Originally created 02/03/01

Across the area

Pleading prisoner wins shorter term

Being the last to be sentenced in Richmond County Superior Court after a judge's marathon day in court might have worked to Willie J. McGruder's advantage late Friday afternoon.

As he stood before Judge Albert M. Pickett after he admitted he was guilty of armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of crime, Mr. McGruder, 42, pleaded with the judge that a 20-year prison sentence was just as bad as a life sentence at his age, and that his 10-year-old son would be grown by the time he got out of prison.

Judge Pickett relented, saying Mr. McGruder had talked him into reducing the sentence to 15 years in prison. The judge headed off further protest from Mr. McGruder, saying any more comments would add five years back to his sentence.

Mr. McGruder, who served eight years in prison in the 1980s for manslaughter, admitted Friday he robbed a Holiday Market clerk at gunpoint Aug. 24, taking $36.

He will have to serve at least 90 percent of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Chorale, antiques events set

The University of South Carolina Aiken Masterworks Chorale presents "An Evening of Champagne, Dessert and Love Songs" from 8 to 10 p.m. today in the City of Aiken Municipal Building on Park Avenue.

Tickets cost $15 or $25 per person, and are available at the Etherredge Center Box Office, 641-3305. The ticket price includes champagne, nonalcoholic drinks, dessert and entertainment. Proceeds will benefit the Masterworks Chorale's future performances and the USC Aiken student scholarship programs.

ANTIQUES IN THE HEART OF AIKEN: Aiken antique dealers wheel out their wares for public perusal at 11 a.m. today and 1 p.m. Sunday at the Aiken Center for the Arts, 122 Laurens St. S.W. Refreshments will be available. Tickets cost $5. For more information, call (803) 641-9094.

Felon gets probation in drug case

Based on the district attorney's recommendation to give probation to a convicted felon facing new charges of sale and possession of ecstasy, an Augusta man received a probation sentence Friday.

William G. Lange III, 32, of the 300 block of Brandywine Place, pleaded guilty Friday to reduced charges of possession of methylenedioxymethamphetamine with intent to distribute. He had faced that charge and two charges of sale of the drug in August, along with a misdemeanor charge. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Lange was in possession of 66 ecstasy pills.

In Richmond County Superior Court on Friday, Judge Albert M. Pickett said he would accept District Attorney Danny Craig's recommendation that Mr. Lange receive a probation sentence.

Judge Pickett sentenced Mr. Lange to serve 10 years on intensive probation and pay a $2,000 fine. This probation sentence will run simultaneously with the six-year probation sentence he received in 1999.

Fire officials seek homeowner

The Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department is trying to locate the owner of a vacant house that was destroyed by an early morning fire Friday.

After finding the one-story house engulfed in flames, firefighters spent about 40 minutes bringing the blaze under control at 3601 Windsor Spring Road, fire investigator Lt. G.B. Hannan said. Flames spread to nearby trees, leading the department to initially believe they were facing a woods fire, he said.

The house was unoccupied, but had temporary power, and lumber and work materials were found outside. Lt. Hannan said he would have to dig through the debris before he could determine what ignited the fire.

Plutonium-treatment talk set

A nuclear watchdog group will hold a public meeting Tuesday to discuss proposed plutonium-treatment plants at Savannah River Site.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Holley Inn, 235 Richland Ave. in Aiken. The topic of the presentation will be "Plutonium: The Past Five Years."

Savannah River Site is slated to receive more than 55 tons of surplus plutonium during the next decade. The U.S. Department of Energy plans to build more than $1.4 billion in new plants at the federal nuclear-weapons site to complete the work.

The radioactive metal, a key component of nuclear weapons, can cause cancer if inhaled even in relatively small amounts.

State: Gunman attempted suicide

High school gunman T.J. Solomon was trying to kill himself when he swallowed an antidepressant in his prison cell, authorities said Friday.

Mr. Solomon, 17, was transferred from an Athens hospital to Augusta State Medical Prison as investigators tried to determine how he got pills of the mood-altering drug Elavil, which had not been prescribed for him.

Guards at Arrendale State Prison in Alto found him unconscious on the floor of his cell Tuesday morning.

"We're now treating it as a suicide attempt," said Scott Stallings, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. He would not elaborate.

Mr. Solomon, then 15, shot six classmates at Heritage High School in suburban Atlanta's Rockdale County in 1999, exactly one month after the deadly shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. No one was killed in the Heritage shootings.

Mr. Solomon pleaded guilty but mentally ill in November and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. The state has declined to release details of his mental condition.

Specialists will re-evaluate Mr. Solomon at the Augusta medical prison, where he will stay until a decision is made on where to place him permanently, Mr. Stallings said Friday.

Man charged in fatal shooting

LOGANVILLE - Police have charged a 22-year-old man with fatally shooting a woman through a bathroom wall.

Cameron James George was being held in the Walton County Jail. He is charged with murder in the weekend death of Heather Jilleen Page, 22, who was struck in the back of the head by a 9 mm bullet, said Loganville police Sgt. Mike McHugh.

Ms. Page was in the bathroom of her home in Loganville, about 30 miles east of Atlanta, when a handgun was fired in an adjacent room.

Mr. George was arrested Tuesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

SLED enters traffic-stop case

ATLANTIC BEACH - The State Law Enforcement Division has been called in to investigate a scuffle between an Atlantic Beach town councilman and a North Myrtle Beach police officer.

Atlantic Beach Police Chief Austin Hairston said he is asking for SLED's help because of Vander Gore's elected position.

According to a police report, Officer C.B. Folster tried to arrest Mr. Gore on Jan. 15 after a police officer stopped his wife for driving with no headlights, the report said.

The councilman swore at the officer, told Officer Folster he couldn't arrest him because he was a councilman, then ran home and threatened Officer Folster with a saw, according to the report.

But the councilman and his wife said Officer Folster tried to arrest him for no reason and then attacked him after he walked toward his wife's car during the traffic stop.


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