Originally created 01/29/97

Metro and region briefs



District attorney seeks death penalty

District Attorney Danny Craig has filed notice his office will seek the death penalty if a 31-year-old Augusta man is convicted of killing a restaurant owner.

Edward Hawthorne Jr. of the 3000 block of Ellis Street, has pleaded not guilty to charges of felony murder, malice murder and armed robbery in connection with the Oct. 18 death of his employer, James Yuan, 52, of Martinez. Mr. Yuan, owner of the Lotus Chinese Restaurant, was found stabbed to death in his truck, which was in a ditch off Wylds Road.

In the notice filed Monday in Richmond County Superior Court, Mr. Craig cited three aggravating circumstances for seeking the death penalty: Mr. Yuan was killed during the commission of an armed robbery, Mr. Yuan was killed for the purpose of obtaining money and Mr. Yuan's killing was "outrageously or wantonly vile ... in that it involved torture, depravity of mind or an aggravated battery to the victim."

Suspect escapes from handcuffs

A school safety officer investigating an improperly parked vehicle discovered a loaded semiautomatic rifle at Butler High School on Tuesday, officials said. The suspect managed to flee despite being handcuffed.

The Mack 99 - the Chinese version of an AK-47 - was locked in the trunk of a stolen Chevrolet Blazer in the teachers' parking area, according to reports.

A student taken into custody managed to wriggle out of his handcuffs and through the partially opened window of a car, said Officer Eddie Lyle, who found the weapon. The youth was being sought, but his identity had not been released Tuesday evening.

"He was very slender," Officer Lyle said. "I double-locked the handcuffs, and after he was gone, they were still sitting in the back, double-locked."

Officer Lyle said he noticed the Blazer on Tuesday morning and discovered it was reported stolen from Atlanta. He stopped the student getting into the vehicle after classes, and a search turned up the weapon, he said.

Chamber OKs proposed tax hike

The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce announced its support of the 1-cent sales tax for education to be voted on in a March 18 referendum.

School officials estimate that a 1-cent sales tax would generate about $40 million over five years and would be used for construction projects and retirement of current debt, as well as slightly reducing property taxes.

Fort Gordon hosts auction

The Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office at Fort Gordon will conduct an auction of government surplus property on Wednesday, Feb. 3, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in Building 994 on 10th Street.

Items for sale include battle dress uniforms, air conditioners, clothing, store fixtures, household items, televisions, typewriters, refrigerators, computer equipment, dump trucks, used tires, desks and entertainment equipment.

The merchandise will be available for inspection on Friday, Monday and Tuesday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., also in Building 994.

Payment is by cash, credit card or certified bank check.

For information, call 791-1866.

Crash scrambles interstate traffic

ATLANTA - Early morning commuters were left scrambling during Tuesday morning's rush hour after a truck overturned, splattering thousands of eggs on a busy interstate highway.

Three of the five lanes of Interstate 285 were closed, clogging traffic for several hours, authorities said.

"It was three lanes of scrambled eggs," said John Spink, a photographer with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "A real eggbeater."

No one was injured when the truck from Country Charm Egg Distributors Inc. skidded and overturned, spilling cartons of eggs all over the roadway.

Fulton County police spokesman John Black said the accident occurred when the truck driver tried to avoid a spinning car on the highway.

Book pulled from shelves

GREENVILLE - The story of a teen-age girl with purple-orange spiked hair who befriends a disfigured man has been pulled off a middle school library's shelves after parents complained.

The book by Jeff Collignon called Her Monster was checked out by a sixth-grade girl at Lakeview Middle School. It was removed after Greenville County school officials got a swarm of complaints about it, said district spokesman Oby Lyles.

"The district administration has reviewed the book ... and determined that the book is inappropriate for middle school students," Mr. Lyles said without detailing what the district considered inappropriate.

The 1992 novel, described as a parody of Beauty and the Beast, had been recommended reading for young adults in a standard review used by school libraries across the state, the school's principal, Brenda Humbert, said.

Ex-husband settles out of court

YORK - A Rock Hill lawyer and a retired Family Court judge who traded favorable rulings for sex in a child-custody case have opted for a settlement instead of a potentially embarrassing civil trial.

Former Judge Sam Mendenhall and attorney Sam Fewell agreed Friday to pay an undisclosed amount to Edward Hall. The trial was scheduled to begin this week.

Wesley Bates, Mr. Hall's attorney, would not disclose terms of the agreement. Court documents show Mr. Hall offered to settle the case for $1 million on Jan. 8, but Mr. Mendenhall and Mr. Fewell did not respond.

Mr. Mendenhall and Mr. Fewell pleaded guilty in 1994 to soliciting sex for legal work and custody verdicts favoring Mr. Hall's former wife, Dorothy Carpenter. Mr. Fewell was paroled in July after serving 27 months of a 30-month sentence. Mr. Mendenhall served six months of an 18-month sentence.

Ms. Carpenter said in a 1991 sworn statement that Mr. Fewell required her to have sex with him after the custody battle with Mr. Hall left her unable to pay legal bills. She said Mr. Mendenhall later made the same demands.

"He told me that if I would do for him what I was doing for my lawyer, then he would guarantee that I would not lose custody of my daughter," Ms. Carpenter said.

- Compiled by Mike Hill