Originally created 09/19/00

Dispute leads to charges



AIKEN - An Aiken man involved in a domestic dispute with his family was arrested Monday after allegedly confronting his son at Schofield Middle School and then running through the building and locking himself in a bathroom, authorities said.

Stephen Leroy Brodus, 37, was taken into custody inside a classroom after causing a disturbance with his son and a school employee at about 2:30 p.m., according to an Aiken Department of Public Safety report.

He is charged with disturbing school, refusing to obey a lawful order and giving false information to police.

He was also being held on charges of beating his estranged wife, who required hospitalization.

"This was obviously a family quarrel that got out of hand, and the fact that someone was hurt and injured, it is just a sad situation," said Linda Eldridge, superintendent of Aiken County Schools. "And it is outrageous that the school got involved, that they brought it onto the school campus."

According to a report from Aiken Public Safety Officer K.A. Herring, Mr. Brodus allegedly went to the home of his estranged wife, Donna Brodus, and assaulted her Monday afternoon, causing bruising and swelling to her face and neck.

He then forced her into a car and ordered her to drive from the Rebel Road home to Schofield Middle School on Sumter Street, where he wanted to see his son, the report said.

Ms. Brodus asked school officials to get the son out of class, and then Mr. Brodus came inside the school and confronted the boy, prompting school officials to call police.

Witnesses told police Mr. Brodus ran to the school's A-wing and hid inside an empty classroom. A school employee, Janice Coleman, discovered Mr. Brodus when she went in the room to return a vacuum cleaner.

"She said he asked if her car was parked outside. She said no," the report stated, and Mr. Brodus told her to be quiet.

The employee was able to leave the room. Soon after, responding officers entered the building and discovered Mr. Brodus had locked himself in a school bathroom. The officers ordered the suspect to come out, but he refused for several minutes. When he finally emerged, he was arrested.

An ambulance was called to the school, and Ms. Brodus was transported to Aiken Regional Medical Centers for treatment. Besides the bruised and swollen face, she said she had pain in her arms and back.

The Aiken County Sheriff's Office will charge Mr. Brodus with criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature for the alleged assault on his estranged wife, police said.

Dr. Eldridge said school officials immediately notified her of the incident by faxing her a summary.

"Obviously, this is a family problem that carried over into the school situation, and that is really what should not have happened," she said.

But the superintendent said it is impossible to keep the school locked down.

"Boys and girls move from one building to another as they change classes at Schofield, so it is impossible to lock down the school system," she said. "Obviously, our administrators and our teachers are ever vigilant. Our students will let us know when something unusual is going on.

"We try very carefully to monitor the comings and goings around the school."

Mr. Brodus was being held Monday night at the Aiken County Detention Center.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.