Originally created 03/16/05

Family's forests are harvested by someone else



AIKEN -- Wesley Bryant and his cousin had plans for their 100 acres of forested land on Wire Road, and they didn't include chopping down all the trees.

It came as something of a surprise to Mr. Bryant, then, that someone else had the audacity to clear-cut his property.

"There were certain trees that we weren't ever going to cut," Mr. Bryant said today from his home in Fayetteville, Ga.

Police say that Douglas Cheatham, 35, of the 1500 block of Wire Road in Aiken County, passed himself off as the landowner and had a logging company clear the acreage in December.

The Aiken County Sheriff's Office is still searching for Mr. Cheatham.

Neighbors told Bryant family members that they saw a crew of loggers clear the land. Mr. Bryant visits the property only n occasion and didn't learn of the theft until February after a relative in Aiken drove past the land.

A strip of trees was left on the front of the property to hide what had been done, Mr. Bryant said, but what remains is hardly suitable for the retirement homestead he had imagined.

"He destroyed the whole property, as far as were concerned," Mr. Bryant said.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.