Originally created 11/30/00

Across the area

List of applicants for county job thins

A search panel finished sifting through more than 70 applications late Tuesday, narrowing the field down to 10 hopefuls for the Aiken County administrator's position.

Councilwoman Kathy Rawls said the council likely will interview the candidates before the Christmas holidays and choose someone to fill retired Administrator Bill Shepherd's shoes in January.

She would not reveal the finalists' names, noting that they probably hadn't been notified yet. Council members soon will begin to discuss the interview process and questions, Mrs. Rawls said.

Chairman Ronnie Young and Councilwomen Lawana McKenzie, Susan Giddings and Mrs. Rawls made up the search committee. They ranked each application separately and chose the 10 with the highest scores, Mrs. Rawls said.

Man pleads innocent to arson

GAINESVILLE - An Indiana man charged with setting a fire in northeast Georgia that killed a volunteer firefighter pleaded innocent Wednesday during a brief appearance in federal court.

Jay Scott Ballinger, 38, of Yorktown, Ind., is charged with setting fires at five churches in Georgia in 1998 and 1999. In one of those fires, firefighter Loy Williams, 27, died when the roof of New Salem United Methodist Church collapsed on him in Banks County Dec. 31, 1998.

Mr. Ballinger has pleaded guilty to 26 church fires in eight other states. On Nov. 14, a federal judge in Indiana sentenced him to 42´ years in prison and ordered him to pay $3.6 million in restitution for those fires. He was brought to Georgia after the Indiana sentencing.

Mother calls stabbing God's will

CORDELE - Witnesses say a woman accused of repeatedly stabbing her 2-year-old daughter in front of a church made reference to carrying out God's will.

Sharon Cross Gray, 38, of Cordele, was charged with aggravated assault in the attack on Elexsia Devonsha Gray at Unity Faith Church on Monday. Crisp County Sheriff Donnie Haralson said the child was stabbed on the front porch of the church, and her mother took her back to their home.

The girl was listed as critical when she was transferred Tuesday from Crisp Regional Hospital to Macon's Medical Center of Central Georgia. The Macon hospital declined to release further information.

Fred Williams Sr., a neighbor, said he went to Ms. Gray's home Monday evening and found the crying child lying face down on a bedroom floor. When he asked Ms. Gray what had happened, she said it was something the "Lord told her to do," Mr. Williams said.

Prisoner's escape goes awry

CHESTER - A prison trusty who stuffed clothes in his bed to make guards think he was sleeping while he headed for a planned night on the town was quickly recaptured, Chester County Sheriff John Holcombe says.

William Mayberry Horne, 33, who is serving time on drug charges, was waiting for a girlfriend to meet him at the county maintenance shed just beyond the jail fence, but she never showed up, Sheriff Holcombe said.

Guards discovered Mr. Horne's ruse a few hours later, then quickly found him in the shed Sunday night.

"Once we were in the building, he knew we had caught him. He just laid down," jail Lt. Eric Schmid said.

Smoke forces jet's landing

ATLANTA - Passengers were evacuated from an AirTran DC-9 that made an emergency landing shortly after takeoff Wednesday because the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit.

Flight 956 from Atlanta to Akron-Canton Regional Airport in Ohio had 92 passengers. No serious injuries were reported, AirTran spokesman Jim Brown said. Two people asked to be taken to the hospital for treatment because they were emotionally upset.

The pilot said a couple of cockpit circuit breakers popped, and he elected to return to the airport after reaching about 4,000 feet. Smoke was in the front galley, and the passengers used the emergency slides.

Excitement builds for Lego contest

SENECA - Playing with Legos has just become more competitive, as Seneca Middle School in Oconee County readies to play host to the state's Lego League Tournament.

In its third year, the league expects more than 20,000 elementary and middle school pupils will compete in 15 state tournaments this year. The tournament is Saturday.

"It's a fun way to learn," Principal Lyn Norton said. "They're not looking for the straight-A student, but the one with creative thinking. It's a great outlet for kids in math and science."

Teams will earn points when their motorized devices complete certain tasks. They will be graded on their ability to save a Lego village from a lava flow by closing a gate and knocking down a bridge, rescuing a scientist from a ledge on the volcano and placing an object inside the volcano.

Heart attack puts man in jail

COLUMBIA - A man received 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to triggering his father-in-law's fatal heart attack.

Terry Lee Coleman, 41, of Red Bank, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and first-degree burglary Tuesday. He was sentenced to 20 years on each charge, but the sentences will run concurrently.

Mr. Coleman admitted he broke into the home of Frank Eugene Pevey in October 1998 when his father-in-law refused to let him in. Mr. Coleman was looking for his estranged wife.

After a struggle, Mr. Pevey, 54, collapsed, complaining of chest pains, investigators said. He was pronounced dead at Lexington Medical Center.

Train strikes, kills elderly driver

LESSLIE - An 81-year-old man died after his pickup was struck by a train on tracks that cross his driveway.

William E. Burton, of Lesslie, was leaving home at about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday when he stopped on the tracks, York County Coroner Doug McKown said.

Mr. Burton was traveling down his long driveway to pick up the newspaper, said Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Bryan McDougald.

"The case is still under investigation, but at this time it appears to be an accident," Lance Cpl. McDougald said.

Mr. McKown said he will investigate whether Mr. Burton had any medical problems that might have contributed to the collision. Mr. Burton used a hearing aid, but he wasn't wearing it at the time of the collision, the coroner said.

Student faces weapons charge

A junior at Glenn Hills High School was arrested Wednesday after being caught at school with a razor blade knife, according to Richmond County Sheriff's Department.

The blade was 3´ inches long.

Charged with possession of a weapon on school property, Latoria D. Thomas, 17, of London Boulevard, was being held at the Richmond County jail late Wednesday on $5,050 bond.

An incident report said a school official discovered the weapon at about 10:30 a.m. and summoned deputies. Ms. Thomas was taken into custody a few hours later on Glenn Hills Drive, according to department records.

In Georgia, bringing a weapon to school is a felony punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and two to 10 years imprisonment.

Warrants team seeks Jackson man

The Aiken County Sheriff's Office warrants team is looking for a Jackson man who has eluded authorities since April 1999, Lt. Michael Frank said Wednesday.

David Eugene Williams Jr., 34, of 211 Green Pond Road, is wanted for resisting arrest, failure to stop, driving under suspension, reckless driving, two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child and outstanding bench warrants from Aiken County Family Court, he said.

Mr. Williams is black, 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs200-220 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen driving a burgundy Nissan Maxima sedan with South Carolina license number 711-JYS and is thought to be traveling between Aiken and Richmond counties, Lt. Frank said.

Anyone with information about Mr. Williams' whereabouts is asked to contact the Aiken County Sheriff's Office at (803) 642-1761 or (800) 922-3211. Individuals also should call the Aiken County Crime Stoppers at (803) 642-1798. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

Report: Death in hotel was natural

CLEARWATER - A man found dead in a Clearwater hotel died of natural causes, authorities said Wednesday.

Oscar Eugene Bodie, 59, died of a heart attack, according to Aiken County Deputy Coroner Darryl Ables. An autopsy was performed Wednesday in Newberry.

Mr. Bodie is a former resident of Wagener, but he was living at the Rainbow Terrace Motel along U.S. Highway 1 in Clearwater.

The man was last seen Saturday night, but a motel maid and the maid's friend went in the room at about 11 a.m. Tuesday. They found the body on the floor with the man's keys and some change lying nearby.

The autopsy was performed to rule out foul play.

"The engineer said Mr. Burton looked up when the train was about 50 or 75 yards away," Mr. McKown said. "Evidently, for some reason, he didn't see or hear the train."


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