Originally created 04/01/97

Local and regional news briefs



Man gets 15 years for molesting child

An Augusta man who sexually molested and raped a child from birth until age 5 received a 15-year prison sentence Monday.

Johnnie Albert Thomas, 45, had been scheduled to stand trial Monday in Richmond County Superior Court, but he opted to plead guilty instead to aggravated child molestation and child molestation charges. Judge William M. Fleming Jr. sentenced Mr. Thomas.

Mr. Thomas was arrested on Dec. 17, 1992. Mr. Thomas' case had been pending trial since his 1993 indictment. Except for a few months when he was jailed after failing to appeal for court, Mr. Thomas had been free on bond.

School expects record class

ATHENS - The University of Georgia accepted almost 70 percent of the nearly 12,000 students who applied for next fall,

The school anticipates enrolling its largest freshman class ever next fall.

"This year only about 3,500 students will not be offered freshman admission," Admissions Director Nancy McDuff said Monday. "Last year we had to deny 6,000 students."

She said almost 8,100 applicants were accepted for the 4,100 spaces targeted for full-time entering freshmen. Last year only 56 percent of 13,200 applicants were accepted.

Officials issue fire alert

COLUMBIA - High winds and low relative humidity have prompted the Forestry Commission to issue another red-flag fire alert, this time for all South Carolina counties.

The alert issued Monday does not prohibit outdoor burning, but warns the public of the increased wildfire danger, commission Fire Chief Miles Knight said.

"High winds coupled with low humidity provides the classic formula for wildfires this time of year," Mr. Knight said. Dead leaves, grasses and pine needles dry rapidly under current conditions, he said.

Ten firefighting tractors were used Saturday to contain a wildfire in Chesterfield County that burned nearly 1,000 acres, Mr. Knight said.

A red-flag alert was issued in mid-March for some coastal counties as a wildfire burned through an estimated 4,000 acres in Georgetown County. The alert was lifted four days later when rains eased the fire threat.

State to honor Thurmond

COLUMBIA - U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond will get a Statehouse monument in his honor, now that the governor has signed into law a resolution for one to be built.

Gov. David Beasley signed the measure Monday, along with a law naming the state's Folk Heritage Award after the late state Rep. Jean Harris, a 17-year legislator who died this year after a stroke.

Mr. Thurmond, a 94-year-old Republican who won election to his eighth term in November, served as governor, ran unsuccessfully for the presidency on a pro-segregation "Dixiecrat" ticket and then built support among black voters through strong constituent service.

The monument proposal flew through the Legislature in less than two weeks. Construction will be privately financed.

Lawmakers still are considering whether to allow a Statehouse monument to honor black South Carolinians.

Also Monday, Mr. Beasley signed into law ratification of a constitutional amendment that bars anyone with a felony record from running for the Legislature or statewide office.

Sticker upsets churchgoers

LAURENS - A sticker advertising a shop that sells Ku Klux Klan memorabilia was waiting for churchgoers at the door of their predominately black church here on Easter morning.

The sticker so upset some church members that a few stayed away from Sunday's service, said the Rev. David Kennedy, who has led several rallies against The Redneck Shop and has another planned for Monday.

The bumper sticker displays a Confederate battle flag, the words "We're here to stay," and the name and address of the store.

The owner of the downtown Laurens shop, John Howard, said he disagreed with whoever put the sticker on the door of the New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church.

"It's a shame that someone would do something like that," Mr. Howard said.

Mr. Howard said he has given away stacks of bumper stickers and that anyone could have done it.

The Laurens County Sheriff's office is investigating.

Stabbing death investigated

CHARLESTON - The weekend stabbing death of a Ravenel woman is under investigation by Charleston County sheriff's deputies.

JoAnna Odom, 28, was found dead in her mobile home about 1 a.m. Sunday after she failed to report for work at a service{gasoline} station Saturday night. She had been stabbed late Friday or early Saturday, deputies said.

The victim's brother, James Odom, said his sister had arrived home about 11 p.m. Friday after working at the station. A neighbor saw a strange car outside the woman's home about 3 a.m. Saturday, he said.

There was no sign of forced entry, said sheriff's Capt. Eddie Driggers.

Marina construction to begin

MOUNT PLEASANT - With construction of a new $12 million hotel at Patriots Point about half finished, workers are preparing to start construction on an adjacent marina that will be one of the largest in the state.

Work is expected to begin in mid-June on the 289-slip marina just across Charleston Harbor from Charleston. If needed, the marina can be expanded by 172 additional slips.

Men survive plane crash

ST. MATTHEWS - Three men escaped serious injury Monday when a small plane crashed just after taking off from a private air strip in Calhoun County.

Two men were treated and released from The Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, a spokeswoman said.

James Givens, 44, of Columbia and his brother-in-law, Mark O'Brien of Canton, Mass., 39, suffered only minor injuries, hospital spokeswoman Barbara Westbury said. Dr. Givens is chief of staff at Lexington Medical Center.

The third man in the plane was a flight instructor who was not hurt, Calhoun County Sheriff Dennis Jones said.

He did not know the man's name or know who was flying the plane when the crash occurred shortly before 10 a.m.

The plane came down upside down.

- Compiled by Mike Hill