News Archive

(5106) Week of Dec. 20, 2006

Public hearing held on budget, meeting moved to Tuesday
Williamston Council approves 2007 budget
$1.6 million paid over 8 year period - Spider bites among insurance claims
Stem cell treatment appears positive for local cancer patient
Father, son arrested in killing
Woman’s remains found near Belton
Deputies investigate theft incidents
Seems to Me . . . Be a man

Week of Dec. 20

Public hearing held on budget, meeting moved to Tuesday

Williamston Town Council rescheduled agenda items but continued as planned in holding a public hearing on the 2007 budget  Monday, Dec. 18. Council heard comments and answered questions from several citizens about the budget. No other agenda items were discussed during the meeting which lasted about one hour.

Due to a scheduling conflict, Councilman Marion Middleton Jr. requested  for items originally to be discussed at the Monday meeting to be placed on the agenda of a meeting to be held on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m.

Agenda items included second reading of the FY 2007 budget ordinance, discussion of the old town hall and discussion on hiring a grant writer.

Also on the agenda, the old water treatment plant, a calendar committee, personnel issues and municipal building maintenance and upkeep.

During the budget hearing Monday, Jan Dawkins asked about the police department going to Central Dispatch and the 2 percent hospitality tax.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said that the town was to look at the situation at the end of the year.  “At present, the police department has done a tremendous job and are underbudget,” Clardy said, adding that the department will keep dispatch in house for now.

Clardy said the 2 percent hospitality tax will be discussed in January allowing newly elected councilman Carthel Crout to be included. Clardy said he hopes to have a dollar amount that can be expected from possible revenues if the tax is implemented. He also said that the budget will reflect a revenue line item and expenditure line item for it if it approved.

Mike Looper asked if Council are receiving pay? Clardy responded that the council was not being compensated at present and a vote of council will be needed to reinstate it. The 2007 budget has $14,200 allocated for council salary, but Council has not discussed or voted on the item.

There was some other discussion on budget line items and moving the old city hall including whether it will be tested for hazardous lead paint or asbestos if it is tore down or pieces sold to the public.

Tim Cox stated that moving the property decreases the historical value or worth. Clardy said the town will have to look at that and whether to preserve, relocate or destroy the property.

Cox also asked if the situation had been resolved concerning persons residing on the McPhail property and whether they were paying rent.

Clardy said that the issue was being looked into by the town’s attorney. “The attorneys have not decide the best way to handle it,” Clardy said. “The attorneys are working it out.”

There are six properties that have mobile homes located on them in which the occupants are not paying for the property or rent on the property which is owned by the town. Town officials have attempted to find a solution to the problem since the property was donated to the town last year. “We want to balance the scales so that the town and the residents both benefit,” Clardy said.

Concerning the budget, Newton said it is “about as good as it can get right now.  There will be adjustments in the next couple of months,” he said.

The town’s FY 2007 budget which is currently being discussed will be effective through the end of 2007, officials said. However if town officials decide to change the fiscal year, which currently runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, a new budget will be discussed and approved in June reflecting the fiscal year change reflecting a July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008 fiscal year.

Responding to a question by Jan Dawkins whether the town was out of debt without using tax money already collected, ACOG advisor Joe Newton said the town currently has money in the bank and a good cash flow. Newton reiterated that the town will have a small budget deficit (approximately $70,000), and that the town is current on bills. He also said he expects the town to have a positive fund balance in 2007, possibly having a contingency fund and said he hoped the town will not have a deficit.

Clardy said the fact that the town did not have to borrow money was an indicator that things are better and stated that they will know more at the end of the month when all the bills are paid.

Clardy also said the final payment of $56,753 was being made on the $350,000 BAN note the town has carried for two years. 


Williamston Council approves 2007 budget

Williamston Town Council  was expected to put the final touches on the 2007 budget, approving second reading on the $2.587 million budget ordinance Tuesday, Dec. 19.

The general fund budget includes increased revenues from franchise fees, garbage fees and emergency response billings to out of towners involved in an accident.

It also includes funding for a special audit, a potential court settlement, new accounting software, council salaries and a contingency fund for the town. The new budget allows $584,982 for the general fund contingency reserve.

There is also an $80,000 transfer to the water fund and $80,000 transfer to the sewer fund to begin building a contingency fund in preparation of USDA rural development loans the town is pursueing for upgrades to the sewer treatment plant.

The general fund budget includes revenues of $104,000 from SC local governemnt fund; $118,000 from motor vehicle taxes and $817,000 from property taxes.

Other revenues include property tax penalties of $2,900; payments in lieu of taxes, $6,000; homestead exemption, $86,000; merchants inventory tax, $9,000; manufacturing exemptions, $63,000; business license, $46,000; MASC insuarnce premiums fees, $330,500.

Franchise fees include: Charter, $16,200; Duke Energy, $270,000; Fort Hill gas, $96,000 and MASC telecommunications, $18,800.

Also police fines, $140,000; SRO high school $70,000; little league fees of $12,000; park fees of $7,500; room rental/misc. $10,000; county solid waste fees, $5,600 and interest income of $500.

The new sanitation fee will bring in $313,000.

Emergency response fee is expected to bring in $7,000; police debt set-off recovery, $14,500; fire dept fundraising, $5,000; and victim’s advocate proceeds, $10,000.

General expense items include MASC insurance of $70,900; MASC workers compensation, $37,500; MASC dues $1,700.

Professional fees are budgeted at: audit, $9,000; bookkeeping, $12,000; town attorney, $12,000; labor attorney, $12,000 and professional fees/consultant for grants, $7,500.

Also budgeted is a special audit, $10,000; potential court settlement $20,000; and bank charges of $3,000.

Streetlights/Utilities are budgeted at $52,000; GO Bond $5,500; accounting software $35,000; employee holiday bonus $7,000 and unemployment contingency of $7,900. There is also an $80,000 transfer to the water fund and $80,000 transfer to the sewer fund.

The budget allows $584,982 for the general fund contingency reserve.

Council/Adminstration expenses are as follows:

Admin. salaries of $86,800; Council salaries of $14,200; payroll taxes of $6,637; retirement, $6,941; health insurance staff, $12,555; repairs maintenance, $5,800; supplies/expense, $23,500; and office supplies, $10,000.

Training is budgeted at $1,500; transportation/mileage $1,500; electricity/gas, $40,000; phones $6,000; municipal building repairs and maintenance, $1,400 and capital expenditures, $2,500.

Municipal Court expenses - Municipal judge, $15,583; payroll taxes, $1,200; health insurance, $4,184; retirement, $1,246; partime judge, $3,576; and court expenses, $2,000.

Street/Sanitation department expenses - Salaries are budgeted at $121,700; payroll taxes, $9,310; retirement, $9,736; health insurance, $20,924; overtime, $3,000; vehicles, $12,500; repairs maintenance, $9,000, supplies expense, $10,000; storm cleanup costs, $5,000; uniforms, $2,300; utilities/phones, $1,500 and county solid waste fees, $5,620.

Police Department - Salaries $461,746; overtime/holiday pay, $41,283; payroll taxes, $35,324; retirement, $46,857; health insurance, $62,773. Also vehicles, $25,500; facilities-repairs/maintenance, $19,000; office supplies, $30,000; jail/dispatch, $12,500; supplies/expense, $15,000; uniforms, $7,500; power, $28,500; phone lines, $7,200.

Fines paid to victims escrow, $10,000 and fines paid to state $65,000.

Parks/recreation - Salary, $11,000; ballfield preparation (PT), $5,250; park maintenance (PT) $3,660; two (PT) workers at 24 weeks, $17,280.

Other expenses include payroll taxes, $1,500; retirement, $1,165; health insurance, $4,185; vehicles, $5,000; repairs/maintenance, $1,600; supplies/expense, $10,600; uniforms $200; utillities, $22,750; scout hut gas $750; Christmas Park, $2,500; little league, $18,000; parades, $500; and cemetery care, $200.

Fire Department - Salaries $23,300; payroll witholding, $8,000; vehicles, $5,400; repairs maintenance, $6,000; supplies/expense, $4,600;

Rescue equipment, $2,960; vehicles fuel and gas, $5,500; gas bldg., $1,650; phone, $2,200; water, $700; power, $2,700; propane generator, $600; propane, (WT) $200; fire truck Capital lease principal $17,264; Capital lease interest, $10,984.

Also FEMA grant  match, $3,000, physicals, $6,000; AC training facility dues, $525; morale/welfare, $5000 and capital expenditures, $2,500.

Total general fund expense is $2,587,100.

(The new budget includes a separate water and sewer budget which will be highlighted in the Dec. 27 issue of The Journal. Highlights of the Tuesday, Dec. 19 Council meeting will also be in that issue.)

Spider bites among insurance claims
$1.6 million paid over 8 year period

By Stan Welch

Over the last eight years, the Insurance Reserve Fund, on behalf of Anderson County, has paid out more than $1,649,062 in claims, and an additional $22,451 in expenses, such as paying insurance adjusters to review such claims.

According to documents obtained under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, from the Office of  the Budget and Control Board, which oversees the IRF, the claims ranged from fender benders involving county vehicles to wrongful death and civil rights actions.

One suit, brought by a group of twenty-seven inmates at Anderson County Detention Center, claimed that the inmates were bitten by spiders. A violation of the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment was alleged and a total of $300,000 was awarded.

Among the reasons for the various claims are the mundane and the silly. A lawnmower threw an object and it struck a car. Cost: $1087 in damages, and an additional $332.56 in expenses. Lightning damaged an HVAC unit. Cost: $1425.00. A fellow claimed he had been improperly extradited for murder. He lost his claim, but the adjuster made $825.

Some of the claims are serious and costly. For example, Angela Ragsdale was awarded $37,500 in her claim of sexual harassment in 1998. An additional $13,590 was paid in expenses. Two claims that an intersection was unsafe for travel resulted in a total of $75,000 in awards, and an additional $35,000 in expenses fighting the claims.

More than once, amounts equal to or greater than the eventual settlement was spent in contesting the claims. In a wrongful death suit, resulting from the shooting of  a woman following her arrest in an undercover sting operation, the eventual award was ten thousand dollars, while the expenses incurred were $145,450.94. In another case, a claimant was awarded less than eight hundred dollars for an injury sustained while in police custody, but the expenses incurred in the case exceeded $18,000.

The records fail to indicate the filing of several claims of sexual harassment and discrimination against various county officials, as alleged by Councilwoman Cindy Wilson. There are fifteen claims that were filed by Prepaid Legal Services apparently on behalf of county employees, between 2003 and September of this year, which do not indicate the nature of the claims, only that they were filed by Prepaid Legal. Those claims totaled more than fifty one thousand dollars.

The various counties and municipalities around the state pay annual premiums to the IRF in order to be insured against the many claims that each county endures each year. It is the only affordable approach to insurance for most government entities. Counting only vehicles such as police cruisers, trucks and other light to medium duty vehicles, more than 100 accidents occurred over the eight year span. Other mishaps include lightning strikes, water and wind damage, fires, cut cables, and even a woman who tripped and fell leaving the witness stand at the courthouse. She was awarded damages as well.

Stem cell treatment appear positive for local cancer patient

By Stan Welch

Stem cell research is a topic of frequent, and frequently passionate, discussion these days. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and a few of them are even informed opinions. But few people have as close and clear an understanding of the potential benefits of this controversial medical approach as Beth Durham, a Williamston chiropractor and massage therapist whose very life has been changed by developments in this fledgling field of research.

Six years ago, Durham, then thirty-two years old, had a small mole removed from her neck. It was malignant. She was told that all was well, that she had dodged the proverbial bullet because of early diagnosis and swift action. Follow up tests showed no signs of cancer. Three years ago, however, she had her thyroid removed because a knot was found on it.

The knot proved to be benign, but Durham says everyone was missing important signs. “When the mole was removed, it was a pretty simplistic diagnosis. There was no indication by the doctors that perhaps a lifestyle change was in order. There was nothing about diet, or stress reduction as a preventive approach. That’s because conventional medicine sees cancer as an invasion, like a virus. But it isn’t an invasion, because it starts within us. For some reason or combination of reasons, my body was creating a friendly environment for the development of cancers. And no one was catching on.”

Earlier this year, she developed a lump in her lymph gland in her neck. She laughingly says it was “very visually available”. In other words, people were staring at it when they talked to her. A full body CT scan also showed a tumor on her spleen, and a shadow on her liver as well.

Her doctor favored an aggressive and radical approach. His intention, before the spleen and liver situations were discovered, involved a radical neck dissection, which would involve the complete removal of all soft tissue from the left front quadrant of her neck. The midline of the throat to the midline of the neck below the left ear would roughly be the area removed. “If it wasn’t bone, they were going to take it. Severe nerve damage was virtually assured,” said Durham.

Durham, in what must be described as a quirkily optimistic turn of phrase, said she was lucky they found the tumor on the spleen. “They changed tactics then. The neck surgery seemed much less attractive. That actually gave me time to find Dr. Ghen and the stem cell transplant.”

Dr. Mitchell Ghen is a self-described, though widely recognized, pioneer in the area of stem cell research and transplant. He began his practice in South Carolina, where he still maintains a home. He then moved to Atlanta, and as the political and regulatory atmosphere towards stem cell research became increasingly hostile, eventually to Mexico.

By the time he and Durham became acquainted, she had stage four metastatic melanoma, and had been told to contact the local hospice chapter and to get her affairs in order. He had moved once again, this time to the Central American country of Belize, where he had treated a number of conditions with stem cell transplants, but never such an advanced case of melanoma as Durham’s. Cases of colon, breast and less advanced cases of melanoma had been treated with good results, in many cases.

Speaking at the Palmetto Family Medical Group’s clinic in Williamston last week, Dr. Ghen said that much of his transplant research had been with ALS patients, or those with Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a wasting disease, which destroys the muscle tissues until finally claiming its victims. He had also worked with stroke patients, with remarkable results. “We have seen patients regain speech and other functions, including mobility, at a tremendous level.”

Dr. Ghen uses cord blood from umbilical cords to obtain and grow the cells he uses. “Cord blood is a completely ethical use of the cells. It poses some challenges, but we have developed ways to overcome them,” said Ghen.

There are certain techniques used by Ghen and his staff that he says other researchers don’t use. For example, the patient’s immuno-suppression system is depressed as much as possible to prevent rejection of the stem cells. Another difference is that the stem cells are transplanted directly into the bone marrow of the patient, slipping them past several of the body’s defense and giving them a chance to establish themselves before going to work to make the necessary repairs on the body.

Dr. Ghen is clearly convinced of the potential of stem cell research. Funded by a major energy conglomerate, he is planning to increase his twelve bed Eden Clinic to a one hundred bed hospital.  But while he is an ardent supporter of stem cell transplants, he offers no magic cure.

“Physical therapy is essential. You must work to recover. Then, you must make changes in your life to remain healthy. Diet and nutrition are essential. Cellular medicine is the method of having your own body’s cells work in harmony and be healthy. The chemicals and toxins that we ingest on a regular basis affect every cell in our body. We are so acidic in terms of the Ph of our bodies that we simply can’t process and excrete all of the acids we take in. They settle deep in cells and prevent those cells from reproducing good copies. Once enough bad copies of a cell are made, we have a problem.”

Dr. Ghen said that one can of cola is so acidic, that if it were to pass unfiltered and untreated by the body directly through the urinary tract, that every part of that tract would be so badly burned and damaged that the person would never again excrete body waste normally.

 “That’s one can of cola, folks. Stop drinking that stuff and stop letting your kids have it. Here ends the sermon for the day,” he said, laughing. 

Dr. Ghen says his techniques basically implant a second immune system alongside the patient’s, to better help fight off the various conditions they experience.

“Then we try to help them help themselves, and maintain a healthy immune system. This approach to medicine will become the anti-aging mechanism in the coming years. I believe that it is possible for man to reach the age of one hundred and twenty on a routine basis. Moses did it. Why can’t we?”

Beth Durham says that she had several advantages that many people do not. First, she was lucky enough to find Dr. Ghen, or rather her brother, Mack, did.

“When you hear that you have cancer that bad, and are expected to die, your mind quits working for a good while. If Mack hadn’t been there to do all the leg work and research into the various options, I’m not sure I would have had the focus to do it. He knew a doctor whose wife had been treated by Dr. Ghen. Mack and this doctor had had a casual conversation about it at a symposium months before. Mack spent a whole day tracking this guy down just to ask him who the doctor was.”

 Mack laughs that off, saying that good help is hard to find. But it is clear that the family bond, both blood and professional, was important. 

During the interview Beth Durham, was taking a vitamin C intravenous injection. She takes three a week to boost the immune sysytem, citing the advantage of being at a medical facility already, where such procedures are easily handled. As we spoke, at least four different people came by to make sure all was well.

She has changed her diet and lifestyle tremendously. She eats only organic foods, though she says she has no choice since she is still sick. “Maybe one day I can have a sweet roll or something, but this stuff lives off of sugar, and I don’t plan to feed it. I plan to defeat it.”

Dr. Ghen boiled his rather complex dietary philosophy down to this: “If God doesn’t make it, don’t eat it. If it’s on the label of your food and you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.”

She went to Belize and stayed three weeks. Her transplant went well, and subsequent tests have shown real progress. A recent PET scan, which is designed to locate tumor growth showed absolutely no new areas of growth, and indicated that the shadow on her liver is gone. Her liver enzymes, which had spiked in response to the cancer, are back to normal. “It’s like seeing a locomotive slow down. It takes time to turn one around, but you have to slow it down first. This one has slowed tremendously. We are all so very excited.”

 Dr. Ghen agreed. “We had never done a malignant melanoma case before. It is such an aggressive cancer that often, people aren’t diagnosed in time to take much action. We took Beth’s case because she simply had no other chance. This is not a cure, but it is a tremendous step in the right direction.”

 Perhaps it is because of the hands-on involvement of so many in Beth’s progress that the word miracle is seldom heard. But, as her progress towards health continues, it is becoming more difficult to avoid.

Father, son arrested in shooting

By Stan Welch

Just days after two men were killed in a home near Belton last week, arrests were made of two men in Candler, NC. On December 14, a father and son, Louis Kenneth Richey, 59, and Phillip Louis Richey, 25, were arrested without incident in Buncombe County, after being identified through a photo lineup by a witness who was present when Shandon Putnam and Carrol Martin were both shot to death.

The witness, who has not been identified, stated that he saw both Richeys enter the same room with the victims shortly before the shootings. He picked both men out of the photo lineup, clearing the way for ACSO Investigator R. Gebing to obtain warrants for their arrests.

Both men are charged with possession of firearm during the commission of a crime, conspiracy to commit murder, and two counts of murder.

Neighbors of Martin and Putnam reported hearing gunshots on the evening of December 12. When Sheriff Crenshaw and Chief of Detectives Creed Hashe arrived on the scene, they found two men shot to death. Chief Hashe recently confirmed that the two deceased men were associates of Louis Richey, WM, 6’, 200 pounds, gray hair and brown eyes, and Phillip Richey, WM, 25, 5’8", 175 pounds, black hair and brown eyes. “We are continuing to investigate the exact nature of that association, but they were acquainted with each other.”

Both father and son listed their address as 13922 Highway 20 in Belton. 

According to the witness, who was mentioned but not identified in the original incident report of the shootings, all four men were in the same room when the shootings occurred. He was taken to the ACSO and questioned shortly after the shootings took place.

Both men have indicated that they plan to fight extradition from North Carolina. Chief Hashe said that efforts to return the men to South Carolina will almost certainly extend past the first of the year.

Woman’s remains found near Belton

 The remains of a woman found in a field near Belton have been identified as Christi Elaine Hanks, a 34-year-old woman with an extensive arrest record in Anderson County.

 Hanks remains were found shortly before noon on December 14, by a caretaker of property owned by Ron Gilreath. The caretaker discovered Hanks’ body while bush hogging the field, which is located on Wright School Road. Hanks was last seen by members of her family on August 4. Coroner Greg Shore expressed his opinion that Hanks died either that night or soon after, because the clothes she was wearing when found matched the description of those she was wearing when last seen. He also stated that he believed she had been hidden in that field and not killed there. The cause of death for Hanks, who was bound and gagged when found, was determined to be asphyxia. Dental records and identification of some jewelry by a family member were used to establish her identity.

 According to the incident report filed by Charles Partain, who responded to Ron Gilreath’s call, the body was found in the field. Upon arrival, Partain moved Gilreath and two other men away from the scene and blocked off the area. The incident report describes Hanks as a WF, 5’3", 115 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. Given the time frame and conditions under which the body was found, the detailed description must have come from booking reports related to a series of arrests which Hanks underwent between 1999 and July of this year. During that time, Hanks was arrested eleven times, for offenses ranging from public disorderly conduct to prostitution.

Chief Detective Creed Hashe stated that the ACSO has no leads at this time. According to ACSO sources, no official missing person report had been filed on Hanks. Anyone with information about Hanks is encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s department, or Crimestoppers at 231-STOP (7867).

Deputies investigate theft incidents

Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies investigated several incidents of theft, made a CDV arrest and investigated a missing person. Among incidents investigated:


Dec.13 – J.M. Collins received a report from Sherry Kelley that her father was missing. Her father, Clyde Jack Gilman, WM, 86, 5’8", 200 pounds, with gray hair and mustache and blue eyes, left for Arkansas for his brother’s funeral on December 11. When he did not arrive in Arkansas, relatives contacted her. He was driving a red 1993 Cadillac and a SC tag #608-SYN.

December 13 – Several deputies responded to Brentwood Dr. over the course of the day, as someone went on a spree of breaking into cars. Four different incidents were reported, with a total of seven vehicles broken into and various items removed.

Dec. 6 – M. J. Burns responded to 204 Bill Kay Rd., where he received a complaint of burglary from William Gambrell. Gambrell reported the theft of a large number of guns from a gun safe in his shop. More than a dozen guns, valued at almost $11,000 were taken.


Dec. 12 – T. B. Dugan responded to 8802 Highway 81 N. where he encountered Ronald G. Beeson, Jr., who told him he and his wife had gotten into an argument when she assaulted him. While they were talking, the landlord drove up with Candace Beeson in the car. She said she and her husband had been to Greenville and he had assaulted her. She was transported by EMS to the hospital, and the husband was arrested for criminal domestic violence and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, and transported to ACDC. He was later taken to the hospital after complaining of chest pains.  Reports stated that she said that he had become upset with another driver at a red light on the way home and then assualted his wife. Her injuries included two black eyes, a broken facial bone, three bite marks, bruised ribs, and bruises and scratches. She was escorted to a woman’s shelter after being treated and released at the hospital.


Dec. 5 – J. J. Jacobs responded to 3103 Powdersville Rd., where Kathy Phillips reported that her ex-husband had been calling her all week. She received over 105 calls from the same number over the course of a weekend. She was seeking an order of protection.

Dec. 7 – M.B. Bearden received a report of a stolen license tag from a 1998 Jeep Cherokee belonging to Patrick Duckett of 210 Wedgefield Dr. The S.C. tag reads 704 ULD.


Dec. 12 – M.D. Creamer responded to 119 Page Dr. where he was told by Timothy Garrett that someone had broken into his vehicle and stolen a firearm.

Dec. 13 – J. A. Frazier received a report from Vicki Farmer that her tag had been stolen from her truck while it was broken down on the side of the road near Rogers feed store on Midway Road. The tag was SC # 3336CT.

Dec. 14 – T. B. Dugan responded to 157 Pine Circle where Linda Bell reported an attempted burglary which was unsuccessful, but which damaged the door to the extent of thirty dollars.


Dec. 12 – W.E. Gregory received a complaint of grand larceny from Fred Huffman, of 1204 Three Bridges Rd. Huffman reported that he had been arrested following a traffic accident on December 7 and his vehicle towed to a body shop. Upon inspecting his vehicle later, he found that his Remington 700 rifle had been stolen.

Seems to Me . . . Be a man

By Stan Welch

This may not seem like the best of Christmas topics, but, sadly, it is as appropriate as a Christmas carol. 

One of my jobs, and frankly, I consider it a chore, is to type up the police reports each week. I always learn something from doing it, and sometimes, I get a real chuckle. There are some really stupid criminals out there. But I also get angry and depressed by reading report after report of some yahoo beating his wife or his child, or both.

I didn’t do the police reports at my last job. For one thing, I owned the paper. For another, it was a different type of publication, and we just didn’t get into that. So maybe this area isn’t worse than others when it comes to domestic violence. Maybe this has always gone on at this rate of frequency. God, I hope not, though.

I certainly understand that there have always been men who consider a good butt kicking the best way to straighten out a woman who’s gotten too big for her britches. There isn’t enough space on this page to go into all the sociological and psychological, and for that matter, theological mumbo jumbo that has been thrown around in relation to this subject. So I won’t try.

What I will say is that any man who beats a woman is a sorry excuse for a human being, and is taking up oxygen someone else could be using. Any man, or woman, who beats a child to make themselves feel powerful, rather than to teach a lesson, is unfit to raise children and should either seek help themselves, or find some place else to leave their kids while they grow up.

Now, stay with me. I don’t mean a parent shouldn’t spank a child, or switch their legs, as we used to say. I surely got my share of that growing up. I think it has a place in child rearing. I spanked my son when he reached for the hot stove. Guess what? He learned not to reach for the hot stove.

But when a parent beats a child out of anger, out of frustration with their own lives, out of self loathing that they don’t know how to ease any other way, they break a trust with that child that can’t be repaired. They admit to that child that they don’t know what else to do, so they strike. They strike appallingly hard and incredibly often, according to the reports I see.

Do these parents love these children? For the most part, I think they do. They are simply overwhelmed by the pressures of life and the demands that we place on ourselves.

Does a man who beats his wife love her? Sadly, many do. They have learned this gutless, disgusting behavior in their own homes, and so it seems a legitimate way to express one’s feelings. “Love you, sugar.” Bam! A slap to the face. Nothing says ‘Sweetheart” like a black eye.

Sadly, many women learned an even more destructive behavior in their homes. They learned to stay around and take it, because their mothers did. They stay and take it for the sake of the children. Sometimes they take it instead of the children. But I know this for a fact. Anyone who will beat his wife will beat his children. He hates himself and his life so much that the most precious people in his life, the very people who define that life, become his targets.

Of the many things I’m thankful for is the fact that my parents never behaved in such a manner. Oh, the pressures were there, the finances, the four children, the daily demands that had to be met. But they were met without violence. My sisters and my brother and I all knew what a belt felt like, or a switch from the back yard. But we never felt a fist or a foot or a slap anywhere but on our behinds. My father never raised a hand to my mother. Never.

My editor, David Meade, and I have talked about this subject many times. We talk about the role a local newspaper should play in publicizing this problem, which is both a major one and a growing one in communities across this country. And spare me the redneck stereotype, please. Men in  business suits strike just as often as those in work clothes. Women with high pressure jobs are just as likely to abuse their children as stay at home Moms.

We generally don’t publish those incident reports, unless they involve an additional crime as well. Newspapers have often been criticized for failing to identify men who beat their wives and parents who beat their children. It is a valid criticism, but it is not as simple as it may sound.

Often, in fact far too often, women who are beaten decide not to press charges against their assailant. And ladies, make no mistake. Once a man hits you with his fist or a club or bites you or kicks you, he is no longer your boyfriend or husband. He is your assailant. Treat him as one. Allow the judicial system to treat him as one.

The problem newspapers face is that if they identify someone as having assaulted his wife or child, and charges are dropped, the attorneys are soon sniffing around the door.

One solution to that is for ordinances to be passed making criminal domestic violence just criminal violence. In other words, if a woman calls a deputy to her house and she shows signs of having been assaulted, it should not be up to her to press charges. If a man walked up to a woman he didn’t know in the grocery store and slapped her to her knees, he’d be arrested. Why should a marriage license, or a shared address give the leeway for violence against another person? The state, the county, the city should press charges. Then, when old Hubby makes bail and goes home, he can’t threaten the wife until she drops the charges. It won’t be her call.

I said earlier that unfortunately this is an appropriate topic for the season. That’s because violence within families always peaks during the holidays. There are several reasons for that statement. Number one is alcohol. Folks start out drinking to have a good time and a few hours later, somebody’s in jail and somebody’s at the emergency room. Family pressures increase tremendously at the holidays. So do financial pressures.

That’s just the way it is. But to those parents who are struggling, who are really struggling to make ends meet and buy the kids something for Christmas, consider this. Would your child rather have a Christmas with a present and a slap to the face, or one without a present and without a slap to the face? Be a Mom. Be a Dad. That’s not a bad Christmas present, when you get right down to it. There’s plenty of kids who would rather have their absent parent under the tree than the new bike.

To the husbands who drink too much and think too little, consider this. When it all starts to close in on you, why not quietly and respectfully leave the house for a while? I don’t mean go to the local tavern and drink there instead. And I don’t mean make a big scene about how you just have to get out of the house. I mean just go for a ride, and get yourself together. Remind yourself that you don’t need to beat a child to feel like a man. Remind yourself that you love your wife and she loves you, even if you aggravate the dickens out of each other sometimes.

Remember how you felt watching your Dad slap your Mom around, and ask yourself if you want your children to carry that memory for another generation. Break the cycle. Be a man. There is no greater gift you could give your family.

Make it a Merry Christmas. 








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