Originally created 04/28/99

Burned man charged in slaying of his girlfriend



A Hephzibah man who suffered first- and second-degree burns on his face was charged Tuesday with murder in connection with the death of his ex-girlfriend, whose body was found in a burning car last week.

Sajid Fitzgerald Leslie, 29, of the 2600 block of Portsmouth Drive, is being held at the Richmond County jail, said Chief Deputy Ronald Strength of the Richmond County Sheriff's Department.

Through dental records, the Georgia Crime Lab in Atlanta identified the victim as Lori Joe Hastings, 30, of the 2400 block of Groves Boulevard in North Augusta. Her body was found in the driver's seat of a burning Dodge Shadow parked behind a building at 2813 Regency Blvd. at 11:15 p.m. Thursday. Chief Deputy Strength said the car's interior smelled of gasoline.

Police still are waiting for toxicology reports to determine whether Ms. Hastings was alive when she was set on fire. Lab reports confirmed that there were no gunshot or stab wounds.

Mr. Leslie contacted the police Sunday night after investigators went to his home to look for him. He told police he had burned his face while working on the carburetor of his car.

Police determined Mr. Leslie's story was not true after an examination of his vehicle and carburetor, Chief Deputy Strength said. Mr. Leslie has been held at the jail since Sunday. Investigators can hold a suspect for 48 hours to gather evidence. After 48 hours, the person must be released or charged.

Mr. Leslie threatened Ms. Hastings in the past, Chief Deputy Strength said, although he wouldn't say whether Mr. Leslie has a record. Ms. Hastings was the mother of two children, but Mr. Leslie isn't the father, he said.

Jessica Rinck can be reached at (706) 823-3225 or jessica.rinck@augustachronicle.com.