Originally created 03/02/98

Officials speculate identity



AIKEN -- Aiken County Sheriff's Office officials believe they have discovered the identity of the gunshot victim found in the woods in north Aiken County on Saturday.

"We think we know who it is, but we cannot release any information at this point," Lt. Michael Frank said Sunday evening.

He added that it was impossible to say how long the victim's body had lain in the woods near Bettis Academy and Fields Cemetery roads without the results of an autopsy.

Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend said the autopsy is scheduled to be performed in Newbury at 8 a.m. today.

She said details about the condition of the body were not sufficient to allow her to speculate on the length of time the body remained in the woods before it was discovered. It is believed that the man, thought to be from 30 to 35 years old, died from a gunshot wound to the head. He was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 220 pounds.

The victim was discovered Saturday at about 4:30 p.m. by a group of horseback riders in the vicinity of a utility-line clearing near the Edgefield County line.

"We have been conducting a nonstop investigation since the body was discovered," Lt. Frank said, but he would not speculate on when the identity of the victim would be released. The Edgefield County Sheriff's Office is assisting in the investigation.

The as-yet-unknown victim may be the third to die by violent means in Aiken County during the first two months of 1998.

On Jan. 4, Jantzen Keith Bradley, 17, died as a result of a gunshot wound after the noise from a late-night party he attended resulted in an argument with a next door neighbor. John Bryan Adams of Warrenville was arrested in connection with Mr. Bradley's death.

The body of Ashley Lee Burnette, 25, was found in the kitchen of his Willow Run Road apartment just outside Aiken by his girlfriend Feb. 14. Carl Anthony Smith, 37, of North Augusta has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Mr. Burnette's death.