7. Agencies fight over Levi Frady task force efforts

Editor’s note: Since launching this website on March 6, which would have been Levi Frady’s 30th birthday, its pages have been read 63,077 times. Readers as far away as Australia and Argentina are interested in this still unsolved murder.

An attempt by the Forsyth County Sheriff to form a joint task force to take a fresh look into the unsolved murder of an 11-year-old boy appears to have been snubbed by the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

LeviFradyPortraitIt was Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1997, when Levi Frady, 11, was allegedly abducted while riding his bicycle near his Burruss Mill Road home in Forsyth County, Ga. His body was found the following day by deer hunters in the Dawson Forest Wildlife area, approximately 19 miles —  and one county away — from his home. He had been shot three times, according to news reports.

Three years later, in the spring of 2000, Forsyth County Sheriff Denny Hendrix received a petition from Levi Frady’s family and other concerned Forsyth citizens asking that his office take a more active role in the investigation.

It contained more than 2,000 signatures.

“I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes or say any other agency has not done a good job on this case,” Hendrix told the Forsyth County News in an April 6, 2000 report. “But the family and others in this county asked me to help, so I’m going to try.”

Members of Levi’s family felt they could depend on Hendrix, the report shows.

“We wanted to get (the case) back in the open, before the public,” said Janice Hamby, Levi Frady’s grandmother. “We feel like Sheriff Hendrix will help.”

However, Dawson County law enforcement had (and still has) jurisdiction in the unsolved case because of the location where Levi’s body was found inside Dawson Forest. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to provide assistance early in the investigation.

April 2000

Shortly after receiving the petition, Hendrix contacted Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle and asked for a meeting. Carlisle agreed and the two sheriffs met for about three hours to discuss protocol for setting up the task force, according to an April 19, 2000 Forsyth Herald report.

At the time, Carlisle said he would provide at least one Dawson County officer to the task force.

“I’d love to see it solved,” Carlisle said. “At this point, I”m ready to try anything …”.

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s office also issued a press release announcing the formation of the task force.

It was reported that Hendrix dedicated seven officers and investigators to the task force, including one from the Forsyth county district attorney’s office. In addition, a special office was set up on Bethelview Road near downtown Cumming with a dedicated phone line for tips. At the time, a tipline number was 770-886-LEVI [5384].

May 2000

A reward fund topping $125,000 — the largest in Forsyth County history (at the time) — had been established. Two Forsyth County businessmen each contributed $50,000. Tommy Bagwell of American Proteins, where Levi’s grandfather had been a longtime employee, and Bob Davis of Bob Davis Pontiac/GMC, pledged the money during a news conference.

Yet, Hendrix’s efforts to respond to the family and community to help solve the case were apparently not welcomed.

 June 2000

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GBI Agent Jim Hallman, Photo credit The Lovell Chronicle

GBI Special Agent in Charge, Jim Hallman, said Sheriff Hendrix had about as much jurisdiction in the Levi Frady murder as they would in the JonBenet Ramsey murder probe, according to a June 7, 2000 report in the Dawson News & Advertiser.

“It gives the perception that the investigation is fragmented and disorganized. It would be like (Forsyth) investigating the JonBenet Ramsey murder, or the O.J. Simpson case,” said Hallman. “They have no jurisdiction.”

JonBenet Ramsey was a six-year-old girl who was murdered in her Boulder, Colo. home on Dec. 25, 1996. Police found her body in the basement of her family home about eight hours after she was reported missing

Dawson sheriff declines to join task force

Also in June 2000, Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle became upset over erroneous Forsyth media reports that Dawson had pulled out of the investigation because of a man-power shortage, according to the June 7, 2000 Dawson News & Advertiser report.

He reiterated that his department “is and always will be the lead agency in the Frady murder.”

Carlisle said he declined Hendrix’s offer to join the task force “to avoid duplication of services.”

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Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle, scheduled to retire December 2016

“I don’t see the point of pulling my investigators out of Dawson County to send to Forsyth when they’re already working the case here,” he said.

“… We offered Forsyth County the opportunity to work with us in this case more than two years ago and they declined,” he said. “If Forsyth is going to work with us, they need to dedicate some man-power to work here in Dawson County, not Forsyth.”

Carlisle also said Forsyth Sheriff Hendrix was not sharing information — referring to letters the Forsyth task force obtained that may have contained important information about the case.

“They may be talking with GBI, but they haven’t shared any copies of letters with our department,” Carlisle said.

GBI’s Hallman also spoke about letters in the June 7, 2000 report.

“After we heard about the letters, we have been given some information (from Forsyth),” Hallman said. “It was a one-time deal.”

Editor’s note: It was during this time frame that GBI responded to a request from Forsyth D.A. Phil Smith and the Forsyth board of commissioners to launch an investigation into alleged payroll violations at the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. Forsyth’s chief deputy called the investigation “political revenge.” Around the same time, Hendrix had been given a jail house videotape of a woman claiming a Forsyth judge and a Georgia probations officer had taken bribes, according to a source close to the matter.  

July 12, 2000

The following month on July 12, 2000, the editor of the Forsyth Herald conducted a Q & A with Hendrix.

Q: Do you think there will be a resolution to the Levi Frady murder case?

A: I am disappointed the GBI has refused to cooperate with us. I am disappointed Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle has refused to cooperate with us. I am disappointed the young boy was brutally murdered and the GBI and Dawson County are letting politics come into play here. We need to work together. This agency is getting information. We are going as far south as Florida and as far north as North Carolina on tips we are getting. They said it is politics. I say it is politics on them.

Q: The GBI and Dawson County Sheriff’s Office might ask why don’t you cooperate with them?

A: I’ve got 3,000 signatures from people of this county [petition] … The child lived in this county. The mother and grandparents were in the office and said, ‘will you please take up this investigation. We are not satisfied with the GBI or Dawson County. We are not happy with what they are doing. Will you help us?’ … I have sat back for 2 1/2 years trying to get along with these people and they are playing dirty politics with the life of a young boy. I want to find out who killed the boy and bring him to justice. I am ashamed for the GBI and for Sheriff Carlisle. I would hate to think my boy was murdered and the law enforcement agencies couldn’t get together for a task force. What are we coming to in law enforcement?

“… they are playing dirty politics with the life of a young boy. I am ashamed for the GBI and for Sheriff Carlisle.” 

Click for link to Forsyth Herald, July 12, 2000 Q & A with report

October 2000

Four months later on Oct. 23, 2000, the third anniversary of Levi’s body being found, Hendrix wrote a letter to Janice and Dorsey Hammy, Levi’s grandparents.

“When both of you, other members of your family, and citizens of this county requested that I open an investigation into the murder of your grandson, Levi Frady, I told you that it would be difficult to solve this case as so much time had elapsed,” Hendrix wrote. “As you know, I contacted the GBI and the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and requested their assistance for a joint task force effort, and both of them refused to work with us.”

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January 21, 2001

Three months later, a Forsyth County News report revealed the joint task force “apparently no longer exists.”

What happened to the task force over the past nine months remains its own mystery, writes a Forsyth County News reporter on Jan. 21, 2001. 

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Forsyth Sheriff Denny Hendrix served one term, 1997 – 2000. He was defeated by Ted Paxton who replaced him at midnight Jan. 1, 2001.

PIC SHERIFF TED PAXTON
Former Forsyth Sheriff Ted Paxton

Upon taking office, Paxton transferred the head of the Frady task force, Sgt. David Waters, from criminal investigations to the uniform patrol division, according to the Jan. 21, 2001 Forsyth County News report. Waters in 1999 had been named ‘Officer of the Year’. His replacement was former GBI Director, Robbie Hamrick. 

Hamrick said he doesn’t know what happened to the Forsyth task force.   

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Former GBI Director, Robbie Hamrick

“I have seen no evidence of an active task force,” Hamrick said.

January 31, 2001 

And yet, ten days later on Jan. 31, 2001, a newly assigned GBI Special Agent in Charge, Fred Stephens, said the task forces were going strong. 

“Our task force is in existence, moreso now then ever,” Stephens said in a Jan. 31, 2001 Dawson Community News report. 

Which GBI agent was telling the public the truth about the task forces? Hamrick or Stephens?

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Hallman later retired from the GBI according to a Sept. 18, 2002 Dawson News & Advertiser report. He moved to Big Horn, Wyoming.

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Former Gainvesville GBI Director, John Cagle

GBI then promoted John Cagle into Hallman’s slot as the head of the Gainesville office in September 2002.

Cagle, one of the nation’s top five drug enforcement officers according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will lead the GBI region that includes his home county of Dawson.

According to the September article, Cagle is no stranger to regional law enforcement. He spent 15 years as a regional drug agent in North Georgia, and has eight years of prior service as a special agent including six years in Gainesville.

“I’ve known Billy Carlisle and that crowd over in Dawson County for years and years and years — I live in Dawson County,” Cagle said. “I’ve done a lot of work in Dawson and sheriffs like Billy Carlisle make our job a whole lot easier.”

Starting in 2008, Cagle worked more than five years in the Dawson County Sheriff’s office.

“I found my first meeting notes from May 2, 2008,” Cagle told the author of this blog in a Dec. 24, 2013 Dawson News & Advertiser report.  “In the meeting, I tried to stress to them they had not been able to work certain types of cases because the GBI was always called. … There were a lot of investigators who had never worked a murder. My intention was to work with them to the point that when those more serious crimes came up they were ready.”

“There were a lot of investigators who had never worked a murder,” Cagle said.

Investigating the murder of Levi Frady for Dawson County were Capt. Steve Hawk, Deputy Kevin Tanner, Sheriff Billy Carlisle, and others. It is unclear whether Cagle was referring to these officers.

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Former Dawson County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Hawk. He currently works at Lumpkin County High School

Constant changes at GBI upset some members of the Frady family

“Every time we called over there to tell them (GBI) something, we got a different person on the phone,” a Frady family member said in 2014. “Then I’d have to start telling ’em all over again what happened to Levi — like they didn’t know anything. And, they never call us back. It’s like they just don’t care.”  

Click to read next news post: Dawson sheriffs’ candidates say they will work Levi Frady case if elected

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