Entries in South Carolina (20)


Investigation Begins in Carolina Forest Fire that Burned 26 Homes

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(CAROLINA FOREST, S.C.) -- Officials are investigating a Saturday night brush fire that consumed 26 condominium buildings and burned more than 100 homes in Carolina Forest, S.C.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission is handling the investigation after the fire destroyed dozens of buildings. According to the Myrtle Beach Sun-News, weather conditions including wind gusts, low humidity and warm temperatures have created elevated fire danger levels.

The smoke from Saturday night's fire could be seen for miles. According to the Sun-News, firefighters responded to the fire at approximately 5:00 p.m. Saturday, finally getting the flames under control at about 10:30 p.m., as reported by the Sun-News. Four first responders were taken to the hospital, but no residents were injured or killed.

While the cause of the fire is not clear, one witness told the Sun-News that it seemed to begin near a set of power lines.

It is unknown how many people were displaced by the fire. Residents of the buildings that were not burned down were told that they could retrieve imperative belongings, such as medication, on Sunday morning.

A burn ban has been put into effect, prohibiting any open flames indefinitely.

In addition, the South Carolina Forestry Commission says that they have a Red Flag warning out, meaning that the warmth, lack of humidity and winds, the same weather conditions that fed Saturday night's blaze, still exist and citizens should remain cautious.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Man Arrested In Deaths of 2 People Found in Barrels

Anderson County Sheriff''s Department(ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C.) -- Authorities in South Carolina have arrested a man on murder charges after two bodies were found stuffed into barrels and discarded in a lake.

John Michael Young, 35, was taken into custody shortly after midnight Saturday by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office on two counts of murder. On Friday, investigators searched his home, taking away chainsaws and machetes.

The victims were identified as Tony McGinnis, 52, and Andrea Mitchell, 37, who deputies believe were killed in September and October, respectively.

Deputies said Young delivered fatal blows to his victims’ heads while in the woods near his home.

The first body, Mitchell’s, was stuffed into a metal barrel and recovered on Wednesday. Investigators found another metal barrel with McGinnis’ body inside on Thursday.

A second man, Shaine David Fischer, has also been implicated in the case as an accessory after the fact to murder.

It was not known whether either man had an attorney.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hostage Prison Guard Saved by Inmates' Contraband Cell Phones

Kevin Horan/Stone(BISHOPVILLE, S.C.) -- A South Carolina prison guard was released late Thursday night following a tense five-hour standoff, after inmates using contraband cell phones tipped off authorities that the injured officer was being held hostage in a broom closet.

About 120 inmates in one dormitory of the Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in Bishopville, S.C., "overtook an officer" using homemade shanks and other weapons around 5 p.m. EDT, said department of corrections spokesman Clark Newsom.

The guard suffered lacerations on his face and was held hostage for five hours in a closet guarded by inmates, many of them convicted rapists and murderers.

Other inmates inside the prison alerted authorities to the guard's whereabouts by making phone calls from contraband mobile phones, which had previously been smuggled into the prison by throwing them over the perimeter fence, Newsom said.

The state department of corrections directed hostage negotiators and SWAT teams to the prison, where a standoff ensued for nearly five hours.

At 9:34 p.m. a special operations team stormed the prison and found the guard, freeing him within 15 minutes and suppressing the riot.

The guard, who officials have not identified, had "lacerations from homemade shanks but was in pretty good condition and did not seem to be injured seriously," said Newsom. Nevertheless, he was "taken to a local hospital by helicopter as a precaution."

The spokesman said the attack on the guard was a crime of "opportunity" and did not appear to have been planned.

Authorities did a search of the prison and confiscated contraband including cell phones. The prison remains on lockdown.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Probable Myrtle Beach Shark Attack Leaves Four Bitten

Comstock/Thinkstock(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) -- Four people have been bitten by a marine animal or animals in the water off Myrtle Beach, S.C., according to fire rescue officers.

The victims were reportedly bitten Thursday on their feet and calves.  One witness said that a victim was in chest-deep water with his girlfriend when the attack happened.

“There were about five large indentations on his calf.  The blood was pouring down to his ankle and he had five sets of teeth marks,” witness John Gonas told Carolina Live.

Three of the victims were taken by Emergency Medical Services to Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.

Horry County fire officials cannot say whether the bites were caused by a shark, although a lifeguard reportedly said that he was almost certain it was a shark attack.

“Nobody saw them.  Even the guys that got bit didn’t see it,” lifeguard Denny Starr told the Charlotte Observer.  “They’re definitely shark bites.  One guy’s foot was opened up.  The other had a full mouth print around his leg.”

Shark bites are more common near piers, because of bait in the water. These victims, however, were not near a pier.

A 25-year-old man was bitten by a shark on the same beach earlier this month.  He is expected to make a full recovery.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Secret Service Agent Charged in Kidnapping Plot

Anderson County Detention Center(NEW YORK) -- A former U.S. Secret Service agent campaigning to be a sheriff in South Carolina is facing charges for allegedly plotting to kidnap a retired judge.

James Bartee, a 54-year-old running for sheriff in Oconee County, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with solicitation to commit a felony after authorities said he tried to pay someone to abduct former judge James Williams Jr., who is trying to get Bartee removed from the ballot for sheriff.

Bartee was released on $10,000 bond Thursday but will lose his passport as he is considered a flight risk, according to local media reports.  After his bond hearing, Bartee denied the accusations and told reporters that the "truth will come out."

According to audio recordings cited in the arrest warrant, Bartee allegedly plotted for several days with the unidentified potential kidnapper until his arrest.

State authorities said they launched the investigation in response to a request by Oconee County's current sheriff.

Bartee's campaign Facebook page shows that there was an ongoing dispute between the sheriff candidate and Williams, a retired Circuit Court judge who filed a civil suit claiming Bartee was ineligible to run for sheriff because he is not a certified law enforcement officer in South Carolina.  Bartee says his federal certifications as a former Secret Service agent fulfill the requirement.

"James Bartee wants all to know that he is legally on the ballot and deserves to be on the ballot," a post on the campaign Facebook page reads.

According to Bartee's campaign website, he was employed by the Secret Service for 25 years before retiring in 2000 as a Senior Special Agent.  The Secret Service told ABC News Bartee is a former employee, but declined to say how long he served or provide details of his record with the agency.

Most recently, a picture on the campaign website shows Bartee "providing protection and advice" to former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann at a campaign event in South Carolina last August.

In April, the Secret Service was mired in a series of allegations of misconduct against its agents.  Most notably, a scandal erupted around Secret Service agents' meetings with prostitutes during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of President Obama's arrival there for an international summit.

Bartee did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this report. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


South Carolina Woman Sues Bar For Paralyzing Car Accident

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(BLUFFTON, S.C.) -- A South Carolina woman is suing a bar that served her alcohol as a minor the night she had a car accident that left her paralyzed.

Chelsea Hess, 22, is also suing the South Carolina Department of Transportation, the town of Bluffton and Beaufort County for negligence for allegedly not maintaining the road shoulder she drove her car over in her accident.

Hess was 20 years old on Aug. 8, 2009 when she went to Jock's Sports Grill in Beaumont, S.C. for a game of billiards, according to her lawsuit.

She alleged that she ordered an alcoholic drink at the bar and was served without being asked for her identification. The legal drinking age in South Carolina is 21.

Hess accused the bar of several forms of negligence, including failure to "request and examine proof of identification," serving alcohol to minors, and "failing to ascertain whether Plaintiff was impaired by the consumption of alcoholic beverages at the time Plaintiff purchased the alcoholic beverage."

At about 1:05 a.m., Hess left the bar driving her own car and had a serious accident.

As a result, Hess "suffered serious, permanently debilitating injuries causing the plaintiff to be paraplegic." She blames the accident on the bar.

"The accident that resulted in Plaintiff being a paraplegic was due to and proximately caused by the negligence, recklessness, and willfulness and gross negligence of Defendant Jock's Sports Grill," the lawsuit said.

Hess is also suing the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the town of Bluffton and Beaufort County for negligence.

Hess alleges that the Department of Transportation was negligent "in having actual knowledge of the defect in the subject road shoulder and in failing to remedy the defect which was a dangerous situation for the Plaintiff and other similarly situated persons."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Judge Blocks Most of South Carolina's Immigration Enforcement Law

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments next year about the constitutionality of Arizona's immigration enforcement law, proponents of a similar statute set to take effect in South Carolina next month were dealt a blow by a federal judge Thursday.

Judge Richard M. Gergel of Federal District Court in Charleston struck down various provisions of the state's immigration enforcement law, including the section that makes it mandatory for cops to question a suspect's immigration status during the course of a normal arrest.

Gergel also put the brakes on a part of the law making it illegal to harbor or transport an undocumented alien.

Praising the judge's move, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Andre Segura said, "This is one more decision in favor of blocking these laws.  It further highlights that the weight of authority is that these laws are unconstitutional."

Other judges have also blocked virtually the same provisions in Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, and Georgia.  The federal government has argued that it has jurisdiction over immigration laws, trumping state mandates.

The high court's ruling next year on Arizona's law will likely affect the other states with similar rules to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fla. Man Murdered in Ohio in Alleged Craigslist Job Scam, Two Arrested

Giorgio Fochesato/Vetta/Getty Images(CALDWELL, Ohio) -- An apparent job-seeking scam on Craigslist has left one man dead and another man injured. Two men have been arrested in Ohio for the crimes.

The two victims, one from Florida and one from South Carolina, responded to an ad on Craigslist for a job working on an Ohio cattle farm, according to ABC News' Cleveland affiliate WEWS-TV. The men were told to bring all of their belongings, as they would be living on the farm.

The man from South Carolina was shot, but managed to escape and inform authorities. As police investigated the shooting, they found the body of a missing man from Florida in a shallow grave outside Caldwell, Ohio, about 80 miles east Columbus. Authorities believe robbery was the motive.

Authorities took two suspects into custody on Wednesday, but would not release their names. ABC News' Columbus affiliate WSYX identified the men as 16-year-old Brogan Rafferty and 52-year-old Richard Beasley.

Beasley's mother, Carol Beasley, 70, told ABC News that she was shocked when she picked up her newspaper Friday morning and read about the murder. Though the paper did not specifically name her son, it identified a 52-year-old man from Noble County who was arrested Wednesday, just like her son was.

"In my wildest dreams, I just couldn't imagine him harming someone," Beasley said. "I never imagined he would do the things he did."

She knew her son had been arrested Wednesday morning as he walked down the street but believed it was related to failure to appear in court for two previous charges -- aggravated trafficking in drugs and compelling prostitution.

When asked about Brogan Rafferty, Beasley said that she has known him since he was 8 years old, since they go to the same church. Beasley called Brogan a "really nice kid" and said he struggled a bit in school and with his parent's divorce.

"They were friends," Beasley said. "Richard tried to mentor him, get him into history."

Beasley said her son had been struggling financially to make ends meet, working as an unpaid chaplain, and had other problems. She said he had spent time in jail and desperately did not want to go back.

Rafferty is being held at the Muskingum County Juvenile Detention Center, and Beasley is in custody at the Summit County Jail on a $1 million bond.

On Friday, a judge imposed a gag order so that no further information about the case could be released. An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday, but the results have not yet been released.

Craigslist, an online marketplace that hosts ads for a wide variety of sales and services, has been blamed for a number of crimes and deaths, including the 2009 murder of a New York masseuse allegedly killed by a Boston medical student she met through the website, and the 2010 murder of a Tacoma, Wash., man in a home robbery committed by people pretending to be interested in a diamond ring he'd advertised on Craigslist.

Craigslist did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment on Friday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Echoing Penn State Scandal, Citadel 'Should Have' Done More

Louis ReVille, the Citadel former cadet is accused of sexual assault on teenage boys. (ABC)(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- As Penn State University faces questions as to why it did not do more to put a stop to the alleged sexual abuse of children by a member of its staff, the president of a South Carolina military university spoke out Monday about similar allegations made there and admitted that, in its own case, the school could have and should have done more.

"At the time, we took what we thought were the necessary steps," said Lt. Gen. John Rosa, president of The Citadel, according to ABC News' Charleston affiliate WCIV. "Now, we know we didn't."

Speaking at a press conference Monday, Rosa was referring to the school's actions in 2007 after a teenage boy and his family came forward to give a 169-page statement to the school describing inappropriate sexual conduct, they said, by Citadel summer camp counselor and former Citadel cadet Louis "Skip" ReVille in 2002.

"The individual stated they watched pornography on Mr. ReVille's computer," Citadel officials said in a statement over the weekend, referring to the victim's account. "They did not touch each other, but they engaged in sexual activity."

Rosa said that in 2007 ReVille strongly denied the allegations against him and an internal investigation showed there were no other complaints against the counselor, only positive references from other members of the staff. The university was not required to report the incident to police and closed the case.

"We interviewed other camp staff which were very complimentary of ReVille," Rosa said Monday. "When the family did not pursue the matter, we did not either. We should have."

Four years after The Citadel was alerted to ReVille's alleged abuse, ReVille was arrested in late October and charged with multiple accounts of direct sexual molestation of young teenage boys. According to arrest warrants, he had abused several of the boys in just the last year alone. By that time he was working at a Christian preparatory school and reportedly had been heavily involved in youth sports programs.

Citadel officials said that unlike the 2002 incident, ReVille has admitted to at least some of the charges against him in this case.

"Like so many in the Lowcountry, we are sad to say someone so close to us has betrayed our trust," Rosa said.

A call after office hours to ReVille's reported attorney, Craig Jones, was not immediately returned, but Jones told Charleston's The Post and Courier ReVille was deeply sorry for what he's done.

"He is very, very remorseful," Jones said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


State Voter ID Laws Draw National Scrutiny

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice is reviewing, and has the power to reject, a controversial new law passed in South Carolina that requires a registered voter to present a government-issued photo ID before his or her vote is counted.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law in May and she’s not alone.  Four other states have passed similar voter ID laws in 2011, including Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee and Kansas.  But thanks to the DOJ, South Carolina’s law could still be rejected by federal officials.

And while other states have passed voter photo ID laws in the past, the laws passed in 2011 are by far the strictest with the exception of the law passed in 2005 by the state of Indiana.

Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act empowers the DOJ to review election laws passed in select southern states, as well as Alaska and some counties throughout the country.  Crafted in a time of great racial strife, the act was meant to codify the power of the 15th Amendment, which forbids racial discrimination at the polling booth.

South Carolina, which is subject to federal review, is the only state to have petitioned the Obama Justice Department for approval while other states such as Texas opted to clear their law through the D.C. District Court, which is also permitted.

Critics of a stricter photo ID law argue that the requirement will make it tougher for poor and minority voters to cast their ballot while proponents call it a common sense provision.

Voters without the means to produce correct documents or the disabled can verify their identity through an affidavit but many still see the ID requirements as too burdensome.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio