Originally created 01/09/98

Local and area briefs



Columbia County delays referendum

A referendum for a new Columbia County judicial complex will not go before voters until July -- four months after first planned.

"We just cannot get things ready or organized or do the things we think we've all got to do in that short a period of time," said Columbia County Commission Chairman Jim Whitehead.

Commissioners had hoped to take the issue before voters March 17 with a referendum on a tax increase to finance the complex, estimated to cost $25-30 million. The new projected election date is July 21.

The matter will be presented to county voters as two questions -- one dealing with the jail and the other with the courthouse. The referendum, if approved, would raise the millage by one mill.

Residents want road closed

Travelers who use Spring Grove Drive as a shortcut to Glenn Hills Drive may have to find an alternate route if residents of Breeze Hill subdivision were successful in convincing county officials to permanently close a portion of the road.

About 40 residents of Breeze Hill met with Richmond County traffic engineer James Huffstetler on Thursday to discuss problems of unwanted traffic and speeding through the South Augusta community near Deans Bridge Road and Glenn Hills Drive.

The Augusta-Richmond County Commission will decide this month whether to close Spring Grove Drive.

Residents expressed frustration with unnecessary access to the community, which they believe will lead to crime. Some said they've had pets killed by speeding cars.

Baker pushes PIN security

Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker was in Augusta on Thursday to push for a new law that would make it a crime to steal personal identification numbers.

Currently, only two states -- California and Arizona -- make it a crime to steal personal identification numbers, Mr. Baker said. Right now, Georgia district attorneys, like those in most other states, can't prosecute until money is stolen from accounts.

If Mr. Baker's suggestion becomes law, just stealing the numbers -- without taking any money -- would be illegal.

In Richmond County, about 10 cases of such fraud are reported every day, District Attorney Danny Craig said. More than 90 percent involve credit-card numbers copied by sales clerks, he said.

Jury convicts in jail-attack case

After deliberating about five hours, a Richmond County Superior Court jury convicted an Augusta man Thursday of trying to hurt county jailers.

Jason Damon Hankerson, 20, was convicted of two counts of obstruction of a law enforcement officer. Mr. Hankerson failed to obey Richmond County jailers' commands and tried to strangle one deputy and charged at others Oct. 26. No sentencing date has been set.

Mr. Hankerson is awaiting trial along with his brother Boise Eugene Hankerson, 19, on charges of aggravated assault and robbery. They are accused in two July drive-by shootings.

Ticket bought in Augusta wins

Passing through Augusta turned out to be a winning experience for an Atlanta woman who won $95,435 with a Fantasy Five Lottery ticket she purchased at a Smile Gas Station on Sand Bar Ferry Road.

Betty Walls was one of two winners of Tuesday's drawing for the $190,870 jackpot.

For selling the wining ticket, Smile Gas will receive a $2,000 retailer incentive from the Georgia Lottery Corporation.

After realizing she was a winner, Mrs. Walls placed the ticket on the kitchen table and invited family members over to see it.

A retired 61-year-old grandmother, Mrs. Walls plays the lottery often and plans to invest some winnings and pay off some bills.

Red Cross short O-, B-type blood

The South Carolina Region of the American Red Cross is seeking immediate blood donations of type O and B blood due to low supplies.

All interested, healthy volunteers are asked to call their local Red Cross office to make an appointment and give blood.

In Aiken, the Red Cross Blood Services office is located at 950-A Millbrook Ave. The phone number is (803) 642-5180. In Augusta, call 868-8800.

Red Cross officials said they prefer to have a three- to four-day supply, but at present they are operating on less than a one-day supply, which is limiting what they can give to hospitals.

Waiter found stabbed to death

ST. SIMONS ISLAND -- A St. Simons Island waiter was found slain early Thursday on a lawn near his oceanview apartment.

Police said they have no motive or suspects in the stabbing murder of Ernest Lon McMurchy, 41.

Capt. Jack Hopper of the Glynn County Police Department said Mr. McMurchy's body was found about 7:50 a.m. by a woman visiting the neighborhood, who reported a man lying in the condominium's front yard.