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Coffee Co. Sheriff's Office has history of problems

Published: Mar. 15, 2006 at 8:54 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 17, 2006 at 10:17 PM EST
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March 16, 2006

Douglas -- The current sheriff, Rob Smith, defeated his brother-in-law, Carlton Evans, in 2000, but before Smith could take office, Evans committed suicide.

Former Coffee County Sheriff Carlton Evans and his brother Sage Evans lead a massive marijuana growing and selling operation until 2000. The sheriff and 15 others, including some sheriff's deputies, were busted after a GBI and FBI raid.

But Carlton Evans never made it before a jury. He killed himself as federal agents moved in to arrest him.

In May 2000, state and federal agents swarmed the Coffee County Sheriff's Office armed with search warrants. They took files and information about drug investigations. The raid came after three sheriff's deputies were arrested for growing pot in 1999.

If there's wrong doing it needs to be investigated to its fullest," said Evans during a 2000 news conference. Just three months later, with problems still brewing for sheriff Carlton Evans, came an election upset. Evans was beaten by his brother-in-law, Rob Smith, in a run-off election.

"I don't have any hard feelings for Carlton or any of his family. I've got fourteen years of experience, I would like to put it to use," said Rob Smith in August 2000.

Then October 3rd, federal agents tried to arrest Carlton Evans and nine other people, all for drugs. Evans' brother, his brother-in-law, two of his former deputies and five others were take into custody with no problem, but Evans refused to surrender. As drug agents surrounded his home, the sheriff ran out a back door and into the woods where he shot and killed himself.

His suicide shocked the small town of Douglas. In December, Evans' widow filed a $10-million lawsuit against the GBI, claiming agents illegally invaded her home and caused her husband's death.

"The GBI called it suicide, I call it murder," she said. But Karleen Evans later settled for just over $5,000. And a new sheriff, Rob Smith, took over to clean up a tainted law enforcement operation.

The Sheriff's Office worked without problems for just a year before Sheriff Rob Smith was caught hunting on a baited field and fined by the DNR. But from 2002 until today, Smith has run the office without any known problems.

Rob Smith was sworn in as Sheriff in December 2000. He was elected to a second term in 2004.