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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 Monday.

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.

Car Flips On Highway 231
The Highway Patrol is investigating a single car accident Monday night on Highway 231 in northern Johnston County.

Around 9:42pm, a Honda skidded off the roadway in the 1700 block of Highway 231, struck a ditch bank, and then overturned.

Emergency crews arrived on the scene and could not locate the driver who apparently had left the scene, according to witnesses.

State troopers are still investigating the accident. Photo by John Payne

School System Announces Feb. 17-20 Make Up Days 
Students missed four days of classes last week, Feb. 17-20, due to the wintry weather.

School officials have announced the make up dates for last weeks weather event, but have not made any decision about the make up date for the Feb. 24th-26th snow days.

For Traditional Calendar students, Feb. 17 will be a day forgiven for students. Because the school schedule already exceeds the requisite number of instructional hours, the day was waived for students to make up. However, June 15 has been added as an optional teacher workday at the end of the school year.

Early release dates on March 11 and April 29 will be changed to full days to make up for Feb. 18th.

Early released on June 10 has been changed to a full day and June 11, previously a teacher workday, will now become a student day to make up for Feb. 19th.

Feb. 20th will be made up on March 27th, which had previously been a student holiday and teacher workday.

For more information on Traditional, Year Round, and Early/Middle Make Up Days click here.

Rouzer Meets With Area Elected Officials

Congressman David Rouzer (second from right) holds a roundtable discussion with Lenoir county leaders.

Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC07) held a series of roundtable discussions with county commissioners and mayors across the district during last week’s Congressional recess period.

This was an opportunity for local elected officials to talk about the needs of their communities and how the Congressman’s office can best serve them.

“It’s important that we have strong relationships with our local leaders,” said Congressman Rouzer.  “Our district is very diverse and each community has different needs.  We will work hard to be a strong voice for all of the communities of the 7th Congressional District.” 

“I appreciate all the input and feedback we have received from county commissioners, mayors, and many other interested citizens throughout the week,” Rouzer said.  “Jobs, the economy, and infrastructure needs have been the predominant topics of concern along with the growing threat of terrorism.”

Selma Agrees To Pay For Flags On 700 Veterans Graves
American Legion Unable To Continue Paying For Flags

(Left) Eric Godwin with American Legion Post 141 in Selma appears before the Selma Town Council asking the Town to buy the 700 flags they place on Veterans graves in Selma each year. The Legion is no longer able to afford the $400 yearly expense. The Town agreed to buy the flags. WTSB Photo

The Selma Town Council says they will find funds to help the Selma American Legion Post continue to buy small flags to place on the graves of Veterans, or as Councilman Tommie Holmes said, if the town can’t find the money, the councilman will pay for it themselves.

Eric Godwin, a member of American Legion Post 141, said for many years, with the help of the Smithfield Selma High School ROTC, small flags have been placed on Veterans graves at Selma Memorial Gardens and Greenwood Cemetary, also known as the Selma City Cemetary.

The cost to place the flags on the graves is $400 each year. 

But the American Legion is unable to continue to bare the cost. 

And Godwin said the Legion building is in need of significant repairs but they are unable to afford the renovations.

The Selma Town Council agreed to help Godwin and the American Legion by paying the $400 annual cost to purchase the flags.

The Council and Mayor Cheryl Oliver asked Town Manager Jon Barlow to find funds in the current fiscal year budget and to present his findings at the March meeting for approval.

Mayor Oliver instructed town staff to be on the lookout for any potential grants that would be available for the American Legion to help pay for their building repairs.

Greensboro Football Team Gains Top Local Recruit

The Greensboro College Football Team has named Bryer Rogers to their 2015 roster.

Rogers comes from Cleveland High School in Clayton where he played for the team all four years.  Rogers has paid his deposit for enrollment for the 2015 Fall Semester.

During his freshman and sophomore year he was part of the junior varsity team where he started in 10 games each season. In Rogers' freshman year he played left guard and center and during his sophomore year he played left tackle and was part of the defensive line. Rogers had the chance to prove himself on a varsity level seven times during his first two years of high school and it paid off.

During his junior year, Rogers started in 12 games on the defensive line for the Rams. Rogers recorded 41 tackles, six tackles for loss, and five fumble recoveries. Rogers also forced two fumbles and made five sacks.

Rogers started in 12 games both on the defensive and offensive line in his last season as a Ram. Rogers made 55 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and forced one fumble. He made two fumble recoveries and three sacks.

While being a powerhouse on the field, he is also one in the weight room. Rogers benches 405 lbs and squats 550 lbs with ease. "Bryer is a hard-nosed competing player that has the size and strength to come in and compete for a starting spot and help advanced the offensive line," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wallace.

"We feel that Bryer will continue the long and outstanding tradition of fast and physical linemen at Greensboro College," said head coach Bill Young.

Bryer is the son of Julie Parrish and stepson of Daylon Beasley of the Cleveland School Community in Clayton. Contributed

Town of Smithfield Named In Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Just weeks after the Town of Smithfield settled their final civil lawsuit involving the Salary Gate scandal, a new lawsuit has been filed against the Town.

The estate of a Smithfield man who died following an altercation outside of a Smithfield business in 2013 has sued the Town and the suspect charged with assaulting the deceased man.

The suit alleges wrongdoing and neglect by Smithfield police officers that responded to the scene contributed to his death.  

On February 3, 2013, Gerald Luther Burton Jr., 38, of Smithfield was working as a security guard at the Hookah House at 181 Venture Drive.

According to the lawsuit, Burton encountered Trenton Kyle Hensley of Kenly who was allegedly highly intoxicated, loud and belligerent. Hensley was asked to leave, and did leave, but returned still intoxicated.

Hensley was asked to leave a second time but remained in the parking lot.  At the request of his employer, Burton approached Hensley in the parking lot to ask him to leave but was struck in the head by Hensley, the lawsuit contends.

Burton was knocked unconscious, fell to the pavement, and suffered blunt force trauma to the head.  He died two days later in the hospital.

The lawsuit contends Smithfield Police failed to examine Burton, render any medical assistance or summon medical care for Burton. 

“With proper medical intervention by the officers, the complications from Mr. Burton’s blunt force injuries which led to his death would more likely than not have been avoided,” the suit alleges.  “Failure by the officers for several minutes to examine, or provide medical assistance to, or summon medical assistance for a helpless, motionless, unconscious citizen in obvious distress in the circumstances… is not a procedure approved or condoned by the Town or the Smithfield Police Department.”

The suit alleges the officers failed to follow procedure, breached their duty to serve and protect, and the Town failed to adequately train and supervise its police officers, whose negligence, the suit alleges, were a “proximate cause” to the victim’s personal injuries and death.

The suit also names Hensley (pictured left) as a defendant. 

Smithfield attorney Gordon Woodruff filed the lawsuit Feb. 19, 2015.

Hensley was charged by Smithfield Police on Feb. 3, 2013, the day of the incident with felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury.  Those charges were never upgraded after Burton’s death.

And more than two years later, Hensley has yet to go to trial on the felony assault charge. The case has been postponed several times. It is scheduled to be heard again on March 26, 2015.

WTSB News contacted the Johnston County District Attorney’s Office to ask why prosecutors have not tried the case in two years, and why the assault charges were not upgraded after the victim died. As of our Monday news deadline, we had not received a comment from the assistant district attorney assigned to the case.

As for the Town of Smithfield being named in the lawsuit, Smithfield Town Attorney Robert A. Spence Jr. said the Town had not yet received a copy of the complaint. “Currently, we are unable to comment until we know more,” Spence said in an email to WTSB.  (2013 scene photo by Carter Rabil)


Selma Fire Department Celebrates 100th Birthday

(Top right)(left to right) Current Selma Fire Chief Phillip McDaniel gives certificates of appreciation to former Selma Fire Chiefs Joe Price and Joe Moore. (Lower right) This undated photo of Selma firemen.

On Saturday, the Selma Fire Department celebrated 100 years of service with a banquet at The Farm. 

The night began with refreshments and a social hour.  Festivities were officially kicked off with the posting of the colors by the Johnston County Honor Guard accompanied by the Morrisville Fire Department Pipes and Drums. 

Assistant Fire Chief Gary House Jr. provided opening remarks and recognized the many special guests in attendance.  Retired Fire Chief Joe Moore then provided a very interesting look back at the history of the Selma Fire Department.

Next, several special guests spoke, including Assistant State Fire Marshal Rick McIntyre, North Carolina Firemen’s Association Assistant Executive Director Ed Brinson, and Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver.

A special presentation was made to former Selma Fire Chiefs Joe Price and Joe Moore, recognizing 50 years of service each to the department.

The evening concluded with Captain Tramp Dunn, a retired Raleigh firefighter and long-time fire instructor, who gave the keynote speech. 

It was a very special evening, celebrating the “One Hundred Strong” Selma Fire Department theme. 

Firefighters attended in full dress uniform. Several retired firefighters and all three honorary firefighters were in attendance. 

Representatives from Selma’s mutual aid departments, Johnston County Emergency Services, County Commissioners, the Town of Selma Council, Mayor Cheryl Oliver, and several department heads attended. 

The Farm venue was decorated by the firefighters and their wives with historical memorabilia, photos and firefighting equipment. 

The front of The Farm venue was flanked by current and retired fire apparatus. Story and photos courtesy JoCoFire.com


Gunman Robs Clayton ABC Store
Authorities are looking for a gunman who robbed the Clayton ABC Store Friday night.

Two employees were leaving the business around 9:15pm, just after it had closed for the night, when they were met by a man armed with a gun in the parking lot.

The suspect forced the two employees back inside, ordered them to open a safe, and then fled with an undisclosed amount of money.

Johnston County Sheriff’s Captain A.C. Strickland said the suspect was a black male, 6 foot tall, 220-225 pounds, wearing a black ski mask, dark clothing, and a blue jacket with gray sleeves with the number “23” on the sleeve and two unknown emblems on front of the jacket.

No injuries were reported. Photo by John Payne

Car Strikes Guardrail On I-40
The Highway Patrol is investigating a single car accident on Interstate 40.

Early Sunday, a vehicle ran off the eastbound lane of I-40 near the 314-mile marker and collided with a guardrail. 

The driver sustained only minor injuries.

One eastbound lane of I-40 was shut down for about an hour until the accident scene was cleared.

50-210 EMS and the Cleveland Fire Department responded to the accident. Photo courtesy JoCoFire.com

Kenly Businessman Accused Of Scamming $13,900 From Elderly Man
A Kenly businessman with a prior criminal record is charged with defrauding an elderly customer out of thousands of dollars.

Jimmy Michael Mitchell, 31, of East Wilson Street, Kenly, was arrested on Friday and charged with obtaining property by false pretenses, a felony. According to his arrest report, Mitchell operates Mikes Appliance Repair on Second Street in Kenly.

In May 2014, Mitchell is accused of going to the home of a 76 year-old Kenly man to repair a washing machine. While there, Mitchell reportedly scammed the man out of $13,900, according to Johnston County Sheriff’s Captain A.C. Strickland.

Mitchell reportedly solicited the elderly victim into investing in a business venture to buy energy efficient appliances Mitchell would install in low-income housing units.  The victim would then get a return on the profits.  However, authorities don’t believe there was ever any such business venture. 

According to records at the Johnston County Clerk of Court’s Office, Mitchell has been arrested several times since 2009.  In 2011, Mitchell was charged with obtaining property by false pretenses but pled guilty to a lesser offense of failure to work after being paid. 

In 2013, he was also charged with obtaining property by false pretenses but pled guilty to misdemeanor larceny after paying $2,710 in restitution to the victim. He was sentenced to 12 months probation. 

WTSB could not locate Mikes Appliance Repair as a business listed on the NC Department of Secretary of State website.  

Restaurant Grease Spills From Truck, Closes Highway For Hours
A section of Highway 301 in Selma was closed all day Saturday after a truck hauling used restaurant grease sprang a leak and spilled onto the roadway.

The greasy mess started as the truck from Valley Proteins Inc. was exiting off I-95 at the US70 Exit in Selma. The tank on the truck ruptured but the driver continued on US70 until he reached US301 before noticing the leak, according to Brannan Barbee, Engineer with the Selma Fire Department.

The leak was so large, all the grease had leaked onto the highway by the time fire crews arrived on the scene.

The NC Department of Transportation shut down US301 and also spread sand over the spill.

A clean up crews arrived several hours later to remove the greasy mess from the roadway.

Barbee said the fire department was able to prevent the spill from entering nearby storm drains.

There were no environmental concerns with the spill and no injuries were reported. WTSB Photo

Babysitter Charged With Jewelry Theft

It was the babysitter. The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a babysitter for allegedly taking $3,900 in jewelry from a Johnston County woman while she was at work.

Xuxua Shequan Deane, 18, of Bryan Place, Garner was arrested Friday and charged with felony larceny.

On January 27, the victim said Deane was babysitting her children at her Johnston County home when the jewelry went missing.

Sheriff’s Captain A.C. Strickland said some of the stolen jewelry has been recovered.   

Meth Found On Princeton Man Arrested For Trespassing
A Princeton man suspected of shoplifting fled on foot, leading police to search the woods surrounding the Dunn Wal-Mart parking lot.

According to the report, Dunn Police responded to a call reporting shoplifting at Wal-Mart around 1 p.m. While en route, Officer H.M. Pendergraph was notified that the suspect was seen running from Wal-Mart and entering the Lowe’s Home Improvement Store across the street. 

As police arrived, the suspect fled Lowe’s and officers found him hiding in the woods surrounding the Wal-Mart parking lot. 

The man, identified as Brandon Wayne Christian, 30, of Princeton, was taken into custody and searched, the report stated. Officers reportedly found a bag containing several syringes and two small plastic bags containing white powder, which Mr. Christian reportedly admitted was crystal methamphetamine.

Officers reviewed Wal-Mart surveillance video and were able to identify Mr. Christian.

The footage allegedly showed Mr. Christian pushing a loaded shopping cart out the front door without purchasing the items.

Wal-Mart loss prevention employees saw Mr. Christian throw several of the items throughout the parking lot in an attempt to discard evidence, the report stated. Stolen property was also recovered from the Lowe’s parking lot, totaling around $130. Wal-Mart loss prevention additionally determined Mr. Christian had been previously ordered to stay away from other Wal-Mart locations, most recently the Smithfield location in November 2014. 

Dunn Police charged Mr. Christian with misdemeanor shoplifting, second-degree trespassing and possession of drug paraphernalia. Mr. Christian was served with additional outstanding warrants from Johnston County for felony and misdemeanor possession of stolen goods. He was taken to the Harnett County Jail and placed under two secured bonds totaling $7,500. Courtesy The Daily Record


Local Rotarians Return From Mission Trip In Dominican Republic   
Seven members of the Clayton Rotary Club, along with 3 members from the Central Johnston County Rotary Club, and 27 other Rotarians from the Raleigh-Durham area have returned from a Jan. 24th mission to Santiago, Dominican Republic.

The groups built 93 latrines during the trip. 

Many of the NC Rotarians stayed in the home of members of the host Santiago Monumental Rotary Club.
The Santiago club was responsible for selecting the sites and constructing the foundations in preparation for the NC team to come in and build the wooden "out houses".  Piles of lumber, siding, and tin were fabricated into walls, doors, and roofs before hauling them out to the poor rural communities for assembly. 
This was the third year in a row that similar teams have built more than 225 latrines, while providing 385 water filters and hand washing programs for less fortunate families that often have to get their drinking water from contaminated streams.

American Legions Honors Public Servants
American Legion Leonard Moore Post 71, originally chartered in 1919, recently recognized four brave public servants from Clayton, Johnston County and North Carolina’s top first responders during 2014.

Before presenting the awards on Feb. 12th, Commander Devell “Bull” Durham reminder each responder, “Tonight, we judge each organization for the good that you do and to let each of you know we stand side by side with all our County’s first responders.”

Pictured from left to right are: Clayton Fireman of the Year Paul Zais, Clayton Police Officer of the Year Owen Phillips, 2nd Vice commander David “Slammer” Sammons, Johnston County Deputy Sheriff of the Year Adriane Stone, Post-71 Historian Gene Karaszewski, North Carolina Highway Patrol Officer of the Year Chad E. Summerlin, Post-71 Commander Durham and Post-71 1st Vice commander Eugene “Beanie” Eckerson.

School Drop Out Rates Decline

By Laura Crosio

The number of high school students dropping out of Johnston County Schools has been on a steady decline over the past five years, according to figures released at the February school board meeting.

Numbers showed 340 students left county schools during the 2009-2010 school years versus 182 in the 2013-2014 year.

“We’d like to see that that number come in under 100 (students) in the next couple of years,” said Dr. Oliver Johnson, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services. “You can see some of the great work that our high schools have done.”

Statewide dropout figures aren’t due to be released until next month for the 2013-2014 year but Johnston County rates were shown to be lower than average during four of the five years being compared.

Tickets For Largest Civil War Re-enactment In North Carolina Still Available
Four Oaks – Advance tickets for the state’s largest Civil War re-enactment, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville slated for March 21-22, are selling quickly, but are still available. Tickets purchased before March 15 are $12 for adults and $6 for children aged 9-12. Purchasing in advance also allows purchase of a combination ticket for both days at $20 for adults and $10 for children.

After March 15, remaining tickets will be sold at the gate for $15 for adults and $10 for children. Combination tickets will not be available. Children aged eight and under attend free. The battle scenarios on Saturday and Sunday are the only events that require tickets. All other anniversary events—lectures, house tours, demonstrations and more—are free to the public.

“Tickets are going fast,” said Bentonville Battlefield Asst. Site Manager Derrick Brown. “This is the first time a combination ticket has been offered and it has been very popular.”

Bentonville Battlefield is the largest Civil War Battlefield in the state and the site of the only Confederate offensive battle that tried to stop General William T. Sherman’s March north from Savannah, Ga. This was one of the last major battles fought during the Civil War, involving over 80,000 troops covering 6,000 acres of farm land in Eastern North Carolina. More than 3,500 re-enactors and 30,000 spectators are expected at the event, which includes two battles, military and civilian encampments and special educational programs over a two-day period.

All Proceeds from ticket sales go towards the preservation and interpretation of Bentonville Battlefield Sate Historic Site.

Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.fobb.net/150thBentonville/Tickets.aspx. Tickets can also be purchased by mailing a check to: Bentonville 150th Event Tickets, P.O. Box 211, Newton Grove, NC 28366.  Checks should be payable to the FOBB. Any remaining tickets will be sold on a first come, first serve basis at the weekend event.

Bentonville Battlefield is part of the Division of State Historic Sites within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. It is located three miles north of Newton Grove on U.S. 701 and then three miles east on S.R. 1008. For more information, call (910) 594-0789 or visit the Web site at www.nchistoricsites.org/bentonvi/bentonvi.htm.


Princeton High Renames Basketball Court
By Laura Crosio
The basketball court at Princeton High School is getting a new name.

Johnston County Schools recently approved a request to name the court in honoro of former head basketball coach Ricky Boyette.

“He put Princeton girls’ basketball on the map,” said Johnston County School board member Mike Wooten. “This naming is very appropriate.”

Boyette, a Clayton High School graduate, taught and coached at Princeton High School for 38 years, leading the girls’ basketball team to 501 wins. He was inducted into the Johnston County Athlete Hall of Fame in 2012.

Woman Accused Of Tossing Bleach On Ex-Boyfriend
A Benson woman is accused of dousing her ex-boyfriend with bleach following a domestic altercation at his home.

Benson Police said the incident happened Valentine’s night at a home at 36 Coats Circle.

Brandy Ruiz, 28, of 7 Coats Circle, reportedly went to the home of Gustavo Rojo Gonzalez, 27, and entered through a rear window as Gonzalez was hiding in a closet.

Ruiz allegedly poured bleach on Gonzalez clothing, which splashed into his eyes. She also allegedly damaged his cell phone.

Ruiz fled before police and EMS crews arrived.

Gonzalez was treated and released at the hospital.

Ruiz is charged with throwing acid or alkali, assault inflicting serious bodily injury, breaking and entering to terrorize/injure and damage to property.

Selma Approves Sewer Rate Increase
Starting in May, Town of Selma customers will be paying higher sewer fees. 

The Town Council voted unanimously to increase rates to offset an estimated $600,000 shortfall in the sewer fund this year. The proposed rate hike will only generate an estimated $435,249.60 in additional revenue. Officials hope other cost savings can make up the difference.

The Town had been considering a rate hike since December. 

For the past 5 years, Selma’s sewer fund has been losing money because for every 100 gallons of water sold, 158 gallons of sewage is sent to Johnston County for treatment. The reason is due to aging sewer lines dating back to the 1940’s that have developed leaks allow water runoff to infiltrate the lines. 

Officials considered three different rate options: a flat across the board increase, a tiered-rate increase, and a one-time assessment of $150 for in-town and $300 for out-of-town customers.

After lengthy discussions, the board opted for the tiered rate increase.

The tier rate structure was the same option Mayor Cheryl Oliver and town council members expressed concerns about at their January meeting. They felt at the time there were too may tiered rates, which could be confusing for both citizens and town staff to interpret. And there was little being down to encourage conservation. It was the same structure adopted without any changes.

Under the new rate structure, in-town residential and commercial customers will see rates for 0-999 gallons of use increase from $7.50 to $7.75, 1000-1999 gallons $6.65 to $7.15, 2000-4999 gallons $7.05 to $8.05, and 5,000 gallons or more $7.90 to $9.40 per 1000 gallons.

Out of town residential and commercial customers will see a sharper fee increase. 0-999 gallons will increase from $12.50 to $15.50, 1000-1999 from $10.15 to $14.30, 2000-4999 gallons from $11.15 to $16.10, and 5000 and up $12.15 to $18.80 per 1000 gallons.

Councilman Tommie Holmes expressed frustration that previous town boards had not done more to address the problem of Selma’s aging sewer lines, including what he believed were unwise spending practices.  “Money should have been applied toward infrastructure not the purchase of a caboose,” referring to a caboose the town purchased and restored that is now on display adjacent to the Selma Train Depot.

Town Manager Jon Barlow said it would take another 12 months for the sewer fund to get back on track. 

Councilman Eric Sellers called the rate increase “painful”.

The increase marks the second sewer rate hike by the Town of Selma in the past 6 months. 

Arrest Made In Smithfield Church Break-Ins 

Smithfield Police say they have solve break-ins at two churches following the arrest of a Selma man.

Alphonso Antonio Alford, 34, of Oak Street, Selma is charged with two counts of breaking into a place of worship. He is facing additional charges of probation violation and interfering with electronic monitoring.

On January 23rd, Smithfield Police Lt. R.K. Powell said Alford broke into the St. Peters Church of Christ at 1101 South Massey Street. A window was broken to gain entry and a TV set was stolen.

On January 31st, Alford allegedly broke into Mt. Zion AME Church at 814 Second Avenue. A window was damaged but no items were taken.

Lt. Powell said Alford acted alone and since his arrest on Feb. 6th there have been no other church break-ins in Smithfield.

Smithfield Police are continuing to investigate a January 31st burglary at the vacant parsonage of Shiloh Christian Church on Smith Street. Someone forcibly entered the property and removed $230 in items.      

Massive Fire Destroys Auto Recycling Business
Blaze Sparked By Space Heater

A Johnston County business was destroyed in a fire Wednesday morning authorities said was sparked by space heaters.

An employee of A & A Auto Recyclers at 694 Bizzell Grove Church Road outside of Micro arrived at work around 9:30am and discovered the 6,000 square foot business was filled with smoke.

The employee opened a door to clear the smoke from the building, but in doing so unknowingly allowed the fire to actively start burning again and to rapidly grow, according to Assistant Johnston County Fire Marshal Kevin Hubbard.

When the first fire engine arrived on the scene, more than half of the building was engulfed in flames.

Crews from the Micro, Selma, Pine Level, and Kenly Fire Departments battled the blaze for nearly two hours before it was brought under control.

Because of the heavy fire conditions, firefighters could not enter the building, but the Selma Fire Department ladder truck was used to spray water into the building from overhead.

Hubbard said the fire likely started by one of two space heaters left in the office. Hubbard said the space heaters were left running overnight so the office would not be too cold for workers Wednesday morning. Officials believe one of the heaters was placed too close to some combustibles, possibly a box filled with paperwork, and ignited.

“Leave your space heaters turned off when not attended,” Hubbard told WTSB News. “And when they are running, don’t leave them too close to any combustibles.”

The business salvaged vehicle parts and stored those parts, including engines, transmissions, and headlights inside.  Officials deemed the structure a total loss. Photos by John Payne