Originally created 07/04/06

Across the area



Police search for 3 linked to fraud cases

Richmond County sheriff's deputies want to question three people in separate financial fraud cases.

Investigator Michelle Walden said deputies were looking for the following people:

- Michael Jerome Chatham, also known as Michael Jeremy Chatman, 33, of Harlem, in a case where a forged business check was cashed June 8 at Jack's Grocery on Mike Padgett Highway

- Laura Renee Christie, 23, of Steiner Avenue, in a case where her boyfriend allegedly cashed a $350 forged check at a Wachovia Bank branch May 24

- Marshall Thompson, 19, in a case where someone forged a J.D. Byrider service manager's name on a purchase order at Advance Auto Parts on Wrightsboro Road.

Anyone with information about these people's whereabouts is asked to call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office at (706) 821-1080.

Fatal wreck to be re-examined

The South Carolina Highway Patrol plans to reconstruct a Saturday traffic accident in which a Salley woman tried to run her husband off the road but instead crashed her own car and died, according to the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

Even though police have closed the case, on Wednesday morning state patrol investigators will re-examine the wreck, which occurred on state Highway 302, said sheriff's spokesman Lt. Michael Frank.

Police said Virginia L. Cantara, 36, chased her husband's car after he picked up the couple's children from her home and drove toward Aiken.

She crashed into a tree and the car with her husband, Thomas Cantara, 35, was forced off the road and overturned.

The children were unhurt and Mr. Cantar was treated for his injuries and released from a hospital, Lt. Frank said.

Deputy is cleared in excessive force case

A Columbia County sheriff's deputy jailer arrested and fired in March after being accused of using excessive force on an inmate has been cleared after an internal affairs investigation, authorities announced Monday.

Michael John Thompson, 36, of Evans, was found not guilty May 1 and will not face criminal charges, according to a sheriff's office news release.

On Feb. 27, Mr. Thompson was placed on administrative leave with pay pending the completion of an investigation into an alleged Feb. 18 incident of excessive force against inmate Elijah Gardner, who later filed a grievance, police said.

On March 15, Mr. Thompson was arrested, charged with simple battery and fired, police said.

After being cleared of the charges against him, Mr. Thompson was reinstated to his position as sheriff's deputy for the period of March 15 through May 1, but he declined to remain with the department, according to the news release.

Stray bullet from shootout hits woman

An Augusta woman was shot by a stray bullet Monday morning as she sat in her car at the Shell Pump 'N Shop in the 2500 block of Tobacco Road, according to Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Calvin Chew.

Nyeshia Gant, 18, was in serious condition Monday afternoon at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, he said.

Sgt. Chew said the shooting happened at about 4:30 a.m. when a large group of people came to the Shell station after a nearby club, Super C's, closed.

A fight broke out and Ms. Gant was caught in the middle of a shootout, he said.

The case is under investigation, Sgt. Chew said.

Suitcase in parking lot treated as bomb

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office cleared the Lowe's store in the 3200 block of Peach Orchard Road for more than an hour Monday while the bomb squad removed a suspicious suitcase from the parking lot.

Capt. P.A. Williams said deputies took the package to their training range and detonated it after X-rays failed to determine its contents.

He said they were sifting through the case's contents to determine whether it contained an explosive device.

Roads to be closed for holiday events

The Augusta Engineering Department is alerting motorists to road closures in Richmond County this week because of Independence Day activities.

In a news release, the following closures were announced:

- 1000 block of 13th Street, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. today

- 800 block of Reynolds Street, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today

- Fifth Street Bridge, 6 a.m. today to 1:30 a.m. Wednesday

- Scotts Way at Waverly Drive, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today

- Lake Forest Drive at Lombardy Court and Bransford Road, noon to 9:30 p.m. today

- From staff reports