Two Charged in Separate Criminal Sexual Conduct Cases

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office booked a suspect early Tuesday morning for alleged sexual conduct with a child on Monday.  Later yesterday, 18-year-old Robert Matthew Gray of 131 Ridgecrest Drive, Fountain Inn was served with a warrant charging him with

Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor, or Attempt .

Lt. Keith McIntosh states that in Laurens County on February 20th Robert Matthew Gray engaged in sexual battery by placing is hand inside the victim’s shorts and fondling and penetrating her with his finger. The victim was reported to be under the age of eleven.

A cash or surety bond was set at $75,000. Robert Matthew Gray remained in custody this morning.


In another case yesterday, The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday charged 67-year-old Timothy Ed Heaton of 1597 Sandy Springs Road, Laurens with Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree. A warrant accuses him of fondling the victim in her private area while she was asleep, this allegedly occurring on December 4th, 2016. Timothy Heaton was held overnight, pending arraignment.

Social Media Threats, Razor-Type Instrument at Middle School

The Principal of Laurens Middle School yesterday received a report from some students that there was a student on campus with a razor-type instrument. Dr. Rhett Harris investigated the allegation and the student reportedly admitted to being in possession of the tool. The student was allegedly having a problem with a student at Laurens District 55 High School and had posted inappropriate and threatening comments on social media. The parents of the LMS student were contacted and law enforcement was called to the scene. A District 55 statement indicates the student is expected to be charged; but, no specific details related to the charge were initially available. The student will also be subject to appropriate school discipline per district policy. Principal Harris made a call alert to the parents of all LMS students advising them of the incident.

Pay Raise for City Council

A pay raise for members of Laurens City Council was approved last night. Council gave first reading approval to an ordinance for a $300 a month raise for council members and the Mayor. If approved on 2nd reading, it would bring City Council salaries to $700 per month, and the Mayor’s salary would rise to $900 a month. Councilwoman Sylvia Douglas made the motion for the pay raise. Two “no” votes came from Councilman Martin Lowry and Mayor John Stankus. Lowry said “We have better things to spend our money on.” After the meeting, Mayor Stankus said he would donate the money from his raise to charity.

Council is to hold a called meeting at 5:00 pm today for 2nd reading approval of the ordinance to raise council salaries.

The 1st reading approval of the pay raise came after an executive session discussion last night.

City Council Votes to Continue with Retail Strategies

Also following last night’s Executive Session discussion, Laurens City Council voted to extend the city’s contract with Retail Strategies. That company has been employed by the City to identify opportunities in the market and create a recruitment strategy for bringing more retail business into the city. Laurens City Council first approved a contract with Retail Strategies three years ago. The City Council of Clinton and Laurens County Council also have contracts with Retail Strategies for recruiting new retailers to Clinton and Laurens County.

New Housing from Two Laurens Projects

A plan to replace the ruins of a long-abandoned Laurens textile mill with a residential development received final approval from Laurens City Council last night. Council gave 2nd reading approval to Ordinance 1-17-01, authorizing the rezoning of the property where Laurens Mill operated decades ago. The property at 100 Mill Street is being re-zoned from Manufacturing to Residential 3. That clears the way for a proposed apartment complex at the site, which still contains a smokestack and some brick walls from the abandoned textile mill.

….in other residential development news….

Laurens City Council last night approved a Resolution, endorsing the construction of two new homes on Jersey Street. The new residences will be constructed at 217 and 219 Jersey Street by Genesis Homes.

Alana Bell of Genesis Homes also updated council on the Neighborhood Initiative program, which takes federal funds to purchase abandoned decaying houses and had them demolished, then builds new houses for low-income families.

Charges from Monday Wreck & Chase

The South Carolina Highway Patrol yesterday served multiple charges on a Spartanburg man regarding a wreck in Laurens County with injuries Monday. 37-year-old Benjamin Harris Pressley of 710 Union Street, Spartanburg is charged with Hit and Run, Failure to Stop for a Red Light, Driving under Suspension and with Reckless Driving.

Four warrants state that on Monday, January 20th, Mr. Pressley drove a motor vehicle in a manner showing a willful or wanton disregard for the safety or persons or property, that an investigation by trooper M.A. Gabriele indicates that Pressley was involved in an accident involving personal injury to a victim Monday, and failed to stop or remain at the scene of the accident and provide aid and information as required by law. Further, the defendant is accused of having driven while his license to drive was suspended. He also allegedly failed to stop for officers Monday when signaled to by means of a siren and/or flashing light on a law enforcement vehicle.

Benjamin Harris Pressley of Spartanburg was held overnight in the Laurens County Detention Center, pending arraignment today.

Man and Two Children Killed in Wreck

A man and two small children were killed in a crash south of Hickory tavern around 1:40 yesterday afternoon. It happened on Neely Ferry Road near Lollis Road. South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Miller said that a 1996 Chevy pickup was southbound on Neely Ferry Road when it ran off the right side of the road. He said the driver over-corrected, then the truck ran off the left side and crashed into a tree. The adult driver and two children in the truck died on the scene. A right seat passenger, identified as a Greenville man, was flown to Greenville Memorial by helicopter. Trooper Miller said no one was restrained by seat belts.

Laurens County Coroner Nick Nichols said the three fatalities were killed on impact with the oak tree. He identified the driver as 67-year-old Lonnie Owens of 105 Henry Street, Laurens. The children who were killed in the crash were identified as 6-year-old RaShaun Mims and 3-year-old A-Shaunna Mims, both of 100 Countryside Circle in Clinton. Cause of death for all three was identified as Blunt Force Trauma to the head and body.

The ¾ ton pickup was reportedly pulling a trailer.

3rd Forum on District 55 $109 Million Bond

A third forum was held last night regarding the $109 million School District 55 bond referendum scheduled for this May. The $109 million is to be used to construct a new Laurens District 55 High School and to convert the current high school building into a consolidated middle school for the district.

The atmosphere for most of the meeting in Sanders Middle School was calm, perhaps except for when one comment from the audience suggested that Sanders and Laurens Middle Schools be combined, but didn’t mention Hickory Tavern and Gray Court-Owings Middle Schools. This prompted Superintendent Peters to give the audience an extended lecture on diversity. He also addressed a group in the back as being disrespectful for talking among them.

Dr. Peters was also questioned about the idea of added bus-time for students due to transportation to the one consolidated middle school. Dr. Peters responded that the new high school would be near the present school.

One comment submitted last night was “I suggest that you cut out duplicate services, and that you get your own house in order before you ask for more money from the taxpayers.” Dr. Peters responded, “I started cutting out fat when I first took office by discontinuing an overpriced contract regarding air conditioning.” But he added “I credit Dr. Billy Strickland, the former district superintendent, with keeping a balanced budget.”

One pointed question last night asked Dr. Peters if he was going to stay on as superintendent after the completion of the new high school, or to just use Laurens as a stepping stone to something bigger. He responded “I am losing money taking this job.”

In regard to the issue of finance, Dr. Peters mentioned the sacrifice that all should make for the benefit of our children. He said that he understands the problem of those on a fixed income, but he pointed out that there are many tax exemptions such as disability and the homestead exemption that does not tax the first $50,000 of property value for residents over age 65.

Dr. Peters urged those to vote their conscience on the bond issue, and that all questions and answers regarding this issue would appear on the district’s web page.

New Chair, New PC Board Members

The Presbyterian College board of trustees elected new officers and five new members for 2017, and have installed a new Chair of the Board.

G. Lassiter, a 1969 alumnus, has begun serving as the chair of the board since January 1st. Tommy Lawson III, a 1971 graduate, serves as vice chair; and Brittany Flowe Reese, from the class of 2007, serves as board secretary.

Outgoing chair, G. Patrick Phillips, a 1971 alumnus having served in that role for four years, remains on the board in 2017. PC President Bob Staton said “PC has been fortunate over the last four years to have had the benefit of Pat’s leadership.” Staton added “During his tenure on the board, Pat has given freely of his time, talent, and resources. We are delighted he will remain on the board in 2017.”

The PC board has five new members this year. They are Ruth Roper, Ann Taylor Morgan, a 1981 alumna, Dr. Danny Murphy, general presbyter for Trinity Presbytery; John Inman, a 1987 alumnus and G. Weston Nalley, a 1986 alumnus.

Multiple Charges from November

An Upper Laurens County woman was arrested yesterday on multiple charges in connection with alleged possession of a stolen credit card this past November. 28-year-old Krystal Lynn Barnette of 103 Woods Road, Fountain Inn was charged with Receiving Stolen Goods, with Giving False Information to Law Enforcement and with Resisting Arrest.

Sheriff’s Officer Nick Moye states that on November 18th 2016 Ms. Barnette had in her possession a TD Bank credit card that belonged to the victim, knowing that it was stolen. Moye further alleges that on the same date Ms. Barnette provided a false name to law enforcement. Furthermore, he states that she knowingly and willfully opposed and resisted a lawful arrest by a law enforcement officer on November 18th.

$2,500 surety bonds were set on each of the three charges. Krystal Lynn Barnette remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning with bonds totaling $7,500.

Theft in January Alleged

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday charged a woman with the theft of $350 from another person. 36-year-old Beverly Lynn Abercrombie of 716 Gulliver Street, Fountain Inn was charged with Petit Larceny. Lt. Keith McIntosh states that on January 12th, 2017 Ms. Abercrombie carried away this sum of money with intent to deprive the owner. Beverly Lynn Abercrombie was released on a $2,000 personal recognizance bond.

Theft of Cash

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man yesterday in connection with an alleged theft the day after this past Christmas. 22-year-old Ronald Richard Butler Jr. of 21,303 Highway 76 East, Laurens was served with a warrant that charges him with Petit Larceny. It accuses him of taking away items valued at $375 on December 26th with intent to permanently deprive the owner of them. Ronald Richard Butler Jr. was being held overnight, pending arraignment today on the Petit Larceny charge.

Purse Recovered, Cash Missing  

Clinton Public Safety Sgt. Wicker spoke with a woman Saturday morning who reported a theft of property. She said that she had given a ride to someone she knew and that after she dropped this person off, she noticed that her pocket-book was missing. When the woman had confronted this person about the theft, that person had reportedly denied having her pocket-book. Later that day, the complainant received a phone call from a local gas station and was notified that her pocket-book was found in the parking lot. She advised the officer that when she retrieved her purse from the business, she noted her check book was missing, along with $20 in cash. She then said she had no other idea who might have stolen her things, but she did not wish to press charges.

Police Have 2nd Encounter with Woman

Laurens Police Officers reported observing a vehicle parked in the roadway at the intersection of Church and Hampton for a very long time Sunday afternoon. When an officer approached and asked the women in the vehicle for her identification, she reportedly responded, “Ain’t done nothing wrong.” When the officer told her she could be charged for illegal parking in a roadway, she then brought out her license, and while speaking with her, the officer noticed a “souvenir style wooden baseball bat,” in the passenger seat of the vehicle.

After the driver was released from the scene, police learned that she had been named in a complaint of harassment by a man who lived near the Spring St Apartments. The man alleged she had said she was going to “F*** him up,” reportedly referring to his son. The man expressed concern that the woman would come to his home, and other concern that his son had not yet returned home.

As the officer was speaking to the man, the son returned.  Officers advised them to call if they saw her. An officer was reportedly only gone for about ten minutes when police received a call to return to their home.

The woman was reportedly observed “walking around the home showing out.” An officer approached her and issued a trespass notice.

Multiple Drug & Firearms Charges Follow Police Chase

Multiple drug and firearms charges were served Friday following a police chase last Thursday. The Sheriff’s Office charged 31-year-old James Shawn Thomas of 110 Chavis Street, Gray Court with charges of Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, Unlawful Carrying of a Pistol, Possession of a Weapon by a Person Convicted of a Violent Felony, and Failure to Stop for a Blue Light. Narcotics Officer Matt Veal states that on February 16th in Laurens County James Shawn Thomas possessed Marijuana, Methamphetamine with intent to distribute the substances. Veal also alleges that Thomas did knowingly and willfully oppose and/or resist the lawful arrest by a law enforcement officer. Thomas is further charged with unlawful carrying of a pistol, as well as having a weapon in his possession. Veal states that Mr. Thomas is prohibited from having a firearm because he has been convicted of a violent felony. Thomas is also accused of failing to stop when he was driving a motor vehicle on February 16th and was signaled to stop by means of siren and/or flashing lights on a law enforcement vehicle. James Shawn Thomas was released this weekend on cash or surety bonds that totaled $61,270 on the seven charges.

Soliciting Sex thru Facebook

Soliciting Sex with a Minor through a facebook message was alleged with an arrest yesterday by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. 42-year-old James Adam Thompson of 967 Reedy Creek Road, Fountain Inn was charged with Criminal Solicitation of a Minor.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Carter states that on December 22nd, 2016 Thompson communicated in a facebook message with a victim for the purpose of, or with intent of persuading, inducing, enticing or coercing the victim to engage or participate in sexual activities. The victim reportedly received the facebook message at a Waterloo address.

James Adam Thompson was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing on the Solicitation charge.

Undercover “Drug Buy”

An undercover drug purchase last summer was referenced with an arrest by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office Friday. 38-year-old Amanda Rena Rivera of 206 Christian Drive, Laurens was charged with Distribution of a Controlled Substance. A warrant states that on July 26, 2016 Ms. Rivera distributed a controlled substance classified as a Class III, which is a narcotic drug. This was allegedly sold to a confidential informant of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office last July. With a cash or surety bond set at $15,000, Amada Rena Rivera remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

Record Set in UW’s “Bags of Love”

The United Way of Laurens County announced that a record number of “Bags of Love” were collected this year for their annual Valentine’s event, with 922 bags collected from local businesses, organizations and community members through this year’s “Bags of Love” program.

Noting this year’s record-setting program, Whitney Robertson from United Way of Laurens County said “This is the first time in the program’s history that we were able to provide bags for every resident at every senior care facility in both Laurens and Clinton.” She added “This program could not sustain, or grow like it did this year, without the participation we have from our loving community members. We were able to see the happiness and gratitude for ourselves from many who received the gift bags, and it truly did make for a very happy Valentine’s Day.”

Volunteers in Laurens County packed small gifts bags with items ranging from basic needs like toothpaste and lotions, to sugar-free candy, pens, and large print activity books. Through the months of January and February, individuals, places of business, church groups, and other organizations collected items, filled these gift bags, and donated them to the Bags of Love program.

Over 113 bags were delivered through the Meals on Wheels program and other programs with Piedmont Agency on Aging the week before Valentine’s Day. Thanks to the assistance of officers from Clinton Public Safety and the Laurens Police Department, the remaining 800+ bags were distributed on Valentine’s Day to local senior care facilities/programs. Residents of the following locations received gift bags:  NHC-both Laurens and Clinton locations, Martha Franks Baptist Retirement Community, Clinton Presbyterian Community, Bailey Manor, Laurens Memorial Home, Laurens Estates, Hospice of Laurens County, & Langston Place.  Elderly patients at the GHS Laurens County Memorial Hospital campus also received bags.

More information on the programs of the United Way of Laurens County is available by visiting their website: .

Back to Jail on Multiple Threat & Other Charges

A Clinton area man was arrested by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office Friday on seven Bench Warrants issued by Laurens County General Sessions Court last Wednesday. 45-year-old Tony Ray Sherfield Sr. of 19,985 Higway 72 East, Clinton was served with seven Bench Warrants issued February 15th, 2017. They cite him with Failure to Comply with a Court Order dated February 1st, 2017. These include one case of Breach of Peace, Aggravated in Nature, one case of Malicious Injury to Animals and with five cases of Threatening the Life, Person or Family of a Public Employee.

Tony Ray Sherfield Sr. was being held until his is discharged by due course of law.

Joanna to Florida to J.D.C.

Bench Warrants issued in March of 2015 on charges of theft were served Friday by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. 33-year-old Albert Santiago III was booked with an address of 3500 Sailfish Avenue, Fruitland Park, Florida. He was served with three Bench Warrants from Laurens County General Sessions Court regarding charges of Grand Larceny, Malicious Damage and Malicious Damage to Obtain Nonferrous Metals. The warrants were issued March 26th, 2015 show an address for Mr. Santiago at that time on Tillman Circle, Joanna. Albert Santiago III was being held, pending further action on the cases.