Originally created 05/27/01

Across the area



COLUMBIA COUNTY
Divers continue search for swimmer

Columbia County - Dive Team members were still searching Thurmond Lake on Saturday for a 30-year-old Chicago professor who disappeared while swimming on the lake Thursday.

According to Pam Tucker, director of the Columbia County Emergency Management Agency, divers were prepared to search into the night for Joseph S. Yeh, an assistant professor of philosophy at Lake Forest College in Illinois.

Mr. Yeh, 30, sailed out on the lake just off the Fort Gordon Recreation Area with his girlfriend and another friend at about 5 p.m. Thursday.

The three jumped off the boat to swim, and the sailboat drifted away. All three were unable to swim fast enough to catch the boat. The victim's girlfriend, Rebecca Vail Hanson, 26, swam to a beach while the other two men began swimming to a nearby island. George Purdy, 40, of Lincolnton, made it to shore.

AIKEN COUNTY
Coroner identifies drowned boy

BEECH ISLAND - An 11-year-old boy who died Friday after playing in a neighborhood pond has been identified as George O'Neal Griffin of 103 Dicks Court, Beech Island.

An autopsy was performed Saturday morning in Newberry. The cause of death was drowning, and the death was ruled accidental, according to Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at New Hope Gospel Chapel.

Firefighters who recovered the boy's body from the bottom of the pond said he had been standing knee-deep in the water, apparently lost his footing and slid off a ledge. He could not swim and quickly went under.

He had been playing with several friends. None of the boys in the water knew how to swim, Mrs. Townsend said.

Firefighters got the 911 call shortly after 5:30 p.m., and when they arrived, the boy was about 12 feet under, said Richie Caudill, battalion chief of the Beech Island volunteer squad.

It took only five minutes to find him in the murky water, officials said. They estimate that he had been in the pond in the Russell Hills subdivision for about 15 minutes.

The boy was airlifted to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where he died. When emergency crews put him in the helicopter, his heartbeat was sporadic and he was not breathing on his own.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Man gets life sentence in shooting

COLUMBIA - A man prosecutors say is a key figure in the killing of a Richland County jail guard has received a life sentence in an unrelated case.

Terrion Warren, 26, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole for shooting Leroy Ashford, 23, near a north Columbia apartment building.

Investigators said Mr. Warren and Mr. Ashford were arguing July 23 when Mr. Warren shot Mr. Ashford four times, once in the back, once in the hip and twice in the leg.

While awaiting trial at the Richland County Detention Center, Mr. Warren was among a group of eight inmates who killed guard Alvin Glenn as part of an unsuccessful escape plot, prosecutor Knox McMahon said.

Mr. Warren has been charged with murder, hostage-taking and first-degree lynching, and prosecutors might seek the death penalty, Mr. McMahon said.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Recovering otter found dead

CHARLESTON - An otter that survived a hit-and-run accident three years ago and a recent bout of lead poisoning has died at the South Carolina aquarium.

Edisto the otter died Friday after his health seemed to recently improve, said Bruce Hecker, the aquarium's director of husbandry and facilities.

Veterinarians found the lead poisoning after Edisto developed tremors and started to behave strangely in recent months.

The aquarium's two other otters, Ashley and Cooper, tested negative for lead, leading officials to think Edisto was exposed while rehabilitating at the Audubon Zoo in Louisiana, Mr. Hecker said.

The exact cause of death is undetermined, Mr. Hecker said. A veterinarian will examine Edisto, and the otter's remains will be cremated.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Kenneth Starr berates Jeffords

COLUMBIA - U.S. Sen. James Jeffords broke a promise and dishonored his constituents by leaving the Republican Party, former independent council Kenneth Starr says.

At a Lexington County GOP fund-raiser Friday, Mr. Starr said Mr. Jeffords, who was re-elected last fall as a Republican, went back on his word by becoming an independent and aligning himself with the Democrats.

"There's a right way and a wrong way, and I don't think this was particularly admirable," Mr. Starr said. "Honor is very important. People should be men and women of their word."

Mr. Starr was the special prosecutor who directed the investigation into President Clinton's financial dealings in the Whitewater scandal.

Before the dinner, Mr. Starr described the Clinton prosecution and impeachment as "a very unfortunate chapter in the country's history."

Mr. Starr has returned to his old law firm in Washington. He is teaching at George Mason Law School and New York University Law School. He and his family reside in Arlington, Va.

SOUTH CAROLINA
State bar honors young lawyers

COLUMBIA - Stephen K. Benjamin, who directs the state's Probation, Parole and Pardon Services Department, and Marie-Louise Ramsdale, director of the state's First Steps Program, were named Young Lawyers of the Year by the South Carolina Bar's Young Lawyers Division.

Mr. Benjamin, admitted to the South Carolina Bar seven years ago, was honored for his initiatives in tracking and arresting fugitives, the bar's division said. He was appointed to the cabinet position by Gov. Jim Hodges in 1999.

Ms. Ramsdale, a member of the state bar since 1996, was picked by Mr. Hodges to lead South Carolina's early childhood education program two years ago.

The bar's Young Lawyers Division includes members younger than 36.

SOUTH CAROLINA
University wins science grant

COLUMBIA - The University of South Carolina plans to use a $1.1 million grant from the National Science foundation to enhance math and science education in the Midlands.

The three-year grant will allow the school to recruit 10 graduate engineering students to show third- through eighth-grade teachers how to apply math and science lessons to problems in the real world.