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Newton woman arrested in Feb. fatal crash

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- A 23-year-old Newton County woman has been arrested and charged in connection with the February traffic death of a man.

Maria Joann Strickland of 145 Myrtle Grove Lane, was arrested Monday and taken to the Newton County Detention Center on charges of homicide by vehicle, vehicles to drive on right side of road and improper lane usage.

According to Georgia State Patrol spokesman Gordy Wright, Strickland was involved in a fatal crash on Feb. 8 at 10:19 a.m. on Ga. Highway 36, about a tenth of a mile south of East End Road.

" ... (She) was operating a 1999 Buick Century and traveling northbound on Ga. 36 when she crossed the centerline and hit a southbound 1987 Toyota pickup truck head-on," Wright said.

The truck was driven by Covington resident William Travis Watson, 29, who was killed. A woman and a 2-year-old were passengers in the pickup and both were transported to Atlanta hospitals.

The charges are the result of the state patrol's Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team. The team's mission is to provide a means by which fatal crashes can be investigated thoroughly by specially trained investigators who properly document evidence in collisions to be used for successful court prosecution. The team also gathers statistics in order to save lives by avoiding future collisions.

In other crime news, the Covington Police Department and the Covington Fire Department are investigating the theft and arson of a vehicle that was apparently stolen from a residence on Carr Circle.

The CPD was called by the owner of the 1997 Ford Taurus who reported the theft around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday. Almost simultaneously a fire was reported involving an abandoned vehicle at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Cecelia Street. Witnesses said it appeared to be a red, older model Ford Taurus.

Officers said they observed no broken glass, paint chips or damaged parts at the scene of the alleged theft. The woman said she left the vehicle, which she had purchased the day before for $850, parked in her driveway and she had the only set of keys.

The vehicle was a total loss due to the fire. The woman could not furnish police with proof of insurance.

Also, a property owner notified the Newton County Sheriff's Office that when she came to check on her property at the Plum Orchard Apartments, she observed water coming from under the residence and out the front doors.

She said when she opened the door, she discovered that someone had kicked in the rear door, removed drywall from the walls and cut the copper water pipes. The water was still connected to the unit and had been running unabated for an undetermined amount of time, flooding the premises.