published Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Missing man turns up in Cobb County Jail

Chattanooga police have been searching for Kelly Eugene Dobbs since he went missing from his home Tuesday night.

Three days later, he turned up in the Cobb County, Ga., Jail. Turns out, he's been there all along.

The Cobb County Sheriff's Office arrested Dobbs, 43, of 3508 Clio Ave., on forgery charges. According to an arrest warrant, he tried to cash a fake check for $905.12 at a BB&T Bank in Marietta, Ga., about 100 miles southeast of Chattanooga.

His sister, Ruth Espy, said she received letters addressed to Dobbs from seven Atlanta-based lawyers about 10 a.m. Friday. She called Chattanooga police, and a detective drove to Cobb County.

There, Espy said, the detective interviewed Dobbs. He told her that he was walking home Tuesday afternoon when two men pulled up in a gray van. The men asked Dobbs if he wanted to make some money, and he hopped in.

The men drove him to Atlanta, where he tried to cash the check. When he was arrested, Dobbs said, according to Espy, the two men drove away. The warrant indicates Dobbs tried to cash the check in Marietta at 4:30 p.m., and the sheriff's office arrested him just before 6 that night.

Chattanooga police Master Patrol Officer Nathan Hartwig did not return a call Friday night confirming Espy's version of events.

In the past, officers have investigated Atlanta-based operations that try to fool homeless people into cashing fake checks. According to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives, someone will pick up homeless people at a bus stop or a shelter, give them blue-collar work clothes like hard hats and reflective vests and ask them to cash the checks at banks.

Dodds isn't homeless, Espy said, but he is mentally challenged. She doesn't know his specific condition. He has a short attention span and struggles to comprehend what people tell him.

Still, she isn't sure she believes what he apparently told a Chattanooga detective. He never gets in the car, she said, not even for Espy or her son. So why would he get in for strangers?

Dodds remains in jail on a $5,720 bond, an amount Espy said she can't afford to pay. He will stay behind bars until Monday, when Espy said she will drive to Atlanta and ask a judge to lower the bond.

"I'm glad we found him," she said. "I'm glad he's OK. But I hate for this to have happened to him."

Espy said Dodd is diabetic and needs medication. Buried in his wallet is a piece of paper listing the phone numbers of loved ones, should he go missing. But he couldn't call Espy when he was arrested, she said. He gave the jail guards the wrong number.

Contact Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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