Originally created 04/21/01

Across the area

Woman pleads in two robberies

A young Augusta woman accused of being an accomplice in an armed robbery and a separate home invasion pleaded guilty Friday and agreed to testify against her co-defendant in exchange for a reduction in charges.

Sherrie L. Walker, 18, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to two counts each of robbery, making terroristic threats and aggravated assault. In that case, she drove for Darnell B. Dennis, 29, when he robbed two people Dec. 5 at the Shapiro Packing Co. and fired gunshots at victims who pursued their assailants.

Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. sentenced Ms. Walker to serve 10 years in prison and 10 years on probation.

Mr. Dennis is scheduled to stand trial next week in Richmond County Superior Court on eight counts of armed robbery, three counts of making terroristic threats, one count of kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault and 10 weapons violations. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In addition to the robbery and shooting, Mr. Dennis is accused of holding up six people at gunpoint during a home invasion Dec. 6, and forcing one victim to drive to a different location to get more valuables.

Teaching assistant suspended

A paraprofessional at Craig-Houghton Elementary School has been suspended without pay after a confrontation with a fourth-grade pupil.

Richmond County Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Charles Larke said the altercation occurred Monday, and is under investigation internally. The teaching assistant will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome.

Dr. Larke would not disclose the name of the employee. He referred specific questions about the incident to Principal Doris James, who did not return messages left at her home Friday evening.

Animal shelter changes hours

The operating hours for Richmond County's Animal Control facility are changing, starting today.

The shelter now will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m., closed Mondays, and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, said Animal Control Director Bonnie Bragdon.

However, enforcement officers will be out every day, Dr. Bragdon said.

Also, some fees at the center will increase as of May 14. For example, it will cost $10 to adopt ferrets, birds, snakes, potbellied pigs and some other smaller animals. The current fees for those animals range from free to $5.

The cost to impound small animals will increase from $10. For the first offense, it will cost $25, $50 for the second and $100 for the third.

Teen crushed under falling drywall

CUMMING - A 14-year-old boy died Thursday after being trapped in near-freezing temperatures under hundreds of pounds of drywall that fell on him inside a church building under construction, authorities said.

Josh Crane went for a walk Tuesday night and climbed into the partially built Sunday school building at Cumming Baptist Church, police Chief Buck Jones said.

It's not clear how the 12-15 slabs of drywall fell on him, Chief Jones said. The boy's mother called police when he didn't come home by midnight, and officers searched well into the night, as temperatures dipped into the low 30s.

Josh was found by construction workers before 8 a.m. Wednesday. They pulled the drywall off his 100-pound body, and he was taken to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. He died early Thursday from hypothermia and internal injuries, officials said.

Capital zoo honors famed gorilla

ATLANTA - Zoo Atlanta will unveil a life-size bronze statue of Willie B., its beloved gorilla who died last year.

The statue, to be dedicated today, will have the gorilla's ashes inside.

Zoo Marketing Director Gail Eaton said Willie lives on as a symbol of the growth of the once-decrepit zoo. She said keeping his memory alive will help ensure continued progress.

Willie B. died in February 2000 at age 41, his heart weakened by pneumonia.

Originally, zoo officials wanted to scatter Willie B.'s ashes across his native Cameroon, but instability in that country caused a change in plans.

A hand-carved clay replica of the statue was shipped from Wisconsin to Arizona, where it was copied in bronze. Artist Edwin Bogucki created the sculpture using videotapes and more than 300 pictures of the gorilla.

"Every eyelash is in place," Ms. Eaton said.

Girl dies after falling in lake

ATLANTA - An 11-year-old girl died Friday, four days after her older sister died trying to save her from drowning.

Jondel Courtney had been on life support since she was pulled from a Carrollton lake, said Bud Benefield, Carroll County fire rescue training chief. The girl died at an Atlanta children's hospital.

Jondel's 16-year-old sister, Angelica, drowned in the lake Monday trying to rescue Jondel, who authorities say had fallen in.

A nearby fisherman jumped in and pulled Jondel out. He went back in to save Angelica, but could not find her. Angelica's body was recovered later by a rescue diver.

The two girls and a third sister, Shondel, had ridden their bicycles to the lake. Shondel jumped in also but was unhurt.

Discrimination suit proves costly

ATLANTA - Fulton County has paid $625,000 in legal fees to a law firm that won a discrimination verdict on behalf of 15 white deputies who sued the sheriff's department in 1993.

This week's payment brings the county's total payout to more than $1.4 million for a case it could have settled for as little as $400,000. The county also paid more than $200,000 in legal fees to defend the case, which accused Sheriff Jackie Barrett of discriminating against 18 white members of her department.

Three of the plaintiffs were dismissed at trial three years later. The remaining 15 deputies won $812,000. That amount was reduced on appeal, but more appeals and interest eventually forced the county to pay about $800,000, said Harlan Miller, who represented the plaintiffs.

Werewolf book draws criticism

GREENVILLE - Two Greenville County teachers complained a teen-age werewolf book contains sexual and violent content, but a review panel has decided it will remain on the shelves.

The book, Blood and Chocolate, is about a 16-year-old girl who falls in love with a boy, then loses him when he finds out she's a werewolf.

The panel expressed concerns about graphic language and sexual and violent scenes, but decided Thursday the book should stay in middle and high school libraries.

Last year, Blood and Chocolate, published in 1997 by a division of Random House, won the Young Adult Book Award from the South Carolina Association of School Librarians. The award propelled the book onto recommend reading lists at schools across the state.


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