News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, June 12, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A homeless man is dead after investigators say he was beaten to death with a floor lamp at a local vacant hotel.
Deputies say Bryant Willerson beat William McClain after they got into a fight and started hitting his head and body with a floor lamp. McClain died at the scene, and Willerson was arrested for murder.
The fight started at the old Regency Inn on Broad Street, which has been closed for more than three years. There are plans to renovate and reopen that hotel soon.
T.R. Reddy is one of the owners of that property. He is president of his own company, Power Control Systems.
News 12 first told him about the murder Tuesday morning.
"We're so sorry to know that. We are trying to not have them there. When we see [squatters], we try to send them to Salvation Army," he said.
He says they don't approve of squatters making the old hotel home, so he and his business partner hired a security guard to keep watch.
"I think in this case, the guard saw them. He tried to break them up. Then he called the police. But the tragedy had already happened. I feel certainly sorry," he said.
Reddy says his ultimate goal is to turn the dilapidated Regency building into a brand new Holiday Inn Express. They are in the last phase of getting approval and waivers from the city.
"When I talked to city officials," Reddy said, "they were excited. Once this project comes, they want to clean up around there. I want to take on this project and clean up that area."
After building begins, Reddy says construction should take about one year. They plan to tear down the smaller building and completely renovate the main one. The hotel will have 118 rooms total.
"I like downtown development area," Reddy said. "And I like green energy things. The last project I did was on Gordon Highway at the Comfort Suites. It was the first green hotel in Augusta. We had geothermal air conditioning, solar panels, special carpeting."
Ownership of the building has changed hands many times since it was first built in 1965. Reddy says he was an investor in the property about 25 years ago and is excited to be involved again in this new venture. He originally bought the vacant hotel for about $500,000 and plans to spend at least $5 million to create the new Holiday Inn Express. Reddy says downtown needs more hotel rooms, especially after construction on the TEE center is complete later this year.