Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EST
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN-NATIONAL PARKS-THE LATEST
The Latest: Reopened national park allows seals viewing
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Tourists unable to visit a popular beach in Northern California that was taken over by a colony of nursing elephant seals during the government shutdown will be able to get an up-close view of the creatures.
The Press Democrat reports Point Reyes National Seashore rangers and volunteer docents will lead small groups of visitors starting this weekend to the edge of a parking lot son they can safely see the elephant seals and their newborn pups.
About 60 adult seals that gave birth to 35 pups took over Drakes Beach during the 35-day government shutdown, leading park officials to close access to the beach.
Point Reyes Superintendent Cicely Muldoon says it will be an opportunity for visitors to witness the recovery of a once-threatened species from yards away.
ELECTION 2018-NORTH CAROLINA
Election board to examine North Carolina Congress race named
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A new North Carolina elections board expected to attempt to resolve the nation’s last unsettled congressional race is now in place.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper appointed the reconstituted board’s five members Thursday. Three are Democrats and two are Republicans.
A board news release says the panel is expected to meet in February to consider evidence in the 9th Congressional District election. The previous board refused to certify the November results because of alleged absentee ballot irregularities.
Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. The new board could declare a winner or order a new election.
The new board includes three former state board members, two of whom served on the most recent board. That nine-member panel was terminated in late December because judges ruled it was unconstitutional.
DISASTER DECLARATION-NORTH CAROLINA
Trump issues disaster declaration for North Carolina
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration for North Carolina to provide for federal assistance to areas impacted by Tropical Storm Michael last fall.
The declaration was announced in a news release issued Thursday and covers 21 counties statewide. It provides federal funding for state and local government and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged Oct. 10 to 12 by the tropical storm.
Counties affected by the declaration are Alamance, Brunswick, Caswell, Chatham, Dare, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Granville, Hyde, Iredell, McDowell, Montgomery, Orange, Person, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Vance and Yadkin.
Hurricane Michael slammed into Florida’s Panhandle with 155 mph (250 kph) winds on Oct. 10 and also blew through Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.
North Carolina authorities search for missing newborn, mom
LAURINBURG, N.C. (AP) – Authorities in North Carolina are searching for a missing newborn who is not believed to be in the care of her mother.
News outlets cite a Thursday night release from the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office that says the missing baby’s mother is known as April Morrison, but that may be an alias. Deputies say Morrison may be deceased, or she may have been removed from the area “under fear or coercion.”
Authorities are searching across Scotland, Richmond and Cumberland counties, where Morrison is believed to have stayed in local motels and hotels.
Deputies say the case isn’t eligible for an Amber Alert because they haven’t confirmed the child’s name. The baby is believed to be between two and three weeks old.
Judge rejects request to delay removal of Confederate statue
(Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina judge has rejected an emergency plea to delay removal of a Confederate statue.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports the United Daughters of the Confederacy made the request Thursday to halt removal of the statue from downtown Winston-Salem. The UDC had until Thursday to have the Confederate statue moved or face city action to remove it.
City Manager Lee Garrity, relaying information from city attorney Angela Carmon, said a Forsyth County judge turned down the UDC’s effort to halt the city’s effort to have the statue removed.
In a letter Wednesday to the lawyer for the UDC, Carmon said the presence of the statue in its current location jeopardizes its preservation and is harmful to public safety. The statue has been vandalized twice in less than 18 months.
CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS-NORTH CAROLINA
N Carolina university head leaves after Confederacy tiff
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The head of the country’s oldest public university is saying goodbye to the North Carolina campus she’s leaving after a tiff over a Confederate monument.
Carol Folt spent Thursday comparing herself to college seniors looking beyond graduation to life’s new chapter. She joked during her last trustees meeting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that she feels like she’s graduating early.
Folt planned to leave in May, but the state university governing board forced her out early because she unilaterally ordered the removal of the stone base that formerly featured the statue of a Confederate soldier. The metal soldier was torn down last summer by protesters who said the monument was a racist symbol.
News outlets report Folt said Thursday she’s “at peace” with her decision.
MOBILE HOME FIRE-BODIES
Deputies launch 2nd homicide investigation following fire
LEXINGTON, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina’s sheriff’s office is investigating a second mobile home fire which revealed a homicide.
News outlets report the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office says two bodies were discovered inside a burned-out mobile home on Dec. 27, adding the victims had been shot and killed and their bodies doused in an accelerant to hide the crime.
Investigators said 46-year-old George “Billy” William Jones Jr. was shot multiple times, and 51-year-old Kimberly Wilson Jones was shot at least one in the head.
The sheriff’s office said deputies investigated a mobile home fire in Wallburg on Oct. 27. Firefighters found 56-year-old Dennis James Vernon dead inside the home. Two men were arrested for first-degree murder after an autopsy revealed Vernon didn’t die in the fire. The suspects are also charged with arson.
FLU DEATHS-NORTH CAROLINA
4 new flu deaths reported by North Carolina health officials
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina health officials say four people died from the flu last week, raising the state’s death toll for the season to 29.
The N.C. Division of Public Health reported Thursday that of the total number of deaths, 20 were age 65 and older. That total also includes two people who died in previous weeks but whose deaths were not initially linked to the flu.
For the same time period in the 2017-18 flu season, there were 130 deaths.
Flu season officially began last Oct. 1, and it typically runs through March 31.