Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Vehicles and Equipment Profiled on Website

Oconee County Sheriff's Office Vehicles (2)

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)————————————–Several vehicles and equipment from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office are now featured on a website devoted to showcasing vehicles from every law enforcement agency in the state of South Carolina.

On Friday, July 19th, two photographers from www.scpolicecruisers.com met with deputies from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office at the Clemson-Oconee County Airport to photograph many of the vehicles and equipment that you may see from the Sheriff’s Office on the road, on the water, and in the air.

The Sheriff’s Office invites everyone to visit www.scpolicecruisers .com website and to find the County Index link just under the banner, which is located at the top of the website page. Once you click on that link, you can scroll down to Oconee County and once there, click on the Oconee County name. You will see the vehicles and equipment from the Sheriff’s Office, as well as from the Seneca, Westminster, and Walhalla Police Departments.

“We know that countless hours go into the research, designing, and outfitting of the patrol vehicles that represent the communities they protect,” says Dustin Haynes of scpolicecruisers.com. “It is for this reason that we strive to showcase these vehicles in the best manner possible. By doing so we hope to show the lighter side of law enforcement, and bring positive attention to the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us safe”

The vehicles and equipment from the Sheriff’s Office featured on the webpage include a 2014 Chevrolet Caprice, a 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe K-9 unit, a 2005 Ford Excursion, along with a picture of the Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit, a picture of the K-9 Ayder, and pictures of the Sheriff’s Office Shields.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Announces the Graduation of Deputy John Aguilar

John Aguilar

John Aguilar

John Aguilar in the middle carrying the South Carolina Flag

John Aguilar in the middle carrying the South Carolina Flag

John Aguilar

John Aguilar

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)———————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office has announced the graduation of Deputy John Aguilar, who is the first graduate of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy since Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw took office.

The graduation ceremony took place at the Academy on Friday, July 16th.

“I am proud of Deputy Aguilar for completing necessary requirements at the criminal justice academy in order to begin his law enforcement career here in Oconee County,” says Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw. “John is a Walhalla High School graduate. His desire along with his ability to speak fluent Spanish will serve our department well. John brings some diversity into our agency.”

Aguilar has been assigned to road patrol duty. He is a former graduate of Walhalla High School. He is a former United States Marine and is currently in the Marine Reserves. Aguilar is married and he and his wife are expecting their first child.

Former Sheriff’s Deputy Morris Gillespie Laid to Rest Today

Morris Gillespie

Morris Gillespie

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)——————————–Former Oconee County Sheriff’s Deputy Morris Clyde Gillespie was laid to rest today in a private graveside service in the cemetary of Gap Hill Baptist Church.

Morris, who was 60 years old, died last Wednesday, July 24th. He spent 20 years as a deputy with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.

Morris was born on March 27th, 1953 in Pickens. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, sons Joshua and Tyson, and a sister, Nancy Brown, plus four grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a brother, Fred.

Morris served with honor and distinction during his time with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and he will be greatly missed.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Makes an Arrest in an Earlier Incident in Townville

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)——————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office has made an arrest in an earlier incident late this afternoon in Townville.

According to investigators, dispatchers received a third party call around 5:27pm this afternoon reporting that a man had been stabbed. The call came from a location on Rachel’s Lane. The reported stabbing had occurred at a location on Peartree Lane. Both locations are near the town of Townville.

The caller reported that the wounds did not appear to be life threatening. When investigators arrived on the scene, the man was transported to Oconee Medical Center. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the man and his wife had a verbal argument. That argument led to an altercation, according to investigators, with the man allegedly picking up a coffee cup, throwing it and hitting her in the head. The man then reportedly approached his wife, whereupon she allegedly picked up the knife and stabbed him. Investigators report that the man was stabbed multiple times, but the wounds appeared to be superficial.

When the male was released from the hospital, investigators placed him into custody after determining he was the primary aggressor in the altercation and transported him to the Oconee County Detention Center. 45 year old Gary Wilmarth, Jr. of 2 Peartree Lane in Townville is currently being held on a Temporary Custody Order while investigators seek warrants tomorrow charging Wilmarth with Criminal Domestic Violence.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is continuing their investigation.

Wilmarth, Jr. pled guilty to a charge of Assault and Battery – 3rd Degree in August of 2013 and was sentenced to jail time or a fine.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Helps Promote Safety During Gratifly Event

Sheriff's Badge

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)———————————–Due to the large numbers of people expected at the Gratifly event over the weekend in Oconee County, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office partnered with other law enforcement and emergency and safety agencies through mutual aid agreements to promote safety for citizens of Oconee County and those who would be visiting our county from other areas.

The Sheriff’s Office received mutual aid from the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Salem, Seneca, Westminster, and West Union Police Departments, as well as the South Carolina Highway Patrol for the four days of the event, which began last Thursday and concluded this past Sunday. A command post was set up at the South Union Fire Department. Safety personnel from Oconee County Emergency Services and South Union Fire and Rescue, as well as paramedics from the Oconee Medical Center also participated. Also, Marine One and Ranger One, the water and helicopter units of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, participated in the efforts as well.

According to statistics released from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, there were 137 total vehicle stops, with 193 total tickets and warnings issued, with 160 traffic violations reported. Road checks were posted during the event itself. Deputies also received some noise complaints, especially on Sunday evening. The Sheriff’s Office did receive thanks from the organizers of the event for the security and safety that was provided by law enforcement and other officials during the four days of Gratifly.

“Our command staff put together an effective operations plan for this event,” says Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw. “The event itself was held on privately owned property; therefore we focused our efforts on maintaining traffic safety for the main roads in the area.”

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Makes Drug Arrests Over the Weekend

Justus Emmanuell Hagood

Justus Emmanuell Hagood

Xzavier Bernard Durham

Xzavier Bernard Durham

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)————————————-The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office made drug arrests over the weekend during normal road patrol and enforcement operations.

One arrest occurred during the early morning hours of Sunday, July 28th. According to deputies, a dark in color 2010 Mitsubishi Gallant was traveling north on Highway 11 and was observed by deputies swerving on the road. The driver of the vehicle placed his right turn signal on and then slammed on the brakes, causing the deputy to do likewise. The vehicle did not turn onto Armstrong Road but continued straight on Highway 11. A traffic stop was initiated later on Highway 11 just prior to Richland Road and the intersection of Old Seneca Road.

As the deputy approached the vehicle, he smelled what appeared to be marijuana and as he made contact with the vehicle on the passenger side due to several occupants in the vehicle and the location of the stop, the deputy could still smell what appeared to be marijuana. The deputy ran the drivers information and wrote a warning ticket for improper lane use.

The deputy then went on to explain that there was a smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle and advised the driver that a search was going to be conducted due to probable cause. After giving deputies consent to search the vehicle, the occupants were searched individually and a search of the vehicle commenced. Deputies reportedly seized what appeared to be crack cocaine from the front passenger seat. One occupant in the vehicle, Justus Hagood, then told deputies that he had more drugs in his crotch area. He was then placed under arrest for possession of crack cocaine.

Hagood was then transported to the Oconee County Law Enforcement Center, where upon a search by the detention staff, marijuana and was appeared to be crack cocaine were found in his crotch area.

According to warrants, Hagood, who is 18 years old, was charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. He was booked into the Oconee County Detention Center around 5:28am Sunday morning. His address, according to warrants, is listed as 5 Cotton Street in Greenville, South Carolina.

The charges against Hagood were nolle prossed in July of 2016.

One other individual that was arrested on drug charges was 20 year old Xzavier Bernard Durham of 819 East South First Street in Seneca. According to warrants, Durham was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana. According to those warrants, Durham had 37 grams of marijuana packaged in two separate packages. Durham was also charged with possession of Crack Cocaine. Both those charges stem for an incident on South Highway 11 at South Union Road in Westminster. Durham also was charged with bringing into the Oconee County Detention Center a substance believed to be marijuana. Durham was booked into the Oconee County Detention Center around 5:28am Sunday morning.

Durham pled guilty to one count of Possession of Crack Cocaine and was sentenced to ten days in jail suspended to six days in jail. Durham was also given credit for six days time served.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Makes Recent Drug Arrests

Clayton David Kerns III

Clayton David Kerns III

Jerry Lynn Wooten

Jerry Lynn Wooten

Nathan Charles Alexander

Nathan Charles Alexander

(Walhalla, SC)————————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office has made recent drug arrests during normal road patrol and enforcement operations.

The first arrest occurred during the afternoon of July 11th. According to deputies, a posted traffic check point was being conducted on Mountain Road at the intersection with Clearmont Road. A deputy at the checkpoint heard a vehicle come to a screeching halt on the Plant Road side of Mountain Road and observed a dark colored four door car skidding to a stop and sitting across four lanes of traffic, whereupon a light blue Mustang swerved to avoid hitting the vehicle in the middle of the road. After the driver squealed the tires in putting the vehicle in reverse, the deputy got into a marked Tahoe and activated the blue lights as he went in the direction of the vehicle. After rounding the turn on Mountain Road, the deputy noticed the vehicle backed into a ditch at the Plant Road intersection with the subject still behind the steering wheel.

After the deputy exited his vehicle, he reportedly saw the subject put an unknown substance in his mouth with his left hand and then take a drink of something with his right hand. The subject was removed from his vehicle and was asked by the deputy to spit out what he appeared to have swallowed. The subject reportedly spit out 1 pill, which he told the deputy was Xanax. The subject was then placed into custody and the evidence was retrieved. Upon further investigation, it was determined that the subject, 22 year old Nathan Charles Alexander of 112 Harrys Drive in Westminster, was driving with a suspended license. According to the incident report, Alexander was also charged with reckless driving and driving under suspension more than the first. He was also given a courtesy summons for faulty equipment due to slick tires. A warrant charges Alexander with possession of Xanax, a schedule three substance “without the authority to do so.” The warrant lists the address for Alexander as 480 North Horseshoe Bridge Road in Westminster. Alexander was booked into the Oconee County Detention Center back on July 11th around 3:28pm.

Alexander pled guilty to the traffic violations in July of 2013 and was sentenced to a fine or jail time. In regards to the Possession of a Controlled Substance charge, Alexander pled guilty to other charges in December of 2015.

The second arrests occurred yesterday afternoon, as a deputy was driving down Highway 11 near West Spearman Road and observed a blue Subaru Impreza behind him that was swerving over the yellow lines in the center of the road. The vehicle reportedly turned left on West Spearman Road, whereupon the deputy pulled behind the vehicle and observed the vehicle cross the yellow line twice and get close to the line several more times. A vehicle stop then ensued on West Spearman Road near the intersection with Little Choesteoa Road. The deputy approached the driver side of the vehicle, where he noticed the female driver sweating and shaking. Upon advising her as to the reason for the stop, the female reportedly told the deputy that she was swerving due to looking at the GPS in her lap. Another individual, identified as Clayton David Kerns III, in the passenger side in the vehicle, also appeared to be nervous as well.

The deputy asked the female if there was anything illegal in the vehicle, in which she replied no. The female was then asked to step outside the vehicle, whereupon her vehicle documents and subject ids were checked. After requesting additional assistance, a K-9 unit arrived on the scene. As the deputy was writing a written warning, the K-9 detected possible contraband in the vehicle after walking around the vehicle. Upon advising the female that there the K-9 detected possible contraband in the vehicle, the female reportedly admitted that that was some marijuana in the vehicle in a blue bag in the front seat. The passenger in the vehicle, Kerns, was then asked to step out of the vehicle. One of the deputies retrieved the bag, where reportedly inside one of the deputies found a red plastic container with 4.8 grams of what appeared to be marijuana, plus a plastic bag that contained 1.2 grams of what also was believed to be marijuana. Also found in the bag was a plastic bag containing 2.8 grams of what appeared to be ecstasy, a brown plastic container containing 5 pills which were identified as hydrocodone/lortab and 1 pill identified as oxycodone/Percocet, plus other drug paraphernalia. While checking the contents of the bag, Kerns admitted that the bag contained Ecstasy and Marijuana.

Kerns, 23 years old, of 1206 Radio Circle, Apartment 8, in Ravenswood, West Virginia, was placed under arrest for possession of marijuana, possession of ecstasy, possession of lortab and possession of a schedule II drug. Kerns was booked into the Detention Center around 2:13pm yesterday afternoon.

The charge of Possession of Ecstasy against Kerns was nolle prossed in September of 2014 and all other charges against Kerns appear to have been dropped.

The third arrest occurred around 12:44am this morning, where a deputy on routine patrol observed a green Jeep Cherokee driving west on West-Oak Highway with no rear tail lights. A traffic stop ensued on West-Oak Highway at the intersection of Coneross Point Drive. The deputy spoke to the driver and other passengers in the vehicle and explained the purpose of why the vehicle was stopped. The driver was then asked to step out of the vehicle and due to the nervous actions of the individuals in the vehicle, the deputy asked the driver, a female, for consent to search her vehicle. Upon consent being given and during the course of a conversation between the deputy and the driver, deputies noticed a passenger in the rear driver’s seat perform movements with the appearance that the passenger could be attempting to conceal something. The passenger, identified as Jerry Lynn Wooten, was asked to exit the vehicle, along with the other passengers.

A search of the vehicle began, upon which in the rear driver side passenger seat, a deputy found a pill bottle stuffed between the seat and the floor with name Jerry Wooten on the bottle. Inside the pill bottle, deputies found a baggie containing a white crystal like substance, plus pills which deputies identified as Alprazolam, Clonazepam, and Oxycodone, which the bottle had a prescription for. Wooten did not state that he had a prescription for the Alprazolam and Clonazepam, and told deputies that that the bottle did not belong to him. He later stated that all he had in the bottle was his pills, but he did not know what the white crystal like substance was.

Wooten, 52 years old, of 132 Fern Drive in Westminster, was placed under arrest according to the incident report for possession of meth, and two counts of a possession of a controlled substance. He was transported to the Oconee County Detention Center, where he booked into the detention center around 2:01am this morning. The driver of the vehicle was given a courtesy summons for no tail lights.

Wooten pled guilty in November of 2016 to one count of Possession of a Controlled Substance and one county of Possession of Methamphetamine. Wooten was given a sentence of six months and three years in jail respectively with both suspended to 14 days in jail and time served. Wooten was also given two years probation.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Makes Arrest in Early Week Burglary Case

April Reynolds LIcea

April Reynolds LIcea

Brittany Ann Fulbright

Brittany Ann Fulbright

Steven Ranslow Allison

Steven Ranslow Allison

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)————————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office has made an arrest in an early week burglary in the Westminster area.

According to investigators, deputies responded to 215 Wisteria Drive in response to a call received from a mother who reported that her daughter’s house was being broken into. She states that a white female had left the scene walking up the road. Later, a male subject entered the residence. She reported that the suspects were driving a Chevrolet Blazer and the caller told dispatchers that she went and removed the keys from the ignition so they could not leave and then stated that her father had a shotgun and was watching the front of the residence until deputies arrived. Westminster Police Officers arrived on the scene and set up a perimeter around the house.

When deputies arrived, they went to the door that the compliant stated that the male subject went into. After deputies found the door locked and upon receiving permission from the complainant to make a forced entry into the residence, the deputies did so and made a protective sweep of the residence, whereupon they did not find anyone inside. Deputies report that the male reportedly seen going into the house appeared to have left the residence through a back door as there was glass busted on that door.

Upon coming outside to speak with the complainant, deputies reportedly noticed the suspects had set several items besides the Chevrolet Blazer, including a TV, which the victims stated was damaged upon arriving on the scene. The victims told deputies they had bought the TV a couple of weeks ago and paid $400 for it. Also, several items were found in the Blazer that the victims said belonged to them. An inventory was taken of the vehicle and was towed to the Sheriff’s Office evidence bay.

Investigators reportedly began searching for the female seen leaving the area. Investigators were then notified by Westminster Police that a female matching the description given to them by witnesses was seen entering a home at 9449 Long Creek Highway, which is about a quarter mile from the scene of the reported burglary. When deputies arrived on the scene, they reportedly gave verbal commands for the female to come to the door. After no response, deputies called the homeowner who gave investigators permission to enter the home. At that time, deputies found a blond, white female with tattoos matching the description given by witnesses of the suspect in the reported burglary hiding in a closet in the residence, upon which she identified herself as April Licea. After she was questioned, she was transported back to the scene of the reported burglary, upon which three witnesses identified her as the suspect in the reported burglary. According to investigators, Licea voluntarily returned with deputies to the Oconee County Law Enforcement Center. After being interviewed, investigators placed her under arrest and transported to the Oconee County Detention Center, where a Temporary Custody Order was placed upon here.

34 year old April Reynolds Licea of 9449 Long Creek Highway in Westminster was later charged with Burglary – Second Degree and Grand Larceny. Licea was identified by multiple witnesses and investigators had probable cause to arrest April Licea, according to Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw.

” While the eyewitness identification can serve as probable cause to issue an arrest warrant, it will never be sufficient in and of itself to obtain the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt when a case goes to court, says Sheriff Crenshaw. “An investigation of a case does not end after an arrest is made.”

After the arrest, investigators received a tip stating that the Chevrolet Blazer at the crime scene was stolen. Upon the investigation into the stolen vehicle, investigators interviewed witnesses who told the investigators that reportedly a Steven Allison has stolen the vehicle the night before that was used in the robbery. Investigators then determined that Allison had a daughter with similar physical characteristics to April Licea. Those characteristics include blond hair with a streak of red and similar tattoos on the shoulders. Investigators reportedly at that point had concerns that April Licea was not the female that was involved in the burglary. Licea reportedly pass a lie detector test that was administered the next morning. The investigation continued and new witnesses were interviewed, upon which 22 year old Brittany Ann Fulbright of 412 Amber Drive in Westminster was arrested and charged with two counts: Burglary – Second Degree and Grand Larceny. According to warrants, Fulbright reportedly had “the intent to permanently deprive the owner, take and carry away a flat screen TV, miscellaneous household items, and an OME banjo” and did enter the dwelling of the victim with “the intent to commit a crime therein.”

Steven Ranslow Allison of the same address has also been charged with Burglary – Second Degree and Grand Larceny in the same incident.

“While this is an unfortunate incident, it shows the importance of continuing through with the investigation of any case and continuing to dig and follow leads,” according to Sheriff Crenshaw. “I applaud the efforts of our investigator’s to make sure that the right individuals were arrested and charged in this case and for their hard work in not giving up. We will ask for all charges to be dropped against April Licea when a preliminary hearing is scheduled.”

The charges of Second Degree Burglary and Petit Larceny against Licea were nolle prossed in August of 2013.

Fulbright pled guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in April of 2015 and received a 5 year suspended sentence during probation and was given credit for 4 months time served. The Second Degree Burglary charged was nolle prossed in April of 2015.

The charges of Second Degree Burglary and Grand Larceny against Allison were nolle prossed in October of 2014.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Participates In “A Call To Action”

Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw

Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)————————————The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office last Monday, July 8th participated in an event to help bring awareness to the problem of domestic violence in Oconee County.

The event was entitled “A Call To Action” and was held at the Gateway Oconee Christian Event Center on West North First Street in Seneca. The event was held primarily to bring to the attention of pastors and staff of area churches the issue of domestic violence and the programs and tools that are available to them to help them combat the problem. The event was billed as a “Campaign Strategy Against Domestic Violence in Oconee County.”

Oconee County Sheriff’s Mike Crenshaw spoke at the event, along with Robbin Potrafka from the Gateway Oconee Christian Event Center, Celeste Norris, Director of the Lifetree Café, and Becky Callaham, Executive Director of Safe Harbor. Also, other members of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office were in attendance, as well as several pastors of local area churches and the 10th Circuit Solicitor’s Office was represented as well. Those who attended in the audience had an opportunity to ask questions once the presentation was over. The response from those in attendance was positive, with some of the pastors asking those in attendance to come and speak to their congregations and youth groups.

“The most important thing to remember this morning that is not about Mike Crenshaw,” says the Sheriff. “This is not about the Sheriff of Oconee County. This is about something that God’s hand that I feel like is upon.”

The Sheriff talked about the murder-suicide that occurred in Oconee County on January 5th, 4 days after he took office, to an address that the Sheriff’s Office had never been called to before. That event, according to Sheriff, was the event that led to his meeting with Becky Callham and Celeste Norris and started the process towards many efforts to combat domestic violence. The Sheriff said that domestic violence is a county and community wide issue and that help is needed from the religious, business and civic community in an effort of teamwork to combat the problem.

“The Sheriff’s Office is not going to stop domestic violence,” the Sheriff continued. “We had two murder-suicides last year. The Sheriff’s Office has never been to those locations in regards to domestic violence. Using the analogy of the Titanic, Oconee County has hit the iceberg. Oconee County is sinking, we have already hit the iceberg and unless we do something as a community, it is not going to solve this problem. We can continue to be reactive or we can choose to be proactive or we can choose to be co-active and partner with you to help us to change hearts and to change minds to help victims and defenders as we go forward.”

Domestic violence covers many areas and types, from hitting to throwing objects to threats to sexual abuse to economic deprivation. Domestic violence is a broad spectrum, according to the Sheriff, that one person can use over another to maintain control over that person. The Sheriff went on to say that domestic violence has nothing to do with one’s educational or economic fluency, or age or gender.

“In 2011 and 2012, of all the murders in South Carolina,” says the Sheriff. “14% in 2011 and 16% in 2012, of the victims of all the murders in the state, 14% and 16% of all those victims were involved in some type of intimate relationship, whether it was common law marriage, or boyfriend and girlfriend, which is the largest majority, about 60%, about 25% were married, about 10% were common law, living together in some form or fashion. One out of five murders in South Carolina for the past couple of years has been domestic related. Then we think about aggravated assaults, those cases in which no one was killed, it goes from one out of five to one out of four. Roughly 24 to 25% of those are domestic related.”

“When we talk about Oconee County,” the Sheriff continued, “in the past five years, in the unincorporated areas only (those areas outside the city limits of Seneca, Walhalla, Westminster, Salem, and West Union), we have averaged in excess of 200 cases a year being reported to us. How many cases go unreported? Currently this year we are on track to surpass the 200 mark again. In the first six months of this year, we have 113 that have been reported to the Sheriff’s Office. The level of violence seems to be increasing. It is not that simple assault and battery; we see injuries, we see broken bones, we see broken legs, we see death and that is what is on the increase. That is what is putting Oconee County on the map. In the last twelve months (as of July 8th), three out of the last four murders in Oconee County has been domestic related. According to stats, about every day to day and a half, someone calls us about a domestic related issue. If we factor in those reports those that go underreported, it is happening every day in Oconee County, some days, more than once.”

“Domestic Violence robs people of the safety that they should have in their own homes,” says Celeste Norris. “If you can’t feel safe in your own home, it’s not right. The victims of domestic violence deal with this every day. They are not safe in their own homes.”

According to statistics mentioned by Mrs. Norris on reported cases nationally, one in four women and one in nine men has been a victim of domestic violence. Victims are primarily women, 85% as opposed to 15% of men. Mrs. Norris reported that Oconee County is number five in the nation and number one in the state regarding domestic violence. Also, according to Mrs. Norris, one in five teenagers reports that they have been physically abused by their boyfriend or their girlfriend, which in Oconee County, it is one in three teenagers. Mrs. Norris also challenged the faith community to speak out from the pulpit against the scourge of domestic violence and what the root cause of the problem is.

“You have a voice, you have a pulpit, one, two, maybe three times a week. You can address the moral issue like nobody else can. You have the opportunity and the ability to tell the truth about the root of this problem, which we all know is sin. Educators may not be able to say it, but pastors can. You guys are on the front lines and that is why we asked you here first. And we are counting on you to respond in some way. We would like a response of what you can do, in your church, in your congregation, in your local community, what message will you present to the community, how are you going to call this community to action, because you have the means to do better than anyone else.”

Sheriff Crenshaw also discussed what the Sheriff’s Office has been doing since January to help combat domestic violence.

“In our vision statement, it talks about building partnerships to promote a safer community. That goes hand in hand with what we are wanting to do here today,” according to the Sheriff. “Currently we have undertaken some steps and some things were already in place in regards to domestic violence. We have a dedicated domestic violence investigator and our victim advocates. Beth Blundy is here from the solicitor’s office that helps us with our prosecutions. We support maximum fines for domestic violence; we don’t want it to be a slap on the wrist, and maximum prison sentences. We have protocols in place that if we have some things in place in our case file that is documented, we can forward with victimless prosecutions. It still makes it difficult because it is hard to prosecute without the victim. In early January, we talked about the needs of a domestic violence shelter here in Oconee County. Our victims’ advocates have carried victims to shelters in Greenville and Anderson Counties. We do need a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Oconee County.”

Sheriff Crenshaw also made a plea to pastors to allow deputies and other officials to be allowed to come to visit youth groups and other organizations in churches to share resources with those groups that are available and to help establish guidelines for churches as they deal with individuals who have been involved with domestic violence. The Sheriff also asked pastors to be willing to preach from their pulpits about domestic violence.

“I cannot remember a single victim that I have talked with that hasn’t had some kind of faith,” says Becky Callaham from Safe Harbor. “She had that faith to leave when she came to us; she had that faith when she came to a preacher asking ‘what shall I do?’ She had that faith when she put her feet on the ground and keep going. It is where the faith community can truly come in and change things. That is really why I know that this initiative is starting with this group. Faith communities change lives every single day. There is where it is going to happen and this is where it is going to start.”

Mrs. Callaham went on to say the survivors of domestic violence are her heroes and she said she often remembers the stories and the people. She said she remembers the broken spirits. She went on to say that according to her statistics, two-thirds of domestic violence victims don’t report what happened. She also discussed why opening the Safe Harbor domestic violence shelter is so important in Oconee County, because, according to statistics from Mrs. Callaham in a survey for Safe Harbor, 47% of Oconee County residents know someone who has been victim of domestic violence. Children are also present in 68% of domestic violence situations where law enforcement are called out. 38% of respondents to that study said they knew of a child who lived in a home where domestic violence was occurring. 57% of teenagers know someone who has been verbally, physically, or sexually abused in a dating relationship, for which Safe Harbor does have dating violence prevention program, which is available for schools and youth groups. Those children, according to Mrs. Callaham, are a high risk for juvenile delinquency, drug use, and to be perpetrators and victims of domestic violence themselves. Mrs. Callaham also encouraged those in the faith community to refer victims of domestic violence to domestic violence organizations and to pray for both the victims and perpetrators.

“80 percent of battered women do leave,” according to Mrs. Callaham. “They leave, but guess what happens? The risk of injury increases with separation. So what we are saying is, ‘It makes it worse when you leave.’ The dangers of trying to get out of domestic violence without strong support and adequate protection are real and deadly. Without proper protection, it’s true that the violence will escalate when she leaves.”

At the event, some information was available regarding several domestic related issues, including the warning signs of domestic violence. Some of those signs that one might look for include:

• Invasion into Personal Matters
• Isolation
• Possessive and Jealous
• Need to Control Almost Every Situation
• Treating Others as Inferior and Show Them No Respect

There is not a 100% safe guarantee concerning victims of domestic violence, but officials say there are some things you can do to increase a person’s level of safety. According to some information that was available from Lifetree Café, which was adapted from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, here are some ideas on what you can do if you are still in an abusive relationship:

• Try to hide weapons
• Get to a safe place when arguments start
• Always have your phone with you
• Create a code word to signal friends and family for help
• Leave the driver’s side door on your car unlocked for a quick escape

If you are preparing to leave an abusive relationship, according to the same information from Lifetree Café adapted from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, you may want to consider the following things:

• Get a new cell phone and number
• Set aside money
• Keep important phone numbers with you
• Keep a bag of your things ready
• Have important documents ready
• Contact a local agency that can help you

After leaving an abusive relationship, the following steps are recommended, once again, adapted from the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

• Carry a copy of your protective order with you (if you have one)
• Change your travel habits and where you do your regular shopping
• Talk to a local shelter about services it can provide
• Consider an address confidentiality program
• Change the locks and install stronger doors

Finally, from the same sources as above, here are some tips if your friend is dealing with domestic violence:

• Let your friend know you’re concerned about his or her safety
• Acknowledge that your friend is in a difficult and scary situation
• Be supportive
• Be nonjudgmental
• Encourage your friend to participate in activities with friends and family members
• Help him or her develop a safety plan
• Encourage your friend to contact a local domestic violence agency
• Remember that you cannot rescue him or her

The plan going forward, according to Robbin Protrafka, is to continue these meetings, hopefully with all the area pastors, and then expand to business, civic, and educational leaders in Oconee County. Mr. Protrafka also said that he wanted a program and thinks there is a program for the perpetrators of domestic violence, who in most cases is men. There are programs and counseling services currently available through the Domestic Abuse Counseling program, which is based in Columbia but meets in Seneca, even for those who are not arrested and charged with domestic violence.

Previously during his comments, the Sheriff made mention that the media often publishes information and pictures about domestic violence situations and suspects. One question concerned how church could make use of this information. The Sheriff commented that churches could use this as an opportunity to set up visitations with those individuals as a way to reach out and help and change their hearts. Mrs. Callaham commented additionally that churches must be careful in doing this.

“One of the things that gets very tricky is having the victim and perpetrator in your congregation. It is real important to make sure your congregation holds the perpetrator accountable. You don’t want to victim to feel like you are colluding with the perpetrator. The victim absolutely needs the most help. The victim needs to know that you believe her, you are going to stand with her, and that you will not tolerate this and you cannot be seen as colluding with the perpetrator. Obviously the perpetrator is struggling, no doubt. I have heard numerous stories from victims saying they felt absolutely abandoned by their faith community because their faith community was attempting to try to help both the victim and the perpetrator but it felt like the victim was being abandoned. By the time it gets to be when an arrest is made, it has gone beyond a communication issue.”

For further information on the Gateway Oconee Christian Event Center, visit www.gatewayoconee.com. To find out about all the upcoming events at Life Tree Café, visit www.lifetreecafe.com. If you are the victim of domestic violence and need help, visit the Safe Harbor website at www.safeharborsc.org or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.thehotline.org. Also, victims of domestic abuse are encouraged to call the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office or their local municipal law enforcement department.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Helicopter Program a Vital Part of Law Enforcement for Deputies

Ranger One

Ranger One

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)———————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office has a powerful tool to help fight crime and save lives in Oconee County. Ranger One, the Sheriff’s Office helicopter, as already been put to great use. For its pilot, Dan Suddeth, aviation has been a huge part of his life since he was a child.

“As a kid, I flew model airplanes.” says Suddeth. “Real airplanes, I think I went for my first airplane ride when I was ten or eleven years old. I actually started flying when I was twelve or thirteen years old when I was actually touching the controls and flying with a friend. This was in Greenville, South Carolina where I grew up.”

Suddeth’s mom would take him to the airport, where he would be a “hangar rat,” where he would get paid and get a chance to go flying. He had his private airplane license when he was a teenager, and when he went into the military, he went to Army flight school. At this time, he was already a certified fixed wing pilot, but soon he was assigned to helicopters. Suddeth flew with the Army for a number of years and became an instructor pilot. He also flew with the South Carolina National Guard, and eventually became an employee of IBM as a marketing rep. He retired from IBM after about twenty years and continued to be activated from time to time by the Armed Services, which included at one time a three year stint at the Pentagon. After retiring from the military, he continued to fly, including a helicopter he privately owns now.

“This work that I am doing now with the Sheriff’s Office started with Sheriff Crenshaw asking me to evaluate the program with my past experience,” says Suddeth. “And I agreed to do that.”

“Coming from the military and civilian, you have a standard operating procedure of here’s what we do with this tool. To give the Sheriff something to evaluate, I put together a program,” Suddeth continued. “His question to me was ‘Should he keep the helicopter?’ And my answer was sure. It was not important what I think, but it is important what Sheriff Crenshaw thinks. I first went out and studied the law enforcement aviation world and I found it is very large and very successful and very well documented. I started to take little bits from here and there and assemble a program that I think will work for Oconee County.”

Suddeth went on to say that Greenville County has a full time aviation program with two full time pilots for a department with 400 to 500 deputies. While the numbers in Oconee County may not justify a full time program, Suddeth says that should not diminish the need for a Sheriff’s Office helicopter program.

“You can look at what goes on in law enforcement activity in Greenville County verses Oconee County, it is exactly the same. It is different in numbers, but it is exactly the same. They have the identical problems in Greenville County that we have. They just have more of them more often. We have 24 hour a day problems just like they do. So we need the same tools they need.”

Greenville Counties aviation program runs 24 hours a day; 7 days a week and they have the staff to cover those requirements, as well as SLED, according to Suddeth. That does not mean that Oconee County should deprive themselves of the same tool that other law enforcement agencies have at their disposal, says Suddeth.

“The amount of territory we can cover in a helicopter versus the amount of territory that we can cover on the ground is immeasurable. We can cover hundreds of square miles in a very short period of time. We can find people immediately. If people get lost, they may hide and be difficult to find for the rescuers. We can see them very quickly. How many times do people get lost in Oconee County? Actually quite a few times. So it is a very important tool just for that. We can cover one end of this county to the other in a matter of minutes.”

The Sheriff’s Office has three officers in the tactical flight program, Kevin Cain, Justin Ward, and Josh Sheriff, which are qualified deputies who sit in the left seat and help in the helicopter operations. They are experienced law enforcement officers, according to Suddeth, who train to learn what to look for from the air, which happens at a faster pace. Ranger One has also participated in enforcement, including warrant activities and drug interdictions. This demonstrated to officers on the ground, according to Suddeth, how effective the helicopter program can be.

“One big use of the helicopter is to put one qualified deputy in the air to provide information to deputies on the ground. You can use any scenario that you want. You are trying to capture some person that is running and they run out the back door when the deputies are at the front door. We can see them. We can follow them where you can’t see them on the ground. If there is a trained deputy who is in that helicopter who knows the language, knows who he is talking to on the ground, and tell him where to go and how to find this person, it is a big benefit to that deputy because that deputy has information. The guy on the ground not has that information that makes that capture goes successfully and short. It shortens the time and takes the danger out of it. It gets that person off the street. That makes the county safer.”