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Slaying suspect served time for other burglaries

Police don’t believe Poland knew home invasion victim

POSTED: May 18, 2008 5:01 a.m.

The man charged in the shooting death of a West Hall retiree during a suspected burglary served time in prison for other burglaries and was jailed last year for violating his probation.

Donnie Gene Poland, 41, remains in the Hall County Jail without bond, charged with murder, burglary, financial transaction card fraud and possession of cocaine. Hall County Sheriff’s investigators believe Poland fatally shot 69-year-old Gene Baggett a week ago during a confrontation while burglarizing Baggett’s upscale Monroe Circle home near Duckett Mill Park.

Poland was arrested two days after the murder after authorities identified him through credit card transactions. Investigators believe Poland used one of Baggett’s Visa cards to buy items at the Target department store on Shallowford Road the day after the killing, according to arrest warrants.

After authorities posted a lookout for Poland’s 2007 Ford pickup, Gwinnett County police tried pulling it over on Interstate 85 Saturday night. Poland led police on a pursuit that ended on Ga. 317 when he crashed his truck and fled on foot. Poland was found in possession of a "residue amount" of cocaine after his arrest, according to arrest warrants.

Authorities do not think Baggett had ever met Poland prior to the Thursday afternoon confrontation inside the home.

According to court records, in November 2002 Poland went on a five-day burglary spree, stealing items from upscale Dawson County homes, including a 1963 Corvette valued at $63,000. Poland also stole firearms, electronics, jewelry, checks and power tools from homes on Ga. 136, Eagle Ridge Road, Steve Tate Highway and other locations close to Poland’s own home in the Eagle Ridge subdivision, court records show.

In a negotiated plea deal with prosecutors, Poland pleaded guilty in January 2003 to six counts of burglary and was sentenced by Judge Andrew Fuller to four years in prison to be followed by 16 years of probation, with credit for time served in jail prior to entering the plea. The final 10 years of the probation were to be suspended if Poland paid $37,000 in restitution to six victims of his burglaries.

Department of Corrections records show Poland served the full four years and was released in November 2006.

In September of last year, Poland’s probation officer asked Fuller to issue a warrant for Poland’s arrest for violating his probation. Poland consumed alcohol, failed to report to his probation officer, failed to complete a court-ordered anger management course and was $672 overdue on restitution, according to the warrant.

In a Sept. 25 order, Fuller revoked six months of the 15 years left on Poland’s probation, to be served in the Dawson County Detention Center. The judge had the option of revoking any portion or all of the remaining probation, though six months for what are known as "technical violations" are not considered unusual, according to attorneys knowledgeable of probation revocations.

The jail time could have been reduced to 45 days if Poland was able to pay $17,600 in restitution, according to the judge’s order.

Poland served 90 days of the six-month sentence, getting credit for good time in a two-for-one arrangement commonly used at the Dawson County Detention Center, Dawson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Wooten said. Poland was released from jail Dec. 8 and stayed out of trouble with the law until his arrest last week.

Had Poland served the entire six-month sentence, he would have been released in March.

Poland also faced prior charges of domestic violence battery and cruelty to animals, according to court documents. He was accused of neglecting two saddle horses on his Dawson County property, choking his then-wife in January 2002 and yanking a phone cord out of the wall when she tried to call 911 at their home.

Poland received a concurrent 12-month sentence on the battery charge and the animal cruelty case was dismissed with the agreement he would turn the horses over to the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.



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