Originally created 03/01/01

Across the area



HEPHZIBAH
Father arrested in neglect case

A 911 hang-up Tuesday led police to a Hephzibah residence where five children ranging from age 1 to 8 had been left alone while their parents were at work, said a Richmond County Sheriff's Office major.

A deputy was dispatched to the residence in the 3800 block of Shari Street at 7 p.m. and found the children in a filthy house, Maj. Ken Autry said.

The father, Kenneth Tarver, 30, told police he had left the children with a baby sitter who was to stay with them until their mother returned from work. The children told police that there was no sitter and that they had been alone, Maj. Autry said.

Officers arrested Mr. Tarver and charged him with contributing to the deprivation of a minor, Maj. Autry said.

According to jail records, Mr. Tarver was arrested on the same offense Oct. 9 when he left all five children in a vehicle parked at Augusta Mall while he went inside to return shoes.

The Department of Family and Children's Services was notified but did not remove the children from the home, Maj. Autry said.

AUGUSTA
Slaying suspect loses drug case

An Augusta man awaiting trial on unrelated charges of murder and aggravated assault was convicted Wednesday of a drug charge.

Haskell D. Johnson, who turned 20 in jail awaiting trial on three separate cases, was convicted in Richmond County Superior Court of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute March 5, a day after sheriff's investigators claimed hewas one of three men who shot 36-year-old Ritchard Lewis during a robbery attempt.

Mr. Johnson, who faces a charge of murder in Mr. Lewis' death, also faces charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in a Feb. 15 shooting outside a Ninth Street nightclub.

A sentencing date has not been set yet for Wednesday's drug conviction, punishable by two to 15 years in prison.

AUGUSTA
Armed man robs paint store

A man robbed the Sherwin Williams paint store on Wrightsboro Road and two people inside at gunpoint Tuesday afternoon, according to a Richmond County Sheriff's Office report.

Store Manager Gary Lee Smith told police that a man with a gray hooded shirt carrying a chrome-plated semiautomatic handgun entered the business through the back door about 1:30 p.m. Once inside, the man told Mr. Smith and two customers to lie on the floor after he opened the cash drawers, the report states.

The robber also took all of Mr. Smith's money and one of the customer's wallets, the report states.

AIKEN
Workers douse fire at old plant

Construction workers put out a small fire Wednesday inside a former bronze plant in Aiken's Verenes Industrial Park, Aiken Department of Public Safety Inspector David Turno said.

The fire broke out about 2:30 p.m. after workers used a blowtorch to cut an exhaust duct at the former Gorham Bronze plant. The torch ignited lint and dust in the exhaust duct, starting a fire, officials said.

Construction workers were able to put the fire out with hoses and a fire extinguisher minutes after it started, Inspector Turno said. Aiken public safety fire trucks and Center Fire Department responded to the fire, which already had been reduced to smoke, officials said.

No one was injured in the fire, Inspector Turno said.

Gorham Bronze was a 160-employee plant that closed in October 1999. The York Group, the company that owns the maker of bronze monuments, decided to move the division to a York plant in Kingwood, W.Va.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
New course trains police dogs

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office has an addition to its training facilities.

The new canine course - complete with stairs, jumps and tunnels - is designed to strengthen the bond between the handler and the dog, Sgt. Mike Riley of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office Crime Suppression Unit said during Monday's demonstration.

"It's all about control," he said. "And the course is only limited by our imaginations."

Deputies use the course to teach obedience and boost the dogs' confidence. Each dog receives training before the start of its shift, in addition to the hours of training it receives each week.

The sheriff's office has six dogs. Although all six are trained to track people, four are trained to find narcotics. The other two dogs find explosives.

The dogs often are used during traffic stops by crime suppression team members. The canine unit assists with manhunts, locating missing children and elderly people. The unit also performs random drug searches in local schools at the request of school authorities.

AUGUSTA
Speaker will detail grave research

Alexia Helsley of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History will discuss ways to record cemetery information and the need to preserve grave markers during Cemetery Documentation and Preservation.

The session of the Augusta Genealogical Society will begin at 7 p.m.today in the fourth-floor tower of Washington Hall at Augusta State University. There is no admission charge. For more information, call 722-4073.

GEORGIA
Law keeping guns from felons

FORSYTH - Closer cooperation between state and local police agencies has resulted in 40 investigations of violent felons attempting to buy guns.

Gov. Roy Barnes announced those results Wednesday at a meeting with 400 prosecutors and local law-enforcement officials receiving training on how the cooperation works.

A state law enacted last year requires a five-year mandatory sentence for any felon convicted of a violent crime to even attempt to buy a gun. Mr. Barnes, a former prosecutor, said that before the law even took effect July 1 he began planning the improved cooperation needed to catch the would-be buyers.

His idea is to have the Georgia Bureau of Investigation notify local police and sheriff's offices whenever an instant background check on a buyer reveals a conviction for a violent crime.

GBI officials estimate they have prevented 50,000 felons from buying guns through licensed dealers in the last five years.