Originally created 05/14/98

Local and area briefs



Man not guilty in molestation

A Richmond County Superior Court jury acquitted a 38-year-old Augusta man Wednesday of molesting a first-grade boy last fall.

Kenneth Jefferson Hunter of the 2500 block of Dublin Drive was found not guilty of aggravated child molestation at the conclusion of a two-day trial. Mr. Hunter pleaded not guilty to molesting a 7-year-old boy on Sept. 19 when he was staying at the child's home.

"The truth is that nobody knows what happened or who's telling the truth, and that is certainly reasonable doubt," defense attorney Jack Boone said. He noted the boy told different accounts about what happened, and his mother, who didn't report the allegation herself, initially told sheriff's investigators she didn't believe the allegation was true.

Mr. Hunter had been held in jail nearly eight months while awaiting trial.

Four arrested in botched holdups

Four men were arrested Wednesday morning in connection with two armed robbery attempts in Augusta.

Fredrick Hall, 22, of the 3500 block of Lumpkin Road; Shawn Johnson, 23, no address available; Bryan Mosby, 18, of Petersburg, Va.; and Louie Fromn, 18, of Vernon, Fla., were charged with two counts of criminal attempt at armed robbery, said Richmond County sheriff's Chief Deputy Ronald Strength.

About midnight Tuesday, four men in a dark-colored Honda Civic blocked a man pulling into an automated teller machine at the First Union bank branch at the intersection of Wheeler Road and Walton Way. Three men, one with a handgun, got out of the car and approached the man and demanded money. The man put his car in reverse and drove away while the four thieves got in their car and left.

About two hours later, a man with a gun approached another man who was getting out of his car in his driveway in the 2700 block of Lakewood Drive. The gunman demanded money but, before he could get it, he ran away and got into a car similar to the one described in the First Union incident.

A short time later, a deputy spotted the Honda parked at Beam Oil Co. on Gordon Highway. The deputy watched four men get out of the car and walk across Gordon Highway to Parliament Inn, where one of them was renting a room, the chief deputy said. The four were questioned and arrested by the deputy. A BB gun and several masks were found in the car.

Museums unite for day

Linked by free transportation on the city's trolleys, Augusta's museums will present a united celebration of International Museum Day on Sunday.

Participating museums -- the Augusta-Richmond County Museum, the Ezekiel Harris House, the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, the Historic Cotton Exchange Welcome Center, the National Science Center's Fort Discovery, The Lucy Craft Laney Museum, the Morris Museum of Art and Meadow Garden -- will be open from noon until 6 p.m.

International Museum Day, sponsored by the International Council of Museums, was developed to remind governments and the public of museums' roles in education, cultural exchange, and development of cooperation and peace. For information about events in Augusta, call 722-8454.

Cleanup continues in Edgefield

MERRIWETHER, S.C. -- Cleanup efforts will continue through the weekend in Edgefield County for victims of last week's tornado. People who would like to volunteer should meet at the Merriwether Fire Department at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Call Fire Chief Rudy Brooks at (803) 279-8001 for details.

The Aiken Baptist Association has also scheduled a cleanup day Saturday. Participants should meet at Sweetwater Baptist Church at 8 a.m. For information, call (803) 827-0897.

Second relief fund established

LINCOLNTON, Ga. -- A second relief fund has been set up for victims of last week's storms in Lincoln County.

The account was opened Wednesday at Farmers and Merchants Bank in Lincolnton, County Clerk Ruth Dittmer said. Donations may be mailed to Lincoln County Relief Fund, Farmers and Merchants Bank, P.O. Box 280, Lincolnton, Ga. 30817.

Donations may also be mailed to Lincoln County Relief Fund, Farmers State Bank, P.O. Box 99, Lincolnton, Ga. 30817 or the County Commissioners' Office, P.O. Box 340, Lincolnton, Ga. 30817.

Meeting planned on fare increase

The Aiken County Transit System will hold a public hearing today to get public comment on proposed rate increases and route changes.

The transit manager has proposed raising the regular rate from 75 cents per zone to $1, and raising the rates for elderly and disabled riders from 35 cents to 50 cents. Under the new rate plan, there would also be a transfer fee of 25 cents between buses.

Proposed route changes involve splitting Aiken and New Ellenton into two separate rate zones and eliminating one bus route to North Augusta.

The public hearing will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at Nancy Carson Library at 135 Edgefield Road in North Augusta.

Rescuer hailed as hero

ATLANTA -- The man who came to the aid of a MARTA bus driver who was under attack was greeted as a hero Tuesday, getting a citation for bravery and a $500 check from the transit system.

After Nathan Moore intervened in a May 2 knife attack on MARTA driver Joseph Parker, he was arrested when a routine check showed Mr. Moore was wanted in DeKalb County on a 1997 forgery charge.

Mr. Moore, who himself was injured by the knife-wielding man, was picked up the following week.

Rangers added for boat season

ATLANTA -- The state is adding 20 rangers to help enforce stricter boating safety laws that go into effect in the next two months.

Drunken boaters can be barred from the water for up to five years beginning June 1. They will also face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Starting July 1, boaters under 16 will need adult supervision to pilot a watercraft or will need to have completed a boating safety course.

Legislators toughened boating laws this year after 28 people died in accidents on the water in 1997. Meanwhile, the state Department of Natural Resources is getting an additional $900,000 to pay for 20 new rangers.

Under the new rules, children under 13 can no longer pilot large watercraft. Boaters under 21 with any trace of alcohol in their system will be charged with boating under the influence.