October 31, 2014

Trial begins in killing of Coastal Carolina student

A Conway man’s trial began this week in the shooting death of a Coastal Carolina University student last year.

22-year-old Marquis McDonald is charged with murder and possession of a weapon during a crime in the death of 19-year-old Anthony Liddell of Bennettsville. Liddell was a sophomore majoring in sports medicine when he was shot three times at the University Place residential complex near the Conway campus in February 2013. Warrants issued at the time stated that McDonald admitted being present when Liddell was shot, but claims someone else fired the gun.

A murder count is also pending against another man, 24-year-old Stephon McLain. McLain’s trial is currently scheduled for a later date.

Authorities have not discussed a possible motive for the fatal shooting. McDonald’s attorney argued during a 2013 bond hearing that McLain tried to rob his client but Liddell intervened, leading to McLain shooting him. Prosecutors with the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office refute that story, however, believing that McDonald shot Liddell himself.

McDonald faces 30 years to life on the murder charge and 10-30 years on the weapons possession count, if convicted. Opening arguments began Monday morning.


Report: Clemson student struck by radar dish before falling to death on cruise ship


Kendall Wernet (Facebook)

Kendall Wernet (Facebook)

Clemson students are mourning the death of yet another classmate.

School officials confirmed in a release that 20-year-old Kendall Wernet of Arden, N.C., died in Florida on Monday after what appeared to be an accidental fall from the mast of a cruise ship.

Miami-Dade County Police said the vessel Carnival Ecstasy was returning to the Port of Miami when Wernet climbed its forward mast in a restricted area. The cruise line said Wernet fell the equivalent of two levels on the ship before hitting the deck. He was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Police say there is no evidence of foul play, and all signs point to the death as an accident.

WYFF reported that Wernet had been invited on the cruise because he was considered a high achiever by the company Student Painters. Student Painters owner Steve Acorn said the Clemson student had joined four others on the top of the radar deck to watch the sunrise as the vessel came into Miami. He said Wernet was struck by a radar dish that began to turn while the group was standing on the platform. Acorn stressed that alcohol did not appear to have been involved.

He was also a member of the Young Entrepreneurs Across America and co-founded the youth coaching group The Driven Vision. He was also a member of Clemson’s Symphonic Band.

His death came almost exactly a week after another Clemson student, 19-year-old Tucker Hipps, also died from an apparent fall. Hipps’ body was found beneath two bridges over Lake Hartwell. Investigators in that case said it appeared Hipps fell behind on an early morning run for new members of a fraternity and somehow fell off the bridge after the other runners lost track of him. The Oconee County Coroner’s Office said Hipps had head injuries consistent with a fall.

Spartanburg cross-country coach charged with DUI while driving team

Spartanburg High School (Image: Spartanburg District 7)

Spartanburg High School (Image: Spartanburg District 7)

An assistant cross-country coach at Spartanburg High School has been relieved of her duties after her DUI arrest that occurred while she was driving several athletes to a meet in the Charleston area.

Spartanburg School District 7 said in a statement Monday that Dedra Kiser had been placed on administrative leave while the September 26 incident is investigated. District officials said Kiser was driving seven members of Spartanburg’s girls’ cross-country team to an event when she was pulled over by a state Highway Patrol trooper in North Charleston.

The trooper reported that he stopped the school district’s SUV after a Goose Creek police officer spotted it “swerving” on Interstate 26. The trooper said Kiser smelled of alcohol, but denied drinking. She failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a breathalyzer test, according to the incident report.

She was charged with driving under the influence and with child endangerment.

The athletes were taken to a Charleston station until parents could make the three-hour drive from Spartanburg to pick them up. The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reports that head coach Jack Todd met with parents and the runners that night and they decided to continue with the meet on Saturday.

Nonprofit group attacking obesity at grassroots level

obesityObesity in South Carolina runs the state an estimated $8.5 billion per year in healthcare costs associated with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart illness.

That’s according to data released by the state Department of Health and Environment Control, the South Carolina Obesity Council, and the state Department of Agriculture — which launched the state’s first-ever obesity action plan last week.

One of the nonprofits helping in the effort is Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina. Executive Director Beth Franco says the organization works with communities across the state to develop action plans for educating citizens about proper nutrition and to create safe environments where people can exercise.

“That might be anything from helping communities create community gardens, to working on bike-pedestrian plans, to actually creating walking trails, and also to make sure facilities are safe for our children so that they can go exercise or be out playing,” Franco said.

The action plan includes the website SCaledown.org, which acts as a hub for information concerning nutrition education and ways to live more active lifestyles.

Franco says her organization works with both urban and rural areas to get communities eating healthy and being more active. She said that includes getting local governments involved in the effort.

“A very significant thing that I see is happening in South Carolina is that some of the county and city planners are looking at healthy eating, active living now as part of what their review and action plan is going to be,” she said. “That is a huge thing to be moving in that direction.”

Franco says it is very important to education children at an early age about proper nutrition and being active. Eat Smart, Move More SC works with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in that area, she added. Franco says her group is also working with parent-teacher organizations to help support healthy school food policies and promote healthy areas for exercise and play.

Franco says she is very excited to see that churches in communities across the state are getting involved in the effort. “We’ve had some great success stories with the faith community where they’re not only doing community gardens at their churches, but they’re also having educational series for their members to talk to them about to them about health and nutrition.”

The nonprofit’s leaders say a lot of work is still yet to be done, such as improving the access to affordable healthy food in both isolated rural communities and in areas with large populations living below the poverty line.

USC holds groundbreaking for new law school

Renderings of the new school (Image: USC)

Renderings of the new school (Image: USC)

The University of South Carolina held a groundbreaking Friday morning for the new location of its law school.

The new home is located on the site of a former theatre. Crews have spent the past week tearing down structures on the former Workshop Theatre site to make room. The new site is roughly a mile northeast of the school’s current location, on the edge of campus at the corner of Bull and Gervais streets in downtown Columbia.

School leaders hope to finish work by 2017 — the 150th anniversary of the School of Law.

“Our new state of the art structure will anchor a new legal corridor in South Carolina and project a modern, sophisticated image which matches our great expectations,” USC President Harris Pastides said.

Schoool renderings plan for an $80 million, 187,000 square-foot building that incorporate a historic carriage house in its design.

“From its classical exterior to its flexible interior, we’ve been so mindful of every aspect of the design of this building, ensuring it will continue to shape legal education and serve our state for generations to come,” law school dean Robert Wilcox said.

The current law school building was built in 1971. School officials have previously said the building is “no longer able to facilitate current academic needs,” saying it is too small and ineffective for modern classroom technology.