Investigators still looking for 1 grave robber

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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, April 22, 2013

Jerry Atkinson (WRDW-TV / Background: MGN Online)
Jerry Atkinson (WRDW-TV / Background: MGN Online)

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- Burke County deputies are still on the lookout for one man accused of digging up graves at a century-old cemetery.

Investigators are searching for 39-year-old Jerry Atkinson of Waynesboro. Investigators were so close to putting the cuffs on their suspect, but he managed to escape out of a back window.

However, deputies say he left some things behind.

"In the process of looking for the suspect, we found a meth lab," said Sgt. Dan Lowe of the Burke County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators say a back room and shed were used to either make the drug or use it and that's not all they found.

"We actually found two firearms in the room that he was in. Two rifles," an investigator told News12.

Atkinson was able to get away from deputies after jumping out of a back window and then headed toward the swamp.

"I couldn't believe it, you know, he's a quiet boy," said a neighbor.

Donnie Sikes, who lives next door to Atkinson, says he never had a problem with his neighbor but knew something was wrong when he saw multiple cop cars.

The GBI assisted the Burke County Sheriff's Office, confirming that meth was being made inside the house. And outside, there were shovels on the ground. Investigators don't know if these were used for the alleged grave robbery, but they did say they find other suspicious tools.

"Numerous flashlights. Backpacks which appear to be covered with dirt. So, he's been doing this for a while," Lowe said.

Investigators almost got Atkinson again Monday afternoon, but he eluded them again. The suspect lives in a heavily wooded area with a lot of trails and that's why investigators say he been able to escape them so easily.

The other suspect, Ralph "Bubba" Hillis, was arrested on Monday in Richmond County.

If you have any information, call the Burke County Sheriff's Office at (706) 554-2133. Callers may remain anonymous.

Jerry Atkinson (WRDW-TV)
Jerry Atkinson (WRDW-TV)
Ralph Hillis (WRDW-TV)
Ralph Hillis (WRDW-TV)

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