Originally created 05/24/00

Across the area: Fire scorches six acres at rest area



The Center Volunteer Fire Department responded to a brush fire at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the rest area on the westbound side of Interstate 20 in Aiken County.

Assistant Chief Gene Fulmer said apparently a motorist threw out a cigarette or a match and ignited the fire.

The fire charred six acres and burned for more than an hour before firefighters could extinguish the flames. No one was injured.

AIKEN

College names interim chancellor

Dr. Thomas Hallman, who joined the University of South Carolina Aiken administrative staff 17 years ago, was named interim chancellor Tuesday.

Dr. Hallman, vice chancellor for administration, will take the helm July 1, the day after longtime chancellor Dr. Robert Alexander retires. He will serve up to a year - until a permanent chancellor is named and arrives on campus.

The interim appointment was announced by University of South Carolina President John M. Palms, who said Dr. Hallman's "longstanding service to USC and his well-earned reputation in the Aiken community will provide the leadership necessary during this time of transition."

"The search committee I appointed in March is moving steadily toward identifying the best candidates from around the country. We hope to have a permanent chancellor in place in the near future," Mr. Palms said.

Dr. Hallman is a Charleston native and a graduate of The Citadel, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees. His doctorate in higher education administration is from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

He has worked since 1983 in several capacities within the chancellor's office at USC Aiken. In the community, he is a past chairman of the board of directors of the Aiken Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Aiken Kiwanis Club, a founding member and past chairman of the Aiken County Forum, and a former chairman of Leadership Aiken County.

BURKE COUNTY

Area industry fined for emissions

WAYNESBORO - A Burke County manufacturer of chromium-plated doorknobs and locks will pay fines totaling $3,000 for exceeding permitted levels of chromium emissions.

The consent order between Kwikset Corp. and Georgia's Environmental Protection Division also requires Kwikset to take immediate steps to develop a corrective action plan to prevent future problems.

The industry was notified by the state Feb. 23 that emissions were in violation of Kwikset's air quality permit. The violations, according to the consent order signed this month, were "avoidable and cannot be excused."

GEORGIA

Local man named to lottery board

ATLANTA - A local businessman was named to the Georgia Lottery Corp. board Tuesday by Gov. Roy Barnes.

Timothy Shelnutt joins the board that oversees the lottery. Other new members named were M. Byck Jr. of Savannah and Matthew Ware of Lithonia.

They replace Wyck Knox of Augusta, Arnold Tenenbaum and Cecil Phillips, whose terms expired.

GEORGIA

Student charged in girl's death

ST. MARYS - Investigators said Tuesday they suspect a 14-year-old girl might have been slashed and beaten to death because an 18-year-old high school student "just lost it" after she refused his advances.

James Christopher Miley, a Camden County High School junior, was ordered jailed without bond and charged with murder in the death of Ashley Nicole Neeves, an eighth-grader at St. Marys Middle School.

Investigators were waiting Tuesday for a coroner's report and results from evidence tests at a crime lab. While they said they were not certain of a motive, investigators said Mr. Miley likely was frustrated because Ashley would not date him.

Detective Sgt. T.J. Sievers said Ashley was hacked to death with a jagged weapon. Her body was found Sunday after residents of a nearby subdivision called police to complain about vultures in a wooded area. Her face was mangled to the point where a family member could not recognize her.

GEORGIA

State seeks input on train plan

MACON - Middle Georgia residents have a chance this week to give their opinions on proposals for high-speed passenger trains that will connect the area with Atlanta.

Transportation planners are pushing plans to run the trains along one of two existing rail lines, but the federal government, which is expected to cover 80 percent of the project's $140 million estimated price tag, is requiring the state to hold public hearings and to investigate alternatives.

A hearing was planned Tuesday night in Macon, with others set for today in Griffin and Thursday in Forsyth.

Paul Mullins, a planning director at the Georgia Department of Transportation, said rail planners will investigate whether the state should operate express buses between Macon and Atlanta or whether the route would be served better with a rail line parallel to Interstate 75.

GEORGIA

Man charged in strange burglaries

BRUNSWICK - A Brunswick man has been charged with burglary after allegedly pouring bleach into drinking water at the American Red Cross office and damaging a Bible at the American Cancer Society.

George Lacas, 33, was being held Tuesday in the Glynn County jail on a $10,552 bond.

The Red Cross estimated its loss at $4,000, with damage next door at the American Cancer Society less.

At the Red Cross, someone broke into food supplies, contaminated drinking water with bleach and took all the light bulbs from fixtures. Donated cakes and pies were set up on chairs, which had been arranged as though for a lawn party, Brunswick Red Cross executive director Cindy Perry said.

"It was really strange some of the things the intruder did," she said. "We're the disaster."

T-shirts from the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life Fund-raiser were missing, and a Bible was damaged when it was smeared with lotion.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Man to appeal foreign-deer charge

GREENVILLE - A Travelers Rest man promises to appeal his conviction on charges of illegally possessing fallow deer.

Billy Hawkins was convicted Monday of charges of possessing two of the deer, which are native to Europe and Asia.

The deer are dangerous to the state's livestock and native deer because they can carry bovine tuberculosis, said Paul League, an attorney for the state Natural Resources Department. Fallow deer owners say the animals rarely get sick.

AUGUSTA

Slaying suspect out on bond

A judge granted a $25,000 bond Tuesday for an Augusta woman facing murder charges.

Patricia Graves, 32, originally had faced a charge of aggravated assault in the Nov. 10 shooting of her boyfriend, Craig L. Willis. The charge was upgraded to murder when Mr. Willis, 31, died May 2.

Also Tuesday, a Richmond County grand jury indicted Ms. Graves on charges of felony and malice murder and use of a firearm during the commission of crime.

Ms. Graves initially told investigators that Mr. Willis had attempted suicide. She later told them he pulled the gun out and it went off as the two struggled for control of the weapon, Assistant District Attorney Nancy Johnson said. As Mr. Willis lay on the floor with a bullet wound to his head, Ms. Graves fired another gunshot into his head, Ms. Johnson said.

Defense Attorney Richard Allen, in asking Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet to set bond, said Ms. Graves had been free on bond since November. She had continued to work at the assistant manager's job she held for 10 years, and lived with her daughter. Ms. Graves also has no prior criminal convictions.