department of Community Health (DPH). Two of the deaths occurred at Westbury Medical Care and Rehab. The third was not a patient at Westbury.

♦ Honorable mention

Body of missing Henry County kayaker found in Butts County

♦ May 6

Butts County child found safe on Friday

Multitudes of concerned Butts County residents turned out to search by foot and on ATV’s Friday afternoon and evening for a lost 8-year-old non-verbal autistic child. Thankfully, the boy, Kayden Reaves, was found safe on a paintball field near his home on Harkness Road at 9:47 p.m. about 6 and a half hours after he went missing.

♦ Honorable mention

Westbury has 15 of the 17 COVID-19 deaths in Butts County, according to DPH

♦ May 13

No deaths in 7 days, reports DPH; Westbury celebrating recovery of 92 residents from virus

As of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, both Butts County and Westbury Medical and Rehab have cause for celebration, with the numbers of deaths in the county — reported by the Department of Public Health (DPH) — remaining at 17 for the last 7 days, and with 92 Westbury residents having recovered from the virus and only 10 others remaining symptomatic. As of May 12, Westbury has reported 24 deaths from the virus, with 92 residents recovered, 10 residents that remain symptomatic, and only one new case. The difference in the number of deaths reported by Westbury and the DPH is because deaths are not included in the DPH report until they can be confirmed as COVID-19 related.

♦ May 20

JHS Class of 2020 Senior Procession set for Friday

Due to COVID-19, May 22 will be a day the Jackson High School Class of 2020 will remember for years to come, but not for the usual reason, which would have been their graduation before a cheering crowd of family and friends. Instead, May 22 will be remembered as the Jackson High School Class of 2020 Car Procession. Hosted by the Butts County Sheriff’s Office, the procession will begin at Jackson High School, go through downtown Jackson with family and friends cheering them on, and end with a balloon release at Red Devil Hill.

♦ Honorable mention

Cause for celebration: Westbury residents, families mark COVID-19 recovery with parade

♦ Honorable mention

Butts County Administration Building reopened to the public

♦ May 27

Inmate, girlfriend captured following manhunt

An inmate awaiting trial on drug charges is now facing additional charges, including aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, after he fled from a work detail, allegedly attempted to strike Butts County Sheriff Gary Long with a vehicle, and was captured 28 hours after his escape. His girlfriend is also facing charges in connection with the escape.

♦ Honorable mention

City of Jackson cancels 4th of July Red, White & Boom

♦ June 3

Third suspect in shootout surrenders to Jackson police

The third suspect in the May 27 shootout on the square in Jackson surrendered to Jackson Police Chief James Morgan Friday afternoon. Courtney Deon Marshal, 31, of Jackson, is facing charges of aggravated assault, reckless conduct, terroristic threats, and two counts of criminal damage to property. Also under arrest and facing similar charges are Xavier Walker, 26, of Flovilla, and Deon Jermaine Smith, 29, of Jackson.

♦ Honorable mention

No programs this summer at Parks and Recreation

♦ June 10

Butts County proposes increase in millage rate

For the first time in five years, the Butts County Board of Commissioners are proposing to raise the county’s millage rate by one mill, from 12.209 mills to 13.209 mills. It will mean an increase of 16.06% in property taxes.

♦ Honorable mention

Ward wins Clerk of Superior Court; Marshall wins BOE District 4

♦ Honorable mention

Guest of honor: Bride and groom travel to Westbury to share wedding with his grandmother

♦ June 17

BOE taking ‘wait and see’ approach on 2021 budget

The Butts County Board of Education is taking a “wait and see” approach toward the school system’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget, waiting to see what the Georgia General Assembly will decide on in the state’s budget. The largest portion of school system revenues come from the state, so how large a cut in school funding the legislators decide on will have major effect on school system budgets.

♦ June 24

‘We deserve to be supported:’ Peaceful protest march, celebration in Jackson ends with call for collective action

More than 200 people took part in a peaceful Juneteenth march and celebration on Friday, June 19. Hosted by the Jackson Renaissance Group, the march through downtown Jackson and celebration had a four-fold purpose. The first was to celebrate Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. The second was to march against police brutality, the third was to begin a collective seeking better conditions for blacks in Jackson, and the fourth was to encourage voter registration.

♦ Honorable mention

Officer Gilroy, Deputy Vick honored for saving the life of another officer

♦ Honorable mention

Residents protest rate increases, county budget

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