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A chapter of Coffee County's criminal past closed with the July passing of Latan Weeks

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Featured Susan Latan Weeks Photo courtesy of Stokes-Southerland Funeral Home Susan Latan Weeks

On July 3, 2023, in Danbury, Connecticut, something of great interest to South Georgia happened quietly and, to my knowlege, almost unbeknownst to the residents of this region. One of South Georgia's most infamous criminal underworld figures, Susan Latan Weeks, passed away quietly at Danbury Hospital.

We always knew her as Latan in Coffee County. She was beautiful and charismatic, almost mesmerizing. But beneath the surface, Latan was deceitful, conniving, manipulative, and murderous if the occasion called for it. Though Latan left Coffee County decades ago, her presence still remains.

 

 

She couldn't help it; Latan was destined for a life of crime. She was born in Rhine when Dixie Mafia associates ruled Dodge County. Her father, John Henry McDuffie, was a bootlegger and killer who served time in the 1970s for the murder of a deputy and his wife (he was linked to other killings as well). In the early 1970s, Latan met Jimmy Weeks of Douglas. The Weeks family was in the gas business and Jimmy's father had made a small fortune selling gas to moonshiners so they could run their stills. Weeks Gas delivered to the McDuffies in Dodge County. And this is how the Weeks and McDuffie families were introduced to each other. 

 

 

In 1973, Jimmy and Latan married. She moved to Douglas and the couple had two children. The gas company remained a front for the various criminal activities in which Jimmy and Latan engaged. Jimmy's father handled the family fortune more responsibly than did Jimmy. The gas company, though profitable, couldn't keep up with Jimmy's spending. To make up the difference in his spending and gas company revenues, Jimmy turned to the illegal drug business. That attracted the attention of the FBI, and the agency sent agents to Coffee County to investigate.

 

 

As Jimmy's financial woes continued, he turned into a violent, volatile person who unleashed a reign of terror on Coffee and surrounding counties. 

Jimmy eventually learned that an FBI agent had infiltrated his organization and on October 7, 1982, Jimmy and his associates nearly beat the undercover agent, Roland Rozier, to death in the gas company building, which was located on the bypass on the west side of town. 

 

 

After beating the agent to within an inch of his life, Jimmy and a couple of his goons loaded Rozier into a truck and headed toward Nicholls. He was going to take him to the woods and finish him off. However, figuring he had nothing to lose, Rozier rolled out of the cab of Jimmy's truck as they drove east on Highway 32. He hid in the woods undetected. The stunt only added to his injuries and pushed him that much closer to death. But he had survived and still had a chance to escape.

 

 

Jimmy and his associates turned around and tried to locate him but couldn't. Figuring Rozier didn't survive the tumble, they headed back to Douglas. Once he felt safe, Rozier stumbled out to Highway 32 and flagged down a motorist.

 

 

A good Samaritan (who still lives in Douglas) saw the injured agent stagger out of the ditch. He stopped and carried Rozier to then-Coffee General Hospital. Rozier ordered hospital personnel not to call local law enforcement. Instead, they called other FBI agents who were in Douglas at the time and within minutes, agents overtook the hospital.

 

 

The Rozier incident led to Jimmy's arrest and his indictment, along with the indictments of Latan and two others. Jimmy served several years while Latan received a slap on the wrist. Jimmy served his sentence and was released in 1989. While he was in prison, Latan found a boyfriend. Not long after Jimmy was released, Latan set up a meeting between Jimmy and the boyfriend, William Dale Allen (she told Jimmy he was a business associate). The purpose of the meeting, she said, was to set up another scheme she had been working on with her "associate." 

 

 

When the two arrived, Latan distracted Jimmy while Allen and one other person approached him. Allen shot Jimmy with a shotgun, killing him on the spot. Allen was arrested, charged with Jimmy's murder, and convicted. Latan flipped and testified on behalf of the prosecution. She eventually served a few years in prison but, all things considered, emerged relatively unscathed. Jimmy's body was returned to South Georgia and he was buried in the Hazlehurst City Cemetery. 

 

 

If Latan's story ended there, it would certainly be enough. But it didn't. In July of 1993, Donald Purser, a 55-year-old accountant who was about to testify in an ongoing corruption case in Dodge County, was shot to death in his home. The case remained unsolved for several years. However, after being released from prison, Latan helped point authorities to her father, John Henry McDuffie, as the suspect in Purser's death. Her son was also implicated. Both were indicted; however, the investigation fell apart when McDuffie died on September 26, 2001.

 

 

After this, Latan seemingly disappeared. She resurfaced about a decade later when she published a book based on her life. Titled Defying the Mob: Underworld Secrets Revealed, the book tells  her life story from her point of view. 

 

 

I have read the book. It is certainly . . . interesting. But it is hardly an accurate depiction of what happened. In the book, Latan depicts herself as a victim who did what she had to do in order to survive. While she was certainly crafty and resourceful, she was hardly innocent. Supposedly, a screenplay was in the works based on the book. However, a quick search showed no news related to anything book- or screenplay-related since 2013.

 

 

No matter how you cut it, and no matter which version of events you choose to believe, Latan Weeks led a life whose story deserves to be told on the big screen. Latan was born into a life of crime, raised by a bootlegger and killer, married to a madman, facilitated the death of her husband, and at different times along the way assisted authorities with various investigations when it benefitted her. 

 

 

On July 3, 2023, that life came to a quiet end. And hardly anyone noticed.

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