Laurens County Airport Expecting Busy Monday

The Laurens County Airport is expecting heavy traffic Monday as people fly in to view the eclipse. Airport Commission Chair Sammy Wham said that as of Noon Saturday, approximately 40 aircraft owners had indicated they plan to fly in to Laurens County. Wham said he expects others to also make flight plans to Laurens through the weekend as the weather situation before more apparent. He said other folks have indicating they’re driving in to view the eclipse here.

Chairman Wham said the airport doesn’t have any special activities planned for the eclipse, but that airport staff is prepared to handle the visitors.

Guilty Plea from Fountain Inn Plant Shooting

43-year-old David Jerome Butler of Simpsonville pled guilty this week in federal court in Greenville to Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition. US Attorney Beth Drake Friday stated that US District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks accepted the plea, and will impose sentence after United States Probation prepares a pre-sentence report. Butler faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that on May 5, 2017, at approximately 5:43 a.m., the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) received a call for service regarding an active shooter at Yanfeng Global Automotive Interiors in Fountain Inn, South Carolina.  LCSO deputies and law enforcement officers from multiple agencies responded to the scene and successfully secured the premises.  The alleged shooter, identified as David Jerome Butler, had already fled the scene and one victim was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Initial scene investigation, including victim and witness interviews, revealed that earlier in the morning while inside the building, Butler and a co-worker had gotten into an argument over a work situation that escalated into a physical confrontation.  Butler then left the building and retrieved a handgun from his vehicle in the parking lot.  Butler re-entered the building and confronted the co-worker on the plant floor.  Butler pointed a Beretta 9mm pistol at the co-worker and fired a round that hit the floor and injured another worker.  The co-worker, assisted by two other workers, fought Butler and took the gun away from him.  Butler then fled the scene in his vehicle. ATF obtained a federal arrest warrant that same morning and arrested Butler upon his self-surrender to local authorities days later.  He was detained upon his arrest and remains in custody.  Butler, who is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition, faces a maximum of ten years in federal prison.

Butler’s case was expedited for federal prosecution pursuant to “Operation Real-Time.”  The goal of this program is to identify individuals for federal prosecution with significant criminal histories who continue to actively possess firearms in the Upstate community.  “Real Time” is a working collaboration between local, state, and federal law enforcement as well as state and federal prosecutors.  Since August of 2015, the initiative has resulted in the expedited federal prosecution of over 120 defendants and seizure of over 160 firearms as well as assorted ammunition from prohibited persons in the upstate.

U.S. Attorney Beth Drake commended the partnership between local, state, and federal agencies that led to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the U.S. Attorney’s Office adopting the case. “We work best when we work together.  This ‘real time’ identification of high risk offenders is smart policing and we welcome the opportunity to work alongside our state chiefs and sheriffs in taking violent repeat offenders out of our communities.”

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office and ATF investigated the case. First Assistant United States Attorney Lance Crick is prosecuting.

Gotta Have More Moon Pies!

Laurens County School District 55 Student Nutrition Services Director Wanda Knight wanted to do something special for the kids of District 55 during the eclipse this Monday. In consultation with other district personnel, they decided to give each District 55 student a Moon Pie to go along with their solar eclipse glasses. Knight contacted the district’s major food supplier, Sysco, to put in an order for the required number of Moon Pies. Sysco was happy to provide all the Moon Pies they had, but indicated that there was a current shortage of the treats and they could not supply the quantity needed by the district. Knight said that members of her staff, Ashton Miller and Ashton McNuer, took up the challenge and went on a mission to corner the market on Moon Pies in Laurens. They went store to store and were able to secure an additional 900 Moon Pies! Despite this success, District 55 was still significantly short of the number required for the entire student population.

Ms. Knight decided it was time to go direct to the source. She contacted Moon Pie General Store, Inc., the suppliers of the iconic treats. She ordered 13 more cases directly from Moon Pie with the expectation that they would arrive on Thursday or Friday before the event. Well, this past Thursday evening, Knight received a call from Moon Pie’s President, Alex Brener, telling her that there had been a shipping delay and the Moon Pies would not be arriving until Saturday before the event. This created a dilemma because the district office and schools are closed today (Saturday,) and a Monday delivery would have been too late for distribution before the eclipse. Knight did not hesitate; she gave Brener her home address and said, “Deliver those 2,000 Moon Pies to my house! I’ll make sure we get them to the schools on time.”

So, a very important delivery is to arrive today at Ms. Knight’s residence. And this Monday, the District 55 Student Nutrition Services van and staff will be on the road in Laurens, Waterloo, Hickory Tavern, and Gray Court as they make their special rounds, delivering Moon Pies in time for the Moon’s eclipse of the Sun. Wanda Knight’s noted “it has been an ‘Out of this World’ Moon Pie experience.”

District 55 Superintendent, Dr. Stephen Peters, said, “This is a great example of the level of commitment our staff has for our kids. In addition to what our students learn with an event like this, the staff of Student Nutrition Services and Moon Pie have made sure it will be a memorable event for all our children.”

The sudden popularity of Moon Pies – tied in to this Monday’s eclipse – happened to be happening on the 100 anniversary year of the treat. Moon Pies were initially introduced in 1917.

White Coat Ceremony at PC’s Pharmacy School

The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy held its annual White Coat Ceremony for its incoming students Friday. (August 18th)

The white coats are symbolic of the professionalism that is expected of students not only during pharmacy school, but also throughout their eventual practice of pharmacy. The ceremony reaffirms the pharmacy community’s support of the educational commitment as the students pledge to serve their profession and patients. The white coat placed on each student is more than a familiar lab coat; it is a cloak of competence, communication, caring, character, and community—the guiding principles of the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy.

During the ceremony, Susan Eagerton, the 2016-2017 Preceptor of the Year, spoke to the class. The Preceptor of the Year demonstrates high standards of professionalism; through pharmacy leadership, service, and a continuous desire to enhance the practice and profession of pharmacy.

“Putting on that white coat for the first time is really exciting,” Eagerton told the class. “You may even feel just a little bit smarter.”

Eagerton began her career as a pharmacy technician for Revco in high school and throughout college. She received her degree in pharmacy from the University of South Carolina School of Pharmacy in 1988 and continued to work at Revco and later CVS as a pharmacist/assistant manager.

In February 1992, she became an inpatient care/staff pharmacist at Richland Memorial Hospital in its newly created Center for Cancer Treatment and Research. As an oncology pharmacist, she supervised the preparation of chemotherapy and other medication and served as a clinical pharmacist for the Bone Marrow transplant Team and then for the Gynecologic Oncology team.

During this time, Eagerton also served as an adjunct clinical faculty, precepting students from USC College of Pharmacy, as well as a consultant pharmacist for Parkridge Surgery Center, Critical Care Home Infusion Center, and a relief pharmacist for Target Pharmacy. In 2004, she became a staff pharmacist at Lexington Medical Center and transitioned to lead OR pharmacist in 2013.

“Treat every experience as a job interview,” Eagerton said. “There is still something to learn in every experience. Take initiative—do more than is expected of you.”

Scholarships Up $2.9 Million

Parents are rightfully proud of their children for graduation from High School, but they’re also grateful when their students attract lots of scholarship offerings from colleges. A news release from School District 55 Administration this week notes that the final tally is now in, and that the 2017 graduating class of Laurens District High School received $7.2 million in scholarship offerings. This eclipsed the 2016 graduating class by more than $2.9 million. Superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters reacted by saying “This was a primary objective when I came to Laurens. We have bright young people in our community and we need to help them access the resources available to them.” Peters went on to indicate that the goal for the class of 2018 is $10 million in scholarships.

The announcement this week included an announcement that Peters and his wife, Dr. Angela Peters, will be contributing to that goal by establishing two scholarships for future LDHS graduates. Dr. Stephen Peters will establish a $1,000 scholarship in his mother’s name, the late Charity Smalls Peters Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded to a high school senior who plans to major in the arts. Dr. Angela Peters will also establish a $1,000 scholarship in her father’s name, the late Dr. William Waymer Memorial Scholarship, for a graduating senior who plans to major in the field of science.

In addition to looking for more scholarships, Peters said he will continue to focus on providing as much advance education for students at LDHS as possible.

Father & Son Charged with Theft

The theft of a truck and heavy equipment valued at over $10,000 yesterday was alleged with the arrest of a father and son by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. The theft reportedly occurred on Tall Pines Road, Fountain Inn.

38-year-old Khalid Robert Lazelle Westmoreland Sr. and 18-year-old Khalid Robert Lazelle Westmoreland Jr., both of 288 Bryson Road, Fountain Inn, were each charged with Grand Larceny.

Officer Michael B. Blackmon states that on August 17th the Westmorelands committed Grand Larceny by taking and carrying away a truck, trailer and equipment with intent to deprive the owner.

Khalid Robert L. Westmoreland Sr. and Jr. remained in the Laurens County Detention Center overnight, pending bond hearings today.

Update on Laurens City Police

An immigrant who came to the United States at the age of four expressed thanks yesterday for the blessings he’s received in this country. Laurens Police Chief Socrates “Sonny” B. Ledda addressed Laurens Rotarians with an update on police progress in town. He first expressed appreciation for his parents’ influence on his life, as well as for other mentors he has had in his life.

Chief Ledda said Laurens Police have had about as many calls to respond to incidents this year as last. He noted assaults and property crimes are down some this year from last, while drug arrests are up. Ledda commented on the frequency of shoplifting incidents at Wal-Mart, noting police have a “mini” fingerprint station in the store’s Loss Control office to help expedite the frequent shoplifting arrests there.

The Police Chief said that Laurens residents are doing better about locking their cars, which has helped reduce that category of thefts in town lately.

He talked of several areas of ongoing training where Laurens Police receive continuing education on subjects from diversity training to being prepared for active shooter situations.

King Dixon Presented Street Sign

Laurens Police Chief Sonny Ledda made a presentation to a long-time Laurens civic leader during yesterday’s visit to Laurens Rotary’s weekly meeting. He presented King Dixon a street sign for King Dixon Street, off East Main. Ledda noted he had saved the sign from recycling as it was being replaced with a new sign.

The street was named after King Dixon as part of community response in the fall of 1954 when the South Carolina team unexpectedly won the annual Shrine Bowl game over North Carolina. Dixon was named the “Player of the Game” for the South Carolina team.  After being a standout on the Laurens High football team, Dixon went on to be an All-American on the University of South Carolina football team. There, he set records that lasted for years. In later life, Dixon served several years as the Athletic Director of the University of South Carolina.

King Dixon remains an active member of the community and the state. His volunteer work ranges from Straight Street Youth Ministry to Boy Scouts to Rotary efforts locally and around the world. Dixon also brings his special magic to the WLBG broadcasts of Laurens Raider football on Friday nights.

Support Starts at Noon Today

A new family support group is forming today to help families that are struggling with members that suffer from addiction. We asked Pastor Wayne Jones of Set Free to Be Ministries who could benefit from participating in this weekly support group. “The parents of anyone who has loved ones…friends…or family…. …struggling with any kind of addiction. This support group is for them.”

We also asked Wayne Jones what someone can anticipate from attending these support group meetings. “They will be able to hear other stories….and how they’re working through their grief and their pain, and their loved one struggling with addiction. And there also will be (opportunities) where they can share and gain some insight from others, and also share their struggles that they’re having.”

The new Support Group for families throughout our area begins today at the Laurens Family Y on Anderson Drive. It begins at noon and wraps up at 1:30. Pastor Jones said the plan is to meet for the next 13 weeks at the Laurens Y in this period. After that, an assessment will be made as to the best location to continue.

Meth Charge for Passenger

The passenger of the car that crashed as a Greenwood County escapee was fleeing a Laurens County Deputy this week was released yesterday from the Laurens County Detention Center. 19-year-old Dexter Connell Chambers, Jr. was booked as living on Friendship Church Road, Gray Court, near where the cash occurred. Yesterday, Laurens County charged him with Possession of Less than One Gram of Meth. A warrant alleging that possession Wednesday gave his address as Creswell Avenue, West, Greenwood. Chambers was released on a $5,000 cash or surety bond.

Assault at Two East Main Locations

Laurens City Police yesterday arrested a Woodruff man for an alleged domestic assault in town last Saturday. 45-year-old James Thomas Walker of 1521 S.J. Workman Highway was charged with Domestic Violence 2nd Degree. Lt. Martin states that on August 12th Mr. Walker struck the victim multiple times and threatened to kill her. Lt. Martin adds that the incident caused the victim to fear great bodily injury or death, and occurred in front of two small children at 922 East Main Street and at 901 East Main Street in Laurens. James Thomas Walker was being held overnight, pending arraignment.

Wednesday Assault Alleged Yesterday

A man arrested by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday, following an alleged domestic assault, was charged yesterday with 3rd Degree Domestic Violence. 36-year-old Travis Mandell Kemp of 415 Serene Drive, Waterloo is accused of assaulting the victim Wednesday by punching her in the face grabbing her by the arm. Deputy Benjamin Perry stated that Kemp had the apparent present ability to cause physical harm or injury under circumstances that reasonably created imminent peril to the victim. Travis Mandell Kemp was released yesterday on a $5,000 cash or surety bond.

Probation Violation from Shoplifting Case

South Carolina Pardon, Probation and Parole yesterday arrested a man for allegedly violating the terms of his probationary release from jail on a sentence from a Shoplifting Enhanced charge. 24-year-old Monquaris Preston Scott of 212 Sassafras Drive, Laurens is accused of failing to report, with a last reported noted on June 8th of 2016, and also of moving without notice to an undisclosed location, thereby absconding supervision. He is also accused of failing to make payments as required and failing to complete public service as ordered. Noting these specifics, the warrant states that he had failed to follow the advice and instructions of his agent. Monquaris Preston Scott was being held overnight in the Laurens County Detention Center, pending a bond hearing today.

Three Missing Teens Located

Three youth who had run away from Thornwell Home for Children in Clinton Tuesday have reportedly been located. A 15-year-old female was the first to be reported as missing. She was last seen leaving the campus with several bags of her belongings Tuesday. Her 13-year-old sister and a 15-year-old male reportedly ran away from Thornwell Tuesday night around midnight. All three were reportedly located yesterday.

Gray Court Teen One of 4 Charged with Murder

A 17-year-old Gray Court resident is one of four teens charged with the murder of a Pendleton man. WYFF4.com states the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office served warrants yesterday in connection with a Sunday stabbing.

. WYFF states deputies responded around 2:30 Sunday morning to an altercation on Pendleton’s Robinson Street. They reportedly arrived to find 48-year-old Charles Hillery at home, dead of multiple stab wounds, according to the Anderson County Coroner.

WYFF quotes Nikki Carson of the Anderson Sheriff’s Office as indicating that the four teens are charged with Murder and Conspiracy. 17-year-old Ahmad Kedauris Neely of Gray Court was also reportedly charged with Possession of a Weapon during a Violent Crime.

Also charged with Murder and Conspiracy were 17-year-old Kemijai Santrez Antonio Anderson Jr. of Simpsonville, 18-year-old Kailyn Tamia Dupree of Central and 18-year-old Michelle Guadalupe Kirksey of Central.

While these four were being held, a 16-year-old male was reportedly being sought in connection with the early Sunday murder.

Back At School

Most Laurens County school children returned to class today, a few days earlier than in recent years. Both District 55 and 56 School Boards earlier this year approved moving the starting day for school up a few days, in order to get children in school early enough to teach about this coming Monday’s eclipse of the sun. Districts 55 and 56 will be delaying dismissal of school a few minutes Monday, to be sure the eclipse viewing can be complete before beginning the dismissal process.

Other nearby school districts began the new school year today included all three Greenwood Districts, all seven Spartanburg County districts as well as Union and Newberry County schools.

Eight Facing Drug Charges

Eight people were served with Drug warrants from the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday, following their Tuesday evening arrests.

49-year-old Ricky Lee Goode of 111 Bethel Church Road, Gray Court was charged with Distribution of Methamphetamine, Distribution of Meth in Proximity of a School and Possession with Intent to Distribute a Schedule IV Controlled Substance. Mr. Goode is accused of Distributing Methamphetamine on August 15th within a half mile of Ford Elementary School. He’s also accused of distributing, dispensing or delivering Xanax Tuesday. Mr. Goode was also charged with Unauthorized Possession of a Narcotic and a Schedule IV Controlled Substance. Those warrants state that he was in possession of Alprazolam without authority and with possession of the narcotic Morphine Sulfate, also without authority. Cash or surety bonds on the five warrants were set totaling $19,000. Ricky Lee Goode remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

The other seven suspects arrested Tuesday evening were charged with the Possession of the Narcotic Morphine Sulfate and with Possession of Alprazolam, all also on Tuesday, August 15th. Remaining in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning with cash or surety bonds totaling $6,000 were three residents of 34 Sirene Street, Laurens. They are 44-year-old Charleen Elizabeth Ayers, 33-year-old Joshua Neil “Josh” Putman and 31-year-old Brendan Lamar Williams. Also held on the two charges this morning were 34-year-old Starla Ann Hester of 8801 Neely Ferry Road, Laurens and 44-year-old Cole Landis Blease III, booked as Homeless, from Waterloo. 39-year-old Brian Patrick Rains was booked with an address of 300 Lakeview Drive, Laurens. The warrants with the two charges gave an address of 108 Wedgewood Drive, Laurens. Also held this morning with $6,000 bonds on the two drug possession charges from Tuesday was 49-year-old James Allison “Al” Steadman of 104 Mitchell Street, Laurens.

Employee Theft Alleged

An employee theft from a convenience store last weekend was alleged with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office arrest yesterday of 32-year-old Kristy Leanne Tucker of 1679 South Frontage Road, Fountain Inn. A Breach of Trust with Fraudulent Intent warrant states she took a Mountain Dew, packs of potato chips, a candy bar and $20 in currency Saturday from the Highway 14 Quick Stop, where she was employed. Ms. Tucker was released on a $1,000 personal recognizance bond.

Two Charged with Failure to Appear

Two people were booked yesterday on Bench Warrants, citing they failed to show for their initial appearance in Laurens County General Sessions Court.

27-year-old Juan Trey Beasley of 109 Pete’s Street, Belton reportedly failed to show last September 16th to face a Grand Larceny charge. 44-year-old Ricky Wayne Gibson of Unit 16 at 3106 Bethel Road, Simpsonville is cited with not making his initial appearance back on May 22nd on a charge of Obtaining Signature or Property under False Pretense. Both remained in custody this morning, pending being discharged by due course of law.

Women Allegedly Assaulted Each Other

Two women were served with 3rd Degree Assault and Battery warrants yesterday for alleged assaults on the other Tuesday. 21-year-old Stephanie Perez of 611 Fleming Street, Laurens is accused of striking another woman and scratching her about the face and shoulder. 24-year-old Jessica Batres Talamantes of 20 Cherokee Street, Laurens is accused of striking Ms. Perez and scratching her about the face and head. Both were being held overnight by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, pending bond hearings today.