Gray Court Man Killed near Simpsonville

A Gray Court man was killed in a two-vehicle crash near Simpsonville Friday morning. South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Hovis said the wreck occurred at about 6:28 Friday morning on Fairview Road, 4 miles south of Simpsonville. Hovis said it appears the 20-year-old Gray Court man was driving North of Fairview Road when his 1998 Mazda ran off the right, then cross the center line and struck a 2017 Honda being driven by a man from Bakersville, NC. The Bakersville man was transported to Greenville Health System for treatment. The Gray Court man was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Greenville County Coroner’s Office has identified the deceased as 20 year old Craig Maurice Taylor, Jr. of Crawford Road, Gray Court.  The cause of death was determined to be multiple blunt force trauma.  He died at the scene with a time of death 6:25 AM.  He was not wearing a seat belt.

Man Held Following Police Chase

Laurens County Deputies arrested a Gray Court man Friday evening following a car chase. Chief Deputy Jarvis Reeder said that around 6:08 p.m. Friday a Laurens County Deputy attempted to stop a 2007 Silver Pontiac Grand Prix for a traffic offense. Reeder said the driver of that Pontiac fled at a high rate of speed, with the Deputy giving chase. After following the fleeing vehicle for a brief time, other deputies monitoring the chase were able to deploy “drop sticks” in the path of the fleeing Pontiac, disabling the vehicle on Highway 49 near Laurens Academy. As the chase ended, the driver reportedly fled on foot. Chief Deputy Reeder said that deputies captured the man in a nearby field minutes later and placed him under arrest.

Chief Deputy Reeder said that 25-year-old Quienzavius Terrell Rogers was placed under arrest and he will be charged with Speeding, Reckless Driving, Failure to Stop for Lights and Sirens, and Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamines.  Rogers was transported to the Laurens County Detention Center.

Detention Center records this morning indicate that Quienzavius Terrell Rogers of 210 Cow Trail Road, Gray Court was awaiting the serving of warrants this morning in the Laurens County Detention Center.

Local School Closures on Hold

Laurens County School District 55 this Friday evening announced that any decision about school cancellations is on hold, pending more information. The announced said that with the westward shift of Hurricane Irma, Laurens County School District 55, in consultation with Laurens 56 and Greenwood 50, is waiting until later this weekend to decide about school closures next week. Superintendent, Dr. Stephen Peters, said, “My staff and I are closely monitoring the situation and will continue to do so throughout the weekend.” The district did send a call alert to all its constituents advising them of the status and indicating that they would keep them informed as the situation develops. In the event that a decision is made to close schools at any point in the next few days, that information will be sent to all media, given in a call alert to constituents, posted on the district’s social media accounts (Facebook: Laurens District 55; Twitter: @lcsd55), posted to the district’s website (www.laurens55.org), and reported to the South Carolina School Closure website at http://ed.sc.gov/districts-schools/schools/district-and-school-closures/.

It’s Final!

The Laurens County Elections Commission met late this morning as an official canvas of Tuesday’s election results. They rejected four emergency ballots as ineligible but accepted six as being eligible to vote.

When the votes were counted again, with the six additional ballots, the change was an extra four “No” votes and an additional two “Yes” votes.

The Canvas of the District 55 School Bond referendum resulted in an official count of 6,563 “No” votes and 1,963 “Yes” votes.

Of 23,304 registered voters in School District 55, the official count of votes counted was 8,575.

Preparations for Irma – Just In Case

With predictions that Hurricane Irma will turn north and impact the Southeastern United States, South Carolina emergency preparedness personnel are on alert here, in case the storm impacts us.

The Governor held a media briefing yesterday with state emergency response officials to provide an update on the potential impact of Hurricane Irma on South Carolina and announce preparation plans put in place by executive order to reduce the risk of life-threatening situations arising, should the storm directly affect the state. The governor issued an executive order for evacuation of healthcare facilities in coastal counties of the state to start yesterday.

South Carolina DHEC yesterday advised owners and operators of reservoirs across South Carolina to check their dams and take appropriate steps to safely lower the water levels. They advised that through the next several days water levels be lowered in preparation for potential problems caused by heavy rainfall from Hurricane Irma.

City of Clinton personnel are actively monitoring Hurricane Irma as well as participating in state and local emergency management preparations.

Employees are currently making preparations to prepare for a potential threat to citizens such as stocking trucks and ensuring emergency equipment and vehicles are equipped and fueled. City of Clinton Director of Risk Management Robin Entrekin encourages all citizens to begin preparations now, but especially those with special medical needs. “Citizens that have medical conditions/concerns such as prescription medications or home based oxygen generators and similar medical equipment should begin making preparations now for back up sources such as ensuring medications are filled, alternative electrical energy sources are available, as well as having batteries and additional water/food supplies on hand in the event of a power outage.”

Home Break-Ins on Chestnut Ridge & Boyd Roads

Two men have now been charged with two home burglaries west of Laurens Tuesday of this week.  20-year-old Timothy Justin Jones of 55 Grace Lane, Gray Court was arrested the day of the burglaries. After being held overnight, he was served with two 2nd Degree Burglary warrants yesterday.

Deputy Andrew Turner states that on September 5th Mr. Jones entered two dwellings, one on Chestnut Ridge Road and the other on Boyd Road, with intent to commit a crime therein. Cash or surety bonds were set totaling $20,000 on the two charges. Timothy Justin Jones remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

The second suspect was arrested yesterday. 26-year-old Samuel Ryan Cole of 102 Irby Avenue, Laurens was also served with two warrants charging 2nd Degree Burglary. He is also accused of entering the residences on Chestnut Ridge Road and Boyd Road on Tuesday with intent to commit a crime therein. Samuel Ryan Cole was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing today.

2015 Break-Ins, 2016 Theft

Two 1st Degree Burglary warrants were served yesterday on a Greenwood County man for alleged break-ins to storage units on Highway 221 south of Waterloo almost two years ago. In addition, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday also charged 40-year-old Steven Luther Rogers of 101 Leroy Drive, Ninety-Six with Malicious Damage from the same date and with a Grand Larceny from the early 2016.

Investigator Farrah Cook states that on October 29, 2015 Mr. Rogers damaged personal property of another person by cutting locks to gate entrances.  Deputy Cook states that on that same date Rogers entered two storage buildings at the same address in the 16,000 address range of Highway 221 South without consent and with intent to commit a crime therein. He reportedly entered at night. Officer Cook further states that Steven Luther Rogers has a prior record of two or more convictions for burglary or housebreaking or both.

In the Grand Larceny warrant, Deputy L.B. Holmes states that on February 16, 2016 Steven Luther Rogers took a 1999 Ford F-150 pickup and a Honda CR50 dirt bike that were valued at $7,800 with intent to permanently deprive the owner.

Steven Luther Rogers of Ninety-Six was being held in the Laurens County Detention Center overnight, pending arraignment on the charges.

911 Service Sunday

This coming Monday will be another anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 attacks on America. Among events recognizing the 911 anniversary is a special service this Sunday morning at Faith Baptist Church of Laurens. We asked Pastor Bill Cole about the Sunday morning service.

“Well, we’re honoring First Responders. You remember in the 911 attacks in the Trade Center we lost many of those people because as everyone else was coming out they were going in. And these folks work for us. The other day there was a wreck just below the church. They were out in the rain…. pouring rain…with a car wreck. So we want to honor our firefighters, our first responders. I will be preaching a message entitled “What to Do When the Towers Fall,” we’re going to be honoring these first responders. We’ve got some gifts for them. We’re having a nice lunch after church and we would certainly love to have them come and join us. We want to give them a little pat on the back and thank them for their service. That’ll be at 11:00 o’clock on Sunday, September the 10th.”

Faith Baptist Church is at 1607 Greenwood Road in Laurens.

Funding for Clinton Festivals & Concerts

Organizations that attract tourists to Clinton, or provide for them once they’re here, are being invited to apply for funding. The City of Clinton announced that it will open the 2017 Accommodations Tax Grant Program funding cycle this Wednesday September 13th. Organizations that attract or provide for tourists are encouraged to apply to the city for a grant to support their projects.

Revenue generated from the state tax on overnight accommodations within the city limits is returned by the state to the municipality where it was generated. A portion of those funds will be disbursed annually through a competitive grant program to support tourism based projects within the City. For this year, city officials expect to fund up to $40,000 in grants for eligible projects.

Accommodations Tax Grant funds are designed to support services and events that are related to tourism and promote tourism in the community. Examples of eligible events include festivals, concerts, and the development of tourist related facilities. Organizations receiving funding from these grants will be required to use them to cover costs associated with the marketing of their event to persons residing outside our local area.

Applications are available at the M.S. Bailey Municipal Center, 211 North Broad Street, between 8 AM and 5 PM. All applications must be completed in their entirety and received at the M.S. Bailey Municipal Center no later than 5 PM on Monday, September 25th. No late grant application will be accepted. Any late application will be returned to the applicant. Applications will be reviewed by the city’s accommodations tax review committee, with final approval of the grants coming from Clinton City Council.

More information of the process is available from Amanda Addison at (864)200-4501.

Cross Hill Auto Theft

An auto theft in the Cross Hill area Wednesday was alleged with an arrest yesterday. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office booked 59-year-old Wanda Elaine Madry with an address in Eastern North Carolina outside of Grifton. A warrant charging her with Grand Larceny gave her address as 168 South Lake Forest Drive, Cross Hill. It states that an investigation by Deputy Boyd indicate that on September 6th Ms. Madry took a 2015 Nissan Versa with intent to permanently deprive its owner. The warrant states the vehicle is valued at $9,000. Wanda Elaine Madry was being held overnight, awaiting a bond hearing today.

Teen Temper??

A female teen was charged yesterday with Disturbing School. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office booked 19-year-old Ambriell Breyona Hill  with a Winetta Street address. A warrant indicated she lives on Laurens Terrace Drive. In the Warrant, Deputy Walter Summers Jr. stated that Ms. Hill yesterday disturbed the students and teachers by screaming and using profanity while flipping over a table, kicking a chair and trash can over, while students were present. She was also allegedly observed punching wall lockers. Ms. Hill was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing.

Pitts Speaks Out on Election Concerns

Representative Mike Pitts is reportedly going to ask the South Carolina Attorney General to investigate allegations that District 55 administration threatened staff and vendors during the just-completed school bond referendum. On Channel 7 news last evening, the Laurens County Republican representative said he received calls from two businesses that said they were told they would lose District 55 business if they did not quit promoting a no vote in the referendum. Pitts also reportedly said employees of the district have also indicated they received pressure about the matter. The Channel 7 story reports that Representative Pitts is to present the matter to the state attorney general this Friday.

The Upstate TV station also reported that SLED is investigating the Kids 1st – Laurens Future organization’s giving away free fish sandwiches to voters Tuesday. Volunteers reportedly passed out coupons outside one or more voting precincts offering the free fish sandwich. Last night’s news report showed a volunteer in the Yes campaign explaining that the fish sandwiches were offered to voters, regardless of how they voted.

Cocaine & Loaded Pistol

A loaded handgun and a small amount of cocaine, reportedly found during a traffic stop on Laurens’ Hillcrest Drive Tuesday night, were cited in warrants served by Laurens City Police yesterday. 22-year-old Rodriquez Cartez Lyons of 27 Smoke Bush, Laurens was charged with Unlawful Carrying of a Pistol and Possession of Cocaine.

Warrants citing an investigation of Officer Lindsey state that on September 5th Mr. Lyons had in his immediate possession a loaded, black 9 mm Taurus pistol, which was reportedly located under the driver’s seat. The firearm allegedly had 11 rounds of ammunition in the magazine as well as one ground that was chambered. This was reportedly discovered Tuesday evening during a traffic stop on Hillcrest Drive.

A second warrant states that during a lawful search with the arrest the defendant was found to be in possession of less than one gram of cocaine during the lawful traffic stop. This was reportedly witnessed by Officer Lindsey and Sgt. Sellers.

With a $20,000 bond set on the Cocaine charge and a $10,000 bond on the Unlawful Carry warrant, Rodriquez Cartez Lyons remained in the Laurens County Detention Center this morning.

Also arrested Tuesday night was 25-year-old Keandra Mashay Grant, also of 27 Smoke Bush, Laurens. She was presented tickets yesterday from Officer Lindsey charging her with a Broken Seal violation and with Loitering to Engage in Drug Activity on Hillcrest Drive at 9:37 Tuesday night. Keandra M. Grant was released yesterday on personal recognizance bonds totaling $757.

Possession with Intent to Distribute

 

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday served drug charges on a man for alleged illegal possession on Tuesday. 45-year-old Eric Wilson Putman of 193 Troy Built Drive, Fountain Inn had been held, pending warrants. Yesterday he was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute and with Driving under Suspension.

Mr. Putman is accused of knowingly and willfully being in possession of approximately 3 grams of methamphetamine in three separate packages on Tuesday, with intent to distribute the drug.

He’s also accused of operating a motor vehicle on Knighten Chappell Road Tuesday while his license to drive was under suspension.

Eric Wilson Putman was being held a second overnight, awaiting a bond hearing on the charges today.

Big Day for Local Airport Sept. 17th

Another busy day is coming up in ten days at the Laurens County Airport.

The local facility had a busy day last month due to a large number of people flying in to Laurens County to view the eclipse of the sun – a once-in-a-lifetime event for our area. The big day for the airport this month is due to something that happens every year.

 

 

The Laurens County Airport is hosting the South Carolina Breakfast Club Fly-In on Sunday, September 17th. This breakfast club for airplane enthusiasts around the Palmetto state was founded in 1938 and except for a couple of years during WWII it has met continuously, weather permitting. They meet every two weeks at a host airport, which usually includes Laurens County at least once a year.

 

The SC Breakfast Club is an informal organization where pilots and aviation enthusiast gather for breakfast and catch-up on aviation news.  Laurens County Airport Commission Chair Sammy Wham said the event is open to the public and is not limited to pilots and aircraft owners.  Last year, there were 55 aircraft visiting the airport from all over South Carolina. Some were very unique.

 

Wham said that aircraft will begin arriving around 8:30 – 9:00 AM and will depart the airport by noon.  A hearty breakfast is provided at $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for youth/students. The meal is provided by Boy Scout Troop and Pack 339 from Laurens, and is a fundraiser for the troop.

 

 

 

More information on the South Carolina Breakfast Club is available on their website at www.flyscbc.com. That site also had videos of recent fly-ins at various airports, including the Laurens County airport in previous years.

Arrest Alleges August Assault

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office charged a man yesterday with an alleged assault late last month. 42-year-old Casey Leonard Pete Wilbanks, with addresses noted on Frances Street and Bar B Villa Road, Clinton, was charged with Domestic Violence 3rd Degree. A warrant states that information and belief from an investigation by Deputy Boyd indicates that on August 28th Mr. Wilbanks committed 3rd degree domestic violence by striking the victim in her stomach with his fist and by throwing an object, striking her finger and causing a laceration. This reportedly caused her imminent peril. The warrant further states he and the victim have children in common. Casey Leonard Pete Wilbanks was being held overnight, pending a bond hearing today.

24th Laurens County Traffic Fatality of 2017

A second person has died from injuries in a two-car crash in Gray Court last month. Laurens County Chief Deputy Coroner Vicky Cheek announced this morning that 22-year-old Aley Goodwin of 112 Carriage Farms Court, Gray Court died at 12:07 Tuesday afternoon. Ms. Goodwin had been hospitalized at Greenville Memorial since her car was reportedly struck head-on by another car that had crossed the center line of Highway 14 in Gray Court, near Gray Court – Owings School. She and a passenger of her car were transported for treatment following the two-car crash.

The driver and only occupant of the other car was pronounced dead at the time of the crash the night of August 22nd.  46-year-old Ann Marie Reece of 1621 Little Africa Road, Chesnee died from multiple blunt force traumas that night at 11:43 pm.

School Bond Opponents Pleased

The $109 Million Bond Referendum for School District 55 failed yesterday, with 77% of the votes cast being “No.”The Unofficial final results were 1,961 yes votes and 6,559 no votes of the 8,569 votes cast. Only three precincts voted in favor of the referendum, Laurens 1, 2 & 4.

Keith Tripp from the Common Sense Coalition for Better Schools was very happy with the results last night. “I think tonight, common sense reigns in Laurens District 55.”

We asked Keith Tripp what he believes lead to such a big no vote. “I really do, seriously, believe it is the difference in an elitist mindset as opposed to common sense thinking. The videos that we did and our advertisements, they were common senses things that everybody could understand and not all of these, you know, ‘maybe, yes, great plans’ and different things of that nature.”

Keith Tripp last night suggested that the School Board delay any other plans for a while. “They don’t even need to think about that for at least a year.”

Another outspoken opponent of the referendum was former Laurens County Councilman Jay Weisner. He suggested that District 55 could have good improvements funding for far less that was on the ballot yesterday. We asked what type improvements he would support.

“They talk about not having good science classrooms and they talk about not having room for the math teachers. I think that you could go to the four middle schools and, for a million dollars at each school, you could build eight classrooms. You could get the science teachers to tell us what they’d like to have in their classrooms……and we could accomplish that. I also think you could build another building at the high school for the 9th grade and that would alleviate the overcrowding…..There’s a lot of things we can do for $20 million.”

A Call for Compromise on Common Ground

Following the sound defeat of the $109 million school bond in yesterday’s referendum, District 55 Superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters last night said that all segments of the community have a civic duty that has been ignored too long, standing rigid in idealism and reluctant to compromise. Peters said it’s imperative that the community find common ground and work together to make “Laurens County a place we can all be proud to call home.”

 

Here is the complete text of Dr. Peter’s statement:

 

Several months ago, we embarked on a journey to bring a brighter future to the children of Laurens County School District 55. We never imagined it would be as divisive an issue as it became. While we are very disappointed with the outcome of today’s referendum, there is a greater concern. We feel compelled to call on all the leaders of our communities to come together to find ways to heal the wounds of division that have become so evident.

 

Black, white, Hispanic, or other; Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, or Independent; we all have a civic duty that has been ignored for too long. Too many stand rigid in their idealism and reluctant to compromise in fear of losing their own relevance. Our founding fathers created this nation through civil discourse and a desire to find common ground for the greater good. A pattern that, until recent decades, has held our nation in good stead and helped build opportunity for the people this nation served.

 

Now, it is imperative that we, once again, find that common ground and build a brighter bridge to the future. In the weeks ahead, we will be calling on our communities to become true partners in the future of LCSD 55. It is a future that must include greater support, greater access, and greater opportunities for all the children we serve. It is a future that cannot be created in isolation. We must seek to join the greater world around us, to advance our communities into the heart of the 21st century, and to make Laurens County a place we can all be proud to call home. Our public education system is about much more than personal achievement; it is about preparing people to work together to advance, not just themselves but society, as a whole.

 

As we move forward, we are committed to full community inclusion in our efforts. But, that inclusion requires civility, constructive dialogue, and a common belief in our ability to find righteous compromise as a product of our work. We can be better; we must be better.

 

Finally, we want to thank the many people who provided both direct and indirect support throughout this experience. The names are too many to mention and their contributions too lengthy to list. We say to each of you collectively, God bless you and may God bless Laurens County School District 55 and all the communities we serve.

Arrest Alleges Teapot Street Crime Spree

Multiple break-ins and thefts on a Waterloo street a year and a half ago were alleged with a Laurens County Sheriff’s Office arrest yesterday. 46-year-old Michael Eugene Smith Jr. of 1027 Sawyer Farm Road, Honea Path was charged with four counts of Burglary 2nd Degree, two counts of Grand Larceny and served with one warrant alleging Petit Larceny.

Sheriff’s Investigator Farrah Cook states that on or about March 26th of 2016 Mr. Smith entered a dwelling at an address on Teapot Drive, Waterloo and took items valued at approximately $9,000 from it. Then, on or about March 29th of that year, Officer Cook alleges that Mr. Smith entered another address on Teapot Drive, Waterloo and took away items valued at $1,050 from it. He also allegedly entered a storage building at that address the same day without consent and with intent to commit a crime. This warrant notes he had prior convictions of Burglary.

Investigator Cook states that also on March 29th 2016 Smith entered a dwelling at a third address on Teapot Drive, Waterloo without consent and with intent to commit a crime therein. There, he reportedly took away household items valued at $2,309.

Michael Eugene Smith Jr. was being held overnight, pending arraignment on the seven charges.