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September 26, 2018
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September 26, 2018
AP-NC Newswatch





Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT


Former North Carolina legislative leader Colton dies at 95
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A woman who broke barriers serving in the North Carolina legislature by ascending to a top leadership position has died.
Former state Rep. Marie Colton died Tuesday at an Asheville retirement community at age 95. Liz Colton said her mother died after a period of declining health.
Colton was a Democrat elected to the House in 1978 and served there 16 years. In 1991, she became the first woman elected speaker pro tempore – the chamber’s No. 2-ranked official.
Colton worked as a translator during World War II for the Army Signal Corps. She had been a board member for Common Cause and appointee to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Colton’s husband of 68 years died in 2011.



Official: Police chief’s rental units held drugs, firearms
LUMBERTON, N.C. (AP) – An investigation found that a police chief in North Carolina had rental units holding images of nude women, narcotics and firearms.
A Robeson County District Attorney’s Office release says Red Springs Police Chief Ronnie Patterson’s units were auctioned off for nonpayment and found to also have a file detailing a sexual harassment allegation against him. Citing the release, news outlets report crime scene photos, investigative files and ammunition also were in the unit.
An investigation into missing personnel files requested by former Mayor John McNeill uncovered the units. McNeill’s request followed portions of Patterson’s personnel files surfacing during his county sheriff campaign.
Patterson and town manager Davis Ashburn were arrested on charges including unlawful removal of public records. They are set to appear in court Monday. It’s unclear if they have lawyers.



Former hospital chain to pay $260M to settle charges, claims
WASHINGTON (AP) – A former Florida-based hospital chain will pay more than $260 million to resolve allegations of false billing and kickbacks.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Tuesday Health Management Associates was accused of knowingly billing government health care programs for inpatient services that should have been billed as outpatient or observation services. The chain was also accused of paying physicians in return for referrals.
The settlement also resolves claims that an HMA facility in Mississippi leased space to a local physician, but required the physician to pay rent for only half of the space for patient referrals.
Also, an HMA subsidiary agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud for instituting a plan to improperly increase overall emergency department inpatient admissions at its hospitals.



Florence is nation’s second wettest storm, behind Harvey
WASHINGTON (AP) – A top rainfall meteorologist calculates that Hurricane Florence is the nation’s second rainiest storm in 70 years.
Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and North Carolina State University, finds that only last year’s Hurricane Harvey rained more over a 14,000 square mile area than Florence during a four-day period.
Scientists say climate change likely boosted rainfall totals for both storms.
Kunkel’s preliminary analysis found more than 17.5 inches (0.4 meters) fell on average over five weather stations stretching from Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Florence, South Carolina. That amount is second to Harvey’s 25.6 inches (0.6 meters).
The third rainiest storm was in March 2016 in northern Louisiana.
When Kunkel looked at a larger area – 20,000 square miles – Florence fell to seventh biggest rain storm.



Police: Woman hid mother’s body, wanted to see it decompose
ENFIELD, N.C. (AP) – Police have accused a North Carolina woman of keeping her mother’s body at home for months, saying she wanted to see the stages of death.
Enfield Police Chief Tyree Davis said on his Facebook page Tuesday that 69-year-old Donna Sue Hudgins told a funeral home that 93-year-old Nellie May Hudgins had died but she didn’t know where emergency responders had taken her mother’s body. Funeral home workers couldn’t find the body, either, but they alerted police who went to the home and found the woman’s decomposing body.
Investigators said Nellie May Hudgins’ body had been in the home for several months before Donna Hudgins told relatives she had died.
Donna Hudgins is jailed on $5,000 bond on a charge of felony concealment of a death. It’s not known if she has an attorney.



Florence flooding slowly envelops South Carolina homes
GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) – Conway firefighters say the city hasn’t seen many rescues or problems with the unprecedented flooding in the South Carolina city.
Conway Fire Chief Le Hendrick in part credits how accurately predicted the flooding was. Firefighters went around last week with a map warning people they were going to flood even though they never had before.
Hendrick said on Tuesday firefighters checked and those areas were flooded.
The Waccamaw River in Conway was expected to crest on Wednesday at 21.7 feet (6.6 meters). It surpassed the previous record high of 17.9 feet (5.5 meters) set in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew on Friday.
The waterway is not expected to drop below 18 feet or so until sometime next week. The river floods at 11 feet (3.4 meters).



The Latest: Big changes for small fish for fishermen
Big changes are in store for herring fishermen in New England.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a recent assessment shows the small fish used as bait by lobster and tuna fishermen is in decline.
The New England Fishery Management Council adopted a new formula Tuesday that ties catch limits to assessments of the overall herring population in future years. The council wants to further reduce catch limits to prevent overfishing. But there were no projections available Tuesday.
Herring is a vitally important part of the marine ecosystem, serving as food for whales, seals and large fish.



4th Circuit halts pipeline work in national forest land
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – A federal appeals court has halted work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through stretches of national forest land.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday granted a request from environmental groups to stay National Forest Service decisions allowing construction on about 20 miles of the 600-mile route.
Environmental groups requested the stay while a challenge to the forest service approvals is pending. The court is scheduled to hear arguments Friday.
Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby says the forest service conducted a thorough review and the court’s ruling won’t have a “significant impact” on the construction schedule.
Attorney DJ Gerken with the Southern Environmental Law Center says the stay means federal officials should halt work on the entirety of the pipeline. The center asked regulators for a stop-work order Tuesday.



AP-WF-09-26-18 1021GMT