Originally created 12/29/96

Augusta's year in review: Jan - June



JANUARY

Dec. 31, 1995: Consolidation of Richmond County and Augusta takes effect in a ceremony at Bell Auditorium, making Augusta the state's second-largest city. Charles DeVaney leaves public life after 14 years as Augusta mayor and Larry Sconyers takes over as mayor.

Jan. 1: Jacqueline C. Williams becomes the year's first murder victim, shot by her estranged husband, Frederick Williams, who later pleaded guilty to murder. The incident brought criticism to the newly combined Richmond County Sheriff's Department for its handling of a 911 call by a friend worried that Mrs. Williams didn't show up for work.

Jan. 3: Freddie Handy is named mayor pro tem of the Augusta-Richmond County Commission.

Jan. 3: Richmond County school police chief Dianne Wasson dies of a heart attack. She was 40.

Jan. 6: Adrienne Brown, wife of legendary singer James Brown, dies in a Los Angeles clinic two days after undergoing cosmetic surgery. She was 45.

Jan. 11: Harlem police chief Phillip Hamrick is fired for golfing while on a training trip.

Jan. 11: The Dot Man - artist George Andrews - dies at age 84.

Jan. 15: The New Savannah Bluff Lock closes on the Savannah River, blocking the waterway to boaters traveling between Savannah and Augusta.

Jan. 16: Hundreds remember Adrienne Brown in funeral services at the Imperial Theatre, the first funeral in the facility's history.

Jan. 18: First-ever state report card measuring Georgia's public schools is released, prompting state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko to give all Georgia schools a "C-minus" for their performance. Mrs. Schrenko later says Richmond County schools deserve a "C" and Columbia County schools a "B."

Jan. 20: 17th-annual Futurity begins in Augusta.

Jan. 26: Two Butler High School students, Raymond A. Ramos and Carlton C. Frederick, are arrested and charged with killing a classmate, Jeremy E. Edwards.

Jan. 31: The Augusta Chronicle reports that Georgia Bureau of Investigation records being released Feb. 1 show just two of 12 county shop employees passed lie detector tests about stealing county-owned auto parts.

Jan. 31: Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, pushing his fledgling presidential campaign, stumps for votes in North Augusta. It is the first of many stops in the Augusta-Aiken area by top political candidates.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 1: After reviewing the contents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's file on the county garage scandal, Richmond County State Court Solicitor Robert "Bo" Hunter announced the misdemeanor charges of tampering with evidence should be dropped against former shop manager Wise "Buddy" Health and former parts manager John Medeiros. The nine-month, $60,000 GBI investigation was over and no felony charges resulted because the investigation couldn't prove thefts of thousands of dollars worth of tires and parts.

Feb. 4: Snow! Augusta is hit with snow and temperatures only reach 31 degrees as at least nine area county school systems decide to cancel school.

Feb. 5: Low of 11 degrees sets record for this date since 1917, when Woodrow Wilson was president.

Feb. 7: Jerome Frierson-Bey is arrested for the Nov. 1 robbery of the First Union Bank in Martinez. In a month, Mr. Frierson-Bey would make headlines when he escaped from the Columbia County jail with another bank robber, Christopher Jeburk, and the two went on a bank robbery spree up the East Coast.

Feb. 8: The Atlanta Commission for the Olympic Games releases Augusta area hotels from their contracts to hold 80 percent of the rooms for Olympic visitors. Only 7 percent of the rooms here had actually been booked by those coming to the games.

Feb. 9: A Los Angeles coroner announces that. Adrienne Brown, wife of singer James Brown, died of a combination of heart disease and the ingestion of the illegal drug PCP.

Feb. 10: The Augusta Richmond County Museum opens with 1,400 visitors at its new location. The 58-year old museum relocated from the old Academy of Richmond County building on Telfair Street.

Feb. 12: Essie M. McIntyre, 83, dies. She was the first woman to preach in Augusta in 1939. Rev. McIntyre helped found the Good Shepherd Baptist Church and served the Augusta community as a religious and community leader for decades.

Feb. 18: The body of Bridgette Williams, 34, of the 1100 block of Summer St. was discovered in a ditch near the intersection of New Savannah Road and Skyview Drive. Ms. Williams' stabbing death will be one of eight unsolved homicides in 1996.

Feb. 23: Healthmaster Home Health Care and owner Jeannette Garrison are back in the news, this time when two former employees file federal lawsuits alleging Ms. Garrison and several top executives fired them because they appeared before the federal grand jury which issued criminal indictments related to millions of dollars in Medicaid fraud.

Feb. 26: The Augusta Richmond County commissioners vote to fire internal auditor David Rollins following the news about the GBI investigation of missing parts and tires at the county garages. The GBI reported Mr. Rollins failed a polygraph examination, as did six employees. Only Mr. Rollins, who managed the garage off and on from 1991 to 1993, would be fired and no one faced felony charges as a result of the nine-month GBI investigation.

Feb. 28: Presidential Republican candidate Pat Buchanan stops in the area during a campaign swing. Supporters rally at Augusta's Bush Field.

MARCH

March 2: Aiken County joins the rest of South Carolina as the state's voters overwhelmingly endorse Sen. Bob Dole during the Palmetto States' presidential primary.

March 5: Georgia voters follow South Carolina's lead in choosing Sen. Bob Dole as their choice for the Republican presidential nominee.

March 7: Tornadoes, high wind and rain topple trees, crush cars and flood homes in the Augusta area.

March 13: Augusta Mayor Larry Sconyers asks the sheriff's department to conduct a criminal investigation into fired Internal Auditor David Rollins' use of a city computer.

March 14: After a six-month deadlock, the Richmond County Board of Education appoints Charles Larke school superintendent.

March 19: The U.S. Department of Energy announces it will cut 2,000 jobs from the Savannah River Site by October.

March 27: Convicted robber Christopher Jeburk escapes for the first time from the Columbia County Jail.

APRIL

April 3: Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle fires one detention officer and demotes another for their actions on Mar. 27, when Christopher Jeburk and Jerome Frierson Bey escaped from the jail. The two jail employees are disciplined for incompetence and violating procedure.

April 4: The Augusta Chronicle reports that some Augusta-Richmond County commissioners are considering buying or leasing parts of Regency Mall for government offices.

April 8: In Aiken, U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond announces his bid for re-election. The 93-year-old senator, seeking his eighth term, says he still had "unfinished business" in the Senate.

April 11: Thousands of spectators crowd the Augusta National Golf Club for the opening day of the 60th Masters Tournament. In a strong first-day finish, Greg Norman shoots a 9-under-par 63, tying Nick Price's course record, set in 1986.

April 13: Arsonists set fire to three churches in Barnwell, S.C. Rosemary Baptist Church, which has a predominantly black congregation, is the most severely damaged. Eventually state arson investigators offer a $15,000 reward for information about the fires.

April 14: After three days as the tournament leader, "The Shark" Greg Norman blows a 6-shot lead and suffers the biggest collapse in Masters' history. Nick Faldo, who finished the tournament with a 67 to Norman's 78, claims his third green jacket.

April 16: Residents honor opera diva Jessye Norman, an Augusta native, with special ceremonies at the Riverwalk and the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta. The Riverwalk Amphitheater and Ninth Street Plaza are named for the legendary singer, who also receives a key to the city.

April 18: Twenty-four amateur fighters vie for a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team during the 1996 Olympic Box-Off, Augusta's only pre-Olympic trial.

April 25: The military announces that 73-year-old Mateo Sabog, the Army's oldest soldier who disappeared 26 years earlier, will retire with full benefits.

April 28: Fugitive Jerome Frierson Bey, who escaped from the Columbia County Detention Center in March, is captured in a Patterson, N.J., motel room. His partner, Christopher Jeburk, is still on the lam, but police suspect he is staying nearby.

April 30: Atlanta's chief Olympic organizer, Billy Payne, tells E-Z-GO employees to brace themselves for the rush of the Olympics. He brushes aside concerns about slow hotel bookings in Augusta. "I'm warning you to get ready," Mr. Payne says.

MAY

May 3: The Federal Bureau of Investigation offers a $10,000 reward for information that directly leads to the capture of Christopher Jeburk, a fugitive from the Columbia County Jail since March 27.

May 5: Mario Fiori, the Department of Energy manager of Savannah River Site, misused his position and violated standards of ethical conduct when he secured a summer job for his daughter with a contractor to the Aiken plant. A probe by the Energy Department's Office of Inspector General also noted that the president of Westinghouse Savannah River Co., Ambrose Schwallie, helped his daughter get a job with the same contractor, The Augusta Chronicle reports.

May 7: Toxic emissions by Richmond County industries dropped by 550,000 pounds, according to a state annual report card on toxic releases. But total emissions statewide increased by 3 percent.

May 9: Christopher Jeburk is captured by FBI agents posing as yard workers at a rural Fayette County residence where the 20-year-old Columbia County jail escapee was living.

May 14: For the third time in two years, South Carolina goes to court to stop the federal government from sending foreign spent nuclear fuel to Savannah River Site. Gov. David Beasley says storing the nuclear waste at SRS could pose health hazards to workers and state residents.

May 19: In the months before Jessica Hackett was beaten to death, family members made at least nine calls to Aiken case workers trying to get the 9-month-old removed from a home rife with domestic violence, The Augusta Chronicle reports. Some family members of the North Augusta child now say their pleas were ignored.

May 22: Several area hotel managers say they will do everything they can to see that Linda Roberts is not named permanent general manager of Augusta's Civic Center complex. General managers of local Radisson, Sheraton and Ramada hotels say Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum policies and Ms. Roberts' management have driven away or jeopardized more than $5 million in convention business.

JUNE

June 3: The federal Department of Energy warns all SRS employees that they cannot violate standards of ethical conduct. The memo was prompted by allegations that SRS manager Mario Fiori acted unethically when he helped his get a job with a contractor.

June 5: Two Kennedy Middle School eighth-graders are arrested in connection with an attack on principal George Rogers.

June 10: Dr. Richard Borison, chairman of MCG's Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior, resigns from the college after being demoted amid allegations of research misconduct.

June 11: Six-term Sen. Strom Thurmond easily wins South Carolina Republican primary.

June 12: University System Board of Regents vote to change the names of seven schools, including Augusta College, to "state university."

June 18: Mayor Larry Sconyers casts the tie-breaking vote to defeat a proposal that would have cut $444,000 in annual tax subsidies to the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority.

June 21: Two Augusta women - Jameela McCullen and Kimberly Denise Williams - are arrested on charges of providing a car and preparing a campsite to aid the escape of Christopher Jeburk three months earlier.

June 23: For the second time in three months, convicted bank robber Christopher Jeburk escapes, fleeing from an isolated maximum security cell in the Columbia County Detention Center.

June 25: Lucy Laney High School girls basketball coach Otis L. Smart is arrested and charged with sexual battery of a former player.

June 27: Christopher Jeburk is recaptured by Columbia County Sheriff's Deputies in the woods behind Martinez Elementary School after Deputy Dennis Redman sees him walking down Flowing Wells Road.

June 29: A behind-the scenes plan by Mayor Larry Sconyers and the Augusta Commission to buy Regency Mall and make it a central site for city, school board, state and federal offices becomes public.