Originally created 02/07/98

Additional area news



Energy OKs search for waste solution

The federal government agreed Friday with Westinghouse Savannah River Co. that current efforts to resolve problems at Savannah River Site's failed In-Tank Precipitation Facility -- a $350 million plant built to process millions of gallons of highly radioactive waste -- should be suspended and alternative solutions sought.

Westinghouse SRC last month halted efforts to fix a problem with dangerous benzene build-up inside the facility, acknowledging that two years of tests had led nowhere. On Friday, the Department of Energy announced it has accepted Westinghouse's recommendation.

A technical team of local and independent experts now will examine ITP and possible alternatives, starting immediately, the agency said.

The ITP plays a critical role in SRS' effort to stabilize 34 million gallons of waste now stored in underground tanks.

Car-restraint seminar today

A seat belt and child-restraint demonstration will be held today at Pontiac Master GMC in Martinez.

The local coalition of the national organization Safe Kids, in cooperation with the car dealership and the University of Georgia Occupant Safety Program, are holding the demonstration at the dealership from 9 a.m. until noon at 3710 Washington Road.

Sylvia Thompson, regional coordinator for the university program, said employees of Pontiac Master have been trained on proper seat belt and child-restraint usage and they will show how it is done.

Vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of children younger than 14, and about half of motorists do not properly restrain their children, Ms. Thompson said.

Tax preparer pleads guilty

A Richmond County tax preparer pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to bilking the Internal Revenue Service out of more than $142,000 by filing falsified returns.

Ezra Hatcher Sr., 43, of the 3600 block of Soham Court in Hephzibah, could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on 44 charges of making false claims, U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. said. Judge Bowen did not set a sentencing date in court Friday.

Mr. Hatcher, who ran H.I.T. Business Services on Peach Orchard Road, admitted preparing false W-2 forms for employees without their knowledge -- forms that claimed large withholdings that weren't actually withheld.

He also admitted to falsifying the tax returns of customers without their knowledge, claiming financial losses or earned-income tax credits to gain a larger return, which he pocketed.

He kept a total of about $142,140, prosecutors said.

Teacher released on bond

A Harlem High School teacher was released on bond Friday by Warren County authorities, after being arrested on theft charges.

Jack Joseph Arnold, 58, of Arnold Road in Warrenton, was arrested Tuesday by Warren County and Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers, said GBI agent Mike Siegler.

Mr. Arnold, a special-education teacher with nine years' experience in Columbia County schools, faces both felony and misdemeanor charges alleging thefts of hay, farm equipment and other items from neighboring farmers in Warren County, Agent Siegler said.

Mr. Arnold was held in the Warren County jail until his release on bonds totaling $21,000, police said.

Columbia County School Superintendent Tom Dohrmann was out of town and could not be reached for comment on Mr. Arnold's employment status.

Assistant Superintendent Tommy Price did not return two telephone messages left at his office Friday.

Jury acquits in murder case

After deliberating about two hours Friday, a Richmond County Superior Court jury acquitted an Augusta man of murder charges.

Jerome Garrett, 35, pleaded not guilty to the charges and testified Thursday he didn't kill Thomas Douglas Jones, 58, in the early morning hours of March 4.

Mr. Jones, a disabled truck driver, was sitting in his car on Ninth Avenue when an armed assailant approached and fired a single gunshot through the passenger-side window.

The state's only eyewitness, an admitted drug addict and prostitute, testified that Mr. Garrett was the person who shot Mr. Jones. The murder weapon was never found.

Mr. Garrett currently is serving a fiveyear prison sentence for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. After he is released from prison, he will serve five years on probation.

Bond denied after victim dies

Bond was denied Friday for an Augusta man arrested on murder charges Jan. 22, after a neighbor he was accused of shooting in November died.

Edward Bernard Walker, 23, of the 1200 block of 13th Street originally was charged with aggravated assault in the Nov. 29 shooting of 30-year-old Alexander Martin, who also lived on 13th Street. Mr. Martin was shot once in the back of the head. He died in a nursing home Jan. 22.

Mr. Walker contends he fired at Mr. Martin and another man who were shooting at him after breaking into his home, attorney Ron Garnett said Friday in Richmond County Superior Court.

Judge Albert M. Pickett denied bond for Mr. Walker, who has two robbery convictions in New York.

Ex-banker admits embezzlement

A former branch manager of First State Bank in Wrens pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling more than $25,000 from the bank's vault in an effort to maintain her style of living.

Cheryl Elaine Sheppard, 42, could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. said in federal court. He did not set a sentencing date in court.

Mrs. Sheppard admitted taking money from the vault of the Jefferson County bank and lying about the amount that should have been in the vault during semiannual counts of the money.

She took money about 10 times during a 22-month period, prosecutors said. A new branch manager discovered the money was missing late last year.

Mrs. Sheppard told investigators that money from an inheritance she received from her parents had run out, but she had become accustomed to her lifestyle and was trying to maintain it, testified Keith Owens, a special agent with the FBI.

Rally for memorial to be held

The Aiken County Veterans Memorial Park Coalition will hold a rally today to help raise money for the Aiken war veterans memorial park.

The rally will start at 2 p.m. at the University of South Carolina Aiken Gymnasium.