Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EDT
Mid-decade redistricting ban focus of court hearing
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The scope of a prohibition in North Carolina’s constitution preventing redistricting during the middle of a decade is the focus of a court hearing.
A three-judge panel scheduled arguments Friday in Wake County court in a lawsuit filed by the state NAACP, League of Women Voters of North Carolina and others.
The plaintiffs argue Republican legislators violated the constitution last year by altering four House districts in Wake because they had nothing to do with two other Wake districts a federal court declared were racial gerrymanders and had to be redrawn. They want the four returned to their 2011 shapes.
Lawyers for the GOP lawmakers sued call their decisions reasonable given a court had ordered new lines in the same county.
Any ruling won’t affect races for this November elections.
North Carolina county jail eases rules for teens in solitary
(Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina county jail has eased restrictions for 16- and 17-year-olds held in solitary confinement.
The Charlotte Observer reports that Mecklenburg County still holds youths in solitary confinement, despite 2016 bans on the practice for youths in federal custody and youths in the state prison system. But the sheriff’s office tells the newspaper that it has begun letting the teens out of their cells for four hours each weekday, instead of one.
They don’t get to leave their cells on weekends.
Until around three weeks ago, teens held in solitary confinement could spend their daily one hour out of their cells in a walled courtyard, with no access to television, class or other inmates. Now, the teens can do schoolwork, request library books and participate in therapy.
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 has gone missing for nearly three days while hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that borders North Carolina and Tennessee.
Park spokeswoman Julena Campbell tells The Ashville Citizen-Times that 53-year-old Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, of Cleves, Ohio, was last seen Tuesday evening.
She was hiking with her daughter near Andrews Bald and the Clingmans Dome parking area when they separated. Rangers began searching that night.
Experienced searchers have been on the Appalachian Trial to interview hikers. The park’s Search and Rescue Team has continued searching since then.
Campbell says the park has about 100 search and rescue missions each year; 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.
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.
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.