Originally created 02/08/00

Across the area: GBI crime lab takes unidentified body



The body of a man found Sunday behind Golden Harvest Food Bank remained unidentified Monday evening and was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Atlanta for further identification.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Department attempted to identify the man through the department's database but was unsuccessful, Chief Deputy Ronald Strength said.

The dead man, who apparently died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head, was discovered by an employee of the Commerce Drive food bank, who was investigating a malfunctioning warehouse cooling unit.

The man was described as black, in his late teens or early 20's and wearing a black corduroy jacket with FUBU designer blue jeans and a new pair of FUBU blue, black, white and yellow athletic shoes, Chief Deputy Strength said.

Authorities say the man was probably placed, or shot, at the food bank between late Friday evening and 8 p.m. Sunday, Chief Deputy Strength said.

GEORGIA

Teacher pleads guilty to molesting

CARTERSVILLE -- A former Bartow County elementary school teacher pleaded guilty to child molestation charges Monday and received a 30-year prison sentence.

Eric Shepherd, 25, pleaded guilty to 12 counts, including 10 counts of child molestation and two counts of sexual exploitation of children. The allegations involved six male children, some of whom were former pupils of Mr. Shepherd.

He had been indicted on one count of aggravated molestation, but that was dropped in the plea deal.

Mr. Shepherd, who taught at Cloverleaf Elementary School, must serve at least eight years of his sentence in prison. The plea agreement came after a change of venue motion was denied.

Mr. Shepherd was a first-year teacher before resigning in 1998, when he was charged by Adairsville police in the case.

GEORGIA

Payment plan raises questions

ATLANTA -- A bill allowing the state to pay Flint River farmers for not irrigating their crops during droughts is drawing fire from environmentalists, who say the concept is fine but the execution is bad.

The measure was introduced Monday in the Georgia House. Speaker Tom Murphy is a co-sponsor.

The bill would require the state to predict before March 1 of each year whether the year will be abnormally dry. If drought is expected, the state could offer inducements to farmers for not irrigating.

The measure calls for the creation of a fund of up to $30 million to make payments.

Sally Bethea, the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and a member of the Board of Natural Resources, said the goal was laudable but the state should wait for the completion of a scientific study of the Flint River watershed "to know if the money the state would be expending would reach the goals intended."

GEORGIA

Cotton broker indicted in fraud

SAVANNAH -- A Statesboro cotton broker accused of mishandling millions of dollars worth of cotton entrusted to him by Georgia and South Carolina farmers was indicted by a federal grand jury Monday.

David Prosser was charged with 84 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and interstate transportation of stolen property. He is accused of stealing about 18,000 cotton bales, worth about $5.5 million, from farmers in late 1997 and early 1998.

U.S. Attorney Donnie Dixon said Mr. Prosser was not arrested but was served with a summons to appear in court to answer the charges. Mr. Dixon did not know when the appearance might be, and he declined to say what penalty Mr. Prosser could face if convicted.

Mr. Prosser and his attorney, Alex Zipperer of Savannah, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Mr. Prosser owned Sea Island Cotton Trading Co. Inc. in Statesboro, which sold cotton to mills on behalf of farmers. He is accused of taking farmers' cotton, selling it and then failing to pay the farmers.

Last year, the state and federal governments set up a special $10 million fund to cover the losses of Georgia farmers hurt by Mr. Prosser's actions.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Complaint's dismissal gets review

CHARLESTON -- The Federal Maritime Commission will review the dismissal of a complaint by the operators of a casino ship who want to pick up passengers at the State Ports Authority's terminal.

South Carolina Maritime Services Inc., operator of the 387-foot Tropic Sea, wants the commission to force the authority to allow use of the terminal.

The Ports Authority said its policy is to refuse space to ships built mainly for gambling.

Last month, Administrative Law Judge Norman Kline dismissed the complaint at the authority's request. In his ruling, Judge Kline said as a state agency, the Ports Authority is immune from private lawsuits.

The commission has agreed to review that decision, according to a notice filed last week by commission secretary Bryant VanBrakle.

The full Maritime Commission could uphold Judge Kline's decision or overturn it.

The losing party could then ask for a rehearing before the commission, while any decision may be appealed to a federal appeals court, said Rachel Dickon-Matney, a spokeswoman in Mr. VanBrakle's office.

The Tropic Sea has been at anchor in Charleston Harbor since summer. It is owned by Jubilee of the Bahamas, which is controlled by Fred Collins of Greenville, South Carolina's largest operator of video gambling machines.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Treatment ordered for sex offender

CHARLESTON -- A man facing 65 years in prison in a molestation case was given a 10-year suspended sentence and ordered to attend a sex offender treatment program, court documents show.

Circuit Judge Gerald Smoak, whose order was filed with the Clerk of Court on Monday, also ordered Russell Berg, 42, to serve five years probation.

Judge Smoak sentenced Mr. Berg on eight charges -- the longest 10 years -- and ordered they run concurrently, said prosecutor Luck Campbell of Columbia. The sentences were suspended on serving probation.

Sentencing had been postponed last week after Mr. Berg's lawyer requested his client be sent to Alpha Human Services, a nonprofit organization in Minnesota that says it is the only "community-based, noninstitutional, inpatient program exclusively treating sex offenders in the United States."

Mr. Berg entered an Alford plea in June to eight charges with a combined penalty of 65 years. In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges a jury would likely convict based on the evidence.

Mr. Berg was accused of promising four teen-age boys modeling jobs between February and May 1997 so he could molest them. He has been in jail since May 1998, when he was charged with assaulting a 15-year-old boy while out on bail on the charges of assaulting the four boys.

COLUMBIA COUNTY

Police arrest stabbing suspect

Columbia County authorities arrested a suspect Monday in connection with the stabbing of another man.

Deputies arrested James Cannon, 20, in connection with the stabbing of Eric Lee Hawthorn, 27, said Capt. Steve Morris of the Columbia County Sheriff's Department. The incident occurred at about 9 p.m. Monday on the 6100 block of Old Union Road in Harlem, Capt. Morris said.

Mr. Hawthorn was stabbed in the stomach and back and was transported to Medical College of Georgia Hospital for treatment, Capt. Morris said.

COLUMBIA COUNTY

Police arrest stabbing suspect

Columbia County authorities arrested a suspect Monday in connection with the stabbing of another man.

Deputies arrested James Cannon, 20, in connection with the stabbing of Eric Lee Hawthorn, 27, said Capt. Steve Morris of the Columbia County Sheriff's Department. The incident occurred at about 9 p.m. Monday on the 6100 block of Old Union Road in Harlem, Capt. Morris said.

Mr. Hawthorn was stabbed in the stomach and back and was transported to Medical College of Georgia Hospital for treatment, Capt. Morris said.