Originally created 07/06/97

Local and regional briefs



Holiday traffic moving safely

Aside from a few fender-benders, the Fourth of July has been surprisingly quiet in the area, traffic officers said Saturday.

"In this area, we've had a few accidents, but nothing life-threatening and no fatalities," Senior Operator Robert L. Stevens of the Georgia State Patrol post in Thomson said Saturday. "No boating or fireworks-related accidents either. We probably still have some folks who'll have displays later tonight, so it remains to be seen whether or not we'll get any reports in."

Public safety officials predicted 19 traffic deaths across Georgia this holiday weekend, and there had been 12 fatalities by Saturday afternoon, Mr. Stevens said. The holiday period ends at midnight.

Center wins crime grant

AIKEN - The Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons has been awarded a state grant of $17,112 to help Aiken County crime victims.

The money will pay a volunteer coordinator to work with CAAP.

Awarded annually, the grant is part of $400,000 handed out by the State Victims Assistance Program. The money is collected from wages earned by prison inmates assigned to the South Carolina Department of Corrections' Work Release Program and is administered by the Office of Safety and Grants of the state's Department of Public Safety.

CAAP is a private, non-profit agency that coordinates services and emergency assistance for domestic violence victims and their families. It also provides help for victims of adult rape, child abuse, elder abuse and child sexual abuse.

Georgia auto thefts increasing

ATLANTA - Although there's been a national trend of auto thefts declining over the past five years, the rates in Georgia are still going up.

One out of every 42 vehicles in the state is likely to be stolen, authorities said. The National Association of Independent Insurers estimated 10 percent of insurance premiums represent theft costs. And falling recovery rates show more cars are being taken by professional thieves, not joyriding teens, officials said.

Good car thieves can break into some models in less than 10 seconds, and they can hot-wire a vehicle in less than three minutes. To circumvent steering wheel locks, thieves will simply cut the steering wheel and pull it off. Alarms are so common thieves sometimes drive away with an alarm blaring.

Five charged in slaying

LUDOWICI - Five people, including four relatives, have been charged in the slaying of a Long County man missing more than a month before his body was found buried in a tomato patch.

Authorities have suspected foul play since May, when Thurman Martin, 64, was reported missing by his 19-year-old grandson, Billy Crowder, Sheriff Cecil Noble said. Tomato plants were growing atop a 4-foot-deep grave before Mr. Martin's body was unearthed outside his home Thursday. He is believed to have been shot to death.

Mr. Crowder was arrested Thursday along with his sister, 15-year-old Katie Crowder, and their parents, 58-year-old Joseph John Stanton and 39-year-old Diana Crowder. Diana Crowder - the victim's daughter - is married to Mr. Stanton, Sheriff Noble said. A family friend, Jason Jordan, 17, of Jesup, also was charged, the sheriff said.

Preservation effort set back

ST. MARYS - An effort to keep 1,000 acres of Cumberland Island out of the hands of private developers was dealt a blow when a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee did not allocate funds toward purchasing the expanse.

Environmentalists had hoped Congress would allot $6.4 million for the so-called Greyfield Tract on the 20,000-acre island.

In March, the Nature Conservancy announced a plan to purchase the tract, located mainly in a coastal wilderness area, and hold it until the government purchased it.

Stolen medal replaced

MARION - This year's Fourth of July was particularly special for a World War II veteran who received a replacement for the Purple Heart that was stolen before he could even get it back to the United States.

Henry Bristow Thomas, 82, served in the Army's 170th Field Artillery Unit in England, North Africa and Italy, where he was wounded when a howitzer blew up. Two men died in the blast, including one of his best buddies.

Traffic death toll at three

SIMPSONVILLE - At least three people have died on South Carolina roads this holiday weekend, including Jerome Edward Wells, 48, of Fountain Inn, the Highway Patrol said Saturday.

Mr. Wells was found in the middle of Simpsonville's Main Street early Friday and police are searching for the truck driver they think struck and killed him.

Others killed include:

  • Mary L. Stephens, 34, of Islandton, who died after she got out of her vehicle and was struck by another vehicle along Secondary Road 27 in Colleton County.
  • Donald Jerome Jones, 34, of Allendale, who died after the vehicle he was driving overturned in Beaufort County on U.S. Highway 278 near Hilton Head Island's Port Royal Plantation.
  • - Compiled by Alisa DeMao