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Thursday, 28 May 2015 13:28

Caldwell County Man Convicted on Drug Charges

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39-year-old Larry William Abrams was convicted this week in Caldwell County Superior Court on drug charges dating back to March of 2012.

The Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office I.C.E. Unit investigated Abrams after receiving numerous complaints of drug activity. The investigation resulted in a series of marijuana purchases from Abrams while he was living in the basement of his father’s residence on Wendover Lane in Granite Falls. As a result of those buys, I.C.E. Unit Agent J.D. Barbour presented probable cause and received a search warrant for Abrams and the residence.

On March 6, 2012, Agents executed the search warrant and recovered over six pounds of marijuana, two military assault rifles, two shotguns, a revolver, a 2000 Buick Century, cash and assorted drug paraphernalia. At the time of the search, a minor child was living with Abrams. The drugs had an estimated street value of $15,000.

Abrams was found guilty of felony possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana, felony maintaining a dwelling to keep or store controlled substances and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

He was given a six-to-17 month sentence, which was suspended for 30 months, with active supervised probation. He must also pay a $1,000 fine plus court costs, attorney fees, assessment and community service. In addition, Abrams must serve a 60-day active sentence in the Caldwell County Detention Center. Abrams has appealed his conviction. He was also recently indicted on the controlled purchases of marijuana that led to the search warrant and awaits trial on those charges.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Andrew Jennings with the Honorable Robert C. Ervin presiding.

Thursday, 28 May 2015 13:24

Denver Man Charged With Break-in And Theft

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31-year-old Billy Ray Galloway of Denver was arrested by Lincoln County Sheriff's Officers. He's charged with one felony count each of Breaking and Entering, Larceny after Breaking and Entering and Possession of Stolen Property.

The charges are in connection with a residential break-in on St. James Church Road on May 12, 2015. Deputies were dispatched to a call for service at a mobile home behind 3348 St. James Church Road. In the mobile home officers arrested Galloway on an outstanding warrant. As officers were leaving they were flagged down by Carl Schoenholz who reported someone had broken into his home at 3330 St. James Church Road.

On May 13 Detectives Greg Hager and Frank Runyon located the stolen property in the mobile home where they arrested Galloway. Galloway confessed to breaking into the residence and removing the victim’s property.

Galloway was released on a $30,000 secured bond. He's scheduled to appear in District Court next Tuesday (June 2).

41-year-old Lucius Anthony Williams of Astoria Drive in Charlotte was arrested this week by Lincoln County Sheriff's Officers. He’s charged with felony counts of attempting to obtain property by false pretense and identity theft.

Williams is charged with using a credit card belonging to Grau Building Company of Chapel Hill to purchase a zero turn lawn mower at Lowes Home Center in Denver valued at $2,732. The purchase was made on April 19, 2015 and report was filed with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office on April 22. Detective Hager was able to identify the suspect as Lucius Williams.

Williams was arrested in Mecklenburg County where he was processed and released on a $3,000 secured bond. Williams’ next court appearance is set for June 11 in Lincoln County District Court.

26-year-old Cody Matthew Startt of 3rd Avenue Place S.E. and 21-year-old Kayla Marie Russell of 14th Street S.W., both from Hickory, were arrested shortly after four o’clock Wednesday afternoon (May 27) by Hickory Police Officers. They’re each charged with three felony counts of making false bomb reports at a public building. Despite the addresses listed on police reports, an H.P.D. spokesperson says the two are believed to be homeless.

Police believe Startt and Russell are linked to nine recent bomb threats in Hickory. No bombs or suspicious materials were found in any of the incidents. Hickory Police are also working with Law Enforcement in other jurisdictions, including Conover and Lenoir, where additional threats were received. At this time, Startt and Russell are the only suspects in the Hickory incidents.

The most recent threats were made yesterday (May 27) at the 1st Citizens Bank on 4th Street N.W., Hickory District Court on Main Avenue N.E., Hickory High School on 3rd Street N.E. and at the Post Office on Government Avenue S.W. in downtown Hickory. All four calls came in a span of approximately 20 minutes, from 2:30 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.

The previous day, threats were received at the Post Office and at the Wal-Mart store on Highway 70 S.E. The first three threats were reported on the night of May 20 at the same Wal-Mart store, at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on Highway 70 S.W. and at the Dollar General store on Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard S.E.

Local Police are also working with the F.B.I., which has an office in the Post Office building. The suspects’ motivation in making the calls is not known. The relationship between the two suspects is unclear. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible.

Following their arrests, both suspects were incarcerated at the Catawba County Detention Facility with bond for each set at $19,000, secured. Russell was initially taken to Frye Regional Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries sustained during the arrest. They were both scheduled to appear in District Court tomorrow (Friday, May 29).

38-year-old Jonathan Esque Wright of Stonehaven Street in Claremont was arrested Wednesday (May 27) by Claremont Police Officers. He’s charged with felony possession of cocaine and driving while license revoked. Following the arrest, Wright was detained in the Catawba County Detention Facility under $6,000 bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled for Friday (May 29).

No charges will be filed against the shooter in a domestic dispute Wednesday night in which two brothers were shot. The magistrate found no probable cause to file charges against 28-year-old Joshua Edwards. It has been determined that the shooting was in self defense.

Two brothers were airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte after being shot during the domestic dispute. According to a news release from the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office, the incident occurred in the driveway of 4589 West Bandy Cross Road in Claremont. The brothers are 32-year-old Alijah Daniel Jackson and 35-year-old Caleb Kavann Jackson.

The news release says the two brothers live next door to the shooter, Joshua Edwards and the shooting occurred in his driveway. At last report, the condition of the two brothers was serious.

The Catawba County Board of Commissioners is wrapping up the budget process. They’ve been holding hearings this week related to the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year financial plan. Tonight (Thursday, May 28) there will be a budget public hearing and wrap-up at 7 p.m.

In his budget message, Catawba County Manager Thomas Lundy presents the 2015-2016 budget in the amount of $235,286,732 (235 million 286 thousand 732 dollars). The budget includes the county’s first tax increase since 2007-2008. The proposed tax rate in the budget is 57-and-a-half cents per $100 of property value, up from the current 53 cents.

Lundy says in the message that a county-wide property revaluation went into effect on January 1 of this year. He says while Catawba County’s economy has show consistent signs of positive economic recovery on the heels of the recent recession, in terms of unemployment, building permit activity, and retail sales, the 2015 revaluation is based on sales over the last three years. Lundy adds in the message that this resulted in a 5.88 percent decrease in county-wide real property values, which translates into $5.96 million less in property tax revenue to support critical community services.

Commissioners will vote on the adoption of the budget at their 9:30 a.m. meeting, Monday June 1.

Thursday, 28 May 2015 04:43

New Planning Director Named In Caldwell County

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Shelley Stevens of Sawmills will become the Planning Director for Caldwell County effective June 1.

Stevens has served as Planner with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) since May 2013 and while in that position has served as Planner for the Town of Catawba and the City of Claremont in Catawba County and for the Town of Gamewell in Caldwell County.

While with the WPCOG, she has also conducted research for and has written and co-written reports and plans for a variety of projects including the Western Piedmont Bicycle Safety Analysis, the Western Piedmont Bicycle Plan and the Western Piedmont Industry Growth Analysis. In addition, Stevens assisted with the Burke Growth Estimation Model Report and the Catawba County Early Head Start Report.

Stevens’ previous experience includes work on the Flint Hills Frontiers, a plan for a nineteen-county area within the Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma. Between 2009 and 2011, she served internships with Catawba County Planning, Parks and Development, the City of Lincolnton and completed a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory for the Town of Chapel Hill as a group capstone project.

Stevens earned a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy in 2010 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master of Urban Planning in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As Caldwell County Planning Director, Stevens will be based in the Building Inspections Department, in the Caldwell County Health and Human Services Building, at 2345 Morganton Blvd. SW, in Lenoir.

An acquittal in a trial of a man charged with indecent liberties in Catawba County. 48-year-old Jaime Sarmiento Mejia of Maiden, was found not guilty of indecent liberties with a child by a Catawba County Superior Court jury on Wednesday (May 27).

The jury deliberated on the matter for approximately two hours following closing remarks by Defense Attorney Blair Cody and Assistant District Attorney Michael Van Buren before returning the non-guilty verdict to end the six-day trial.

Mejia was accused of touching a 14-year-old female victim under her shirt and scratching her lower back in March 2012. He later spoke to a family member in Spanish, sending her out of the room before allegedly rubbing under the victim’s shirt again and kissing her lower back when they were alone in the room.

Mejia did not deny the allegation, however, his attorney argued that his actions were consistent with the culture of Colombia, of which Mejia is a native. Van Buren noted that the victim, now 17 years old, felt “violated” by the acts.

“She didn’t want it to happen. Nobody wants to be a victim,” Van Buren told the jury, citing North Carolina case law to stress the fact that indecent liberties often can be sexual acts but also may be other forms of deviant behavior deemed to be immoral or improper.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015 11:39

Two from Hickory Arrested on Drug Charges

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25-year-old Dallas Loyd Gragg of Sulphur Springs Road and 25-year-old Stephen Wayne Bryden of 19th Avenue N.E., both from Hickory, were arrested by Hickory Police on drug charges Monday (May 25). Gragg was charged with felony possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver a schedule IV controlled substance and misdemeanor possession of a schedule II controlled substance. Bryden faces charges for misdemeanor possession of marijuana up to half an ounce and an expired registration card or tag.

They were arrested after a traffic stop shortly before 9 p.m. Monday at 15th Street S.E. and Main Avenue S.E. The vehicle, driven by Bryden, was stopped for an expired registration. A search of the passenger, Dallas Gragg, resulted in discovery of 9.5 dosage units of Alprazolam and two dosage units of Oxycodone. A search of the vehicle resulted in the discovery of 14.8 grams of marijuana under the driver’s seat.

Both were taken to the Catawba Co. Detention Facility with bond for Gragg set at $28,000, secured, while Bryden was given a $2,000 secured bond. Bryden has since been released. Gragg was scheduled to appear in Superior Court today. Bryden has court dates on June 14 and July 1.

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