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Media Article # 551
Article submitted by Don Tart
Article prepared and posted by Don Tart

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Return of the Lizard Man?

By Heath Hamacher
The Item

BISHOPVILLE While there has been no official sighting of the Lizard Man in almost 20 years, evidence found by a Lee County couple last week has caused residents and law enforcement officials to wonder if he's back in town.

Bobby and Dixie Rawson, of 990 St. Charles Road, woke up Thursday morning to find the front fender of their 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan chewed up, bite marks through the front grill and both sides of the wheels bitten and the metal crumpled in a wad. There was also blood on the front and sides of the car.

Strewn all over the roadway were Thursday's Item newspaper and towels taken from boxes on the side porch of their home next door to Liberty Hill Baptist Church.

"My son-in-law thinks it was a bear," Dixie Rawson said. "But what I don't understand is whatever it was got the towels out of the boxes where the cats sleep and didn't disturb the boxes."

Rawsons said about 20 cats typically sleep in their barn and by the side of their house. After this incident, about half of the cats are missing and haven't returned.

"I don't know if they were hurt," Dixie Rawson said. "I think they are just terrified."

Keith Gedamke / The Item Puncture marks and scratc
Bobby Rawson said he noticed the damage to the van about 9 a.m. Thursday when he went out to the van to make a trip to the local hardware store.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I had never seen anything like this. It looks like something got after the cats and they went under the van."

Maj. Danny Simon of the Lee County Sheriff's Department said Monday a formal investigation has begun.

"We are sending blood samples (found on the side and hood of the van) to the State Law Enforcement Division," Simon said.

Simon said the department will make every effort to determine what caused the damage to the Rawsons' van, estimated by authorities to total more than $2,000.

"We don't know right now," Simon said. "We think it was possibly a coyote. We've had a rash of complaints recently about dogs and cats being attacked and there have been a lot of coyotes spotted in the area. We don't think it was a domestic animal."

Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin said he also thinks the Rawsons are victims of a coyote.

"Coyotes are larger than dogs and they are really strong," Melvin said. "I think if a coyote is hungry enough, it could do that kind of damage."

Melvin said the animal or creature was apparently after another animal.

"People are calling me and saying, 'Sheriff the Lizard Man is back,'" Melvin said. "I myself don't believe in the Lizard Man but anything is possible. I'm not ruling anything out."

Melvin said he is hopeful SLED will help solve the mystery.

"But if it turns out not to be a coyote, then I'm going to get (former) Sheriff (Liston) Truesdale out of retirement and put him in charge of this investigation."

Truesdale, the sheriff in July 1988 when the Lizard Man of the Scape Ore Swamp in the Browntown community became an international celebrity, visited the Rawsons on Monday morning.

"There are a lot of similarities to this case to the one in Browntown in 1988," Truesdale said. "We never found out what caused the damage to the car in Browntown. They (the Rawsons) slept through it just like the people did in Browntown. And it appears to be one animal after another."

The recent incident does have one striking difference from the 1988 sighting of the Lizard Man.

"We had an eyewitness then who saw something," Truesdale said. "No one here saw anything."

Truesdale said he is glad that Melvin and his investigators are taking the report seriously.

"If you have something out there that is doing this kind of damage, you need to find out what it is," he said.

Dixie Rawson said she is particularly concerned for dogs and cats in the Bishopville area.

"I want folks around here to take care of their animals," she said. She said she wants people to take action if they have pets living outside.

Rawson notified a Columbia TV station on Thursday about the incident, and the word soon got out about the possible return of the Lizard Man, she said

"We never even heard of the Lizard Man before this happened," she said. "But everybody is telling us that this looks like he's back."

On Monday morning, Dixie Rawson talked on air with a radio personality in Virginia Beach, Va.

"And we didn't tell our family back in Syracuse about it and they called this weekend after they saw it on CNN," she said.

Reports of the incident attracted the attention of Janson Cox, executive director of the South Carolina Cotton Museum.

As curator of Charles Towne Landing for 25 years, Cox was responsible for a wildlife animal forest that housed more than 100 animals.

Cox surveyed the evidence at the Rawson home Monday and said everything suggested a strong, canine-like mixed breed animal was the culprit.

"This animal is probably no taller than 20 inches," Cox said. "I think it was something like a pit bull."

Cox said wild animals typically don't hurt themselves.

Cox said he was not ruling out that the animal was an alien, reptile-like creature, however.

"But the Lizard Man has never killed a warm blooded animal," Cox said. "He's a vegetarian."

Cox said he has Lizard Man T-shirts on sale at the South Carolina Cotton Museum and he is ordering a new shipment that should arrive by the end of the week.

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Volume 113, Number 141

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