Two suspects face charges of second-degree criminal damage to property in connection with a vandalism incident at a local farm’s popular Christmas lights display.
Autumn Marie Evans, 17, of Calbougie Drive in Savannah, was arrested Tuesday, and 20-year-old Zachary Smith of Liberty County was taken into custody Thursday afternoon, said Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown. Evans was taken to the Bulloch County Jail, where she was later released on a $10,000 bond. Smith was apprehended in Savannah Thursday afternoon and was expected to be booked into the Bulloch County Jail Thursday evening, he said.
Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson, whose family owns TMT Farms on Old River Road North, filed a complaint with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office Dec. 26, days after vandals destroyed mannequins and an inflatable reindeer at his expansive holiday display.
The month-long annual attraction draws visitors from all across the region. Acres of lights, inflatables, antiques, curiosities and replicas of historical Bulloch County businesses surround the homes of Thompson and his adult children. TMT Farms welcomes the public to drive through and enjoy the display, asking no fee but accepting donations of food and toys that benefit hundreds of less fortunate people in the community.
The names of several suspects were given to Thompson and sheriff’s deputies, but further investigation revealed the others were not directly involved in the vandalism, Brown said.
“During the investigation, several individuals were identified as being on the property during the time of the destruction, but it was determined that all did not participate in the damaging of the property,” he said.
Damages were estimated at $2,500. The four mannequins used in a historical display were destroyed beyond repair, and a new white reindeer inflatable that Thompson’s granddaughter picked out for her front yard was slashed, Thompson said.
“Our biggest question is, ‘Why?’” he said Thursday. “(Thousands) of people drive through, get out and walk around each year and enjoy this. Why would (the suspects) destroy something like that?”
He said as the display has grown exponentially over the past few years, “incidents have occurred,” but after the destruction this year, “we had to make the decision to file a report or shut it down,” he said. “We are not going to shut it down.”
Thompson’s wife, Deborah, agreed.
“It’s not going to break our spirit,” she said. “We are looking forward to the Christmas to come.”
Both expressed gratitude for the Sheriff’s Office in pursuing the matter.
“We appreciate the (investigators) working so hard and coming up with the names of the two who were most involved,” Roy Thompson said. “We are glad it is coming to closure.”
Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact Bulloch County sheriff’s Investigator William Sims at (912) 764-1767.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.