News editor doubles as coroner - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

News editor doubles as coroner

June 11, 2004

Colquitt, GA - How many hats do you wear at work? We found one small town man who clocks in, never knowing what will happen next. Breaking news keeps him pulled in two different directions.

Terry Toole is the main man behind a small town weekly newspaper called The Miller County Liberal. Toole explains, "My grandmother started this newspaper in 1897. I'm the editor and publisher."

His job was edited 22 years ago. The Deputy Sheriff asked Toole to simply sign a piece of paper. Toole remembers, "I just made you coroner."

So, the newspaper journalist turned his camera bag into a traveling file cabinet, but he still had to report the news. Toole laughs, "I told him [Deputy Sheriff] I wouldn't and he said you will because you are in the newspaper business and you have to be there anyway."

Performing double duty for a town that doesn't have much crime. He thinks back, "A fellow killed his girlfriend and nailed her to the floor with a hammer and a screwdriver through her throat. That was probably the last murder we had."

That was 13 years ago. We found an article from The Miller County Liberal's front page in March 1991. John L. Roberts killed his girlfriend Willa Jean Butler. Toole admits, "It's tough, that's one reason I'm giving it up. I'm hardened, when I see something it doesn't bother as much as it used to and that's not good."

The news editor and publisher is not running for re-election. He's seen enough death. A recent case will forever stick in his mind. Inside a mangled truck was a Lee County teenager. He died driving through Miller County two months ago. Toole determined his cause of death. Toole says sadly, "It's not a good thing to see young people die."

Toole says 95 percent of what he does as a coroner, he cannot report as a journalist. That's not an issue any more. Now that he's handing in his badge these hands can spend more time on the keyboard keeping Miller County informed.

Toole used to make $50 a body as coroner, now he makes $150 a month.

Toole's Deputy Coroner, Danny Sheffield, will replace him in January.

posted at 7:00PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com

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