In the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2002, 14-year-old Aunsharia Moss lost her life when a stray bullet struck her head. She was sitting in a car in the parking lot of the T & W Cafe Lounge on Viola Avery Street in Thomson.
The McDuffie County Planning Board voted 3-2 last week to recommend that the county commission not allow Jay's Cafe -- the reincarnation of the T &W under new management -- to be rezoned for commercial use. If the commission follows the planning board's recommendation, the club will not be allowed to reopen.
The request from Jay's Cafe owners Charlie and Freddie Taylor came after the county attorney determined that the night club had been closed for more than a year, ending its grandfather status in regards to zoning. The ruling came after the owners had spent nearly $40,000 to remodel and update security for the club.
But the planning board vote came as good news to Antonia Moss, Aunsharia's mother.
"I think it's good, because I still live over here," she said. "There hasn't been (crime) happening over here since they closed it. It's been peaceful and quiet."
Terry Meadrell Tutt of Thomson was arrested and charged with one count of felony murder for the death of Aunsharia Moss. According to Agent Mike Seigler with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Thomson office, Mr. Tutt has been indicted on the murder charges and is facing additional drug charges as well.
But Aunsharia's case wasn't the first instance of crime that has taken place at the 40-plus year old club, and neither was it the first case of murder. Police responded to calls on a regular basis at the club. And on New Year's Day 1992, Tracy Rogers of Thomson was killed and two others injured when gunfire broke out in the club's parking lot.
Board Member Jimmy Poston was vocal about his opposition to allowing a night club to operate and sell alcohol in a neighborhood. During the meeting, Planning Director Fred Guerrant also mentioned two daycares nearby.
"It was primarily the location," said Planning Board Chair Bob Keith. "Going from an R-2 to a C-2 (zone) where they can serve and poor alcoholic beverages in that residential area with a church right in front of it and the houses around it and the daycare right next to it, I'm just opposed to it from that standpoint."
Some officials said the 2002 murder played into the decision, but they pointed to the club's location in the Cherokee neighborhood as the main reason.
"I'm sure that had some affect on the decision, but that's not the total decision making point because that place has been around here for years and years and years," Mr. Keith said.
The owners of Jay's Cafe did not return repeated calls requesting comment on the board's decision. But during the meeting both cited the positive impact that the club has had over the years -- including several community programs that are run from the same building such as providing Christmas presents for needy children and a scholarship program.
The county commission's decision will come at their Aug. 17 meeting. According to Mr. Guerrant, the owners of the cafe can still appeal a denial from the commission in Superior Court.