County sees more killings during 2007

Richmond County homicides increased last year, but arrests have been made in all cases, and only one suspect connected to a local slaying remains at large.

Last week's discovery of the partially burned body of Corwin Lee, 38, brought the county's 2007 homicide total to 28 -- eight more than in 2006.

Although Mr. Lee's remains were found in Aiken County, authorities said they believe he was killed in Augusta and then taken to South Carolina.

Criminal Investigations Maj. Ken Autry, of the Richmond County sheriff's office, said homicide rates tend to fluctuate every year so it would be difficult to determine why Richmond County had eight more in 2007. He said he was impressed with the work the investigators put in to solve those 28 homicides.

"They weren't what we'd call smoking guns," he said. "A lot of them were difficult to solve. And as stretched as our staff is, that's a big deal."

Investigative Sgt. Richard Roundtree said the public's willingness to talk with investigators has made a huge difference in his department's ability to solve crime. He attributed the tips his department has received in the cases to the public's being less afraid because they see criminals going to jail because of their information.

"I think they're doing their part and seeing that it's paying off," he said.

Investigators finished the year with just a single suspect on the loose, 18-year-old Victor Levee Scott, who is suspected in last week's slaying of Mr. Lee.

Mr. Scott should be considered armed and dangerous, according to police. Anyone with information on his whereabouts can call the sheriff's office at (706) 821-1080.

The year's homicide increase mirrors a national trend that shows violent crimes, which include murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault, went up in 2006 when compared to the previous year, according to the FBI's most recent Uniform Crime Report. Murders increased by 1.8 percent nationwide in 2006.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.