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KCSO finds missing boy safe

Search, stolen truck chase, domestic call part of winter night for KCSO

Posted: January 13, 2011 4:48 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2011 5:00 a.m.

A 13-year-old special needs student at an Elgin private residential school was found safe after a nearly two-hour search Tuesday evening. The boy, who climbed out of his bedroom window at Pine Grove School on Chestnut Road near Elgin around 5 p.m., left without a coat or shoes in freezing temperatures, according to Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews.

“We knew we needed to find this young man very quickly,” said Matthews. “With the temperatures dropping, we knew he could be facing hypothermia. As it turns out, the cold weather actually helped us find him.”

Not only was there snow on the ground, leaving a fresh trail for deputies to follow, but because he was shoeless, the teen’s footprints were distinctive.

According to a Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) report, deputies and a bloodhound unit began searching the “thick wooded area” behind the school. Cpl. Mickey Sellers located a set of footprints in the snow at the foot of the boy’s bedroom window and followed them for more than two miles.

Sellers, along with Deputy Dexter Handy, located the student deep in the wooded brush, the report said.

Matthews confirmed the missing boy does not speak, making it more difficult to locate him.

“But school officials had said he loved chewing gum -- that the possibility of getting some would calm him down,” said Matthews.

He said Handy remembered that and called out to the boy that he had some.

“He came out and they were able to rescue him,” Matthews said.

The boy was brought out of the woods to a waiting ambulance and taken to KershawHealth, accompanied by school staff, for a full evaluation.

Matthews said the KCSO was assisted by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Elgin Police Department and S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

As it turns out, the KCSO needed that help Tuesday night. The search for the missing boy was just one of three major incidents deputies were involved in. It also helped that the calls came in during a shift change at the KCSO. Matthews said that meant twice as many deputies as usual were available to answer calls.

Just before Pine Grove School officials called about the boy, Deputy Lee Young was dispatched to a convenience store at the corner of U.S. 1 and Lachicotte Road in Lugoff.

According to Young’s report, a 33-year-old Camden man parked his car there and went inside to make some purchases. As he exited the store, he saw a man driving his yellow 1998 Ford F-100 truck away and started running after it. He said the suspect -- later identified as 49-year-old Richard Daniel Altman -- left with his truck at a high rate of speed down Lachicotte Road.

Realizing that he’d seen Altman with another man at the store, he walked over to the second man’s Jeep and asked who the man was that stole his truck. He said the driver began to drive away, so he tried to stop him by removing the keys. Unfortunately, the driver of the Jeep was able to get away, forcing the victim to drop the ground, scraping his knee.

According to Young’s report, it was Capt. Ed Corey who spotted the F-100 speeding down Lachicotte Road toward U.S. 601.

“Ed got there first and got nose to nose with him,” said Matthews, referring to Corey’s patrol car. “He tried to get him out of the truck, had his hands on him. The guy tried to drive off and I think the door or a piece of the door hit Ed in the back.”

Corey was taken to the hospital, treated and released, and was back at work Wednesday morning.

Matthews said Altman lost control of the truck and ended up bailing out, fleeing on foot. He said deputies Jacob Hammond and Ty Cobb located Altman in a Dumpster behind a local business.

Matthews said Altman has a long criminal history.

“He’s been arrested for narcotics, burglary, auto theft, grand larceny, stolen goods, assault, aggravated assault, driving under suspension and public disorderly conduct,” said Matthews, adding that Altman has escaped from jail at least once. “This is what gets people so mad. He gets out of jail and steals, gets arrested, gets out and steals again.”

Altman now faces charges of assault and battery with intent to kill and motor vehicle theft. Deputies are still searching for his accomplice.

Just minutes after Young got the call to Lachicotte and U.S. 1, Deputy Justin Scott was called to Cherokee Boulevard in rural Elgin near the Kershaw/Richland county line on a domestic call.

According to Scott’s report, he first spoke with the victim, a 25-year-old woman who said her cousin had punched her in the face. As she was filling out a report, Scott saw a young man walk into the yard. Scott and a DNR officer went over to talk to the man to see if it was the woman’s cousin and asked his name.

“I ain’t going to tell you s---,” the young man replied, according to Scott.

Scott said the young man – an 18-year-old Archive Avenue, Elgin, resident -- was loud and boisterous and would not comply with his orders to calm down. When Scott went to arrest him for breach of peace and pat him down, the suspect allegedly jerked away and tried to flee. Scott and the DNR officer were able wrestle him to the ground. The man continued to resist, but Scott was able to handcuff him.

The man was transported to the Kershaw County Detention Center without further incident by another deputy who discovered the suspect had tried to stuff a bag of 15 grams worth of marijuana in the back seat of his patrol car.

The man was charged with breach of peace and simple possession of marijuana, and held pending a warrant for resisting arrest.

“I am proud of the response of the KCSO and thankful for the willingness of the EPD, DNR and SLED to quickly assist us,” said Matthews.

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