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Charges dropped against longtime fugitive for 1993 killing
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) – A man arrested in North Carolina last year after decades as a fugitive will be released because Pennsylvania prosecutors have decided they cannot prove he was responsible for a 1993 killing.
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said Wednesday he would withdraw all charges against 46-year-old Marcello Morales. He said prosecutors re-interviewed witnesses in the nearly 25-year-old case and determined they would not be able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Morales was accused of fatally stabbing 30-year-old Edwin Torres in Allentown in June 1993. An arrest warrant was issued days later, but he was not captured until last November.
Authorities say he had been living near Raleigh, North Carolina, under the name Roberto Tomas Mendez.
Morales’ attorney could not be reached for comment.
COLLEGE PLAYER-RACIAL COMMENT
North Carolina tennis coach suspended over player’s comment
BOONE, N.C. (AP) – A college men’s tennis coach has been suspended after one of his players made a racially charged comment to an opposing player.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports Appalachian State University athletics officials announced Tuesday that coach Bob Lake was suspended following a review of the incident.
Appalachian State player Spencer Brown was suspended Monday after a black opponent tweeted that Brown told him “at least I know my dad” during their weekend match.
The school offered no additional details on what led to the coach’s subsequent suspension.
In addition to the suspension, Appalachian State Chancellor Sheri Everts is calling for an assessment of the school’s diversity and inclusion practices.
Brown, who’s white, was suspended indefinitely after Sunday’s match with John Wilson of North Carolina A&T State University, a historically black college.
Judge restores judicial primaries for appellate court races
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina law that cancels primaries this year for judicial seats has been partially halted.
A federal judge on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction directing state election officials to hold primaries for appellate court judgeships in May. But U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles refused to restore primary elections for local trial court seats.
Democrats sued to overturn the law and asked Eagles to step in, with candidate filing for other races starting Feb. 12.
Eagles agreed with Republican lawmakers who argued primaries were canceled as they debate changes to District Court and Superior Court election boundaries. But Eagles wrote that doesn’t apply to appellate court races, where candidates run statewide. She said holding free-for-all general elections for appellate seats could attract lots of candidates and confuse voters.
Crime rate declines in North Carolina’s largest city
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Police in North Carolina’s largest city showed the crime rate for 2017 went down overall.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police told a news conference today that violent crime went down 3.6 percent and property crime decreased by 5.3 percent. The report showed about 3,000 fewer people became crime victims during the year compared to 2016.
However, statistics showed Charlotte had 25 percent more homicides and 12 percent more rapes reported compared to the previous year.
Police Chief Kerr Putney said 90 percent of the 306 rape victims knew their attackers, so the work the city is doing to reduce domestic violence overall is expected to help rape victims as well. Putney said people may also be more comfortable reporting rape because sexual assault and harassment have been in the news lately.
Top leaders suspended at understaffed prison where 4 died
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Top administrators at a North Carolina prison where four employees were killed during the deadliest breakout attempt in state history are suspended with pay after an outside investigation found multiple security lapses before and after the slayings.
State prisons spokesman Jerry Higgins said Wednesday that Pasquotank Correctional Institution Administrator Felix Taylor and assistant superintendent for custody operations Colbert Respass were placed on leave with pay this week.
Higgins says they’ll stay out until the end of an investigation. He refused to say whether that was the criminal investigation into the assaults, or something else.
The move comes after a National Institute of Corrections evaluation report released last week said the Pasquotank prison was so understaffed that workers cut corners in ways that created opportunities for the deadly October breakout attempt.
North Carolina patrol head says he didn’t shove reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina Highway Patrol is disputing a report that its commander shoved a television news reporter questioning him about a state audit focusing on waste in the agency.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports video shows reporter Nick Ochsner of WBTV in Charlotte questioning Cmdr. Glenn McNeill about the audit as he heads to a meeting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
As McNeill prepared to board an elevator, Ochsner tried to follow him. The video shows McNeill putting his hand on the reporter’s chest and telling him to stay back. Ochsner asks McNeill to remove his hand. Eventually, they got into the elevator and Ochsner continued his questioning.
A patrol statement says the station characterized the incident as a shove, while the patrol said the video shows McNeill didn’t shove Ochsner.
FLIGHT RETURNS-CABIN ODOR
American Airlines flight turns around because of cabin odor
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – An American Airlines flight has returned to a North Carolina airport about an hour after takeoff because of an odor in the cabin.
American spokeswoman Katie Cody said Flight 1965 from Charlotte Douglas International Airport was heading to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on Wednesday when it turned around and returned to Charlotte. The cause of the odor wasn’t known, and the plane was taken out of service for maintenance.
Cody said two of the 183 passengers onboard the Airbus 330 were evaluated and cleared at the airport, while a flight attendant was taken to a hospital with what was described as a condition that was not life-threatening. The plane had a crew of 10.
According to Cody, passengers were to be placed on another aircraft to continue their trip Wednesday.
ONLINE GAME CHEATING
Video game maker using courts to stop online game cheaters
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The maker of a video game that pits players worldwide in a fight for survival on virtual terrain is using U.S. courts to chasten cheaters from Ukraine to Minnesota.
North Carolina-based Epic Games has gotten promises from men in Minnesota, Sweden and Russia to stop cheating and spoiling revenues from its popular “Fortnite” online multiplayer game. The company also closed its case against a Louisiana boy with a confidential settlement.
Only the Minnesotan faces a $5,000 penalty if he resumes cheating. Epic Games spokesman Nick Chester would not say Wednesday whether that’s because the company can’t enforce financial penalties against foreign copyright violators.
The company has sued three Americans and seven foreign hackers for undercutting the game played by 10 million people worldwide.