Originally created 08/11/00

Across the area



RICHMOND COUNTY
Arson suspected in apartment fire

An Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department investigator said arson may be responsible for an early-morning fire Thursday at Columns of Augusta apartments, 1814 Fayetteville Drive. Lt. G.B. Hannan said he has identified several suspects.

The fire began at about 6:30 a.m. in the living room of Apartment B-2, which is unoccupied. A woman living above, Sharan Finnissen, was overcome by smoke and was helped from the building, Lt. Hannan said.

Someone likely broke into the unit and ignited clothes and paper left behind by the last tenant, he said. Damage was contained to one room.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the fire department at 821-2929.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
Back-to-school Festival set

A free Back-to-School Festival for Columbia County elementary pupils and their parents will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Evans Middle School.

The event, presented by University Health Care System and sponsored by The Augusta Chronicle, television station WJBF and Columbia County, will provide speech and vision screenings, drug and alcohol awareness, and registration for recreational programs for children.

Parents will receive information on before- and after-school child care programs, in addition to a school calendar and a list of bus schedules.

Columbia County Sheriff's Office will present a school safety program at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. There also will be a children's corner set up with crafts and activities. For more information, call 828-2460.

WILKES COUNTY
Board changes equipment policy

The Wilkes County Board of Commissioners adopted a policy Thursday designed to keep county equipment from working on private property. The policy was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Norman "Butch" Wheatley dissenting.

The policy says the county no longer will install private driveways or do other roadwork on private property, including mowing, grading, patching and asphalting. Performing such work violates the gratuities clause of the Georgia Constitution.

Some commissioners only grudgingly accepted the rule. At a meeting Monday, some residents argued the old practice of maintaining long driveways helps poor and elderly homeowners who live far off highways. Commissioner Marshall Sherrer - who has come under fire in Washington, Ga., over the alleged purchase of a county bulldozer without a bidding process - said Thursday was a sad day in Wilkes County but it couldn't be helped because of the law.

Allegations about illegal activity and corruption in the county prompted a local grand jury to recommend commissioners "supply full and complete answers" to the public about roadwork and the bulldozer sale.

AUGUSTA
District attorney earns top honor

Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Danny Craig has been named District Attorney of the Year by his Georgia peers.

The award was announced at the Summer Conference of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia on July 30. At the same meeting, Mr. Craig's peers also elected him to serve as chairman of the organization for fiscal year 2000-2001.

Mr. Craig has served as the chief prosecutor in Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties since Jan. 1, 1994. He is running unopposed this fall for re-election.

Mr. Craig was first elected to the Prosecuting Attorneys Council in 1996 by Georgia's district attorneys. He has served as its secretary-treasure for three years and also has served as director of Georgia's School of Basic Litigation for prosecutors since 1998. He teaches at the National College of District Attorneys in Columbia.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Police seek man in teen's assault

The Richmond County Sheriff's Department is looking for a man who broke into a residence off Ninth Street on Thursday afternoon and assaulted a teen-age girl.

A man wearing a black fisherman's hat forced his way through a side door of a house on Spruce Street at about 3 p.m., according to Investigator William Walker. The girl was alone at the time.

The intruder made off with miscellaneous items from the home but nothing of significant value, police said. He was dark skinned and had a bad complexion, bushy hair and a scraggly black beard with touches of gray, he said. He was described as being 30 to 40 years old, 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall and wearing a gray T-shirt and off-white pants.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the sheriff's department at 821-1080.

AIKEN
Pair sought in smoke-bomb attack

Investigators are looking for two people who tossed a smoke bomb into an Aiken minimum-security prison Wednesday night and sped away.

Jail employee Tremayne McKinney told authorities that someone passed the Lower Savannah Pre-Release Center on Wire Road and tossed a smoke bomb from the vehicle into an administrative building. Two people were seen in the vehicle.

The smoke bomb caused thick, white smoke to pour through the jail's lobby, where it landed at about 9:45 p.m. Jail employee Zuan Lavetta Cook said a spark from the device went into her eye, but she did not require medical attention.

Investigators with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office took the smoke bomb for fingerprint testing, a report stated.

AIKEN
Wreck with officer sparks suit

A man injured when an Aiken County sheriff's deputy allegedly ran a stop sign and plowed into his vehicle in 1998 is suing Aiken County, the sheriff's office and the deputy.

Barry L. Hewitt of Whitfield County, Ga., filed the negligence suit Thursday in the Aiken County Court of Common Pleas, claiming Deputy George G.W. Gaskins disregarded a stop sign at a Warrenville intersection and collided with his vehicle Aug. 19, 1998. Mr. Hewitt claims the accident led to physical pain, disability, medical bills and lost wages.

Mr. Hewitt is seeking actual and punitive damages. In a related suit, Mr. Hewitt's wife, Tammie Lynn, claims the accident caused her a loss of consortium. She also is seeking a jury trial and an award of damages.

Lawsuits represent only one point of view, and the defendants have 30 days to respond.