Originally created 05/27/98

Local and area briefs



Inspection of pipecloses Berkmans

Berkmans Road was closed Tuesday between Heath Drive and Cherry Lane as contractors worked to install a device in a 42-inch water pipe so Augusta utilities workers may inspect it.

"With luck, (the road will be closed) a day," said James Rush, a civil engineer with the city utilities department. "If everything goes wrong, (it will be closed) two to 2 1/2 days."

To avoid the construction area, traffic and engineering officials advised motorists to take Cherry Lane or Heath Drive.

Man indicted in stabbing death

An Augusta man accused of stabbing another man who was trying to protect his mother was indicted Tuesday on felony and malice murder charges.

The Richmond County grand jury issued the indictment against Eddie Ruffin, 47, of the 1900 block of Lionel Street. He is accused of stabbing to death Ronald Merritt, 36, Feb. 28.

Richmond County sheriff's investigators believe Mr. Merritt was trying to defend his mother against Mr. Ruffin, who had forced his way into the woman's home in the early morning hours.

Mr. Ruffin has been held in jail without bond since his arrest. He should be arraigned next month.

Escaped convict still at large

David Suba, the convicted Healthmaster conspirator and money-launderer, was still at large Tuesday -- eight days after he walked away from a federal prison work detail at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Mr. Suba, 48, was sentenced on Oct. 31, 1995, to 97 months for money-laundering, mail fraud and general forfeiture for siphoning more than $1.7 million from Medicare. He was incarcerated at the minimum-security military base prison near Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

The search for Mr. Suba has been turned over to U.S. marshals in Pensacola, prison spokeswoman Myra Lowery said. Prison officials notified Fort Walton Beach police, federal marshals and court officials in Augusta, where Mr. Suba's federal trial took place in 1995.

Identity of body still unknown

Authorities on Tuesday still didn't know the identify of a man whose body was discovered Sunday in the parking lot of First Union Bank on Gordon Highway.

Richmond County sheriff's investigators had hoped to have preliminary autopsy results and results of a fingerprint analysis by Tuesday afternoon, but the work wasn't complete.

The man, who was white and appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s, had dark eyes, shoulder-length brown hair and a mustache. He was wearing green pants, a predominantly red plaid shirt and a red baseball cap. His body was discovered by a customer using the bank's automated teller machine.

The body was found near a shopping cart filled with aluminum cans and plastic bags. The man likely was homeless, sheriff's Investigator Dewayne Piper said. The victim had blood on his face, but investigators don't know if he was beaten or injured when he fell against the pavement. Anyone with information on the man's identity or the circumstances of his death can call police at 821-1080.

Child-care centers lose funds

ATLANTA -- Nine child-care centers, which mostly served low-income children, have lost their lottery-funded pre-kindergarten programs after failing to meet state standards. None was in the Augusta area.

The centers received numerous warnings about failing to meet state standards before the money was revoked, said Celeste Osborn, director of the pre-K program for the Office of School Readiness.

The state runs 925 pre-K programs throughout Georgia and visits each one at least three times a year. About 60 percent of the programs are run by private providers.

The infractions by the nine centers included health and safety hazards, inadequate equipment and supplies, inadequately trained staff, or problems with class rosters, officials said.

Girl charged with soliciting crime

ROME -- A 15-year-old girl who offered a classmate $100 to kill another student was charged with soliciting a crime and suspended from school.

The Armuchee High School 10th-grader, whose name was not released, was charged last week.

"The school took the threat seriously, although no money changed hands and the act was not carried out," said Gary Conway, an investigator with Floyd County police.

Another student heard the conversation, which took place at the school, and reported it to Principal Tony Bethune. The girl admitted to Mr. Bethune that she made the offer.

The principal suspended her and notified police in light of recent reports of violence in schools.

Her suspension will last the remainder of the school year, and she must attend a transitional school next fall.

Catawbas to build senior center

ROCK HILL -- The Catawba Indian Nation will build a 2,700-square-foot senior center to give tribal elders a place to teach younger members.

"The seniors have been meeting at the Longhouse in a room, and we were worried that they didn't have space to meet and teach children," said Larry Long, executive director of Iswa Development Corp., part of the Catawba Indian Nation.

Construction on the proposed center, which could cost $200,000 to $250,000, is slated to begin in July and end by Christmas or early spring.

The building will be paid for with money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, contributions from the tribe and a federal Department of Agriculture grant.

The center will consist of a dining room to seat 60 people, offices, a large kitchen, fireplace, porch and deck. It will be one story high and similar to the existing Longhouse, with cedar siding.