A jury needed less than 45 minutes of deliberation to find 62-year-old Nancy Benge Austin of Lenoir guilty of first-degree murder in the December 2013 shooting death of 20-year-old Dylan Joseph Short. That guilty verdict was returned on Friday (May 24) in Caldwell County Superior Court.

Austin was sentenced to life in prison without parole by the Honorable Lisa C. Bell, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, following her conviction. 

The trial ran for two weeks. Following three days of jury selection, opening statements were made by both sides on Thursday, May 16.  

Assistant District Attorneys Jamie Adams and Lance Sigmon presented the State’s case, and Defense Attorney Sam Snead laid out his client’s claims. Both sides had multiple witnesses who provided testimony during the course of five days of evidence presentation. 

Sigmon and Adams talked about the relationship between the victim and Austin’s daughter, Sarah, and outlined how the events of that December day played out, noting that they had happily been together the prior two days. They also told the jurors of Austin’s anger and disdain for Short, the father of her grandson.

Austin took the stand in her defense, giving her recollection of the events that took place at her residence on December 26, 2013, when Short was killed by her from a gunshot wound to the head.

Short went to Austin’s home to speak with Sarah on the day of his death, and they were engaged in a confrontation outside Austin’s home when the defendant used a Taurus .38-caliber revolver and shot Short, claiming she was protecting herself and her daughter.

Snead argued that his client had immunity from criminal liability and the right to defend herself and her daughter. An eyewitness for the State testified that he saw Short lying on the ground begging for his life as Austin stood over him and fired the fatal shot.

Adams told jurors that Short tried to defend himself after Austin fired one shot by attempting to take the gun from her. But when he found himself on the ground, Austin was hovering over him, pulling the trigger once with no bullet in the chamber before stepping back and firing the deadly shot.

The case was investigated by Doug Dupell of the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Adams and Sigmon handled prosecution for the State.





28-year-old James Dewey Pennington of 9th Street S.W. in Hickory was arrested yesterday (May 23) by Probation & Parole Officers for one felony probation violation. Pennington is on probation as he serves a 30-month suspended sentence following a November 2017 felony conviction in Burke County for breaking and entering. Pennington was taken to the Catawba County Detention Facility. No bond amount is currently listed, no court date was listed.

49-year-old Shannon Thomas Propst of College Avenue in Newton was arrested today (May 24) by Newton Police Officers. He's charged with assault on a female, communicating threats, and false imprisonment. Propst was jailed in the Catawba County Detention Facility. No bond amount was listed. A District Court appearance was scheduled for June 10.

23-year-old Chadrick Ty-Quan McGee of Newton Drive in Statesville was arrested yesterday (May 23) by Caldwell County Sheriff's Officers on single felony counts of possession of a stolen firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. McGee was placed in the Caldwell County Detention Center under a $25,000 secured bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled yesterday.

19-year-old Jamie Marcel Graham of Charlotte was arrested by Claremont Police Officers. He's charged on bills of indictment with three counts of felony break or enter a motor vehicle, and single counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, robbery with a dangerous weapon, breaking and entering, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, and larceny after breaking and entering. He's also charged on bills of indictment with misdemeanor counts.

Charges against Graham filed by Claremont Police not included among the bills of indictment are felony counts of breaking and entering, larceny after breaking and entering, and possession of stolen goods, along with misdemeanor counts of resisting a public officer, and possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce. The Newton Police Department charged Graham with felony probation violation.

He was incarcerated in the Catawba County Detention Facility this morning (May 24) under $107,000 bond. Superior Court dates are scheduled for May 29 and June 10. A District Court appearance is set for June 10.

A home was destroyed as a result of a fire in the Little River Community of Caldwell County. The fire is under investigation by law enforcement agencies. Thursday (May 23) just before 3 a.m., the Little River Fire Department, with assistance from the Grace Chapel Fire Department, responded to a residential structure fire at 6102 Log Cabin Place, which is just off Taylorsville Road between Lenoir and Taylorsville.

Upon their arrival, firefighters discovered heavy fire from the rear of the residence. The Ellendale Fire Department from Alexander County responded, along with the Sawmills, Hudson, Valmead, Kings Creek and Granite Falls Fire Departments from Caldwell County. Caldwell County EMS provided medical coverage and the American Red Cross provided assistance to the family. Firefighters worked to extinguish the flames.

Residents were alerted to the fire by the smell of smoke. They found fire in the rear of the residence on the enclosed porch and attempted to extinguish it with buckets of water before becoming overwhelmed by smoke and heat. It took firefighters approximately 30-45 minutes to bring the fire under control. There were no injuries to residents, their animals or the first responders. The home is considered a total loss.

The Caldwell County Fire Marshal’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, the NC State Bureau of Investigation and ATF are actively investigating this incident. A news release from Caldwell County Emergency Services says at this time, the fire has been deemed incendiary in nature, a fire by human hands, and is considered an active investigation.

Any information that may assist these agencies with their investigation should be reported to Caldwell County Crime Stoppers at (828)758-8300. You do not have to reveal your name. The Crime Stoppers phone line is operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

With an estimated 37.6 million motorists taking to the roadways this Memorial Day weekend, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol is encouraging drivers to plan ahead before traveling.

Regardless of the intended destination, an increase in motor vehicle travel is expected which may lead to congestion on major interstates, US and NC highways. With this in mind, troopers will be out in full force to monitor driver behavior in an attempt to reduce collisions that occur from high speed, impaired and distracted driving, and lack of seat belt use. Using the Vision Zero approach, law enforcement officials hope to report zero fatal collisions throughout the holiday weekend.

In an attempt to discourage impaired driving on both roadways and waterways, SHP has combined forces with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s Law Enforcement Division, participating in the annual On the Road, On the Water campaign. The campaign will be conducted throughout the weekend with an intense focus on removing impaired motorists who are operating boats and motor vehicles.

Motorists are encouraged to follow these suggestions:

Expect Delays - research routes in advance to include secondary routes, detours and possible road closures. This can be done by visiting www.DriveNC.gov.
Monitor Speed - speeding is still the top contributing factor to vehicle collisions.
Wear Seat Belts – seat belts must be worn in both front and back seats if available.
Avoid Road Rage - use patience when driving and avoid other motorists who may contribute to road rage situations.
Don't Drive Distracted - avoid any distraction(s) while driving that reduces your ability to drive safely.
Collision Reporting - motorists involved in a property damage collision are asked to remove their vehicles from the roadway to the shoulder or emergency strip. Motorists involved in injury-related collisions should immediately contact 911 or *HP (*47) for emergency assistance.
Reporting Dangerous Drivers or Other Emergencies - motorists are encouraged to dial *HP or 911.

For non-emergency information, motorists are requested to contact the local SHP office and avoid using *HP or 911. A list of local district offices can be obtained by visiting www.NCDPS.gov. For more information about NC Quick Pass transponder options, customers can visit www.ncquickpass.com or follow NC Quick Pass on Twitter @NC_QuickPass.​




The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will pause most road construction activities that require lane closures on interstate, U.S. and N.C. routes from early this morning (May 24), through Tuesday evening, May 28. The actual times depend on the projects.

Lane closures will remain in place for safety reasons in some locations where conditions do not allow for lanes or roads to be re-opened, such as many bridge replacement projects or where there is no pavement or shoulder. In addition, work that does not interfere with the travel lanes can still take place over the extended weekend.

For key routes where closures will remain in place go to ncdot.gov. Travelers can check ahead on the status of the routes they plan to use by going to DriveNC.gov, where conditions can be checked by route number, county or region.

Here are some additional tips for safely navigating the highways during the holiday weekend:

Buckle Up. Every seat, every time. The Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the Highway Patrol will be conducting their annual Click It or Ticket campaign, enforcing passenger safety laws.
Stay alert when going through work zones, as even if work is suspended, you may encounter narrowed lanes and traffic shifts;
Be patient and obey the posted speed limit;
Avoid distracted driving;
Don’t tailgate. Give yourself space in case traffic in front of you suddenly stops or slows down;
Travel at non-peak hours when possible, and leave early to allow extra time to reach your destination;
Consider using alternate routes to avoid usual traffic congestion locations such as near a major city; and
Obey the “Move Over Law” – which requires motorists to move over one lane, if possible, or reduce speed when emergency and construction vehicles with flashing lights are on the shoulder of the highway.

Additionally, drivers who choose to use the Monroe Expressway or Triangle Expressway are reminded they can save money on tolls using a prepaid NC Quick Pass transponder. NC Quick Pass is the North Carolina Turnpike Authority's toll collection program. It offers drivers two ways to pay for tolls: a prepaid transponder account​ or the Bill by Mail program​. Transponders automatically deduct tolls from a prepaid balance and provide drivers up to a 35% savings, including on the future express lanes on Interstate 77. The NC Quick Pass E-ZPass transponder can also be used for toll facilities in Florida (SunPass), Georgia (Peach Pass) and states where E-ZPass is accepted.​

An armed robbery at a Burke County convenience store is under investigation. Wednesday (May 22) at 10:46 p.m. the Burke County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a robbery that had just occurred at The Cubbard Express #3 at 8838 Old NC Highway 10 in Hildebran.

Deputies and a detective responded and gathered information from the clerk and got footage from security cameras. The suspects were described as two black males, possibly in their 20s. They displayed handguns during the robbery and had fled the scene on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash. The investigation is ongoing and the Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Burke County Sheriff’s Office at 828-438-5500 or Morganton/Burke Crimestoppers at 828-437-3333. All Crimestoppers tips are anonymous, and anyone with information leading to an arrest may receive a cash reward.

The Burke County Sheriff's Office has provided an update on a story we first reported Wednesday (May 22) on WHKY regarding an officer-involved shooting. The incident occurred at a residence on Airport-Rhodhiss Road in Hickory. The suspect reportedly would not comply with officers commands and made a move under a bed cover that resulted in a Burke County SWAT officer firing a shot.

Following surgery, the suspect, 50-year-old Johnny Allen Kaylor, is in critical, but stable condition at an unnamed hospital. A Ruger semi-automatic handgun, 273 grams of methamphetamine, an assortment of prescription medications, and a small amount of marijuana were seized from the mobile home. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) street value guidelines, the meth had a value of $27,300.

The handgun and meth were located beside the bed that the suspect was in. The SBI is continuing their investigation regarding the shooting incident and the Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate the violations involving the drug charges, possessing a firearm by a convicted felon and other crimes. Kaylor has not yet been charged.

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