Seat Belt Violation + Drug Possession

A Greenwood County woman arrested by the South Carolina Highway Patrol in Laurens County Saturday morning received a drug charge.

19-year-old Amanda Grace Cronic of 142 Pinehaven Drive, Ninety-Six was initially issued a ticket charging her with a Seat Belt Violation at 8:59 Saturday morning. A warrant was later served also charging her with Possession of Less than One Gram of Meth or Cocaine Base. Trooper Michael Gabriele states that the unlawful possession occurred Saturday.

Amanda Grace Cronic was released Sunday on a $3,000 cash or surety bond for the drug possession charge.

Open Beer, Resisting Arrest

Resisting arrest for a minor charge led to a bigger one Saturday night. Laurens City Police arrested 57-year-old Joe Lewis Stokes of 104 Micaela Street, Gray Court. Officer Lindsey issued a ticket charging Mr. Stoke with Open Container of Beer or Wine in a Motor Vehicle at 9:52 pm. A second ticket alleges the defendant resisted the arrest.

Joe Lewis Stokes was released Sunday on cash or surety bonds totaling $1,257.

Absentee Voting In Office Ends September 1st

Absentee voting is usually conducted during a period that runs through the day before a Tuesday election here in Laurens County; but there will be no absentee voting in the Election’s office the day before the upcoming District 55 School Bond referendum.

The Laurens County Voter Registration and Elections Office this week issued a Public Notice that due to the Labor Day holiday, the Laurens County Voter Registration & Elections office will be closed on Monday, September 4th.

The walk-in absentee precinct for The Laurens County District 55 School Bond Referendum will open on Tuesday, August 22nd and will close at 5:00 pm on Friday, September 1st.

Walk-in Absentee voting will be conducted in the Elections office on the ground floor of the Historic Laurens County Courthouse on the Laurens Square from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm August 22nd thru September 1st.

Please note — there will be no walk-in absentee voting after 5:00 pm on Friday, September 1st.

Absentee balloting by mail will continue to be received until 7pm Election Day; however, the last day to request an absentee ballot application for this process is Thursday, August 31st.

More Preparation for Students to Study the Eclipse

Laurens County School Districts 55 and 56 earlier this year altered the 2017-2018 school Calendar to have students back in school before the August 21st total eclipse of the sun. This action was taken to take advantage of the educational opportunities presented by this solar event.

District 56 schools scheduled a late dismissal of schools so that students will be at school during the actual event, shortly after 2:30 pm. The District 56 administration expressed concern that school buses not be transporting students during the actual eclipse, for safety reasons, as well.

This week, School District 55 Administration announced a further schedule adjustment for eclipse day, noting plans to make a special and safe educational day with the viewing of the solar eclipse.

District 55 announced it will be providing solar eclipse viewing glasses for students and staff on August 21, and schools will send home permission slips for parents to sign on the first day of school for 1st-8th grade students. The form will need to be signed and returned to school in order for students to go outside and view the eclipse with their class. Students in 9th thru 12th grades will receive an “Opt-Out” letter that only needs to be returned if a parent requests their child not be outside during the eclipse.

The District 55 release noted a partial phase of the eclipse begins around 1:10 pm with the total eclipse occurring around 2:39pm, lasting approximately 2 ½ minutes. District 55 school dismissal times will be delayed by 20 minutes to ensure a safe transition from the viewing area to dismissal. Parents are permitted to sign their children out of school early on the day of the eclipse, and may do so after 12:00 noon, but no later than 1:30pm so that schools can have adequate time to transition to the eclipse activities.

All 4K and 5K students will be on a modified schedule the first 3 days of school. Parents are asked to contact their child’s individual school for specific questions regarding the solar eclipse and 4K/5K start dates and dismissal times.

F.I. Native Addresses Childhood Hunger  

The problem of childhood hunger was highlighted in Laurens yesterday at the Laurens Rotary Club. The author of a book on that subject, Heather Crick, told of how she became aware of childhood hunger through contact with a Mauldin elementary school. She said that as she began to research the subject, she was distressed at the lack of books on the issue and that this  lead to her writing A Prince for All.

The Fountain Inn native told of a “Christmas in Mauldin” event that raises money to help provide food to needy children. She also praised the work of the “”Backpack” project that provides food for children to carry home from school on Fridays in order to have food to eat over the weekend, noting that the only food some children get is from school.

Mrs. Crick was speaking yesterday at the request of Dr. George Ward, an administrator in District 55. He praised the work of District 55’s nutrition director Wanda Knight in administering the summer meals programs in schools to provide food for these children during the summer.

Heather Crick expressed appreciation that the Laurens Rotary Club participates in the “Backpack” program in District 55. Others, including several churches in the area, also participate in providing this food.

Mrs. Crick holds the title of Mrs. South Carolina, and she will be representing the Palmetto State in the Mrs. America completion this month in Las Vegas. This wife and mother of two children told Laurens Rotarians yesterday that she became involved in the Mrs. America competition after learning of how it can be a platform for promoting the need to address childhood hunger.

“Cool” Celebration for Hospital Staff

Laurens County Memorial Hospital had a “cool” event recently to celebrate their triennial Joint Commission accreditation survey. The hospital’s Employee Activity Committee hosted an Ice Cream Celebration for all staff and Physicians, and leaders from GHS Skilled Nursing and Rehab-Laurens served up cones of ice cream to over 160 hospital staff members in their activity room. The event was in honor of the hard work and team effort during survey preparation as well as the actual survey process.

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit group in the United States that administers voluntary accreditation programs for hospitals and other healthcare organizations every three years. It develops performance standards that address crucial elements of operation, such as patient care, medication safety, infection control and consumer rights.

Oh Be Careful What You Post!

His facebook post was shared, and viewed by many; including a Sheriff’s Investigator. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday arrested 20-year-old Thomas Lee Jarnagin of 208 Hilldale Avenue, Laurens and charged him with Dissemination, Procuring or Promoting Obscenity.

Deputy Michael Polson states that on July 26th in Laurens County Mr. Jarnagin did knowingly disseminate obscene material by creating a flipgram video of nude females engaged in lewd exhibition. This creation was entitled  “Ho’s of 864,” and was allegedly posted to the defendant’s facebook page,  where hundreds of people viewed it and shared it.

Thomas Lee Jarnagin was released from detention on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond.

Where’s the Prescription?

Unlawful pill possession was alleged with the arrest of a Laurens woman yesterday. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office charged 47-year-old Larrie Lanae Clarke of 31 Caldwell Road, Laurens with Possession of a Controlled Substance. A warrant cites an investigation of Corporal Rushing as indicating that on August 9th Ms. Clarke was in possession of diazepam, a schedule IV controlled substance, without authority to do so. Ms. Clarke was released yesterday on a $3,000 Personal Recognizance bond.

ZF & Piedmont Tech Announce the Latest Apprenticeship Program Students

Thursday night at the Piedmont Tech Center for Advanced Manufacturing Piedmont Tech instructors and staff, ZF representatives, students and their families were all in attendance to present the latest class of apprentices in the ZF Apprenticeship Program.

Robbie Ellis, Apprenticeship Program Director for ZF began by explaining the recruiting process of the program and recognition of the 9 new apprentices that were accepted into the program out of 90 applicants.

Landon Adams, Elvis Fitz, Austin Francis , Bryson Vaughn, Bryson Patterson, and Jose Hernandez, all of Clinton High School; Antwan Clark, Jertavious Miller, and Mathew Sullivan, all of Laurens High School then signed letters of intent for their scholarships.

After an opportunity for pictures with family members each student received their ZF hat and back pack. It was very much like college signing day for athletes.

Michael Morris, Director of Human Resources for ZF addressed the students by telling them to look in their empty bags. He then told them that over 20 years of work at ZF they could put 8000 one hundred dollar bills in those bags.

These nine apprentices will begin New Hiring Orientation at ZF this coming Monday and begin classes at the CAM the following Monday.

Senator Graham Speaks in Laurens

Senator Graham

South Carolina’s Senior Senator met with several Laurens County residents at Laurens City Hall yesterday afternoon. Lindsey Graham reviewed current domestic and international topics.

Regarding the escalating language between the United States and North Korea, Graham said he supported President Trump’s new posture, noting tactics of past presidents have not prevented North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles. The senator suggested we urge Chinese leadership to make the North Korean regime realize they must change or face a destructive war, as the United States cannot allow the threats of nuclear assault on our country to continue. He said he doesn’t want regime change; he just wants North Korea to not be a threat to his country.

Senator Graham was not supportive of President Trump’s position on free trade. Graham talked of how scrapping participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership is hurting our ability to export to Asia, noting a big hit to U.S. agricultural exports, for instance. Graham also noted that the United States needed the T.P.P. to counter-balance China’s influence, and he noted that with us pulling out of the partnership, Europe has stepped in to take our place.

On the subject of health care, Senator Graham noted that while some Republican appear to have given up on repeal and replacement of Obamacare, he still intends to work on delivery on his promise on that. He said the situation now will have 30% increases in health care insurance here in South Carolina next year. Graham said he’s working to gain bipartisan support for a plan to change the present system to one of block grants to states. He said if the federal money for this issue were to be converted to block grants, given to states based on their population, South Carolina would receive a substantial increase in funding. He said four states now receive a large percentage of the federal health care subsidy.

In the Fuss, We Missed the Main Point

The audit of Laurens County’s Telecom billing is continuing, regardless of the extensive discussion about county finances at Tuesday night’s Laurens County Council meeting. Our review of a video of the meeting, posted by Councilman Stewart Jones, shows that the issue that caused such consternation had actually already been settled at the start of the meeting.

Council Chairman Joe Wood announced that Councilman Ted Nash had withdrawn his request to change his vote on the contract with Spy Glass. Since Nash no longer wanted to change his vote, that item was taken off the agenda and the contract continues.

Councilman Stewart Jones then asked for two items to be added to the agenda. One was to discuss the matter of continuing with the audit. Chairman Wood pointed out that it wasn’t necessary to discuss whether to have another vote since the request for that vote from Councilman Nash had been withdrawn. He noted that’s why the Spy Glass matter was removed from the agenda.

Councilman Jones then wanted to have a discussion about the use of Roberts Rule of Order by County Council, expressing concern that one councilman could change his mind about a vote and delay implementation of a contract. County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks then explained that other County Council members have also requested a reconsideration of a vote in the past. He then explained that when Nash made his request, County Administrator Jon Caime made an administrative decision to hold up the contract until the question was resolved. Cruickshanks explained that it was a reasonable call of the administrator to hold up on the contract, given the uncertainty of another vote.

With Ted Nash withdrawing his request to change his vote, the contract with Spy Glass is now back in force, looking for other possible unnecessary telephone and data charges.

In other details from the comments of 911 Director Joey Avery, he told Council Tuesday night that the amount of improper charges given in initial reports was not accurate. He said the actual over charge was only about 20% of that figure. Avery said the “line” involved was discontinued by Laurens County in 2005, but perhaps due to confusion of a circuit number the phone company continued to bill the county after it was discontinued. He said they’re now working with that Telco company regarding a reimbursement.

Clinton Rezoning 16 Acres in I-26 Corporate Park

Clinton City Council took action to formalize the obvious during their meeting this week, giving 1st reading approval to a zoning change for 16 acres of land in Clinton’s I-26 Corporate Park.

Community Development Director Jerre Threatt requested that council zone the property as I-1 in order to conform with zoning of adjacent property, as well as its obvious use. The land in question is along South Carolina Highway 72 east of Interstate 26.  The city’s recently completed spec building which will house the General Electric Alternative Energy facility is located on the property.  The request came to council after the Clinton Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on July 17th and unanimously recommended the I-1 zoning.

After discussion, City Council also gave unanimously approval on a 1st reading of the zoning change.

Wreck near Joanna Kills Sumter Woman

A Sumter woman was killed in a two vehicle wreck on Interstate 26 near Joanna around noon Tuesday.

South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Corporal Gary Miller said the fatal wreck occurred as a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV from Sumter, South Carolina and a 1998 Kenworth truck from Florida were southbound on Interstate 26 near the 61 mile marker. Trooper Miller said the SUV struck the semi-truck rig in the rear. The truck driver was not seriously injured.

A 49-year-old Sumter man who was driving the Jeep was transported to GHS for treatment of injuries. A rear-seat passenger was air-lifted for medical treatment. Trooper Miller said the front right passenger of the Jeep was killed.

Laurens County Chief Deputy Coroner Vickie Cheek identified the deceased as 46-year-old Margaret Brookins of 4654 Ragin Road Sumter. Mrs. Brookins was pronounced dead at the scene as of 11:53 Tuesday morning. Mrs. Cheeks said cause of death was blunt force trauma.

Lance Corporal Miller said the Highway Patrol investigation of the fatal crash remained underway.

Drug Theft Noted in Probation Violation

State Probation yesterday issued a Violation of Probation warrant to 31-year-old Kirby Diane Prather of 58 Sloop Drive, Laurens. She is accused of changing residence without consent of her agent, failing to refrain from methamphetamine use, failing to maintain lawful employment and of receiving a new conviction in Laurens County December 15, 2016 for Theft of Controlled Substance. She’s also accused of being behind in payment of supervision and surcharge accounts. Ms. Prather was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing.

Tie With Rope, Assault with Belt

A domestic assault Monday in the Wattsville community was alleged in a warrant served yesterday. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office charged 36-year-old Kevin Lee O’Shields of 34 Sirrine Street, Laurens with Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature. Deputy Atwood states that an investigation by Deputy Brandon Howard indicates that on August 7th Mr. O’Shields committed domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature by bringing the victim to his residence, where he tied her with a rope and reportedly struck her with a belt.

Kevin Lee O’Shields was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing today.

Conspiracy & Forgery

Charges of Criminal Conspiracy and Forgery were served yesterday on a Low Country resident. Clinton Public Safety had arrested 44-year-old Wakiesha Utsey of 9114 Augusta Highway, Smoaks on Tuesday. Details on the alleged conspiracy were not available this morning. The Forgery warrant alleged possession of a forged check presented for money at 102 South Broad between July 8th and 9th last year. Wakiesha Utsey was released on personal recognizance bonds totaling $10,000 on the two charges.

Arrest Alleges Crime from 2008-2010

Laurens City Police yesterday served a warrant for an alleged crime eight years ago. 61-year-old Billy Roy Johnson of 202 Sumter Street, Joanna was charged with False Representation of Income for Public Housing. Then Laurens City Investigator W.L. Bentley states that between December 15th of 2008 and January 26th of 2010 the defendant misrepresented income for the purpose of obtaining public housing from the South Carolina Regional Housing Authority. The defendant is accused of defrauding the housing authority at 460 Church Street of approximately $4,288.

Billy Roy Johnson was released on a $5, 000 Personal Recognizance bond.

County Council Clashes – Sheriff Calls for Calm

Laurens County Council chambers were filled with folks last night, many concerned that County Council is reconsidering a 4-2 vote at the previous meeting. That vote was to enter a contract with a company named Spy Glass, which had advised the county they found the county has been paying $3,300 a month for a data line that has not been used in years.

Council Chair Joe Wood announced early in the meeting that Councilman Ted Nash wanted to change his vote from yes to no. Had he voted that way, the vote would have been a 3-3 stalemate. Chairman Wood and Councilman David Pitts cast the two no votes. Pitts had expressed concern about county staff not finding unneeded spending.

In a memo to council about their concern, Administrator Jon Caime had stated “I never thought my intention of exposing government waste would be something not supported.” As to the cost of the service, which is to be paid the saved amount for one year, Camie noted that, otherwise, the county would spend the money anyway.

County 911 Communications Director Joey Avery suggested that the figures on the alleged wasteful spending were not as bad as indicated.

During Public Comment, some county residents spoke out in favor of the work by Spy Glass, which Administrator Jon Caime had authorized to begin an audit of Tel-com spending. County resident Brenda Lopez Stewart was the last to speak, and listed her concerns on the need to find and stop wasteful spending. Council Chair Joe Wood began to go through her points and dispute their accuracy. Joe Wood suggested that Ms. Stewart’s “facts” were based on what she learned in social media, the Clinton Chronicle and “a little bird.” She replied that she had carefully researched the issue. Some called out to the Chair to “Let her speak.” Wood said he wanted to respond to her charges, and made more reference to the idea of her information coming from a “little bird.”

At one point of the interaction, Council Stewart Jones jumped up and called the proceedings “a joke.” Chairman Wood asked Sheriff Reynolds, who was in attendance, to escort Councilman Jones out of the building. The Sheriff said he would sit with Jones, if needed, but asked for calm, and to let the people talk.

With the atmosphere deteriorating, there was a motion to adjourn. County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks called for a vote, but it was a 3-3 tie.

One county resident who had attended the meeting later told WLBG “I’m glad I attended. That was better than wrestling.”

Trafficking in Crystal Meth & 7 More Charges

Trafficking in Crystal Meth was one of eight charges served yesterday on a Cross Hill man who had been arrested Monday afternoon by Clinton Public Safety. 42-year-old Michael Jerome Davis of 12409 Highway 72 West, Cross Hill was charged with 3rd offense, Trafficking in Crystal Methamphetamine. Clinton Public Safety Officer Derrick Gandee states that Monday on North Sloan at East Bluford Street Mr. Davis had in his possession between 28 and 100 grams of a rock-like substance believed to be crystal methamphetamine.

Other charges served on Michael Jerome Davis included Possession of Marijuana 2nd Offense, Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, 1st Offense and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Officer Gandee alleges that Davis was in possession of less than 28 grams of marijuana on North Sloan Street and has a prior conviction of this; and that Mr. Davis was also in possession of a white capsule-shaped pill identified as a schedule II controlled substance. He further stated that Davis had a black electronic scale with a white crystal-like substance believed to be methamphetamine,  along with a glass pipe with the same substance on it.

Davis was also charged with Possession of a Stolen Pistol and Possession of a Weapon during a Violent Crime. He allegedly had a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol in his possession on North Sloan Street Sunday, while in possession of the crystal meth.

Traffic charges served on Michael Davis were Driving under Suspension, 3rd or Subsequent Offense and Habitual Offender for Driving under Suspension. Officer Gandee alleges that Davis was driving a vehicle on Sloan Street Monday while his license to drive was under suspension, with two or more prior convictions of this, and that he has been declared an habitual offender by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

Bond was denied on all eight charges. Michael Jerome Davis remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

250 Homes Lost Power This Morning

Duke Energy has responded to a power outage affecting some 250 customers northeast of Laurens. The outage was reported just before six this morning, and reportedly is in the area of US 221 and Highway 49, including side roads such as Northside Church Road and Curry Road.  A Duke statement indicated they expected power to be restored by 11:00 this morning.