Originally created 12/08/00

Across the area



AUGUSTA
Condominium blaze sparks investigation

Fire investigators are looking into the cause of a blaze that burned through a vacant condominium off Bertram Road on Thursday night.

Augusta-Richmond County firefighters were alerted shortly after 7 p.m. to the fire at 2022 Lillian Drive, where flames already had burned through the unit's roof, said Battalion Chief Jimmy Taylor.

An adjacent condominium, which also was vacant, suffered minor fire damage to the side of the building.

No one was injured in the blaze, Chief Taylor said, and an investigator was called to the scene.

Two weeks ago, officials determined that arson was the cause of three separate fires set to new, unoccupied townhouses on Creekside Court, which is also off Bertram Road.

AUGUSTA
Students recant abduction report

Two Glenn Hills High School students recanted their story Thursday about being nearly abducted by two males the day before, police said.

After being interviewed by school public safety officers, the girls admitted to making up that part of the story, said Donnie Porter, public information officer for the Richmond County school board.

The students had told school officials Wednesday that two males had approached them on school grounds, followed them inside and tried to grab them.

Although two unidentified males did approach the girls, they did not attempt to abduct them, Mr. Porter said.

He said school administrators would determine what type of disciplinary action the girls could face for giving the false report and could still charge the two males, who are not students, with trespassing if officials find out their identity.

The girls gave no reason for making up the attempted abduction, Mr. Porter said.

AIKEN
Golf fight leads to man's arrest

An argument during a round of golf at Houndslake Country Club turned physical Wednesday and led to the arrest of an Aiken man, a sheriff's report stated.

Nicholas Lard, 17, of Aiken, told sheriff's officials he was playing golf when he got into an argument with Michael Ray Carver, 18. He said Mr. Carver confronted him and struck him in the face.

A sheriff's deputy took a written statement from Mr. Lard and then arrested Mr. Carver and took him to the Aiken County Detention Center. Mr. Carver, of the 1300 block of Pinehurst Avenue, was charged with assault and battery.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Judge: Woman's case can go to grand jury

A woman accused of strangling an Augusta man to death last month will face possible indictment by a grand jury soon.

After a preliminary hearing Thursday in Richmond County Civil Court, Chief Judge William D. Jennings III ruled probable cause existed to send the murder charge against Maxine D. Echols to the grand jury.

Ms. Echols was arrested three days after the body of the Rev. Robert D. Padgett, 61, was found in his Deans Bridge Road mobile home Nov. 12. The autopsy report indicates he was strangled by hand and ligature (bond), sheriff's Investigator James Gordon testified Thursday.

Ms. Echols' palm print was found on a roll of garbage bags found near the body, the detective testified. A bag had been stuffed down the man's throat, he said.

Ms. Echols has been held in jail without bond since her arrest.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Man charged in armed robbery

Police arrested the man accused of Tuesday's robbery of an employee in the parking lot of Shapiro Packing Co. after he allegedly assaulted another man early Thursday morning, a Richmond County Sheriff's Department investigator said.

Police arrested Darnell Bernard Dennis, 30, of the 1300 block of 12th Street, at 4:58 a.m. in the 2900 block of Courtney Drive. They charged him with two felony counts of armed robbery and one count each of kidnapping, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and felony parole violation, Investigator Richard Roundtree said.

Early Thursday, a man in the vicinity of Thomas Lane flagged down a patrolling deputy and said he had been assaulted. Based on the assailant's description, deputies spotted Mr. Dennis, chased him on foot and arrested him, Investigator Roundtree said.

Mr. Dennis is charged with robbing Darrick Roberson, 22, of Hephzibah, at gunpoint and taking the keys to a Shapiro truck from another employee, Tracy Davis, on Tuesday night, investigators said.

Mr. Roberson and Mr. Davis were talking in the company parking lot on New Savannah Road when a man robbed Mr. Roberson of money and jewelry and took the truck keys from Mr. Davis. Mr. Roberson followed the robber in a vehicle driven by another employee to Rozella Street and Old Savannah Road, where they said the gunman fired about five shots at them, investigators said.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Man appeals sex-crime sentence

An Augusta man now serving life without parole in connection with the sexual assault of a child has filed an appeal, centering his argument on a request for a new sentencing hearing, his attorney said Thursday.

In Richmond County Superior Court, where Carlton Jones, 29, received his sentence in July, attorneys asked Judge Neal W. Dickert for time to further research recent appellate court decisions before he rules on Mr. Jones' motion for a new trial.

Crucial to Mr. Jones' appeal is whether Judge Dickert had the option of giving Mr. Jones a sentence other than life without parole for aggravated sodomy.

Mr. Jones was convicted of aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated child molestation, theft, burglary, robbery by intimidation, kidnapping and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime. On Feb. 9, he forced his way into a home where a 12-year-old girl was alone. He sexually assaulted the girl and forced her to help collect the family's valuables.

Mr. Jones had previous theft-related convictions and numerous arrests before the February assault and robbery.

AUGUSTA
Busy senator cancels speech

U.S. Sen. Max Cleland will not speak tonight at the Congregation Children of Israel because of votes pending in Congress.

As part of the temple's adult education program, Mr. Cleland was scheduled to discuss how his faith helped him cope with the loss of his legs and right arm during the Vietnam War.

Jeff Schoenberg, the senator's staff counsel and state office manager, will speak in Mr. Cleland's place at 8:15 tonight at the temple, 3005 Walton Way Extension.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Suit halts logging across South

WASHINGTON - An environmental coalition's lawsuit has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to effectively end logging in Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest and abandon plans for several new timber projects across the South.

The Sierra Club and the other plaintiffs viewed the agency's move as a partial concession, but forestry officials ignored some of the lawsuit's demands and insisted the move was no attempt to settle.

The lawsuit, filed last July in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, accuses regulators of allowing timber cutting without considering the possible harm to plants and wildlife. The groups want all Southern logging to stop while an impact study is conducted.

Most of the logging projects in question hadn't begun, and the largest - in the Chattahoochee forest - was already suspended after a different lawsuit was filed more than a year ago.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Woman pleads guilty to abuse

COLUMBIA - A former technician at a Lexington County psychiatric hospital charged with putting a patient in scalding water has pleaded guilty to abuse charges, Attorney General Charlie Condon said.

Sharmane B. Reaster-Glover, 32, of Columbia, pleaded guilty Thursday to abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in death. The maximum sentence is 30 years.

Judge Marc H. Westbrook deferred Ms. Reaster-Glover's sentencing until the disposition of charges against co-defendant Natasha Denise Dickerson. She is charged with accessory after the fact to abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, which carries a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Ms. Reaster-Glover in March failed to check the temperature of the water and ignored the complaints of 72-year-old Frank Turbeville that the water was too hot. Mr. Turbeville died at the burn unit of an Augusta hospital six days after the bath.

Both women were fired from Charter Rivers Hospital after the March incident.

GEORGIA
Embattled band director resigns

SHARPSBURG - A band director accused of forcing a student to take off his band uniform during a football game has resigned.

Dennis Naughton will continue working at East Coweta High School through the end of the year, Superintendent Richard Brooks said. The Coweta County school board last month suspended Mr. Naughton without pay for two weeks for his role in the incident.

Mr. Naughton was accused of forcing 10th-grader Bill Harmon to strip to his underwear during a football game Nov. 3. Some witnesses, however, have said the student took off his uniform voluntarily after an argument with Mr. Naughton.