News (794)

We have more information on a meth trafficking arrest we first reported Thursday (May 5).

32-year-old Heather Nicole Swanson of Donihue Place in Lenoir was arrested Wednesday (May 4) by Caldwell County Sheriff's ICE Unit Officers. She's charged with trafficking in methamphetamine.

A joint investigation between the Caldwell and Catawba County Sheriff’s Offices resulted in Swanson's arrest after authorities in Catawba County intercepted a package mailed from California addressed to an abandoned trailer on Edsel Circle in Hudson.  

The package was opened and contained over 1-1/2 ounces of methamphetamine hidden inside it. ICE Unit Agents formulated a plan to make a controlled delivery of the package. Prior to the delivery, Officers were deployed to watch the abandoned trailer.  
An undercover officer delivered the package at the front door and afterwards Swanson was apprehended without incident after taking possession of the package. Narcotic Agents state they have been monitoring Swanson and suspected her of mail ordering drugs. The methamphetamine seized has a street value of approximately $6,825 according to NC State Drug Guidelines.  
Swanson was confined in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $150,000 secured bond. She was scheduled to make a District Court appearance Thursday. Her next appearance is scheduled for May 26 in District Court.

28-year-old Brandon Keith Maynor and 24-year-old Jamie Lynn Horchak, both of the same Betterbrook Lane, Lincolnton, address along with 31-year-old Laura Kathryn Smith of Madison Street in Lincolnton, were all arrested Thursday (May 5) by Lincoln County Sheriff's Officers.

Maynor was charged with one felony count each of Trafficking Methamphetamine and Maintaining a Dwelling for Controlled Substances. He was also charged with one misdemeanor count of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Horchak was charged with one felony count each of Possession with Intent to Manufacture, Sell or Deliver Methamphetamine and Maintaining a Dwelling for Controlled Substances. She was also charged with one misdemeanor count of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Smith was charged with one felony count of Possession of Methamphetamine and one misdemeanor count each of Possession of Schedule II Controlled Substance and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

On Thursday, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit arrested three people after seizing nearly six ounces of methamphetamine. The Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit, along with SWAT Team members, and Narcotics K-9 Anya searched a residence near the 1200 block of Betterbrook Lane in the Lincoln View Subdivision just west of Lincolnton. During the search, Narcotics K-9 Anya alerted to the presence of narcotics in several locations inside the residence. At each location methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia were found and seized.  

According to investigators, a large amount of drug activity has occurred at the residence in the past several months and methamphetamine has been sold from the residence. In addition to almost six ounces of meth, or 164 grams, investigators seized several meth pipes, digital scales, baggies used to distribute the drug, and two homemade bongs, or pipes, used to smoke meth.  Investigators say one of the bongs was made using a baby bottle, tubing, and a glass pipe.  

Glass pipes and meth were also seized from a bedroom that was decorated and used for a small child belonging to one of the suspects arrested. There were no children present during the search, but investigators reported their findings to Lincoln County Child Protective Services. Investigators also seized a video surveillance system that included several cameras and a monitor. The residence had cameras pointed in every direction and cameras were also found in trees on the property.  

Maynor's bond was set at $50,000 secured. Bond for Horchak and Smith was set at $15,000 apiece. All three suspects were scheduled to appear in Lincoln County District Court today (Friday, May 6).

A Morganton woman will spend a minimum of five years in prison after pleading guilty to embezzlement from a non-profit organization that provides programs and services for disabled people. The guilty plea was entered during Caldwell County Superior Court on Tuesday (May 3).

The Honorable Robert C. Ervin, Superior Court Judge from Burke County sentenced 52-year-old Shirlene Morrisey Ludlam to an active prison term of five to six years in custody of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections after she pleaded guilty to the felony charge.

According to the investigation, a representative with ComServ Incorporated of Lenoir contacted the Lenoir Police Department regarding an employee embezzling money. The company representative informed investigators that a regional supervisor gave notification that employees were receiving paychecks but had not been working according to timesheets.

The company representative advised investigators that Ludlam confessed to taking the money, in excess of $300,000 over a period of approximately five years, and admitted that she had deposited paychecks calculated from false timesheets into her own account.

Det. Jody Herman investigated the case for Lenoir Police Department. Nancy Lee handled prosecution for the District Attorney’s Office.

Thursday, 05 May 2016 18:03

Trial Date Set in Caldwell County Murder Case

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In Caldwell County Superior Court this week, a trial date was set for 59-year-old Nancy Benge Austin of Lenoir, who is accused of murder. Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to begin the trial on November 14 of this year.

Austin is accused of murder in connection to the December 26, 2013 death of 20-year-old Dylan Joseph Short. She faces a felony murder charge.

Jamie Adams and Lance Sigmon will prosecute the case for the District Attorney’s Office. The Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office has investigated the case, with assistance from the S.B.I.

In Burke County Superior Court today (May 5), 27-year-old Michael Lee Shuping of Morganton was sentenced to an active prison term of 10-14 years after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and concealing a death.

Shuping, who also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a weapon by a prisoner, was sentenced to serve his prison term in custody of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections by the Honorable Daniel A. Kuehnert, Superior Court Judge from Burke County.

Kuehnert ordered that Shuping serve a 22- to 36-month concurrent sentence for the possession of firearm charge, and gave him a suspended sentence of 15 to 27 months with supervised probation for 60 months upon his release from prison that runs consecutive to his active term.

The defendant was arrested in April 2015 for the accidental shooting death of 39-year-old Leslie Renee Hensley.

Shuping told investigators that he was involved in moving Hensley’s body to Rutherford County and dumping it on the side of a dirt road. Using information from Shuping, Investigators found Hensley’s remains on April 17, 2015, five days after the fatal shooting, at the bottom of a steep bank on the side of the road in Rutherford County and later located her car in Cleveland County.

38-year-old Timothy Hal Edwards of Morganton also faces charges related to the case.

Burke County Sheriff’s Detective Stephen Ritchie investigated the case, with assistance from Charlie Morris of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Frank Webster handled the prosecution for the District Attorney’s Office.

Thursday, 05 May 2016 13:10

Morganton To Start Flow Testing Hydrants

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The City of Morganton plans to start flow testing more than 200 fire hydrants in the eastern part of the city. 

The Morganton Public Safety Department and Water Resources Department will start flow testing hydrants Sunday evening, May 15. Testing will occur from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. nightly, and should be completed by May 29, barring any weather issues.

Customers may experience discolored water during the flow tests. If customers do experience discolored water, they should run their cold water only until the water becomes clear.

Approximately 240 hydrants, which is 20 percent of the hydrants in the City, will be tested. The remaining 880 hydrants in the City will be flushed and serviced at a later time in the year to insure that they operate properly.

The flow tests this year will occur in the central and eastern sections of the city in the areas of King Street, E Concord Street, Hogan Street, Valdese Avenue, Center Street to Kirksey Drive, E Union Street from Center Street to City Limits, E Fleming Drive to S Sterling Street, Bethel Road to City Limits, S Sterling Street, and E Parker Road to City Limits. The affected areas are highlighted below on a map.

The flow testing and flushing of fire hydrants is a requirement of the NC Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal.

For water quality issues, contact the Water Resources Department at 828-4385276. For questions about flow testing, contact the Fire Captain John Campbell at 828-432-2522.

Dan Moore has been named Interim Superintendent of the Catawba County Public Schools. The Catawba County Board of Education took the action at its meeting yesterday (May 4). Moore has been acting superintendent since the departure last month of former Superintendent Dan Brigman.

Moore, previously the Assistant Superintendent of Operations for Catawba County Schools, has also served with the school system as Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. Prior to coming to Catawba County, Moore served as Director of Personnel in the Macon County, N.C. school system. He has been a school administrator and teacher in both North Carolina and Georgia. Moore received his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Augusta State University in Augusta, Georgia and a B.A. in Physical Education from Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.

The Catawba County Board of Education also approved a contractual agreement with the N.C. School Boards Association (NCSBA) to assist with its search for a new superintendent. The Board expressed its desire to conduct the search expeditiously and will meet with the NCSBA next Thursday (May 12) to begin the process.

The Catawba County school system has a student enrollment of 16,326 in 28 schools. It is the largest employer in Catawba County with 2,010 employees.

Thursday, 05 May 2016 10:57

Second Arrest this Week for Hickory Man

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64-year-old Leverne Williams of 8th Avenue Drive S.E. in Hickory has been arrested by Hickory Police for a second time this week. He was initially arrested Monday night (May 2) for felony habitual larceny in connection to a shoplifting incident at Walmart in February of this year. The habitual larceny charge was filed as the result of previous convictions, two for felony larceny and four for misdemeanor larceny.

Following his arrest Monday, Williams was released on a written promise to appear in court the following day. He was taken into custody without incident at about 1:40 this morning for failure to appear in court.

Williams has been jailed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $2,500 secured bond. An appearance in District Court was set for June 13 in Newton.

Thursday, 05 May 2016 10:31

Hickory Man Arrested on Cocaine Charges

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29-year-old Kelsey O’Brien Ruff of 20th Avenue Drive N.E. in Hickory was arrested by Hickory Police shortly before 11:30 last night (May 4) on one felony count each of possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver a schedule II controlled substance and possession of cocaine, plus one misdemeanor count of driving while license revoked.

He was arrested when Police responded to Highway 127 and 8th Avenue Drive S.E. where a female victim reported that her boyfriend, Kelsey Ruff, had stolen her vehicle. Officers spotted and stopped the vehicle, a 2000 Toyota Camry, on 11th Avenue Drive S.E., near 2nd Street S.E.

The victim chose not to file charges against Ruff; however, he was charged with driving while license revoked. During a subsequent search, Officers found a bag containing three grams of powder cocaine on Ruff’s person and another bag containing 0.1 grams of crack cocaine on the ground.

Ruff was taken into custody without incident and jailed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $4,000 secured bond. A first appearance in District Court was set for today in Newton.

The Humane Society of Catawba County-Newton, which is now partnering with Catawba County Animal Services to operate the Animal Shelter in Newton, will begin a new series of rabies vaccination clinics this Saturday (May 7). All clinics will be held on Saturdays and spread out over the year and across the county in hopes of making clinics convenient for citizens.

All pets brought to these clinics will receive a one-year rabies vaccination. A fee of $7 will be charged for each vaccination. The fee is set to recoup the cost of the vaccine.

The Humane Society of Catawba County's Newton Office also provides one year rabies vaccinations to pet owners year round, Monday through Friday between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., at the shelter at 201 Government Services Drive, Newton, NC 28658 (off Radio Station Road)

Here is the schedule for the clinics, all on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 12 Noon:

May 7 at St. Stephens Dog Park on 36th Ave NE in Hickory

June 4 at Banoak Elementary School on Highway 10 West in Vale

July 9 at the Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue Base on  Slanting Bridge Road in Sherrills Ford

August 4 at the Catawba Fire Department on North Main Street in Catawba

September 3 at Riverbend Dog Park on Highway 16 North in Conover

Jane Bowers, the Executive Director of the Humane Society of Catawba County said in a news release: "All dogs must be on a leash and under control of the dog owner, at all times, at the Rabies Clinic sites, all cats must be in a carrier for the safety and security of the cat."

For more information on the County's 2016 Rabies Vaccination Clinics, you may call the Catawba County Animal Shelter at 828-464-7686.