Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EDT
MARINE SPECIAL OPERATIONS
Marine Corps rotates commander of special operations unit
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) – The Marine Corps is changing commanders in charge of preparing its special operations units for action.
Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo takes over Friday as head of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He succeeds Lt. Gen. Carl Mundy III, who leaves after two years of leading the elite Marine units.
Yoo will be responsible for manning, training and equipping Raider task forces for mostly covert overseas missions. He previously commanded special operations missions for all U.S. military services in the Pacific region.
The current incarnation of the Marine Raiders was formed in 2006 with historic links to World War II commando units, amid the global war on terror.
USPS contractor pleads guilty to stealing mailed gifts
(Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com)
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina mail carrier has acknowledged stealing mailed gifts.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports 29-year-old Jeffrey Thomas Avolese pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking around $2,500 in gift cards and cash from his U.S. Postal Service contract driver route.
The investigation began in March when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service learned of around 10 complaints, and an inspector used two gift cards as bait. Inspectors and a police detective visited Avolese April 9, and he acknowledged combing through mail.
According to his plea, he did this between Dec. 25 and April 3. He’d been a contractor for two years.
Avolese has not been sentenced. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell revoked a motion that would’ve allowed Avolese to consume alcohol responsibly, citing his more than 30 felony convictions in North Carolina.
BASKETBALL COACH-FATAL PUNCH
Parents of man killed by punch say condolences ‘too late’
NEW YORK (AP) – The parents of a Florida man who died after he was punched by an assistant basketball coach at Wake Forest University say they don’t accept the coach’s condolences.
Bob and Donna Kent tell NBC’s “Today” show that the coach, Jamill Jones, should have tried to save their son Sandor Szabo’s life after punching him early Sunday.
Police say Szabo banged on Jones’ SUV window, apparently thinking the vehicle was his Uber ride.
They say Jones got out, punched Szabo and sped off. Szabo fell and hit his head. He was taken off life support Tuesday.
Jones was arraigned on an assault charge Thursday. He expressed his condolences through his lawyer.
Jones’ lawyer called Szabo’s death “a tragic accident.”
Donna Kent says Jones’ condolences are “are a little bit too late.”
PREGNANT WOMAN KILLED
Man arrested in fatal shooting of pregnant teen
HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina man has been charged in the slaying of a pregnant 18-year-old and her unborn child.
News outlets report 21-year-old Hykeem Marquis Simmons was charged Thursday with first-degree murder in 18-year-old Anastaista Ray’s death. High Point police found Ray, described as seven- to eight-months pregnant, shot in the head Monday night. Her 32-year-old brother, Corey, also was found wounded.
Police announced Tuesday that the shooting may have been gang-related. Authorities say Simmons was arrested that same day on charges including possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and investigators were familiar with Simmons’ previous gang affiliation.
Investigators also charged Simmons with assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill inflicting serious injury on Corey Ray. It’s unclear if Simmons has a lawyer.
SCENIC INN-WORKER KILLED
Federal grand jury indicts man in death of lodge worker
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A federal grand jury has indicted a man in the slaying of a co-worker at a North Carolina mountain lodge.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Thursday that 20-year-old Derek Shawn Pendergraft is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Sara Ellis, a 29-year-old cook from Florida.
Prosecutors said Pendergraft, who was a housekeeper at the Pisgah Inn, reported Ellis missing, telling investigators that he and Ellis went for a hike after they both finished work July 24. Agents said Pendergraft returned from his hike and told his managers that she was missing.
Searchers found Ellis’ body near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Court documents show an inn manager called investigators the next night and told them Pendergraft had confessed to the killing.
Audit finds problems managing alcohol warehouse contract
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – An audit has found North Carolina’s state-run wholesale and retail liquor distribution agency poorly managed its outside warehouse contract, leading to $11 million in additional costs covering over a decade.
State Auditor Beth Wood’s office released Thursday a performance review of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission’s contract with the company paid to run ABC warehousing, Columbia, Maryland-based LB&B Associates Inc. The liquor comes from licensed distillers and is held before getting shipped to local ABC stores.
Report authors say the commission failed to ensure annual contract price increases didn’t exceed allowable amounts and failed to examine if increases were reasonable. They also found the state could have saved $2 million if they hadn’t leased unnecessary space at a Clayton warehouse and that $300,000 in underpayments to the state were undetected.
Hog nuisance trials get new judge after 3 industry losses
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The federal judge managing a series of North Carolina lawsuits accusing the world’s largest pork company of creating nuisances for rural neighbors is being temporarily replaced.
The order replacing U.S. District Judge Earl Britt for a trial starting next month was finalized Monday. Court records don’t indicate why Britt was replaced.
Documents show the appointment of West Virginia federal Judge David Faber was in progress before a jury last week slapped Smithfield Foods with a $473 million verdict.
That decision made three straight multi-million-dollar losses for the Hong Kong company to neighbors complaining of intense animal waste smells, flies and truck traffic.
Industry advocates had complained Britt’s decisions were biased and contributed to Smithfield Foods’ losing streak. They say hog farmers hope Faber takes a fresh look at earlier rulings.
DOG STOLEN-TERMINALLY ILL GIRL
Family says puppy stolen from terminally ill 5-year-old
(Information from: Times-News, http://www.thetimesnews.com)
BURLINGTON, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina mother says someone broke in to her family’s home and stole a puppy belonging to her terminally ill, 5-year-old daughter.
Shala Browning tells the Burlington Times-News that she and her family, including daughter Zakaia Gray, went out Saturday for her birthday. She says they returned home that night and noticed Zakaia’s 11-week-old American Bully named Annabella May was missing.
Browning says Annabella May was a companion for Zakaia, who has terminal brain cancer and was given up to six months to live. Browning says the dog usually goes everywhere with the family, but they left her alone for a few hours Saturday to work on her kennel training.
Burlington police responded to the break-in and found that nothing besides Annabella May was stolen.