Originally created 02/04/01

Across the area



AIKEN
Third man faces burglary charges

A third man has been charged in connection with a violent burglary and sexual assault at Royal Inn last year, when two hotel guests said a group of armed men kicked in their door, covered their heads and attacked and robbed them.

Nicholas Jermaine Smith, 19, of the 1100 block of Abbeville Avenue, was arrested late Friday and charged with armed robbery and burglary. He is being held without bond at the Aiken County Detention Center.

There are two other suspects already charged in the Oct. 29 incident, including Tonnie Nathaniel Baldwin, the Aiken man recently charged in the Oct. 6 slaying of college student Jason Bernard Cook. Mr. Cook, a freshman from the University of South Carolina Aiken, was shot dead on a dirt driveway on Horseshoe Bend Road.

In the hotel robbery, a 20-year-old Graniteville woman and a 23-year-old Aiken man told police they were asleep when the suspects kicked in the door at 3 a.m. The female victim said she was fondled. She told police the suspects went through her wallet and took her money and identification card, warning her not to report them to anyone because they knew her identity and could hurt her.

Nearby hotel guests apparently heard the commotion and called 911. Aiken Public Safety investigators arrived and caught one suspect, but three others ran away. They later tracked down Mr. Baldwin at the Smile Gas Station nearby and arrested him.

Gehazel Jamal Muse, 21, is also charged in the hotel robbery. He is out of jail on bond, but Mr. Baldwin remains in the Aiken jail under no bond.

AUGUSTA
Police seek man in rape, burglary

Authorities are searching for a man accused of breaking into a house and raping an 18-year-old woman.

Terrence Clifford, 34, of the 1500 block of Linden Street, is wanted on charges of rape, burglary and kidnapping, said Investigator Bill Kitchens of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said a man, whom they identified as Mr. Clifford, forced his way into the woman's home Friday about 8:30 a.m. while she was asleep, authorities said.

The woman, who reportedly knew her attacker, woke up and went from her bedroom to the living room with the man, who then grabbed her around the neck and dragged her to another bedroom, where he allegedly raped her, Investigator Kitchens said.

He said Mr. Clifford is accused of kidnapping because he moved the victim by force.

"Georgia law just requires that I move you against your will. I can move you 10 feet and that's kidnapping," Investigator Kitchens said.

Mr. Clifford is 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs 215 pounds. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office at 821-1080.

GEORGIA
Officials trace fatal fire to stove

TOCCOA - Fire officials believe a kitchen stove used to heat a mobile home started a blaze that killed a woman and her 2-year-old son south of Toccoa.

Authorities on Saturday identified the victims as Donna Bratton, 23, and her son, Patrick.

The blaze started about 3:30 a.m Friday and destroyed the mobile home, investigators said.

The woman's husband escaped unharmed, carrying a 6-month-old baby with him. The victim's mother-in-law and two other children also escaped safely.

Officials said the family was using a kitchen stove to heat the home.

GEORGIA
Deputy charged in sex assault

BAXLEY - An Appling County sheriff's deputy has been charged with sexually assaulting a woman in the back seat of his patrol car.

Authorities say Deraimus Walker, 37, allegedly picked up a woman in her 30s from her home and drove her to a secluded country road. The woman had committed no crime and was not wanted by police, Sheriff Benny DeLoach said.

Mr. Walker was charged Friday with rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment and battery.

It was unclear whether Mr. Walker had arrested the woman or how she was targeted. Sheriff DeLoach was unavailable Saturday, according to his office. The victim did not know Mr. Walker, he said.

Sheriff DeLoach said he learned of the attack at a sheriff's convention in Atlanta on Thursday, but did not say when he believes the rape occurred.

"I came straight home and fired him as soon as I got back," Sheriff DeLoach said.

Sheriff's officials declined to reveal where Mr. Walker is being held pending a bond hearing.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Second man dies on work site

STARR - A Leeville man who plunged 60 feet to his death in a lift basket has become the second worker to die on the job in four months at the Santee Cooper construction site.

Robin Blackwell, 36, and another man were suspended in a lift basket attached to a concrete beam when the beam gave way Thursday afternoon, causing them to fall 54 to 60 feet, officials said.

Mr. Blackwell died a few hours after the accident, while the co-worker was treated and released at the hospital. Both men were wearing harnesses, but they were attached to the beam, officials said.

In October, Gerardo Montiel Canada fell to his death when he lifted some flooring on a temporary platform and fell through a hole 80 feet to the ground.

Federal officials determined there were no violations by either Santee Cooper or the contractor, Kamtech, in the October accident, said Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman Jim Knight.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Mother convicted in abuse death

GEORGETOWN - An Andrews mother was convicted of homicide by child abuse a week after another jury deadlocked on the same charge.

Sabrina Bone, 23, was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Prosecutors say she knew her boyfriend, Jay McClellan, was abusing her 2-year-old son. Mr. McClellan faces a murder trial later this year.

Ms. Bone said she found the boy dead in a bathtub, but an autopsy showed he was strangled and beaten in the head, police said.

Circuit Judge Michael Baxley told Ms. Bone he was handing down the long sentence so Ms. Bone's three other children could grow up without her influence.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Police charge man in dog attack

SPARTANBURG - A Spartanburg man whose dogs mauled an 88-year-old woman here has been charged with possession of a vicious dog, sheriff's deputies said.

Brett Kitchens, 28, was charged Friday about eight hours after his blue tick and walker hound mix mauled Velma Gunter during a walk on her property, police said.

Ms. Gunter underwent a 90-minute surgery to treat deep cuts to her face and ankles. She is recovering at home.

Spartanburg Environmental Enforcement Director Don Arnold said his office ticketed Mr. Kitchens in August after receiving complaints about his dogs running free in the neighborhood, but the charge was dismissed when witnesses failed to show up for court.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Athletes avoid court in sex case

GREER - Six football players accused of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old female student won't face prosecution, investigators say.

"The victim's family is not willing to prosecute," said Police Chief Dean Crisp, who consulted with the county's prosecutor. "Unless we develop any other criminal information our investigation is stopped based on the information we have."

Last month, Greer High School Principal Marion Waters suspended all seven students while school officials investigated allegations that sexual acts occurred several times in the school parking lot and in a school minibus and once in the school building.

After the school's investigation, the six youths were removed Jan. 19 and assigned to alternative school, and the parents of the girl withdrew their child.

The parents of five of the six boys are appealing the reassignment of the boys to other schools.