Originally created 12/28/96

Metro area briefs - North Augusta man killed on highway



North Augusta man killed on highway

A North Augusta man was killed Friday night as he tried to cross five lanes of traffic on U.S. Highway 25 near Belvedere and was hit by three separate vehicles including an Edgefield County deputy's patrol car, authorities said.

Otis Collier, 49, no street address available, was dead at the scene of the accident, which happened about 6:05 p.m., said Cpl. T.B. Collins of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Mr. Collier, wearing a dark jacket and dark red or burgundy pants, was in the center turning lane when a 1990 Buick driven by Eddie Freeman, 59, of Belvedere, moved into the lane to turn left. Cpl. Collins said the car side-swiped Mr. Collier, bumping him into the nearest northbound traffic lane.

He was then struck by a 1977 Mercury driven by Ronald Mixon, 36, of North Augusta. Mr. Mixon's car traveled a short distance before stopping, the state trooper said.

Following behind the Mercury, Edgefield County Deputy Timothy Davis, 35, applied the brakes on his patrol car but "skidded into and on top of (Mr. Collier)," Cpl. Collins said. The roads were wet at the time, he said.

The accident is under investigation and no charges have been filed, Cpl. Collins said.

Prisoner escapes from facility

A Burke County prisoner climbed into the ceiling of Georgia Regional Hospital, climbed through an air vent and made his escape from the facility Friday afternoon, officials said.

Richmond County officers were still looking for the man Friday night.

He was transferred to the hospital from Burke County about 2 p.m. Friday and made his escape about an hour and a half later, said Brian Mulherin, personnel director at Georgia Regional. Mr. Mulherin did not release the man's name, citing patient confidentiality.

"As he was traveling through the ceiling, some of the staff heard something and went outside, where they found a vent had been kicked open and the patient was gone," Mr. Mulherin said. "It's most unusual. Of course, we hate it when this kind of thing happens."

The man was described by Burke County officials as a white man about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing 160 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was wearing a Burke County jail uniform, which is green with white lettering across the back and on the pants.

He had been jailed on a parole violation and was supposed to be in a drug treatment program, Burke sheriff's department officials said.

Aiken blood center has special hours

The American Red Cross blood donor center in Aiken will have special hours on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

The blood donor center at 950-A Millbrook Ave. will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. The center's normal hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday; and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

For more information, call 652-5180 or (800)DONATE.

Coughing man robs video store

A heavy cough and a skin rash could give away a man who walked into a Wrightsboro Road video store and made off with cash from the register Friday night, police said.

The man went into Video Vantage, 3526 Wrightsboro Road, shortly after 8:30 p.m. Friday and pulled out a large, nickel-plated revolver, demanding money from the cashier, Investigator Lee Goode said.

After taking an undisclosed amount of money, the man told the clerk to go into a back room, then locked her in before leaving the store, the investigator said.

The suspect was described as a black man in his late 20s, about 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing about 200 pounds. He wore a dark jacket, pants and skullcap. He had a bad cough and a bad rash of razor bumps on his face, reports said.

Teen-ager charged after wreck

An Augusta teen-ager has been charged with vehicular homicide in a Monday car wreck that killed a passenger in his car, police said.

Justin Alan Bernitt, 18, of the 800 block of Mitchell Street, was still at Medical College of Georgia Hospital on Friday when he was charged with vehicular homicide and driving too fast for conditions, Richmond County Sheriff's Department reports said.

Alex Nicholas Cordell, 18, of Augusta, was killed on Berckman's Road on Monday night when he was thrown from Mr. Bernitt's car after a collision with another car, an accident report said.

Mr. Bernitt and two occupants of the second vehicle suffered serious injuries and were taken to the hospital.

Three missing children found

ATLANTA - The three missing children of a 26-year-old woman found slain on Christmas Eve were turned over to police by a family member in Mexico, the head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Friday.

The children were unharmed and have been placed in the custody of the Department of Family and Children's Services in Brownsville, Texas, GBI Director Buddy Nix said.

"Physically, they appear to be in good shape," Mr. Nix said.

Authorities have not located the children's father, Aldaberto Rodriguez. He is now wanted on charges of kidnapping and interference with custody, Mr. Nix said.

Mr. Nix refused to identify the relative who turned the children over to police, saying only that the person lived in Mexico across the border from Brownsville.

Federal authorities had been conducting a nationwide search for Mr. Rodriguez, 36, and the three children - two girls ages 4 and 6, and a 2-year-old boy - ever since the body of his estranged wife, Gretchen Rodriguez, was found slain in her mobile home in Luthersville, Ga., on Tuesday.

Three days before her death, the pregnant woman had telephoned her neighbor and told her she was afraid for her life.

Miller names merit system chief

ATLANTA - Gov. Zell Miller on Friday named longtime aide Dan Ebersole the commissioner of the State Merit System, the agency in charge of personnel matters and benefit plans for state workers.

Mr. Ebersole will begin his new duties in April, after the legislative session. He replaces Commissioner Bobbie Jean Bennett, who is retiring. Dana Russell will serve as interim commissioner until Mr. Ebersole takes over.

Mr. Ebersole, 44, works as the governor's senior executive assistant, helping with the development of education, economic development, law enforcement, health care and environmental programs.

He has worked with Mr. Miller for 18 years, first as director of the Georgia Senate Research Office and later as deputy director of the Office of Planning and Budget before becoming the governor's assistant.

Also Friday, Mr. Miller named Robert Wagner, an Atlanta certified public accountant, and Claybon Edwards, director of the Edwards Funeral Home in Fort Valley, to the State Personnel Board. The terms begin in 1997.

Elmo investors not tickled

COLUMBIA - Midlands residents hoping to cash in on the Tickle Me Elmo craze found their hopes anywhere from $500 to $800 too high.

The cuddly Sesame Street doll caused people across the nation to empty their pockets, brawl and steal just to get Elmo under the Christmas tree.

Elmo opportunists took advantage in the Midlands as well, running newspaper advertisements seeking to unload their coveted Elmo for as much as $800. The doll's retail price was about $27.

Caroline Corley of Columbia was asking $500 for the doll she bought in September, before the nation became enamored with the character. She said she got a few calls, but no serious offers.

The story was the same for Mandy York of Pelion who ended up with two Elmo dolls for her 1«-year-old daughter. She only got one call about her advertisement, which offered Elmo for $500.

Barry Brantley of Forest Acres also wanted $500 for his Elmo, but after much goading by family members, decided to donate it to a sick child he had heard about at his church.

Driver in fatality sought

CHARLESTON - The driver of a car that hit a barrier along Interstate 26, killing two passengers, is missing and sought by police.

Gerald Ferguson, 24, of North Charleston and Shanton Ferguson, 15, of Charleston County died in the wreck Thursday morning. The victims were cousins, Deputy Coroner Judy Koelpin said.

The driver of the car apparently ran from the scene, said Charleston police Capt. Thomas Robertson. The driver was still missing Friday afternoon.

The car was traveling at high speed when it hit a barrier between the interstate and an exit ramp, Capt. Robertson said. The cousins were thrown from the car.

Stolen angel to be replaced

UNION - A new glass angel will likely replace the one taken from the memorial at the lake where Susan Smith drowned her two sons, but it may be moved to the boys' tombstone.

The solar-powered angel glowed red at night, but it was gone last week. Officials suspect vandals.

The angel sat atop a granite monument with a photo of 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex and a poem to the "two little angels with beautiful smiles." Visitors this week left a concrete angel at the monument, along with candy and toys.

On Oct. 25, 1994, their mother strapped the boys into their car seats and rolled the car into the lake. For nine days she maintained they were abducted by a carjacker, then confessed. She is serving a life sentence.

Paula Richburg, the Lexington woman who commissioned the granite memorial, said the South Dakota company that made the angel would replace it for free, if she covered shipping costs.

She said she will talk with David Smith, the boys' father, about the new angel.

"We are going to have to look at where the angel will be safest," she said. "I'm not going to let someone take this memorial away from these kids."

Man charged in Christmas death

DILLON - A Dillon man has been charged with the slashing death of a man at a hotel on Christmas Day.

Chuck Sweat, 36, was arrested Wednesday afternoon at a Dillon County motel and charged with killing Calvin Davis of Dillon.

Mr. Davis, 32, was cut as he left the motel late Wednesday morning, said sheriff's Lt. James Campbell. Mr. Davis' jugular vein was cut deeply, said Dillon County Coroner Dan Grimsley.

Lt. Campbell said deputies were still looking for the weapon, believed to be a pocket knife.

The men apparently had argued about some jewelry, Lt. Campbell said.