25-year-old Whitney Ann Weathers of Hickory, was given an active prison term of three to eight years after pleading guilty, with no plea offer, to one count of child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury and four counts of child abuse inflicting serious physical injury. The guilty plea was entered during Catawba County Superior Court Friday (May 5).
The Honorable Lisa C. Bell, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, imposed five consecutive active prison sentences for Weathers following her guilty plea. She will serve those sentences in custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.
Weathers was found negligent in allowing a co-defendant to administer inappropriate forms of discipline to her then three-year-old daughter and 20-month-old son from February to May 2013. The co-defendant is charged with murder in connection with the death of the 20-month-old child.
Investigation by Long View Police Department and Catawba County Social Services showed that the two children were neglected and abused. They had burns on their bodies and severe bruising consistent with physical abuse. Weathers also admitted to securing the children in car seats and placing them in closets.
Lt. Mike Ford investigated the case for Long View Police Department. Assistant District Attorney Michael Van Buren handled prosecution for the State.
26-year-old Thomas Eugene Smith of Vale was given an active prison term of 15 to 20 years after pleading guilty to a sexual offense involving a child during Catawba County Superior Court on Friday (May 5).
The Honorable Lisa C. Bell, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, issued Smith’s prison term following his plea to statutory rape of a 13-year-old by a defendant at least 6 years older than the victim. He will serve the sentence in custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.
In addition, Smith will be required to register as a sex offender for life and enroll in satellite-based monitoring for life.
The offense occurred Oct. 11, 2014, and involved a then 13-year-old female victim. Smith was a friend of the girl’s father and was staying at their home where he engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim.
Investigation of the incident revealed communication between the two parties with the defendant making plans to engage in future activities with the victim.
Sgt. Rick Younger of the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office led the investigation with assistance from the Child Advocacy Protection Center of Catawba County. Michael Van Buren prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s Office.
46-year-old Randy Allen Taylor of Cindi Lane in Claremont has been arrested by Catawba Co. Sheriffs officers as a fugitive awaiting extradition to another state. He has also been charged by Probation & Parole Officers in Catawba County for a felony probation violation.
Allen is wanted in the Dickenson County town of Clintwood, Virginia for felony larceny of a motor vehicle. He is on probation in North Carolina following a November 2015 felony conviction in Catawba County for larceny, obtaining property by false pretenses and receiving a stolen vehicle.
Allen was served with the fugitive warrant yesterday (May 4) at the Catawba Co. Detention Facility, where he has been since April 28. Bond was set at $60,000, secured. A District Court date on the fugitive warrant was set for today, with Superior Court appearance for the probation violation coming up on June 15.
22-year-old Drafton Douglas Davis, Jr. of Grassy Court, 20-year-old Rakeem Deshon McCree of East Fifth Avenue and 21-year-old Benshawn Theron Robertson of South Marietta Street, all from Gastonia, have been arrested in connection to an armed robbery in Lincolnton. They were each charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of stolen goods.
At about 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 26, Lincolnton Police responded to a reported armed robbery in the parking lot at a local business. Officers spoke to the victim, who said he had arranged to sell a pair of Nike Air Jordan tennis shoes to a person he met through social media. The victim met with the potential buyer in the parking lot. Other subjects were with the potential buyer. As they discussed the shoes, one of the subjects pulled out a handgun and demanded the sneakers, money and the victim’s watch. The victim complied. He was not injured.
The victim got a description of the suspect vehicle, including the N.C. license tag number. He was also able to provide Officers with specific information about the robbery.
Probable cause was developed and warrants were issued for Drafton Davis and Rakeem McCree. Both subjects were entered into the National Crime Information Center’s database as wanted persons. Investigators also contacted authorities in Gaston County in an attempt to locate both men.
On March 27, Davis was arrested and was placed in the Lincoln County Jail under a $21,000 secured bond. At the time of his arrest, Davis was on probation as the result of a previous common law robbery conviction. He had a court date in late March. No additional appearances are listed at this time.
On April 13, McCree was arrested in Gaston County and jailed under a $50,000 secured bond. He has a May 18 court date pending in Lincoln County. At the time of the robbery, McCree also had active felony warrants in Gaston County for uttering a forged instrument, forgery of endorsement, obtaining property by false pretense and a felony probation violation. McRee is a validated member of the Bloods street gang and was also on probation at the time of his arrest.
Yesterday (May 4), Gastonia Police were investigating another armed robbery in which the suspects had been identified. One of them was Benshawn Robertson. Gastonia Detectives compared evidence with Lincolnton Detectives and determined that Robertson was involved in the March 27 robbery, along with Davis and McCree.
Robertson was arrested in Gaston County on warrants from both robberies. He was jailed under a $125,000 secured bond. A court date in Lincoln County will be scheduled next week.
35-year-old Daphne Regina Walsh of 21st Street SW in Hickory was arrested today (May 5) by Long View Police Officers. She's charged on bills of indictment with four counts of obtaining property by false pretense and single counts of forgery of an instrument and uttering a forged instrument. Walsh was jailed in the Catawba County Detention Facility under $20,000 bond. A Superior Court appearance is scheduled for Monday (May 8).
24-year-old Landon Scott Treadway of 11th Street Drive N.W. in Hickory was arrested by Hickory Police just past midnight yesterday (May 4) on one felony count of possession of heroin and one misdemeanor count of larceny.
Events leading to his arrest unfolded as Hickory Police responded a possible shoplifting incident at Lowe’s Home Improvement on 2nd Street N.E. in Hickory. The subject, Landon Treadway, was seen in the parking lot at the nearby Lowes Foods Store on 14th Avenue N.E.
Police followed the suspect to a residence on 42nd Avenue Court N.W. At the residence, in the vehicle, Police found property stolen from the hardware store. In addition, Officers found 0.1 grams of heroin in the vehicle. Treadway, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was taken into custody without incident. The driver was not arrested or cited.
Treadway was jailed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $12,200 secured bond. He was scheduled to make a first appearance in District Court on the drug charge today in Newton with another court date on the larceny charge coming up on June 7.
More information has been released regarding the arrest of 33-year-old Michael Douglas Connor of 9th Avenue S.E. in Hickory, first reported yesterday on WHKY. Connor was arrested at about 11 a.m. yesterday on one felony count of possession of a schedule II controlled substance and one misdemeanor count each of possession of marijuana up to half an ounce and disorderly conduct.
He was arrested after Officers responded to a call for service to remove a subject at the Hillside Gardens housing complex. During the incident, Connor was arrested for disorderly conduct. During the booking process, Police found 1.4 grams of cocaine and 1.5 grams of marijuana on Connor’s person.
He was taken into custody on 9th Avenue S.E. and placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $5,000 secured bond. A first appearance in District Court was set for today in Newton.
23-year-old Kelly Ann Davis of Shad Lane in Catawba was arrested today (May 5) by Catawba County Sheriff's Officers. She's charged with possession of heroin, resisting a public officer, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Davis was jailed in the Catawba County Detention Facility under $6,000 bond. A Superior Court appearance was scheduled for June 5.
We have more information on a recent operation in Burke County in which several suspects were arrested. North Carolina Department of Public Safety Department Probation Officers initiated a Burke County roundup that began last Wednesday, April 26 and concluded on Thursday, April 27. The effort resulted in the arrest of 30 individuals on 49 warrants and the operation involved multiple law enforcement agencies.
According to a news release issued recently by the Burke County Sheriff's Office, 24-year-old Cory Allen Ammons of Miller Bridge Road in Connelly Springs was among those arrested. He's charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, misdemeanor failure to appear and probation violation. Bond for Ammons was set at $20,500 secured. He was scheduled to appear in court today (Friday, May 5).
27-year-old Brittany Nichole Barfield of Old NC 18 in Connelly Springs was also arrested during the roundup. She's charged with felony possession with intent to manufacture, sell, and deliver schedule IV controlled substance, and misdemeanor failure to appear on a count of possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce. Barfield's bond was set at $10,000 secured. Her next court date is June 29.
The agencies involved in the operation in addition to the NC Department of Public Safety and Burke County Sheriff’s Office were the US Marshals Service, NC Highway Patrol, Morganton Department of Public Safety, NC Alcohol, Law Enforcement, and US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.
31-year-old Bradley Lee Yount was arrested Thursday (May 4) by Burke County Sheriff's Officers. He's charged with felony forgery and uttering. Following the arrest, Yount was placed in jail under $10,000 secured bond. A Superior Court appearance is scheduled for June 5 in Morganton.
36-year-old Michael Dale Mclean Jr. was arrested Thursday (May 4) by Burke County Sheriff's Officers. He's charged with felony counts of posession of a weapon by a felon and possession of a weapon of mass destruction. Mclean was placed in jail in Morganton under $50,000 secured bond. District Court appearances were scheduled for today (Friday, May 5) and next Wednesday (May 10).
23-year-old Charles Justin Moore of Tower Drive in Granite Falls was arrested Thursday (May 4) by Caldwell County Sheriff's Officers. He's charged with possession of methamphetamine and driving while license revoked. Moore was detained in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $3,300 secured bond. A Superior Court appearance is scheduled for July 24.
Unemployment rates decreased across the Greater Hickory Metro area and across much of the state, according to the latest numbers released earlier this week. The latest report from the North Carolina Department of Commerce Labor and Economic Analysis Division details the unemployment rates for the month of March.
Alexander County's unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent from 4.1 percent in February. Burke County shows a jobless rate of 4.4 percent, down from 4.7 percent in the previous report. Caldwell County's unemployment rate is 4.6 percent, down from 4.9 percent in February. Catawba County's March unemployment rate stands at 4.4 percent, down from 4.7 percent.
The unemployment rate for the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metropolitan Statistical Area or MSA is 4.4 percent. That's tied with two other Metropolitan Statistical Areas for the fourth lowest unemployment rate among 15 MSAs in the state.
The statewide unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, down from 5 percent even in the last report. Jobless rates decreased in 98 of North Carolina's 100 counties, increased in one, and remained unchanged in one. Hyde County has the state's highest unemployment rate at 12.3 percent. Buncombe County has the lowest at 3.7 percent.
58-year-old Steven W. Chase of Naples, Florida, was sentenced Monday (May 1) to 30 years in prison, along with a lifetime term of supervised release. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Richard L. Voorhees of the Western District of North Carolina.
On September 16 of last year, a federal jury found Chase guilty of one count each of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, advertising child pornography and possession of child pornography, plus three counts of transportation of child pornography. The jury also returned a special verdict determining that Chase should be ordered to forfeit all property derived from, involved in or traceable to his criminal activities, including his residence in Naples.
Evidence at trial established that beginning in August 2014, Chase created the Playpen website as a hidden service of the Tor anonymity network, which only permitted individuals operating on the network to access the site. The Playpen website operated from a server in Lenoir. Chase served as lead administrator of Playpen, through which he and more than 150,000 other members authored and viewed tens of thousands of postings involving the sexual abuse of children. Website members employed advanced technological means in order to thwart law enforcement’s efforts, including elaborate file encryption.
Chase was arrested following a court-authorized search of his home in February of 2015. Forensic examination of a computer and devices seized during the search revealed that Chase was in possession of thousands of images depicting the sexual abuse of children as young as infants and toddlers.
Two co-defendants both pleaded guilty in 2015 and were sentenced earlier this year.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.justice.gov/psc.