Originally created 08/29/98

Across the area

Police seek suspect

in bank robberyAiken Department of Public Safety is looking for a man who robbed Security Federal Bank across from the Kalmia Mall.

At about 3 p.m., a man walked into the bank, stood in line then handed a teller a note demanding money. He was given an undisclosed amount of money then left.

No words were exchanged between the robber and the teller, and no weapon was used in the robbery, said Public Safety Capt. Pete Frommer.

Police searched the area, stopping a few motorists who turned out to be customers who had left the bank.

Anyone with any information about the crime is asked to call the Aiken Department of Public Safety at (803) 642-7620 or the local office of the FBI at (803) 648-0728.

Officials investigate blaze

Fire officials are investigating a fire that broke out inside a recycled newsprint warehouse at Augusta Newsprint Co. on Doug Barnard Parkway on Friday night.

Kenneth Li, a spokesman with Augusta Newsprint, said damage to the warehouse was minimal and there were just a few papers smoldering at 11 p.m.

Nine fire engines responded to the fire, said Katrice Bryant, spokeswoman for the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.

She said the fire department received the call on the fire around 7:09 p.m. and arrived on the scene at 7:16 p.m. It took firefighters approximately 20 minutes to contain the blaze, but took several hours to extinguish the flames.

Authorities seize marijuana

The Richmond County Sheriff's Department seized about $20,000 worth of marijuana plants from a field in south Richmond County on Friday afternoon.

The pilot of a Georgia State Patrol helicopter, flying over the area on an unrelated operation, spotted the plants around noon and alerted the sheriff's department's drug task force, according to reports.

Authorities found 88 plants, ranging in height from 4 feet to 6 feet, hidden in a field on the 1600 block of Dixon Airline Road, said Sgt. Robert Partain of the drug task force.

The plants were almost ready for harvest, he said. Police also found buckets and fertilizer.

Officers don't know yet who was tending the crop. They also don't know who owns the rural land where the marijuana plants were found, Sgt. Partain said, but investigators will research tax records and question the landowner Monday.

"In most of these cases, especially in areas like that, it usually is not the landowner" growing the drug, Sgt. Partain said. "It's people trespassing on his or her land."

The 88 marijuana plants have been taken to the crime lab to be analyzed and weighed, Sgt. Partain said. They eventually will be destroyed.

Accused convicted of robbery

A Hephzibah man was convicted Friday of robbing three people in a south Augusta apartment complex about an hour before he appeared in court on an unrelated charge.

A Richmond County Superior Court jury deliberated more than five hours at the conclusion of Kerence Smith's three-day trial, and convicted him of three counts of armed robbery and one count of forgery. He was charged with the Feb. 2, 1996, afternoon robbery of three people in the office of Pinnacle Place Apartment, and with forging a $300 check that belonged to one of the victims.

Mr. Smith, 22, of the 3600 block of New Karleen Road, maintained his innocence.

A local defense attorney testified that he met with Mr. Smith on Feb. 2, 1996, at 2:30 p.m. just before Mr. Smith was arraigned on a shoplifting charge. The robbery occurred between 1 and 4 p.m.

No sentencing date has been set. Mr. Smith faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.Armed robber gets 35 yearsOne of two men accused of committing a series of armed robberies in April pleaded guilty Friday and received a 35-year prison sentence.

Anthony Larone Jackson, 27, of the 2500 block of Lyman Street, admitted in Richmond County Superior Court that he took part in the robberies of three drugstores on April 2, 4 and 8. Mr. Jackson, who had a 1992 robbery conviction in New York, received a combined 35-year sentence.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery, one count of robbery by intimidation, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Mr. Jackson's co-defendant in the robbery cases, James Levanus Scott, 22, of the 2100 block of Tubman Home Road, also was scheduled to plead guilty Friday, but he withdrew his plea and asked for a trial.

Mr. Scott is also charged with the drugstore robberies, and the robbery of a video store April 13. A trial date for Mr. Scott hasn't been set.

Suspect's bond request denied

An Augusta man accused of sexually molesting and exploiting a teen-age boy will have to await trial behind bars, a judge ruled Friday.

Terrance Lynn Wilcher, 48, asked for bond Friday in Richmond County Superior Court, a request strongly opposed by the prosecutor, who said Mr. Wilcher has a history of child-molesting.

Mr. Wilcher was sentenced to 10 years in 1988 in North Augusta for sexual exploitation of a teen-age boy. He served two years before his release on probation. Assistant District Attorney Kelly Brashear said Mr. Wilcher was convicted in 1993 of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and sexual exploitation of children. Ms. Brashear said Friday that Mr. Wilcher molested a 16-year-old boy for three years.

Defense attorney Leon Larke said Mr. Wilcher disputes the prosecution's version of events and that Mr. Wilcher has not been in trouble since 1988. Mr. Wilcher has been held in jail five weeks without bond, awaiting the setting of a trial date.

Brother replaces defendant

COLUMBUS -- A defendant in a Columbus dogfighting trial is still at large after his brother took his place in the courtroom.

Officials discovered Thursday the man beside the defense lawyer was the wrong Sang Lee after a full day of testimony in Superior Court in which Mr. Lee was accused of dogfighting.

Instead, Mr. Lee's younger brother, Sang J. Lee, appeared in court, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Moore told Judge John Allen just before the jury was to file in for the second day of testimony.


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