Originally created 02/18/99

TV reporter's notes at odds with testimony



Repeatedly during attorney William Lumpkin's capital murder trial, the jury has heard that the state's star witness didn't know what happened to a homicide victim's body.

But even before the body of Martinez real estate agent Stan White was found in the Savannah River on Sept. 5, 1996, the Richmond County Sheriff's Department was told by a television reporter that Augustus Williams said the body "was floating somewhere down the Savannah River."

Chief Deputy Ronald Strength, who received that information, is expected to be the prosecution's final witness in the 14th day of testimony in Mr. Lumpkin's trial.

Mr. Lumpkin, 52, has pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to charges of murder and theft.

In all, the jury has heard Mr. Williams' account of what happened to Mr. White five times -- from the prosecutor's opening statement, during two days of testimony by Mr. Williams, through the playing of two separate tape-recorded sheriff's interviews with Mr. Williams, and lastly on Wednesday when Sgt. Wayne Pinkston gave a recitation of Mr. Williams' account.

Mr. Williams testified that Mr. Lumpkin planned and prepared to slay Mr. White, lured the 64-year-old man to his downtown Augusta law office on Sept. 2, 1996, and then killed him. Mr. Williams has consistently maintained that although he helped Mr. Lumpkin carry a body wrapped in camouflage tape out of the office and load it in the back of Mr. Lumpkin's car, he didn't know what Mr. Lumpkin did with the body after that.

On Wednesday, attorneys debated the value of notes of a former local television reporter. Carolyn Moore, who now lives out of state and refuses to return to Augusta to testify under subpoena, received a call from Mr. Williams the morning of Sept. 4, 1996, about knowing an attorney who killed a man. In answer to her question about the body, Mr. Williams replied it was floating down the Savannah River, said defense attorney Michael Mears.

Mr. White's body was found in the Savannah River near Allendale, S.C. A rope connected to two mushroom-shaped anchors was tied around the body, according to trial testimony.

On Wednesday, Sgt. Pinkston testified that he tracked down a store that sold similar anchors, and on Nov. 8, 1996, a clerk identified Mr. Lumpkin as the man who bought two anchors a week or two before Labor Day, Sept. 2, 1996.

Under cross-examination, Sgt. Pinkston insisted the clerk identified Mr. Lumpkin from a photographic lineup, not because she had seen Mr. Lumpkin's photograph in newspapers and on the television when he was arrested on murder charges.

Also under cross-examination, Sgt. Pinkston acknowledged that the manufacturer that provided that store with anchors informed him that neither it nor its alternate anchor supplier made anchors like the ones tied to Mr. White's body when it was found.

If the prosecution concludes its case today, the defense will begin presenting evidence.

In his opening statement to the jury last week, attorney Michael Garrett said Mr. White was killed at Mr. Lumpkin's law office but that it was Mr. Williams who struck the fatal blows.

Sandy Hodson covers courts for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com