Hannah Raye Newman died last Sunday in Rusty Ritch’s old house. 1121 Oakdale Road, in National Hills.
Danny Dailey and Buzzy Conner used to live right close there, and while they were a bit older than me, they were still very familiar faces in my life for many years.
From 1968 until 1983, Oakdale Road was my home, and National Hills was my neighborhood. You couldn’t find a better middle class neighborhood anywhere in Augusta, for the money, and most of the time, it was an ideal place for families to grow up. And we all knew each other. I could name almost every family with children on Oakdale from the tippy top to the very bottom.
The O’Tysons…the Barnards…the Smiths…the Millers…the Reynolds…the Coopers…the Floyds…the Gibbs…the Reeves…the Pittmans…the Butlers…the Starrs…the mcnairs.
Rusty Ritch was one of my fellow “Y-Indian Guide” braves. If memory serves, we had a few” Y-Indian Guide” meetings at his house in the early 70’s. They were kind of like the Boy Scouts, but with Indian garb and rituals. It was fun for a few years, until we all became too cool for that kind of thing. Or at least we thought we were.
I can’t remember my parents ever having a moment’s hesitation about the safety of our neighborhood, except for a few of the parties Pic Gibbs would throw when his Mom wasn’t home. He was in his early 20’s and the epitome of a pothead hippie. Peace loving and harmless, even if his parties got loud, messy, and out of hand. And boy did they!
I can honestly say I never saw one minute of serious violence while I lived in that house, and one of the universal truths the neighborhood kids all seemed to share was that no matter what else was going on in the city or the world, once you made it to Oakdale Road, you were home, and you were safe.
I have been told these days, all these many years later, it is still a very safe place to live and call home. But even Oakdale Road can become dangerous if you invite the bad guys to come home with you. According to several police reports filed a few days before Hannah Newman died, it is believed she did just that.
At this writing the info is still sketchy, but investigators report that on the night of April 13th Hannah was assaulted by her live-in boyfriend Darin Davis. Among the injuries she suffered was at least one punch to the face. He was arrested on battery charges. The next evening Hannah was downtown with a friend when she got into a brawl with several other women, resulting at the time, to at least one more blow to the head. As she was being driven away she apparently shouted threats to the women, daring them to come to her home to finish the fight, and supplying them with her complete address in the process.
They took the dare.
All hell broke loose when they showed up, and witnesses say at some point in the ensuing melee Hannah was hit in the head with a cast iron water meter cover. When the cops finally arrived to see most of those involved fleeing on foot, Hannah not only refused medical treatment, she refused to name those who had shown up at her defiant invitation.
It was two days later that Hannah’s father discovered he lifeless body on the floor of her bedroom. Noting the condition of her body, and the violent immediate history of the prior few days, Coroner Mark Bowen officially called the death “suspicious” and sent the body to the crime lab for full analysis. He should know almost immediately if violence caused her untimely death, but if drugs or alcohol figured prominently in her demise, it may be several months before that proof is in hand.
Who or what is exactly responsible for her death remains a mystery, but one thing is clear, the two violent episodes at her home, on her own property, were a direct result of Hannah Newman inviting the wrong people to visit.
Hannah had several scrapes with the law in the past, and obviously she was not one to run from confrontation or violence, but few of those close to her could have or would have predicted her death this week at the age of 22.
As I looked at pictures of the home in which she died, I was immediately taken by how peaceful and innocent the house still looks after all this time. It still looks like Rusty’s house to me.
It reminded me of the peaceful scene on Chaps Lane a few weeks ago, moments before a street riot broke out that resulted in the stabbing death of Demajhay Bell. An episode immortalized by videos of the killing, recorded by several of those later charged in the case, that have been seen by hundreds of thousands of people via social and professional media.
These attacks and these bizarre behaviors are not isolated to crime ridden slums, or crowded bars full of drunk, wasted gangbangers. These crimes are coming home to the suburbs, and they are coming at the invitation of those involved.
This week Sheriff Richard Roundtree and DA Ashley Wright are meeting with the media to discuss the sudden surge in these violent situations in the suburbs, perhaps looking for community solutions on how to deal with them. By the time these episodes get the attention of law officers and the court system, too often the coroner’s wagon has come and gone with another load for the autopsy table.
Don’t look to the authorities for solutions to these issues, one need look no further than to the parents, friends, and neighbors who live on streets like Oakdale Road, and Chaps Lane.