CANTON — The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to grant the dying wish of the terminally-ill father of a 15-year-old Acworth-area girl who was murdered in 2002 by renaming a bridge near Woodstock Road in her memory.
Joe Hamlin, 56, profusely thanked the commissioners Tuesday night after they voted unanimously to approve his request to name the bridge on Kemp Road where his daughter Katie Hamlin’s body was found July 2, 2002, in her memory.
The narrow concrete bridge hanging over Kellogg Creek will now be known as the “Katie A. Hamlin Memorial Bridge,” which Hamlin hopes will keep his daughter’s memory present in the hearts and minds of Cherokee residents long after he’s gone.
Hamlin has colon cancer and has in recent months been taking steps to ensure his daughter’s memory will carry on after he dies.
He said Wednesday that he was grateful for the board’s decision.
“It means her memory is going to live on long after I’m gone,” Hamlin said. “It means no one will forget, even though it’s something hard to forget.”
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said Tuesday night that the board was glad to help that cause, particularly Commissioner Ray Gunnin, who was with the Cherokee County Fire Department when Hamlin’s daughter was murdered.
“(Gunnin) was a battalion chief when this matter occurred, so he has intimate knowledge,” Ahrens said.
Gunnin said last week he responded to the call when the teen’s partially burned body was found by the bridge in 2002.
“(It was a) very sad call that you don’t forget,” Gunnin said. “Nobody deserves to be treated in that manner.”
Hamlin thanked Gunnin on Tuesday night for responding to the call.
After the teen’s death, her 17-year-old friend Jamerson Douglas “Nash” Mangrum was convicted in her murder and molestation.
Hamlin said he hopes his daughter’s death will teach others to be more mindful of who their friends are.
“I hope the legacy she’s leaving is that young girls as well as young boys should pay close attention to their friends and make sure they’re not going to harm them,” he said.
But that might not always be easy.
“I met (Mangrum) a couple times at Katie’s house,” Hamlin said. “I thought he was a fine young man. He always treated Katie nice, always took care of her.”
What changed to make his daughter’s friend change so drastically, Hamlin said he does not know.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I would like to know, but I don’t guess I’m ever going to.”
Mangrum was convicted of felony murder, aggravated child molestation, abandoning a dead body and tampering with evidence. He was sentenced in 2005 to life in prison plus 80 years, reports show.