Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

June 13, 2012

Lake Park mayor, councilwoman incident being investigated

LAKE PARK — Lowndes County law-enforcement officials responded late Friday afternoon to a battery and trespassing incident at Lake Park City Hall.

Reports list Lake Park Mayor Ben Futch and Mayor Pro-tem Sandi Sherrill as both suspects and victims.

Lowndes County Sheriff’s Capt. Wanda Edwards said the case was closed Tuesday afternoon with no criminal intent discovered for either party.

Edwards stated Sherrill went to City Hall on Friday, June 8, for a copy of the council packet for an upcoming city council meeting when the situation escalated into a heated argument.

“She came into his office to talk to him and started to close the door to his office because she wanted to talk to him privately,” said Edwards. “He told her not to close the door and he went to open it while she was attempting to close it.”

At some point during the argument, Sherrill sustained a knee injury. Immediately after the incident and before law enforcement could arrive at the scene, Sherrill drove herself to South Georgia Medical Center to receive medical attention.

Futch reported the incident to the authorities.

“It was all over in seconds,” said Edwards.

When Lowndes County officers visited Sherrill at SGMC, she was read her Miranda Rights. Edwards said Futch was never read his rights. Sherrill was checked by SGMC staff and was released the same day.

Edwards said they read Sherrill her rights “out of an abundance of caution.”

Witnesses and suspects involved have remained mum about the incident.

When contacted by The Times, Sherrill said she was unaware of any situation over the weekend and needed to hang up.

Futch has also declined to comment.

Four witnesses are listed on the incident report from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, including Lake Park city clerks Elizabeth Sims and Wendy Carter.

“I don’t think anybody’s ready to make a statement at this time. I think the case has been closed,” Carter said Tuesday morning.

Lake Park Police Chief Tim Baker and 18-year-old police intern Kyle Porter did not respond to repeated calls from The Times.

Lake Park patrolman Bobbie Grundie said he was asked to leave his office at City Hall by Baker during the incident. Grundie said he went to make a call but didn’t see anything.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine was at the scene until lead investigator Troy Black took over the case.

“I went down there to find out what was going on and I walked outside to call a deputy to meet me there,” said Prine. “I told the deputy we could leave once the detective arrived. That was the extent of my involvement.”

Futch and Prine have known each other for years, according to the sheriff. Futch worked on Prine’s 2008 campaign for sheriff. Futch handled Prine’s advertisement purchases with The Times, according to documents from the 2008 sheriff’s campaign.

Edwards said she wasn’t aware of Futch’s involvement with Prine’s 2008 campaign but, in terms of possible conflict of interest, she said that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation wouldn’t respond to this type of incident.

Prine said Futch was not his campaign manager in 2008 and that he was only responsible for ordering signs and purchasing advertisements since Prine was unfamiliar with the process. Prine said his campaign was handled by family members and his wife mostly.

Ben Futch is the son of the late Lowndes County Sheriff Jewell Futch. Prine said he once worked for Sheriff Futch.

“There’s a big difference between Jewell and Ben,” said Prine. “He was a good man, although he died in prison, but I knew Ben when he was just a little boy.”

Prine said that he was not involved with Futch’s recent Lake Park mayoral campaign of 2011 as a write-in candidate.

“I would have put Ben in jail just as quick as Sandi if there had been any fault,” said Prine.

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