Across the area

Mr. Payroll employee admits taking $50,000


An employee of an Augusta payday loan business admitted Wednesday she stole $50,173.

Chantele L. Battle, 28, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to theft. She admitted she stole the money from her employer, Mr. Payroll, on July 12.

Ms. Battle was sentenced to serve five years in prison followed by five years on probation. Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet agreed to sentence her under the First Offender Act. As a condition of probation she must repay the money she stole and pay a $25,000 fine.

Armed robbery reported at motel

Police responded to an armed robbery at a south Augusta motel late Wednesday.

About 11:30 p.m., two women entered the Wingate Inn at 2123 Nolan Connector off Gordon Highway and demanded cash from an employee, an Augusta 911 dispatcher said.

No injuries were reported and Richmond County sheriff's investigators were called to the scene.

Two men sentenced in sex crimes with child

Two Augusta men received prison terms Wednesday after pleading guilty in separate cases in which a child was the victim of a sex crime.

Arnie A. Rodriquez, 43, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to child molestation and five counts of sexual exploitation of children. He admitted he molested a girl between the ages of 13 and 15. He was sentenced to nine years.

Ralph J. Conklin, 24, pleaded guilty in the sexual battery of a 5-year-old girl in May. Mr. Conklin, the prosecutor said, had been accused of child molestation before. On Wednesday, he was sentenced to five years in prison.

Intruder being sought might have injuries

A man sought for vehicle break-ins at West Lake subdivision is not suspected of break-ins in other Columbia County neighborhoods, police said on Wednesday.

The Monday break-ins in Westlake, a gated community in Martinez, resulted in the intruder's possibly being shot by a Medical College of Georgia police officer, Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said.

The MCG officer, Peter Barbara, discovered the man in his Chevrolet Suburban, parked at his home on the 3800 block of Inverness Way, about 6 a.m. Monday. The intruder reportedly pointed a gun at Mr. Barbara, who had his own weapon and shot four times, striking the intruder's .40-caliber Glock, which was stolen from a vehicle earlier that morning, Capt. Morris said.

The West Lake Property Owners Association is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest of the intruder, which police describe as a black male, 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall, and weighing about 160 pounds. He might have a wound on his right arm or right hand, Capt. Morris said.

Anyone with information can call the sheriff's office at (706) 541-2800.

Ex-Brown adviser told to surrender passport

Former James Brown adviser and trustee David Cannon was ordered to surrender his passport Wednesday.

Mr. Cannon, who has been accused of misappropriating millions of the late singer's money, is to hand his passport over to his attorneys, Judge Jack Early ruled.

Judge Early had previously ordered Mr. Cannon not to leave the state, but an attorney representing the singer's children expressed concerns that the former trustee might flee.

At a court hearing in November, Mr. Cannon testified that he owns property in Honduras, where he and his wife have spent about $866,000 to build a home. Mr. Cannon also is the focus of an IRS audit and a criminal investigation being conducted by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Relative dies of head injuries after fight

The Aiken County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a New Ellenton man in a fight with his stepbrother outside a home in the 100 block of Mull Street in New Ellenton, sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank said.

The victim is identified as Randy M. Simpson, 46, of the 200 block of Valley Drive in New Ellenton, Lt. Frank said.

Nicholas L. Scott, 28, also of the 200 block of Valley Drive in New Ellenton, is facing a murder charge, he said.

Early Wednesday, the victim reportedly got into a fight inside the home with his stepbrother. The fight moved outside, where Mr. Scott repeatedly kicked the victim in the head, Lt. Frank said. Mr. Scott fled.

An autopsy in Newberry found that the victim died of a closed head injury.

Mr. Scott is described as white, 6 feet 3 inches tall and 185 pounds.

He has brown hair and a tattoo on his neck, Lt. Frank said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator Brad Wertz at (800) 922-9709 or Crimestoppers of the Midlands at (888) 559-TIPS.

Controlled burn was cause of smoky skies

Smoky skies over downtown Augusta on Wednesday were caused by a controlled burn at Fort Gordon, according to Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker.

She said numerous phone calls prompted her to contact the state forestry service. The burning operation is designed to clear underbrush from 1,086 acres on the military property, she said in an e-mail.

Woman dies of wreck injuries

A 21-year-old Gloverville woman who was injured in a wreck on Sudlow Lake Road on Valentine's Day died Wednesday, according to a news release from Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton.

Brandy Cox never regained consciousness after the crash and died of a traumatic brain injury at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, the release stated.

Ms. Cox was the lone occupant of a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse and was believed to be returning from Augusta on Sudlow Lake Road in Aiken when her vehicle left the eastbound lane and struck a tree, Mr. Carlton said.

Meetings on nuclear weapons set for today

A federal agency will hold public meetings today in North Augusta to discuss a plan to restructure the nation's nuclear weapons platform.

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency responsible for the security and upkeep of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, will hold meetings from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6 to 10 p.m. at the North Augusta Community Center, 495 Brookside Ave.

The agency is considering consolidating the assets of the nation's nuclear weapons complex, according to an Energy Department news release. Officials will discuss the Draft Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

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Law department counsel gets job permanently

Augusta commissioners promoted the interim general counsel of the city's in-house law department to permanent status Tuesday.

Chiquita T. Johnson was awarded the job permanently with no discussion. She will be paid $125,000 a year and receive a car allowance, according to City Administrator Fred Russell. Ms. Johnson was hired as a staff attorney but was named interim general counsel when Macon City Attorney J. Pope Langstaff decided not to accept the job.

Ms. Johnson graduated from Emory University School of Law in 1996 and has worked for the City of Atlanta Law Department; Association County Commissioners of Georgia; the Georgia Department of Public Safety and more recently Deming, Parker, Hoffman, Green and Campbell, Associates, in Norcross.

-- From staff reports