Arrest Alleges 4/20 Domestic Assault

A domestic assault on April 20th was alleged in a warrant served Friday on a Texas man, who had been arrested Thursday. 48-year-old John Thomas Trammell of 318 Loma Linda, Wake Village, Texas was charged with Domestic Violence 2nd Degree. Lt. Marty Crain Jr. states that an investigation by Deputy Messer indicates that on April 20th, 2017 in Laurens County Mr. Trammell did inflict moderate bodily injury or actions were accomplished by means likely to result in moderate bodily injury, by choking the victim and punching her in the face, causing multiple bruising and swelling. With a cash or surety bond set at $10,000, John Thomas Trammell remained in custody this morning.

Prostitution Sentence from 2015 to be Served

Clinton Public Safety Friday placed 36-year-old Alesha Lorraine Erickson of 110 Condy Court, Walterboro in the Laurens County Detention Center on a Bench Warrant from late 2015. It states that Ms. Erickson was convicted of Prostitution 1st Offense in Clinton Municipal Court on   November 9th, 2015 and sentenced to $237.50 or 15 days in jail. The Bench Warrant, issued December 30th of 2015, states she is to be held until discharged by due course of law.

District 55 School Board Meets Tonight

The Laurens County District 55 School Board meets at 6:30 this evening in the Ford Elementary School Auditorium for their April meeting. In addition to a Ford Elementary report from Principal Watson, and their monthly financial report from CFO Rodney Smith, they’re to be updated on the Children’s Internet Protection Act and on South Carolina Junior Scholars.

Superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters is to bring the District 55 School Board this evening on the March meeting of the Facilities Projects Advisory Projects Committee. Meanwhile, the FPAC committee has their full committee meeting for April scheduled for tomorrow evening, April 25th, from 6:00 to 7:30.

District 56 Trustees also meet tomorrow evening.

Forum Speakers Oppose $109 Million Referendum

A scheduled forum on the District 55 School Bond Referendum last night consisted of a lot of talk opposing passage of the $109,000 referendum.

State Representatives Mike Pitts and Mark Willis were listed as speakers, but were held up with the Legislature in Columbia.  Pitts sent a statement to the event in opposition to the referendum.

The keynote speaker was Keith Tripp, Laurens County Republican Party Chair, who described the choice as elitism vs. common sense. In opening remarks he criticized a banner in front of Laurens High that states “Every Student Every Day College Bound.” He called that an expression of an elitist attitude, and that people interpreting that would say, “You mean there is no one in that school is going to be a plumber, carpenter or a farmer?” He said he was told the banner didn’t mean what he took it to mean, and said      “Common sense asks me to ask that if the people leading the charge for a $109 Million dollar (referendum) can’t get a six-word banner right, what else are they telling us? To question what more are they are saying that they don’t really mean?”

Tripp suggested that rather than focus on the building that houses the school, the focus should be on basic academics that do not undermine moral issues, and that is not revisionist history, and to provide a safe environment without gangs and drugs, with enforced discipline, where teacher get respect. He said opposition to the bond is not to be viewed to disrespect to teachers, and that we should not forget the main thing.

Republican Laurens County Councilman Stewart Jones told the audience “We all want a better future for our children, but not by giving the government more power.” He said “The government has a monopoly on our schools, but we should look at Georgia, Florida, and Indiana, who has given parents more school choice with vouchers.” Referring to previous meetings held by the School District, Jones complained that folks who spoke out against the referendum were given a lecture on racism.

There were questions from the audience, and one person asked how difficult it would be to recall school board members in an election, and another asked what would happen if, during the 30 years of bond payments, federal funding for schools stops, or is greatly reduced due to the huge national debt.

Multiple Drug Charges from 4 Days this Month

Multiple drug charges were served yesterday following the arrest of a man and women in Clinton Wednesday.

Clinton Department of Public Safety charged 47-year-old Terry Lavan Burton of 302 Elizabeth Street, Clinton with seven charges, including two counts of 2nd Offense Distribution of Methamphetamine for alleged sales of meth to a confidential informant working undercover this month. He was also charged with two counts, Possession of Meth with Intent to Distribute for alleged possession of meth with scales and baggies. Additional charges include Possession with Intent as well as Distribution of Meth in Proximity of a School. In warrants, Sgt. Shane Prather alleges these offenses occurred on Saturday, April 8th, Wednesday, April 12th as well as this week on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 18th and 19th.

Cash or surety bonds were set totaling $85,000 on the seven drug charges. Terry Lavan Burton remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

Also arrested Wednesday was 45-year-old Donna Jean Long, also of 302 Elizabeth Street, Clinton. She was charged with one count of Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute and one count, Possession with Intent within Proximity of a School. She was charged with Possession of more than a gram of meth, along with a digital scale and plastic baggies, on Wednesday of this week at her residence.. Donna Jean Long remained in custody this morning with cash or surety bonds totaling $3,500.

Top Ten Rotary Scholars at LDHS

Forty of Laurens District 55 High Schools best scholars were honored yesterday as the Laurens Rotary Club held its annual Rotary Top Ten program in the Family Life Center at Laurens First Baptist Church. LDHS Principal Sonya Bryant, Assistant Superintendant Dr. George Ward and Rotary President Michael Seymour congratulated the Top Ten students from each of the four classes at the school.

Ms. Bryant said that for the first time in the Rotary Top Ten Program, she excused three students from attendance, because they were in Houston, Texas competing in the World Championship Robotics competition. She said that as of yesterday morning, the LDHS team was in the lead. Participants in the Robotics team who were unable to attend yesterday included Sophomore Bryan Alexander Uceda-Alverez along with Juniors Jeffrey Thomas Carroll and Noah Scott Shelton.

Sonya Bryant said that the total scholarships offered to each of this year’s Rotary Top Ten seniors was up dramatically. From last year’s $1,892,000 the Top Ten Class of 2017, as of yesterday, has been offered $2,157,000 in scholarship.

Six of the Top Ten Seniors at LDHS plan to attend Clemson University this fall. These include Jessica Fleming Blakely, whose goal is to become a Zoo Veterinarian, Patton Edward Croker who wants to become a Bio-Chemist and Brandt Nicole Eiff who wants to become a Pediatric Oncologist. Other Clemson-bound seniors are Johnathan Lewis Finley whose goal is becoming a Sports Psychologist, Rachel Kay-Elaine Griffin whose goal is to become a Chemical Engineer and Callie Marie Harlan who has interest in being a Pediatric Physical Health professional.

Four of the Top Ten Seniors plan to enter the University of South Carolina. These include Alexis Danielle Herrick, who wants to become an Adoption Lawyer and Ella Gwenn Orcutt who wants to become a Physical Therapist. Also headed to USC are Katie Lynn Waters who wants to become a High School Band Director and Chloe Nasipai Watts who wants to become a Retail Pharmacist.

In concluding her remarks this 5th and final year as Principal at LDHS, Sonya Bryant showed emotion as she thanked the community and parents who made the success being celebrated possible.

A Peaceful Walk in Nature – In Town!

Imagine taking a walk beside a stream, listening to the water play among the rocks.  You walk past the little waterfall and look around.  It’s nice once in a while to get back to nature and out in the middle of nowhere.  Only, you’re not in the middle of nowhere at all.  You’re actually inside the city limits of Clinton.

At this week’s meeting of Clinton City Council, City Manager Frank Stovall asked council to authorize him to enter into a contract with Darrohn Engineering for the construction of Phase I of the Miller’s Fork Trail.

The trail, when all phases are complete, will hopefully allow a walk from East Corporate Center Drive (formerly called ‘Frontage Road’) to downtown Clinton.  Phase I of the project allows a walker to enjoy a stroll alongside Miller’s Fork Creek.

Mr. Stovall explained that Darrohn Engineering was the only comply to bid on the project.  The company has experience with other walking trails in the Upstate including Greenville County’s Swamp Rabbit Trail.  The cost of Phase I will be $118,920.  Funding would come from a $99,000 grant from the Recreational Trails Program and a 20% match ($19,920) from the city of Clinton.

Walking, hiking, biking, jogging through natural habitat alongside a pretty creek and inside the city of Clinton will be possible soon after council voted unanimously to approve Mr. Stovall’s request.

Laurens Extends Garbage Contract

Laurens City Council this week agreed to extend the contract they have for household garbage collection around town. Jesse Schwiers of Waste Industries addressed City Council with the request to extend the end date of the contract another five years. The first five-year contract the city had with the company for garbage pickup was to expire next year, on February 28th. City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to extend the contract another five years, until February 28th, 2023.

In exchange for renewing the contract now, Waste Industries said that they will not reclaim an increase they missed last year. According to the contract, the prices can go up each year by the Consumer Price Index on table 2, for water, sewer and trash collections services. They had not put the previous year’s CPI increase into effect for the current year, and with the contract extension, they are not to reclaim that rate. So the rate for the coming 2017-2018 rate goes up by 3.7%, which was the CPI for that category for 2016.

The monthly cost began at $6.96 in 2013. The new rate will see that price go to $7.45.

March for Babies Saturday Morning

After many weeks of working to raise funds to fight for premature babies, Family and Corporate Teams as well as Individual Walkers gather in the morning for the 2017 Laurens County March for Babies. It starts with registration at 9:30, then an Opening Program around 10:00, followed by the 3-mile walk. This year’s walk is being held at the Laurens Family Y.

Following the walk, participants will enjoy food and family-fun activities.

March of Dimes Organizer Allison Seibert notes that one in nine South Carolina babies are born too soon. The Aiken family of Laurens have been touched firsthand by the mission of the March of Dimes. A couple of years ago, their daughter, Stella, was born at 33 weeks and spent over 2 weeks in the NICU. Stella is this year’s Ambassador Child for Laurens Count y.

Sharon O’Bryant of PRTC is Chair of the 2017 March for Babies.

Two Females Charged with April 5th Assault

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday arrested two young females on charges of assault from an incident on April 5th. 19-year-old Savannah Lynn Burdo of 245 Meadowfield Road, Gastonia, NC and 20-year-old Alissa Lee Ann Orten of 304 Edisto Road, Gray Court were each charged with Assault and Battery 3rd Degree. Warrants on both state that on April 5th, 2017 each struck a victim about the head, chest, face and abdominal area.

Both Ms. Burdo and Ms. Orten were held overnight in the Laurens County Detention Center, pending a bond hearing today.

“Funny Money” – From Movies?

Laurens City Police responded to the Handee Mart on Church Street late Wednesday morning on report of a counterfeit $100 bill. An officer reported observing the bill was clearly marked “For Motion Picture Use Only!” The officer instructed the store operator to be sure his cashiers are careful to inspect the bills that are handed to them. There was no initial indication who had been distributing the phony money.

Sexually Explicit Videos of a Minor Alleged

Videos of a minor in sexually explicit poses are alleged in an arrest yesterday. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office charged 41-year-old John Earl Smith of 3894 Georgia Road, Gray Court with Sexual Exploitation of a Minor 1st Degree and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.

Sheriff’s Investigator Thomas Hunnicutt alleges that on March 15th, 2017 in Laurens County, Mr. Smith had numerous photos and videos of a juvenile victim on his cell phone as the victim was posed in a sexually explicit manner for his sexual gratification. A second warrant alleges the pictures and videos were recorded in Laurens County on December 1st of 2016. This warrant states that Smith did knowingly and willfully cause a minor to pose for sexually explicit photos and videos, thereby contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

John Earl Smith was being held overnight in the Laurens County Detention Center, awaiting arraignment today.

2nd Person Charged with Criminal Conspiracy

A second person was charged yesterday in connection with a Criminal Conspiracy Tuesday near Clinton. 31-year-old Anthony Perry Wilson of 315 Beauregard Street, Clinton is charged with Forgery and Criminal Conspiracy. He is accused of conspiring with another to unlawfully plan or scheme to accomplish the crime of presenting counterfeit money for goods and services. He is also accused of publishing as true a forged or counterfeited written instrument which he knew to be forged or counterfeited. He allegedly did so by producing counterfeit money for illegal use. Anthony Perry Wilson was being held a second night in the Laurens County Detention Center, pending a bond hearing today.

23-year-old Brittany Candida Smith, who was charged Tuesday with the same two charges, was released yesterday on bond.

Sub-Committee to Look at Middle School Matters

A sub-committee meeting is set for 6:00 this evening in the School District 55 Training Room to look at what could be the best way of organizing the District’s middle school programs. This sub-committee of the District 55 Facilities Projects Advisory Committee is to meet in the Training Room of the District 55 Offices on Hillcrest Drive.

The group, chaired by Peter Lindley is to consider issues from space and class size to teachers and security, along with discussion about both Montessori and Traditional teaching. They are also being asked to identify equitable differences between the four middle schools now used in District 55 and to suggest ways to resolve inequities between them. They’re also to hear from Dr. Stephen Peters and Dr. George Ward to hear what other districts are doing in middle schools, considering how District 55 may be better structured for middle school students.

If a $109 million school bond referendum, scheduled for early September, is approved, the plan is to build a new Laurens High, then retrofit the current LDHS building to be a comprehensive middle school.

Forum at 7:00 on $109,000,000 School Bond

A group known as “Common Sense Coalition for Better Schools”  is hosting a Forum on the District 55 School Bond Referendum this evening at the Laurens County Higher Education Center. Keith Tripp is among those to speak. On the WLBG Morning News Magazine last Thursday morning, Mr. Tripp said that all previous meetings about the referendum, including focus groups and committees, were controlled by the school district. Tripp said they have had full and ample opportunity to lay out their reasons to support passing the referendum. He said tonight’s forum is to provide an opportunity for everyone, those in support as well as those opposed to the referendum, to express themselves. He said folks for and against the referendum are invited.

As for his opinion, Mr. Tripp said $109 million is more than our people can afford. Keith Tripp is chair of the Laurens County Republican Party.

The Forum begins at 7:00 this evening in room 411 of the Laurens County Higher Education Center. It is to conclude by 8:30.

Laurens Restaurant Wins State Honors

Roma Italian Restaurant was honored at this week’s Laurens City Council Meeting, Main Street South Carolina Executive Director Beppie LeGrand presented the restaurant with the 2017 Master Merchant Award. In presenting the award, Ms. LeGrand praised owner Yvan Youseef Roma, saying “It is very difficult to operate a successful local restaurant.”

Laurens Main Street Executive Director Jonathan Irick updated City Council Tuesday night on local main street programs. He said that new business ventures in the downtown have been doing well. These Include Verdin’s II, in the old Dixie-Home building off the square as well as new food trucks that have been working the downtown area. The Verdin’s II location, which offers many plants and flowers for sale, also has tables installed for folks who purchase Cuban food and smoothies from the food trucks.

Jonathan Irick also reported that the new owner of the building which houses the Artist’s Coup is considering using the upstairs for apartments.

Irick also told council that he had received many calls regarding an unsightly billboard off the square. He said several attempts to contact the owner of the sign have not been successful.

Drug Failures Cited

South Carolina Pardon, Probation and Parole yesterday arrested 29-year-old Ashston Michelle Gillespie of 202 Lear Drive, Laurens and charged her with Violation of Probation this month. A warrant alleges that she tested positive for methamphetamine and opiates on April 11th and that she was not in compliance with substance abuse counseling on April 19th; and that she failed to follow advice and instructions of her agent, as evidenced by this.

Ashton Michelle Gillespie was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing into the Violation of Probation charge.

Assault by Auto Alleged

An incident on Clinton City Streets eight days ago is cited with yesterday’s arrest of 19-year-old Rasheed Shykwan Watts of 115 G & S Lane, Clinton. Clinton Department of Public Safety served a warrant charging him with Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature. A warrant states that in Clinton on April 12th the defendant showed extreme indifference to human life by aiming the motor vehicle he was operating at the victim’s motor vehicle, causing her to veer to the left side of the roadway to avoid being struck. This reportedly caused her to fear great bodily harm and/or injury. Rasheed Shykwan Watts was being held overnight in the Laurens County Detention Center, pending a bond hearing today.

Shut the Door Before Backing

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office last evening arrested a man in connection with an incident at his residence this past Tuesday. The Laurens County Sheriff’s office charged 69-year-old Dennis John Raber of 504 Peninsula Drive, Laurens with Domestic Violence 2nd Degree.

A warrant citing an investigation by Deputy Turner states that on April 18th the defendant committed 2nd Degree Domestic Violence by backing a car with a driver’s door open, hitting the victim with the open door and knocking her down. The warrant states that the victim suffered multiple abrasions. Dennis John Raber was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing on the charge.

3rd Degree Domestic Violence

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday arrested 34-year-old Ryan Edward Ericksen of 106 Tarleton Drive, Fountain Inn and charged him with Domestic Violence 3rd Degree for an incident last month in Laurens County. Deputy Crosby states that on March 31st Mr. Ericksen committed 3rd Degree Domestic Violence by slinging and shoving his wife to the ground.  This reportedly caused bruising to her legs and a cut to her left index finger. Ryan Edward Ericksen was being held overnight, pending arraignment today.