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23-year-old Earl Dean Hill of Pony Run in Statesville was arrested last Tuesday (May 5) by Iredell County Sheriff's Officers. He's charged with felony breaking and entering, felony larceny of a firearm, and two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense.

On April 21, the Sheriff’s Office received a call from a resident to report a breaking and entering and larceny of guns from his residence. The victim told responding officers he had recovered one of the guns before they arrived and advised who the gun was recovered from. Deputies went and spoke with the person who the owner recovered the gun from and Deputies were given a name of a possible suspect to be Earl Dean Hill.

Detectives went and spoke with Earl Dean Hill and it was learned that he had sold all three of the guns. Detectives went and recovered all the guns that where sold from two different people.

All of the victim’s property that was stolen was recovered and returned to the owner. The guns had a value of $1,000. Hill was detained in the Iredell County Detention Center under $10,000 secured bond. A District Court date is scheduled for May 20.

Monday, 11 May 2015 09:10

Felony Hit And Run Charge Filed

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28-year-old Jonathan Edward Barlow was arrested Sunday (May 10) by authorities in Burke County. He’s charged with felony hit and run and driving while impaired. Following the arrest, Barlow was placed in jail under $55,000 secured bond. A first court appearance was scheduled for today (Monday, May 11) in Morganton.

51-year-old Charles Wayne Benham was arrested Sunday (May 10) by Morganton Public Safety Officers. Benham was charged with failing to notify sheriff’s office of a change of address, as required for registered sex offenders and being within 300’ of a playground as forbidden by a registered sex offender. Both charges are felonies.

Public Safety officers were called to investigate a suspicious person around the area of the Greenway-near Judge’s Riverside-Greenlee Ford Road. When officers arrived, they encountered Charles Wayne Benham sitting on a picnic table, near the restrooms. A records check indicated that Benham was a registered sex offender from out of state (California-San Diego) and had transferred his registration to North Carolina at an address on Smokey Creek.

Benham reported to officers that he had been living homeless under the Silver Creek Bridge for at least two weeks. NC Law requires a registered sex offender to notify the Sheriff of any address change within three business days. Benham had not been living at the Smokey Creek Address for some time and according to the DCI/NCIC database has a Smokey Creek address.

Additionally, Benham had been loitering around the Greenway for the past few days, sleeping in the bathroom. The picnic table that Benham was seated on was less than 200’ from a playground. NC law prohibits registered sex offenders from loitering 300’ from a playground for children.   

Following the arrest, Benham was placed in jail under $10,000 secured bond, a court appearance was scheduled for today (Monday, May 11).

49-year-old Joel Whitner Hart who has no address listed was arrested Friday (May 8) by Caldwell County Sheriff’s Officers. He’s charged with felony fail to register as a sex offender and failure to appear on a count of felony probation violation. Following the arrest, Hart was detained in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $300,000 secured bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled for today (Monday, May 11).

Monday, 11 May 2015 04:54

Hickory Woman Charged With Vehicle Break-in

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44-year-old Tressie Diane Teague of Skyview Drive in Hickory was arrested Saturday (May 9) by Catawba County Sheriff’s Officers. She’s charged with break or enter a motor vehicle and injury to personal property. Following the arrest, Teague was incarcerated at the Catawba County Detention Facility under $7,500 bond. A District Court appearance is scheduled for today (Monday, May 11).

Monday, 11 May 2015 04:45

Heroin Charge Filed Against Maiden Man

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21-year-old Jacob Levi Settlemyre of North Carolina Avenue in Maiden was arrested Friday (May 8) by Catawba County Sheriff’s Officers. He’s charged with possession of heroin, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Following the arrest, Settlemyre was detained in the Catawba County Detention Facility under $5,000 bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled for today (Monday, May 11).

A section of South College Street in Morganton near CoMMA will be closed Tuesday (May 12) for construction work. A local contractor working on the new Senior Deaf and Blind Community being built at 450 South College Street has to close the street to make a new water line tap for the community.

The contractor plans to close the street just after 8 a.m. and the street should be back open Tuesday evening, barring any unforeseen complications. If there is bad weather Tuesday, the road closure will be moved to the following day. Drives can detour around the closure via West McDowell Street to Herron and Herron to South King.

We have more information on an arrest we first reported on last week. A man suspected of drug trafficking in Burke County was arrested by multiple agencies after they received a tip regarding the location of the suspect. 39-year-old Davy Leonard Goodman of Greentree Acres Road in Valdese was arrested and charged with two felony counts of trafficking of drugs and one misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia. Police and court records also show Goodman faces counts of felony probation violation and driving while impaired.

Last Tuesday (May 5) the Burke County Narcotics Task Force, United States Marshals Task Force, and Burke County Sheriff’s Office served warrants on Goodman for the previously mentioned drug offenses. Acting on a tip, Goodman was found at a residence at 1890 Bristol Creek Avenue, Morganton. Goodman was taken into custody without incident and placed in the Burke-Catawba District Confinement Facility under $78,000 secured bond. A Superior Court appearance is scheduled for June 1, Goodman is also scheduled to appear in District Court September 29.

Additional charges against Goodman are pending.

The Honorable Hugh B. Lewis, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, rejected on Friday (May 8) a contention by defense counsel that 37-year-old John Spencer Brown of Granite Falls had ineffective counsel during his 2003 second-degree murder trial, however, he ruled that the defendant is entitled to a new sentencing hearing.

Brown is currently serving 22 to 29 years in custody of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections for second-degree murder in the August 2002 death of 7-year-old Zach Davis from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash. He was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on May 23, 2003, and has served nearly 12 years of his sentence.

Davis died from injuries sustained in an Aug. 9, 2002, crash that occurred when his mother Angie Bass was taking him to Jenkins Elementary School. As Bass and her son were traveling along N.C. 127 around 7:45 a.m. their vehicle was struck by one driven by Brown, who crossed the center line while impaired. Bass suffered serious injuries in the crash, as did her son, who died the next day of head injuries.

Brown’s vehicle also struck the vehicle of Sherry Sluss, who suffered significant injuries as a result of the crash.

The defendant’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit at the time of the crash, and there was Xanax as well as traces of cocaine in his system.

Brown was 24 years old when the crash occurred and had a DWI and an unsafe movement conviction on his record prior to the crash. He has earned a number of infractions against him while serving his time in DAC custody. Brown’s projected release date is June 4, 2026.

Brown was seeking a reduction in his sentence or a new trial. His motion cited ineffective assistance by his trial counsel and appellate attorney as well as issues with aggravating factors cited by the judge when his original sentence was imposed following his conviction in May 2003.

His attorney, Lauren Miller of North Carolina Prisoner Legal Service, Inc., argued that Brown’s trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to expert testimony regarding the speed his truck was traveling the day of the fatal crash. She also noted that Brown’s appellate attorney did not raise the question of ineffective counsel, nor were aggravating factors given to the jury by the trial judge for their consideration in reaching a verdict.

She further noted clerical errors in the judgment that she believed would entitle Brown to a new sentencing hearing.

District Attorney David Learner countered, stating that even if the testimony regarding speed was suppressed, there still was overwhelming evidence against Brown to support his conviction. He also pointed out that the trial transcript showed Brown’s trial attorney had objected to the testimony regarding speed.

“I would submit the defendant got a full and fair trial. If there was an error, it was harmless beyond any imagination,” he said, noting evidence of impairing drugs that were in Brown’s system and that he had been cut off from alcohol service at two different bars just hours before the crash. “The factors are clear-cut. There’s no reason to think a jury would have decided otherwise.”

Reiterating that the evidence the jury heard in Brown’s trial was overwhelming to justify the sentence he received, Assistant District Attorney Sean McGinnis added, “Clearly, the actions of the defendant that morning on Highway 127 impacted what happened to Zach and led to his death.”

Lewis, who indicated there was “overwhelming evidence to support the conviction,” ordered the state to schedule a new sentencing hearing due to changes in the law which could have impacted Brown’s original sentence. A jury will be convened to hear the matter in Catawba County Superior Court.

A date for the hearing has not been determined.

“We welcome the opportunity to have a new sentencing hearing for Mr. John Spencer Brown,” Learner said. “We want to see justice is done … for Zach Davis, Angie Bass and Sherry Sluss. They have the right to have justice done just as much as Mr. John Spencer Brown.”

42-year-old William Ernest Smith of Hildebran pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in Burke County Superior Court yesterday (May 7). He was also convicted as an habitual felon. Smith was sentenced to seven-to-10 years in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections.

On June 1 of last year, Burke County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a “shots fired” report at a mobile home park in the county. Neighbors said Smith had fired a shotgun earlier, but had since left the area.

When Smith returned, Smith’s girlfriend gave Officers consent to search the mobile home. They found a sawed-off shotgun by the bed. Smith denied possessing the gun, but his girlfriend contradicted his statement. Three months later the girlfriend said the gun was hers and that Smith did not have possession of it.

Burke County Sheriff’s Officer Isaac Propst investigated the case and Frank Webster handled the prosecution for the District Attorney’s Office with the Honorable Robert C. Ervin, Superior Court Judge from Burke County, presiding.