Originally created 08/20/00

Across the area



COLUMBIA COUNTY
Children start firethat damages home

An Evans home sustained heavy fire and smoke damage Saturday after two children accidentally started the blaze with a cigarette lighter, said Martinez Fire Department Public Information Officer Honey Shore.

The fire began at about 3 p.m. at 4219 Fairfield Circle in Halifax North subdivision in an upstairs bedroom, which was heavily damaged, Mrs. Shore said. Smoke also damaged the rest of the home's second floor.

Mrs. Shore said the home was occupied at the time by its owner, Rhonda Lowe, and two children, ages 3 and 5. There were no injuries.

Mrs. Shore said the two children apparently had found the lighter in the house and were playing with it. She said the home wasn't destroyed, but the Lowes will be staying somewhere else until repairs are made.

GEORGIA
Free gospel concert scheduled

CRAWFORDVILLE - A free gospel concert to raise money for the Taliaferro County emergency communication system will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the ABC Auction Barn in Crawfordville.

Cy Easters & the Sunny South Quartet and other groups from local churches will sing. Offerings will be accepted.

GEORGIA
Vandals keep neighbors edgy

MARIETTA - An outbreak of late-night mailbox bashing has residents on edge.

At least two Walton High School students used a stolen sport utility vehicle to destroy 25 to 30 boxes Aug. 12 along a road in east Cobb County, police said. The SUV apparently swerved back and forth while a trailer slammed into the mailboxes.

Residents have complained about mailbox bashing for years but say it has never gone this far. They planned overnight watch shifts along Cobb roads this weekend.

"We're in a neighborhood under siege," said Jim Stephens, who worked a recent post-midnight shift with a telephone, a camera and a .45-caliber pistol. "We're just tired. We're sick of it."

Another east Cobb resident, Rick Spratlin, replaced his mailbox this week for the fourth time in six years. He said he'll hide in the woods or a street-side ditch to catch the vandals.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Fort Bragg soldier

charged in wreckA Fort Bragg, N.C., soldier on temporary duty at Fort Gordon was charged Saturday with second-degree vehicular homicide in the death of an Augusta woman on Gordon Highway late Friday, according to Richmond County Sheriff's Department.

Lee Ann Sanders, 42, was on her way to work at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, where she was a nurse, when she was sideswiped by a government-owned 1998 Plymouth Breeze making a U-turn at the intersection with Noland Connector Road at about 10:45 p.m., Deputy Blaise Dresser said. Mrs. Sanders' 1992 Mazda was sent crashing into a drainage ditch, he said.

When police and paramedics arrived, Mrs. Sanders was dead, apparently from chest trauma and internal injuries, Deputy Dresser said.

Salena Mabins, 21, a Detroit, Mich., native and a member of 1112th Signal Battalion, was arrested Saturday morning at Fort Gordon. She also was charged with making an improper U-turn. She and her passenger, Kiann Allen, 25, also a Fort Bragg soldier, suffered minor injuries in the crash, Deputy Dresser said.

The Army also is investigating the crash.

NORTH AUGUSTA
Burglars hit middle school

North Augusta Department of Public Safety officers are trying to determine who burglarized North Augusta Middle School late Friday or early Saturday. So far, they have been unable to lift fingerprints from broken glass or a television set found lying near the practice football field.

The department responded to an alarm at the school on Old Edgefield Road early Saturday and found a window unlocked and broken on the back side of Room 11, according to an incident report. A television with a built-in VCR was discovered missing from the room.

An officer searched the area around the school's back fence and found a chrome bicycle lying near the woods, the report said. The television was found nearby and was returned to the school.

AIKEN
Fire destroys apartment unit

Fire gutted one unit at Steeplechase Apartments on Silver Bluff Road on Saturday but did not spread.

Aiken Public Safety Capt. Tom Galardi said the fire "was going pretty good" when firefighters arrived, and everything inside the apartment was destroyed. No one was home and no one was hurt, however.

Capt. Galardi said 20 firefighters responded to the call at 6:40 p.m. with two engines and a service truck.

An investigator will begin today trying to determine what started the blaze.

GEORGIA
Pilot dies in plane crash

ATLANTA - A Roswell man died when his twin-engine plane crashed near the Fulton County Airport shortly after he radioed air traffic controllers he was running out of fuel.

Mohammad Walid Katoot, a licensed private pilot and instructor, crashed about a half-mile from the airport at about 11 p.m. Friday. Mr. Katoot, 39, was the only person aboard the six-seat Beech Duke Model B60 plane, officials said.

Neighbors in his Roswell subdivision said he was married and was the father of two boys, ages 7 and 10 or 11. Attempts to reach family members were unsuccessful.

GEORGIA
Officer faces extortion charges

CEDARTOWN - Polk County authorities are weighing whether to prosecute a police officer accused of using traffic stops to extort money from Hispanic motorists.

County Officer Jarvis Cameron Frazier, 28, has been suspended with pay during the investigation, Polk police Capt. Ron Thomas said.

Seven Hispanics have accused Officer Frazier of pulling over Hispanic drivers and demanding $60 to $200 in exchange for leniency on traffic violations. None was charged with a violation, Capt. Thomas said.

Officer Frazier faces criminal extortion and theft charges in addition to departmental charges of violating the oath of office and conduct unbecoming an officer.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Treasurer accused in money loss

SPARTANBURG - The former treasurer of the Chapman High School booster club is accused of taking $24,000 of the club's money, authorities say.

Timothy Williams, 40, is suspected of both writing checks to himself on the club's bank account and stealing thousands of dollars from sales at the club's concession stand, police said.

School officials said they learned about the problem when Bank of America informed them in July that the account was overdrawn by more than $4,000.

Superintendent Jimmy Littlefield said Mr. Williams had been one of the organization's most active and supportive members.

Insurance will cover the loss, and the club's efforts will not be affected, Mr. Littlefield said.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Teen dies from shooting injuries

SUMTER - A Sumter teen has died after three men fired into a group of youths standing in a front yard, police say.

Alex Wells, 17, died shortly after the Thursday evening shooting. Coroner Verna Moore said Alex was shot in the back and the chest. No one else was injured.

Deputies have arrested Quentin Lavern Green, 23; Leon Darnell Chestnut, 24; and Terry Lee Lowery Jr., 21. All three are charged with murder, said Sumter Police Maj. Patty Patterson.

Authorities said the men rode bicycles into Alex's yard and hid behind some trees before the shooting started. Ms. Moore said she doesn't know what prompted the attack.

Police say the men targeted Alex, but family members told Ms. Moore the men may have been trying to shoot his younger brother. Police found a .45-caliber handgun when they arrested the men, and investigators plan to test the gun to determine whether it was used in the shooting.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Boy charged in fatal car wreck

EASLEY - An Easley teen has been charged with reckless homicide in a crash that killed a woman driving home from visiting her parents on Mother's Day.

Troopers decided to charge Christopher Nathan Dillard after investigators determined speeding contributed to the crash, said Highway Patrol spokesman Lance Cpl. Dan Marsceau.

The charge carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, a fine between $1,000 and $5,000, and a five-year license suspension, Lance Cpl. Marsceau said.

The victim, Martha Rampey, was a computer programmer at the Clemson University Research Park.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Mayor says meeting was illegal

MYRTLE BEACH - Myrtle Beach's mayor says the city council went into an illegal secret session to talk about a new fee being charged to defendants in city court.

"They chose to go behind closed doors because something they passed is being scrutinized by the Court Administration," Mark McBride said after consulting with two attorneys. "That's all public information that taxpayers should be noticed on."

But council members deny the charge, saying they were seeking legal advice Thursday, which is an allowable reason to go into closed session under the Freedom of Information Act.

Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means said City Attorney Tom Ellenburg is very meticulous about when to go into closed sessions and said in this case it was permissible.

South Carolina Court Administration officials said they are trying to get more information about the fee, not questioning its legality. City officials want to use the $20 to $25 fee for new police officers and jail expenses.