News Archive

Week of 4504, 2004

Week of Nov. 10, 2004 

Police continue looking for clues in double homicide
Residents mourn death of Leslie Ann Mazzara
West Pelzer continues policing initiatives
Scott, Owens to face off for Council Ward 4 seat
Council meets with department heads in budget worksession
Barbecue fundraiser to help needy families
Wilson initiates lawsuit to obtain information
County Council hears debt information report

Police continue looking for clues in double homicide

 

Investigators with the Napa Police Department are continuing their investigation into the double homicide of roommates Leslie Ann Mazzara and Adriane Michelle Insogna last week in Napa, Calif.

Based on physical evidence and witness information, investigators believe the attacks on the victims were specific and were not a random act of violence, according to Napa police. Investigators also said they believe the attack did not occur as planned.

Reports state police responded to the single-family residence at approximately 2:07 a.m. Nov. 1 in reference to an assault. Upon arrival, police found the two victims in an upstairs bedroom. A third roommate in a downstairs bedroom was awakeded by the sounds of a struggle in an upstairs bedroom, fled the residence unharmed and called police.

Investigators were continuing to check into the personal and professional backgrounds of both victims in hopes of identifying a motive and suspect information.

 The deaths have caused concerns for residents of what is descrobed as a well-kept older Napa residential area in which the three roommates rented the house.

On Saturday, the Napa Police Department held a community meeting with residents of the neighborhood as well as surrounding neighborhoods to inform citizens of efforts being made to resolve the case.

Police asked residents to look for anyone who may display behaviors such as not showing up for work, taking an unplanned vacation, avoiding normally attended social events or increased anxiety.

Neighbors were also being asked to look for signs of anyone who may have been involved in a struggle such as having cuts, scratches, bruises, limps and/or a reduction in the range of motion of limbs that were not present before Nov. 1.

 This week, investigators shifted their focus from gathering evidence at the murder scene to looking at the bigger picture, according to authorities.

Since last Monday, members of the crime scene evidence team were involved in lifting fingerprints, collecting fluids and fibers and taking photographs.

Authorities said activities at the Dorset Street residence prior to the murders were uneventful.

“The women were home during the evening passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. There were no arguments, nothing suspicious or unusual. Everyone was in bed by 10:30 p.m.,” Napa Police Cmdr. Andy Lewis said.

Police were advising people to keep their doors and windows locked and stay in communication with their neighbors.

They were also asking residents to report anything suspicious such as a person or car that doesn’t belong.

The double slaying is the first in Napa since 1999, police officials said.

Mazzara and Insogna were stabbed to death inside their home at 2631 Dorset St., Napa, around 2 a.m. Nov. 1. A surviving roommate heard the sounds of a struggle coming from the upstairs of the two-story home, left the house and called 911.

Police have confirmed that there was forced entry into the home and the person who is responsible for the crimes knew the victims. The Napa Police Department has not identified a suspect or a motive.

For more information on the investigation go to the Napa city website at www.cityofnapa.org. Then go to police and press releases.

Anyone with any information that may be of use to investigators is asked to call the tip line at (707) 257-9566.

Residents mourn death of Leslie Ann Mazzara

Area residents were shocked to hear about the tragic death of Leslie Ann Mazzara last week in Napa, California.

Williamston, Belton and Anderson area residents were dealing with the news while family and friends prepared to say their last goodbyes at services Wednesday.

Mazzara had moved to California to pursue her dream of working in movies and was working for Francis Ford Coppola’s Niebaum-Coppola Winery in Rutherford as a sales assistant in marketing.

Mazzara, 26, was technically still the reigning Miss Williamston at the time of her death. She was the last crowned Miss Williamston, the winner of the last Miss Williamston pageant, which was held in 2001.

During her reign, Mazzara championed the cause of abused children.

Her platform was based on the heartbreaking case of Stephanie Carter, a four-year-old whose stepmother and father tortured her to death. The child, from Anderson, died at the hands of her abusers in October 2000.

Mazzara used her reign as Miss Williamston to promote the prevention and awareness of child abuse in the community.

She was present at a press conference where 10th Circuit Court Solicitor Druane White announced the passing of Stephanie’s Law, a law designed to track people who accumulate a string of child abuse allegations.

Mazzara took her message to local churches and schools to educate the public on the growing problem of child abuse.

In 2002, she helped raise money with a Sit-A-Thon at the Anderson Mall, where shoppers donated $982 to build a cottage for abused and neglected children at the Calvary Home for Children. A similar event at an outdoor farmer’s market raised $937.

Mazzara performed a pointe ballet routine when she competed for Miss South Carolina in 2002.

Former Miss Williamston and pageant friend Kerrie Owens said that during the Miss South Carolina pageant, Mazzara would run into each dressing room to wish them good luck.

“Leslie was so bubbly, outgoing and very free-spirited,’’ Owens said. “She loved being in the spotlight, and she was good at it.’’

In March, she moved to California to follow her dream of show business or the movies, Owens said.

Mazzara rose quickly in her job as a concierge, tour guide and sales associate at the Niebaum-Coppola Winery in Rutherford. 

Jay Shoemaker, CEO of the Coppola Companies, said Mazzara made a strong impression on her fellow workers.

“What stands out most is her charm, energy, poise and grace,’’ he said. 

Crystal Whitfield, who helped Mazzara at the Calvary Home for Children said, “Everyone is just shocked. Leslie’s death is just breaking hearts,’’ she said. “To have this happen is just tough on our tight-knit community.’’

Efforts are under way to raise $250,000 for a cottage in Mazzara’s name at the Calvary Home for Children in Anderson. 

“She had a passion for children or anyone defenseless,’’ said Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy. “So it is one tragic irony that she was a victim at another one’s hands.’’

An evergreen tree — representing Mazzara’s charm and poise — will be planted in her memory at town hall or in the Mineral Spring Park, he said.

“She represented our town with the utmost dignity and will certainly be remembered for her beautiful smile and her energy,” Clardy said.

Mazzara graduated in 1996 with honors from the Belton-Honea Path High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society and National Beta Club for academic achievement. Her classmates voted her one of “tomorrow’s entertainers.”

She grew up in her grandmother’s house in Anderson, danced ballet with the Greenville Ballet Company and worked briefly as a paralegal in Columbia.

She was the daughter of Jim Mills and Cathy Harrington.

Services are at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Sullivan-King Mortuary Northeast Chapel, on Highway 81, Anderson.

Memorials may be made to Calvary Home for Children, 511 W. Whitner St., Anderson, S. C. 29624. Notes of remembrance may be sent to Remembering Leslie, P. O. Box 943, Williamston, S. C. 29697.

Memorial donations may be made in the memory of Mazzara’s roommate Adriane Michelle Insogna, who was also killed in the attack, to the If Given A Chance Foundation, 3264 Villa Lane, Napa, CA 95448.

West Pelzer continues policing initiatives

West Pelzer Police Chief Bernard Wilson reported on continuing improvements in the police department at the town council meeting Monday night.

Wilson introduced Timothy Striss, a new officer with the department who Wilson said would be “handling most of the investigations.”

Wilson also explained that there continues to be a crackdown on drug activity in the town. Checkpoints have also been set up on Friday and Saturday nights, Wilson said.

A “different and better court system” is also being implemented so that cases and court can move faster and smoother, Wilson said.

Wilson reported that revenue from fines this year is running about three times the amount for the same period last year.

Wilson also addressed citizen concerns about fines being issued by an officer that is “not certified.” Wilson explained that a new officer has within a year to secure certification after employment according to state regulations.

Mayor Peggy Paxton reported that 30 notices about violations of town ordinances had been delivered recently.

At the October council meeting, Paxton announced that the town would begin a stronger enforcement of the ordinance involving cats and dogs. The ordinance states that “all dogs and cats shall be kept within a sufficient enclosure or restrained by a leash when off the premises of the owner or custodian” or fines will be imposed.

In other business, Paxton reported that the town “passed everything with flying colors” during a Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) inspection on October 27.

Brad West of the Water and Sewer Department reported that the town is using detainees from the Anderson County Detention Center to help with some of the routine work in the town. This could eliminate the need for part-time help discussed at the last council meeting, West said.

At Paxton’s request, the council unanimously approved $5,000 from the general fund to be used for Christmas lighting.

Paxton also announced that limbs and leaves will be picked up beginning November 20 as part of a fall cleanup. Limbs to be picked up should be no longer than four feet, Paxton said.

The council unanimously held the second reading of an ordinance annexing property located at 23 Hindman Street into the town at the request of the homeowner James Riddle.

During the time for citizen comments, a citizen expressed concern about a property on Tasha Drive. According to reports, the property is not being maintained and contains snakes and rats.

Another citizen asked about getting a new state flag for the town hall. Councilman Joe Turner said that he had a flag that he would donate to the town.

 

Scott, Owens to face off for Council Ward 4 seat

Williamston voters will have the opportunity to decide in a run-off election November 16 who will represent Ward 4 on  town council.

Political newcomers Otis Scott and Pam Owens will face off in a special run-off election next Tuesday.

Scott was to face incumbent Wade Pepper in a runoff for the seat, however Pepper announced last week that he did not intend to participate in the runoff.

With Pepper’s announcement, Scott thought he would step into the seat.

 But under state law, when a candidate pulls out of a runoff situation, and there is no majority, the candidate with the next highest votes is allowed to run, according to  Gary Baum of the State Election Commission.

The town’s election ordinance also specifies that if there is no majority vote getter, a run-off election for the contested office will be held on Nov. 16.

Pepper officially withdrew by forwarding a letter stating he was not running, according to Davis.

This opened the door for Owens.

Owens was given until noon Friday to decide if she intended to run.

Because Williamston Election Commission chairman Jerry Davis and town clerk Hala Cochran were both out of town Friday, Owens was not able to give notice, causing some confusion among the candidates.

Owens said she decided to participate in the runoff after supporters encouraged her and told her she was being given a second chance.

“When I had a second chance, there was a reason,” she said. “Win or lose my head will be held as high as ever. I will be there for the people.”

Owens said if she is elected she will do all she can for Williamston. She said she will encourage the mayor and council to work together for the town and wants to get the town’s finances in order.

A priority for her is to work in the best interest of the town and the people, she said.

“That’s why we are here.”

She said she would be willing to take a cut in pay if necessary to help get the town back on financial track.

Owens said she will be a voice for the people and if elected she plans to hold quarterly meetings for citizens to express concerns.

She said she will work for a cleaner community and offer full support to the volunteer fire and EMS services.

Owens is an activity bus driver for School District One.

Scott said if elected, priorities for him are working with the mayor and council to stay within budget without raising taxes and working to reduce spending and still have a quality town.

He said he would also like to see improvements on town streets and job growth in the area.

Scott said he would like to see more done for the senior citizens and young people and especially would like to see programs for the youth in the area.

On town finances Scott said, “There has to be some tightening of the budget. We will have to look to see if there are places cuts can be made. Even if you have to go without something,” he said. “You have to stick to the budget.”

“If you don’t stick to the budget, you have no money to pay your bills. You can’t borrow your way out of debt,” he said.

Scott also said he would like to see more cooperation on council.

“I would like to see the mayor and council work more in harmony and put differences aside,” he said. “They need to make the interests of Williamston a priority and stop bickering back and forth with each other.”

Scott said he would like to see more growth and something done with the empty buildings in the town.

He suggested giving a tax break or incentive to get new businesses started, “so they wouldn’t have to pay high taxes at the start.” Scott is retired.

Scott received 45.3 percent of the vote with 636 votes to Wade Pepper’s 397 votes. Pamela Owens received 371 votes.

Council meets with department heads in budget worksession

In a special called meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council met with town department heads in a budget worksession.

During the meeting council was presented with an overview of each department and the expected needs which ranged from replacing old equipment to the need for additional personnel.

The information was presented as 2005 budget preparations are being finalized by Mayor Phillip Clardy.

Council is expected to hold first reading on the new budget at the Nov. 22 meeting.

Mayor Clardy said at the beginning of the meeting that he would work with the council to do what is in the best interest of the town and said that he is recommitted to facing the challenges and opportunities of the town.

Council heard from Street Department head, David Roberts; Sewer Department head, Bob Hammett; Police Chief Troy Martin, Fire Chief Steve Ellison; Parks and Recreation head Dale Martin; and Water and Sewer Department head, Tim Hood.

Roberts told council that the biggest challege facing the street department is pickup and hauling of garbage and limbs.

Roberts said that at present he doesn’t have the manpower to keep up with limbs, recyling and garbage pickup in the town and the additional effort required by increasing DHEC and landfill restrictions. He also said that commercial trash is a potential problem.

Due to landfill restrictions, the town is forced to separate all limbs and debris from any garbage, and recyling loads cannot contain spoilage by fluids or other items.

 The department is currently missing two people due to the town’s hiring freeze.

Roberts also mentioned aging equipment. He said the department is operating with a 1999 International, a 1995 and 1986 model for garbage and recycling pickup.

Tractors and trucks being used by the department are also worn out, he said.

He suggested the town consider purchasing a truck and a tractor and the need for added manpower as priorities for the department.

A larger grinder would also help with limbs and transportation to Starr landfill, which is costly he said.

The department currently has 10 employees, including Roberts.

Hammett said the Sewer Department is facing upgrades on equipment at the town’s treatment plant and each of three lagoons will need to be dredged at some point in the future.

Expected cost on the lagoons is approximately $50,000 each, he said. Other upgrades needed include rollers, $9,000 and upgrading 16 year-old clorine equipment.

The town has applied for a federal grant, which if approved, will cover the lagoon dredging and upgrades to lines in the mill area of the town, Clardy said.

In the police department, Chief Troy Martin said his main priority is the need for additional manpower.

Martin said he is currently running four 12-hour shifts. He said he has two positions open and needs to add two positions. He said the department currently has 2 patrolmen per shift and he would like to have 3.

Martin said the department is saving money by using state constables for special events such as the Spring Water Festival, Christmas parade and the Freedom Celebration.

He also said the department has received serveral grants to help pay for equipment and computer upgrades and is applying for more.

The department has had to have some window repairs and inmate labor is being used for work and repairs, he said.

Martin said the department currently has 19 officers including two resource officers, one victim’s advocate, four jailer/dispatchers, one captain , one chief, four sergents and four patrolmen.

The department has 11 vehicles, he said. The two resource officers and the victim’s advocate each have an older, high mileage vehicle. Each of the four sergeants has a vehicle, the captain and chief have one vehicle each and there are two vehicles being used for patrolling.

Martin said the department needs basically four new officers and two new police vehicles.

Fire Chief Ellison asked the Council not to make any cuts on their budget. “Please don’t cut just because we got grants,” he said. “At least leave us where we are,” he said.

Ellison reported that the department has stayed within the budget and has only spent money on a used fire hose and a kitchen that was bought and paid for by the firemen.

Ellison said he would like to see the fire department apply for a radio frequency,which will help cut out expensive phone bills currently covered by the county.

He also said he would like to see the town look into purchasing a thermal imaging camera which could be used by the fire department and the police department.

Long range he said he would like to use the old water treatment building pump house for storage for the town’s antique fire engine and other items and equipment. The town is still paying on the building which is not being used, Clardy said.

The parks and recreation department needs lights costing approximately $35,000 for a girls softball field, and a fence, Dale Martin told council.

He also said at some point there will need to be funds to help with grading on a proposed soccer facility in the town.

Martin said approximately $75,000 in grading will be necessary, with the county already committing to cover $50,000 of the cost.

There also needs to be restroom facilities and other work done at Brookdale Park, the mayor said.

In the water department, Hood said he would like to see money set aside to replace portions of main trunk line in certain areas of the town. He recommended the town try to secure $150,000 to $250,000 for this.

He also said the department needs shoring equipment estimated at $7,500.

Hood recommended the town consider upgrades to pump stations which are 30 to 40 years old. He suggested wiring and electrical pumps be moved above ground to prevent problems with water.

Hood said his department is currently working with six men including himself, and is “maxed out.”

The department is short one man who has not been replaced.

 

Barbecue fundraiser to help needy families

A special barbecue fundraiser to benefit needy families in the Piedmont area will be held at FGS Wholesale, 1100 Hwy. 86, this Saturday, November 13.

Barbecue plates will be available from 1 to 3 p.m. Plates are free but donations are requested, sponsor and FGS owner Frank Pace said.

Plates will include barbecue, beans, slaw and a roll. Also, local businesses have donated many items to be given away as door prizes.

Pace has helped raise money for the Piedmont needy family fund for the last ten years, according to Piedmont Public Service District Administrator and Chief Butch Nichols.

“He has invested a lot of time and donated many toys to make past fundraisers successful. We appreciate how helpful he has been,” Nichols said.

The needy family fund is an annual project each holiday season for firefighters at the Piedmont Fire Department.

Donations are accepted from the community including money, canned food and toys which will go to needy families in the area, Nichols said.

Firefighters will also be taking donations at traffic lights in Piedmont on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 9-10, and again on Dec. 16-17.

Donations may also be dropped off at the Piedmont Fire Department. For more information call (864) 845-6817.

Wilson initiates lawsuit to obtain information

Anderson County Council member Cindy Wilson has initiated a lawsuit to obtain information which she says she has been repeatedly denied by County Administrator Joey Preston.

Wilson has filed a civil complaint in the 10th Circuit Court of Common Pleas to obtain records of county legal expense vendor files. Wilson has emphasized repeatedly that she feels that legal expenses for the county are exorbitant and not in line with expenses paid by other counties in the state.

The lawsuit filed November 3 by Holly Palmer Beeson of Baker, Ravenel, & Bender, a Columbia law firm, names Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston as the defendant.

The lawsuit seeks a writ of mandamus - an action requiring Preston to allow Wilson “full access to all financial records pertaining to the operation of county government.” Wilson is also requesting that all attorney fees and costs become the responsibility of the defendant.

The lawsuit stems from a Freedom of Information Act request dated July 25 in which Wilson requested records of county legal expenses for fiscal years 2002-2003 and 2003-2004. The county produced legal invoices with the narrative descriptions removed along with a bill of $673.17 for the cost of the information.

The lawsuit also states that Wilson was denied a copy of the county’s annual report of the general ledger and certain weekly ledger reports and that the administration broke a county ordinance by not notifying her of account transfers above $2,500.

Wilson said the lawsuit was her last resort but something she has considered from the time she became a council member in January 2001 after Preston refused her request for copies of the general ledger report.

“I did not want to sue my county,” she said. Yet with fellow council members refusing to support her request for the legal expense details, she said the court filing is her only choice.

Speaking at the Anderson County Council meeting Tuesday night, County Attorney Tom Martin of the McNair Law Firm said he could not comment on the litigation since the county has not been served with the lawsuit.

In a presentation planned to answer questions raised in the last council meeting, Martin offered legal advice to the council on the information issue.

Presenting a sample invoice from the McNair Law Firm, Martin explained the issue of the narrative description contained in the invoice and the issue of confidentiality in the description.

Martin emphasized that billing by the law firm has been “all work for Anderson County” referring to Wilson’s concern that some of the billing could be for personal work for Preston.

Martin said that he would “like to release this information” to satisfy all questions but that “only county council can release this information.”

Martin went on to propose a legal option for county council’s consideration in order to avoid a costly court battle over access to information in the legal expense vendor files.

Martin suggested drawing up an agreement giving Wilson access to the protected portions of the files while forbidding her to disseminate any confidential information.

According to Martin, this would allow Wilson to exercise her duty as a council member without violating the confidentiality rights of the county under the attorney-client privilege.

The council took no action on Martin’s suggestion but received it as information for consideration

County Council hears debt information report

Responding to “misinformation” about county debt, Anderson County authorities presented information on county debt at the regular county council meeting Tuesday.

According to county personnel, Anderson County “has an appropriate level of debt commensurate with its operation and economic activities.”

Using the most current comparisons available, county employee Gina Humphries reported that general obligation bond debt amounted to $22,385,000 in 2002.

The county currently has one revenue bond with a principal balance of $480,000 which will be paid off in 2006, Humphries said.

The total value of minimum lease payments through June 30, 2004 for lease/purchase agreements for machinery, equipment and vehicles is $2,425,413, and two state revolving loans total $2,989,127, Humphries reported.

A summary of all debt through June 30, 2004 amounted to $60,106,028. A summary of all liabilities for the same time period amounted to $69,241,118, Humphries reported.

Ranking seventh in the state in terms of population, Anderson County had debt per capita of $203 in 2002 – a lower amount than five of the larger counties, statistics showed.

A comparison chart presented by Humphries showed that the debt per capita has decreased over the last 10 years and that the county currently has almost the lowest net bonded debt per capita since 1995.

According to Humphries, local governments certify their credit quality to potential bond investors by undergoing a rating process through bond rating agencies. Two major commercial bond rating agencies – Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s - have both given Anderson County steady rating upgrades since 1979 and currently give the county an excellent rating, Humphries stated.

Humphries also reviewed the county debt service policy statement which states that the county “will continually analyze and monitor the market conditions and cash flow needs of the county to determine and seek the best possible rates on new and existing debt.”

The policy also states that in no instance will the legal debt margin for general obligation debt exceed 8% of estimated market valuation of taxable property in the county.

Humphries encouraged all interested persons to obtain a copy of the county’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for a complete understanding of the county’s financial position.

 

 

 

 

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