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Neighbor Extinguishes Fire At Clayton Home
Its good to have a neighbor who is a firefighter.  Its even better if he also works for a fire extinguisher company.

That neighbor was able to extinguish an early morning fire at a home outside of Clayton.

Around 3:30am Tuesday, the Clayton, Wilson’s Mills, and Cleveland Fire Departments responded to a fire at a home on Felicia Court.

Officials said an extension cord for a ventilation blower caught on fire.  However the firefighting neighbor heard the call and quickly put out the fire.

No injuries were reported and damage was minimal. Photo courtesy John Payne 

 

Steeplechase Decision Delayed
By Laura Crosio

Dozens of concerned Clayton residents left Monday night’s town meeting wondering what impact a proposed 2,200-home subdivision will have on their neighborhood.

Members of the Clayton Town Council decided to table a public hearing at their March 2 meeting regarding approval of the Steeplechase development.

In recent months, the planned community has been met with opposition by residents in neighboring subdivisions Ole Mill Stream and Smith Ridge Estates who have expressed concerns about traffic and quality of life.

Steeplechase developer, Wakefield Development Co., and Town of Clayton planners have been working together to make several changes to satisfy resident concerns. One worry has been proposed street connections that could link into the neighboring subdivisions.

Town Planner Director Dave DeYoung told council members Monday night his office should receive results of a traffic impact study this week.

Mayor Jody McLeod recommended the council be afforded at least two weeks to review the findings and approval was made to discuss the development further at their March 16 work session.


Funeral Thursday For Kenly Teen Killed In Weekend Accident
Funeral services will be held Thursday for a Kenly teenager who died in a weekend traffic accident.

Eighteen year-old Erika Lynn Wells was killed after the SUV she was driving overturned in the roadway on Hawkins Road, off Highway 301 between Selma and Micro around 3:25am Sunday.

Troopers said Wells ran off the roadway, then overcorrected, causing the SUV to flip onto its roof.  She died at the scene. The Highway Patrol said Wells was exceeding a safe speed for existing conditions.

Wells was a graduate of North Johnston High School and was employed by Caterpillar in Clayton.

Funeral services will be held Thursday at 2pm at Kenly Funeral Service Chapel. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions go towards funeral expenses and be made to Kenly Funeral & Cremation Service, PO Box 1034, Kenly, NC 27542. 

Wells death marked the fifth fatal accident on Johnston County roadways in 2015.
 

Selma-Area Meth Lab Suspects Facing New Charges

Additional charges have been filed against two suspects arrested following the discovery of a meth lab last year.

The active meth lab was found Nov. 12, 2014 at a residence on Thistle Drive outside of Selma. 

Van Buren Killette Jr., 31, of Beulahtown Road, Kenly, Jennifer Renee Wyand, 34, of Thistle Drive, Selma and Leslie Elwood House Jr., 51, were arrested that day.

On Monday, additional warrants were served against Killette (top right) and Wyand (lower right) charging them with two counts each of trafficking in methamphetamines.

Previously Killette and Wyand had both been charged with manufacturing methamphetamines, possess-distribute meth precursors, maintaining a vehicle or dwelling for a controlled substance, and felony conspiracy.  Killette was also charged Nov. 18, 2014 with violating parole.    

Both have remained in the Johnston County Jail since their arrests last year.

Killette’s bond was increased Monday from $501,000 to $1,501,000. Wyand’s bail was increased from $251,000 to $751,000.   


Car Struck, Pushed On Tracks As Train Approaches
Imagine sitting at a train crossing in the middle of the night with the red crossing light flashing and a train quickly approaching. Suddenly your car is struck from behind and pushed onto the tracks.

That happened in real life Friday morning to a motorist at the railroad crossing on Ricks Road in Selma.

James Andrea Prince, 55, of West Preston Street, Selma was waiting at the crossing around 2:30am when a car traveling at 30mph struck his vehicle from behind pushing it onto the tracks.  Prince was able to accelerate quickly and get off the tracks just before the train went through the crossing.

A police officer happened to be sitting nearby and witnessed the accident.  

Police said the driver of the other vehicle, Elisha Yvette Watson, 49, of Poole Drive, Selma was impaired. Watson registered 0.20 on the Breathalyzer, well above the legal limit of 0.08, according to police reports. 

Prince received minor injuries in the accident, which caused $2,500 in damage to his 2005 Toyota and $6,000 in damage to 2014 Chevy that Watson was driving. 

Watson (pictured) was charged with driving while impaired and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.


Town Of Benson Announces Shift In Administration
Hires new public utilities director, appoints interim finance director 

Benson’s busy future has prompted a recent shift in administration.  With its million-dollar waterline project, aggressive economic development and upcoming utility meter upgrade, town hall is a buzzing hive of activity — work is non-stop.
 
“Due to the upturn in the economy and the associated workload within the Town of Benson, we are proactively returning to full staff in electric and public works,” said Town Manager Matt Zapp. 

Former Public Utilities Director Don Johnson will now serve as the electric department director/superintendent. He will continue to report to the town manager and his duties will include overseeing Benson’s electrical system — including the ongoing upgrade to technologically advanced “smart” meters — as well as a large project management and back-up inspections for the planning department. 

The town has also hired a new public utilities director, continued Mr. Zapp, to oversee the remaining portion of Mr. Johnson’s former duties. 
                                                                                                                                                 Stephen Phillips, who is currently employed with Franklin County, will begin his new role in Benson beginning April 1. He will oversee the public works department, water system, collections system and the town’s wastewater treatment plant. All public works and water plant staff will report to Mr. Phillips, explained Mr. Zapp.

“His role will be to manage each of Benson’s permits with NCDENR (North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources), keeping our systems compliant and making improvements to proactively stay ahead of maintenance needs,” he said. 

Mr. Phillips, 37, brings with him 15 years of utility experience, added Mr. Zapp, and was actually a candidate in a previous search for a town public utilities director in 2012. His annual salary will be $70,000.  

“I think he’s going to be a great addition to our team,” said Planning and Zoning Administrator Braston Newton.

In addition, Mr. Newton himself will take on an additional role to his planning duties as interim finance director — filling in until Kim Pickett, who is currently Benson’s supervisor of utility billing, can take over the role. 

“Donna Honeycutt had to step away because of her retirement status. When Kim Pickett, our supervisor of utility billing, was hired there was an agreement that we would groom her to become the finance director,” said Mr. Newton.  “So that is what we’re doing. Currently, she is overseeing the software conversion for our utility billing and we didn’t want to add anything else to her plate during that process because it needs to go as smoothly as possible.”
 
Ms. Honeycutt stepped away from the position and announced her retirement a few years ago when Ashley Heath was hired as finance director. However, she remained on to help acclimate Ms. Heath to her new role, said Mr. Newton.  Ms. Heath left in March 2014 and Ms. Honeycutt returned to fill the gap. 

“She was very gracious to come back after retirement to assist in the interim, but it just got to a point where she made the decision — she just needed to be retired and not jeopardize any post-retirement income,” said Mr. Newton. 

“I will serve as interim finance director, but we’re really taking a team approach to it… Mr. Zapp, myself, a contracted CPA and Ms. Pickett will all review the finances on a weekly basis and Mr. Zapp will officially report to the board each month.”

Mr. Newton’s interim status will end June 30. 

In addition, Benson is advertising for someone to assist Mr. Newton as a planning/permit tech. Mr. Zapp said the town hopes to have someone in the position by May 1. Courtesy The Daily Record


School Social Workers Recognized

Johnston County School social workers on the front row (from left) are Whitney Kelbaugh, Carla Pearce, Jamie Sessoms, Phyllis Brown, Jackie Steward, Michele Norman, and Sway Archible. On the back row are Susan Kelly, Nan Jones, Gay Hicks, Endra Pugh, and Serreda Jenkins.

School Social Worker week is celebrated on March 1-7, 2015.  Johnston County Schools employees 14 school social workers.  Twelve of those social workers cover multiple schools and two are school-based.  

According to Dr. Oliver Johnson, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, school social workers address many issues that can affect a student’s ability to learn including family issues, hunger, medical issues, behavioral problems, drug use, and other primary needs.  School social workers provide crisis intervention, conflict resolution, staff support, facilitation for home-school links and connecting students and families with community resources. 

While the primary purpose of schools is to provide an education for students, many students do not always come to school ready or able to learn each day, said Johnson. Mental health concerns, hunger, family stress, poverty and other concerns impede learning. School social workers are an important part of the support staff team at each school that helps to create a supportive environment where children’s needs are met and they can be better prepared to learn each day.

“We encourage the community to say thank you to all school social workers this week for all that they do to make our schools and communities the best around,” said Johnson.


Thieves Stealing Batteries From Roadside Time Warner Boxes
The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office is investigating three thefts from Time Warner Cable, that are possibly connected.

On Monday, a representative with the cable company contacted deputies to report batteries were stolen from outage monitoring devices placed in cable boxes alongside the roadway.

The thefts occurred off Guy Road near Lee Forest Court, the 800 block of Little Creek Church Road, and the 2600 block of Little Creek Church Road, all outside of Clayton.

A total of 9 batteries valued at $360 were taken. Officials said they theft occurred sometime between Feb. 26th and March 2nd.

 

Campbell Tops Elon 12-1
Buies Creek – Cole Hallum drove in four and picked up three of Campbell’s 14 hits in a 12-1 win over Elon Monday night at Jim Perry Stadium.

Campbell (8-2) won its fifth straight game and recorded double digit hits for the fifth time this season. Hallum knocked in four for the second time this year, also notching four RBI in a win over Rider.

The Camels’ seven doubles were the most since logging eight two-baggers in a 20-0 win over North Carolina Central on April 11, 2012.

Elon fell to 5-3 in the early going with the loss.

Grant Yost (2-1) earned his second win of the season, cruising through six scoreless innings with five hits and four strikeouts. The junior did not walk a batter.

Travis Long made his fifth scoreless appearance in relief, going an inning with two hits and two strikeouts. Nathan Arp allowed the lone Elon run on three hits with a strikeout and a walk in two innings.

Through the last seven games, Campbell pitching has dealt a slim 1.00 ERA.

Lucas Bakker (1-2) took the loss for Elon, allowing seven runs, five earned, on seven hits with two strikeouts and a walk in three innings. Robbie Welhaf was charged with four runs, three earned, on five hits with five strikeouts and three walks in 4 1/3 innings of relief, while Sean Byrnes allowed a run on two hits with a walk.

Kyle Leady scored three times in the win, also picking up a double, while Austin Beard was 2-for-2 with two doubles and two walks, also scoring twice.

Cedric Mullins hit his first home run as a Camel in the third, a two-run shot off the foul pole in right, scoring Beard, who reached with a leadoff double. The homer started one of Campbell’s four four-run innings of the night.

The Camels also posted a four-run fourth, scoring two on an Elon error and two more on Phoenix wild pitches. CU pulled out to a 12-0 lead with a four-run eighth, highlighted by Hallum’s bases loaded two-run single to left.
Wil Leathers’ pinch hit RBI single in the top of the ninth put Elon on the board. Casey Jones went 2-for-4 for the Phoenix in the loss.

The Camels will host William & Mary in a noon doubleheader Wednesday at Jim Perry Stadium. CU was originally scheduled to play a two game midweek set at William & Mary March 3-4 in Williamsburg, Va., but winter weather forced the set to move to Buies Creek. Admission will be free to the twinbill.

Campbell begins a three game series against Bowling Green Friday, March 6, at 6pm. The series continues Saturday at 4pm and Sunday at 1pm.

Photo of Campbell's Anthony Lopez by Bennett Scarborough



JCSO: Meth Found During Four Oaks Traffic Stop
A 60 year-old Selma man was arrested on a methamphetamine possession charge during a traffic stop Friday near Four Oaks.

A DMV officer had reportedly stopped a vehicle on US301 South and requested a sheriff’s deputy to assist with the stop, according to Tammy Amaon, Public Information Officer with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

Jesse James Hall of the 1300 block of US70-A was arrested after meth was found in the vehicle, Amaon said.

Hall was given a $10,000 bond on the felony charge.

 

Pine Level Man Arrested For DWI After Vehicle Gets Stuck
A Pine Level man was arrested for driving while impaired Saturday night after getting his vehicle stuck in the back yard of a home off Peedin Road.

A resident called sheriff’s deputies reporting the suspicious vehicle around 8pm.  When an officer arrived, they reportedly found Robert Benjamin Watson, 63, of W. Blanche Street, inside his car blowing the horn.

Watson reportedly told officers he had taken a wrong turn.

Watson was arrested for driving while impaired and possession of an open container in the passenger area.  He later registered 0.12 on the Breathalyzer, above the legal limit of 0.08, authorities said.

Watson was given a $2,000 bond on the charges.

   


Kenly Dollar General Store Robbed
Kenly Police are looking for a suspect who robbed the Dollar General Store at 201 South Church Street. 

The robbery happened around 10pm Sunday.

Police said the suspect entered the business, displayed a handgun, then fled with an undisclosed amount of money.

A getaway car was parked behind the business, police believe. 

Police Chief Josh Gibson said the suspect was a light skinned black male, unknown age, between 5 foot 6 and 5 foot 9, wearing large glasses. There were no injuries.

Anyone with information about the robbery or the suspect is asked to contact the Kenly Police Department at 919-284-2116. Callers with information can remain anonymous. Photo courtesy Jason Thompson



$4 Million In Gold Stolen During I-95 Robbery
The FBI and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the reported theft of $4 million worth of gold stolen along I-95 Sunday evening.

WRAL says the armed robbery happened after the vehicle the gold was in broken down while traveling from Miami to Massachusetts. 

Two armed security guards reported that their vehicle became disabled around 7pm near the 114 mile marker.  The guards said they were forced into the woods where their hands were bound and ordered to the ground, while three armed men operating a white van loaded the gold into their vehicle then fled.

WRAL said the guards were employed by TransValue Inc, a Florida company, which transports valuables between financial institutions.

The two guards were not injured.

Anyone with information about the gold heist is asked to contact the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office at 252-237-2118.


2 Of 3 Suspects In Princeton Area Drug Investigation Arrested


(Right) Michael Antonio Everette, 49, from the Smithfield area is wanted on felony drug charges, by the Johnston County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Division, following an undercover investigation into illegal prescription pill sales in the Princeton area
.

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two of three suspects in connection with a 3-1/2 month undercover investigation.

Narcotics Captain A.C. Fish said undercover officers had conducted a series of undercover buys of prescription pills in the Princeton area. The suspects charged allegedly sold the pills to the agents.

Feyon Cornelius Pratt, 31, of West Edwards Street, Princeton was arrested Friday on more than a dozen felony charges including 9 counts of trafficking in opium or heroin.

James Edward McClarin, 58, of West Second Street, Princeton was charged Saturday with three counts of trafficking in opium or heroin.

A third suspect, Michael Antonio Everette, 49, from the Smithfield area still remains at large. Everette is described as a black male, 6 foot tall, weighing 150 pounds.  He is also wanted on felony drug charges, Captain Fish told WTSB News on Monday.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Michael Antonio Everette is asked to contact the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office at 919-989-5000.


Judge Elton C. Pridgen, 90, Smithfield

Funeral services will be held Wednesday for retired Judge Elton C. Pridgen of Smithfield who died Sunday at the age of 90 at Liberty Commons in Benson.

Judge Pridgen graduated from Selma High School in 1941 and enlisted in the US Army Ordnance Department in 1943. He served for 3 years during WWII, including 27 months in England and France where he attained the rank of Technical Sergeant.

Judge Pridgen was discharged from the military in 1946 at Ft. Bragg and worked in insurance real estate until he enrolled in the University of North Carolina. He graduated in 1954 from law school and worked for several years with an insurance company in the claims department.

In 1971 he was appointed as assistant district attorney for Johnston, Harnett and Lee counties and served in that position until July 1975 when he was appointed district court judge.

He was elected to that position and served in that capacity until 1978 when he was appointed chief district court judge. Pridgen served as chief district court judge until 1988 when he retired but remained an emergency/recalled district court judge until 1995.

In Nov. 2004, the NC State Bar recognized Judge Pridgen for 50 years of service as a licensed attorney. 

He was a member of the Centenary United Methodist Church where he had been an active member since 1956. He was active in church business over the years and was an adult Sunday School teacher for 52 years.

He was a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Judge Pridgen is survived by one son, Elton C. Pridgen Jr., and wife, Lisa McGee Pridgen, two grandchildren, Elton Pridgen III and Lindsey Prigden. A son, Shadrick Lassiter Pridgen predeceased him in May 2005.

The family of Judge Elton Pridgen will receive friends at Parrish Funeral Home in Selma on Tuesday, March 3rd from 6-8pm. Funeral services will be held at Centenary United Methodist Church in Smithfield on Wednesday, March 4th at 2pm. Burial will follow at Four Oaks Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the Centenary United Methodist Church Memorial Fund, 140 E. Market Street, Smithfield, NC 27577 or to a charity of ones choice.


March 1-7 Severe Weather Awareness Week In NC
Tornado Drill Scheduled For 9:30am Wednesday

Gov. Pat McCrory has declared March 1 – 7 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in North Carolina.

Last year, 81 tornado warnings were issued and 36 tornados were confirmed.

The deadliest months for tornadoes in NC are the months of March, May and November.

In 2014, the National Weather Service issued 632 severe thunderstorm warnings and a total of 686 severe thunderstorms were confirmed. 

Tornadoes form during heavy thunderstorms when warm, moist air collides with cold air. These storms can also produce large hail and strong winds. Residents should be equally prepared when other forms of severe weather threaten, such as lightning, floods or hail.

Listen to local radio, television or a NOAA radio when severe weather is likely.  If a warning is issued, a tornado has been spotted in your area and you should take shelter immediately.  If you are at home, go to a basement if available, or to the lowest floor of the house and to an interior room such as a hallway, pantry or closet away from windows.

Schoolchildren should go to inner hallways that are away from windows. Stay out of gymnasiums, auditoriums or cafeterias where there is a large roof span.

A statewide tornado drill will take place on Wednesday, March 4th at 9:30am.  Residents are reminded this will only be a drill. Photo 2008 tornado damage on Bridgers Road near Kenly. WTSB Photo


Smithfield Police Make 2 DWI Arrests Early-Sunday

Smithfield Police made two DWI arrests Sunday morning during unrelated traffic stops.

Around 12:10am, an officer stopped a vehicle in the 100 block of North Brightleaf Boulevard. Inside the vehicle, a small amount of cocaine and marijuana were located, according to Lt. R.K. Powell.

The driver, Lynton Yates Ray Jr., 29, (top right) of Government Road, Clayton was charged with driving while impaired, felony possession of cocaine, and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.  Lt. Powell said Ray registered 0.15 on the Breathalyzer, above the legal limit of 0.08.

Ray was booked into the Johnston County Jail in lieu of a $22,000 bond.

Smithfield Police seized a van from a DWI suspect during a traffic stop around 3:44am on Broadway Street near Brogden Road.

Carlos Alexander Bacas, 30, (lower right) of Third Street, Smithfield was charged with DWI and driving on a revoked license. Lt. Powell said Bacas had a prior DWI charge and because he was driving while intoxicated again police seized his Chevy van.

Bacas registered 0.17 on his first Breathalyzer reading but refused to submit a second breath sample, Lt. Powell said.

Bacas was given a $2,000 bond pending an April 16 court date, according to arrest records.

 
Police: Mom Leaves 11 Month-Old Alone In Car While Shopping                                                 
The Department of Social Services has been notified by Smithfield Police about an incident involving an 11 month-old child on Sunday.

A security guard working at Carolina Premium Outlets called police around 3pm after noticing the infant alone in a vehicle in the parking lot, according to police spokesperson Lt. R.K. Powell.  Police arrived and found the vehicle running, the doors to the car unlocked, and the 11 month-old alone and secured in a car seat. 

Lt. Powell said officers later found the mother of the child shopping at the outlet center accompanied by another young child.

Karen Lizbeth Maldono Arellano, 21, of Hunting Drive, Selma was cited for misdemeanor child abuse. She was ordered to appear in court on April 1 on the citation. 

Lt. Powell said officers also notified social workers about the incident.    
  

Cleveland Fire Department Receives New Rating After Inspection

The Cleveland Fire Department recently completed a routine NCRRS inspection as required by the North Carolina Department of Insurance.   This inspection assists insurance companies in setting the insurance rates for homes and businesses in the local community served by the Fire Department.

The North Carolina Response Rating System (NCRRS) reflects the efficiency of the Department in their service to the community.   Among other things, the routine inspections look for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, and proper maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities and availability of a water source.

This year, the Cleveland Fire Department improved its previous score of 5/9e to a higher 4/9e.  The improved score could significantly lower business and home insurance cost for properties located within the Cleveland Fire Department's responding district known as the McLemore District.  The rating adjustment went into effect on March 1, 2015.

E.G. Burr, Assistant Chief of the Cleveland Fire Department said the department wishes to share this valuable information with the business owners and homeowners.   “It is our hope that the community will benefit from this rate adjustment during a time when the expenses of everyday life is ever increasing,” Burr said.
“We would encourage all business and home owners to contact their insurance agency after March 1, 2015 and inquire if they qualify for an adjustment to a lower rate,” Burr told WTSB.  “Citing proprietary reasons, the insurance companies that we contacted would not share details of their pricing structure.”

The NCRRS rating system ranges from 1, the highest, to 10, not recognized as a certified fire department by the state, with most rural departments falling into the 9S category. While lower ratings do not necessarily indicate poor service, a higher rating does suggest that a department is overall better equipped to respond to fires in its district. Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowner’s insurance rates in that fire district.

2015 Soil and Water Conservation Awards

The Johnston Soil and Water Conservation District recently recognized citizens who have contributed to natural resource conservation in the county.

River Friendly Farmer Award
The 2015 River Friendly Farmer Award went to Ben Shields of In Good Heart Farm in Clayton.  Ben, and his wife Patricia, operate a 6-acre organic farm where they grow produce.  A variety of vegetables, strawberries and flowers are grown using methods that do not include GMO’s or genetically modified organisms. 

With assistance from USDA-NRCS, Ben installed a seasonal high tunnel that allows for the growing season of their crops to be extended during cold weather. They market their goods at the NC Farmers Market in Raleigh and restaurants such as ‘The Irregardless Café.  They also offer a CSA, which is a ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ operation.  A CSA is where a farmer produces seasonal crops for consumers who commit to a partnership with the producer.  

Sheilds has a background in organic farming where he worked on seven different organic farms in Italy before settling in Johnston County.  Ben and Patricia have a son, Elliot, who also participates in the farm chores.


Conservation Farm Family Award
The Conservation Farm Family Award went to Brian Worley and Jason Worley from the Princeton area.

The family farm has been in the Worley Family for over a hundred years.  Brian and Jason’s father passed away at a young age and their uncle, Billy Worley, assisted with and continued the farming operation. 

The Worley family grows wheat, corn, rapeseed and strawberries.  They use a practice called ‘no-till’ in planting their crops.  No-till is when minimal soil disturbance occurs during the planting process.  This can be done using a no-till drill or no-till chisel or blade.  

The Worley’s utilize rapeseed as a winter cover crop and they no-till the seeds into the corn residue.  This maximizes the soil’s water and nutrient holding capacity and prevents soil erosion.  This also enhances their soil’s health. 

With Jason’s background in agriculture business management, Brian’s background in mechanical engineering, and Billy’s extensive farming experience, they all work together as both a team and a family in producing agricultural products for the community.


Tree Farmer Of The Year Award
Dr. Frank Stallings and his son, Donnie, received the 2015 Johnston Soil & Water Conservation District Tree Farmer of the Year Award.  A native of Smithfield, Dr. Stallings manages over 125 acres of woodland in the Cleveland community.  With the help of his son, Donnie, they grow and manage long leaf pine trees. 

Long leaf pine trees, the official NC State tree, were the predominate pine species in NC’s early history.  They were harvested for their tar and pitch, which were used in the naval stores as part of the shipping industry during the 1700’s and 1800’s.

The Stallings have 75 acres of long leaf pine that was established in the 1980’s and in 2012 to prevent erosion, protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat through the USDA Conservation Reserve Program.  They manage their long leaf pines by controlled burns and by pine straw raking.  The pine straw is raked into bales and sold to nurseries.  Long leaf pine savannahs are a unique ecosystem, which provide habitat to a variety of wildlife and endangered species.

Dr. Stallings and his wife of 61 years, Alice, live in Washington, NC where he practices pediatric medicine.  Donnie, their son, resides in Johnston County and actively oversees their woodland operation.

                                                                                                                            Downtown Smithfield Crash Injures One
Smithfield Police cited the drivers of two vehicles involved in a collision Thursday morning at the intersection of Market and South Third Streets.

Police said a Jeep traveling eastbound on Market Street, driven by Anthony Williams Keyes, 40, of Lillian Drive, Clayton, collided with a 2012 Chevy car traveling southbound on Third Street, and driven by Teri Lynn Cronan, 45, of Sullivan Road, Selma.

After the impact, the Jeep ended up on the sidewalk just feet away from the front door at Jewel’s Bridal Boutique.  The Chevy came to rest in the eastbound lanes of Market Street.

Police reported three witnesses said Keyes ran the red light at the intersection, while one witness said Cronan ran the red light. One witness said it appeared Cronan was going fast as she entered the intersection.

Police cited Keyes with a stop light violation. Cronan was cited for exceeding a safe speed and for a seat belt violation.

Cronan was treated and released at Johnston Medical Center in Smithfield for minor injuries.

The accident caused traffic delays around the intersection for about 45 minutes.  WTSB Photos

 
Selma Hires New Auditing Firm
The Town of Selma has hired a new firm to conduct the annual audit of the towns finances.

Ten firms submitted proposals and the three finalists were presented to the Selma Town Council for consideration. 

Town Manager Jon Barlow (pictured) said a number of criteria were used to evaluate each company, including the price, staff experience, prior municipal auditing experience, and references from existing clients.

The Town Council decided to go with Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC from Atlanta, GA.  They agreed to do the 2015 audit for $24,000.

S. Preston Douglas & Associates of Lumberton, NC had submitted a proposal of $28,000 and Winston, Williams, Creech, Evans & Company LLP of Oxford, NC submitted a bid of $30,000.

Town officials selected Mauldin & Jenkins not only because of the price, but because they have been approved by the NC Local Government Commission and the NC State Board of CPA Examiners to perform audits in NC. 

The Atlanta-firm also agreed to provide Selma employee’s quarterly training sessions, technical and financial reports updates and advice free of charge. The other two finalists did not provide those services, Barlow said.  WTSB Photo
 

Smithfield Teen Fights Off Would-Be Attacker
Smithfield Police are looking for a suspect who tried to assault a teenager Thursday night.

The incident happened in the 1100 block of North Brightleaf Boulevard adjacent to CVS Pharmacy.

Police Lt. R.K. Powell said an 18 year-old Smithfield resident stopped at an ice machine. Once outside her vehicle an unknown male grabbed her from behind.  The teen was able to strike the suspect in his face with her elbow then flee. The young girl was not harmed.

Police said the suspect was a white male wearing a dark hoodie.  Lt. Powell said the incident was isolated but an important reminder for everyone to be aware of your surroundings especially if you’re alone and it is after dark.

Anyone who may have witnessed the 8:15pm incident, or saw the suspect in the area, is asked to contact the Smithfield Police Tip Line at 919-989-8835.  Callers can remain anonymous.


Four Oaks Man Charged With Child Abuse

A Four Oaks man has been charged with child abuse for allegedly leaving his 5 year-old son in his car unattended.

The incident happened around 10:40am Thursday in the 1000 block of North Brightleaf Boulevard.

Witnesses reportedly told police the child had been left unattended in the vehicle for about 15 minutes. The car’s engine had been left running, and at least one witness told police the child was revving the car’s engine and also playing with the gearshift. 

Police charged Marlon Javier Lopez Escamilla, 26, of Boyette Road, Four Oaks with child abuse. Escamilla was given a citation at the scene and ordered to appear in Johnston County Court on April 14th on the misdemeanor charge.     


Smythers Completes Basic Training

Air Force Airman 1st Class Jeremy Smythers graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.

The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.

Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Smythers is the son of Joan and James Smythers of Princeton. He is a 2008 graduate of Princeton High School.  He earned a bachelor's degree in 2012 from Campbell University in Buies Creek.


Winter Storm Causes Accidents, Power Outages


Photos (top to bottom) (1) A car overturned Wednesday night on Freedom Road. Photo by John Payne (2) A car slid off Crantock Road at Freedom Road Wednesday night. Photo by John Payne. (3) Power crews replace a utility pole struck by a car Thursday morning on Market Street at Sixth Street in Downtown Smithfield. WTSB Photo (4) Ice covers a pine tree off Buffalo Road north of Selma. Photo by John Payne.(5) 13 month-old Anna Grace Powell enjoys the winter weather in Micro. Contributed photo

About 2,580 homes and businesses in Johnston County are without power Thursday afternoon due to the winter storm. That is compared to more than 100,000 who lost power from the winter storm across North Carolina.         

Areas to the north and west of Johnston County received the heaviest snow accumulation from the overnight winter storm, but it still caused its fair share of problems locally.

Most areas of Johnston County received some snow and freezing rain. Areas west of I-95 received higher accumulations.  Those are the same areas where most of the power outages have been reported.

Travel was hazardous overnight.

Accidents were reported across the county, with the most crashes being reported west of I-95 where snow accumulated on roads and bridges.

In Smithfield, three customers lost power after a car struck a utility pole on Market Street near Sixth Street around 6:43am.

Smithfield Police said a 2012 Ford driven by Kandace Nicole Williford, 21, of Goldsboro was traveling at an estimated 40mph in a 25mph zone when she lost control of her car, crossed into the oncoming lanes and slammed into the utility pole, causing it to break.

Williford received minor injuries in the crash.  She was cited by Officer S.A. Reeve with speeding and exceeding a safe speed.

Smithfield Public Utilities Director Ken Griffin said three customers were without power for about 1 hour due to the accident.

While the winter storm has left the region, there still remains some danger of falling trees and large branches weighted down by the heavy wet snow and ice accumulation.

Combined with gusty winds Thursday afternoon, falling trees and branches could potentially cause property damage, injury, and even more power outages.

If you have trees around your property, be ready to quickly more into an interior room of you home or office if you begin to see or hear trees falling around your property.

With the large number of power outages, many residents may turn to alternate power and heating sources. Be sure to exercise caution and safety when using alternate heating and cooking sources and generators.

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, never use gas grills or alternative cooking sources indoors. Make sure alternative heating sources are properly ventilated. 

When using a power generator make sure it is located well away from your home or office and well away from indoor air intakes. If you venture outdoors, stay away from downed power lines.  

Black ice was a problem Thursday night and Friday morning across much of Central North Carolina.


JCSO: Suspect Arrested After Taking “Selfie”
Johnston County authorities were able to make an arrest in a break-in investigation after a suspect reportedly took a “selfie” photo with a stolen iPod. 

The suspect apparently didn’t know the victim had linked their iPod to a system to store the photos online.  Once the victim checked their photos a few days later, they reported found the photo and turned it over to the Johnston County Sheriff Office.

Rachael Alexis McGlown, 22, of Dublin Court, Four Oaks is not charged with the Nov. 24, 2014 break-in at a nearby home in Sheffield Woods Subdivision, off Highway 210, but is charged with possession of stolen property.

McGlown was arrested Monday and released on an unsecured bond.

Sheriff’s detectives are still investigating the break-in and working to recover a number of items taken during the break-in on Sheffield Drive.    


Firearm Seized During Traffic Stop

A Clayton man was arrested during a traffic stop on US70 Business West Tuesday afternoon. 

A Johnston County deputy stopped a car for a safe movement violation, according to Tammy Amaon, spokesperson for the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

The deputy was given permission to search the vehicle, Amaon said, and inside the trunk the officer found a 22 caliber rifle with the serial number scratched off.

Justin Devon Norris, 21, of Woodbriar Street, Clayton, was charged with one felony count of altering serial numbers on a firearm. He was given a $10,000 bond after being booked into the Johnston County Jail.  

Authorities seized the weapon.


DWI Suspect Gets Struck On Railroad Tracks

A Selma police officer said he was investigating a burglar alarm call around 1:20am on Friday, Feb. 20th when he heard a loud bang nearby.

The policeman looked in the direction of the noise and saw a car stuck on the railroad tracks. 

Officers said the driver of the vehicle attempted to cross the tracks where there was no railroad crossing. When they arrived, the driver was accelerating the vehicle trying to get free from the train tracks.

Police notified 911 dispatchers to have Norfolk Southern Railroad to stop all train traffic in the area.  

The driver of the car, identified as Brian Christopher Borders, 28, of Thanksgiving Fire Road, Selma, reportedly told officers he was on the way to pick up his wife from work, was sleepy and made a wrong turn.

Police said Borders registered 0.09 on the Breathalyzer, above the legal limit of 0.08. 

Police charged Borders with driving while impaired and an unsafe movement violation.  At the time of the accident, police said Borders was out of jail on a $1,000 bond from Wayne County for driving on a revoked license and driving without insurance. 

Police estimate Borders traveled 35 feet off South Sharpe Street before striking the railroad tracks. 

Damage to his 1998 Ford was estimated at $500.   

 

Former Cleveland High Teacher Accused Of Taking Indecent Liberties With Student
A former Johnston County school teacher has been arrested on charges of taking indecent liberties with a student.

Ronald Lee Chewning, 25, of Greensboro, formerly of Raleigh, was served with the arrest warrants this week in Guilford County.

Chewning was a teacher at Cleveland High School during the 2013-14 school year. 

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office said they received a complaint on Feb. 12, 2015 from a former student who alleged Chewning had inappropriate contact with her, according to Sheriff’s Captain A.C. Strickland.

The student was 16 at the time of the alleged offense.

Captain Strickland said no additional charges are expected against Chewning at this time, and no other students at Cleveland High have come forward with any allegations against the suspect.

Chewning is facing charges in Wake County where is he accused of having sex with a student in December 2014 while he was a teacher at Broughton High School.  He resigned just prior to his arrest on Feb. 6th by Wake County authorities on a felony count of sex offense involving a student.      

 

Rouzer Named Co-Chairman Of Coastal Communities Caucus
Washington, D.C. - Congressman David Rouzer (NC-7) has been named Co-Chairman of the Coastal Communities Caucus.  This bipartisan caucus will focus on issues that our coastal communities face.

“Our coastal communities face a unique set of challenges,” said Congressman Rouzer.  “Whether it’s flood insurance, beach nourishment and re-nourishment, the dredging of our waterways and inlets, or protecting our coastlines from natural disasters, we are committed to working together to meet the needs of our coasts.”

Other members of the caucus include Representatives David Jolly (R-FL), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Lois Capps (D-CA), Denny Heck (D-WA), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).


Suspect Sought For Credit Card Fraud
Authorities are turning to the public for help identifying a suspect wanted for financial card fraud.

The female in the top right surveillance image is accused of using a stolen credit at Wal-Mart on Highway 42 in the Cleveland community to make two separate transactions, one for $500 and another for $4.24. The woman also made two ATM withdrawals in the amount of $40 and $360.

She was also seen in the vehicle (shown below) in the store surveillance video.

The credit card was reported stolen from the Smithfield area on February 17.

Anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to contact the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office Detectives Division at 919-989-5000. Callers with information can remain anonymous.


200 Attend Daddy Daughter Dance
The Smithfield Parks and Recreation Department hosted its annual Daddy Daughter Dance on Saturday, February 21st.

Pink and gold colors set off the evening.

The dancing was fun for both the dads and the daughters in attendance.

Earp Entertainment provided games and music for the evening.

About 200 proud dads and their daughters attended the event at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center. Contributed photo


Inmate Charged With Marijuana Possession
A Johnston County man was arrested on charges he had drugs in his possession after being booked into the Johnston County Jail Tuesday afternoon.

A bail bondsman surrendered Timothy Brian Kirk, 22, of Maple Avenue, Kenly to authorities after originally posting his bond for shoplifting and larceny.

While being processed into the county lockup, jailors reportedly found 1 gram of suspected marijuana in his sock, according to Tammy Amaon, Public Information Officer with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

Kirk was charged with possession of a controlled substance in jail, a felony offense.

He was given a $15,000 bond on the felony drug charge and a $2,500 bond on the shoplifting charge. 

 

Several Accidents Close I-95
A fiery accident was among at least 3 crashes that shut down Interstate 95 in Johnston County Tuesday night.

The accidents happened starting just after 6pm on I-95. Multiple fire, EMS, and law enforcement officers responded to the crashes near Smithfield, Selma, and Kenly.

In one of the wrecks, a tractor trailer jackknifed in the southbound lanes then burst into flames.

Fire crews brought the blaze under control.

However, the accidents temporarily closed both north and southbound lanes of the interstate, causing significant traffic delays.

Injuries were reported but there was no immediate information available on the conditions of those hurt. Photo courtesy JoCoFire.com


Trailer Filled With Spices Burns On I-95

Southbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Selma were brought to a standstill early Tuesday morning, not because of the snow, but because of a fire.

A semi pulling a brand new enclosed trailer hauling spices from Maryland to Miami pulled onto the shoulder of I-95 after a trailer tire caught fire.  The fire spread so quickly, it could not be extinguished by the driver. 

Adam Cones from Miami, Florida said he had just enough time to disconnect his truck from the burning trailer and call 911.

The Selma and Micro Fire Departments battled the blaze for several hours.

Southbound traffic had to be detoured through the rest area as crews worked to bring the fire under control.

The NC Highway Patrol responded to the scene to investigate.

The trailer and its content of spices were a complete loss. No injuries were reported.  Photos by John Payne

 

Smithfield Police Respond To Wrongful Death Lawsuit  
Assistant District Attorney Responds To Questions

The Smithfield Police Department and Johnston County District Attorney’s Office have responded to an exclusive WTSB News story we first broke on Feb. 23rd.

The estate of a Smithfield man who was reportedly assaulted outside a Venture Drive business in February 2013 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Town of Smithfield, specifically the Smithfield Police Department, claiming failure by police to render medical aid to the victim contributed to his death. Gerald Luther Burton Jr., 38, died two days later in the hospital.

Burton’s estate has also sued the person charged with assaulting him in the parking lot of the Hookah House, Trenton Kyle Hensley of Kenly.

Hensley was arrested on the day of the incident in 2013 and charged with felony assault. After Burton’s death, the charges were never upgraded. And two years later, Hensley has yet to be tried on the assault charge.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Jackson released a statement to WTSB saying, “The circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Burton Jr. are complex and still under investigation. Mr. Hensley was not the only one involved. Many other people engaged in the brawl that culminated in Mr. Burton’s death, and others may also bear responsibility. Because of the large number of people involved as well as the lack of cooperation and elusiveness of critical witnesses, the investigation has taken an unusually long time. It is important to uncover the truth and get it right no matter how long that may take.” 

When asked specifically if Burton’s death was being treated as a homicide investigation, if charges against Hensley would be upgraded, or if authorities wanted witnesses who hadn’t spoke to police to come forward, Jackson released a second written statement to our questions saying, “In order to ensure the integrity of the judicial process and the pending investigation, I cannot publicly comment regarding the specific details related to the investigation or potential charges that may be brought once the investigation is complete.”

A short time after WTSB News posted the story about the lawsuit on our website Monday afternoon, Smithfield Police Lt. R.K. Powell, a spokesperson for the department released a prepared statement.

Lt. Powell said the events that took Burton’s life were “tragic” and “prayers continue to go out for him and his family.”  But because the matter is an on-going police investigation “comments must be limited to what is public information.” 

Police said they were dispatched to a large group fighting on Venture Drive at 2:08am on the morning in question. EMS was dispatched at 2:09am. Officers arrived on the scene at 2:10am and EMS arrived on the scene, after it was secured by police, at 2:16am. 

“Members of the police department followed established police procedures dictated by such a tragic event,” Lt. Powell said. “Proper medical protocols were also followed. We are not able to comment further due to the pending civil suit and on-going criminal investigation.”

“The Town and the Police Department do however dispute… claims, as they pertain to the Smithfield Police Department, and plan to vigorously defend the suit against the Town of Smithfield,” according to a statement released to WTSB News.