Originally created 12/22/99

Across the area: Hot ashes cause apartment fire

Fire investigators determined that a weekend blaze at River Creek Apartments was caused by a resident who left hot ashes in a wooden stairwell, officials announced Tuesday.

An upstairs resident dumped hot ashes from his fireplace into a cardboard box and set them outside his front door next to a wooden stairwell. In less than two hours, the ashes caught fire and engulfed the stairwell in flames. When the fire moved into the attic space and the roof, the airflow helped spread the flames throughout the entire building, said Lt. G.B. Hannan of the Richmond County Fire Department.

The blaze destroyed Building 10 of the Center West Parkway complex. No one was injured, but about 30 residents lost almost everything in the quick-burning fire. Lt. Hannan said no charges will be issued against the resident, because the fire was accidental.

Donations for fire victims are being accepted at Rural/Metro Ambulance's West Wheeler Parkway headquarters and the River Creek Clubhouse. And until Thursday morning, donations can be dropped off at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 39 at 116-B Commercial Avenue, near the Martinez post office.


Morning wreck kills Appling driver

A 25-year-old Appling woman was killed early Tuesday in a car wreck at Hardy McManus and Washington roads when another motorist slammed into her vehicle.

Sheneta Garnett, of 7119 Storey Drive, died at 12:57 a.m. at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, said Columbia County Deputy Coroner Vernon Collins.

At 12:15 a.m., Michael Brown, 29, of Dallas, Ga., ran a stop sign at Hardy McManus Road and drove into the path of Ms. Garnett's westbound vehicle, said Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.

Mr. Collins said heavy fog at the time may have been a leading factor.

Mr. Brown was charged with running a stop sign, driving too fast for conditions and vehicular homicide in the second degree, Capt. Morris said. He was in Columbia County Detention Center on bonds totaling $7,000.


Police seek man in bank robbery

Police are asking for the public's help to find a bank robbery suspect.

Richmond County Sheriff's Department issued a warrant for the arrest of Milton Lee James, 42, on a charge of robbery by intimidation. Mr. James is wanted by the FBI on similar charges in an Atlanta bank robbery. Police say they believe Mr. James is in Georgia.

On Nov. 26 at First Union Bank in the 3400 block of Wrightsboro Road, a man handed a teller a threatening note, written on a bank deposit slip, demanding money. The teller handed over cash, and the robber left, blending in with the crowd at nearby Augusta Mall. A bank surveillance camera captured the robber's image on tape.

Police describe Mr. James as black, 5 feet 10 inches tall and 185 pounds. Anyone with information can call the sheriff's department at (706) 821-1080.


Bond set for teens in sex case

A judge granted bond Tuesday for 14- and 15-year-old boys accused of sexually assaulting a child half their age.

Augusta Judicial Circuit Senior Judge Bernard J. Mulherin Sr. set bonds of $15,000 and $10,000 for the youths, accused of aggravated sexual battery in assaults on an 8-year-old boy Dec. 11 and 13. As condition of bond, the teens are not to have contact with the boy or his family and are not to go into the boy's neighborhood.


Fireplace sets house ablaze

An unattended fireplace was blamed for an early-morning blaze that gutted an Aiken man's home Tuesday at 566 Chesterfield St., authorities said.

Stevie Hicks was not at home when the fire broke out at about 2:30 a.m., said Capt. Tom Galardi of Aiken Department of Public Safety. Firefighters found smoke pouring from the wood-frame home; it took about two hours to douse the flames, he said.

Mr. Hicks, the only person living there, had rented the house from Alice Norman of Aiken County. The damage was estimated at $35,000, which is the value of the shotgun-style house, the captain said.


Man links attack to custody battle

A New Ellenton man shopping at Wal-mart in Aiken said three men attacked him in the store's parking lot, where they told him, "This is getting you back for taking your daughter," a police report stated.

Corey Randy Enlow, 21, of Key Avenue, said there was a dispute between him and his ex-wife in November about their daughter.

On Sunday night, the three strangers asked directions, then jumped him, the report stated. One man punched him in the stomach, one grabbed his right arm and the third cut him five times on the arm with a knife or box cutter, he told authorities.

Mr. Enlow drove to the police department and reported the assault, but he was unable to identify the men.


Authorities look for store robber

Police are searching for a man who robbed a convenience store Monday night.

At about 10:30 p.m., Sang Pak, 25, the owner of Milledgeville Convenience Store in the 2500 block of Milledgeville Road, was counting the day's receipts when a man covering his face with a cloth pointed a handgun at him and demanded the money in Mr. Pak's hand, said Richmond County Chief Deputy Ronald Strength.

The robber took that money and money from the safe and ran outside and behind the store. Police described him as black, about 5 feet 6 inches and 160 pounds, wearing a black hooded sweat shirt.


Drowned soldier was to be wed

A Fort Gordon soldier who drowned when the car he was riding in crashed into the Arkansas River in Colorado was heading to Utah to be married next week, officials said.

Police identified him as Pvt. 1st Class Benjamin Donaldson, 20, of the 73rd Ordnance Battalion, Delta Company. His relatives were notified Monday night of his death. The driver and other passengers of the vehicle survived.

At 4:45 a.m. Sunday, the Ford Explorer the soldier was riding in ran off the road on Colorado Highway 50, tumbled down an embankment about 120 feet and stopped on its wheels in the river. The driver, Jack Lauritsen, 24, also of Fort Gordon, and two passengers, 11-month-old Aaron Lauritsen and Eleanora Lauritsen, of Weiden, Germany, escaped. However, Pvt. 1st Class Donaldson apparently couldn't get out as the vehicle traveled downstream, Colorado police said. Alcohol was not involved in the crash.

Pvt. 1st Class Donaldson had been stationed at Fort Gordon for only a couple of months as a trainee, said James Hudgins, the public affairs officer for Fort Gordon. A memorial service will be held at Fort Gordon, tentatively Jan. 3, when soldiers return from their holiday leaves.


James Brown to give away toys

The Godfather of Soul is giving the big pay-back to local children.

Entertainer James Brown will hold his annual toy giveaway at noon Thursday at Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St. Children should be accompanied by a parent.

Mr. Brown also holds an annual turkey giveaway at Thanksgiving.


Thieves remove Santa sign

The holiday yard sign said, "Santa, Please Stop Here."

But instead of the jolly man in red, thieves stopped by and swiped the sign and a 2-foot-high candy cane from the front yard of Lee and Madeline Fox of Aiken.

The Foxes called Aiken Department of Public Safety and reported the theft of the yard decorations, which likely occurred sometime Sunday night in Gatewood subdivision, Mrs. Fox said.


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