Originally created 06/07/01

Car chase ends with 2 arrests



A police chase in Columbia County ended Wednesday morning with the arrest of a man and a woman suspected of tying up an Augusta woman during a home invasion and stealing her car.

Columbia County sheriff's officers arrested James Willie Luke Jr., 22, of the 5200 block of Thurmond Drive, Evans, and a woman who told police she was Mary Ann Lakes, 23, of the 1900 block of Kissingbower Road, Augusta, according to Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.

The woman told Richmond County authorities she was Tawana Shaunte Thurmond, and investigators are still trying to determine her real name.

Authorities said the pair led officers on a car chase on Washington Road before ditching the vehicle near a wooded area on Columbia Road.

Mr. Luke ran into a wooded area, and it took officers more than an hour to find him. Ms. Lakes also tried to run but was caught. They were turned over to Richmond County, where each was charged with burglary, kidnapping, armed robbery and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime, said Lt. Jack Francisco with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

A third suspect who reportedly drove the suspects to the victim's home also is being sought, he said.

Kimara Watson told authorities that a woman knocked on her door at Foxfire Apartments shortly after midnight and asked for directions to another apartment. Ms. Watson opened her door, and a man hiding forced his way into the apartment, pointed a gun at her and demanded money.

While the woman went upstairs to get the money, the man pinned Ms. Watson's mouth, eyes, arms and legs with duct tape, Lt. Francisco said. The intruders took $760, a TEC-9 gun, a gold necklace, a watch and the keys to a 1987 Cadillac.

A friend of the victim's husband pulled up to the apartment complex and saw the people leaving in the Cadillac. After finding Ms. Watson in the apartment, he called police, and Richmond County relayed information about the suspects to Columbia County dispatch.

Moments after the crime was reported, about 12:30 a.m., deputies spotted the stolen Cadillac on Columbia Road near Patriots Park, Capt. Morris said. Officers chased the Cadillac for about seven minutes, reaching speeds of 80 mph.

At the Ivy Falls subdivision on Columbia Road and at the intersection of Lewiston and Columbia roads, officers put down stop sticks, devices that punctured and deflated all four tires on the car. The driver continued going but eventually abandoned the vehicle near Old Belair and Columbia roads.

Authorities are investigating a drug connection to the home invasion. The victim's husband, Michael Watson, is being held at the Columbia County jail on drug charges.

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851.



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