Originally created 09/14/99

Area briefs: City Council races to be decided today



AIKEN -- Aiken City Councilwoman Karen Papouchado faces challenger Don Sprawls in the only contested race in today's city election.

Mrs. Papouchado, who seeks a third term representing District 3 on the Aiken City Council, will square off against Mr. Sprawls, a businessman, in the Republican primary.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. The winner of the primary likely will win the Nov. 2 general election because no Democrat or Libertarian has filed for the office.

The remaining two incumbents, Democrat Beverly Clyburn and Republican Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, are unopposed.

AIKEN COUNTY

Suspect charged with murder

WILLISTON -- Police charged a man with murder Monday in a weekend shooting death that was sparked by an argument over a professional boxing match.

John Wesley Dunbar, 58, of Williston faces the murder charge in the Saturday night shooting death of Nelson Guzman, 37. The suspect claimed the gun fired during a struggle over the gun, but evidence collected during a Monday autopsy of Mr. Guzman contradicts that story, said Sgt. Steve Flowers with the Williston Police Department.

"It could not have happened the way he told me," Sgt. Flowers said. "The shooting happened from a distance."

Witnesses said the argument started over who would win this weekend's boxing match between Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. Mr. Dunbar was knocked down several times and hit in the mouth, leading him to get the gun and fire, Sgt. Flowers said. Mr. Dunbar is being held at the Barnwell County Detention Center without bond, awaiting arraignment.

Abduction plot alleged

AIKEN -- Police continued their investigation Monday into an alleged plot by a man to have his grandfather abducted.

Michael Dennis Wyatt, of 4 Cardinal Circle, Aiken, was arrested Friday on charges of conspiracy to kidnap and unlawful carrying of a pistol. He is being held without bond at the Aiken County Detention Center.

The arrest, announced Monday, came after the Aiken Department of Public Safety received a tip about a plan to kidnap 86-year-old Hayden E. Wyatt of Aiken. Police conducted an undercover operation Friday, which led to Michael Wyatt's arrest.

Police gave few details on the case and no possible motive behind the alleged plot.

Aiken police were assisted by the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, local FBI agents and police in North Augusta and Orangeburg.

AUGUSTA

Family loses home in fire

An Augusta family has been displaced after a fire tore through its manufactured home Sunday night.

Stacey Swiney -- a soldier with the 551st Signal Battalion at Fort Gordon -- his wife, Gail, and their two children were at a neighbor's home at a mobile-home park in the 4200 block of Windsor Spring Road just before 9 p.m. when flames engulfed their residence, said Richmond County Fire Department spokeswoman Katrice Bryant.

Food left cooking on a stove caught fire, starting the blaze. The home took extensive fire, smoke and water damage, she said.

If anyone would like to make contributions of clothing or household items to the family, call the mobile-home park's office at (706) 798-0495.

GEORGIAConsumer advocate battles raises

ATLANTA -- The governor's new insurance consumer advocate is asking Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine to deny a series of rate increases being requested by companies that sell Medicare supplemental insurance to senior citizens.

They are not the first rate increases consumer advocate Cathey Steinberg has opposed since her office was officially opened for business in July, and Mr. Oxendine has backed some of her recommendations.

However, Ms. Steinberg is concerned that some of the companies in the latest batch of rate requests may be pricing their coverage out of the reach of Georgia's seniors.

Ms. Steinberg has asked the companies to meet with her to explain their rate requests.

Under a new state law approved by the General Assembly in March, Ms. Steinberg's office was created to represent consumers in rate cases.

Thousands of Georgians buy policies to supplement the health-care coverage they receive from Medicare.

Ms. Steinberg said the five latest filings would raise premiums 20 percent or more. For one long-term care policy, the premiums would jump 37 percent for more than half of the customers for nursing home insurance, she said. "That's pretty high for people on a fixed income," she said.

Stalking ends in double death

FOREST PARK -- Police said a man chased down his girlfriend's car Monday, then shot and killed her and himself as her three children watched.

Stephanie Marie Houston, 29, called police about 6:40 a.m. from her car phone and said a man was chasing her. Police lost the phone transmission, but officers went to the scene and found two cars and the victims.

Ms. Houston, who had been shot once in the head, died shortly after arriving at Southern Regional Medical Center. The assailant, Shun Lamar Williams, 30, died at the scene from a gunshot wound to the head.

Ms. Houston's three children -- ages 8, 11 and 12 -- were in their mother's car during the shootings, said Forest Park police Capt. James Crockert. They were taken to stay with family members.

Police had a warrant to arrest Mr. Williams on Friday for allegedly threatening Ms. Houston with a gun, but they could not find him, Capt. Crockert said.

Judge orders murder trial move

TOCCOA -- A judge agreed Monday to move the murder trial of Christopher Matthew Smith out of Stephens County, although he did not decide where to move it.

Mr. Smith, 22, is charged in the shooting death of an 81-year-old Toccoa businessman, Edward Shockley, during a robbery attempt at Mr. Shockley's home in 1995. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Superior Court Judge John Langford granted a change of venue Monday because lawyers were unable to find an adequate number of qualified jurors after five days of questioning potential jurors in Stephens County. The prosecution and defense must now prepare a list of 20 other counties where the trial could be held. Judge Langford will decide on the county.

Mr. Smith, of Toccoa, was convicted in Volusia County, Fla., last month of trying to kill a sheriff's officer during a crime spree that began with Mr. Shockley's death. He was sentenced to life in prison in that case.

After his arrest in Florida in March 1995, Mr. Smith mugged for TV cameras and proclaimed himself a "natural-born killer."