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A trip to SC and a correction

From the editor

POSTED: February 26, 2018 3:30 p.m.
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Jeff Whitten is managing editor of the Bryan County News.

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As I wrote this Friday morning, I felt a good bit under the weather, so excuse in advance whatever silly mess I made of this column.

1. Was up in South Carolina in our ancestral stomping grounds for a couple days this week. Here’s why: My youngest sister Lee was murdered in 1985 and every year my folks and I go up to oppose the parole of James Donald Fossick, the sick (I can’t use the word in a family newspaper) who killed her. My oldest sister would be there, too, but lives far away.

I think that’s probably harder than being there.

Anyway, there were two trials a decade apart, two guilty verdicts, and we’ve been back just about every year for some two decades to explain to the parole board why we don’t want Fossick to get out.

He’s put our family through the wringer, and is still doing it — these trips are getting harder as we all get older, and maybe that has something to with my feeling Friday morning like I got run over by a pickup, I don’t know.

I do know our family will always oppose Fossick’s parole, especially since there was evidence he was a serial killer in the making. That he got caught after the death of my sister may have spared other parent the blow of losing a daughter, and we’re grateful for that.

I also know we are grateful for Johnny Gasser, the Columbia, S.C., attorney who prosecuted the second trial and has long been a source of support. Even though he’s now in private practice and represents some of South Carolina’s biggest fish, Gasser takes time out of his busy schedule to attend the hearings and oppose Fossick’s parole. He does it for other families, too, even though he prosecuted these cases years ago. It’s not something he has to do, but he does it, and I believe Gasser’s presence at these hearings has kept killers in jail.

I also believe blessings come in a lot of different ways. In this case, they’re in the form of a certain sawed-off, combative former prosecutor. So thanks again, Johnny. We appreciate it more than you know.

2. Speaking of attorneys, I know some lawyers I like, some I’m indifferent too and some I don’t like. That’s no big deal, of course. I suspect they say the same about editors and reporters, only with bigger words.

I remember when one former bigshot local lawyer (he’s now deceased, so I’ll leave his name out) told me "reporters are the evilest (blank) people on the planet."

That made me like him. On the flip side, I had a secretary once call me up on a deadline to ask me to "please hold for (another local lawyer)," and then put me on hold and leave me there for a while.

Hubris runs deep sometimes.

3. The company I work for is in the process of finding a leader for this newspaper. It’s a slow process, but we’ve had some good candidates apply. In the meantime, we few here at the Courier carry on as best we can with what we have. I bring that up to say this: Folks like Lisa Sanchez, Elly Mattingly, Jennifer Soares, Pat Watkins and Patty Leon are worth their weight in gold. So are others, but I don’t know all their names.

4. My friend Sara Swida from Keep Liberty Beautiful said as a reader she’s curious what local teachers and students think about school shootings and how to stop them. Should we arm teachers? Ban weapons? What?

We’d love to hear from students, teachers and parents. Feel free to email me your thoughts at

5. One dumb editor: While writing the story on the 24th ID reunion on Tuesday your’s truly (me) confused last names and wrote that Chris Stapleton was Chris Carpenter.

Chris Stapleton is the vice president of the 24th Infantry Division Association and a nice man who served his country well. Chris Carpenter used to pitch for the University of Georgia way back in the day.

I regret the error, and so do my employers. Unfortunately, when you’ve been around newspapers as long as I have, there are so many names rolling around in your head sometimes they can swap themselves around on you before you know it. That happened in this case, bless my heart.

Though that’s my excuse, it’s no excuse.

Thanks for reading.

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