Originally created 01/26/99

Across the area



Woman dies in highway accident

WAYNESBORO -- A Waynesboro woman was killed instantly Monday after she apparently fell asleep while driving, striking an oncoming car head-on.

Carletta Lovett, 28, was northbound on Georgia Highway 56 at about 4:30 a.m. when she struck John Williams, 48, of Waynesboro, who was southbound on Highway 56 just north of Waynesboro, said Sgt. Karl Boerner, assistant commander of the Sylvania, Ga., post of the Georgia State Patrol.

Mr. Williams swerved to avoid Ms. Lovett and drove onto the west shoulder. But he couldn't help but be hit by Ms. Lovett, Sgt. Boerner said.

Ms. Lovett was ejected from her car and was declared dead at the scene.

Mr. Williams was listed in critical condition Monday afternoon at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

Wastewater system discussed

Augusta utilities officials met Monday in Atlanta with Georgia environmental regulators to discuss problems with the city's wastewater collection and treatment systems.

"It was an information meeting," said Jeff Larson, the permitting, compliance and enforcement manager for Georgia's Environmental Protection Division. "They came in to discuss the intent of our administrative order and its conditions."

An administrative order mandating a series of improvements to the Messerly Wastewater Plant was issued earlier this month by state environmental Director Harold Reheis after an audit revealed "significant compliance problems" and "major deficiencies" throughout Augusta's wastewater system.

State officials are evaluating a December spill in which 1 million gallons of raw sewage entered the Savannah River, Mr. Larson said.

The state has not decided the amount of potential fines to be imposed for that spill.

Teen gets probation for threat

A 16-year-old Evans High School student pleaded guilty Monday to transmitting a false public alarm at his school. Columbia County Juvenile Court Judge Jim Blanchard sentenced him to a year of probation.

The student, whom authorities would not identify because of his age, was charged Wednesday with taping a bomb threat to a classroom window, said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.

The threat was reported to police at about 1:30 p.m., shortly after a teacher found a note in a classroom. The school was evacuated, and students stayed out of class about 30 minutes while officials searched the school.

Suspect in slayings has hearing

A Grovetown man accused in the Thanksgiving Day slayings of three adults and an unborn child was back in Columbia County Superior Court on Monday.

Narciso Pascaio Pineda Sr., 48, of the 100 block of East Robinson Avenue, appeared in court for the first of many pretrial hearings concerning the appeals process associated with death penalty cases, said Assistant District Attorney Scott Connell.

Soon after a Columbia County grand jury indicted him in December, prosecutors served notice to Mr. Pineda of their intent to seek the death penalty. A trial date hasn't been set.

Mr. Pineda is charged with four counts each of felony and malice murder for the Nov. 26 shootings of Prisca Rosales Vazquez, 41, and her unborn child; her husband, Leonel Vazquez, 42; and their neighbor, Mario Molina, 42.

Sheriff's office rewarded by DEA

The Aiken County Sheriff's Office reaped a reward Monday for working with South Carolina and federal authorities to investigate the drug trade -- a check for $5,484.80 from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

James Matthews, resident agent in charge of the DEA in Columbia, delivered the check, proceeds from property seized during 1997 drug investigations.

"The drug business is a multilevel operation, so cooperation among agencies is key if we are going to significantly impact this illegal activity," Sheriff Howard Sellers said.

The federal government's asset-forfeiture program requires local law enforcement agencies to use seized assets that are returned to them to support further drug investigations in their communities.

The money is a bonus because federal regulations say that local governments, which fund law enforcement, can't treat it like a windfall. They can't cut an agency's budget because it received some shared money from the DEA.

Free health screenings offered

The U.S. Department of Energy will be giving free health screenings to former Savannah River Site construction workers.

Officials will kick off the program today at 11 a.m. at the program's outreach office at 1250-A Reynolds St.

The program is funded by the Energy Department and sponsored by the Building and Construction Trades Department. The Energy Department will pay the cost of the first screening for eligible workers.

Eligible employees include construction workers who were at SRS for at least 5,000 hours or who had significant exposure to asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, noise, radiation, silica, solvents or tritium.

The program also covers former construction workers who think they have serious health problems as a result of their work at SRS.

Adjutant general to retire

SAVANNAH -- After 40 years in the National Guard, Georgia's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Bill Bland, is retiring his wings and coming home.

Maj. Gen. Bland's retirement ceremony will take place Sunday at the 165th Airlift Wing's headquarters in Savannah, where he started his career with the Georgia Air National Guard in 1962. He and his wife, Harriet, plan to return to their Whitemarsh Island home.

During his eight-year tenure as adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Bland led the Georgia Department of Defense and commanded more than 12,000 volunteer and full-time members of Georgia's Army and Air National guards. He and his staff responded to blizzards and floods, directed 15,000 National Guardsmen working security at the Atlanta Olympics, upgraded the state's military capabilities and reorganized the state defense department.

He relocated the 116th Bomb Wing, including 1,000 people and eight B-1 bomber airplanes, to Robins Air Force Base near Macon. During the Persian Gulf War, Maj. Gen. Bland supervised improvements to the Guard's combat readiness.