Originally created 03/11/01

Across the area



AUGUSTA
Police detain men on robbery charges

Authorities have arrested two men in connection with the armed robbery of an Augusta convenience store last week.

Sebastian A. Hicks, 19, of the 2000 block of Virginia Road, and Shawn Finney, 21, of the 2000 block of Cornelia Road, were taken into police custody about 9 p.m. Friday, said Richard Roundtree, an investigator with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

The two men were booked on charges of armed robbery, theft by taking and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

On March 6, two masked men entered the Shell Pump-N-Shop on the 1500 block of Central Avenue about 2:40 a.m. by breaking a glass window with a brick, according to police reports.

The men, armed with a sawed-off shotgun and a handgun, ordered the store clerk to give them money from the cash register and the keys to her car. The car was recovered later that day by a deputy.

Police were led to the suspects after re ceiving calls from people who had seen surveillance videos of the holdup on television, Investigator Roundtree said.

He said the money was not recovered.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
Truck spills fuel from ruptured tank

About 20 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from a tractor-trailer Saturday onto an Interstate 20 Grovetown exit ramp but caused no traffic problems or injuries.

According to Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris, the incident occurred about 3 p.m. at the Lewiston Road exit as Charles Chauvin, 55, of Schriever, La., drove a cooling truck over a piece of metal while eastbound on the interstate. The truck is owned by Employees Express.

Capt. Morris said the metal cut into the truck's left tire and then ruptured its 50-gallon tank, releasing 20 gallons of fuel as the vehicle exited the ramp - stopping at a nearby Amoco gas station.

Capt. Morris said road workers sanded the exit where the gas had spilled, but the exit was not closed and the traffic was not hampered.

AUGUSTA
Officials say duplex fire was set

Fire investigators say a blaze that displaced a family and slightly damaged a duplex building was set intentionally.

Firefighters were called to 1112 Russell St. shortly after 11 p.m. Friday, said Lt. G.B. Hannan, an arson investigator for the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.

He said the fire was started in the vacant side of the duplex and spread along an adjoining wall to the home of a family living on the other side.

The five people who were home at the time escaped unharmed, Lt. Hannan said.

He said authorities have made no arrests in the case but do have suspects.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Sheriff rules killing self defense

NEWBERRY - A store clerk was defending himself when he shot and killed a Georgia man early Saturday and will not be charged, Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said.

The unidentified clerk shot Andy Charles Lowe, 23, of Cartersville, while he was being beaten with a stick outside Pope Circle Grocery, Sheriff Foster said.

The sheriff said Mr. Lowe and another man, who fled on foot, had attempted to rob the store.

The case fits into Attorney General Charlie Condon's "open season" policy on robbers and home invaders, Sheriff Foster said. Mr. Condon announced earlier this year that he would not prosecute people if they kill someone invading their home or property.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Kidnapping victim gives thanks

EUTAWVILLE - A real estate agent abducted as she worked says thoughts of her family and the help of a higher power helped her through her three-day ordeal.

Police said Reba Ostner, 52, was kidnapped Tuesday by Anthony Michael Owens, 29, after he showed up at the Santee real estate company where she works, asking to look at property.

"The prayers of all my family and friends and those I don't even know are greatly appreciated," Ms. Ostner said. "God has truly seen me through this."

Mr. Owens was arrested Thursday after shooting at a Spartanburg County deputy outside a store. Ms. Ostner and two other women kidnapped earlier in the day from a Clinton hotel escaped unharmed after Mr. Owens fired one shot at his hostages and another at the officer, police said.

Ms. Ostner did not answer specific questions about her three days as a hostage but said she couldn't stop thinking about her family during the ordeal.

"I kept thinking, `I've get to get out of this so I can see my babies again,"' she said Friday at a news conference from her home.

Police said Mr. Owens' crime spree started a week before in Richmond Hill, Ga., where he is charged with raping and killing 36-year-old Bonny Carroll on March 4. He is being held without bail at the Spartanburg County Jail.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Judge denies bond in shooting

LANCASTER - A judge denied bond for two brothers accused in the kidnapping and shooting death of a video gambling business manager after the victim's wife made an emotional plea.

Friday marked the first time Rita Steele spoke publicly since she and her husband were abducted from their home in June and forced to the headquarters of McDonald Amusements in what police say was a robbery attempt.

"I've never been afraid of the dark since I was a little girl, but I am now. No one deserves to be treated like we were treated," Ms. Steele said Friday during a bond hearing for Vernard Sparks and William Witherspoon, who are half brothers.

Ms. Steele told the judge she and her family would fear for their lives if the pair were released.

Prosecutor Doug Barfield said Mr. Sparks and Mr. Witherspoon were among the three people who barged into the Steele home. He said they also were present when a duct-tape-bound Melvin Steele was shot. Mr. Steele bled to death after he and his wife were dumped in the woods.

Judge Lee Alford denied bond for the brothers, saying the charges are "extremely serious" and their alleged out-of-state connections could make them a flight risk.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Young inmate died from stroke

GREENWOOD - A 25-year-old inmate at Leath Correctional Institution died from a stroke, an autopsy report says.

Angela Benita Lattimore, of Anderson County, had heart trouble when she was taken to Self Memorial Hospital, where she died Tuesday.

There were several reasons for Ms. Lattimore's fatal stroke, including "bone marrow failure," said Dr. Janice Ross, the pathologist who performed the autopsy.

Prison officials were aware of Ms. Lattimore's health problems and had been treating her, said State Corrections Department spokesman Cheryl Bates-Lee.

Ms. Lattimore has been at the prison since January 2000 for her second offense of distribution of crack cocaine.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Industries want to dump more

CHARLESTON - Three Cooper River industries and utilities are asking the state to lower water-quality standards so they can dump more pollutants into the river.

All three had been ordered last year to reduce the amount of pollutants they dump. But now Westvaco, the North Charleston Sewer District and the Berkeley County Water and Sanitation Authority want to use a 2-year-old state law that allows them to increase discharges if they can prove it won't hurt aquatic life.

It would be the first time industry has taken advantage of the law.

The state health department has said the Cooper River has reached its capacity to absorb pollutants. The primary concern is the decreasing level of dissolved oxygen that fish and other marine animals need to survive.