Man, Woman Charged with Meth Trafficking

A man and woman were arrested by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office this weekend on charges that included Trafficking in Methamphetamine. 34-year-old Jonathan Chad Ritchie of 517 Nash Street, Fountain Inn and 24-year-old Selina Haven Sterling of 124 Travis Court, Easley were both also charged with Simple Possession of Marijuana. Warrants citing the Investigation of Officer Nations allege that Ritchie and Sterling were in possession of 62 grams of methamphetamine in Laurens County Friday, along with less than 28 grams of marijuana.

Ritchie was also charged with Possession of a Weapon during a Violent Crime, accused of displaying what appeared to be a firearm or knife during the commission of the violent crime of Trafficking in Meth.

Both remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning. Cash or surety bonds were set totaling $90,615 for Jonathan Chad Ritchie and totaling $75,615 for Selina Haven Sterling.


Meth Trafficking & 3 More Charges

Meth Trafficking Friday was one of four charges the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office served on a Woodruff man following his arrest that day. In addition, 39-year-old Christopher Steven “Chris” Clobes of 17 Virginia Drive, Woodruff was charged with Distribution of Cocaine, Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute and Possession of a Controlled Substance in Schedule I thru V, all allegedly on April 20th. Christopher “Chris” Clobes remained in custody this morning with bonds on the four charges totaling $80,000.

Conspiracy & Grand Larceny

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office made an arrest Friday from an alleged case of Conspiracy and Grand Larceny last Wednesday. 22-year-old Michael Alan Ford of 101 Ridgecrest Drive, Fountain Inn was charged with Criminal Conspiracy and Grand Larceny. Deputy Andrew Turner states that on April 18th Ford conspired with another to accomplish Grand Larceny. A theft from a Waterloo area resident that day allegedly resulted in the taking of property valued between $2,000 and $10,000. Michael Alan Ford remained in custody this morning with cash or surety bonds totaling $30,000.

4 Counts of Harassment

A Laurens teen was arrested this weekend on charges of harassing multiple people earlier this month. 18-year-old Eric Dexter Davis Jr. of 102 Park Place, Laurens is charged with four counts of 2nd Degree Harassment. Laurens Police warrants accuse him of creating a pattern of intentional and unreasonable intrusion into the lives of four victims which caused mental and emotional distress and caused them to fear for their safety. This reportedly occurred between April 8th and 10th. Eric Dexter Davis Jr. was still being held this morning with bonds totaling $12,000 on the four warrants.

One Burglary, Two Grand Larcenies

Three crimes against the same victim over the past five months were alleged with an arrest by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office Friday. 46-year-old Thomas Christopher Timms of 210 West Greer Street, Honea Path was charged with 2nd Degree Burglary and two counts of Grand Larceny.

Investigator Farrah Cook states that Timms broke into a dwelling in the 9,000-address-range of Indian Mound Road last November 24th and took two flat-screen TVs, new copper, multiple keys and $2,550 in money. From the same victim, on this past March 20th, Timms allegedly took a 1982 Ford tractor and a front-end loader, all valued at $3,500.

Thomas Christopher Timms was released Friday on cash or surety bonds totaling $15,000.

Pistol Stolen in Louisiana

Weapons charges were served following a Laurens County Sheriff’s Office arrest Saturday. 47-year-old Curtis Eugene Meeks Jr. of 421 Peebles Street, Pittsburgh, PA was initially charged with an Open Container of Beer or Wine violation. Later, he was served warrants charging him with Unlawful Carry of a Concealed Weapon and Possession of a Stolen Weapon.

He was allegedly carrying a concealed weapon unlawfully and was in possession of a Taurus PT .22 caliber pistol that had been stolen in Louisiana. Curtis Meeks Jr. remained in custody this morning with bonds totaling $6,257.50.

’15 Chevy Equinox Taken

A car theft this past February was alleged in the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office Friday arrest of 47-year-old James Marcell Christian of 239 Happy Valley Road, Fountain Inn. A Grand Larceny warrant accuses him of taking a 2015 Chevrolet Equinox valued at $10,000 or more on February 27th. James Christian remained in custody this morning with a cash or surety bond set at $20,000.

Meth Possession with Intent

A drug charge for 24-year-old Christian English Clark of 53 Lattamar Bridge Road, Honea Path was served by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office Friday. She is accused of being in possession of methamphetamine Friday with intent to distribute. Christian Clark remained in custody this morning with bond set at $10,000.

Pulling Hair & Taking Cell Phone

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office made an arrest Friday from an alleged domestic assault on April 15th. 56-year-old Richard Edward Peay of 90 Skyland Drive, Clinton was charged with 2nd Degree Domestic Violence and

Petit Larceny. He is accused of grabbing the victim by her hair and of strangling her with his hands the previous Sunday. During the assault, he allegedly took her cell phone valued at $500. Richard Edward Peay was released later Friday on cash or surety bonds totaling $7,087.

Fatal Crash on I-26

Interstate 26 east bound was blocked for several hours Sunday afternoon due to a fatal accident which occurred at approximately 2:15pm.

Lance Corporal Gary Miller of the South Carolina Highway Patrol reports that a 2001 Chevrolet SUV and a 1997 Jeep Wrangler were traveling east and made contact near the 59 mile marker.  The Jeep overturned as a result of the contact.  The driver was ejected and died at the scene.

Laurens County Deputy Coroner Vickie Cheek reports that 56 year old James Spires of Reuben Wells Road in Hinesville, Georgia was officially pronounced dead at the scene due to blunt force trauma to the head and chest.  Ms. Cheek said that it appears that Mr. Spires was wearing his seat belt but was somehow ejected from the Jeep when it overturned.  She said that the wife of the deceased was in another vehicle also traveling east bound on I-26 just in front of her husband and that she actually saw the accident occurring in her rear view mirror.

The driver of the 2001 Chevrolet SUV, 18 year old Renee Stephens of Mauldin, was restrained and was not injured in the accident.

The accident remains under investigation by the South Carolina Highway Patrol MAIT Team.

Multiple Stolen Vehicles, Police Chases

Clinton Public Safety was dispatched to a gas station on Musgrove Street in Clinton Thursday on a report of a shirtless male attempting to steal gas from someone at the gas station. He apparently left the scene walking, leaving behind a vehicle which was determined to be stolen out of Spartanburg County. The shirtless male then stole a Kia Sorento from a residence on Musgrove Street. A Clinton Public Safety Officer immediately pursued the vehicle which took Highway 56 out and got on the interstate. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office entered the pursuit near Gray Court after the stolen Kia exited the interstate. The pursuit lasted approximately 25 minutes but was eventually terminated. At some point after the vehicle pursuit the suspect stopped at Brothers Fast Stop in Laurens. He entered the store, threw change on the counter for gas and immediately left.

There was another police chase reported from inside Laurens Thursday evening out Chestnut Street and south on the Greenwood Road. After turning off 221 onto Highway 39 this chase reportedly ended in the Mountville area without capturing a suspect. One witness told WLBG he was northbound on US 221 only seconds away when the fleeing vehicle turned across his path from 221 onto Highway 39.

The stolen Kia Sorento was located and recovered Friday morning on Sandy Drive in the Princeton Community of Western Laurens County at approximately 7:30 A.M. A short time afterward, someone stole a 2000 model Chrysler Town & Country van from 13001 Hwy 25 in Princeton, Laurens County, near the Greenville County line. Deputies suspect the same suspect was responsible for this vehicle theft. The van is described as black with a green hood. Anderson County Deputies located this vehicle and pursued it, however the pursuit was called off before the suspect could be apprehended.

Click for larger picture

Video of the shirtless suspect was obtained from Brothers Fast Stop in Laurens. If anyone recognizes this individual they are asked to call the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office at 864-984-4967. Information can also be anonymously reported through Crime Stoppers by calling 68-CRIME.

Sheriff’s Office Wins in Civil Case

A Civil Suit against the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office concluded yesterday, with a jury ruling in favor of the Sheriff’s Office.

In closing arguments for the plaintiff, Attorney Tommy Thompson attempted to persuade the jury that the entire fault of the wreck belonged to Barton Holmes, who was a deputy with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office on the night of August 15th of 2013. The plaintiff’s argument was that Deputy Holmes made an illegal U-turn on Highway 76, east of Laurens, after he met a speeding vehicle that was headed into Laurens. During the U-turn, the deputy’s car was struck by a vehicle driven by a Ms. King, and both cars were in the roadway and/or median when the car of the plaintiff, a now 91-year-old Ms. Watts of Clinton, struck Ms. King’s car. Her car then crashed into a nearby fence at Dixie Iron and Metal Works. Attorney Thompson contended that Ms. Watts was unable to see the wrecked vehicles because the Deputy didn’t have his lights on. Thompson said the deputy was negligent in not performing all necessary safety procedures.

Thompson’s closing arguments included calling Deputy Holmes a “Bad gun with a hot car.” He suggested the deputy had joined the military, knowing he needed to testify at this trial. Thompson suggested the deputy has a “checkered past,” due to holding many positions and “running away to join the military.”

Defense Attorney Rusty Harter countered that Holmes honorably served the Laurens County Sheriff’s office, led the DARE program and was a School Resource Officer. Attorney Harter said of the officer, “He left his family to serve his country, was admitted into Special Forces Training, which is far from having a “Checkered Past!”

After closing arguments, the case went to the jury midafternoon. During the trial, the jury viewed a video of the wreck taken by a security camera at Dixie Iron and Metals, near the wreck. The plaintiff’s attorney did not want the video submitted as evidence. During yesterday afternoon’s jury deliberations, they requested to see the video again. It was shortly after seeing the video again that the jury returned with their verdict in favor of the Sheriff’s Office.

With the jury ruling for the defendant, Ms. Watts will not receive the suggested $1,000,000 payment, nor any compensation.

No New Trial in Murder Case

During a pause in this week’s Civil Case, Circuit Court Judge Don Hocker yesterday heard matters from Criminal Court.

42-year-old Ronald Duyane Davis of 4149 Allen Bridge Road, Fountain Inn came before the bench yesterday, asking for a new trial. Last month, during a jury trial for the July 3rd, 2016 murder of 28-year-old Shana Renee Prophet of the same address, Davis entered a guilty plea. Before being sentenced, Davis swore to Judge Hocker that his plea was in no way coursed by anyone and was of his own free will. He stated he was guilty of the murder of Ms. Prophet. He told the court last month, “I had just tried to change my life around for the best. I hate that this happened. I want to apologize with all my heart, Shana was a wonderful girl.”

Judge Hocker sentenced Davis to 25 years, with credit for 633 days already served.

Yesterday, in a court appearance before Judge Hocker, Davis said that his family and Public Defender Chelsea Brooke McNeil had forced him into pleading guilty. Ms. McNeil, also present in the courtroom yesterday, denied this allegation from Davis. Deputy Solicitor Warren Mowery, Jr. was also present yesterday, and vouched for McNeil.

Davis made other statements that he said he believed would convince the judge to give him a new trial. Judge Hocker was not convinced, however, saying “That information has nothing to do with you getting a new trial.”

The request was denied, with the sentence to be served.

Denning Recognized for Innovation

Area Commission Chair H. George Piersol II

Congratulates Rusty Denning






The Piedmont Technical College Area Commission honored one of the college’s vice presidents at their April 17th meeting. Rusty Denning, Vice President for Economic Development and Continuing Education, was named the “PTC Innovator of the Year” for 2018. He was described as gregarious, determined, and unrelentingly focused on the prize of meeting the most critical needs of students and employers. The commission noted his commitment and creativity as key reasons for naming him as Innovator of the year for 2018.

In nominating Rusty Denning for the award, Jack Bagwell, PTC Vice President for Academic Affairs, said, “Approaching each new challenge through the lens of developing new partnerships, deepening existing business relationships, and finding new sources of funding for innovation, Rusty Denning is constantly scanning the horizon for new opportunities.”

Rusty Denning has been with PTC for seven years. In that time, he has been instrumental in launching PTC’s Ready to Work program, which focuses on helping individuals who are at higher risk for unemployment or underemployment.

PTC President Dr. Ray Brooks said, “Rusty’s work was also a key component in the development and ongoing success of the public/private partnership that resulted in the Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Laurens County.”

Area Commission Chair H. George Piersol II Congratulates Rusty Denning


Council Candidates Forum Announced

The Laurens County Tea Party is hosting a Candidate’s Forum for people who have filed for election to one of three seats that are open this election year. The Tea Party indicates it’s invited all seven candidates. The forum is scheduled for 7:00 pm on Thursday, May 17th at the Laurens YMCA. The event is to also be streamed live.

Financial Identity Theft

Charges were served yesterday on one of two people who allegedly engaged in a case of Identity Fraud in Laurens County last summer. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office charged 28-year-old Macie Marie Byars of 502 Lowndes Mill Road, Greenville with Criminal Conspiracy and Financial Identity Fraud.

Sheriff’s Investigator Michael Polson states that on July 31st of 2017 Ms. Byars appropriated the financial resources of the victim to her own use or the use of a third-party, and that she devised a scheme or artifice to defraud the victim of the resources. A male co-defendant was noted in the Identity Fraud warrant, alleging the fraud of a female victim. In the Conspiracy warrant, Officer Polson states that also on July 31st Ms. Byars conspired with her male co-defendant, unlawfully planning or scheming to accomplish the crime of fraud by unlawful means.

Cash or surety bonds were set yesterday, totaling $15,000 on the two charges. Macie Marie Byars remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

Possession of Marijuana with Intent

A Coastal North Carolina man is now facing a Drug Distribution charge here in Laurens County. The Sheriff’s Office yesterday charged 34-year-old Hugh Gray Ernandez III of 562 Starboard Road, Shalotte, NC with

Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute.

A warrant states that an investigation of Deputy Hall indicates that yesterday, April 19th, Hugh Gray Ernandez III did possess, manufacture, distribute and/or possess more than 28 grams of marijuana with intent to distribute.

During arraignment, a cash or surety bond was set at $20,000. Hugh Gray Ernandez III remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

Charges from Vehicular “Assault” Last Weekend

A Honea Path man was charged yesterday regarding a Domestic Assault in Laurens County last weekend. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office charged

47-year-old Mark Russell Davis of 404 Hammett Street, Honea Path with Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature.

A warrant cites an investigation by Deputy Hall as indicating that the assault occurred Saturday under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life and that would reasonably cause a person to fear either great bodily harm or death. Mark Davis is accused of threatening to shoot the victim and of swerving his vehicle at hers, and that he blocked the roadway to keep her from getting away from him. This allegedly occurred, April 14th, in the presence of a minor child.

Mark Russell Davis was released from the Laurens County Detention Center yesterday after posting a $20,000 cash or surety bond.


Black Hawk Helicopter to Land in Clinton

Unusual air traffic is expected midday tomorrow over Clinton, Newberry and Greenwood. A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the SC Army National Guard will land on the PC campus lawn between the Greenville Dining Hall and Belk Hall three times between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow. PC President Bob Staton and Lander University President Richard Cosentino will take part in the exercise, along with U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan, State Senator Ronnie Cromer, and student cadets from PC, Lander University, and Newberry College. The UH-60 Black Hawk will travel to all three colleges with a final stop on the PC campus at 1:50 p.m.

The community is welcome to watch and photograph the event from a safe distance.

Jury Views Video of Wreck

Surveillance video of a wreck was viewed by a jury yesterday during a civil suit brought against the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. The video reportedly shows a wreck around 11:00 the night of August 15th, 2013.

On the third day of the Watts vs. the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office case yesterday, the entire morning was spent discussing, examining, and disputing the video taken by the security camera from Dixie Iron and Metal, which owns the fence that the Clinton woman’s car struck after her involvement in the three-vehicle wreck.

A former Highway Patrol Corporal, Al Duncan, testified that he went to Dixie Iron and Metal to obtain a copy of the video taken by the security cameras. The plaintiff’s attorney did not want the video admitted into evidence, indicating it was unclear and claimed that it would confuse the jury. The defense argued that the video was proof that the vehicles had their lights on, a point which has been disputed since the beginning of the trial.  The judge allowed the video, and it was shown to the jury just before the lunch break.

After the lunch break, another dispute arose regarding the admission of medical records from the hospital where Ms. Watts was taken after the wreck.  The defense claimed that the medical records mentioned that Ms. Watts was driving at a higher speed than her original testimony. Judge Hocker would not allow the medical information without it being authorized by an official from Self Medical Center. The defense told the judge that they may obtain an official from Self to authenticate the records.

The afternoon ended with both sides reading aloud portions of witness testimonies and depositions.  Judge Hocker dismissed the jury and told them that final arguments will be made today.

Ms. Watts is claiming that a Deputy’s failing to have his blue lights on while stopped in the wreck, prevented her from seeing vehicles stopped in the roadway.