Originally created 01/24/02

Across the area



Man gets life in fatal shooting

A Washington County man has been spared the death penalty after agreeing to plead guilty to the 2000 kidnapping and murder of a 71-year-old man, authorities said Wednesday.

Jafari Jackson, 20, of Warthen, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Belo Brynteson, according to Washington County Sheriff Thomas Smith. A judge also sentenced Mr. Jackson to two life sentences after receiving guilty pleas for kidnapping and robbery.

Mr. Jackson kidnapped Mr. Brynteson from the parking lot of Bi-Lo in Sandersville on April 26, 2000, took him to a wooded area and shot him in the back of the head, Sheriff Smith said. He then took the man's truck, wrecked it and escaped. Two weeks later, Mr. Jackson walked into the Sandersville Police Department and confessed.

Sheriff Smith said the plea was accepted after talking to the victim's family. The sheriff said Mr. Brynteson had moved to Washington County to get away from high crime in Florida.

Missing woman calls family from motel

A missing Augusta woman was found late Tuesday at a motel in Commerce, authorities said.

Helen Ray Rhea, 46, called family members from the motel, which helped officials track her, Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Jack Francisco said. With the help of Commerce police officers, Ms. Rhea was brought back to Augusta, he said.

The woman's family is seeking medical attention for her, Lt. Francisco said.

Authorities had feared that the woman might try to injure herself. On Tuesday, they described Ms. Rhea as distraught and asked for the public's help in finding her.

Mayor urges security at historic sites

At a one-day conference geared toward improving public safety in historic places, Mayor Bob Young shared his support for protecting historic buildings and artifacts from desecration by terrorists.

More than 200 representatives from federal agencies and the private sector attended the conference Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C. Mr. Young, in a speech delivered at the conference, asked that officials establish a security clearinghouse for local governments, museums and historic sites to protect against the threat to historic properties and collections.

The conference was sponsored by the National Park Service as well as the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among others.

City sues landowner unhappy with water line

The city of North Augusta has sued a woman who opposed a city water line running through her property.

Judith Haskell objected after city officials finished the line, which runs through her property off Old Aiken Road.

Mrs. Haskell was unhappy with changes made to the original plans for the line, even after an oral agreement was reached on the changes and the line was constructed, the lawsuit filed in Aiken County Common Pleas states.

The city intended to route part of a six-mile water line, running from U.S. Highway 1 to Ascauga Lake Road, through Mrs. Haskell's property.

In October, the city council agreed to pay Mrs. Haskell $20,000 for any inconvenience caused by the line.

The city is asking a judge to order that it has the right to the 20-foot easement where the line is now. If that doesn't occur, the city offered in court documents to pay Mrs. Haskell just compensation, or $2,160, for the land.

A lawsuit is only one side of a story. The defendant has 30 days to respond.

Missing girl's trail leads to Aiken area

A missing Kissimmee, Fla., girl might be in Aiken County, sheriff's office Capt. Michael Frank said Wednesday.

Jessica Lynn Patrick, 15, has been missing since July 2001, when she walked across the street from her home to use a public telephone at a convenience store, Capt. Frank said.

She may be in the company of a man and three children, Capt. Frank said.

Jessica is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 140 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing a striped turtleneck, blue jeans and blue Nike shoes.

Anyone with information on Jessica's whereabouts is asked to call the sheriff's office at (800) 922-9709.

Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Aiken County Crime Stoppers at (866) 883-7463.

Planned NAACP patrols are illegal, official says

The NAACP's threatened patrols of South Carolina's borders, intended to discourage state visitors, are illegal, regardless of whether they are staged at welcome centers or elsewhere, Attorney General Charlie Condon said in a letter written Wednesday.

"What makes the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's economic blackmail unlawful is not where it occurs, but the harm to innocent businesses it imposes," Mr. Condon wrote to NAACP President James Gallman, of Aiken.

Mr. Condon quoted a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in which the purpose of a secondary boycott or picket is to "damage the business of another" was interpreted as a civil conspiracy.

The patrols are planned to begin within 20 days, NAACP officials said.

Lawmaker will speak to transportation club

U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood will be the guest speaker Monday for the Augusta Traffic and Transportation Club's dinner meeting at the Holiday Inn West, Interstate 20 at Washington Road.

Tickets for the 6:45 p.m. meeting, which is open to the public, are $20 each. Discounted tickets for $17 each are available for tables of 8-10. For more information, call (803) 641-9214.

Teen driver charged in traffic stop, scuffle

An Augusta motorist was arrested after trying to flee two Richmond County deputies during a traffic stop on Pinewood Drive early Wednesday morning.

About 12:34 a.m., Deputy William Jarrett stopped a Ford Escort driven by 18-year-old Darius A. Lester, according to a sheriff's report. Deputy Jarrett said he stopped the vehicle because he saw the driver stuff an object between the seats, the report says.

When the driver got out of the vehicle, he elbowed the officer on the side of the head and ran, the report states. The suspect was caught and handcuffed.

Another officer, Deputy Daniel Stenger, was kicked in the stomach and chest while trying to assist in the arrest, the report states. The driver then pushed Deputy Jarrett as he was being frisked and fled a second time, the report says.

Mr. Lester was apprehended again and charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of obstruction of a law enforcement officer, the report says. He was being held at the Richmond County jail on $4,300 bond, jail officials said.

Woman charged in credit card fraud

An Augusta woman was being held at the Richmond County jail Wednesday on charges she used a company credit card without permission.

Arnita Watkins, 33, is accused of using the card from Ball Enterprises between Aug. 8 and Dec. 21, according to sheriff's report. Owner Shirlene Ball told police she believed that Ms. Watkins ordered an additional card without her knowledge, the report states.

Ms. Watkins was arrested Wednesday and charged with five counts of financial transaction card fraud. She was being held on $10,250 bond, jail officials said.



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