published Monday, February 11th, 2013

James Michael Stafford sought after 3 wounded in Georgia shooting

By Lisana Eckenrode

ELLIJAY, Ga. — An attempt to collect a debt turned into a gun battle that left three people gravely wounded Sunday in rural Gilmer County, Ga., authorities said.

Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said authorities were still searching Sunday night for James Michael Stafford, whose Simmons Road home was the scene of the shootout.

One of the wounded was Stafford's woman companion. He drove her to the North Georgia Medical Center, then abandoned his blue BMW and disappeared, the sheriff said.

Two other men, Ricky Silvers and Ben Forest, were flown by helicopter to Atlanta Medical Center with gunshot wounds to their heads, authorities said.

Nicholson said it wasn't a random shooting. He said Silvers and Forest, along with two other men, Dennis Gravely and Lloyd Silvers, came armed to the house where Stafford and the woman live to collect a debt.

He didn't say what triggered the exchange of shots.

Deputies were called at 11:30 a.m. to 573 Simmons Road where they found the two wounded men. The others said Stafford had driven the woman to the hospital, where she was admitted.

Nicholson said detectives and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were still processing the crime scene on Simmons Road, and warrants were being sought for Gravely, both Silvers and Forest.

Authorities are not sure if Stafford still is in Gilmer County, and they are not sure if he is still armed.

Nicholson said if anyone sees Stafford not to approach him but to call 911.

Correspondent Lisana Eckenrode is based in Gilmer County. Contact her at

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