Chase ends in fatal wreck near Pelion

Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson

(Pelion) February 17, 2006 - A Thursday morning crash sent both vehicles tumbling off Edmund Highway. It started as a robbery in a North Augusta jewelry store and ended in a wreck that claimed the life of a DOT worker.

According the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, the fatal accident at 302 and Old Charleston Road occurred when a suspect being pursued lost control of the vehicle he was driving.

The chain of events started after Stan Johnson Jewelers in North Augusta was robbed at about 10:30am. The suspect apparently asked to see four rings, then he ran out of the store with two of them on his finger. The store owner ran after him, but was not able to catch him before the suspect jumped in a car parked two blocks away.

A citizen saw the robbery suspect jump in a getaway car, a Ford Focus, and reported the suspect's tag number to the Aiken County Sheriff's Office. The blue Ford Focus is reported stolen from Columbia.

The driver of the Focus got on I-20 towards Columbia where ACSO followed him. Aiken officers did not use blue lights while maintaining speeds around 80mph. The suspect took exit 39 towards Pelion. The Pelion Police Department was notified by ACSO authorities. They initiated a chase on Hwy 302 towards Columbia.

During the pursuit, the Ford Focus slammed into the rear of a state DOT Chevy Blazer, killing the SUV's driver. Authorities say the driver of the Focus first veered onto the shoulder to get around a car in front of him, but then crashed into the DOT vehicle. The Highway Patrol says an Aiken County car involved in the pursuit was equipped with a camera and might have video of the crash.

The victim is identified as 53-year-old Michael Wilson of Columbia. Wilson was airlifted to Palmetto Health Richland Hospital, but they were not able to save him. The man in custody who authorities think carried out the robbery has been identified as James C. Cobbert, 21, of Hopkins.

On Friday morning, the South Carolina Highway Patrol charged Cobbert with driving with a suspended driver's license, failing to wear a seat belt, reckless homicide, possessing a stolen vehicle, failing to stop for a blue light and robbery.

Cobbert was being held at the county detention center while awaiting a bond hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

updated 5:10pm by Bryce Mursch