Bend In The Branch

The personal opinions of one among many.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday Mutt Shot

This heat is killin' me!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Highways and Byways: Defensive Driving in the South

‘round here, you gotta be prepared. You never know what may cross your path.

That dually driver wasn’t a kamikaze determined to die and kill me in a head-on collision, he was merely trying to dispatch a sunbathing snake this morning.

Scared me for a minute, he did.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Demeaning of an Institution

Man...is a tame or civilized animal; never the less, he requires proper instruction and a fortunate nature, and then of all animals he becomes the most divine and most civilized; but if he be insufficiently or ill-educated he is the most savage of earthly creatures. -Plato

Steeped in historical significance, the halls and walls of Benedict College are falling due to poor financial management and below par graduation rates.

Perhaps the "Success Equals Effort" policy is responsible.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday Mutt Shot

Undercover Operative Exposed

Monday, July 10, 2006

Hate Crimes, or Crimes of Opportunity?

The initial report:

MANNING — Authorities are looking for a second man who allegedly held a 15-year-old girl captive for more than 90 minutes early Monday morning, sexually assaulted her repeatedly and stabbed her numerous times before leaving her for dead in the bathtub of a mobile home at 1121 Quail Trail.

Jeremy Shay Sweat, 24, of 1121 Quail Trail was arrested at 1:50 p.m. Monday and charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and assault and battery with intent to kill.

Authorities are looking for 21-year-old Dustin L. Evans of 7780 Raccoon Road in connection with the incident.

"If anyone has contact with him or knows where he is, we're asking them to call 911 immediately," said Lt. Tommy Burgess of the Clarendon County Sheriff's Office.

Burgess said authorities were able to identify the men from information supplied by the teen.

"She said she was familiar with the home and who lived there," Burgess said. "She also said one of the men told her his name."

According to authorities, the ordeal began around 2:30 a.m. when the teenager said she received a call on her cell phone from three friends who wanted her to meet them at the end of her driveway to "hang out." The teen told deputies as she was waiting for her friends, two men drove up in a silver Mazda and told her they would take her to meet them.

The girl told authorities once they were inside the home one of the men grabbed her and put her in a choke hold. She said as she struggled and screamed, the men told her to shut up or they would kill her. One of the men put a knife to her throat and made a small cut in the lower part of her neck and then both men dragged her down a hallway to a back bedroom, the report said.

While the men held a knife to her throat, the men took turns having sex with the her, she told deputies. Afterward, they told her to take a shower. She told authorities while she was in the shower, the men entered the bathroom, told her to turn around, close her eyes and then started stabbing her. When she couldn't stand the pain any longer, she told deputies she fell into the bathtub and played dead.

As she was lying in the tub, she said she overheard the men saying, "She isn't looking good. Look at all the blood. Let's go to town and get some trash bags and my truck and dump her in the lake."

When the men left, the teen said she fled next door and the homeowner called for help.

Deputies said they found the teenager wrapped in a blanket and sitting on the floor covered in blood.

The teenager was transported to Clarendon Memorial Hospital and treated for numerous lacerations.

According to Burgess, the teen said the knife used in the stabbing looked like a pocket knife.

"This is an ongoing investigation," Burgess said. "There are still some areas we're looking at and we're still collecting evidence."

I reitterate:

Burgess said authorities were able to identify the men from information supplied by the teen.

"She said she was familiar with the home and who lived there," Burgess said. "She also said one of the men told her his name."

According to authorities, the ordeal began around 2:30 a.m. when the teenager said she received a call on her cell phone from three friends who wanted her to meet them at the end of her driveway to "hang out." The teen told deputies as she was waiting for her friends, two men drove up in a silver Mazda and told her they would take her to meet them.


Today's AP report:

Deputies: Assault of 15-year-old Clarendon County girl may be hate crime

KATRINA A. GOGGINS
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Deputies are investigating the kidnapping and sexual assault of a black 15-year-old Clarendon County girl by two white men as a hate crime, Chief Deputy Joe Bradham said Monday.

Dustin L. Evans, 21, and Jeremy Shay Sweat, 24, have also been charged with sexually assaulting another black woman last month and appeared to be targeting the victims because of their race, Bradham said.

"Over the weekend we've had others come to us saying they were approached but did not go with them," Bradham said. "All four of those women were black."

Evans and Sweat have been charged with kidnapping, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and assault and battery with intent to kill in the attack on the 15-year-old girl.

They also will be charged with sexually assaulting a 45-year-old woman on June 20, Bradham said.

At least one of the men appeared to have some involvement with a white supremacist group, Bradham said.

Investigators have obtained letters written by Sweat in which he claims to be linked with the Ku Klux Klan, Bradham said.

A counselor at a behavioral facility in Louisiana, where Sweat received treatment as a teen, also wrote that Sweat talked about involvement with the Klan, the chief deputy said.

Investigators haven't found any information to connect Evans to white supremacist groups, Bradham said.

Evans' wife, Crystal, said her husband is not a racist.

"He has colored friends," Crystal Evans said in a phone interview Monday with The Associated Press.

"We have so many people of all kinds of races that would vouch that Dustin is not racist. Friends of color would come over here to eat the meals I cook. Dustin would go eat meals with them ... go buy them food. I can't see my husband being called a racist," she said.

Both men are known to deputies. Sweat has been involved in other sexual crimes, but none of those were believed to be hate crimes, while Dustin Evans has been reported as a suspect at least 21 times since 2001 in other crimes, including cases involving harassment and threats to individuals, Bradham said.

Crystal Evans said she and her husband knew Sweat only briefly.

"He seemed very weird to me. I told Justin I just don't think this is the type of person that needs to be around our family or around you," she said.

Sweat's last known address has an unpublished phone number.

The 15-year-old victim told deputies two men offered her a ride home on July 3, but instead they took her to a mobile home and repeatedly raped her, authorities said.

The victim said the men then told her to get in the shower and began stabbing her. She fell into the bathtub and played dead, deputies said.

As she was lying in the tub, she said she overheard the men talk about getting trash bags and dumping her body in a lake, deputies said.

When the men left, the girl ran to the home next door to get help, authorities said. The victim has been released from the hospital.

The 45-year-old woman also said the men offered her a ride home, then took her to a home and raped her, authorities said.

South Carolina does not have a state statute for hate crimes, the state attorney general's office said.

A call to the U.S. attorney's office was not immediately returned Monday.

Again, I reitterate:

The 15-year-old victim told deputies two men offered her a ride home on July 3, but instead they took her to a mobile home and repeatedly raped her, authorities said.

I fear a feeding frenzy and pray justice for the only victim that matters.

Irony Personified

"What you say is gonna come back", Cottageville Police Chief Ray Taylor.

Words Cottageville Mayor, Bert Reeves, probably should have heeded.

(Cottageville-AP) July 8, 2006 - Cottageville Police Chief Ray Taylor says he has no quotas on the number of traffic tickets his officers write.

Taylor was responding to a videotape that was recorded two years ago. He can be heard on the tape telling a young officer writing tickets was necessary to pay officers' salaries. Taylor suggested the officer write one ticket per hour.

Taylor was out of country last month when the tape was obtained by the The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston.

The officer on the tape, Jeremy Shomber, no longer works for the department.

WISTV

Monday Mutt Shot

I thought I saw...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Summer Redneck Games

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Walking Miracle

An Update on Camp Ross:

Wesley "Camp" Ross can readily identify with the sacrifices made by those who fought for America's independence during the Revolutionary War.

Some 231 years later, the 21-year-old Marine almost made the supreme sacrifice in Iraq during the second assault on Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004. He was the crew chief of a 26-ton amphibious assault vehicle. It was being refueled in a staging area, and Ross was standing behind it when an explosive device hit the engine. Shrapnel sprayed in every direction. The driver was killed.

Ross suffered massive injuries and would have died had nine hospital corpsmen not been in the staging area. He was kept in a coma for three weeks for the swelling to go down in his head. He was airlifted to a military hospital in Germany and then flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md.

Ross has undergone five different surgeries since 2004. He's got at least two more to go.

"He had shrapnel everywhere," said his father, Clyde Ross, who along with his wife, Renette, have been by his side constantly. "I counted 15 pieces still in his brain and multiple pieces in his back, wrists, arms and feet. He even has some in his lower gum. He's a walking miracle."

President George W. Bush personally pinned the Purple Heart on Ross at Bethesda on Dec. 11, 2004. Ross weighed 130 pounds at the time.

Then in August of 2005, during a follow-up visit at Bethesda, Ross saw the president again.

"I weighed 230 pounds then," Ross said. "President Bush told me, ‘You've put on a lot of weight since the last time I saw you.' So I went on a diet and lost 100 pounds."

Clyde Ross said, "President Bush is a super-nice guy. He's personable. After you've been around him for two seconds, you feel like he's your next-door neighbor. He just puts you at ease and takes all the time in the world with you."

An especially emotional time for Camp Ross was when the members of his Marine battalion returned to Camp Lejeune, N.C., last spring. Ross met them as they stepped off the bus. He was the most severely injured Marine in his company.

"They had no idea I was going to be there," he said. "I got a standing ovation at the company formation the next day. I still say ‘It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the fight in the dog.'"

All of this took on new meaning when Ross got hurt. He had no idea who the people were around him when he woke up. He tried to fight them off because he thought his unit might have been overrun.

"I didn't know any of what went on until they came back and started talking to me," he said. "I got to meet the corpsmen who saved my life. It wasn't just a special day for me, it was a special day for my parents, too."

Ross said a couple of his buddies signed up to go back to Iraq with a different company before going on leave.

"I think it speaks volumes for them," he said. "It says we do make a difference. We wrote history is what I think."

Ross returns to Bethesda for additional cosmetic surgery in August. Later he will have surgery to replace his left eardrum. While it won't help his hearing, he hopes it will help quell the ringing in his ear.

Once the surgeries are completed, he will be separated from the Marines. That could come later this year.

Meanwhile, the Ross family remains indebted to the community.

"We want to thank everyone, the businesses, churches, just everybody," Renette Ross said. "We've been overwhelmed by their support and prayers. God has taken care of us every step along the way."

Florence Morning News

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Birthday, America

Plainly, Simply, Land that I Love

Monday, July 03, 2006

Monday Mutt Shot

Out of Kilter