Police seek help solving fatal attack

Columbia County authorities say they need help solving the brutal beating death of a woman who apparently interrupted a burglary at her home in a quiet neighborhood near Grovetown.

Columbia County sheriff's deputies said they found Laverne Parsons, 41, on the garage floor of her home at 229 Hot Springs Drive in the Orchard Hill subdivision Wednesday.

A baseball bat and claw hammer, which might have been used in the beating, were found nearby.

Mrs. Parsons was taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where she died Thursday afternoon, sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said. Head trauma is the suspected cause, but an autopsy will be conducted this morning at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Atlanta, Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins said.

Deputies investigating a burglary found a blood trail that led to the garage and Mrs. Parsons, according to a police report.

A contractor who arrived to work at the home called police after finding shattered glass from a French door at the rear of the house. When a deputy entered, he found what appeared to be blood on the sofa and living room rug. Deputies also found blood on the walls and doors.

Authorities say they believe Mrs. Parsons returned to her home about 9 a.m. after taking her son to Evans Middle School.

School psychologists and counselors were at Lewiston Elementary and Evans Middle schools to help students deal with Mrs. Parsons' death.

"We've had our counselors and our school psychologist on hand to be able to assist those students that were close to the family to be able to comfort them," said Evans Middle Principal Michael Johnson.

The home next door, at 227 Hot Springs Drive, also was burglarized, Capt. Morris said.

"We are following some leads," he said. "We have our suspicions, but we're nowhere near solving this case."

Residents of the quiet neighborhood were shocked.

"You move to a neighborhood because it's supposed to be a nice, safe place to live, and then something like this happens," said Jamie Zellner, 30.

The former Army sergeant, who served in Afghanistan, said he wasn't afraid of something similar happening to him.

"I'm just going to improve access to my weapons," he said.

Jesse Leech, an eight-year resident of Orchard Hill, said he has never heard of a break-in there.

"We watch out for each other," he said.

Capt. Morris said he hopes someone was watching. Police spent much of Wednesday questioning neighbors.

"Someone knows something concerning this crime," he said. "Although we have some leads, we need some help."

Anyone with information concerning the killing is asked to call the Columbia County Sheriff's Office at (706) 541-2800.

"This person has clearly demonstrated just how dangerous they are," Capt. Morris said. "We're utilizing every available resource in manpower and technology to locate this individual."

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

HOME SAFETY TIPS

- Invest in a security system. "The use of home alarms, wireless surveillance systems and outdoor security cameras will contribute to ensuring the safety of your family and your property," said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.

- Time a light or radio to turn on when you're out of the house. "A dark quiet house at an hour when most people are still awake can be an invitation to a break-in," Capt. Morris said.

- Be aware, and watch out for your neighbors. "An aware, organized neighborhood where everyone knows and looks out for each other and their property is one of the strongest sources of security."

HOW TO HELP

EVANS MIDDLE SCHOOL: Principal Michael Johnson said the school is collecting donations. Send checks made out to the family to: Parsons Family, c/o Evans Middle School, 4785 Hereford Farm Road, Evans, GA 30809.

WESLEY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Donations to support the family can be mailed to the church at 825 N. Belair Road, Evans, GA 30809.