Originally created 01/27/01

Across the area



BURKE COUNTY
Robbery, stabbinghospitalize pastor

WAYNESBORO - A prominent Waynesboro resident and pastor was in critical condition after being stabbed in the back during a robbery outside his home Friday, according to Burke County authorities.

Dozens of people, including parishioners and public safety workers, gathered at Burke Medical Center as the Rev. Wayne Dixon was being stabilized after the attack at his home on the 300 block of Georgia Highway 56, just south of the Waynesboro city limits.

He was later taken to the trauma unit at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where a crowd gathered again. Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey said the pastor may have suffered a punctured lung.

The Rev. Dixon is pastor of Botsford Baptist Church, and also operates Dixon Wrecking Company, one of the largest wrecker services in the county.

The sheriff said the Rev. Dixon arrived home from work about 5:30 p.m., and two masked men emerged from behind his garage. One thrust a gun in his face while the other put a knife to his back. They demanded his money, and after he tossed his wallet on the ground, one stabbed him in the left side of his back, Sheriff Coursey said.

Deputies were looking for the men late Friday. They were believed to be driving a four-door green Nissan Altima with Richmond County plates and a Sunbelt Nissan logo tag on the front. They were described as black, one wearing a brownish-colored jacket, the other wearing a flower-design suit. Anyone with information about the two should call the Burke County Sheriff's Office at (706) 554-2133.

EDGEFIELD COUNTY
Officers arrest JROTC instructor

EDGEFIELD - A Strom Thurmond High School instructor was arrested Friday for committing a lewd act on a student, sheriff's deputies said.

Police arrested Paul A. Thomas, 50, at his home without incident shortly after 6 p.m., Edgefield County Sheriff's Office Capt. Roger Lowe said.

Mr. Thomas was in the county jail without bond late Friday. He is an instructor with the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Capt. Lowe said the sheriff's office got involved after the principal asked the agency to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct involving several students during the past year. Authorities have not released the exact nature of the alleged sex acts.

The investigation is not over, and additional charges are expected, Capt. Lowe said.

AUGUSTA
Truck hits girl riding bicycle

A 9-year-old girl riding a bike on Pleasant Home Road was struck by a pickup Friday, according to Rural/Metro Ambulance spokeswoman Valerie Spratlin.

Her father told medics her bike became wedged under the truck and was dragged about 15 feet with the girl still on it.

The girl was rushed to Medical College of Georgia Hospital. She suffered cuts and scrapes, and possible internal injuries, Ms. Spratlin said.

The incident happened near Crane Ferry Road at about 4:30 p.m. The girl was wearing a helmet at the time, Ms. Spratlin said.

"That's what saved her life," she said.

AUGUSTA
Bond denied in pastor's slaying

A judge denied bond Friday for a woman accused of killing an Augusta minister, but he said he might reconsider after reading a transcript of her preliminary hearing.

Maxine D. Echols, 31, of Aiken was arrested on murder charges in the strangulation and asphyxiation death of the Rev. Robert David Padgett, 62. His body was found Nov. 12 in his Deans Bridge Road home. A plastic bag was shoved down his throat, and another covered his head. A telephone cord was wrapped around his neck.

Assistant District Attorney Shauna Reeves told Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr. that Ms. Echols confessed to killing the Rev. Padgett. Defense attorney Leon Larke described Ms. Echols' statement to investigators as a denial, however, and said others were responsible for the slaying.

Judge Fleming denied bond Friday. He asked for a transcript of Ms. Echols' preliminary hearing and said he might reconsider bond afterward.

AUGUSTA
Futurity promises family fun

The Augusta Futurity's Family Fun Night starts at 4 p.m. today at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.

Admission for the whole family costs $10. There will be puppet shows, pony photos, a little-cowboy and little-cowgirl contest, rope demonstrations, Western songs and stories, a magician and music.

The 22nd annual Futurity began Friday and runs through Feb. 3 at the civic center. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster and at the civic center box office.

AUGUSTA
Invasion leads to 20-year jail term

A young Augusta man who admitted Friday he had raped a woman received a 20-year prison sentence.

Tyrone Derrick, 18, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to rape, kidnapping, aggravated sodomy and burglary in a violent home invasion on Dec. 13, 1999. Mr. Derrick could have received as much as life behind bars on the kidnapping charge alone.

Defense attorney Randolph Frails asked Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr. for leniency Friday, saying Mr. Derrick is remorseful. While a mental evaluation showed Mr. Derrick is competent, his intelligence is in the lowest 20 percent of the population, Mr. Frails said.

Mr. Derrick has been held in jail since his arrest. He will not become eligible for parole consideration until he serves 90 percent of his sentence, about 15 years.

GEORGIA
Highway wreck kills mother, child

ATLANTA - A Lawrenceville mother and her 15-month-old daughter were killed Friday morningin a fiery wreck on Interstate 85.

The victims were identified as 37-year-old Lynne U. Belli of Lawrenceville and her infant daughter, Nicole Belli, both passengers in a Jeep Cherokee, said Atlanta police spokesman John Quigley.

He said the driver, husband John Belli, was taken to Grady Memorial with burns on 75 percent of his body. He was listed in critical condition, said hospital spokeswoman Alice Morris.

The southbound lanes of the highway were closed by the 6 a.m. crash just north of the I-75-85 connector until 8:30 a.m., when one lane was reopened, but the interstate remained gridlocked until about 11 a.m., when all lanes were reopened.

Southbound traffic on Georgia Highway 400, a toll road that feeds into I-85 north of the crash site, also was gridlocked.

SOUTH CAROLINA
School janitor faces drug charges

BENNETTSVILLE - A middle school custodian has been charged with selling drugs to customers who would visit him on school grounds, Marlboro County Sheriff William Simon says.

Deputies do not think Alfred Harrison McDownell, 43, sold drugs to the pupils or staff at Wallace Middle School, Sheriff Simon said.

An undercover officer went to the school and bought cocaine from Mr. McDownell, who also served as a volunteer assistant basketball coach, Sheriff Simon said.

"His customers would come to the school to buy from him because he couldn't leave work to go out and sell to them," the sheriff said.

Mr. McDownell, of Cheraw, is charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute within proximity of a school, three counts of distribution of cocaine, and three counts of distribution of cocaine within proximity of a school.