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44-year-old Francisco Augustin Ailon of Cincinnati was given an active prison sentence of at least 20 years after pleading guilty to multiple sexual offenses involving an underage female family member during Burke County Superior Court on Monday (March 20).

The Honorable Daniel A. Kuhnert, Superior Court Judge from Burke County, sentenced Ailon to a prison term of 20-29 years following his guilty plea to statutory rape of a child 13, 14 or 15 years old, incest with a child 13 years old and indecent liberties with a child. Ailon will serve his prison sentence in custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.

The victim reported to another family member on June 28, 2016, that the defendant had sexual relations with her. During a forensic interview with Beth Cali of the Gingerbread House Child Advocacy Center in Burke County, the victim said the acts took place over a lengthy period of time starting in March 2012. She said Ailon forced her to engage in sexual acts repeatedly.

When confronted by family members about the allegations, the defendant confessed they were true. The victim did not tell anyone what was happening out of fear of what he would do to her if he found out.

Joseph Beaver of Morganton Department of Public Safety investigated the case with assistance from Beth Cali. Michelle Lippert handled prosecution for the State.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017 10:04

Statesville Man Reported Missing

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Authorities are looking for a missing person, 26-year-old Darwin Lewis “D.J.” Turner, Jr. of Statesville.  Mr. Turner was last seen on Thursday, March 16, in Hickory near Highway 127.  At that time, he was with friends in a gold Ford Explorer.

Mr. Turner is a black male.  He is about six feet tall and weighs approximately 200 pounds.  He has tattoos on his right arm.

Mr. Turner’s loved ones are concerned that he may be injured or in trouble.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Darwin Lewis “D.J.” Turner, Jr. should call the Iredell Co. Sheriff’s Office at 828-878-3180.

A Morganton man will spend a minimum of 25 years in prison after entering a guilty plea to multiple charges in Burke County Superior Court on Monday (March 20). 44-year-old Stacy Heatley pleaded guilty to attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Heatley was given an active prison term of 25 to 31 years in custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections by the Honorable Daniel A. Kuehnert, Superior Court Judge from Burke County.

Heatley and a female co-defendant were involved in an assault and robbery at a residence on Pete Brittain Road on Dec. 16, 2016. The victim, who was helping the co-defendant move out of a mobile home, was tied up and beaten in the head with a hammer then robbed of $6,500 in cash and his pickup truck.

The victim’s truck was recovered in Marion, and the defendants later were arrested at a Winston-Salem hotel after numerous people contacted law enforcement officers about their location.

Heatley admitted his involvement, telling investigators that he hit the victim with the hammer when he saw him hugging on the co-defendant. He later smashed a glass chicken on top of the victim’s head after he had been bound. He also told investigators that he and the co-defendant planned to rob the victim and had engaged in such behavior before.

The co-defendant has a July 2017 court date and is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The victim had severe injuries and was transported by helicopter to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte where he was treated for multiple skull fractures and swelling on his brain. The injuries were described as life-threatening, and he was hospitalized for more than two weeks.

Det. Daniel Strauss led the investigation for the Burke County Sheriff’s Office. Michelle Lippert prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s Office.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017 05:56

Lenoir Man Charged With Cocaine Possession

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31-year-old Christopher Ross Canella of Kenham Place in Lenoir was arrested Tuesday (March 21) by Caldwell County Sheriff's Officers. He's charged with felony possession of cocaine. Canella was confined in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $2,500 secured bond. No court date was listed.

35-year-old Christopher Scott Loftis of Norlan Road in Charlotte was arrested Tuesday (March 21) by Caldwell County Sheriff's Officers. He's charged with felony possession of schedule I controlled substance and misdemeanor possession with intent to manufacture schedule VI controlled substance. Loftis was locked up in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $4,000 secured bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled for Tuesday.

26-year-old Homer Joseph Hamilton Jr. of Sleepy Hollow Road in Lenoir was arrested Tuesday (March 21) by Caldwell County Sheriff's Officers. He's charged on a bill of indictment with possession of methamphetamine, felony larceny, felony possession of stolen goods or property, possession of drug paraphernalia, and two counts apiece of felony breaking and entering to a motor vehicle, misdemeanor larceny, and misdemeanor possession of stolen goods or property. Hamilton was jailed in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $6,000 secured bond. A Superior Court date is set for May 1. 

45-year-old Pamela Alice Moses of 2nd Street in Valdese was arrested Tuesday (March 21) by Caldwell County Sheriff's Officers. She's charged with felony breaking and entering. Moses was detained in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $10,000 secured bond. A District Court appearance is scheduled for Thursday (March 23).

Hickory City Council met in regular session Tuesday night (March 21). Minutes, second readings, and the consent agenda were all approved unanimously. Among the items under second readings was the consideration to close a portion of 1st Street NE and the approval of the annual auditing contract with Martin Starnes & Associates. Among the items in the consent agenda was the reduction of the speed limit on Main Avenue from 17th Street SE to 21st Street SE from a 35 mile-per-hour to a 25 mile-per-hour zone.

Principal Planner Cal Overby presented a petition for a voluntary non-contiguous annexation for 1329 Zion Church Road. Nobody appeared to speak for or against the petition and it  passed unanimously.

The Amec Foster Wheeler design team presented an update about the proposed Gateway design. They shared details about the design process and landscaping details. A motion was made to charge Amec with continuing the leaves design and adding "Hickory" to it. The motion passed 6 to 1, with councilman Zagaroli voting no.

City Council discussed state legislation that could make local elections partisan. SB94 is the bill in question. Council will continue to consider whether or not they should take an official position on that bill.

Firefighters continued to fight a wildfire in the Linville Gorge area Tuesday (March 21). Burnout operations were conducted again Tuesday on the White Creek Fire, increasing containment to 30%. The fire, which was reported last Thursday (March 16), is burning near Shortoff Mountain at the south end of Linville Gorge on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. The fire is now estimated at 1,750 acres.

The fire continues to burn within the containment lines. Firefighters worked Tuesday to strengthen containment using burn out operations to remove fuels within the containment area. Due to the rugged terrain in Linville Gorge, defensible fire lines fall back to natural features and previously existing control lines. This indirect approach follows incident objectives of protecting public and firefighter safety and minimizing impacts in the wilderness.

169 firefighters were on the scene Tuesday. Today (Wednesday, March 22), firefighters were scheduled to patrol and monitor the fire area, as well as work to extinguish any hot spots near fire lines. Windy conditions and low humidity were expected throughout the day before conditions moderate Thursday. Residents of southern Burke and Catawba Counties experienced smoke Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Law enforcement officials completed investigations Tuesday afternoon and determined lightning to be the likely cause of the fire. Officials surveyed the initial 35 acres the fire burned the day of ignition and were unable to find signs of campfires or other human cause. Lightning detection networks show a lightning strike near the origin of the fire on March 6th, prompting a smoke report. The lightning strike likely smoldered until fuels dried enough for the fire to spread.

An area closure is in effect for all U.S. Forest Service lands east of State Road 1238 (Old NC 105 / Kistler Memorial Highway), south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), south of Table Rock Picnic Area, west of Back Irish Creek Forest Service Road #118 (Blue Gravel Road) and Roses Creek Forest Service Road #99, north of Highway 126. In addition, the following trails are closed: Shortoff Trail (Tr #235), Rock Jock Trail (Tr #247), Pinch-In Trail (Tr #228), Linville Gorge Trail (Tr #231) south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), Mountains to Sea Trail (Tr #440) from State Road 1238 at Pinnacles to the Table Rock Picnic Area, and any social trails existing within the closure area. Public entry is prohibited within this area.

The District Attorney’s Office for the 25th Judicial District announced today (March 21) that a Catawba County Narcotics Investigator acted lawfully in the fatal shooting of 41-year-old Irecas Rayshion Valentine.  The incident occurred on November 28, 2016 during a Catawba County drug investigation.  The shooting took place in Hickory; however, the Hickory Police Department was not involved.

The D.A.’s Office reviewed the case to determine whether the shooting was lawful or unlawful.  The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (S.B.I.) also conducted an investigation.  The S.B.I. interviewed witnesses, photographed the scene and collected physical evidence.  No video is known to exist of the actual shooting; however, body camera footage from Officers arriving after the incident was collected and examined.  

All information obtained during the S.B.I. investigation was shared with the D.A.’s Office.  The S.B.I. presented its findings to a team of experienced prosecutors, including three Chief Assistant District Attorneys, four prosecutors in the D.A.’s Office, the D.A.’s Chief Investigator (who is a retired U.S. Marshal) and a Victim Witness Legal Assistant (who is a retired Captain from the Burke County Sheriff’s Office with 26 years of law enforcement experience).

Valentine fled from law enforcement officers about three years earlier, resulting in a confrontation that he survived after being shot multiple times.  Officers approaching a Porsche Cayenne automobile on November 28, 2016 were unsure of the driver’s identity, but had information that it might be Valentine.  

According to the D.A.’s statement, all evidence indicates that Valentine's driver side window was completely rolled down and the radio was off.  Valentine looked directly at the Officers and could hear their commands.

Officers immediately identified themselves and commanded Valentine to put the car in park and turn it off.  Valentine then put the car in reverse and began backing up, slowly.  According to witness statements, Officers again loudly commanded Valentine to stop and put the car in park.  Valentine refused to comply.  He accelerated abruptly and rammed two Sheriff’s Office vehicles, one of which was occupied by an Investigator.

Only one Sheriff’s Investigator fired his weapon.  The entire sequence of events unfolded in what was described as “just a few seconds”.

Based upon applicable law and the facts as reported by eyewitness accounts, corroborated by photographs and other physical evidence, the D.A. concluded that the Investigator acted lawfully.

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