The following accounts were taken from Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident reports:
Man admits to store thefts
An employee of the Mullins Crossing Target store admitted to authorities that he has shoplifted more than $1,700 in merchandise from the store.
Patrick Mulholland signed a statement of admission on Wednesday after being confronted with video evidence of thefts between July 4 and July 17. Target’s security and asset protection personnel documented numerous in which they said showed Mulholland taking merchandise out of the store or allowing an accomplice to do so without paying.
Store officials said he would make an attempt to buys certain items only to have his card declined. The transaction would be voided and Mulholland would have the items placed behind the guest services counter to be paid for later.
Mulholland would return later and take the items without paying.
Woman keys spa owner’s car
An Evans woman was arrested Wednesday on charges that she keyed another woman’s car.
Police were called to Modish Salon & Spa at 4336 Washington Road just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, where a deputy found Julia Barna parked in a car directly behind another belonging to the spa owner, Patricia A. Thelen. A witnesses stated they saw Barna walk around Thelen’s car and use her key to scratch the driver’s side.
The deputy found scratches on Thelen’s car from the driver’s door to the rear quarter-panel. Barna was arrested and charged with second degree criminal damage to property.
Range stolen from house
A builder constructing homes in the Berkley Hills neighborhood repported on Monday that someone had taken an appliance from a home on Bella Rose Drive, in Evans. Clay Antonakos, owner of Lee Builders said a Frigidaire range was removed from the building, which was still under construction.
Police found no evidence of forced entry into the house. Antonakos said a number of people had keys to the building.
Barry Smith, Columbia County’s longtime director of Community and Leisure Services, resigned suddenly Monday without explanation, county officials said.
“He resigned … effective immediately to pursue other opportunities,” Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson said Tuesday.
Johnson said he didn’t know what opportunities the former division director was pursuing, and he directed questions on that subject to Smith, who did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Smith was hired as the director of Community and Leisure Services division in 2003.
During his 12 years he managed operations for Columbia County’s Rental Facilities and Venue Department, Board of Elections, Animal Services, Parks and Recreation, Extension Services, Columbia County Libraries and the Savannah Rapids Pavilion Visitor’s Center.
Johnson indicated that Smith’s resignation was unexpected, occurring after he was called in to speak with Johnson when returned from a three-day vacation.
“After that conversation he informed me of his desire to resign,” Johnson said. “I did not ask for his resignation, quite frankly I was shocked that he would resign, but I told him that I would pass it along to the commission and recommend that it be accepted.”
Johnson said there were no disciplinary actions against Smith and he declined to discuss the content or reason for his meeting with Smith.
“We are not going to get into any performance issues and I’m not at liberty to discuss and disciplinary issues he may or may not have been facing,” he said.
An examination of Smith’s personnel file yielded only one disciplinary matter – an oral reprimand from 2010 failing to properly supervise the production of an updated recreation policy document that contained numerous errors.
Johnson said it is probable that Deputy County Administrator Glenn Kennedy would take on Smith’s responsibilities until a replacement was hired.
He said the position would be advertised soon and that the county was not hoping to promote someone from within the organization.
According to Smith’s contract, he could be eligible for a severance package that would include the payment of seven months of his current $108,793 annual salary. Should commissioners decide to award that severance, it could amount to more than $63,400.
Johnson said he expected commissioners to take up the issue of Smith’s resignation at the Tuesday county commission meeting.
Bill Beazley Homes Inc. to Narciso J. Hurtado, 506 Whitby St., $186,900.
Bill Beazley Homes Inc. to Michael S. Maice and Gina M. Maice, 3220 Windwood St., $189,379.
Augusta Property Group LLC to M2 Property Solutions LLC, 210 Pecan Drive, $82,474.
Gregory Scott Davis to Lana Gayle Dunn; 540 Great Falls; $190,000.
Bayview Loan Servicing LLC to Keith Simpson; 912 N. Willowick Drive; $79,900.
Berlin Limited Partnership to Active Climbing LLC; 643 S. Old Belair Road; $575,000.
Cheryl Garrett to Trevor Bullard and Jessica Bullard; 3471 Mistletoe Road; $55,000.
Southeastern Family Homes Inc. to Monica S. Cromer; 2017 Egret Circle; $385,435.
Designer Homes and Construction LLC to Robert D. Williamson and Mary A. Williamson; parcel ID 0681151; $193,000.
Robert T. Bailey to Daniel Albo and Maria Luisa O’Connor-Albo; parcel ID 081B095; $1,050,000.
Christian M. Thomae to Jacob Eichenberger and Amanda Eichenberger; 302 Johns Way; $705,000.
Jacob P. Stone to Louis T.C. Alley; 2438 River Birch Drive; $169,500.
Oconee Capital Investments LLC to Chandler P. Hall and Lynnsey M. Edmondson; 209 Ryan Lane; $219,900.
Wilson Parker Homes of Hidden Creek Inc. to Miguel Angel Yepes-Wuerth; 8845 Crenshaw Drive; $241,090.
Winchester Homes of GA Inc. to Zachary L. Mallory; 2455 Newbury Ave.; $181,355.
Julian S. Lewis Jr. to Frank T. Kuwanoe; 5900 Harlem-Grovetown Road; $279,500.
Oconee Capital Investments LLC to Bong Won Park; 228 Ryan Lane; $246,000.
Kenneth R. Miles to Carl Timmons Spivey and Mary Beth Spivey; 7357 Lakeside Drive; $350,000.
Jessie L. Lee to Geovany A. Manjivar; 332 Taylor Circle; $149,700.
Winchester Homes of GA Inc. to Brian M. Stucker and Sarah E. Stucker; 1730 Edenburg Way; $231,695.
Winchester Homes of GA Inc. to Amber L. Zulueta and Steven J. Zulueta Jr.; 2640 Kirby Ave.; $230,375.
Wilson Parker Homes Retreat at Baker Place Inc. to Anthony A. Keys; 743 Burch Creek Drive; $309,990.
Wilson Parker Homes Retreat at Baker Place Inc. to Maria Sepulveda and Zachariah Sepulveda; 733 Burch Creek Drive; $379,070.
Wilson Parker Homes of Sunbury at Bartram Trail Inc. to Trisha M. Stratton and Ryan J. Stratton; 5634 Sunbury Loop;
Randal Mark Davidson to The Sanctuary of Augusta Inc.; 417 LaVista Drive; $35,000.
Winchester Homes of GA Inc. to Andrew Stephen Delmas and Emily Rogers Delmas; 6521 River Bluff Trail; $725,000.
Baldwin Hamptons LLC to Designer Homes and Construction LLC; 1595 Baldwin Lakes Drive; $43,000.
Heath D. Traphagan to Jason Bravo Alisangco; 524 Mauldin Drive; $375,000.
Wayne Wasden Sr. to Joshua Edward Combs; 1670 Cedar Hill Drive; $194,900.
Charles DeWitt Evans to Norman Richard Crews; 7120 Postell Drive; $72,000.
Elizabeth J. Manaloor to William O. Butcher and Karen N. Butcher; 4235 Riverside Drive; $330,000.
Amanda R. Russell to Steven T. Ragans; parcel ID 062742; $187,500.
Faircloth Homes Inc. to JoAnna M. Kelly and Gregory D. Kelly-Skelton; 1157 Waltons Pass; $320,250.
Ashley M. Olstad to Tracey M. Sammons; parcel ID 0651013; $272,000.
Paula D. Kiser to Jacqueline R. Goldsberry; 629 Ventana Drive; $198,500.
Faircloth Homes Inc. to Robert McCoy; 1155 Waltons Pass; $309,000.
Christopher Tison to Jesus Delatorra; parcel ID 074I079; $147,900.
MBH Holdings Inc. to Herbert Homes Inc.; parcel ID 0622628 and 0622629; $85,800.
Crawford Creek Homebuilders LLC to George P. Mallard; 1203 Tyler Woods Way; $175,000.
Thomas C. Brewster to Dorothy M. Croskey; 509 Midland Passage; $139,900.
James R. Wheeler to Larry M. Ward and Norma Kaye Ward; 101 Central Park Lane; $375,000.
Michael P. Pendleton to Charles C. Brown and Keshia M. Brown; 274 Wentworth Place; $238,500.
Randall T. Plant to Travis J. Austin and Kristine L. Austin; 216 Beale Lane; $330,000.
Ivey Residential LLC to Brenda B. Mercer; 4602 Amberley Drive; $242,500.
Downeast Homebuilders Inc. to Adam Seth Hilderbrandt and Michelle Renee Hilderbrandt; 3260 Windwood St.; $218,950.
Ivey Residential LLC to Lorenzo R. McElveen and Priscilla Green McElveen; 503 Brantley Cove Circle; $170,500.
Ivey Residential LLC to Shannon T. Winfield; 509 Sagebrush Trail; $294,065.
David McCabe Darnell and Kelly Anne Lawson applied for a marriage license on July 2, 2015, and were married July 11, 2015, in Augusta.
Mercedes Carmen Diaz and Eleanor Mae Hofsess applied for a marriage license on July 1, 2015, and were married July 12, 2015, in Augusta.
Richard Allen Rayfield Jr. and Blanche Dia Williams Widener applied for a marriage license on July 7, 2015, and were married July 11, 2015, in Augusta.
Michael David Cohen and Ashley Marie Armstrong applied for a marriage license on July 6, 2015, and were married July 16, 2015, in Savannah, Ga.
Michelle Leann Kay and Christi Fleming Cook applied for a marriage license on July 16, 2015, and were married July 16, 2015, in Augusta.
Joshua Michael Hilley and Kelly Victoria Ottoson applied for a marriage license on April 10, 2015, and were married June 20, 2015, in Lincolnton, Ga.
Franklin David Thompson and Kathryn Elizabeth Bruce applied for a marriage license on July 6, 2015, and were married July 11, 2015, in Appling.
Timothy Lee Meers and Brunilda Sanchez applied for a marriage license on July 1, 2015, and were married July 18, 2015, in Martinez.
Roy Dee Smith and Logan Arnold Owens applied for a marriage license on July 7, 2015, and were married July 8, 2015, in Evans.
Kristopher Lee Ray and Crystal Dianne Jiles applied for a marriage license on July 20, 2015, and were married July 20, 2015, in Evans.
Gabriel Alan Johnson and Alyssa Erinn Lynn Thompson applied for a marriage license on July 7, 2015, and were married July 18, 2015, in Augusta.
Ellis Clifford Maxwell III and Deborah Lynn Myrick applied for a marriage license on July 16, 2015, and were married July 18, 2015, in Cleveland, Ga.
John Michael Cowart Jr. and Joann Messina Ross applied for a marriage license on June 19, 2015, and were married June 27, 2015, in Evans.
James Anthony Freeman and Takeisha Annieaque Watkins applied for a marriage license on July 1, 2015, and were married July 11, 2015, in Millen, Ga.
Al Jennings Mims and Yvonne Clyde Presley applied for a marriage license on June 1, 2015, and were married June 20, 2015, in Augusta.
Brian Simmons Broady and Trekesha Deshon Mitchell applied for a marriage license on April 27, 2015, and were married June 19, 2015, in Evans.
William Marcus Fulcher IV and Maria Cecelia Wright applied for a marriage license on July 14, 2015, and were married July 15, 2015, in Harlem.
Trees provide great benefits to our home landscapes. They provide shade, help retain soils and add aesthetic value. Most homeowners tend to pamper the smaller landscape plants with irrigation, fertilizer and selective pruning, but leave the trees of the landscape alone.
It’s important that we take care of our trees properly by providing the same practices. Many things we do for our other plants and turf in the landscape provide benefits to our trees. However, some maintenance practices might unintentionally damage our trees.
Improper mulching might do more harm than good for our trees.
Whenever possible, try to let the mulch extend to the edge of the drip line. This is the area around the tree where the water sheds from the canopy.
Mulch applied too thickly can create many problems. A layer 2-3 inches thick is adequate in most situations. “Volcano mulching,” a practice of building a mulch layer 12 inches deep and sloping to the beds edge around each tree, is not beneficial and will kill the trees eventually. When mulch is piled against the trunk it can create insect and fungus problems. Pull your mulch back 3-5 inches from young trees and 8-10 inches from mature trunks.
Weed control can help your trees but make sure you are doing it properly. Pull any weeds that come up near the trunk. Using a weed eater or mower too closely to the trunk might injure the bark and underlying cambium layers.
Using a post-emergent herbicide around root zones can also damage trees. High concentrations of certain herbicides, such as 2,4-D, during warm spring weather could be taken up by tree roots and result in distorted leaves.
Most pre-emergent herbicides won’t harm trees, but always read the label. Herbicides that might cause tree damage have warning statements on the label. Avoid spraying on windy days and use coarse droplets to reduce drift.
Stakes and guy-wires are often used to hold up young trees until they become established.
Many times the wires are forgotten and as the tree grows, they become imbedded in the bark and cambium layers. This can severely girdle the trunk, often resulting in gradual tree death.
Remove plant tags and trunk wrap from the nursery to prevent tree injury in the future.
A good rule of thumb is to remove stakes and guy-wires one year after the trees’ installation.
Tall trees are often seen as a hazard. Many people mistakenly believe that topping trees is a good way to reduce their size. Topping is not a viable method of height reduction, and it does not reduce the hazard. It actually makes trees more hazardous in the long term and doesn’t promote a healthy tree.
During periods of drought, homeowners often water lawns and neglect trees. In situations where turf and trees are growing together, watering lawns can be beneficial to trees if done correctly. Frequent, shallow watering doesn’t meet the needs of either turf or trees and can be harmful to both. Both need the equivalent of 1 inch of water every 7-10 days.
Many people put a lot of hard work into their landscapes every week. Ensuring that maintenance practices aren’t harming trees is a good way to protect the valuable assets that are trees.
Tripp Williams, Columbia County’s agriculture and natural resource extension agent, can be reached at (706) 541-4011, or
First impressions are everything, particularly for individuals looking to sell their home. August has been designated National Curb Appeal Month, and while sellers will want to take note, all homeowners can learn a lesson or two about making their home more attractive from the street.
Local realtor Susan Keller explains that keeping a neatly trimmed and edged yard is a first step in making your home stand out from others.
Trimmed and edged lawns not only look nice, but also help to reduce weeds and improve a lawn’s overall health.
Keller also adds that fertilized and watered grass will stay green and therefore be more attractive to passersby. Seasonal flowers that are in bloom, as well as manicured shrubs, add to the appeal of the landscape.
In addition to making the lawn and gardens more attractive, attention should be paid to the home’s exterior. Rotting wood trim and broken shutters should be replaced.
Experts also suggest thinking of what your home looks like not only during daylight hours, but also at night.
Well-lit homes are not only welcoming, but also add to the security of the home. Solar-powered lights along walkways and garden areas create not only a safe pathway, but also highlight the home. Motion-sensor lighting will also make it easier for visitors to see, while also deterring burglars.
Finally, a welcoming entryway will make your home more inviting. Keller suggests adding “a nice wreath to the door and a welcome mat.
“And, be sure the address is clearly marked on the mailbox,” she said.
These few simple tips not only make your home more attractive, but also add value to your home. Whether someone is viewing your home from the street or up close, put your best foot forward and make it the most attractive home on the street.
While area schools are prepping for the upcoming year, administrators say they’re keeping an eye on an area that could affect student achievement – crime.
The issue is especially relevant because Richmond and Columbia counties saw increases in cases reported in their systems for the 2013-14 school year, according to the Georgia Department of Education’s Web site. Numbers for the 2014-15 school year aren’t yet available.
The numbers also show that different systems grapple with different types of crime. Richmond County, for example, has seen higher numbers in violent crimes and weapon violations.
According to the state-required Unsafe Schools Report, Richmond County saw overall crime increase from 56 cases in the 2011-12 school year to 83 in 2013-14. The latter saw a dozen more nonfelony drug and 10 more felony weapons cases.
There were also two reports of armed robbery, though School Safety and Security Chief Alfonzo Williams said one was really considered a theft by taking. Terroristic threats and acts doubled from four to eight but several other areas – including aggravated battery, arson and rape – remained at zero in the surveyed years.
Though any increase is alarming, Williams said, it can also be seen as a positive. Higher numbers mean that more students are comfortable enough reporting what they see, he said.
“I’ve taken a look at the numbers, and while we’ve had some gains, I don’t know that it’s representative of a large increase in crimes,” Williams said. “I think we’re doing a better job in reporting.
“We hope by studying those numbers that we can deploy resources where they’re most appropriate so that we can see those numbers start to decline.”
Help is on the way, said Richmond County Superintendent Angela Pringle. Five new school safety officers were hired this summer.
The Columbia County Board of Education didn’t report any batteries or child molestation cases from 2012 to 2014. It also didn’t report any incidents involving battery, arson, kidnapping or rape.
Reports of nonfelony drug offenses, however, were significantly higher in Columbia County. According to the report, there were 96 total incidents reported in Columbia County in 2013-14, 92 of them for nonfelony drugs. That marked an upswing from 2012-13, but still wasn’t as high as the 124 reported in 2011-12.
Part of the challenge with those particular incidents is catching them as they happen, Columbia County’s Director of Discipline and School Climate Don Brigdon said.
A former principal at Evans High School, Brigdon said individual schools are sometimes tasked with finding ways to handle issues on their respective campuses.
In his experience, pupil-run groups such as Students Against Destructive Decis-ions help stem the tide.
Though numbers weren’t available for the 2014-15 school year, Bridgon said that the amount of disciplinary hearings in Columbia County dropped by almost 20 percent.
“We try to stress to our students when we talk to them that if you see something, say something,” Brigdon said.
He added that there might be some disparity in what was reported and the actual amount of incidents. For instance, if three students were involved in a fight, it should count as one incident. In the past, some schools mistakenly reported incidents on a student-by-student basis.
In Georgia, a school is considered “persistently dangerous” when it sees serious crime, such as molestation or robbery, for three years in a row.
The tag is also applied to a school where at least 2 percent of students or 10 students, whichever is greater, is found to have committed a lesser offense.
Staff writer Sean Gruber contributed to this report.
Senior Citizens Council seeking companions for income-eligible people ages 55 and older who can serve 20 hours a week with special-needs adults in their homes; need own transportation; (706) 868-0120
Lenwood Holmes and The Sounds Unlimited performing as part of the Sizzling Summer Music Series 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, Columbia County Amphitheater, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; $6; bit.ly/1R4rEsB
Pride Night Out
Pride Night Out 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, Blue Sky Bar & Kitchen, 990 Broad St.; fundraiser for Augusta Pride 2016; facebook.com/events/392697190920754
Columbia County Choral Society auditions 7-8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, First Baptist Church of Evans, 515 N. Belair Road; for ages 18 and older; (310) 497-8047
Discussing One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse, 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5, Columbia County Library, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; copies available at The Book Tavern; amunitedcsra.org/bookclub
Book sale Friends of the Columbia County Libraries Book Sale 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Aug. 7-8, 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, Columbia County Library, second floor, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; fiction and nonfiction Storks, Corks
Storks and Corks 2015 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, Silver Bluff Audubon Sanctuary, 4542 Silver Bluff Road, Jackson; casual dress, food, wine; chance to see wood storks in natural setting; silent auction; $50, reservations required; (803) 471-0291, email@example.com, sc.audubon.org/events/storks-corks
Doc Easton performing as part of the Sizzling Summer Music Series 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, Columbia County Amphitheater, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; $6; bit.ly/1dxpvmH
Gold Prospectors Association of America meets 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, Dayspring Baptist Church, 4220 Belair Frontage Road; (706) 496-4611
Meet and greet
Bee Hive Preschool Meet and Greet 9-11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, Bee Hive Preschool, Augusta Jewish Community Center, 898 Weinberger Way, Evans; view classrooms, meet teachers; www.beehivepreschool.com
Women’s Conference: The Refiner’s, Oakey Grove Baptist Church, 911 N. Belair Road, Evans; praise and worship 6:30 p.m. Aug. 14; workshops 8:30 a.m. Aug. 15, topics: Preparation for the Fire, Standing in the Fire and No Smell of Smoke; worship 10:15 a.m. Aug. 16, Sharon Riddle; free
Augusta-Aiken Audubon driving field trip at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, 1858 Lock and Dam Road; drive around Phinizy looking for post-breeding birds and wading birds that come in late summer; beginners welcome; free; augustaaikenaudubon.org
Tabernacle Baptist Church UnityFest noon-5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, Evans Towne Center park, 7016 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; Tabernacle Baptist Church anniversary, theme Connected To Conquer; performances, games, music, food, bake-off and grilling competition, more; free, open to the public; accepting food and merchandise vendor applications; (706) 724-1230, tbcaugusta.org
Candlelight Wine & Dine: eZra Brown 6-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, Columbia County Amphitheater, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; gates open 5 p.m., concert 6 p.m.; bring seating and picnic; $10 advance, $15 day of show; (762) 233-5299, wineanddine15.bpt.me
Tabernacle Baptist Church anniversary 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, Evans High School, 4550 Cox Road, Evans; Dr. William Holmes Robinson, speaker; tbcaugusta.org
Meet Jeffrey Selman, author of God Sent Me: A textbook case on evolution vs. creation, 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, Columbia County Library meeting room, 7022 Evans Town Center Blvd., Evans; copies of book available $15, cash or check; bit.ly/1dvb1ni
Civil War Roundtable of Augusta 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17, Snelling Center, 3165 Washington Road; supper by Edgar’s $12; Wendy Hamand Venet, author of A Changing Wind, presents the story of Atlanta from pre-war to post-war; open to anyone interested in the history of the American Civil War; annual dues $25 or $40 per couple; (706) 736-2909, firstname.lastname@example.org, bit.ly/1mQbLXI
Columbia County Community Night at GreenJackets Game 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18, Lake Olmstead Stadium, 78 Milledge Road; also SweetWater BOGO Beverages Tuesday, fountain drinks and draft beer buy one get one free; (706) 922-WINS(9467), email@example.com, columbiacountychamber.com
Augusta Archaeological Society meeting Thursday, Aug. 20, Big Daddy’s Bar & Grill, 4045 Jimmie Dyess Parkway; primitive skills technologist Scott Jones, speaker; Overview of Lithic Resources and Technology of Georgia, topic; dinner on your own 6:30 p.m., free program 8 p.m.
Augusta Area Newcomers Club Prospective Members Coffee 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, e-mail for location; for people new to the area; e-mail for location; firstname.lastname@example.org; augustanewcomers.net
Columbia County authorities are trying to identify a man suspected of molesting an 8-year-old girl at the Grovetown Wal-Mart store.
Columbia County sheriff’s deputies were called to the Wal-Mart at 5010 Steiner Way at 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, where they met with the girl’s mother. The 39-year-old Grovetown woman told police that while shopping that afternoon, her daughter told her an unknown man spoke to her and touched her inappropriately. The child’s mother found the man and confronted him, but he left the store.
Sheriff’s investigators later obtained video images of the suspect, a heavy-set white male with a full beard, walking out of the store.Sheriff’s capt Steve Morris said the suspect is seen on the video following the little girl. His vehicle is believed to be a blue 2000’s model Dodge 1500 extended cab pickup truck with tan trim and silver tool box.
Anyone with information about the man’s identity should call the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 541-1042.
An early morning fire left one person dead in Appling, Friday.
At 3:25 a.m., Columbia County fire and rescue units responded to 6322 Yelton Road where they found a two-story wood structure with both floors fully involved, according to Battalion Chief Jeremy Wallen of Columbia County Fire and Rescue.
It took an hour and a half to get the fire extinguished. Inside they found a deceased 85-year-old woman on the second floor between the stairs and a bedroom door. She was identified as Alleen Brake by Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins, who pronounced her dead at 6:10 a.m.
Collins said he didn’t suspect foul play, that she was overcome by smoke and succumbed to the fire. It is anticipated her body will be taken to the Atlanta crime lab Saturday for autopsy, he said.
Cheree Baker, who lived at the house with her mother, was woken up by a barking dog about 3 a.m., according to her brother Jordan Baker, who lives next door. She smelled smoke, went downstairs to investigate and the fire accelerated quickly. She tried to get back up the stairs but the smoke was too intense. Baker yelled for Brake and she heard her say, What?”
Baker ran next door to her brother’s house to get help and Jordan Baker had his wife Joyce call 911 as they ran back to the fire.
Wallen said the house was classified as a total loss and that two firefighters were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
The state fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the blaze.
Martinez-Evans Little League Senior League manager Steven Gibbons thought the key to the Southeastern Region Senior Tournament would be to stay in the winner’s bracket.
So far so good for MELL in the seven-team, modified double-elimination tournament in Safety Harbor, Fla. Representing Georgia, they beat Florida 13-2 in their opener Sunday afternoon, then followed that up with a 17-4 win over Tennessee in the 9 a.m. game on Monday.
MELL was set to face Viginia in Monday night’s 7 p.m. contest to determine who would advance unbeaten to the championship round.
“The guys are playing really well and despite the scores, there’s still some adversity in the games,” said Gibbons.
In Monday’s outing, MELL jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one inning but Tennessee came back and took a 4-2 lead in the second.
“That was it for them,” said Gibbons, whose team responded immediately. “We scored 11 more in the second to answer them and really broke their heart.”
Gibbons said that the team was a combined 28 for 60 in the two games.
“When your team’s hitting close to .500, that’s pretty sweet and good things will happen,” Gibbons said.
Leading the way offensively is Greenbrier High School rising sophomore Ashton “Bam” Thomas, who is 5 for 7 with three home runs. Others making noise for MELL are Eric Becker (3-8), Carter Gibbons (5-9), Jordan Ibarra (4-5), Austin Matthews (4-6), Louie McKelvain (1-3), Zach Rutt (3-7) and Patrick Tom (3-7).
The offensive output has made things easier on the pitching staff.
“We’ve got several right handed pitchers and several left handed pitchers,” said Gibbons, who has been keeping pitch counts under 30 so they are all available for the ensuing game. “I’ve been starting with one and coming back with another.”
Gibbons said he’s gotten good efforts thus far from McKelvain, Alex Mann, Joseph Norris, Ibarra and Patrick Tom.
Teams and organizers have been battling monsoon-like conditions which delayed the start of the tournament by a day.
“They’ve (Little League) been doing a great job but there’s standing water in the outfield and it’s real marshy,” Gibbbons said.
Gibbons says the team is filled with interchangable parts, which is making his job easier, especially with the way they’ve been playing.
“Every single player has contributed – from hits to pinch running to pretty solid defense,” Gibbons said. “The outfielders have played very well with the mess they’ve played in. They’ve run everything down.”
If rain hadn’t washed away the Monday night game, MELL would get a night of rest Tuesday with a win over Virginia, advancing to the winner-take-all championship game Wednesday night.
The 2015 Senior League Baseball World Series is Aug. 2 in Bangor, Maine.
The Martinez-Evans Little League intermediate baseball team’s goal for the Southeast Regional fell one game short.
After making it three games through the seven-team modified double-elimination tournament without a loss, MELL suffered a 5-2 defeat in the winner-take-all championship game Monday afternoon to the team from Florida.
Beginning play on Friday, MELL represented Georgia in Apopka, Fla., with hopes of advancing to Livermore, Calif. to participate in the league’s World Series.
MELL and Florida were no strangers to each other as MELL beat them in a 2-0 nail-biter that opened the tournament Friday, forcing Florida to fight their way back through the loser’s bracket.
Florida defeated North Carolina, 14-4, in Monday’s first game earning the right to face MELL.
In Friday night’s opener, Antwuan Rolling, Preston Price and Alex Matthews combined for the shutout. MELL had three hits; one apiece from Josh Melton, John D’Amelio and a two-run double from Price.
Saturday was the exact opposite as they battered Tennessee, 24-0.
In the rout, 10 players had hits, led by Price and Blake Tucker who both went four for five with inside the park home runs. Others with multiple base hits included Drew Proctor, Matthews, D’Amelio, Brian Peel and Melton.
Alex Matthews, D’Amelio, Cameron Herndon and Tucker took care of pitching duties.
Sunday, in a battle of unbeatens, it was MELL winning 11-4 over North Carolina to set the stage for Monday.
Even with the high school football season upon them, Harlem High School’s staff, players and cheerleaders took time to inspire the community’s next wave of Bulldogs.
The Harlem Bulldogs gave a free football and cheer clinic to Pop Warner participants, who number ed more than 60, Friday night on the stadium field.
“We’re trying basically to get them excited about next week’s start to the Pop Warner season,” said Bulldogs’ first-year football coach Todd Booker. “It’s huge for Harlem to develop these kids.”
The excitement level for the second-year Pop Warner football program was noticeably higher with 70 registrants as compared to the 25 who were signed up at the same time last year.
Lonnie Morris is the Harlem Pop Warner Football commissioner as well as the high school Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator. He said the high school’s efforts were not entirely altruistic.
“The reason we started this was to benefit Harlem High School five or six years down the road,” Morris said. “The more you can get these little ones out here on the field, out here in the stadium, out here with the other kids and stuff, the more apt they are to stick with it, coming though Pop Warner, coming through the middle school and then coming to the high school.”
The 35-plus football players were broken up into five groups and spent an hour and a half rotating through five stations which put them through basic to slightly more advanced speed and conditioning drills.
“It was good, I learned a couple of things,” said 9-year-old Davis Madden, who will play on the Mighty Mites squad.
While the football players were going though their drills, cheerleaders from age 5 to 13, were learning the ropes from the high school cheerleaders, which led to the camp ending with, “1-2-3-4, what do you think those cleats are for? Stomp ’‘em Bulldogs, stop’em.”
Harlem Pop Warner Cheer Coordinator Taryn Johns said the night went well and was super excited to have the high school girls helping out.
“What we really wanted to accomplish was to get the season started, just to kind of add that fire to the girls, to get them excited about the upcoming season plus to get the high school involved,” Johns said. “Our goal as Pop Warner is to eventually have high school cheerleaders come up, so to be here, to have the girls out here helping, we hope we’re raising future Bulldogs.”
Less than 48 hours after arriving on a plane from China, 6-year-old Noah had adapted to his four-week “vacation” with the Drafts family. He made his bed last week without being asked and interacted with the family’s five other children although he speaks no English.
Noah’s vacation from a Chinese orphanage is much more than a foreign exchange trip or a sightseeing tour of the United States.
It’s his chance to find a new family.
Beth and Ryan Drafts – and their two biological sons and three daughters adopted from China – welcomed Noah into their home to give him a chance to meet families considering adoption.
As host, the Drafts family is an advocate for Noah, trying to connect the boy with adoptive parents.
“My heart is to advocate for orphan children,” Beth Drafts said. “Children in this program will be hard to place because of their age, sex and medical needs.”
Most families pursuing adoption want girls younger than 2, Drafts said.
More boys than girls are available for adoption in China, she said. Noah was left at the gate of a Chinese hospital when he was 5 months old. He had a note from his parents with his date of
“This program is Noah’s chance,” Drafts said.
Great Wall China Adoption, an agency based in Austin, Texas, runs the host program during summer and winter holidays, according to its Web site. Thirty children are with host families in the U.S., including five in the Southeast.
The Drafts family used the agency for its three adoptions. Though the family isn’t considering adopting another child, they are eager to help
orphans find loving homes.
They plan to introduce Noah to two local families and a third from Columbia in the next week, and if no families choose adoption, the Drafts family will ask the agency to help search for others.
“We are praying we will know his family before he leaves,” Drafts said.
If a family decides to adopt him, Noah will return to China at the end of the monthlong visit to begin a nine-month adoption process. His new parents will travel to China once, Drafts said.
It’s important for Noah to return to China to say goodbye to his orphanage, she said.
Meanwhile, Noah will experience everyday life with the Draftses, go to church with the family and take a trip to Asheville, N.C. He will meet families over ice cream and at a pool party.
Also, the family will take Noah to an eye doctor, pediatrician and cardiologist. Noah has esotropia in his left eye, meaning his eye turns inward. He also has a heart condition that the family intends to learn more about, including whether surgeries are needed. All the information will help prospective families decide whether to adopt Noah, Drafts said.
“He’s precious. He’s got a great personality,” she said.
Drafts encouraged families to consider hosting a child for adoption even if they are not thinking about adopting.
“If adoption is not possible for your family, you can still be part of the adoption process,” she said.
The following accounts were taken from Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident reports:
Theft spotted on store video
The manager of an Evans fast food restaurant reported Thursday that an employee had taken money from the business.
Christopher Pelly, manager at the McDonald’s at 5109 Washington Road, told police the employee was seen on surveillance video in the manger’s office at 10:28 p.m. July 22, counting out money, hiding it in a napkin and leaving the store.
Pelly said $140 was taken from an overflow cash register.
Pelly said he would waive prosecution if the employee returned the money, but several attempts to contact the employee by phone were unsuccessful.
Man reports granddaughter
An Evans man told deputies his granddaughter stole money from his home.
Jack Ginn, 78, of Evans to Locks Road, reported Thursday that between $2,000 and $4,000 was taken from inside his china cabinet. Ginn said he suspects his granddaughter, Shelby Partridge, 20, had taken the money, which was in $50 denominations.
Ginn said Partridge had left his home that evening and was staying at the Baymont Inn & Suites with her infant child.
A deputy confirmed that Partridge was staying at the hotel and located her at a nearby gas station. Partridge consented to a search of her room, where police found 29 $50 bills hidden inside a blanket.
Partridge admitted to the deputy that she had taken approximately $1,850 form Ginn’s home. Partridge was charged with theft by taking and taken to the Columbia County Detention Center.
Burglars take TVs and tools
A Grovetown woman told police on Thursday that someone had stolen several items from her father’s home in Martinez.
Angela Cassedy, 43, told police she was assisting her father with an upcoming estate sale at his home on Lake Shore Drive.
Cassedy said when she came to the residence on Thursday, she noticed that blinds and curtains in a rear bedroom had been disturbed and a step stool had been placed outside the bedroom window.
Two television sets were missing from inside the home. Also, someone had forced his way into the workshop in the back yard and had taken a Craftsman drill set and a container of R22 Freon.
An inmate who walked away from a Grovetown work detail was on the run for about two hours when he was apprehended Sunday afternoon, Grovetown officials said.
Jerome W. Brawner, 46, faces a charge of escape after fleeing from a work detail in front of the Grovetown Public Safety headquarters at 306 E. Robinson Ave., according Grovetown Lt. Johns Nalley.
Nalley said Brawner was working with one other inmate under the supervision of Officer Eisha Bell when he walked away at about 10:53 a.m. Bell noticed his absence within a few minutes and alerted the department, Nalley said.
Richmond County and Columbia County officers aided Grovetown with the search , which ended about 12:52 p.m., when Brawner was located hiding under a mobile home on Polatty Drive, just outside the city limits, Nalley said.
Brawner had been in police custody a little more than a week when the escape occurred.
Nalley said Brawner was arrested on July 18 on shoplifting charges and sentenced three days later to a six-month term in the Grovetown jail for the misdemeanor. He was being held at the Columbia County Detention Center Monday on the escape charge, according to jail records.
The escape happened one day after the year anniversary of Grovetown’s last inmate escape.
In that incident, two inmates, Michael Davis, 25, and Joshua Gray, 22, walked through and unlatched door and broke through a fence to gain their temporary freedom. The two were caught the next day in Augusta when they tried to check into the Knights Inn on Boy Scout Road.
Both were charged with escape and interference with government property and later pleaded guilty to both counts.
Gray was paroled in April and Davis, who was also convicted of a 2012 drug charge, is serving a five-year sentence at Phillips State Prison, according to state Department of Corrections records.
When school starts next week, students will be welcomed back by several new school and district administrators.
These new administrators bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience from their teaching careers.
“They are outstanding leaders,” Columbia County School System Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway said. “The strengths and expertise of the leadership in our school system – that is critical to maintain an outstanding educational system that you have leaders who are visionary and passionate about education and seeking excellence in everything that they do. We have great school leaders.”
Wanda Golosky brings her 38 years of teaching back to the classroom for the sixth time after her 2010 retirement. She taught English at Harlem High School for 17 years.
During her time at Harlem she taught Carraway, school board members Roxanne Whitaker, Harlem High Principal Dietmar Perez, Steven Creek Elementary School Principal Michelle Paschal, former News-Times Publisher Barry Paschal, county Administrator Scott Johnson and Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. and public information officer Steve Morris.
Golosky spent time in various functions at the district office before retiring as the principal of Euchee Creek Elementary School.
Since, she’s been called back to substitute and fill in as an administrator at Greenbrier High School, Columbia Middle School, Belair Elementary School and in the district’s transportation department.
“I’m at it again,” Golosky said.
She’s now returning as part-time principal of North Columbia Elementary School, where she’ll train the assistant principal to fill the slot next year.
“I’ve been a mentor to a lot of assistant principals who have become principals,” Golosky said, adding that she’s proud of the confidence school system leaders have shown in her.
The other two new principals will be leading schools for the first time. Leanne Gregg beginning her 13th year working in Columbia County schools as principal of Cedar Ridge Elementary School, where she served as assistant principal last year. She’s taught a variety of elementary grade levels in Harlem and Grovetown schools and spent five years as an assistant principal at Cedar Ridge.
Gregg said she takes her job seriously because she wants her pupils to have a great beginning to their school careers.
“This (elementary school) is their first experience with school,” Gregg said. “It is actually the setting in which they spend the most amount of time in their school career. It’s really important we leave a positive impact on how they feel about school.”
Kim Romero is looking forward to filling the principal’s chair at Grovetown Elementary, where longtime former principal Scott Weinand was promoted to the director of student learning (pre-K through fifth grades) in the district office.
She spent 19 years as a science teacher in several county middle schools and served as assistant principal at Westmont Elementary School for eight years.
But summer transfers are difficult, especially when the staff feels like family.
“You’re not able to say goodbye to your staff that you’re leaving,” Romero said, adding she’s anxious to get to know her new school and colleagues. “I’m very excited. I think this is going to be an absolutely wonderful staff.”
Romero has been a part of opening three middle schools in the county. She’ll get to open the new Grovetown Elementary, which is slated to be built on the same property and open in 2017.
“We get to watch it as it goes up,” Romero said. “That’s going to be very exciting.”
In total, the school year will begin with 12 new administrators, though they aren’t new to the school system, just their positions.
Michele Sherman, former director of student learning for the elementary grades, will begin the year as assistant superintendent.
That position, Carraway said, was downsized several years ago and has been reinstated with the recent increase in the county tax digest and state funding.
Teri Pettyjohn was named Director of Special Services.
In addition to the three new principals, the school year will also start off with six new assistant principals at the schools – Isaiah Mealing (Lakeside High School), Jeremy Davis (Grovetown Middle School), Paul Bloodworth (Columbia Middle School), Tonya Gambrell (North Columbia Elementary School), Roxanne Hyer (Cedar Ridge Elementary School) and Kristen Carroll (Baker Place Elementary School).
“This group of new assistant principals are quite impressive,” Carraway said.
First approved in July 2012, the new Lakeside High School Athletic Complex is still moving toward completion.
Phase 1, essentially preparing the site for construction to include installation of water, sewer and stormwater systems, building the main road and rough grading of the entire site, was completed within the past month.
Work on the park’s facilities will be determined separately by the school board and county commissioners, with half of the park developed by each government but with all amenities shared after construction. The project is being paid for from both entities’ sales tax funds.
John Paul Stout, Columbia County special projects manager, said the start of Phase 2 for the county largely depends on the funding available through the 2017 to 2022 SPLOST.
“We’ll start collecting January of 2017 when our most recent SPLOST package will begin,” Stout said. “Countywide projects go first in that order. You’re looking late into ’17 and early 2018 when that funding actually breaks. That’s not to exclude options before then. It’s really just a matter of timing and need.”
In 2012, the complex was slated to include:
• A 3,000- to 4,000-seat football stadium and accompanying multipurpose practice field, weight room and fieldhouses
• four regulation-size soccer fields, along with an additional championship soccer field
• a baseball field and soccer field with batting cages in between
• track and field accommodations, including an eight-lane track
• a six-court tennis facility, and,
• walking trails and playgrounds.
Stout couldn’t commit to what the finished complex might look like now.
“The great thing about concepts is that they lend themselves to being flexibile with the needs at the time,” Stout said. “The needs in 2011 are certainly different than the needs in 2015 and might be in 2017. The focus will be on providing another world-class facility for the residents of Columbia County to enjoy.”
While there will be a main entrance through the high school’s campus, other entrance/exit points have yet to be solidified for the 70-acre project.
“I’d love to tell you with finite certainity, but it really is dependent on what the Board of Education and Board of Commissioners ultimately choose to put in,” Stout said.
“Until a formal site plan really locks it in, it lends itself to leniency, as would anything we would develop.”
In the future, Columbia County may be partnering with Georgia Regents University at Blanchard Woods Park.
The county is in negotiations with the university for the Jaguars’ cross country team to use the park’s course.
Columbia County Community and Leisure Services Division Director Barry Smith thinks it would be a great relationship for both for many different reasons.
“By them partnering with us, it basically sanctions the facility at Blanchard Woods,” Smith said. “To have a sanctioning body, especially on the collegiate level is a great thing.”
Smith said the university already helped when they re-routed the course when it was altered during the construction of the BMX track.
And with the Jaguars on the course, it will be easier to keep it in tip-top shape.
“They’re out there for practice on a regular basis,” Smith said. “If any track repair or track erosion happens, they would report it to the Parks and Recreation department and we would repair it immediately. Another set of eyes on the track is another great reason I’d like to team up with them.”
GRU is currently going over the proposed contract. There had been one in place but it slipped through the cracks.
“This is basically renewing an agreement that had expired about two years ago,” said Smith, adding that GRU would have to have a certain amount of liability insurance and carry certain workmens compensation requirements.
Smith hopes that the agreement will play out favorably for both parties.
“Basically it’s a wonderful relationship we’re glad to have,” Smith said. “If you don’t have a sanctioning university, sanctioning body that sanctions your course, it’s really not as legitimate of a facility as what we have now.”
Even if the university approves the contract, it doesn’t appear as if they will play host to any home meets in 2015 unless they make a change to their existing schedule.
Beginning Sept. 12, the Jaguars will be on the road for four meets until the Peach Belt Conference Championships on Oct. 24.