Originally created 02/13/01

Man held in 5-state rampage



Investigators from several states say they're piecing together one man's weeklong spree of theft and bloodshed.

At least two incidents police are looking at happened in Augusta, they're also examining the death of a 65-year-old McDuffie County woman who was hacked to death last week. In Pennsylvania, a gas station attendant was killed with a machete Sunday, and a woman working at a western retail store in Tennessee remains in critical condition after an attack Saturday by a man using the same type of weapon.

New Jersey authorities are holding Eric Jerome Fant, 39, who they took into custody Sunday after chasing the 1993 Chevrolet Lumina he was driving for 10 miles. He was arrested in clothing that appeared to be bloodstained and with a knife sheath wrapped around his waist. Police later found a 24-inch machete and several other knife sheaths, New Jersey State Police Detective Sgt. Thomas Trainor said.

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed Mr. Fant is a suspect in the killing of Dorothy C. Street, 65, at her home in Dearing. Vicki Metz said agents will head to New Jersey today or Wednesday to question Mr. Fant.

A relative found Ms. Street's body lying beside her back doorstep Sunday, McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall said. Police said she was killed Thursday, and the motive was robbery. She had been struck in the head and neck with a sharp object, the sheriff said.

The crime spree's erratic route might have begun Tuesday in the Augusta area.

Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry said Mr. Fant is suspected of breaking into Terry's Pharmacy on Windsor Spring Road on Feb. 6, after which a man was seen getting into a Lumina with no hubcaps.

On Wednesday, a Hephzibah woman was robbed and threatened by a blade-wielding man in the parking lot of the Ramada Inn & Suites off Washington Road. Maj. Autry said authorities are trying to link the attack to the burglary.

Lashell Pace, a 33-year-old hair stylist, said she went to the motel to visit a friend in town from Germany, and saw a man in a Lumina pull into a nearby parking space. She described him as "Indian looking," wearing a yellowish turban and having a full black beard. She said he spoke with a foreign accent.

"He looked very normal to me," Ms. Hall said. "He didn't look like a crazy person."

But that changed. She said she saw him produce what appeared to be a long knife or machete, then wipe it with a cloth.

He ordered her to give him her purse, which she did. Then he said, "I'm going to kill you," Ms. Hall said.

She slipped and fell as she ran toward the motel office. She found the door locked. She said someone in the office refused to let her in; a motel director said an emeployee in the office wouldn't have been able to see her.

A motel guest happened along, startling the assailant and allowing her inside the building, Ms. Hall said. She says the man had been following her since she left a nearby grocery store.

"It's really traumatized me," Ms. Hall said. "I'm afraid to go anywhere by myself now."

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation wants to talk to Mr. Fant about their own recent machete attack Saturday morning. Annette Richeson, 42, of Athens, Tenn., was assaulted outside the Sweetwater Western Store, receiving defensive injuries to her hands and arms.

And Pennsylvania authorities want to question Mr. Fant in the killing of gas station attendant Avinash Kaushal, who was found dead Sunday morning by a customer at a Citgo gas station in Snow Shoe, Pa., according to Pennsylvania State Police.

Authorities in Pennsylvania said Mr. Fant had entered the convenience store an hour before the body was found. He took an undisclosed sum from the register, then assaulted Mr. Kaushal with the machete, they said.

Late Sunday, New Jersey troopers found Mr. Fant sleeping inside a car with the engine running and headlights on in Allamuchy Township 17 miles east of the Pennsylvania line. The car had South Carolina plates, and had been reported stolen Wednesday, police said. When they asked for his identification, he sped away with his headlights off, police said.

He appeared to be throwing objects from the car as it weaved across traffic lanes. He eventually pulled over and was arrested without incident, troopers reported.

Mr. Fant was charged with eluding police, receiving stolen property and being a fugitive from justice from Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. He is being held without bond in the Warren County jail in New Jersey.

New Jersey State Police said the suspect admitted to the Pennsylvania slaying after his capture.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Richard Brogan said he also gave authorities information concerning the Dearing attack and other crimes.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225.