Originally created 05/28/98

Local and area briefs



Augusta womancharged in death

An Augusta woman was charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death Wednesday of her live-in boyfriend.

Brenda Lee Lewis, 26, of the 3500 block of Monte Carlo Drive, was charged with manslaughter and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, said Richmond County sheriff's Chief Deputy Ronald Strength.

Ms. Lewis has said her boyfriend, Donald Mitchell Sutton, 36, of the same address, killed himself on his bedroom floor shortly after 10 a.m. But investigators say Ms. Lewis and Mr. Sutton struggled and Mr. Sutton was shot once in the head with a semi-automatic pistol.

Two men who were working outside the home, putting up a fence for the couple, told police there was a confrontation between the two before they heard a shot fired, Chief Deputy Strength said. When they heard the gunshot, one of the workers ran to a neighbor and called 911 and the other ran into the house.

On the recommendation of the district attorney's office, the chief deputy said Ms. Lewis was charged with manslaughter.

Man convicted of molestation

An Augusta man was convicted Wednesday by an Aiken County jury of one charge of sexually molesting a 12-year-old boy.

Kevin Paschal, 35, of the 2100 block of Walton Way, was acquitted on three other counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

"We're certainly more than satisfied with the jury's verdict," said Assistant Solicitor Susan Moody.

Because Mr. Paschal was convicted of a violent crime, he will serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole. When released, he will have to register as a sex offender, Ms. Moody said.

According to the indictments in South Carolina, Mr. Paschal assaulted the boy at various locations in Aiken County between last June 14 and July 28, according to court records. He was free on bond awaiting trial in Augusta on similar charges at the time. The charges in Augusta -- child molestation and enticing a minor for indecent purposes -- are pending.

Search for gunman goes on

Columbia County authorities were searching Wednesday night for a man who fired a handgun toward a Martinez woman before fleeing into subdivisions off Columbia Road.

The woman told officers she walked into her back yard to feed her dog at about 6:30 p.m. and saw a man behind a tree carrying what appeared to be a bag, said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.

The man fired one shot, then ran into nearby woods in the vicinity of Hillbrook and Merrymont subdivisions, Capt. Morris said. No one was injured, and deputies couldn't find a suspect.

Forest fire hazard growing

BRUNSWICK -- More than a month earlier than usual, hot, dry conditions have created a forest fire hazard in southeast Georgia.

Dry weather, in addition to pollution from an estimated 9,000 forest fires burning in Mexico, have led state foresters to ask southeast Georgians to refrain from burning trash or yard debris until the region gets some rain.

"We are still issuing burning permits, but we're asking people to put off doing any burning if at all possible until after we get some rain or the haze clears from the Mexican fires," Waycross District Forester Buck Wynn said. "We're hoping that out of courtesy, people will comply with it."

Smoke from new fires could worsen the haze, which has already led to respiratory problems for residents of some Southern states.

Legislator misses court date

ATLANTA -- State Rep. Grace Davis, D-Atlanta, failed to appear in court Tuesday on charges that she hit and scratched a neighbor in a scuffle involving a disputed property line.

Ms. Davis and her son, Curtis, 37, were charged with simple battery for fighting Saturday with Johnny Cooks, who claims the former Atlanta City Council member bit him.

Municipal Court Judge Andrew Mickle dropped a simple battery charge against Mr. Cooks because the Davises did not appear in court. The dispute involved the driveway that the Cooks and the Davises share.

Mr. Cooks said Curtis Davis attacked his van with a metal fence pole, breaking the windshield. He claimed in court Tuesday that the damage was about $1,200. He also said Ms. Davis bit him. She said Mr. Cooks tried to run over her son and that a fence pole her son was holding struck the window. She denied threatening or attacking Mr. Cooks.

City to buy storm-alert system

CUMMING -- The Cumming City Council has voted to purchase a storm-alert system, after tornadoes ravaged north Georgia this year.

The city will install a siren on its water tower to warn of approaching storms. The 125-decibel siren will spread the warning of an approaching storm over a two-mile radius. The 400-pound siren will cost $8,200.

Several locations in north Georgia have been considering some sort of warning system after twisters hit Hall and White counties in March and the Atlanta area in April.

College tired of credit cards

COLUMBIA -- The University of South Carolina says it no longer will take credit cards for tuition payments after the 1998-99 school year.

It costs about $500,000 yearly to administer the credit card paperwork, and each year that increases by about $50,000, said the university's finance chief, John Finan.

"You've got two types of people that use the credit card," Mr. Finan said. "People with financial problems that can't come up with the cash. Others simply want the frequent-flyer things."

About a quarter of the university's students pay by credit card, or about $30 million of $128 million in tuition paid in 1997. The school still will allow deferred payments. Administrators are considering an extra fee for credit-card users beginning this fall.

Company to settle spill claims

GREENVILLE -- Colonial Pipeline Co. will pay more than $13 million to settle legal claims from a million-gallon diesel fuel spill into the Reedy River almost two years ago.

The Atlanta company has agreed to pay $6.75 million to landowners along the river.