News Archive

(4005) Week of Oct. 5, 2005

Arrest made in Napa murder
Town Council hears FOI requests, project updates
Residents submit 21 FOI requests
Council holds work session
County discussions heat up over $7.35 million bond issue
Wren to crown queen
Wren CC teams compete in Electric City
Deputies investigate drug related incidents

Arrest made in Napa murder

Just one month shy of a year, an arrest has been made in the murder of Leslie Mazzara and her roommate in Napa, California.

The Napa Police Department announced last Wednesday Sept. 28, the arrest of Eric Matthew Copple, 26, of Napa California, for the murders of Mazarra and Adriane Insogna. Copple was arrested after providing information linking him to the murders of the two roommates in the early morning hours of November 1, 2004.

In a news conference available over the internet, Napa Police Chief Richard Melton stated the arrest came after a very extensive investigation  which included a number of law enforcement agencies.

He stated that specific information released a week earlier concerning DNA and a specific brand of cigarettes may have led Copple to think authorities were closing in on him, leading him to make statements that linked him to the scene.

He thanked family members for being very helpful during a very difficult time and thanked them for their support.

Melton said the investigation included 1300 interviews in 8 different states. DNA samples were taken from 218 individuals and analyzed with other evidence.

Copple was not among those interviewed and tested initially, authorities said.

Information released September 22 indicated that DNA taken from blood samples at the scene confirmed the suspect was a white male.

The California Department of Justice Crime Lab also confirmed that DNA evidence located at the scene matched DNA found on cigarette butts located at the scene.

The brand of cigarette, Camel Turkish Gold, was new to the market and is infrequently purchased, officials said. Packaging and markings on the cigarettes have changed over the past few months.

Chief Melton stated that attempts to reach Copple had been unsuccessful, but  after the information was released to the media, Copple was interviewed and gave information that linked him to the crime.

“We think he believed he was about to be caught,” Melton said.

Melton said Copple smoked and made admissions to family members.

“He made admissions that led us to believe he was involved,” Melton said.

Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein stated that Copple was charged with two counts of murder using a knife, with the special circumstance of two murders in the same time period.

He could serve 26 years to life for each of the murders and the possiblility of life without parole or death.

Lieberstein said Copple will receive a fair trial and that the case will be tried in the courtroom, not the media. “We will not answer any questions we believe will affect the integrity of the prosecution,” he said.

Town Council hears FOI requests, project updates

During their regular monthly meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council heard from two citizens who presented a total of 21 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the town and heard reports on several projects underway.

Gary Bannister and Jane Chastain read the FOI requests which ranged from asking for credit card statements to specific information concerning use of town vehicles. (See separate story this issue).

Bannister also requested that the town’s CPA be at the next meeting of Council to discuss the results of the fiscal year 2004 audit “in layman’s terms.”

Mayor Clardy responded that he would respond under FOI law and that some of the requests made were questionable.

“We will answer your requests to the extent of the law,” Clardy said.  “My office is open to you or any citizens,” Clardy also responded. He said he would be sure the costs associated with responding to the request would also be made public.

Olive Wilson questioned the mayor about efforts to get a grocery store in the town.

“What are you doing to get a grocery store,” she said. “This is the first time in over 50, maybe 60 years that there is no grocery store in Williamston?”

Clardy responded that it is up to private businesses to locate here. He said the town could provide a resolution to a prospective buyer stating that “the town will welcome and work with them.”

He said he is keeping in touch with the owner of the shopping center who he said hopes to find a tenant. “We are doing what we can do to make the town available,” he said.

Council also heard from John Geer, Chairman, and Lee Luff, President of the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce.

Luff said the chamber is continuing an outreach program to work with and help promote the community of Williamston.

He mentioned a Chamber sponsored trip to Washington for lobbying efforts in which some Williamston officials participated.

He also mentioned other chamber sponsored events such as the Advanced Materials Research Opportunities Expo and a candidate academy for persons interested in running for public office.

“This is a dynamic group of business people working to make Anderson County a better place to work and live,” Geer said about the chamber.

Former town employee Ronnie Rowe attempted to speak to Council but was stopped when he stated that he was terminated in March of 2005.

Clardy interrupted him, stating that he will not allow personnel matters to be discussed during the Council meeting.

Clardy said the matter should be discussed in Executive Session and that there were a lot of inadequacies in a recent newspaper report about the situation.

“I don’t think it is ethical,” he stated. Clardy told Rowe his decision not to allow him to speak was “to protect your interest as well as the town.”

Following the meeting, Rowe told The Journal that he was only stating to the Council that he has requested time cards and information about his retirement, in writing three times from the town. To date he has not received the materials, he said.

Rowe was also dismayed that he was not allowed to comment on the grocery store situation in town when it was brought up earlier, yet during the same meeting, a person in the audience was allowed to make comments during  a presentation by the Chief of Police.

During the public comments, Robert Vaughn told Council that he is working on a project to make available watches featuring the town logo and the police department logo as a fundraiser for hurricane victims in Grand Isle, Louisiana. “They will be quality watches at a reasonable price,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn also said he had spent some time reviewing ordinances and had sent his recommendations to the town’s attorneys.

During the agenda portion of the meeting, Clardy said that the town is in the process of replacing broken or disrepair sidewalks and making them handicapped accessible.

There were no questions from council during the regular meeting, but there was some discussion during the work session held earlier.

Clardy reported that he had officially met with representatives of CSX and that work to repair the Gray Drive bridge will begin around the second week in November.

Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing the town’s workers comp policy to cover inmates who are performing community service or other work for the town.

Clardy said the resolution will not increase the town’s workers comp cost.

The Municipal Association and Workers Comp insurance representatives recommend that the resolution be approved, Town  Attorney Richard Thompson said.

Thompson said that even though inmates don’t get paid, if injured, the minimum workers comp rate paid to them is $75 per week.

He said approving the resolution “solves a lot of problems and prevents a lot of other problems.”

Police Chief David Baker recounted to Council information about a recent hurricane relief trip he and other town representatives participated in.

Baker said he was most impressed with the fact that the supplies delivered to Grand Isle doubled the amount the residents had at the time and that they had received no Federal  or state help. Baker also said they were there 17 days after the hurricane and there still was no FEMA or Red Cross help.

He said that the relief time provided to Grand Isle officials by the Williamston EMS, Fire Department and others “made a big difference,” for the people they relieved, most of whom had been on duty since the hurricane hit.

The island was hit again by Hurricane Rita, and is still under about 3 feet of water, Clardy said.

Clardy provided  a list of appointments for the town’s Council on Aging which will help provide important information to seniors.

Nominees included Linda Ellis, Robert Vaughn, Walt Smith, Quincy Ragsdale and Robert Sweetman. The nominees were unanimously approved.

Clardy announced a costume ball at the Municipal Center planned for Saturday, October 29.

He also announced that the county municipal association meeting will be hosted by the Town of Iva.

Council then unanimously approved a request by Mayor Clardy to go into executive session to discuss a contractural matter.

Approximately one hour later they returned to regular session and adjourned.

Residents submit 21 FOI requests

Williamston residents Gary Bannister and Jane Chastain presented 21 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the Mayor and Council during the regular monthly meeting of Williamston Town Council Monday.

Speaking during public comments portion of the meeting, Bannister first requested that the mayor and council have the town’s auditor available for a presentation, in layman’s terms, of the 2004 audit results.

Bannister then read a list of the items included in the FOI requests presented to the mayor, council and town attorney. He said  he expected answers within fifteen days, as prescribed by the state FOI laws.

Items requested under FOI include:

Copy of all minutes for years 2002 through September 2005.

Copy of all check sheets from 2002 through September 2005.

Number of employees on payroll on January 1, 2001 and unmber of employees on payroll as of January 1, 2002.

Names of employees in each department as of  September 1, 2005 and salary of each, including mayor and council.

How many cars does the Town of Williamston own that are assigned to the Police Department?

How many of these cars are driven home by a person assigned to the police department?

What are the names of the people who drive these cars home? Where do they live? How may miles do they drive to and from work each day?

Why did the mayor purchase the Durango without the approval of the council members? Why was the purchase of this vehicle discussed in Executive Session and not in the Regular Session?

What is the cost of the Durango and where is it financed? Did the council approve of the financial arrangements, including interest rate and amount of each payment? Why does the vehicle not have an “MG” tag, which is permanent?

How many vehicles are assigned to the Water and Sewer Department, List the make, year, and mileage of each vehicle.

List the make, year, and mileage of each vehicle that is assigned to the Parks and Recreation Department.

Name of all credit cards issued in the name of the town of Williamston. 

Need all legible receipts and statements from all credit cards for the Town of Williamston from Jan. 1, 2001 to October 1, 2005.

Make copies of all credit cards issued in the name of the town of Williamston Jan. 1, 2001 through October 1, 2005.

How much money was in the Enterprise (Water and Sewer Fund) at the end of December 2004?

How much money was in the General Fund at the end of December 2000?

List all short term debts at the end of August 2005. What is the balance and are they current? If not, how much is needed to get them current?

List all long term debts at the end of August 2005. What is the balance and are they current? If not, how much is needed to get them current?

Is the premium for the medical insurance coverage for the Town Employees current as of September 12, 2005? If not, how much is due?

Is the town current with payments to the State Retirement System? If not, how much is due?

How many residents have not paid their property taxes for 2004 which were due by January 15, 2005? What is the total amount due, if any?

If any taxes are due, why has the delinquent list not been published and why has the property not been posted for sale?

Mayor Phillip Clardy said he intended to respond as required by the FOI guidelines and intended to let the citizens of Williamston know exactly how much it cost them to do so.

Council holds work session

During a  “work session” held in the Council office room prior to the regular meeting, mayor and councilmembers discussed topics on the agenda for the regular meeting.

During the session, Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy answered questions by Councilmembers concerning the sidewalk project, the Gray Drive Bridge, providing Workers  Comp for prisoners and other items that were also on the agenda for the regular meeting of Council at 6 p.m.

Clardy said that the project includes extending sidewalks in front of the Subway restaurant on Greenville Dr. to Hamilton and to Hamilton St. in front of Knight Real Estate.

Clardy also said that a budget workshop will be held in November.

The mayor told Council that CSX had agreed to repair the Gray Drive Bridge and that there were still some specifics and legal questions. He said the work will begin the second week in November.

There was brief discussion about providing workers comp for prisoners doing community service for the Town.

When asked about the cost, Mayor Clardy said the cost would not be any more because the policy is a blanket policy for the town.

There was some discussion concerning the police department’s policy about chasing vehicles outside the town. The discussion came after a chase last week that began in Williamston and ended in Greenville when the suspect vehicle wrecked.

County discussions heat up over $7.35 million bond issue

By Stan Welch

The October 4 meeting of the Anderson County Council might best be described as contentious, as first zoning issues, and later, questions about the County’s bond ratings and recent land purchases raised temperatures and tensions.

The questions began as soon as the latest minutes were approved. Brooks Brown IV, a resident of an area slated for possible rezoning, told Council they had to follow state law, whether they like it or not, adding that he has still not been officially notified of the proposed zoning change, although it was presented and tabled at the last meeting.

The zoning in question concerns a tract of land on Liberty Highway, near the FedEx facility. It is currently zoned C-3 commercially; the developers are seeking to rezone it to MFR, or multi-family residential. Plans are to build condominiums, which will sell in the $200-300,000 range.

Nevertheless, opposition by area landowners has been consistent. Several residents spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting. Their comments came after a vote by Council to take the original motion to change the zoning from the table, where it was put at the last meeting. Council, acknowledging the importance of the issue, and the public’s right to comment, reopened the issue

In fact, after a considerable debate, Chairperson Gracie Floyd moved to hold a second public hearing at the next Council meeting to “allow everyone to have their say.”

The debate was evenly split between support and opposition for the project. Two developers, Robert Gallant and Dave Chamblee spoke in support, pointing out that the MFR zoning would be preferable to the commercial designation, in terms of what might be built under the permissive C-3 rating.

John Snaveley spoke against the project, citing the inadequate notification process, as well as the fact that no accurate plans for the project have been presented for review. Maurice Lopez reported that the daily traffic count for the area is approximately 17,000 cars.

Councilman Tolly, who originally moved to table the question at the last meeting, made a motion to return the question to the floor for a vote. Council approved that motion unanimously. Tolly spoke in support of the zoning change, saying that the “integrity of our boards is at stake. Our advisory board and the planning commission both approved this.”

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson called it a “horrendous situation.” She stressed that notification issues have arisen repeatedly when rezoning requests have come up. “This current situation has been a comedy of errors, except that they weren’t funny.”

Despite the decision to seek further public input, Council voted 4-3 to give the rezoning request first reading approval.

Following  a 45 minute presentation on the status of the County’s emergency preparedness plan, Council approved an amendment to the County’s master road list to accept an additional 400 feet on Pritchett’s Road, assuming responsibility for meeting codes and maintaining the road.

Chairperson Floyd then asked County Administrator Preston to expound on the County’s recently obtained AA bond rating. That bond rating was touted in a recent press release issued by the county, stating that the increased rating had already resulted in an excellent interest rate on a general obligation bond issue in the amount of $7,350,000. Wachovia agreed to purchase the bonds at 3.416%.

 Both Preston and County Attorney Tom Martin described the bond rating and the subsequent transaction in glowing terms, but Councilwoman Cindy Wilson offered another viewpoint.

She expressed her recollection that Anderson County enjoyed a AAA bond rating as recently as October, 2004, the time at which the general bond issue in question was approved. She reported that she had contacted Standard & Poor’s, the bond rating authority that often sets the standard for such bond ratings.

Wilson said that she was informed that Anderson County had been rated at AAA but had been downgraded to AA-, which was their rating before the recent trip to New York by a number of County officials and employees to seek an upgrade. Among those traveling to New York were Preston, Martin, Chairperson Floyd, and other county employees.

Wilson said that the S&P expert informed her that the difference between a AAA and AA rating is usually the attachment of bond insurance to any given bond issue.

She also questioned a list of proposed projects to be funded by the GO bond issue. That list, which accompanied the press release on the bond rating, included construction of a library in Powdersville, as well as land acquisition for a Powdersville library/recycling/education center, and the construction of a Powdersville recycling center.

Wilson, speaking after the meeting, said she didn’t recall all those projects being included in the GO Bond proposal approved by council last October.

Preston responded that the recycling center is actually a convenience center. Wilson asked if the 47+ acres purchased in April of this year was the proposed site, and Preston abruptly refused to answer, saying that negotiations for additional property in the area are still underway.  “I’m not talking about that tonight,” said Preston.

He gave Wilson a two page response to a request she made earlier in the week, asking for an explanation of the purchase of the land for $527,620. That response referred to a 6-1 vote by Council on October 19, 2004 to approve the $7.35 million bond issue, saying that that vote in essence approved the subsequent purchase of the land.

A review of County Council minutes for 2005 indicated that no vote on that specific purchase took place. Preston’s two page written response to Wilson offered no explanation about where the money came from. The bonds which were intended to fund any land purchases were only recently executed, months after the April 13 land purchase.

Wilson also asked for a clarification of the different bond ratings, and Martin responded.

“First, I would suggest that you ask me any questions you may have on the bonds. I don’t know what you asked the person at Standard and Poor but it wasn’t the right question, or you wouldn’t have gotten this answer.”

Martin’s resentment of Wilson’s actions became more and more apparent as his normally sonorous voice became increasingly strident.

“Anderson County has never, never had a downgrade in its bond rating. Never!”, said Martin several times. “The county has had three upgrades in ten years.”

Martin told Wilson that the county had issued one bond  which was insured, elevating it to a AAA rating. “We insured that bond to enhance its marketability. But we have never had a AAA rating in Anderson County.”

Wilson asked Martin who the bond attorney for the county is. “Is that you Mr. Martin?” Martin responded that the County’s bond attorney is the McNair Law Firm, whom he also works for.

Chairperson Gracie Floyd sounded almost as if she were forbidding Wilson to contact anyone but Preston or Martin for information on the bonds. “I’m going to ask that you talk to Mr. Preston and Mr. Martin about these things, instead of calling outside agencies.”

Wilson, speaking after the meeting, pointed out that Preston’s refusal to provide her with similar public information has lead her to file a writ of mandamus petition in order to obtain access to the County’s financial records. “The idea that Mr. Preston would give me any meaningful information is ludicrous.”

Wren to crown queen

Wren High School will crown a new homecoming queen this Friday night during halftime of the Wren-Laurens football game.

Homecoming candidates and sponsors include Brooke Mills and Justin Hedden, Megan Smith and Josh Browning, Heather Bayne and Jared Burdette, Erin Anderson and Chris Holmes, Lauren Taylor and Adam Irby, Brooke Kotcella and P. J. Simmons, Melissa Smith and Philip Garrison, Amy Boggs and Michael Graham, Becca Bagwell and Justin Patterson. Megan Hackenburg and Zack Seaborn, Alisha Ayers and Will Orr, Anna Karageorgiou and Waymond Jackson, Amy Huggins and Scott Lehman.

Class representatives include Senior Representative Heather Bayne, Junior Representative Lauren Flynn, Sophomore Representative Ashton Capps and Freshman Representative, Alexis Blakely.

Wren CC teams compete in Electric City

The Wren High Cross Country team finished fourth out of fourteen teams at the Electric City Cross Country festival held at the Anderson Sports and Entertainment Complex.

Running 5K for Wren were Ben Wood, who finished first for Wren and 7th overall with a time of 17:07.09. He was followed by Andy Baker and Andy Walls who finished 12th and 13th with time of 17:20.94 and 17.22.09. Ryan Mann finished 30th with a time of 18:00.12 and was followed by Tom Ford with a time of 18:06.95.

The Wren girls team finished 8th with an average time of 22:25.32. Samantha Smith and Tiffany Metcalf were first in for Wren with a time of 21:50.64 and 21:54.52. They were followed by Kristen Roach (22:35.10) Reagan Mann (22:46.44) and Madeline Green (23:22.40) and Jenny Olive (23:22.96).

Wren JV Boys finished 3rd with an average time of 19:29.17. Christopher Daley finished first for Wren and 9th overall with a time of 18:46.68. Shaun Morris(19:09.67, Justin Tolleson (19:39.12) Stephen Henderson 19:39.52), Karsten Evans (20:10.85) and Cade Lusk (20:15.75) rounded out the top five for the JV Hurricanes.

The Wren JV girls finished 5th out of six teams. On order of finish: Callie Olive, Laurel Orr, Katelyn Meredith, Karen Skjenning and Lauren Junkins.

Deputies investigate drug related incidents

Anderson County sheriff’s deputies investigated several drug related incidents including one drug overdose in a local motel resulting in a death. Among incidents investigatated:

PIEDMONT

Deputy W.T. Cunningham responded to a call on October 2 at the Executive Inn at 546 McNeely Road. There, in room 102, he found a white male, age 40-45 who was deceased. He was subsequently identified as Patrick Lawrence Hobson, of Chafin, SC. A subsequent investigation by the coroner’s office determined that he died of a drug overdose.

Sept. 27 – T.B. Dugan responded to a complaint of malicious damage to property at 6 Halter Drive. William Brooks reported that a window was broken at The Shoppes at Brookside, causing $1000 in damage.

Sept. 27 – M.A. Whitfield received a complaint of counterfeiting from the clerk at the Shell Station at 2501 River Road. Upon investigating, he found that a WM, 5’5", 150 pounds, with brown hair, and driving a tan Jeep Cherokee had passed two fake five dollar bills to the clerk in payment for gas.

Sept. 27 –J.A. Frazier stopped a 1988 Olds with an expired tag on Frontage Road at Hwy. 153. The driver, Milton Crosby, Jr., of Pickens, was driving under suspension. It was his fourth offense, and his license was suspended indefinitely. He was also wanted for failure to appear. He was arrested and transported to ACDC.

Sept. 29 – D.E. Tench investigated a complaint of assault and battery and petit larceny at 911 River Road. Janie Irlene Dyer, 65, reported that her son Tony Eugene Dyer, 40, had punched her, knocking her tooth out, and stolen $360 from her purse. He also twisted her arm.

PELZER

Sept. 26 – K. L. Brown , acting on information received from Greenville County investigators, responded to 429 Old River Road in Pelzer, where they found Paul D. Strickland Jr. hiding in the house. He was placed under arrest based on an active Greenville warrant for his arrest for possession of stolen goods. He was transported to the Piedmont Fire Department where he was taken into custody by Greenville officers. A number of stolen items were subsequently recovered from the residence

Sept. 26 – M.J. Gregory responded to 301 Joe Black Road, where Robert Tompkins reported the theft of his custom motorcycle, a Redneck Rigid 1400 cc chopper. The bike, 9.5 feet long, is bright green with SC tag #XW8688. The bike, stolen from a locked shed, is valued at $30,000.

Sept. 28 – M.A. Whitfield responded to 8 Goodrich Street, where he was met by Gene Keeler, who told him that he had been assaulted by Larry Jason Raines. Reports state Keeler said that the suspect’s mother had called him to say her son was drunk and hitting his father. Keeler went to try and talk to Raines, but was punched and threatened with a knife. Raines was violent and out of control. Whitfield and West Pelzer Police Chief Bernard Wilson eventually subdued him by force and use of a taser. He was placed in the police car where he began trying to butt the window out with his head. Whitfield eventually had to use pepper spray twice to get him to quit. Raines, 26, was arrested and charged with assault and battery, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Oct. 2 – J.J. Jacobs responded to Lima Auto Sales on Hwy 29 North, where Scott Morgan reported the theft of his motorcycle, valued at $7500. Morgan said he had gone to get lunch and returned to find the bike missing.

WILLIAMSTON

Sept. 27 – J.J. Jacobs investigated a complaint of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and carrying a concealed weapon. Reports state the incident occurred at 67 Hwy 77, and involved Michael Shaun Rainey, 27, who claimed that two people had assaulted him. The argument began over a woman.  Rainey said he was punched with a set of brass knuckles and struck several times in the head. A witness, supported Rainey’s account of the events.

Sept. 28 – An undercover purchase of methamphetamine led to the arrest of Phillip Lawayne Milam, 33, of 721 Welcome Road; Amy  M. Smith, of 3735 Hwy 29 North; and William Charles Reaves, 20, 6’1", of 201 Douglas Drive.  All three were charged with possession with intent to distribute, after a quantity of the drug was found on the various suspects’ persons as well as in the residence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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