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Updated: 1 hour 54 min ago

Lost fisherman found at lake

6 hours 51 min ago

Authorities found the body of a South Carolina man who went missing late Saturday from Thurmond Lake.

Danny Wilson Byers, 44, of Warrenville, was found just after noon off shore at Lake Springs beach area, according to Columbia County Deputy Coroner Harriett Garrison.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division was called to the Silver Lakes area at about 11 p.m. Saturday after three people said they were bow fishing with Byers in the area when the boat began taking on water, according to DNR Capt. Mark Padgett.

“The boat sank fairly swiftly,” Padgett said. The four fishermen tried to swim to nearby Monkey Island, but only three made it. They couldn’t find Byers.

A full search effort began about 1 a.m. Sunday, which later involved a sonar boat and helicopters. The search continued until Byers was located using a sonar boat 200-250 feet from where the men said the boat went down, Padgett said. The boat – a nearly 15-foot aluminum fishing boat outfitting with halogen lights and a generator – was found at about 8 p.m. Monday near the mouth of Little River, which is also close to Monkey Island. Padgett said the boat will be pulled out and inspected.

Garrison said the water was 48 degrees and less than 40 feet deep. She doesn’t suspect foul play, drugs or alcohol to be involved.

Byers likely died from drowning complicated by exposure, Garrison said. An autopsy will be performed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Categories: Local

Deputy fired after DUI arrest

11 hours 57 min ago

A Columbia County sheriff's deputy was arrested late Monday and terminated after being caught driving under the influence.

Deputy Christopher Cody Connor, 28, of Martinez, was fired Tuesday morning after being charged with driving under the influence, speeding, failure to maintain lane and expired registration, according to information provided by sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.

At about 11:30 p.m., a deputy saw a speeding vehicle on South Belair Road and the driver, later identified as Connor, was unable to maintain lane. The vehicle was pulled over near Holly Road. As the deputy approached the vehicle, he smelled alcohol on Connor, according to the press release.

Connor admitted that he'd had a few drinks and, based on visual cues, the deputy determined Connor was most likely impaired. He refused all standardized field sobriety tests, according to the release.He was booked into the Columbia County Detention Center and was later released after posting a $4,400 bond.

"Men and women of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office have done an excellent job establishing trust and respect in our community and this type of behavior is in complete contradiction to our public safety mission and high professional standards," according to the release.

Connor began working for the sheriff's office in August 2007 and resigned in February 2014. After working in the private sector for a few months, Connor was rehired in June 2014.

Categories: Local

Woman arrested for leaving 3 children in a parked van

Sun, 5/3/2015 12:13 AM

A Hephzibah woman was arrested late Sunday after she left children in a van.

Meachell Benjamin Woodard, 57, of New Karleen Road, was charged with three counts of child cruelty due to negligence.

A man called authorities to the Dollar General on West Milledgeville Road in Harlem at 6:35 p.m. The man said he arrived at about 5:50 p.m. and found three children sitting in a minivan that wasn’t running and the windows were up, according to a Harlem Police Department incident report.

A Harlem police officer approached the van and saw the children – 13, 9 and 4 – fanning themselves with paper. The oldest child opened the driver’s side door and the officer saw all three children sweating heavily, according to the report.

The officer found Woodard inside the store. She said she’d been inside about 10 minutes. Store surveillance video footage showed Woodard entering the store at 5:55 p.m., leaving the children in the van for at least 40 minutes, the report said.

Woodard was released from the Columbia County Detention Center early Monday after posting a $22,800 bond, according to jailers.

Categories: Local

Country artists gather for free concert

Sun, 5/3/2015 12:13 AM

The Columbia County Exchange Club is putting some of country music’s up-and-comers on stage this weekend.

The Party in the Park is slated for Friday at Evans Towne Center Park.

“It’s a free concert,” said an event organizer Ben Dukes. “It should be fun.”

The line-up features local artists like Ray Fulcher, Tyson Thaxton, Miranda Pokrzywinski, Daniel Johnson and Caleb Aiken as well as Taylor Ray Holbrook, Luke Combs, Pat Cooper, Faren Michaels and the Hintz Brothers.

“Most of them are local,” Dukes said. “Some of them are in Nashville right now.”

Gates open at 4 p.m. and music starts at 6 p.m. The event also features a reverse raffle, where the last number picked wins or an agreement among the few remaining split a cash prize.

Dukes said vendors will be offering food, drinks and beer. Chairs and blankets are welcome, but no coolers will be allowed.

The club has a long history of partnering with area musical talent including Ed Turner & Number 9 for charitable concerts for several years.

The concert is a fundraiser for the Exchange Club, which has put more than $100,000 into the community in the last five years through cash donations to local charitable organizations as well as service projects.

“Our main focus is child abuse prevention,” Dukes said.

Categories: Local

Man caught trying to meet teen for sex

Sun, 5/3/2015 12:13 AM

An Aiken man was arrested Wednesday after he was caught trying to meet a teen girl for sex.

Derek Bryce Merchant, 26, of Kenmont Street, was charged with criminal attempt to commit aggravated child molestation.

Merchant’s arrest was the result of a “three-week-long proactive undercover investigation to identify people who approach children online in an effort to meet them for sex,” said Sherry Lang, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The FBI’s Cyber Child Exploitation Task Force, which investigates such crimes proactively, in Augusta was assisted by the GBI, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Lang said Merchant was apprehended at an undisclosed Columbia County location where he believed he was meeting a 14-year-old girl for sex.

He was being held in the Columbia County Detention Center on Thursday on a $100,100 bond, according to jail records.

Categories: Local

Police Blotter, May 3, 2015

Sun, 5/3/2015 12:12 AM

The following accounts were taken from Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident reports:

Man wanted for avoiding toll fee

A Martinez man told authorities Tuesday he’s wanted in Florida accused of avoiding paying a toll though he wasn’t in the state.

The 77-year-old man said he got a letter from the Florida Department of Transportation about an unpaid toll fee. He said that on Feb. 6 a vehicle failed to stop and pay. A roadside camera took a photo of the vehicle and its tag, which is registered to the man. He said he was not in Florida on Feb. 6 and doesn’t own a vehicle like the one in the photo and has never owned the tag.

A deputy advised the man to go to the local tag office and cancel the two questionable registrations.

Grovetown man spots burglars

A Grovetown man said he saw armed men he said tried to break into his home.

The man said that at about 12:40 a.m. Wednesday, he heard vehicles doors close and looked out his window. He saw three or four men, two carrying assault rifles, walking down Hunting Tower Drive. They walked onto his property and went to the back of the home.

He called authorities after hearing a loud bang from the back of the house. A few minutes later, the man said he saw the group of men come out of the back of the house and run south on Hunting Tower Drive. The man, who lives with his grandfather, said he wasn’t able to see the men leave.

A deputy found footprints on the outside of the basement door. The man said nothing appeared to be missing.

Man harassed by fake agents

A man told deputies Wednesday that he’s being harassed by someone who claims to be a federal agent.

The 38-year-old man said he began getting calls on Feb. 13 from “Mr. Johnson” and “Mr. Williams.” He said the caller uses different names, but he believes they are the same person. The caller leaves voicemails saying he is with the Federal Investigation Department in some and with the IRS in others. He told the man to call him back before he is arrested, but doesn’t state what the allegations are against the man.

The man said that a deputy called the caller on March 21 and instructed him not to call the man again. But the calls resumed from two different phone numbers with (646) or (202) area codes.

Trespasser wants to fish

An Evans man told authorities Monday that a trespasser refuses to stop fishing from his property.

The 43-year-old man said a stranger has fished in a large Windmill Plantation pond from his back yard previously and was told not to do so again.

On Monday, the man said he saw the stranger fishing from his back yard again.

When he confronted the stranger and asked him not to come back into the property, the stranger replied, “Do we have this conversation every time?”

The stranger then took off his shoes and waded into the water away from the man.

The man called authorities, who did not see the stranger in the area.

Categories: Local

Property Transfers, May 3, 2015

Sun, 5/3/2015 12:08 AM

Wilson Parker Homes Retreat at Baker Place Inc. to Melvin O. Welch, 739 Burch Creek Drive, $342,285.

RT Bailey Construction Inc. to Daniel Matias and Rosario Matias, 5560 Connor Drive, $183,395.

Wilson Parker Homes Retreat at Baker Placve Inc. to Quintin R. Bell, 747 Burch Creek Drive, $356,725.

JJ & Z Builders LLC to Gayzella LeSean White, 3925 Griese Lane, $199,900.

Wilson Parker Homes of Sunbury at Bartram Trail Inc. to Daniel Peter Wnorowski and Irina U. Wnorowski, 5611 Sunbury Loop, $318,920.

Bank of American NA to Agnes Fay Kirkland, 4337 Ridge Cliff Drive, $77,000.

Santa Monica LLC to Downeast Homebuilders Inc., 3210 Windwood St., $34,900.

Santa Monica LLC to Downeast Homebuilders Inc., 3206 Windwood St., $34,900.

Santa Monica LLC to Downeast Homebuilders Inc., 3207 Windwood St., $34,900.

Valerie Foucher to Christa R. Beasley, parcel ID 073K030, $160,000.

Designer Homes and Construction LLC to James B. Rutland and Fangfang L. Rutland, parcel ID 068990, $182,500.

D.R. Horton-Crown LLC to Brian Ellis, parcel ID 0601017, $230,994.

Baldwin Lakes LLC to Park Ridge Builders LLC, parcel ID 068448, $36,000.

Lee Builders Inc. to Hosey Rehmat, parcel ID 074A143, $134,000.

Keystone Homes Inc. to Matthew D. Peyer and Jonalee I. Peyer, parcel ID 611948, $180,400.

Keystone Homes Inc. to Tiffani Angel Lindstrom, parcel ID 0611912, $154,600.

Ray H. Futch to Andy D. Geem, 146 Fall Line Drive, $140,000.

Lamar D. Waters Sr. to Angela R. Parlier, 6166 Pony Circle, $350,000.

Euchee Forest LLC to Ivey Residential LLC, 501 Brantley Cove Circle, $30,500.

Richard R. Drisko to Jennifer H. Crumrine, 3537 Stevens Way, $400,000.

Euchee Forest LLC to Ivey Residential LLC, 537 Brantley Cove Circle, $30,500.

Euchee Forest LLC to Ivey Residential LLC, 503 Brantley Cove Circle, $30,500.

Faircloth Homes Inc. to Ronnie E. Williams and Lisa Marie Williams, 738 Southwick Ave., $211,500.

Gregory Evan Davidson to Timothy W. Johnson and Doris K. Johnson, 301 Greendale Place, $87,000.

Scott R. Price to Jeffrey Scott Sigmon, 532 Oconee Circle, $369,900.

JJ & Z Builders LLC to Katharine M. Roecker, 943 Erika Lane, $128,000.

Leona F. Hodges to Kelly E. Baker and Thomas A. Baker, 6240 Browns Road, $290,000.

Wilson Parker Homes Retreat at Baker Place Inc. to Joe L. Hammonds, 762 Burch Creek Drive, $337,575.

JJ & Z Builders LLC to Matthew S. Griffith, 1513 Old Spruce Lane, $240,900.

Patricia M. Davis as executor of the estate of Paul V. Davis Jr. to Jeff McNair Construction Inc., 3331 Gales Road, $27,500.

Winchester Homes of GA Inc. to Miguel A. Bosch and Angela F. Bosch, 456 Jade Drive, $390,000.

Medallion Construction Co. Inc. to Michael Liam McDonnell, 4322 Satolah Ridge, $284,900.

Linda S. Abernathy to Leona F. Hodges, 1019 Barrett Drive, $202,500.

Michelle Nesbitt Lee to Brenna Lauren Cook, parcel ID H04029A, $97,000.

First Choice Homebuilders LLC to Rodolfo R. Machado and Maria Carolina C. Machado, 316 Kirkwood Drive, $468,900.

Bill Beazley Homes Inc. to Juan Miguel Mategomez, 502 Whitby St., $203,000.

Bill Beazley Homes Inc. to Sally Jo McCarty and John B. Spears Jr., 3218 Windwood St., $168,500.

J. Cliff Channell to Mullins Properties 1 LLC, 300 Applecross Drive, $1,900,000.

Regis Development Co. Inc. to Bill Beazley Homes Inc., parcel ID 0621405, $26,900.

Santa Monica LLC to Bill Beazley Homes Inc., parcel ID 0601230, $34,900.

K & N Construction Co. Inc. to Matthew W. Songy and Shelby R. Songy, 5269 N. Tubman Road, $386,500.

Santa Monica LLC to Bill Beazley Homes Inc. parcel ID 0601190, $34,900.

Bill Beazley Homes Inc. to Bill Beazley Homes Inc., parcel ID 0601191, $34,900.

Santa Monica LLC to Bill Beazley Homes Inc., parcel ID 0601192, $34,900.

Santa Monica LLC to Bill Beazley Homes Inc., parcel ID 0601193, $34,900.

Santa Monica LLC to Bill Beazley Homes Inc., parcel ID 0601194, $34,900.

Santa Monica LLC to Bill Beazley Homes Inc., parcel ID 0601237, $34,900.

Santa Monica LLC to Bill Beazley Homes Inc., parcel ID 0601236, $34,900.

Santa Monica LLC to Bill Beazley Homes Inc., parcel ID 0601229, $34,900.

Ron C. Cross to T. Chastin Grace Jr. LLC, 908 Nerium Trail, $265,000.

John L. Kelly to Terry A. Pauley, 4117 Clinton Way East, $104,900.

Craig W. Churchill to Joanne E. Pulley, 4095 Melrose Drive, $115,000.

James Lawhorn to William Kyle Roberts and Lena T. Roberts, 1965 Long Creek Falls, $172,000.

Slavens Properties – I LLC to Coastal Air Properties LLC, 185 W. Forrest St., $727,500.

Rhodes Farm LLC to J.L. Judson Construction Inc., parcel ID 084162, $70,000.

Douglas T. Walker to Francis E. Bagley and Gwendolyn D. Bagley, parcel ID 078F320, $108,000.

Susan Bussell Ware to Alice S. McCann, parcel ID 035A073, $157,000.

MBH Holdings Inc. to Kingsbury Custom Homes Inc., parcel ID 0622618, $42,900.

Michael Lee Myers to Brett W. Sterba and Kathryn A. Sterba, parcel ID 081B081G, $565,000.

The estate of Clarence Henry to Duong Song Phan, parcel ID 074G272, $77,900.

Nathan Jones to Michael Eugene Jones, parcel ID 042027, $70,000.

Wilson Parker Homes Retreat at Baker Place Inc. to Robin L. Young, 742 Burch Creek Drive, $369,700.

Winchester Homes of GA Inc. to Jakob Paul Chauvin and Brandy L. Chauvin, 1731 Edenburg Way, $276,885.

Yahaira Pabellon to American Homes 4 Rent Properties Eight LLC, 1905 Kenlock Drive, $152,000.

Downeast Homesbuilders Inc. to Thomas Christopher John Bult, 1015 Spotswood Circle, $299,500.

Ivey Residential LLC to Vincent L. Tedhams and Loina J. Tedhams, 4402 Amberley Drive, $238,550.

Ivey Residential LLC to Ryan C. Rubino and Laura K. Rubino, 5435 Everlook Circle, $259,900.

Jeremy L. Hoffman to Justin D. Eckart and Carol Ann Eckart, parcel ID 017478, $189,000.

Jeffrey P. Pavonne to Blair L. Mutimer IV, parcel ID 077G395, $99,900.

Michael W. Hill to Bobby Charles Jones Jr. and Joy Dixon Jones, parcel ID 072M414, $342,000.

M-Homebuilders Inc. to Michael G. Adams and Dorna H. Adams, parcel ID 065669A, $245,500.

Team Excavating Co. to Brooks D. Whirmire, parcel ID 039263, $75,000.

Graebel Relocation Services Worldwide to Sohail Khan, parcel ID 082310, $205,000.

Anthony E. Zeruto to Mark D. Whittingham, parcel ID 065958, $277,000.

Vince L. Brogdon to Fidencio Garcia Jr. and Kelly Jo Garcia, parcel ID 065A356,

Santa Monica LLC to Downeast Homebuilders Inc., 3243 Windwood St., $34,900.

Amy E. Nanocchio nka Amy E. Harriss to Michael A. Robinson Jr., 627 Lory Lane, $147,500.

Jasmin Graham to Morgan McCarty, parcel ID 0621301, $165,000.

Jay W. Lee to Tasha M. Smith and Latorrell D. Smith, parcel ID 061567, $147,700.

Willis Nelson Gentry to Michael Chesmer and Sandra Chesmer, parcel ID 078H053, $169,900.

Faircloth Homes Inc. to Brian Diggs, 27 Seaton Ave., $331,500.

Faircloth Homes Inc. to Eric Graham and LaTonya Graham, 8610 Crenshaw Drive, $265,000.

Renee H. Coleman to Cole T. Lewis and Katie B. Davis, 3698 Locks Hill, $238,000.

Downeast Homebuilders Inc. to Shawn P. Pawlak, 477 Sebastian Drive, $199,500.

Ivey residential LLC to Lance A. Herring, 530 Brantley Cove Circle, $160,844.

Gary Shaw Custom Homes Inc. to Bradford E. James Sr. and Natalie A. James, parcel ID 081392, $373,400.

William J. Rogers to AEK Land Management LLC, parcel ID 069634, $100,000.

Amanda Braun to Devin D. Heim and Amanda C. Heim, parcel ID G01053, $112,000.

Jason Prouty to Cliff Babb, 628 Kemper Drive, $159,900.

Donald E. Morrison Jr. to Justin G. Annis, 927 Mitchell Lane, $235,700.

Mark A. Leszczynski to Lacey Lea Ashley Rogers and William J. Rogers, 443 Armstrong Way, $390,000.

Dan McGrogan to Louis Alber Dhondt III and Tiffany L. Dhondt, parcel ID 071D253, $244,000.

Rodrick A. Bolt as trustee of the Rodrick A. Bolt Living Trust dated Feb. 15, 2008, to Forrest Hensley and Katherine Hensley, parcel ID 081126, $137,500.

Richard Percival to Courtney V. Gaddy, parcel ID 072C028, $119,900.

Oconee Capital Investments LLC to Hildegarde Jane Hull, parcel ID 079180, $286,900.

Tracy L. McLaughlin to Angel Matthew Sablan and Joi Strandhagen Sablan, parcel ID 072K218, $172,000.

Pamela Jones Plunkett to Joe D. Keel and Sherry A. Keel, parcel ID 071G313, $214,000.

PDH Builders Inc. to Tracy L. McLaughlin and Heather M. McLaughlin, parcel ID 0681178, $300,000.

Felicia L. Hampton to David J. Hoskins, parcel ID 063295, $139,900.

Gilberto H. Barcenas to Nanik Ram, parcel ID 077509, $143,000.

Edward Joseph King to James D. Wesley and Ashleigh R. Wesley, parcel ID 059A102, $445,000.

Scott K. Madaus to Evelyn Munoz Lynn and Sidney F. Putnam Jr., parcel ID 073398,

Sheila C. Manuel to Blondell Tolbert, parcel ID 067C077, $169,900.

Oconee Capital Investments LLC to Kristen J. Garcia, parcel ID 0611770, $239,900.

Bank of America NA to TriCare Associates LLC, parcel ID 072K022, $121,000.

Ricky Gene Adams to Glenda Adams Buchanan, 3639 Westwood Drive, $65,000.

Daniel Stephen Adams to Glenda Adams Buchanan, 3639 Westwood Drive, $65,000.

Categories: Local

Marriage Licenses, May 3, 2015

Sun, 5/3/2015 12:07 AM

Kevin William Bouchillon and Ashley Margaret Mersereau applied for a marriage license on April 16, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in Evans.

Curtis Walter Smith and Quenshauna Motley applied for a marriage license on April 1, 2015, and were married April 6, 2015, in Evans.

Matthew Kyle Landua and Lindsay Rae Long applied for a marriage license on April 21, 2015, and were married April 21, 2015, in Evans.

Thomas Jackson and Shekas Shanta Grimes applied for a marriage license on April 10, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in Augusta.

John Thomas Martin and Teresa Ann Haley applied for a marriage license on March 2, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in Evans.

William Cody Howard and Ashley Lara Wesse applied for a marriage license on March 2, 2015, and were married April 4, 2015, in Appling.

Christopher Michael Pittman and Laura Marie Bafford applied for a marriage license on April 17, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in

Asa Lovick Coxwell and Blane Brianne Sheriff Purdy applied for a marriage license on March 30, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in Lincolnton.

Tim Alan Long and Julie Brunkow Mayenschein applied for a marriage license on March 6, 2015, and were married March 14, 2015, in Appling.

Cisco Fields and Ashton Brooke Marcano applied for a marriage license on Feb. 12, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in Martinez.

Jack Donald White Jr. and Nazareth Christina Ward applied for a marriage license on March 10, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in

Jordan Ray Whitaker and Pamela Grier Hargrove applied for a marriage license on April 15, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in Harlem.

Renzia Longeno Cobb and Tina Leverne Brown applied for a marriage license on March 18, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in Augusta.

David Garrett Carr and Kimberly Chandler Farkas applied for a marriage license on April 22, 2015, and were married April 22, 2015, in Evans.

Ryan Christopher Thompson and Heather Jo Harp applied for a marriage license on April 27, 2015, and were married April 27, 2015, in Evans.

Patrick Andrew Norman and Andrea Delane Edwards applied for a marriage license on April 17, 2015, and were married April 25, 2015, in Washington, Ga.

Nicholas John Brown and Lauren Louise Davis applied for a marriage license on April 2, 2015, and were married April 25, 2015, in Augusta.

Ethan Ryan Eubanks and Christina Nicole Baker applied for a marriage license on April 8, 2015, and were married April 18, 2015, in Thomson.

Categories: Local

Divorces, May 3, 2015

Sun, 5/3/2015 12:07 AM

Nancy Ramos Cruz and Andres Barron Cruz, April 15, 2015.

Jana Carver Medders and Windol Scott Medders, March 26, 2015.

Brittany L. Reese and Jonah Dellinger, April 22, 2015.

Kyle Amer Siegert and Kathryn Marie Ferris Siegert, April 2, 2015.

Elisha Frances Fitzgerald and Phillips Fitzgerald, March 30, 2015.

Jessie Turner Wilson and Tyler William Wilson, March 16, 2015.

Gilbert R. Montano and Lisa M. Montano, April 20, 2015.

Marshall A. Garrett Jr. and Teronica L. Garrett, April 22, 2015.

Milisa Diane Harper and Bryan Christopher Clark, April 2, 2015.

Rachel Y. Hong and Mark S. Hong, April 14, 2015.

Jennifer Lynn Hobbs and Steven Michael Hobbs, April 14, 2015.

Lauren Ashley Gonzalez and Gerardo Gonzalez, April 15, 2015.

Shania Williams and Harry Williams IV, April 21, 2015.

Mandy Norman Dent and Michael L. Dent, April 21, 2015.

Maureen Sue Pierson and David C. Pierson, April 21, 2015.

Veronica Arnett and Darrell Arnett, April 20, 2015.

Tiffany D’Ann Keyes and Devone Anthony Keyes, April 14, 2015.

Ramona W. Stevens and Johnnie Joseph Stevens, April 17, 2015.

Categories: Local

No one injured in house fire

Fri, 5/1/2015 4:38 PM


An Evans family was not injured in a fire that extensively damaged their home Friday afternoon.

A neighbor called 911 after hearing loud bangs and seeing flames coming from the house at 4424 Roxbury Drive at about 2:35 p.m., Columbia County Fire Rescue Operations Chief Danny Kuhlmann said. Firefighters arrived within five minutes and found the carport and a vehicle parked in the driveway fully involved.

Chris and Marie Williams, who lived in the home, came home and their son, Holden, came home from school and found firefighters battling the blaze in their house.

The fire appears to have started in the carport area. Kuhlmann said fire officials are still investigating the origin and cause of the fire.

A neighbor’s house also sustained minor damage to the soffit from the fire.

Categories: Local

Authorities seek man who grabbed teen

Fri, 5/1/2015 10:41 AM


Columbia County authorities are looking for a man who grabbed a teen girl’s buttocks in Walmart last month.

An Evans man told deputies that he and his 13-year-old daughter were shopping in the party aisle of the store in Evans at about 4 p.m. on April 25. The girl said a stranger approached her and groped her buttocks, according to a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident report. The girl told her father immediately.

The man described the stranger as a white man wearing shorts and a purple shirt.

A store employee was able to get the store surveillance video footage of the stranger in the store.

Anyone with information about the identity or whereabouts of the stranger should call the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 541-2800.

Categories: Local

Soulfood Festival brings music, food, information to patrons

Wed, 4/29/2015 12:13 AM

Great entertainment, food and information are coming to Evans Towne Center Park on Saturday.

The Kinfolks Soulfood Festival returns to the Evans park. Gates open at 2 p.m. and entertainment begins at 4 p.m.

“It was awesome,” festival founder Pat Williams said of the 2014 festival at the park. “We got A gradings overall. It was overwhelmingly attended, overwhelmingly responded to.”

The festival entertainment line-up includes hip-hop, soul and funk fusion artists Bel Biv Devoe, who are all former New Edition members; Grammy-winning female rap group Salt ‘N’ Pepa; Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter El Debarge; singer and pianist Avery Sunshine; and British R & B band Loose Ends.

The festival also features vendors with traditional “soul food,” a cooking competition among local cooks and information and food from celebrity chefs Amadeus and Robert Roberts.

“They are fun to work with,” festival Operations Manager Arnold “A.T.” Tyler said of the celebrity chefs. “That’s a new addition.”

Despite the entertaining performers and tasty, the purpose of the event is to inform patrons.

The festival provides free vending space for community organizations and professionals who provide free potentially life-changing knowledge about health and wellness, family intervention, financial literacy, professional, career-building and workforce development.

“Although the Soulfood Festival is known to many as an opportunity to see great entertainment, which it does, an opportunity to come out and display great food, which it does,” Williams said. “The sole purpose of the Soulfood Festival is to become an information platform. Although we use the Soulfood Festival concept as an attraction, it is by no means the purpose.

“The purpose of the Soulfood Festival is to allow vendors (in financial literacy, career-building, health and wellness) ... vend for free for the sake of providing complimentary information to the consumers who have an interest in elevating their lifestyle at the adult level.”

Even if patrons don’t need or take advantage of the information, Williams said he hopes the festival will be a brief “vacation from the stresses of daily life.”

General admission tickets cost $35 and Preferred Viewing tickets cost $48.

“Our goal is to simply break even while educating the community,” Williams said.

Tickets can be purchased at the gate or in advance from Aladdin Travel on Fort Gordon; Pyramid Music & More, 1647 Gordon Highway, Augusta, and 822 Broad St., Augusta; Big Mama’s Soul Food, 2803 Wrightsboro Road, Augusta; Still Caribbean Restaurant Lounge, 3168 Beans Bridge Road, Augusta; and Galle’s Seafood, 31 Laney Walker Blvd., Augusta; or by visiting and

For more information or to become a vendor, call (877) 415-7258.

Categories: Local

Police Blotter

Wed, 4/29/2015 12:13 AM

The following accounts were taken from Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident reports:


Man is victim of extortion

An Evans man told authorities Thursday that he was the target of an extortion scheme.

The 34-year-old man said that someone was trying to extort money. He said he spoke to a woman named Sonia Anderson via Skype the previous evening. The man said it was the first time he’d talked to her and he didn’t know her previously.

The man said he got a Skype call on Thursday from Sonia’s number. The woman he’d previously spoken to was not on the line. The caller demanded the man send $400 to an address in Morocco or obscene photos would be sent to his friends and family.

A deputy told the man not to have further contact with the caller and not to send any money to her.


Mechanic stalls on auto repair

An Evans woman said Thursday that a mechanic didn’t return her auto engine on time and it had not been repaired as promised.

The 24-year-old woman said she talked to a man she knew as Grip on March 8 about rebuilding the engine in her mother’s car. Two days later, the woman met at her home with Grip, who took the engine. The woman gave him $300 in cash.

The woman said she waited several days for the motor to be returned, but Grip called on March 20 to ask for $400 more for a new timing belt and other parts. She gave him the money and sent him a text message on March 24 to see if the repair was going well. The mechanic responded by stating the motor was finished and he’d try to put it back in her vehicle on March 26.

Grip never responded when the woman tried to reach him again. Instead, he called her mother and arranged to drop off the motor at the mother’s home because he didn’t want to confront the woman. He thought she would call authorities.

The woman retrieved the motor on April 7 and had several people try to put the motor back in her car. Grip did not repair the engine and she couldn’t start the vehicle. She also hasn’t received the $700 back from Grip.


Two report IRS scams

Two Evans women called police Friday to report scams involving someone claiming to be with the IRS.

One woman said she got a suspicious call Friday morning from someone with a thick accent who identified himself as Kevin Jones. The caller said the woman owed $3,986.73 in unpaid taxes.

He told the woman she could be arrested within two hours if she didn’t pay immediately. The woman hung up before the caller could finish talking.

Another woman went to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office substation in Evans to report that someone likely filed taxes using her information. The 54-year-old woman said she received mail from Green Dot and the IRS stating her refund couldn’t be deposited in her account. The woman had not yet filed her taxes when she received the letter.

When she called the IRS, the woman was told her taxes had already been filed.


Medical waste found in pool

A Martinez woman called authorities Sunday after finding something unsanitary in her pool.

The woman said she was cleaning her new pool and found a syringe in the skimmer basket. The needle portion was missing from the syringe. She reported the incident because she didn’t know how the syringe got into the pool and was concerned.

Categories: Local

New Jim Hudson Lexus center in the works

Wed, 4/29/2015 12:10 AM

Two buildings on Washington Road in Martinez are being demolished to make way for a Jim Hudson Lexus dealership.

An old NAPA Auto Parts store and Martinez Masonic Lodge in the 3400 block of Washington Road are being razed so the dealership can relocate to a larger facility that will be built at the corner of Pleasant Home and Washington roads, where the dealer’s used-car center is located, said Bill Gibbs, the general manager at Jim Hudson Lexus.

Jim Hudson Automotive Group opened the Lexus dealership at 3520 Washington Road in 2001 and added a used-vehicle facility at 3410 Washington Road in 2011. The two businesses have always been separated by Milton Ruben’s auto superstore.

In 2012, with expansion in mind, the company purchased the old auto parts store and lodge parcel, along with a piece of land on Davant Street, for nearly $2 million, according to Columbia County property records.

The new construction, which is expected to start later this year, requires two other structures on Davant Street and the current Jim Hudson Lexus Pre-Owned showroom and service center be torn down, said Gibbs, who is working to secure a temporary location nearby for the used-vehicle business until the new facility is completed.

The new dealership is projected to open in about 18 months and will bring all Jim Hudson Lexus operations under one roof.

“It’s going to be two to three times as big as where we are here,” said Gibbs, referring to the current 19,000-square-foot Lexus building. “We kind of outgrew this facility the first year we were here. Service capacity is the biggest need.”

The new location will likely double both the service department and new and used-vehicle inventory, Gibbs said.

The company is now meeting with architects to complete a design concept for the new dealership.

Gibbs, who said he was unsure of the project’s estimated cost, said it will resemble the modern, window-paneled facade of the Jim Hudson Lexus in Columbia, which was built three years ago.

Plans for the existing dealership have not been nailed down, Gibbs said. It could be sold or kept for expansion, he said.

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Mock accident opens students' eyes

Wed, 4/29/2015 12:09 AM

Mock accident opens students’ eyes

Categories: Local

Augusta, Aiken boast different benefits for water park

Wed, 4/29/2015 12:08 AM

Developer Benjamin Bell could have his choice between more commercial property or fewer government regulations and fees if he decides to build a $20 million water park in Augusta or Aiken County.

The benefit of relocating Scut­tle’s Island, a 45-acre water park originally proposed near Grovetown, to Augusta is that Richmond County has more property outside the Fed­eral Emer­gency Manage­ment Agency’s special flood hazard area, according to online maps.

The downside is that the city would charge $2,300 in nonrefundable fees for the Augusta Commission to approve rezoning and staff from at least eight departments to review site plans.

In Aiken, there’s only a maximum fee of $325 to acquire a development permit, and Bell would not need to seek approval from the county council or its planning commission.

After announcing last week that he would not build in Columbia Coun­ty because of eight months of rezoning issues with planning officials, Bell said he is still considering his options. The Columbia County Com­mission rejected his proposal Tuesday.

STEPHEN STROHMINGER, Ai­ken County’s planning and development director, noted that one site that could support the volume of traffic, wastewater and noise associated with a water park estimated to attract 300,000 people annually was off Interstate 20 north of Granite­ville at Sage Mill Indus­trial Park.

He said there is room for parking and the Breezy Hill Water and Sewer Co. has plenty of capacity.

FEMA has yet to determine whether Sage Mill is in a flood hazard area, but it has cleared numerous properties in south Augusta, including land surrounding Regency Mall, which has indoor plumbing and parking for thousands of visitors.

Other Richmond County sites found not to be within a flood area include land between I-20 and Gor­don Highway from Jimmy Dyess Parkway to Bobby Jones Expressway, and property south of Tobacco Road near Dia­mond Lakes Regional Park. There is also land already cleared from Windsor Spring Road to Mike Padg­ett Highway, south of Bobby Jones Expressway.

Officials from Richmond and Aiken counties said neither has heard from Scuttle’s Island, and economic development directors that represent the two areas declined to discuss any projects.

PAUL DECAMP JR., Augus­ta’s deputy director of planning and development, said a water park would likely need to go through some type of rezoning as a privately owned recreation facility and require a special exemption, which would require an $800 nonrefundable fee to cover application processing costs.

If a special exemption is approved, DeCamp said, the park’s developer would then have to submit 11 copies of a detailed site plan and a $1,500 nonrefundable fee for the planning, engineering, utilities, traffic, fire, landscaping, health and soil and conversation departments to review.

Proposals require stormwater management and soil erosion and sediment control plans, a heavy outline of the 100-year flood plain, and permits from the Georgia Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers if the land connects to state highways or interferes with protected wetlands.

IN AIKEN COUNTY, Stroh­min­ger said developers can submit site plans, stormwater drainage calculations, building blueprints and an application for a development permit at the same time for simultaneous review and approval.

The site plan must indicate utility providers for water, sewer and electric. If lighting is planned in the parking area or within the compound, lamp locations must be shown on the plan. If the project is within 1,500 feet of a utility service, the project must tie into the system.

Aiken County also requires a site analysis to address certain design standards that preserve natural features on properties to minimize potentially negative or hazardous impacts. Any information concerning protected wetlands, wildlife, flood plain areas or historic landmarks must be included on the site plan.

“The county will conduct inspections on the buildings, parking, drainage structures and landscaping,” Stroh­minger said.

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Columbia County couple creates lasting relationships through exchange program

Wed, 4/29/2015 12:08 AM

Judy and Peter Slavovsky’s home in Columbia County has all the usual signs of an empty nest: Their three children have grown and flown, the driveway is less crowded and television use is down considerably.

At 63, the Martinez couple still enjoy cooking for three and take turns providing math and history help on
high school homework assignments.

The Slavovskys, married 40 years, have lived in the Augusta area since 1987, and for nearly two decades have opened their home and hearts to foreign-exchange students from Russia, China, Bulgaria, Germany and Italy.

The Slavoskys are members of the Program of Academic Exchange. Better known as PAX, the New York-based nonprofit works withtheState Department to improve relations between the U.S. and other nations through high school foreign exchanges.

The Slavovskys encourage others to enroll to broaden their global perspective by building relationships with students who can offer insights into different languages, cultures and foods.

“I guess you could say we have an affinity for international students,” said Judy Slavovsky, who along with her husband is hosting Maite, a 16-year-old from Spain who is working toward a career in social work at Lakeside High School. “We like the world scene, and in essence, this is like inviting a country to live with you for a semester or an academic school year.”

PAX is seeking Richmond and Columbia county families willing to host students between the ages of 15 and 18 from Finland, Denmark, Spain, Germany and South Korea, said Leslie Tansey, the program community coordinator.

Tansey said the program is open to single parents, married couples, empty nesters and blended and nontraditional families. Each must go through reference and background checks.

Students are tested to make sure they have at least three years of English-speaking experience and each come to the U.S. with full medical insurance and financial support from their parents to pay for any extracurricular activities.

“All host families have to provide is a bed, study area and three meals a day,” Tansey said.

Maite said she started communicating with the Slavovskys last summer online through Skype and e-mail, but has been motivated to learn English since she was 5 to study in U.S. schools, which she has noticed place more emphasis on athletics, career advancement and the arts.

She spent two days in New York City for orientation before flying to Augusta.

Maite said her anxiety melted away after she met the Slavovskys at Augusta Regional Airport with a crowd of greeters and a welcome sign she still has today.

“At first, we were asked to be a welcome family for Maite for six weeks to enroll her in school and acclimate her to the U.S., but once we got to know her, we asked for her to stay the entire year,” said Judy Slavovsky.

Tansey said prospective students submit a profile and an essay about their likes and dislikes and goals for the program to make the best match possible.

That’s where Judy Slavovsky said she and her husband fell in love with Maite, who wrote about sharing strong family values with her family.

The three soon built a strong bond of their own, taking several cross-country trips together.

They visited Disney World in Florida and a wedding in Toronto for one of the Slavovskys’ former exchange students.

“It is important for whoever is opening their home, whether it is single parents or empty nesters, that they feather the student into their normal lifestyle,” Judy Slavovsky said. “We love to travel and are very social people. We treated her as if she’s one of our own.”

The Slavovskys were introduced to PAX nearly a decade ago and said they immediately knew it’d be a perfect fit for them, especially Peter, who was born in Brazil and had to learn English at age 12, when his family came to the U.S.

“My interest and intrigue in the program goes back to high school,” said Peter Slavovsky, whose father was born in Bulgaria and met his mother in her hometown of Vienna, Austria.

The Slavovskys first opened their home to a Russian exchange student about 18 years ago, when issues arose between the boy and his original host family. The next year they welcomed a Chinese girl, before taking a short break and joining PAX to house six students, including one each from Bulgaria, Germany and Italy, and two from Spain.

They said they hope to visit Maite, who wants to attend college in the U.S., at her home in Spain later this year after her family comes here in June to pick up their daughter and tour the East Coast.

Maite said she would recommend PAX to others.

“Being able to go to a new country, learn a new culture and meet new people has helped me grow as a person and feel more independent,” she said. “It might seem hard at first to leave your family and your home, but it is definitely worth it.”

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Wed, 4/29/2015 12:08 AM
Categories: Local

No one injured in wreck with bus

Mon, 4/27/2015 4:54 PM

No one was injured in a crash involving a school bus in Columbia County on Monday.

County school system Bus No. 102 serving Riverside Middle School was traveling on North Belair Road at Furys Ferry Road at about 2:35 p.m. when a Ford Explorer, driven by 17-year-old Philip McKenzie turned in front of the bus, according to Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris. The bus T-boned the Explorer.

There were four students on the bus and none were injured.

McKenzie was charged with failure to yield the right of way and was transported to Georgia Regents Medical Center for evaluation, according to Morris.

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Former Columbia County deputy sentenced

Sun, 4/26/2015 12:17 AM

A former Columbia County sheriff’s deputy accused of providing accident reports to private attorneys pled guilty Thursday.

Former Staff Sgt. David Ronald Kitchens, 50, was charged in March 2013 with computer theft and violation of oath by a public officer. He pled guilty to the oath violation and the computer theft charge was dismissed at a hearing at the courthouse in Evans.

Superior Court Judge Sheryl B. Jolly sentenced Kitchens to three years probation and a $300 fine under the First Offender Act.

In Feb. 22, a concerned citizen alerted sheriff’s office officials that Kitchens was soliciting business for personal injury attorneys, according to Assistant District Attorney Hank Syms.

An internal investigation revealed that Kitchens was also using the sheriff’s office’s computer system to print accident reports for at least four out-of-town attorneys, which is a violation of sheriff’s office policies. He was fired on Feb. 25, 2013.

The real problem in this case ... is that Mr. Kitchens would print off reports from a sheriff’s office computer system, which you can’t do,” Syms said, adding access allowed a law enforcement officer can’t be used for personal reasons.

Syms also said Kitchens would visit or otherwise talk to people involved in wrecks and refer them to the attorneys.

Kitchens, a 30-year law enforcement veteran, had worked for the sheriff’s office since December 1994. He told authorities that he wasn’t being paid for the referrals, but hoped he’d later be hired to do private investigation work by doing interviews or providing photos.

“Unfortunately, he made a bad judgement decision,” Kitchens’ attorney Ken Nimmons said.

“He made a horrible judgement call to create a side business.”

Syms said the case wasn’t one where incarceration would be an appropriate sentence, but hoped the plea would provide accountability.

“There are no victims in this case. Mr. Kitchens victimized himself,” Nimmons said, referring to Kitchens’ actions as “self-imposed banishment from his profession.”

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