Originally created 04/28/01

Across the area



PENNSYLVANIA
Stabbing suspect will plead insanity

STATE COLLEGE - Lawyers for the man charged with the stabbing death of a Pennsylvania gas station attendant during a February crime spree that began in Augusta say their client will plead insanity.

Although the evaluation of Eric Jerome Fant, 37, of Memphis, Tenn., is incomplete, his lawyers already have enough information to believe they have a legitimate claim of insanity, said Centre County, Pa., District Attorney Ray Gricar.

Mr. Fant is charged with first-degree murder and robbery in the slashing death of Avinash Kaushal, 50, in Snow Shoe, Pa., on Feb. 11, three days after Dearing resident Dorothy C. Street, 65, was hacked to death. Mr. Fant is accused of killing Mrs. Street on her back doorsteps as she was unloading groceries.

Mr. Fant also is charged with a machete attack in Sweetwater, Tenn., on Feb. 10 on a store clerk who survived. He was arrested in Warren County, N.J., on Feb. 11 in a stolen car and later was extradited to Pennsylvania, where court officials sent him to Warren State Hospital for a psychological evaluation.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Road rage sparks weapons charge

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office charged a 21-year-old Alabama man with carrying a concealed weapon after a brush with a school bus carrying high schoolers Friday.

According to a deputy, the man removed a 9 mm pistol from the trunk of his Pontiac Grand Am to intimidate the Jefferson County High School students at the intersection of Bobby Jones Expressway and Scott Nixon Memorial Drive around 4:15 p.m. Earlier on Interstate 20, some of the students had been chewing sunflower seeds and spitting them out the window. The man became angry when seeds hit his car, and at the intersection he removed the gun and returned to the drivers' seat, Deputy Randall Brown said.

"He let his temper get the better of him," the deputy said.

The bus was en route to Westside High School for a baseball game at the time. The driver used a cell phone to summon police, who pulled over Lloyd Polion, of Montgomery, Ala., and arrested him.

Deputy Brown said he could not apply Georgia's road rage law because it does not go into effect until July.

AIKEN COUNTY
Collision places 2 men in hospital

A collision on an Aiken County roadway sent two men to the hospital Friday.

The accident, along a deadly stretch of Gray Mare Hollow Road, happened around 6 p.m., three miles off Silver Bluff Road. Authorities said Harold Stephens, 38, of Aiken, was traveling west when he rounded a curve and crossed the center line.

His 1997 Chevrolet pickup, pulling a bass boat, collided head-on with a Blazer driven by Jerry Jenkins, 23, also of Aiken.

Mr. Jenkins and his passenger, Spencer Braxton, 27, were taken by ambulance to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, said Lance Cpl. K.R. Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Both were in serious condition Friday night.

Mr. Stephens was not hurt, but he has been charged with driving left of the center line, the trooper said.

AIKEN COUNTY
Seniors garner free bus fare

The Aiken County Public Transit System will provide free round-trip passes to all passengers 60 years old or older from Monday to May 5.

The free fares are provided to recognize Older Americans Month, which is celebrated in May.

Transit Manager Jeanene Knapp said passengers who are 60 or older will be asked to provide identification for the bus drivers of the Best Friend Express, the county's public transit system. The bus drivers will then provide free round-trip passes. The passes will allow passengers to ride from one end of the system to the other regardless of the number of zones.

COLUMBIA COUNTY
Tractor victim in fair condition

A Grovetown man involved in a tractor accident in which his wife died of a heart attack while responding to help him was in fair condition at a local hospital Friday night, a nursing supervisor said.

Lester Newman had been taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital after he was pinned under a tractor Thursday at his farm in Grovetown, said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.

Mr. Newman's wife, Ruby Newman, 79, died not long after the incident occurred on the property off the 600 block of Gibbs Road, Columbia County Deputy Coroner Vernon Collins said.

Mr. Collins said Mr. Newman parked his tractor under a shed, then got off with it still running. It shifted into gear and rolled on him, and might have killed him had a parked car not stopped it from rolling further, Mr. Collins said.

Mrs. Newman apparently saw what had happened and ran for help. She died at the scene. Her sister, who lives nearby, rode there on a golf cart to check on the couple and discovered her lying on the ground, Mr. Collins said.

Officers with Grovetown Department of Public Safety rescued Mr. Newman.

JEFFERSON COUNTY
Jailer charged in sex assault

A Jefferson County jailer was arrested Thursday and charged with sexually assaulting an inmate, according to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent.

Chantless Wheeler, 54, of Louisville, was charged with sexual assault against a person in custody for an incident that occurred at the jail April 19-20, said Mike Seigler, GBI special agent with the Thomson office.

Mr. Wheeler, a jailer at the Jefferson County Jail for four years, was taken to the McDuffie County Jail where he was released on $10,000 bond later in the day, according to Sheriff Logan Marshall.

AUGUSTA
Man pleads guilty to molestation

An Augusta man convicted and sent to prison two decades ago for a sexual assault pleaded guilty Friday to another assault, this one on an 8-year-old girl.

In Richmond County Superior Court, Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. warned Elmore Brown, 57, and his attorney that he would not consider probation for Mr. Brown because of his prior conviction and nine-year prison sentence and the statement from the child molestation victim in the current case. Attorney William Davison had asked for probation, telling the judge that Mr. Brown had contact with many children and never had such a complaint before.

The victim's great-grandmother, who called officers after witnessing Mr. Brown on top of the little girl kissing her, told the judge she thought she had overreacted and misunderstood what she saw Nov. 14. The child told investigators Mr. Brown had also fondled her.

Mr. Brown opted to go ahead with his guilty plea to child molestation Friday. Judge Brown sentenced him to serve 15 years in prison followed by five years on probation.

AUGUSTA
Bond denied in old man's beating

One of three men accused of robbing an 80-year-old man and inflicting injuries that have left him in a coma will have to await possible indictment and trial behind bars, a judge ruled Friday.

Donnie Allen Clark, 17, was arrested along with his brother Joseph A. Clark III, 24, and Joey Smith, 24, on April 16, the day James Burnett was found unconscious, lying in a pool of blood on his kitchen floor. The elderly man was robbed and beaten three days earlier, Assistant District Attorney Shauna Reeves said Friday in Richmond County Superior Court.

While Donnie Clark did not participate in the beating, he did go with his brother and Mr. Smith to Mr. Burnett's home knowing they intended to rob the elderly man, Ms. Reeves said. The victim is still in a coma and on a respirator, she said.

Attorney Peter Flanagan asked Judge Brown to set bond for the Edgefield, S.C., teen-ager, contending Donnie Clark just went along with his older brother and fled the scene before Mr. Burnett was hurt.

Judge Brown denied bond based on the seriousness of the case of aggravated assault and robbery, and Donnie Clark's limited ties in this community.

Joseph Clark and Mr. Smith are being held without bond.

FORT GORDON
Artillery practice will close areas

Several roads and recreational facilities at Fort Gordon will be closed until May 10 because of live artillery-firing exercises.

Lower Leitner Lake, Rainbow Lake, Union Mill Pond, and Rachael lakes I-IV will be closed, fort officials announced. Several roads also will be closed with barricades.

Fort personnel are required to check the range bulletin, posted at the Game Warden Office on McDuffie Road, to determine which training areas will be closed.

For more information, call (706) 791-5005.

ARKANSAS
Slaying suspect's testing finished

BENTONVILLE - Arkansas State Hospital officials have completed a mental evaluation of a man accused of killing two people, but it will be 15-45 days before the results of the evaluation are available.

Benton County Circuit Judge David Clinger on Wednesday scheduled a status hearing for June 11 in the case of James Baughman of Trenton, S.C.

Mr. Baughman and Rose Ellen Cushman of Windsor, S.C., are each charged with two counts of capital murder in the 1999 deaths of Joanne Kneece and her former husband, James Suggs.

Ms. Cushman's trial is scheduled for Aug. 20. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against both defendants.