Originally created 01/19/00

Across the area: Man robs bank in grocery store



A robber took a bag of cash from a bank inside a Kroger store Tuesday but dropped it outside the store when a dye pack exploded, police said.

The suspect -- described as a blond, white male in his mid-20s, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, 165 pounds and wearing blue sweat pants and a long-sleeved gray shirt -- walked into the South Trust Bank branch inside the Kroger at 2801 Washington Road at about 6:50 p.m., Richmond County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Ronald Strength said. The robber approached three female tellers, laid a plastic bag on the counter, said he had a pistol and ordered them to fill the bag with money, Chief Deputy Strength said. No weapon was ever shown or seen.

Complying with the man's demands, a teller placed an undisclosed amount of money in the bag, along with a dye pack -- a device designed to explode and make the money unusable.

Covered in red ink, the money was found still inside the bag about 25 yards from the east corner of Kroger, Chief Deputy Strength said. Police were searching for the suspect late Tuesday.

Victim's husband, child move away

The husband of a Jackson woman whose body was found in a wooded area Dec. 28 has regained custody of his infant daughter and moved to Louisiana, a family member said Tuesday.

Joshua Wilson, 20, was given custody of 3-month-old Kaitlyn on Friday by the Department of Social Services, according to Tiffaney Wilson's grandmother, Grace Turner of New Ellenton. The DSS office had given temporary custody Dec. 9 to Ms. Turner, but social service officials agreed last week to give custody back to Mr. Wilson.

Mr. Wilson moved Saturday to Church Point, La., where he is living with his parents.

Mrs. Wilson's body was found in woods off Bettis Academy Road 24 days after she disappeared. She had been missing since Dec. 4, when she took her baby to have a picture made with Santa Claus at a Winn-Dixie in North Augusta.

The same day, Kaitlyn was found abandoned at the Georgia welcome center on Interstate 20. Mrs. Wilson's car was later found in the store parking lot, and blood-stained clothes -- identified as Mrs. Wilson's by her family -- were found in a trash bin behind nearby Discount Auto Parts.

A toxicology report and final autopsy reports on Mrs. Wilson's body have not been released.

AIKEN COUNTY

Accident claim's driver's life

A Wagener man died in a one-car crash on Old Wagener Trail Road late Monday when he lost control of his vehicle around a curve and rolled it in a stand of trees, authorities said.

Roosevelt James, 45, of the 200 block of Holley Street, was not wearing his seat belt in the 9 p.m. accident, Aiken County Deputy Coroner Tim Carlton said. The 1986 BMW rolled several times near some small trees, ejected him from a rear window and came to rest on top of him.

"It was a gradual curve, but based on the skid marks, you can tell that he just didn't make the curve," Mr. Carlton said. The coroner's office is awaiting test results to determine whether Mr. James had been drinking.

Mr. James, who worked at South Congaree Housing as a mobile home setup employee, was the fourth fatality of the year in Aiken County. He is survived by his wife and a 10-year-old daughter.

COLUMBIA COUNTY

Groups to meet on utility fees

Columbia County officials will meet with several businesses and industries to discuss charges associated with the upcoming stormwater utility fees.

County Engineer Jim Leiper said the meeting will allow the county to explain how the utility will work and why the county chose to use the utility. The meeting begins at 2 p.m. today at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

"I've only gotten one phone call from a company," he said. "They expressed concern about the amount of their bill, which is understandable."

To deal with stormwater damage along Reed Creek and other areas, county officials hope to implement a stormwater utility early next year.

The county is going to charge $1.75 per 2,000 square feet of impervious surface -- anything water will not seep into. Under those charges, the utility would generate more than $1.5 million the first year, Mr. Leiper said.

"I'm hoping for a good turnout tomorrow," Mr. Leiper said, adding the county also will use the meeting to discuss a series of credits for businesses that take specific stormwater control measures.

NORTH AUGUSTA

House fire traced to fireplace

A Sunday fire that destroyed a residence started in the fireplace, North Augusta officials said Tuesday.

The fire started at about 3 p.m. along Woodvine Drive at the home of Benjamin and Debbie Hamilton, said Lt. Tim Pearson with the North Augusta Department of Public Safety.

"The fireplace is where it started. What caused it to go from there, I don't know," Lt. Pearson said.

Nearly 50 firefighters responded to the fire, and neighbors and church friends of the Hamilton family turned out to help the family salvage what they could.

When the fire began, Mrs. Hamilton was driving her son Brent to the Aiken library, and a daughter, Lindsey, was down the street at a relative's home. A third child was away at college.

AIKEN COUNTY

Man gets 4 months in bank scam

An Allendale man must spend four months in prison and pay restitution for a bank scam he orchestrated involving worthless checks and money orders, authorities said Tuesday.

Norman DeVoe, 27, will have five years of supervision after his release, including four months of home confinement with electronic monitoring. A U.S. District Court judge also ordered him to pay $6,433 in restitution to Regions Bank and SRP Federal Credit Union.

Mr. DeVoe pleaded guilty Oct. 19 to participating in a scheme to defraud federally insured financial institutions, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney J. Rene Josey.

The scheme involved depositing worthless checks and money orders drawn on another bank into accounts at Regions Bank and SRP Federal Credit Union. Mr. DeVoe then withdrew money before the worthless securities were returned.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Tax preparer draws fraud sentence

COLUMBIA -- An Orangeburg man received three years and one month in prison for helping customers of his tax service file fraudulent tax returns, the U.S. attorney said.

Harry L. Dantzler, 61, was sentenced in federal court by U.S. District Judge Cameron M. Currie on Friday, U.S. Attorney J. Rene Josey said Tuesday.

Mr. Dantzler, who had been in the tax preparation business in the Orangeburg and Aiken areas since 1985, was convicted in October of conspiracy to aid and assist others in filing false tax returns.

A tip led police to Mr. Dantzler's Aiken business in 1997. Internal Revenue Service agents found Mr. Dantzler was filing amended returns, claiming false deductions for medical expenses and charitable contributions.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Sheriff announces retirement

GREENVILLE -- Greenville County Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown plans to retire after more than 20 years.

Sheriff Brown, 62, announced his decision Tuesday not to seek a seventh term. He said the August death of Deputy Marcus Whitfield, who died in an exchange of gunfire while trying to break up a disturbance at a Waffle House restaurant, played a large part in his decision, WYFF-TV of Greenville reported.

EDGEFIELD COUNTY

Edgefield County sheriff retires

After 20 years as Edgefield County's sheriff, Billy Parker said he will not to seek re-election. The veteran police officer turns 64 this year and says he's ready for a break. Sheriff Parker, who has been with the sheriff's office 36 years, will retire when his term expires Dec. 31.

The sheriff, who has always run as a Democrat, expected to announce at the county's Republican Party meeting Monday night that he was switching political sides, county GOP Chairman Frank Maurer said.

Sheriff Parker had called Mr. Maurer two weeks ago to say one of his deputies would run as a Democrat, so he wanted to switch to the Republican Party.

Instead, Sheriff Parker surprised many by announcing he would not run for sheriff again.

"I was going to announce my campaign plans at the meeting, but I suddenly changed my mind," he said. "I shocked myself, really."