The Silver Comet Trail: How safe is it?
by Sarah Westwood
July 30, 2014 11:40 PM | 6500 views | 7 7 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Linda Turnipseed says she carries a pistol in her backpack while jogging on the Silver Comet Trail. ‘We have people that are out to do harm to other people, and they look for areas that are remote that they can take advantage of somebody that they can overpower,’ she says. <br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Linda Turnipseed says she carries a pistol in her backpack while jogging on the Silver Comet Trail. ‘We have people that are out to do harm to other people, and they look for areas that are remote that they can take advantage of somebody that they can overpower,’ she says.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
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Nearly eight years to the day after a middle-aged mother was murdered during her bike ride along the Silver Comet Trail in Hiram, a Dallas woman was found badly beaten beside a stretch of the same trail in Paulding County. The 42-year-old woman was airlifted to Kennestone Hospital after a biker discovered her lying on the ground just outside the woods Tuesday evening.

Police say the assault occurred at about mile marker 19.58 — a little more than two and a half miles from the area where Jennifer Ewing was killed July 25, 2006.

Cpl. Ashley Henson, spokesman for the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office, said the attack began on the bridge that spans Academy Drive.

Henson said detectives believe the victim’s attacker dragged her into the wooded area near the bridge and beat her.

The victim “somehow managed” to pull herself out of the woods toward the trail after her attacker left her, Henson said.

The biker discovered the woman, who was “going in and out of consciousness,” at about 6:42 p.m. Tuesday and called police, Henson said.

According to police, the woman was “severely beaten about the head and face” and had lost consciousness during parts of the attack.

Detectives said they found no “obvious signs of sexual assault” in their preliminary investigation.

“Since the attack was so violent and her injuries were so severe, the victim could only indicate that a white male suspect with dark hair attacked her,” Henson said of the assailant, who he said stole a cellphone and set of keys from her. He noted the woman was walking east toward Hiram when the assault began.

Memories of a murder

Detectives from the Paulding Sheriff’s Office are still piecing together details of the incident, which reminded many of Ewing’s highly-publicized murder.

Those who knew the Sandy Springs mother of three said she was an avid cyclist who took long rides on the trail several times a week.

After her husband reported her missing the night she failed to return from her routine ride, police and volunteers launched a search party that ultimately led them to Ewing’s body.

An autopsy revealed Ewing was killed by blunt force trauma to the head and chest — a result of beatings, prosecutors said — and had been sexually assaulted in the attack that led to her death.

Police arrested and charged Michael Ledford of Hiram, a convicted sex offender, with murder, kidnapping, aggravated sodomy, aggravated battery and aggravated assault just days after Ewing disappeared.

In 2009, Ledford was convicted on those charges and sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Trail frequenters not surprised

Linda Turnipseed, a Fulton County Schools police officer who lives in Dallas, said she was not surprised when she learned of Tuesday’s incident.

She and her friend, Cory Spencer, who also lives in Dallas, said they walk the trail about three times a week and spent Wednesday morning walking along the same stretch where the woman was attacked the night before.

“I see a lot of women out here walking by themselves. Even in the daytime, I think they should not do that. It’s dangerous,” Turnipseed said. “If you’re by yourself, like right now, and the trail is isolated, and there’s a predator out here in the day time and nobody’s on the trail, you can be taken.”

Turnipseed said she is not afraid to spend time on the trail because she carries her gun in her bag when she heads out for a walk.

She said such attacks have become so commonplace lone walkers should always be on high alert.

“It’s not surprising when it happens anyplace because nowadays, it’s just so much happening,” Turnipseed said. “We have people that are out to do harm to other people, and they look for areas that are remote that they can take advantage of somebody that they can overpower.”

Bud Marker, who lives in Dallas, said he usually carries a weapon — whether it be a stick or a gun — with him when he takes his regular walks on the trail.

Marker said he typically hits the trail in the evening, around the time the woman was discovered, but said he has opted to start his walks earlier as the days have grown shorter.

“Usually, there’s people around,” he said of trail activity on a typical weekday evening. “You see them on the path. It’s not like you’re normally completely isolated.”

Police give safety tips

The 61.5 miles of the Silver Comet Trail run from Smyrna to the Alabama border, with 12.8 of them falling inside Cobb County lines.

Robert Quigley, spokesman for Cobb County, said 1.8 million visitors visit the county’s section of the Silver Comet trail every year.

He said the most popular activity on the trail is bicycling.

Sgt. Dana Pierce, Cobb police spokesman, said the county’s Ranger Unit reported an assault about six and a half years ago in which a middle-aged man was attacked “by some kids” while riding his bicycle between Anderson Mill and Austell roads.

The man received minor injuries and the suspects were later caught, Pierce said.

Pierce said the county police department recommends letting a friend or family member know how long you’ll be on the trail if you plan to hike alone.

Walkers should carry a cellphone in case of emergency and should keep identification on their person, Pierce added.

If you saw anything suspicious on the Silver Comet Trail between the Chamber of Commerce and Tara Drummond trail heads on July 29 between 5 and 8 p.m., call (770) 443-3015

Comments
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Trail Guy
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August 01, 2014
What happenned is disgusting and tragic.

With 1.8 million users a year, the trail has the activity of a decent sized city. You are probably more likley to be a victim of this type of crime in your own house.

When it does occur, it certainly makes the news. I've ridden thousands of miles on the trail over the years and have never seen an incident of any type.

Ron Boone
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July 31, 2014
I hope this "trail" returns to what is should be a RAILROAD MAINLINE !!! This trail is complete B.S.

From reports and since this Dangerouus "trail"

is RAILBANKED, which means the owner CSXT can reopen the trail and rebuild the Railroad.

But THE GOOD NEWS is BNSF is interested in getting into Atlanta from Birmingham.

Since line ends at Welington,Alabama, it is still in between Rockmart-Cedartown, BNSF would buy the land and relay the mainline. Studies conclude as many as 20 trains would run the route everyday !

I HOPE THE BNSF gets it and puts an END to this trail CRAP ! I would LOVE to see BNSF ES-44's and SD-70ACe's running the route and not walkers, kids and the like, then this CRAP trail would be what it needs to be HISTORY, Just like The SEABOARD AIR LINE, the original owner is, o my dismay ! Come on BNSF BUY THE trail and END IT ONCE AND FOR ALL !!!!!!! It is a DESGRACE !
Phillip Evans
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July 31, 2014
I've openly carried my pistol in my secure Serpa Blackhawk holster while riding my bicycle on the Silver Comet Trail as far back as 2011.

It's legal as long as you have a license to carry. No part of the trail is off-limits to lawfully carried firearms. It's public property, and they cannot trespass you for exercising your 2nd Amendment rights.

Let the thugs know you are armed and refuse to be a victim. Unfortunately, that means someone else will be attacked, but they can get their own gun, too.

Sharon M
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July 31, 2014
As a womnan alone I usually hike the Chattahoochee River trail where there are always other people around. At the very least a woman needs to carry pepper spray to get away from the attacker. Obviously women should not run alone on isolated parts of the trail.

It makes me mad that women have to be afraid of being attacked but it is the current reality.
Ron Boone
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July 31, 2014
You HOPEFULLY might have this railroad bed put back into service, as a RAILROAD, no more trail CRAP !!!!! trails TO RAILS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Come on BNSF buy it and put the Atlanta-B'ham mainline back, just like the SEABOARD was !
Southern Patriot
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July 31, 2014
I agree with Linda Turnipseed. If the woman had been armed perhaps she could have given her attacker the One-Way Ticket to Hell he deserves. Our Second Amendment rights are our greatest protection against bodily harm and government intrusion.
Jmcroyel
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July 31, 2014
Good for Ms. Turnipseed, however, her weapon doesn't do her a lot of good in her pack. She needs to invest in a good holster and wear it on her side. Asking an assailant to please hold while I take off my pack and get my gun isn't a great tactical position to be in.

I hope they catch the animal that did this, and thoughts and prayer going out to the victim.

If more law abiding citizens would arm themselves this kind of stuff wouldn't happen. If the perp had been shot dead this type of activity would dwindle down to near zero once word got out that the good folks using the Silver Comet Trail are armed...

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