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HomeNewsMURDER CHARGE: Augusta Felon was Drunk & High During Deadly Police Pursuit

MURDER CHARGE: Augusta Felon was Drunk & High During Deadly Police Pursuit

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An Augusta felon will be charged with murder after failing to stop for a deputy and killing another driver while fleeing a traffic stop Friday night, authorities said.

James L. Thurmond, 31, confessed to drinking and smoking marijuana before driving Friday night, authorities said. A Richmond County deputy tried to pull him over around 7:40 p.m. Friday for failure to maintain lane at East Boundary and East Walker Street.

Instead, Thurmond accelerated and topped speeds of 100 mph in his green Chrysler 300 before hitting some train tracks on Old Savannah Road and losing control near Roselle Street. He went into the wrong lane and struck a vehicle driven by 28-year-old Brian Heath of Aiken. Heath died at the scene, Coroner Mark Bowen said.

The wreck is certain to ignite a debate on police chases since the initial crime was failure to maintain lane, a misdemeanor. In addition, local prosecutors dropped fleeing police charges last year against Thurmond, a convicted who did time in prison for dealing drugs.

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On Friday night, authorities found several opened cans of beer in Thurmond’s car. The suspect was taken to the hospital, and warrants were drawn up to charge him with murder while in the commission of a felony, homicide by vehicle and fleeing police. He was not in the jail at the time of this post.

The victim had just got off work at Kimberly Clark in Beech Island, his sister Bettina Heath said.

“He must have got off work and went to Augusta” to see a girlfriend, Heath said, describing her brother as a loving uncle who looked at the brighter side of life.

The wreck is being investigated by the Georgia State Patrol since it involved a Richmond County deputy.

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Greg Rickabaugh
Greg Rickabaugh
Greg Rickabaugh is an award-winning crime reporter in the Augusta-Aiken area with experience writing for The Augusta Chronicle, The Augusta Press and serving as publisher of The Jail Report. Rickabaugh is a 1994 graduate of the University of South Carolina and has appeared on several crime documentaries on the Investigation Discovery channel.
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