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MISSING BOY-NORTH CAROLINA-THE LATEST
The Latest: Police chief: ‘I’m heartbroken’ after body found
GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) – The chief of a North Carolina police department said he was “heartbroken” over the discovery of a body believed to be that of a missing 6-year-old boy.
Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton fought back tears and a breaking voice at a news conference Thursday to announce officials believed the body searchers found was that of Maddox Ritch. The boy’s father said he ran off from him as he and a friend walked at Rankin Lake Park last weekend. Ian Ritch said he couldn’t catch up with his son because he has neuropathy in his feet due to diabetes.
Gastonia Fire Chief Phil Welch said the body was found in a creek, slightly more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) east of the park, by a searcher who was walking down the middle of the creek as his partners stood on the bank. He said the area had been searched previously by drones, all-terrain vehicles and on foot.
FBI agent Jason Kaplan said the investigation is continuing.
Charges dismissed in Word of Faith trespassing case
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina attorney general has dismissed trespassing charges against a legislative candidate, a former candidate for sheriff and an ex-member of a secretive evangelical congregation.
WLOS-TV in Asheville reports officials in Rutherford County said Attorney General Josh Stein found no criminal misconduct on the part of state Senate candidate David Wheeler, former sheriff’s candidate Wayne Guffey and former Word of Faith Fellowship member John Huddle.
Wheeler told The Associated Press that Word of Faith Fellowship leader Jane Whaley invited him to visit the church, which has been accused of beating congregants to expel demons.
But when Wheeler arrived with a former congregant, a church critic and reporters, he was told to leave. The next day, the three were charged with trespassing, based on another church leader’s complaint.
TROPICAL WEATHER-FOOD ASSISTANCE
Food benefits available to more residents harmed by storm
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Residents in North Carolina counties hardest hit by Hurricane Florence and with storm losses or damage can get help with groceries if they don’t normally qualify for food stamps.
The Department of Health and Human Services said the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program begins Friday in 27 eastern counties that have received federal disaster designations.
Households who qualify will receive a one-time benefit through a debit card to help buy food. An individual would receive $192 and a four-person family would get $640. People must apply in person at one of dozens of program sites through the counties. They must show proofs of identity and residency and fall below certain income levels.
The program application period ends Oct. 6.
Ohio woman hiking in Great Smoky Mountains park is missing
(Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com)
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – An Ohio woman hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that borders North Carolina and Tennessee has gone missing.
Park spokeswoman Julena Campbell tells The Ashville Citizen-Times that Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, of Cleves, Ohio, was last seen Tuesday evening. Campbell says Clements was hiking with her daughter near Andrews Bald and the Clingmans Dome parking area when the two separated. Rangers began searching that night.
Experienced searchers spent Wednesday night on the Appalachian Trial to interview hikers. The park’s Search and Rescue Team then continued the search Thursday morning.
Campbell says the park has about 100 search and rescue missions each year, and it’s rare to not find someone within the first day. Those with information can call the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch at 888-653-0009.
Top leaders at prison where 4 died demoted, took pay cuts
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina prison officials slashed the pay of two top administrators who had leadership responsibilities at a lockup where four employees were killed last year during the deadliest breakout attempt in state history.
Prisons officials on Thursday provided The Associated Press with personnel records showing the salaries of both men were slashed by 26 percent and demoted in May for what was described as “gross inefficiency.”
Pasquotank Correctional Institution Administrator Felix Taylor and assistant superintendent for custody operations Colbert Respass had been suspended with pay earlier this year. An outside investigation found multiple security lapses at the prison contributed to the slayings last October.
Taylor now considers appeals by prisoners who have been disciplined at prisons in eastern North Carolina. Respass retired in August after 31 years.
KAVANAUGH STATE POLITICS
Democrats, activists hit N Carolina GOP on Kavanaugh
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Democrats and activists went on the offensive against Republicans for not opposing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The state Democratic party launched online ads Thursday targeting GOP state legislators who signed an open letter last month supporting Kavanaugh. The ads target suburban districts seen as vulnerable in November’s legislative elections.
During a U.S. Senate hearing, Kavanaugh again denied he sexually assaulted a woman while they were high school students.
The North Carolina chapter of the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice NC and other advocacy groups led demonstrations against the state’s two Republican U.S. senators through rallies in three different cities.
Sen. Richard Burr says he plans to vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Sen. Thom Tillis said during the hearing late Thursday he would also vote to confirm.
TROPICAL WEATHER-DETAINEES DROWN
Sheriff: Guard waved van around barricade before 2 drowned
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Officials say South Carolina deputies – after being waved through by National Guardsmen – drove a transport van around a barricade blocking a flooded road shortly before two mental patients drowned inside.
Horry (OR-ree) County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Brooke Holden told The Associated Press on Thursday that Guardsmen allowed deputies to drive around a barrier the night of Sept. 18 because they were in a law enforcement vehicle.
State police opened a probe after the women’s deaths on a flooded Marion County road. Deputies were transporting the patients as part of a court order as flood waters rose in the area due to heavy rains from Hurricane Florence.
The deputies have been placed on leave.
A South Carolina National Guard spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Anti-amendments group reworks ad after McCrory complaint
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A group running television ads opposing constitutional amendments on North Carolina’s fall ballots has edited one spot after a former governor complained it misled watchers about his views.
A spokesman for the “Stop Deceptive Amendments” organization said Thursday it’s substituted an ad that started airing this week.
Ex-Republican Gov. Pat McCrory demanded the original ad be taken off the air because he said it left the mistaken impression he opposed all six ballot amendments.
Group spokesman Justin Guillory defended the ad’s accuracy earlier but says it decided to change the ad because it’s “not interested in a political fight.” Now the ad has a stronger focus on two amendments McCrory and other ex-governors have clearly opposed.
The group held a Thursday news conference to highlight $2 million in ad buys.