Originally created 05/11/00

Across the area: Woman arrested after son starts fire



The mother of a 5-year-old boy who started a fire in their apartment Monday was arrested Wednesday at her new residence.

Michelle Denise Miller, 39, of 1211 Greene St., is charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor, because she left the boy in the care of an unreliable person, said Maj. Ken Autry of the Richmond County Sheriff's Department.

Ms. Miller left the child with her boyfriend, Henry Marcus Jones, 41, on Friday and never returned, police said. He dropped the boy off at a neighbor's house Monday because he had to work, but the child left the apartment to return to his home.

While at the apartment unattended, the boy played with a cigarette lighter and set a bed on fire, police said. No one was hurt, but the room where the blaze originated sustained heavy smoke and water damage.

AUGUSTA

Neighborhood workshop set

A Neighborhood Organizational Workshop is set for 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday at New Hope Community Center, 1336 Conklin Ave.

Participants will be offered advice on organizing neighborhood and community associations, increasing membership and developing motivational tactics. The program is free and will include refreshments.

The workshop is sponsored by Walter Thomas of the East Augusta Neighborhood Association and Metro Augusta Clean and Beautiful. For more information, call 821-1790.

AUGUSTA

Jaywalking gator gets new home

A 9-foot alligator found crossing Gordon Highway early Wednesday likely had emerged from a pond, but now has a new home near the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, according to Augusta-Richmond County Animal Control.

A passer-by spotted the jaywalking gator and used her cellular phone to alert authorities at about 1 a.m., animal control Officer Willie Barnes said. Officers spotted the creature on the highway across from the BP service station at the Molly Pond Road intersection.

With the help of Richmond County sheriff's deputies, the snapping alligator was muzzled with a lasso, lifted into a truck and released into the water near the lock and dam, where hundreds of gators are believed to swim, Officer Barnes said.

The operation required nearly a dozen people. Officer Barnes estimated the animal weighed between 300 and 400 pounds.

AUGUSTA

Road remains closed for repairs

Columbia Nitrogen Road, which was to be reopened today after a cave-in, will not open until Friday afternoon.

The road was closed at the railroad overpass Tuesday to repair a portion of road that caved in after a sewer main burst. The cave-in was larger than officials originally estimated, delaying repairs.

Detoured traffic is being routed through the rail yard on East Boundary, Foster Road and Lovers Lane while construction crews repair the roadway. No tractor-trailers will be permitted through the area.

NORTH AUGUSTA

Area restaurant reports robbery

A North Augusta restaurant was robbed Wednesday night after a cook stepped out the back door to dispose of grease and was met by a man with a pistol.

According to North Augusta Department of Public Safety, the employee of Shoney's at 609 East Martintown Road was ordered back into the restaurant, where the robber, wearing a tank top and blue- jean shorts, demanded and received an undisclosed amount of cash. A manager said customers did not see the incident, which occurred at about 9:15 p.m., because the money was taken from a back office.

No one was injured. The robber, who fled on foot, was described as black with light skin, 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 180 pounds.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call North Augusta police at (803) 279-2121.

AUGUSTA

Jury pool filled for sentencing

After three days of questioning potential jurors about the death penalty and other topics, 54 Richmond County residents have qualified as jurors in the sentencing trial of William Kenny Stephens.

More than 21 years ago, Mr. Stephens, now 52, shot and killed Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Larry D. Stevens, 38. Although Mr. Stephens' 1980 murder conviction has been upheld through numerous appeals, his death sentence has been reversed twice, most recently in December 1998.

On Wednesday, defense attorneys Peter Johnson and Paul David, District Attorney Danny Craig and Assistant District Attorney Ashley Wright questioned 33 people, building a pool of jurors who will return to Richmond County Superior Court on Monday for final jury selection. The jury of 12 people will determine what punishment Mr. Stephens should receive for murder -- death or life in prison.

Mr. Stephens shot and killed Investigator Stevens on Jan. 24, 1979.

AUGUSTA

Finalists named for top 911 job

Three finalists for director of the 911 communication center were announced Wednesday by Augusta Deputy Administrator Walter Hornsby.

They are David A. Dlugolenski, director of the city's Emergency Management Agency; Phillip K. Wasson, interim director of the 911 center; and Joe C. Waters Sr., who until January was corporate consultant administrator for General Arabian Medical and Allied Services Ltd. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The Augusta Commission will decide who gets the job.

City officials also interviewed two candidates for the internal auditor's job Wednesday. They were Kathleen J. Keeler, district auditor for Broward County Resource Recovery Board in Plantation, Fla.; and John M. Cashmon, senior internal auditor for Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Mashantucket, Conn.

GEORGIA

Boy, 4, dies in fall from tractor

CHATSWORTH -- A 4-year-old boy was killed after he fell out of a tractor on his family's farm in northern Murray County.

Mark Petty, whose family owns several hundred acres of farmland in the area, died at Murray Medical Center after the Tuesday accident. His parents, Derek and Missy, declined to comment.

Mark was riding with his uncle inside the cab of a spreader -- a type of tractor -- when the door opened and he tumbled onto concrete, said Larry Ballew of Murray County Emergency Medical Services.

"The cab of that vehicle is only three or four feet off the ground," he said. "This is not an open tractor that the boy fell off of. The cab is enclosed and the boy was inside with the door closed."

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Thurmond remains hospitalized

WASHINGTON -- South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond was expected to spend a second night at a Washington hospital Wednesday for treatment of an upset stomach and dehydration.

The Republican, at age 97 the oldest serving U.S. senator in history, checked himself into Walter Reed Army Hospital late Tuesday after complaining of an upset stomach.

Thurmond spokesman Genevieve Erney said doctors decided to keep the senator hospitalized another night as a precautionary measure but described him as alert and speaking with staffers.

"He's in a fine mood, as well as you can be when you're in the hospital," Ms. Erney said.

Mr. Thurmond has been in and out of hospitals several times in recent years for a variety of problems. He had prostate surgery last year.

CONNECTICUT

Fugitive found in South Carolina

WEST HAVEN -- A fugitive recently featured on America's Most Wanted on charges he stabbed his estranged wife has been arrested in South Carolina.

Robert Holmes, 53, was arrested Sunday during a traffic stop by the Richland County Sheriff's Office, said West Haven Detective David Burke.

Mr. Holmes is accused of abducting Arlene Holmes, 50, from their home. Police said he forced his wife to drive around the city while he stabbed her at least 10 times in the chest and arms.

Mrs. Holmes fled from the car on Route 34. A passing motorist picked her up and brought her, stumbling and bleeding, into a service station in Orange to get help.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Husband takes mayor's old post

IVA -- There still will be a Powell representing Ward 1 on the Iva Town Council, even after Shirley Powell gave up her council seat to run for mayor of the small Anderson County town.

She won the mayor's job, and her husband, Elmer, won her council seat in Tuesday's election.

Mrs. Powell defeated incumbent Mayor Linda Burdette, 219 votes to 115, according to unofficial results. Mrs. Powell said Ms. Burdette failed to disclose information about the town's financial problems and did not communicate with residents.

Mr. Powell defeated Jeff Payton, 118-45, to win his wife's seat.

"I'm ready to go to work, clean up our town, get some better equipment for our employees and restore peace and harmony to our council," he said.