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The Catawba County Schools Board of Education approved the appointment of five new principals and two district-level support personnel at its June 2 meeting. The changes will be effective July 1.

Nichole Richardson Ijames will be the new principal at Snow Creek Elementary School. She is currently assistant principal at Tuttle Elementary School. She replaces Dr. Walter Zahler, who is retiring.

Dr. Robin A. Honeycutt has been appointed as the new principal at Banoak Elementary School. Dr. Honeycutt is currently the Director of Student Information & Data Services for the district and previously served as principal at Oxford Elementary School. He replaces Kathy Keane, who has taken a position at a private school.

Laura Marie Ingenito will be the new principal at Tuttle Elementary School. Ingenito has served as assistant principal at Clyde Campbell Elementary School for the past six years and at Balls Creek prior to that. Ingenito replaces DeAnna Finger, who has accepted a position as director of federal programs and student services for Lincoln County Schools.

Rita Lail has been appointed as principal at Balls Creek Elementary School. Lail’s public school experience includes two years as assistant principal at Blackburn Elementary School and 22 years of teaching experience. Lail replaces Lisa Thompson, who has accepted a principalship in McDowell County.

Angela Blackstock Garcia will be the new principal at Lyle Creek Elementary. Currently, Garcia serves as the Assistant Principal at St. Stephens Elementary School. She will replace Sharon Harwood, who has accepted a position with Catawba County Schools’ new COMPASS Academy.

In addition to the five principal assignments, the School Board accepted Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman’s recommendations for two district-level positions.

Deborah Ferguson will serve as Director of Before- and After-School Programs. She is a former Head Start Director in Alexander County and also has experience as the Director of Before- and After-School Programs in Caldwell County Schools.

Dwayne Finger was appointed as Director of Safety, Facilities & Athletics. Finger is the current principal at Maiden High School.

The position at Maiden High School will be posted.

30-year-old Joshua Lynn Cook of White Plains Church Road in Taylorsville has been arrested by Alexander Co. Sheriff’s Officers on seven counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

He was arrested after a search warrant was executed at his residence, which is across the street from the East Alexander Middle School, at about ten o’clock yesterday morning (June 4). Materials containing a visual representation of a minor between the age of six and 14 were found at the residence. Those materials were seized.

The F.B.I. assisted in the investigation. Additional charges are possible as the investigation continues.

Bond for Cook was set at $100,000, secured. A first appearance in District Court was set for today in Taylorsville.

According to published reports, Brad Adkins, the former Operations Manager of the Foothills Regional Airport, was sentenced in federal court this week to time served and four months of house arrest. At the completion of house arrest, Adkins will serve three years supervised probation.

Adkins pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit public corruption and aiding & abetting embezzlement in September of 2012. He could have faced up to 15 years in prison.

Adkins had been held in the McDowell County jail prior to this week’s sentencing.

Co-defendant Alex Nelson was sentenced earlier this year to three years in prison and three years supervised probation.

21-year-old Devon Wesley Downing of Corpening Drive in Morganton has been arrested by Officers with the Morganton Dept. of Public Safety on charges of felony breaking & entering, felony larceny and possession of stolen goods or property.

He was arrested in connection to an incident between May 5 and May 12 when a female victim reported that her Alexander Avenue home was broken into and several thousand dollars in property and coins were stolen. The residence was unoccupied as the victim moved to another city.

An investigation by the MDPS Criminal Investigations Division resulted in the recovery of approximately $1,900 in stolen property, as well as in the identification of two offenders, one of whom is Devon Downing.

After his arrest, Downing was jailed in the Burke-Catawba District Confinement Facility under a $10,000 secured bond. He’ll appear in District Court on June 11 in Morganton.

At least one additional arrest is forthcoming.

46-year-old Ronnie Lynn Benfield of Main Avenue Drive N.W. in Hickory and 34-year-old James Wallace Jernigan III of Laurel Street in Hudson were both arrested by Hickory Police at about 1:45 a.m. today. They were each charged with 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 possession of drug paraphernalia.

The arrests came about after an Officer parked at the Cupboard Express store on Highway 321 N.W. saw a Toyota Camry pulling out of the Sunhouse convenience store on 2nd Avenue N.W. with no license tag light. The Officer followed and then stopped the vehicle at 14th Street N.W. and Main Avenue Drive N.W.

Benfield was the driver and Jernigan was the passenger. Neither man had proper identification. A consent search of the vehicle was conducted, leading to the discovery of two glass pipes with residue, silver spoons with residue, digital scales, a baggie containing 3.5 grams of methamphetamine and another baggie containing 1.9 grams of marijuana.

Neither man admitted responsibility for the drugs, so both were arrested and charged. Benfield told Police he had just gone to pick up the vehicle for a friend, who was intoxicated.

Both men were taken to the Catawba Co. Detention Facility with bond for each set at $10,000, secured. First appearances in District Court were set for June 6 in Newton.

Governor Pat McCrory signed the Energy Modernization Act of 2014 today at N.C. State University.  A statement released by the Governor’s office says the legislation will clear the way for energy exploration, high-tech jobs and new investment in North Carolina’s energy sector.

A recent study by N.C. State’s Dr. Michael Walden cites a number of benefits of on-shore energy development in North Carolina, including:

  • Close to 500 jobs created from infrastructure development (over a seven-year build-up of facilities).
  • $80 million in new annual income created in North Carolina (over a seven-year build-up of facilities).
  • Close to 1,500 jobs created from production activities (over a 20-year recovery period).
  • Over $150 million in new annual income in North Carolina (over a 20-year recovery period).

Natural gas exploration includes fracking, which refers to hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting oil and gas by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals into rock.  Permits for fracking could be issued by May 2015.

The bill, which was opposed by environmentalists, makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to disclose the chemicals used in fracking.  Doctors and emergency personnel are among those who could be charged if they violate the law.

The Governor’s statement says the legislation has safeguards in place to protect the environment.

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 13:24

I.D. of Man Found Dead in Lenoir Released

Lenoir Police have released the name of a man found deceased in a house in Lenoir yesterday. He is 36-year-old Neal Joshua King of 1026 N.W. Perkins Place in Lenoir.

King’s body was found in the abandoned house by a female passerby who noticed a foul odor coming from the residence. The body was found face down on the floor with a belt wrapped around King’s neck and tied to a closet door.

The incident is still being investigated as a suspicious death; however, there is no indication of foul play at this time. The cause of death is pending the results of an official autopsy report.

No further information is available at this time.

34-year-old Courtney Dawn Reitler of Whiterock Drive in Mount Holly and 27-year-old Claire Marie Thompson of South Center Street in Hickory were both arrested by Hickory Police at about 2 a.m. today (June 4). Reitler was charged with felony possession of a schedule I controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Thompson was arrested on warrants out of Alexander County issued in February for 28 felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Events leading to the arrests began as Officers observed a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot at the Red Roof Inn on 8th Street Drive S.E. Police watched as two subjects got out of the vehicle and went into a room. The Officers then conducted a “knock & talk.” While doing so, they saw drug paraphernalia, including syringes and pieces of plastic, in plain view in the room.

Consent was given to search, leading to the discovery of an uncapped syringe in the room and a number of additional syringes, capped and uncapped, in a purse. Officers also found a prescription medication bottle containing a baggie with a white powder inside. That substance was later identified as heroin. In addition, Officers searched the vehicle, a Chevy Trailblazer, and found a make-up case containing razor blades, spoons and syringes.

A routine records check showed the outstanding warrants for Thompson’s arrest.

Both women were placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility with bond for Reitler set at $10,000, secured, while Thompson was given a $51,000 secured bond. Reitler will make a first appearance in District Court on June 6. Thompson has a court date in Taylorsville on June 9.

To help prevent unexpectedly high utility bills during winter and summer months, the City of Morganton is offering a Budget Billing program for city utility customers. Budget Billing allows customers to make fixed monthly payments throughout the year.

When customers enroll in Budget Billing, staff reviews the customer's utility history for the past year, calculates the monthly average and sets that amount as the customer's fixed monthly payment. The amount is based on previous usage and is not negotiable.

Customers can enroll in Budget Billing from June through August. To get the most benefit from the program, customers should enroll in June. The Budget Billing cycle runs from July 1 through June 30. In June, customers will receive a credit if they use fewer utilities than calculated or they will have to make a payment if they use more utilities than estimated.

To qualify for Budget Billing, a customer must have been a City of Morganton customer for at least one year; they must have always paid bills on time; and they must never have written a bad check to the city.

Customers currently enrolled in Budget Billing will receive a letter before the start of the new yearly cycle informing them of their new budget bill amount. Current Budget Billing customers must sign and return the letter to stay enrolled in Budget Billing.

For more information, call 828-438-5244.

A recent study conducted by a company called CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison company, ranks Hickory as North Carolina’s ninth best city in which to live.

The study focused on five key factors:

  • odds of being a victim of a violent crime,
  • commute time,
  • income,
  • residents who attended some college, and
  • restaurants per capita.

Hickory was recognized for its furniture industry, its proximity to the mountains and to the Catawba River; its relatively short commute times; and its abundance of restaurants.

The top ten are:

10.  Reidsville
9.  Hickory
8.  Fayetteville
7.  New Bern
6.  Goldsboro
5.  Kernersville
4.  Asheville
3.  Belmont
2.  Hendersonville
1.  Mooresville

For more information, visit www.creditdonkey.com/live-north-carolina.html.