Originally created 01/04/01

Across the area



RICHMOND COUNTY
Robber poses as FBI agent

Two employees of Futurecall Telemarketing Inc. were robbed in the parking lot Wednesday by a man claiming to be an FBI agent, according to a Richmond County sheriff's investigator.

Two young men were returning to the building at 1030 Stevens Creek Road after a break when a man driving a white pickup truck approached them at about 5:20 p.m., Investigator Scott Peebles said. The robber ordered them to place their hands on the hood and empty their pockets and said he didn't want to see them get into trouble or lose their jobs. He drove away toward River Watch Parkway with their cash and wallets.

Before approaching the men, the robber had tried to block two women in the lot after they refused to let him search their car, Investigator Peebles said. They ignored his order after he refused to show credentials.

The man was described as black, in his early to mid-20s and about 5 feet 11 inches tall. He had a light beard and mustache, a muscular build and designer braids in his hair. His truck was described as a compact, mid-1980s model in good condition with a chrome toolbox mounted in the back.

Investigator Peebles said people have a right to ask law enforcement officers for identification. Anyone with information about Wednesday's incident should call investigators at 821-1080.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
Vehicle hits bus; passengers unhurt

No injuries were reported after a Columbia County school bus was rear-ended by a 1992 Chevrolet Blazer on Wednesday on Halali Farm Road.

Bus 941, which was carrying pupils from Greenbrier middle and high schools, had stopped at about 3:15 p.m. to let a pupil off when it was hit from the rear, said Columbia County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris. No injuries were reported, and the bus continued on its route. There were about 30 pupils on board.

"The EMTs and deputies checked each of the students, and they felt that they were all OK," said Charles Nagle, associate superintendent of the school system. "The bus had hardly any damage, and the bus driver completed the route and took them all home after being released by EMTs and the sheriff's department."

Capt. Morris said the Blazer's driver, Patrick Keip, 18, of Evans, was charged with following too close.

AIKEN COUNTY
Official: Fire fees unaffected

BELVEDERE - Fire Commissioner Gloria Ruvo said Wednesday the Belvedere Fire District's fire protection fees are not affected by changes in the state's homestead exemption act.

A few Belvedere residents expressed concern after they received letters from the fire district stating that although the state has granted a $50,000 exemption to qualified homeowners, the fire district is not financially able to grant that amount.

The homestead exemption in Belvedere will remain $20,000, Mrs. Ruvo said. The fire district has complete control of its financial operations and is not reimbursed by the county or the state for granting any homestead exemptions, she said.

"Nowhere in our legislation does it say that we have to grant any homestead exemption, so we're doing (the $20,000 exemption) as a favor to the people," Mrs. Ruvo said.

Aiken County and the cities of Aiken and North Augusta do not lose money on homestead exemption because the cost is covered by the state, Mrs. Ruvo said.

GEORGIA
Father charged in son's death

AUBURN - An Auburn father whose son was killed after an overdose of methamphetamine, the drug known as crystal meth, is scheduled to appear in court Friday on felony murder charges.

Michael R. Smock Sr. admitted to police he was using drugs with his two sons and one of their friends the night 17-year-old Joseph Smock died in the family home.

Even though Michael Smock admitted to using drugs, Auburn Police Chief Gary Holland said the felony murder charge will be hard to make because prosecutors would have to prove Michael Smock was in possession of the drug at the time of the Dec. 15 death.

"Realistically, they'll probably reduce it to involuntary manslaughter or something," Chief Holland said.

Joseph Smock and the other two teens face additional charges of obstruction of a law enforcement officer and tampering with evidence.

GEORGIA
Airman's death investigated

VALDOSTA - Moody Air Force authorities said Wednesday it is investigating the death of an airman whose body was found with a gunshot wound to the head earlier this week.

Authorities are not speculating on the cause of the death of Airman 1st Class Robert Goldberg Jr., whose body was found Monday, pending the investigation.

Base spokeswoman Lt. Tricia White said Airman Goldberg was a patrolman on duty when he was found by another patrolman.

Airman Goldberg's age and hometown were not immediately released.

The Air Force's Office of Special Investigations is investigating the death and Lt. White said the probe could take from three to six months.

Lt. White said flags were flown at half staff Tuesday on the base, and the family has been notified.

"The family is obviously our No. 1 concern," she said.

GEORGIA
New sheriff finds messy office

AMERICUS - Newly elected Sumter County Sheriff Bob Ingle didn't expect the incumbent, whom he defeated after a contentious campaign, to leave the office in perfect shape. But he was surprised by the mess he found.

Evidence and equipment was strewn about the office, three cruisers had been doused with pepper spray, and a half-dozen patrol cars had dead batteries because someone had left the lights, video cameras and radios running.

Sheriff Ingle wouldn't speculate on who was responsible for the vandalism, which he thinks happened New Year's Eve.

Incumbent Randy Howard had been sheriff in Sumter, former President Jimmy Carter's home county, for the past 24 years. Sheriff Ingle defeated Sheriff Howard in November and officially took office Monday.

Most of the fleet of about 50 vehicles have been poorly maintained, Sheriff Ingle said, adding that all needed oil changes and many have worn tires.

Two patrol cars apparently involved in deer collisions in the past month were sent to the body shop Tuesday morning.

SOUTH CAROLINA
City settles suit with ex-chief

DUNCAN - The town is paying a former police chief $60,000 to drop his lawsuit against it and former Mayor Greg Bridges.

Former Chief Barry Mallek, who now works in the Barrow County Sheriff's Office in Georgia, alleged that town officials unlawfully dismissed him in July 1999. Mr. Mallek had been police chief for more than six years when the mayor and former council members Fred Bright and Joe McCutcheon voted against his reappointment.

Mr. Bridges and Mr. Bright were defeated for re-election last June. Mr. McCutcheon resigned in August, citing health problems.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Judge seeks jury trial in assault

COLUMBIA - A state Appeals Court judge has asked for a jury trial in his criminal domestic violence case, postponing a hearing in the case scheduled for this week.

A trial date has not been scheduled for Judge Jasper Cureton, 62.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, Judge Cureton, 62, would face a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail or a $500 fine.

Judge Cureton was arrested Nov. 5 at his north Columbia home after his wife, Jean Cureton, called police, Richland County sheriff's deputies said.

Jean Cureton, 50, reported her husband grabbed her arm, leaving a 1-inch cut, while trying to take a piece of paper from her during an argument, deputies said.

Jean Cureton has since asked prosecutors to drop the case.