Police find no link between crimes

Police investigating a fatal beating in Columbia County said Friday they haven't connected it to the shooting of the victim's neighbor Thursday night in Richmond County.

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said he knows of no link between the two crimes.

"We have been in contact with Richmond County authorities concerning that matter, but there's no evidence to suggest a link," he said.

Richmond County investigators said Rebecca Sears, 41, was shot in the leg late Thursday outside the Healing Hands Physical Therapy Center on Highland Avenue, where she works.

The day before, Ms. Sears' neighbor Laverne Parsons, also 41 and a Healing Hands employee, was brutally beaten in her home. She died Thursday from those injuries.

Ms. Sears lived at 227 Hot Springs Drive in Columbia County's Orchard Hill subdivision. Mrs. Parsons lived at 229 Hots Springs Drive.

Both women were pictured on the company's Web site, which was taken down Friday afternoon. Both locations of Healing Hands in Augusta and Thomson were also closed and phone messages were not returned.

Mrs. Parsons died Thursday afternoon, and Ms. Sears was shot about six hours later.

Ms. Sears told investigators she was walking to her vehicle when a man she did not know appeared from the rear of the building and brandished a pistol.

She said she turned to go back inside when a gunshot grazed both legs.

Ms. Sears told police the man said if she "didn't have his money it would be her face."

He then ran toward a wooded area. Police found a .22-caliber shell casing at the scene, according to the sheriff's office report.

Mrs. Parsons is believed to have been attacked at her home in Columbia County about 9 a.m. Wednesday after return- ing home from dropping her son off at school.

The homes of both women on Hot Springs Drive appeared to have been broken into, and police said Thursday they believe Mrs. Parsons had interrupted a burglary.

An autopsy conducted at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Atlanta confirmed Friday that Mrs. Parsons died of blunt force head trauma, Columbia County Deputy Coroner Harriett Garrison said.

Both Columbia and Richmond county sheriff's offices are working together on her homicide, Capt. Morris said.

Reach Donnie Fetter and Adam Folk at (706) 724-0851.