Originally created 03/02/98

Local and area briefs



Illegal race fatal, authorities believe

McCORMICK, S.C. -- One woman is dead and another critically injured after her car slammed head-on into a tree during what authorities say was an illegal race with another vehicle.

Sharon Levone Murray, 24, of McCormick died Friday night after she was struck by the other car and ran off the road, McCormick County Coroner Faye Puckett said.

Kristen Michelle Murray, 20, of Greenwood was trapped in the car, requiring rescuers to cut her out. She was in critical condition at Self Memorial Hospital, Highway Patrol spokesman Cpl. Mark Gosnell said.

James Winston, 20, of McCormick was driving the other vehicle, Cpl. Gosnell said. He is charged with reckless homicide, leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury, racing on a public road and carrying an open container.

Serial rape suspect goes to trial

WALHALLA -- Separated by 250 miles and six years of legal wrangling from the string of sexual assaults in the Charleston area, Duncan Proctor goes to trial this week as the suspected "Lowcountry Rapist."

Mr. Proctor, 35, has been linked to 27 rapes over a two-year period. Authorities say DNA evidence places him at the scene of 17 attacks.

He is accused of four counts of criminal sexual conduct and one count of burglary in connection with an April 1991 assault on a Charleston woman. The trial is expected to last three days.

The North Charleston resident faces a possible 30 years in prison on each of the rape charges and life on the burglary count.

Lake to close for draining

GAFFNEY -- Sediment and fishing have taken a toll on Lake Cherokee, prompting state officials to close and drain the 50-acre man-made lake.

The lake will close June 10, allowing workers to use heavy equipment in an attempt to improve the lake habitat. Plans call for the lake to reopen June 1, 2000.

Natural Resources Department officials plan to dig up sediment that has collected around the edges of the lake, providing a natural habitat for aquatic plants that interfere with fishing and boating.

The department will also restock the lake with largemouth bass, bluefish and catfish to balance the lake ecosystem. The lake will stay closed until the fish have spawned.

Sinking land causes road repairs

CHARLESTON -- After years of detours on Charleston's western peninsula, work on two major roads is set for completion this spring. But it may not be long before work crews are called out again.

Much of the city's western edge was built on filled land, making it much softer than other areas. Soil sinking is common in the areas that were once marsh.

"What we do today might last three to four years. Then again, it may not," said Jim Roe, state Transportation Department project manager.

The overpass on Spring Street leading out of Charleston opened about 14 months ago, but a road paving crew already has had to patch it up.

Engineers say the soft land is to blame for the millions of dollars being pumped into road projects in the city.

City Councilman Robert George, a civil engineer, said the western peninsula is like a sponge saturated with water. It takes less time, weight and pressure for it to cave in.

County puts bounty on beavers

BENNETTSVILLE -- Beavers are causing water to back up in ditches and are damaging dirt roads in Marlboro County. But officials think they have an answer to the furry brown problem -- paying citizens to trap the nuisance animals.

The county began its beaver-trapping program in January, after budgeting $3,750 to pay registered trappers $25 a tail.

Police upgrade communications

GREENVILLE -- After years of slow computers or having old-fashioned radios fail through the rolling peaks and valleys of the Upstate, things are looking up for Greenville County law enforcement.

Greenville police and the sheriff's department are upgrading their communications systems and adding in-car computers. Sheriff's Sgt. Lee Owens says they're moving into an almost paperless system.

Both agencies will outfit their officers this year with mobile data terminals that link directly to the records division, national crime databases and their supervisors.

Greenville police Chief Mike Bridges said the computers will help in potentially dangerous calls. Officers can check on previous calls to that address, if weapons or drugs were involved and if anyone resisted arrest.

Pupils sew blankets for babies

SPARTANBURG -- It began as a lesson in sewing basics for seventh-graders, but that will make little difference to the tiny recipients of the finished products.

Landrum Junior High School teacher Dee Bunn and the six members of her Baby Blanket Club gave their hand-stitched blankets to babies exposed to the AIDS virus.

"It took a long time. But I wanted to do something good for someone else," 13-year-old Casey Maltba said. Her blanket, wrapped in white paper, was one of those given to the Department of Health and Environmental Services nurses who work with HIV-positive babies in Spartanburg.

Ms. Bunn's original idea was to have the members crochet decorative edges onto pieces of blue and pink fabric. But after she discovered that the six girls in the club didn't know how to crochet, she taught them a simple hem stitch to finish the blankets.

Government meetings this week

Today:

North Augusta City Council, 7 p.m., municipal building, Buena Vista Avenue.

Edgefield Town Council, 7 p.m., town hall, Main Street.

Tuesday:

Augusta Commission, 2 p.m., eighth floor, municipal building.

Edgefield County Council, 6 p.m., county building, Jeter Street.

Aiken County Council, 7 p.m., county council annex, Richland Avenue.

Barnwell County Council, 7 p.m., agriculture building, Courthouse Circle.

McCormick Town Council, 7 p.m., town hall, Augusta Street.

Columbia County Commission, 6:30 p.m., courthouse, Appling.

Thursday:

Augusta-Richmond County Museum Board, noon, Sixth and Reynolds streets.

Augusta Aviation, Bush Field, 11 a.m., director's conference room, Bush Field.

Columbia County Planning Commission, 6:30 p.m., Evans Government Complex auditorium.