Across the area

Officials urge fire safety measures

Richmond County fire officials are urging caution from the public as they gear up for their annual Fire Safety Week.

At a news conference Friday, Richmond County Fire Lt. Carlton Bradley said parents should make an effort to keep all matches and lighters away from children, preferably inside a locked cabinet or drawer.

He also stressed the importance of smoke detectors, which the department is giving away for free to the elderly and low-income families.

Anyone interested in receiving a smoke detector can call Lt. Bradley at (706) 821-2930 or drop by any Richmond County fire station.

Fire Safety week begins Sunday.

Man and woman arrested on drug charges

An Augusta man and woman were arrested Friday night on drug charges in the Harrisburg neighborhood.

Authorities charged Tyriquez McFadden, 21, of 1838 Starnes Street, with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute and possession of marijuana, according to jail records.

Dorothy Brown, 42, of 1838 Starnes Street, was charged with possession of cocaine.

Both remained in the Richmond County jail without bond late Friday, a jail attendant said. No other details in the case were immediately available.

Teen pleads guilty to taking bomb to school

JEFFERSON, GA. --- A 16-year-old student has entered a guilty plea on charges that he took a bomb into a high school in Jefferson last spring and threatened to detonate it.

District Attorney Richard Bridgeman says Andrew Thomas Criswell, of Pendergrass, pleaded guilty Friday to possession of a destructive device, false imprisonment and three counts of terroristic threats.

Mr. Criswell was 15 when he was accused of taking the bomb to Jackson County Comprehensive High School's main office April 11. He was charged as an adult.

His sentencing will be Feb. 14 in Jackson County. He faces a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of 45 years in prison.

More charges likely for robbery suspect

ATHENS, GA. --- A Florida man arrested this month in the holdup of a bank in southeast Georgia also might face charges for a December bank robbery near Athens and in Thomson.

Kingsland police on Jan. 4 nabbed Tony Alan Bell, of St. Augustine, Fla., a traveling beef jerky salesman and former banker, just minutes after a bank robbery there.

Mr. Bell, 46, later confessed that he held up the Athens First Bank & Trust branch Dec. 4 and a Regions Bank in Thomson earlier that day, Kingsland police said.

Mr. Bell will face federal charges in those three robberies, and he also might be connected to robberies in South Carolina and Florida, said Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry.

Investigators found evidence from the Oconee bank robbery in Mr. Bell's car and in a house in South Carolina, Sheriff Berry said.

Authorities found no money connected to the Oconee County bank, he said.

Kingsland police reacted quickly when a robber hit that city's Ameris Bank on Jan. 4. Based on bank employees' description of the robber and his vehicle, they stopped Mr. Bell's car as he was about to head south on Interstate 95.

He is in custody at the Camden County jail.

Audit shows sheriff used drug proceeds

ST. MARYS, GA. --- Camden County Sheriff Bill Smith continued to pay jail inmates last year from seized drug proceeds returned to his department by federal authorities, according to audit ledgers obtained this week by the Times-Union .

Sheriff Smith paid the inmates $11,000 for labor in the fiscal year that ended June 30, just as he has since 2004. One of the main recipients was a prisoner convicted for manufacturing methamphetamine.

The forfeited money must be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes such as training, jails and drug education, according to federal guidelines.

Lt. William Terrell, a sheriff's department spokesman, said the money was used to reimburse inmates working on police vehicles and making repairs around the jail and office. He said the pay rate works out to 90 cents an hour.

Commissioner Steve Berry, a frequent critic of the sheriff, said there's no way that much work was done at the sheriff's office.

"If he were paying minimum wage, you're talking about $70,000 of free labor he got. The law of Georgia forbids that," Mr. Berry said Thursday.

Off-duty officers are wounded in gunfight

BUFORD, GA. --- Two off-duty police officers, one from Fulton County and one from Duluth, were wounded after exchanging gunfire on Friday.

The Fulton officer, wearing his uniform and driving a marked car, stopped to help a bystander and got into a gunfight with the other officer, who was in street clothes, said spokeswoman Illana Spellman, of the Gwinnett County police.

Ms. Spellman said the Fulton officer had nonlife-threatening injuries, but she didn't know the extent of injuries to the Duluth officer.

She said the Duluth officer was the aggressor and will be charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.

Ms. Spellman said someone flagged down the Fulton officer about 1 p.m. The Fulton officer got into an altercation with the other man and they exchanged gunfire, Ms. Spellman said.

Neither man was identified.

Man sentenced to life for woman's slaying

NEWBERRY, S.C. --- The brother of a University of South Carolina football player was sentenced to life in prison Friday for killing a woman during a daylong crime spree that ended with a confession to his father.

Demetrius Pepper, 25, admitted that he shot Ellie Halfacre at her home and took her car last spring, but gave no reason for the brutal killing.

He pleaded guilty to murder and other charges that included kidnapping and armed robbery, and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

"For whatever it's worth, the things that happened that day were not planned," Mr. Pepper said to Ms. Halfacre's family. "If I could take it back, I would."

Mr. Pepper is the brother of Nathan Pepper, who was a starting defensive lineman for the Gamecocks before a knee injury during the third game of the season last fall ended his year.

Two inmates still on loose after escape

CHARLESTON, S.C. --- The Corrections Department is looking for two inmates who escaped from a minimum-security facility in Charleston.

Officials say 39-year-old Mark Steven Caddell and 31-year-old Jamie Mizzel were reported missing after an inmate count Friday morning.

Mr. Caddell had been sentenced to eight years for forgery and burglary. Mr. Mizzel was serving a 14-year sentence for burglary, aggravated assault and battery and grand larceny.

Mr. Caddell is white and 5 feet 8 inches tall. He has brown eyes, brown hair and a scar on his abdomen.

Mr. Mizzel is white and 5 feet 9 inches tall. He has tattoos of a cross on his left hand, a heart on his left arm and a woman on his right arm.

-- From wire reports