Wadley fire claims woman’s life Monday
By Carol McLeod
A Wadley woman died in a house fire Monday, Dec. 13.
Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Fay McGahee said Tuesday the woman was identified by family as 85-year-old Hazel Green. Green lived alone in a house on South Main Street in Wadley.
“She was badly burned; and, it appears she died from carbon monoxide,” McGahee said.
“While it’s possible she may have had a heart attack; at this time, that seems unlikely,” he said.
McGahee said he took Green’s remains to the crime lab in Augusta Tuesday for an autopsy.
“The results may take about 30 days,” he said.
“She used a space heater, about 3-feet-by-3-feet in size, and that may have been where the fire started. The fire marshal is investigating,” McGahee said.
Wayne Whitaker, a spokesman for insurance and fire commissioner John Oxendine, said Tuesday the fire is still being investigated.
“We’re waiting on the autopsy,” he said, adding that the cause of the fire is undetermined.
“A passerby saw a smoking fire coming from the house and called it in,” McGahee said. “The fire department told me when they arrived, the house was fully involved. It was 6:05 p.m. when they got called to the scene.”
Wadley Fire Chief Bruce Logue said Tuesday when firefighters arrived, the room where Green was was fully involved.
“The flames were coming out of the door and window on that side of the house,” he said. “In less than 15 minutes, we had the fire knocked down.”
Logue said family members had told him Green was inside the home.
“She was there by herself as far as we know,” he said.
Two pumpers from Wadley and one from the Bartow Fire Department responded to the call, Logue said.
The chief said people who use space heaters should use them with care.
“When it’s real cold like this, people will use space heaters. They should be careful to not place anything on top of the space heaters and to make sure nothing is in front of the heaters. If you use any heating device, use it with caution,” he said.
Hear them ring...
Choirs perform under the Market House on Broad Street in Louisville as part of Bustlin’ on Broad. This Thursday’s Bustlin events include a performance by Stephanie’s Dance Explosion, Casey Sullivan and guests and a book signing by Johnny Neil Smith at The Book Worm. Other stores and restaurants will also be open late.
No results in attorney’s look at Wadley’s executive branch
By Carol McLeod
Wadley city council members voted during a called meeting in July to have the executive branch of the city investigated, not by the local district attorney’s office, but by Betty Williams-Kirby, a local attorney in private practice.
Councilmember Edie Pundt had suggested during the meeting the council ask the DA to do the investigation as it would not cost the city.
Pundt had also said during the city’s regular meeting earlier in the month that the city did not have the funds to pay for the investigation.
During the called meeting, council authorized a retainer of $7,500 to be paid to Williams-Kirby. The balance of the fee, which was $20,000, was to be paid in three months when the investigation was supposed to be complete.
Records obtained by The News and Farmer / The Jefferson Reporter under the state’s open records law show the city has not received any information from Williams-Kirby except her requests for information in a letter dated May 11 that she sent the city.
These records show a check dated July 30 was made out to Williams-Kirby in the amount of $7,500.
Records show the check was endorsed by the attorney and processed by a bank.
Records further show the attorney has not submitted an invoice for the balance of the fee.
“We don’t have anything to report at this time,” Williams-Kirby said in a telephone interview Tuesday, Dec. 7.
“We’re still working on it,” she said.
Williams-Kirby said her office is still in the process of gathering information.
“Everybody has been pretty cooperative,” she said.
Williams-Kirby said she could not say when a report would be complete or made available.
Stolen items from area recovered
By Carol McLeod
Jefferson County deputies announced arrests in cases of thefts that involve not only Jefferson County residents but citizens in nine other counties, as well as theft that occurred in Beech Island, S.C.
In a press release issued Friday, Dec. 10, Lt. Robert Chalker, an investigator with JCSO, said a six-month joint investigation by the JCSO and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office resulted in the search of Leo’s Produce, which is located on 5th Street in Augusta, on Monday, Dec. 6.
Chalker; another JCSO investigator, Lt. Clark Hiebert; and Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins each said in separate interviews cooperation from officers with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office were key in solving the thefts.
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Chalker said two other JCSO investigators, Lt. Garry McCord and Sgt. Barrow Walden, also worked hard to solve the case.
“They have been out day and night with us working very hard despite the frigid temperatures,” he said.
Chalker said the investigation involves stolen property such as golf carts, lawnmowers, ATVs, utility trailers, cars, trucks, electronic equipment and other items.
Several items were recovered from the business and were confirmed to have been stolen from Richmond and surrounding counties, Chalker said.
The investigator said because of the amount of property that had to be inventoried, the search was not concluded until the afternoon of Tuesday, Dec. 7.
“Leo Charette was arrested by Richmond County authorities on Tuesday afternoon and charged with several counts of theft by receiving stolen property,” Chalker said.
“The investigation is ongoing and other arrests and charges are expected,” he said. “Both the Jefferson and Richmond county sheriff’s offices are encouraging anyone who purchased items from Leo Charette to contact them to have the items inspected.”
“We’ve had a good bit of stuff taken in the last year, year and a half or so,” said Glascock County Sheriff Dean Couch in an interview Tuesday, Dec. 14.
“We’re still trying to locate the people who did these crimes. We’re working with surrounding counties trying to locate and apprehend these people as soon as possible,” he said.
Couch said the thefts have mainly focused on small vehicles.
“Golf carts and four-wheelers,” he said. “The major items appear to be golf carts and four-wheelers and kind of expensive lawn mowers. That’s what it seems to be here.”
In an interview Monday, Dec. 13, Chalker said that besides Jefferson County, the case involves thefts in Glascock, Richmond, Columbia, Burke, Lincoln, McDuffie, Warren, Jenkins and Emanuel counties.
“That we know of so far,” he said.
On Tuesday, Hiebert added Beech Island, S.C.
“We’ve identified several individuals who were stealing these type items in all these surrounding counties,” Chalker said.
“The information is being provided to all of these counties and is a spin-off of the on-going investigation of Jefferson and Richmond counties,” Hiebert said Tuesday.
“The spin-off is coming from sources that were involved in the initial investigation. None of these items that have been recovered are directly related to the initial investigation,” he said.
“At this time, we are continually recovering units that have been stolen out of the 10 counties. In fact, tomorrow we are to pick up two units from Warren County and two or three units from another county that are thefts that have come from this spin-off investigation, which is not directly a result of the initial investigation,” Hiebert said.
Tuesday Hiebert identified two men, Thomas Bynum and Ronald Allen Johnson, as being involved. Both men are from Hephzibah, he said.
“They were arrested last night. Other arrests are forthcoming. There will be additional charges forthcoming on these two. Johnson is charged with theft by taking of a golf cart. Thomas Bynum is charged with burglary in which a Mustang was stolen,” Hiebert said, adding these two arrests involve what he called the spin-off investigation.
“Everybody’s cooperating 100 percent,” Chalker said. “Everybody hopes to clear up a lot of cases and get a lot of property back. We’re all working day and night, trying to get as much back as we can as quick as we can.”
Chalker said the recovered property is being held by the various law enforcement agencies where the thefts occurred.
“We will be returning them,” he said, adding they have to verify ownership and process some paperwork.
“We will be returning the items as soon as possible,” he said.
Chalker said one of the problems in verifying ownership is that a lot of people don’t keep track of the serial numbers that are on their property.
“Or the serial numbers have been removed after the thefts,” he said. “Some of the items that have been recovered have been repainted.”
Chalker said the thefts involved in this case go back more than a year.
“I would say at least two years,” he said.
Chalker said there were three things the stolen items have in common that made them targets in the thefts.
“They are easy to find, easy to transport and easy to sell,” he said.
“We work hard for our money,” Couch said.
“We don’t want people coming in here and taking things from people from our county, period,” he said.
The Glascock County Sheriff had some advice for citizens.
“Make sure you have a list of the serial numbers of your property,” he said.
“Homeowners don’t need to take a chance on getting hurt. If somebody’s trying to take something, let them go with it. We don’t want to see anybody get hurt trying to save an item,” Couch said.