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December 16, 2018 - 12:00 am

POND BODY

Coroner: Body found in South Carolina pond showed no trauma

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A coroner says an autopsy on a body pulled from a pond at a city park found no signs of trauma.

News outlets report Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said in a news release that the cause of death is "pending further studies." He identified the dead person as 29-year-old Jerry Jermaine Hickson of Myrtle Beach.

A passerby called Columbia police Friday after spotting Hickson's body floating face-up in a pond at Finlay Park. Another witness, Hank Harris, told The State the body had ice forming in its hair and beard, as if it had been in the pond for some time.

Columbia police have not said whether they suspect foul play in Hickson's death.

INMATE-RIGHT TO MARIJUANA

SC inmate says religion entitles him to smoke pot in prison

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina inmate is suing the state prisons department, saying the agency violated his religious freedoms by not allowing him to smoke marijuana.

Media outlets report 41-year-old James Rose sued the South Carolina Department of Corrections on Monday.

Rose is serving a life sentence following a 2013 murder conviction. Authorities say he was involved in the execution-style murder of the son of a town council member in Lincolnville.

Rose says the Department of Corrections violates his constitutional rights be refusing to give him marijuana "as part of the Rastafarian religious practice." He also says the agency unlawfully required him to shave his dreadlocks. He says he should be allowed to grow his hair to "unlimited length" as part of his religion.

The prisons agency doesn't comment on ongoing litigation.

BRIDGE REPAIRS

Upstate bridge closes for a month; 20-mile detour posted

(Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com)

EASLEY, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina Department of Transportation says it will close a bridge between Greenville and Pickens for nearly a month for emergency repairs.

Officials say the state Highway 183 bridge over the Saluda River has a pair of 2-foot (61-centimeter) holes in its concrete substructure.

The bridge will be closed starting Jan. 2.

DOT resident construction engineer Joe Laws told The Greenville News the holes are caused by normal wear and tear. The bridge was built in 1954.

Laws says the closure will be an inconvenience. The DOT is setting up a 20-mile (32-kilometer) long detour to the next crossing downstream on Saluda Dam Road.

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SCHOOL TO REOPEN

Landrum High to reopen Monday

(Information from: Herald-Journal, http://www.goupstate.com/)

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina high school will reopen Monday after the roofing system was determined safe and secure.

The Herald-Journal reports Landrum High had closed Friday after it was discovered portions of the building's roof were damaged by a recent snow and ice storm. Spartanburg School District 1 had the entire roof assessed to determine the scope of the damage.

District 1 spokeswoman Sandra Williams, in a statement, said the damage was confined to the band room and repairs will be made. The area will be restricted to staff and students until the repairs are completed.

The school will return to normal operating hours Monday.

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GROWING FOREST

Francis Marion National Forest grows

(Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com)

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (AP) — The Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina has grown by a few hundred acres.

The Post and Courier reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently finalized its long-planned purchase of the 637-acre (257hectares 7847.5) Honey Hill Tract off S.C. Highway 45 for $1.61 million. According to a deed recorded with Berkeley County, the previous owner was the Nature Conservancy, a large land preservation organization that often sells property to the USDA's Forest Service to generate money for future real estate purchases.

The Honey Hill parcel is near Shulerville, a rural community between Jamestown and McClellanville.

The USDA sought public feedback about its plans to purchase the property and incorporate it into the national forest a year ago.

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PITTS RETIRES

Legislator could benefit from last minute change in bill

(Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A retiring legislator appears to be benefiting from a last minute change to a bill concerning the state agency he has been offered a job as director.

Republican Rep. Mike Pitts of Laurens said last weekend he planned to leave the Statehouse to run the state Conservation Bank. The appointment would require state Senate approval.

When the Legislature debated a bill reauthorizing the bank earlier this year, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported it contained a proposal forcing legislators to wait a year before taking over the agency. That proposal was deleted in the final version of the bill.

Pitts told the newspaper he sees no conflict in taking the job even though he was chairman of a budget subcommittee that directly handled funding for the bank.

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