Moonshine suspect arrested six months later

by Wes Mayer

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The man suspected of building and operating an illegal moonshine distillery found in July in Coweta County was arrested Wednesday, authorities said.

The still was actually found by chance during the search for a missing 78-year-old woman, Eleanor Alexander. While Coweta Sheriff’s Office investigators John Curtis and Jason Fetner assisted in the widespread search, they happened to look in the backyard of 391 Providence Church Road. It was there they found the makeshift liquor still, which was set up to fill a beer keg with distilled spirits.

A warrant was obtained to search the property, and investigators seized the still along with nine marijuana plants growing in various pots outside and some firearms discovered inside the home. The suspected moonshiner who lived on the property, William Reeves Chatham, 30, was not home at the time and managed to avoid arrest for a few months. His mother, Allyson Bridget Owens McClendon, 50, who owned the property, was arrested late September for her believed involvement in the still’s operation.

Chatham was finally found Wednesday when Coweta Deputy Shane Warren saw him on Highway 16 West around 3:35 p.m., said Lt. Col. Jimmy Yarbrough with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. According to Yarbrough, Warren was patrolling the area near Georgia Power’s Plant Yates, and he recognized Chatham in the passenger’s seat of a Nissan Altima, so Warren turned on his lights and stopped the vehicle.

The driver was identified as Emily Patricia Smith, 18, but Chatham, who had warrants for his arrest, gave Warren a false name and false information, Yarbrough said, which only made things worse for Chatham because Warren already knew who he was.

Warren placed Chatham under arrest, and in searching him found about 15 grams of marijuana in his pants, Yarbrough said. Warren was then given consent to search the vehicle, and he found another 30 grams of marijuana sitting with seven $100 bills in the center console, Yarbrough said.

Because it was uncertain to whom the 30 grams of marijuana in the vehicle belonged, according to Yarbrough, both Chatham and Smith were charged for possession of marijuana with intent. Chatham was additionally charged for manufacturing marijuana, manufacturing distilled spirits, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, possession of marijuana and giving false information to an officer. Both he and Smith were transported to the Coweta County Jail.




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