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Man faces fire charge after text message SOS

MYRTLE BEACH - A camper who sent a text message to be rescued when his fire spread over two acres on a small island now faces a misdemeanor charge, officials said Wednesday.

Freddie W. Perdue Jr., 25, started a campfire Sunday night to keep warm on the uninhabited island near North Myrtle Beach, but a stiff wind spread the flames, burning his tent and kayak, officials said.

Mr. Perdue was rescued from Waities Island, which is partially owned by Coastal Carolina University.

Steve Kelsey, the university's fire marshal, said Wednesday that Mr. Perdue sent a text message to friends to send a boat to help him. When they couldn't do so, they called 911, Mr. Kelsey said.

He said Mr. Perdue faces a misdemeanor count of negligently allowing fire to spread to lands or property of another.

Superintendent unveils statewide school plan

COLUMBIA - Within three years, parents should be able to send their children to any public school in the state and poor families could get help to pay for the transportation, the state's education chief announced Wednesday.

"South Carolina can become the most fairly funded and choice-driven public school system in the country," Education Superintendent Jim Rex said as he unveiled a three-year plan.

Mr. Rex, a Democrat elected by a narrow margin in November, said his plan was vastly different from the voucher and tax-credit proposals touted in the Statehouse over the past several years. One, dubbed "Put Parents in Charge," would have given tax breaks to parents paying private school tuition.

Mr. Rex said he had the support of dozens of lawmakers, school administrators and teachers.

Ex-CEO of HomeGold gets 20-year sentence

LEXINGTON -- The former top executive of a mortgage lending company was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison for his role in defrauding 8,000 investors of millions of dollars.

Former HomeGold Chief Executive Ronald Sheppard was convicted Tuesday of securities fraud, conspiracy and obtaining property by false pretenses. He faced a maximum of 25 years in prison.

Mr. Sheppard had no reaction but his family members burst into tears when the sentence was handed down.

HomeGold and its subsidiary, Carolina Investors, collapsed in 2003, and thousands of investors lost about $275 million in one of South Carolina's largest bankruptcies.

Mr. Sheppard's sentence was the stiffest handed down in the wake of the companies' collapse. Four other former executives have either been convicted or pleaded guilty in the scandal.

- Edited from wire reports


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