Originally created 08/31/99

Area briefs: Bloodhounds track burglary suspects



Bloodhounds from the Aiken Department of Public Safety tracked down two men suspected of burglarizing an Edgefield County home early Monday, authorities said.

A morning-long search led Edgefield County sheriff's officials to close sections of Martintown and Currytown roads temporarily while bloodhounds tracked the scent.

An Edgefield County man telephoned sheriff's officials at about 1:30 a.m. after seeing one man smoking while a second man tried to remove a chain saw near a garage, sheriff's Investigator Don Bullock said. The men heard a commotion and ran from the house, dropping the chain saw.

Sheriff's officers called the Aiken Bloodhound Team for help, and one man was found in a nearby wooded area at about 6 a.m. The other man tried to escape on the back of a passing pickup but was found.

Floyd Billings, 34, and Bryan Dean Williamson, 24, both of the 100 block of Oak Dale Drive in Clearwater, were charged with first-degree burglary. They were jailed without bond at the Edgefield County Detention Center.

Funeral home industry debated

Family members, funeral home representatives and cemetery owners spoke out about the funeral-home industry during a public hearing convened Monday by Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox.

The eighth floor of Augusta's Municipal Building was packed with angry customers and industry representatives awaiting their chance to go on record before the panel of state officials.

The main issue of debate was the lack of perpetual care in Augusta's cemeteries, particularly Hillcrest Memorial Park. Hillcrest, owned by the Loewen Group, has been under fire for incidents concerning perpetual care and lack of mausoleum maintenance.

Ms. Cox is conducting a series of hearings throughout Georgia to prepare legislation to regulate private and corporate-owned funeral homes and cemeteries.

Line break shuts off water

A water-line break in Apple Valley left 25 to 30 homes without water for about three hours Monday in south Richmond County.

An Augusta Utilities Department repair crew received a call at 2:40 p.m. about the break in the 3300 block of Jonathan Circle. Service was restored shortly after 5:30 p.m.

Other work on the water system in the Apple Valley area probably caused a stress break in the line, which is more than 30 years old and nearing the end of its life expectancy, said Brian Richards, construction and maintenance superintendent for Augusta Utilities.

A water-line break isn't unusual, he added, describing the incident as routine.

Man charged in auto break-ins

An Aiken man accused of trying to use a stolen credit card at a local gasoline station was charged in a series of car break-ins in the College Acres community during the weekend, authorities said Monday.

Joseph Richard Randazzo, 35, of the 1100 block of Cornish Street, was charged Sunday with 16 counts of breaking and entering a motor vehicle. Mr. Randazzo apparently targeted vehicles that were unlocked, Aiken County sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank said.

"It was as simple as lifting the latch of the door handle and opening the door," Lt. Frank said.

Vehicle owners reported thefts of credit cards, money, purses and electronics. The break-ins started Friday and continued through Sunday.

Mr. Randazzo was arrested at the BP gas station on Richland Avenue after University of South Carolina Aiken campus police went to the store in response to a report of a stolen credit card. Mr. Randazzo was jailed at the Aiken County Detention Center.

Victims forced to strip

An Aiken man and two passengers from Edgefield, S.C., were victims of a weekend carjacking by suspects who made the three take off their clothes and give up their van, Aiken police said Monday.

The 33-year-old Aiken man told authorities his 1997 GMC Safari van was stopped on Chesterfield Street at Hampton Avenue at about 2:35 a.m. Sunday when three men approached at gunpoint and forced him and his passengers out of the vehicle. The victims told officers the suspects ordered them to hand over a silk shirt and a gold necklace and to take off their clothes.

The three men took the van and left the victims naked. The victims ran to Y-Z Kwik Shop on Hampton Avenue and called 911.

Officers found the van on the 100 block of Phillips Street.

The vehicle had been set on fire and was destroyed, a police report stated.

Aiken man robbed at gunpoint

An Aiken man walking home from work was robbed at gunpoint and assaulted with a steel pipe, according to an Aiken County sheriff's report.

Jeff L. Toole, 40, said he was walking home at about 12:24 a.m. Sunday after working at Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. when a 1980s-model Toyota or Nissan pulled up next to him on South Carolina Highway 302 near Main Drive.

Someone got out of the car and pointed a gun at Mr. Toole, demanding his wallet. A second person got out of the car, retrieved the wallet and hit the victim on the head with a steel pipe.

When the victim awoke, the four-door car was driving away, Mr. Toole said. He told police there were four people in the vehicle.

Victim apparently shot himself

Aiken County sheriff's officials investigating a shooting victim Sunday at Aiken Regional Medical Centers found out the man accidentally shot himself in the leg while placing a pistol in his pocket.

Larry Wayne Redd, 45, of Langley, told his story to investigators from his bed in the hospital's emergency room, saying he was at a home on the 1600 block of Hatchaway Bridge Road in Aiken when he went to put his pistol in his pants pocket.

The gun went off, causing a round to strike Mr. Redd in the upper left thigh and exit the lower left thigh.

Nurses told sheriff's officials the injury was not life-threatening. Mr. Redd was released from the hospital by Monday.

Work on water line to continue

Although a leaking underground gas tank on Belair Road still requires cleanup, Columbia County officials will be able to complete work on a 20-inch water line halted two weeks ago when the contamination was discovered.

The county spent $11,000 to remove enough gas-soaked soil near 255 N. Belair Road to enable the final link in the pipeline to proceed, Emergency Management Director Pam Tucker said.

The property once was occupied by a Majik Market convenience store that went out of business, leaving behind an underground tank that now is leaking gasoline. Georgia's Environmental Protection Division is investigating to determine who should pay cleanup costs, Mrs. Tucker said.

The landfill will reopen Monday, Sept. 6, from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Alternative disposal sites for Saturday are the Richmond County Landfill on Deans Bridge Road, (706) 592-9634; Sample & Son Landfill on Columbia Road, (706) 541-1215 (yard waste); and Augusta Green Wood & Mulching on Old McDuffie Road, (706) 798-4080 (yard waste).