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September 20, 2019
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AP-NC Newswatch





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


North Carolina university shooting suspect pleads guilty
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The man charged with killing two North Carolina university students and wounding four others in their classroom in April has pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder.
Trystan Andrew Terrell also pleaded guilty Thursday to four counts of attempted murder and discharge of a firearm on educational property. State prosecutors accepted Terrell’s plea during a hearing that was previously scheduled to decide whether the gunman could face the death penalty for the killings at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Terrell had faced the charges in connection with the April 30 shooting as classmates gathered in a lecture hall.
Terrell told investigators he gave up on the attack after being tackled by one of the students who died.


North Carolina woman found guilty in husband’s 2017 death
NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) – A jury has found a North Carolina woman guilty in the 2017 shooting death of her husband.
News outlets report jurors took 61 minutes on Thursday to return their verdict in the trial of Sharon Whitford.
Whitford said she shot her husband in self-defense in Craven County in December 2017. Testimony showed that Jimmy Whitford called his wife’s lover, saying he knew they were having an affair.
Defense attorneys tried to paint Jimmy Whitford as an abuser who drew a shotgun on his wife after beating her.
A judge sentenced Whitford to between 20 and 25 years in prison, and ordered her to pay $15,000 in restitution to her father in law.


Blue Cross North Carolina CEO charged with drunken driving
ASHEBORO, N.C. (AP) – The chief executive of North Carolina’s largest insurer will retain his job despite a drunken driving arrest earlier this summer.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina issued a statement Thursday saying that its president and CEO, Patrick Conway, was in a car accident in June.
Newsoutlets report that court records show Conway was involved in a June crash on Interstate 85 in Randolph County. No one was injured, but Conway’s two daughters were in the car at the time; he was charged with driving while impaired and misdemeanor child abuse.
A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 8.
In its statement Blue Cross said its board of trustees has reviewed the incident and decided to retain Conway, citing his leadership skills.


North Carolina AG praises law to end rape evidence backlog
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says a new law to fund testing for sexual assault kits sitting in law enforcement evidence closets will put rapists in prison and ensure a backlog never happens again.
Stein, police and sexual assault victim advocates held a news conference on Thursday at the State Crime Laboratory to praise the measure signed the day before by Gov. Roy Cooper.
An audit determined there were 15,000 untested kits located across the state as of last year. The measure includes $6 million over two years and requires police and sheriffs to submit future kits for testing within 45 days.
The measure is one of four Cooper signed this week that contained otherwise popular provisions from the state budget bill that Cooper vetoed for other reasons.


UNC-Duke program too positive on Islam, Trump officials say
The Trump administration is threatening to cut a grant for a Middle East studies program run by the University of North Carolina and Duke University. The administration says the program misuses federal funds to advance “ideological priorities” and unfairly promotes “the positive aspects of Islam” but not Christianity or Judaism.
A recent letter from the Education Department orders the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies to revise its offerings by Sept. 22 or risk losing funding from the National Resource Center program.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ordered an investigation following complaints that the consortium hosted a taxpayer-funded conference with an anti-Israeli bias.
The department objects to some of the consortium’s offerings and says it has a “lack of balance” in its teachings on religion.
UNC and Duke declined to comment.


North Carolina donor wants political bribery case dropped
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Lawyers for the North Carolina insurance magnate charged with trying to bribe the state’s top insurance regulator say the case should be dismissed because he was exercising his right to support elected officials who were responsive to constituents.
Greg Lindberg’s lawyers this week asked a judge to dismiss the federal criminal charges.
Lindberg, former North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes and two other men have pleaded innocent to charges that they were part of a plan to funnel up to $2 million into the campaign treasury of state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, who is Republican.
Lindberg’s lawyers say his requests for Causey to replace a deputy examining his insurance companies were appropriate because he wasn’t asking for an outcome from government officials and hadn’t yet given Causey campaign money.


Biden flexes muscle with new black caucus endorsements
Joe Biden is flexing his front-runner muscle with new endorsements from three congressmen, including two former chairmen of the Congressional Black Caucus and a former Florida governor.
The announcements from Reps. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Charlie Crist of Florida underscore Biden’s play both for the Democratic Party establishment and minority voters.
Black voters will be key in the early stages of the primary calendar, especially in South Carolina’s late February primary and the Southern states that follow in March.
The three men tell The Associated Press they are backing Biden because he represents the ideological center of the Democratic Party and can appeal to the widest range of voters in a general election matchup against President Donald Trump.


Duke student senate denies Christian group over LGBTQ policy
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Duke University’s student government has rejected a national Christian organization as an official student group because its policy excludes LGBTQ individuals from leadership positions.
The Duke Chronicle reported that student senators unanimously voted against Young Life last week, citing a rule that every student group must include a nondiscrimination statement in its constitution to receive recognition and funding. Senators cited Young Life’s sexual misconduct policy, which says it doesn’t exclude people “who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God’s grace,” however, they’re “not to serve as staff or volunteers.”
Jeff Bennett, a member of the Duke chapter, said it can’t break national policies.
Young Life’s national spokesman Terry Swensen told The News & Observer that it’s willing to help the chapter conform to Duke’s rules.


AP-WF-09-20-19 1020GMT