Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EDT
TROPICAL WEATHER-THE LATEST
The Latest: Town residents sue railroad over gap in levee
GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) – Residents of a flooded North Carolina town are suing a railroad company, alleging it impeded efforts to plug a gap in a levee.
Several Lumberton residents sued CSX Corp. this week claiming a railroad underpass owned by the company created a gap in a levee allowing floodwater to pour in after Florence.
The plaintiffs say the company knew about the problem for some time and the gap exacerbated flooding during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The lawsuit cites a May 2018 report by state officials calling for a floodgate and saying planning was underway.
The plaintiffs say Lumberton officials were refused permission by CSX to build a temporary sandbag berm at the underpass as Florence approached. They say an emergency order by the governor allowed them to build a last-minute temporary berm but it was breached by floodwaters.
CSX issued a statement that it doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but noted the “extraordinary storm” devastated Lumberton and other communities with its flooding.
MISSING BOY-NORTH CAROLINA
Mom asks for help finding 6-year-old son missing from park
GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) – The mother of a 6-year-old boy who disappeared from a North Carolina park over the weekend is asking the public for help.
News outlets report that on Tuesday, in her first public appearance since the disappearance of Maddox Ritch, his mother, Carrie, tearfully asked anyone who was at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia on Saturday to call the tip line.
Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton says they’ve searched thousands of acres, drained water from the lake and conducted hundreds of interviews since Maddox disappeared while at the park with his father.
Helton says in particular, investigators still want to speak to speak to a male jogger and anyone in a group with a photographer taking pictures of three children in Dr. Seuss costumes. He says they may have important information.
POLICE CHIEF-RENTAL UNITS
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 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.
HOSPITAL CHAIN-KICKBACK CHARGE
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.
TROPICAL WEATHER-RAINIEST STORMS
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.
MOTHER’S BODY HIDDEN
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.
HERRING FISHING-THE LATEST
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.