NC Governor Signs Bill to Repeal “Racial Justice Act”

From http://www.wsoctv.com, June 19, 2013

A North Carolina law that allowed convicted murderers to fight their death sentences if they could prove racial bias is officially gone.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill Wednesday to repeal the Racial Justice Act.

Dee Sumpter said her daughter was the third victim in a serial killer’s murder spree.

It changed Sumpter’s life. She started a movement called Mothers’ of Murdered Offspring and she said the new bill will strengthen their cause.

“Here I sit today, 20 years later. It still hurts so terribly,” Sumpter said.

After all this time, Sumpter still grieves the loss of her daughter Shawna, while her convicted killer, Henry Wallace’s death sentence stalled after he appealed under the Racial Justice Act.

“People say, ‘But Dee, the death penalty?’ Yes, the death penalty, justice must be served,” she said.

Wallace confessed to brutally killing nine women in the 1990s including Shawna, but then used the act to claim that race unfairly played a role in his sentencing.

Sumpter said the state’s new bill repealing the act gives her confidence that Wallace will eventually pay for his crimes.

“Today with what McCrory has signed off on it’s a hope-filled day,” she said. “I am for equal justice, don’t want anyone to die unjustly but if it is proven you did not do the crime.”

Over the years, Sumpter has worked to help other mothers by forming the group Mothers of Murdered Offspring trying to stop the violence and find some sense of closure.

She calls this move a big step.

“This road of justice, I’m on it and I’ll stay on it until its served and I will not give up,” Sumpter said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina calls the bill repealing the racial justice act “beyond tragic,” and said the capital punishment process is plagued by racial bias and other flaws that might well lead to the execution of innocent people.

Published in: on June 21, 2013 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Amber Alert issued for Asheville 16-month-old Boy

From http://www.wsoctv.com, June 21, 2013

Police are looking for a young boy who was taken from Asheville.

Squire Amber Alert

Authorities issued an Amber Alert for 16-month-old Jayden Squire late Thursday night.

Police said the boy was taken by 25-year-old Russell Squire.

The child’s mother said Squire strangled her until she was unconscious and then took the child.

Squire has a tattoo of a cross on his back and his hair is long and in dreadlocks. He was last seen walking away from a motel in Asheville.

If you have any information, you’re asked to call police.

Published in: on June 21, 2013 at 9:04 am  Leave a Comment  

New Form of Heroin Hitting Charlotte Streets May be More Appealing to Teens

By GLENN COUNTS / NBC Charlotte, June 19, 2013

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers are seeing a new type of heroin on the streets.

The market has been dominated by black tar heroin, but around six months ago white powder heroin began to show up in south Charlotte.

“What heroin addicts tell me is it’s a much smoother high than black tar heroin, but black tar is more potent,” said Robert Martin, the director of Substance Abuse Services for Mercy Horizons.

Last month, CMPD Vice Officers made a major white heroin bust at an East Charlotte apartment complex, seizing more than $150,000 worth of white and black tar.

Black tar has a sticky consistency and is usually injected. White powder can be injected, but it is easier to snort or smoke.

Martin says they began treating their first white heroin patients about six months ago.

“She said it didn’t feel like heroin. She thought it felt stronger,” he said about one of his clients.

Because it can be smoked or snorted, it might be more appealing to some teens.

“So if someone is trying it and you don’t have to inject it, that might appeal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will. It’s more of who else is doing it,” said LaKeisha McCormick, the director for Prevention Services.

Police say it’s too early to tell if white powder is here to stay. Typically it can be found in major northern cities like Baltimore and New York, places where experts say Black Tar never found much of a home.

Treatment professionals say both types of heroin are just as addictive and the new brand could carry additional risks.

“With any new product, the difference between dealer A and dealer B product could be an overdose,” said Martin.

To watch a WCNC video about this subject, copy and paste the web-address below into your web-browser:

http://www.wcnc.com/news/local/New-form-of-heroin-hits-Charlotte-streets-212239241.html

Published in: on June 20, 2013 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Teen Arrested After Drug Sting, Shooting at School

By RAD BERKY / NBC Charlotte, June 19, 2013

Police Wednesday night found and arrested the second suspect they had been looking for, who they say was part of an undercover drug sting that left another suspect dead.

Davion Drayton, 17, was arrested by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in the Hidden Valley neighborhood, not far from the elementary school where the shooting happened in broad daylight Tuesday afternoon.

Mug shot of Davion Drayton after June 19 arrest.

Credit: CMPD
Investigators say Drayton and 17-year old Jaquaz Walker had agreed to meet a confidential informant and an undercover officer to sell some marijuana.


17-year old Jaquaz Walker

The meeting happened in the parking lot of Hidden Valley Elementary School and as the deal concluded, police say one or both of the suspects opened fire.

Police fired back, hitting and killing Walker.

Drayton, they say, got away and was not injured. They say he was staying at the home of friend while police were looking for him.

Drayton’s mother, who would not give her full name, says her son never fired a gun at police.

“No, he did not fire any shots. He doesn’t have a gun.”

At the Walker home, not far away, the teenager’s cousin Dymond Walker said, “This is breaking my heart.”

She said her cousin always could make her smile and she does not believe the police’s version of what happened.

“He isn’t dumb enough to just shoot a police officer,” she added.

Drayton’s mother said her son was planning to turn himself in.

That never happened because, as she was speaking, police were arresting her son.

Published in: on June 20, 2013 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  

CMPD Investigating Drive-by Shooting in Hidden Valley

By ANN DOSS HELMS / Charlotte Observer, June 20, 2013

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are investigating a drive-by shooting in the Hidden Valley neighborhood reported late Wednesday night.

A victim was hit in the stomach area, according to Capt. N.K. Bowling. He said the injury is not considered life-threatening. Police have only a vague description of the shot being fired from a passing SUV.

The incident happened at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 1400 block of Tom Hunter Road, near the Sugar Creek exit of Interstate 85. That’s about a mile north of Hidden Valley Elementary School, where an undercover drug buy turned into a fatal shooting Tuesday.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe said that incident was part of a larger investigation into crime in the neighborhood, which has been troubled by violence and gang activity for years. Residents had seen progress, and voiced dismay at the Tuesday shoot-out.

Published in: on June 20, 2013 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Teen Suspect Shot During Undercover Charlotte Drug Deal Dies

From News 14 Carolina by Elise Esasky, June 19, 2013

The 17-year-old shot by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police during an undercover drug deal died late last night.

The incident happened in the Hidden Valley neighborhood Tuesday afternoon—an area of Charlotte formally known for gang violence.

Police say they’ve made major headway in the neighborhood, and yesterday’s incident is unfortunate and frustrating.

Police Chief Monroe says undercover operation was part of a much larger gang investigation, and he says history could be repeating itself.

17-year-old Jaquez Walker died yesterday from a gunshot wound to the head. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say an undercover officer and an informant had just completed a drug deal with Walker and another suspect when they say they opened fire. The informant was also hit in the shoulder, but suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Area residents expressed concern that the incident happened in their neighborhood. The Hidden Valley area was known for gang violence years ago, but both police and residents say it has been quiet for the past few years.

“You can get out here in the mornings, early mornings I walk. You know, it’s really quiet, until yesterday. I was standing in my window and all of a sudden I hear it sounds like firecrackers,”said area resident Saundra Smith.

According to CMPD’s crime map, the area has seen one robbery and two drug sales since the start of the year.

Published in: on June 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Charlotte Man Charged with Felony Hit and Run, Driving with a Revoked License

 

From The Charlotte Observer by Steve Lyttle, June 17, 2013

A Charlotte man has been accused of being behind the wheel of a car that struck and seriously injured two pedestrians and then left the scene Friday night.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say a tip from the public led them to James Colvin, who they say was arrested Sunday. Colvin faces two felony counts of hit and run and driving with a revoked license, according to police.

James Colvin

James Colvin

The incident took place shortly after 10:30 p.m. Friday in the 6100 block of Reagan Drive, about a half-mile west of North Tryon Street.

Police said two people walking in the road were struck by a metallic-black car that fled from the scene. A 30-year-old woman hit by the car remains in critical condition at Carolinas Medical Center, and the 23-year-old man who was with her is in stable condition.

On Sunday, police said, a citizen flagged down a police officer and provided information. Police impounded the car, and investigators later took Colvin into custody.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact detectives at 704-336-8862 or leave information with Crime Stoppers, 704-334-1600.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/17/4112213/charlotte-man-charged-with-hitting.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

BBB Warns Homeowners to be Wary of ‘Storm Chasers’

From http://www.wsoctv.com, June 14, 2013

The Better Business Bureau urges home owners to be wary of “storm chasers” – contractors who work out of their pickup trucks and solicit business door-to-door, according to BBB President Tom Bartholomy.
Thursday's storm damage
The tips on the BBB checklist for hiring a roofing company, repair contractor or tree removal service include researching a company’s track record, licensing and criminal history.

They write that homeowners should ask for a written contract including all important information and make sure to read the fine print.

Bartholomy insists that those with storm damage find companies and reviews on the BBB website. Find the full list and additional information at bbb.org.

Published in: on June 14, 2013 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Man Convicted in Foxcroft Neighborhood Murder

From The Charlotte Observer by Elizabeth Leland, June 13, 2013

Debbie Barber faced her husband’s murderer in court Thursday and told Chauncey Sterling that he not only robbed the world “of a special man,” he also robbed his own mother and his two little girls of the rest of his life.

“I consider this a loss for all of us,” she said. “You robbed him of his life. You robbed (our) future together. I feel awfully bad for your family – your mother and your children – because you robbed them of yourself.

“I hope you can ask your God to forgive you.”

When Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell announced the mandatory sentence for Robert Barber’s murder – life without the possibility of parole – a deputy cuffed Sterling’s hands behind his back. His sister cried out in anguish and was escorted from the courtroom.

Sterling, 20, looked toward the ceiling to hold back his tears, but he couldn’t. He asked a deputy to remove his eyeglasses for him. Then he craned his head around the deputy and whispered to his mother:

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Chauncey Sterling

“I love you.”

At her son’s words, Wanda Jennings wailed uncontrollably.

“No!” she cried.

On the other side of the courtroom, members of Barber’s family wept.

After four days of emotional testimony, it took the jury about an hour to convict Sterling of attempted robbery and first-degree murder.

He shot Barber on April 22, 2011, on Mullens Ford Road in south Charlotte, using a gun he stole from his sister’s house. The violent crime in a residential neighborhood, in broad daylight, on a holiday, shocked the community. Barber, 64, was walking home from a coffee shop on Fairview Road, enjoying a day off from Carolinas Healthcare Systems, where he had worked for 20 years.

Sterling, who lived in Rock Hill, told detectives he was looking for someone to rob, saw Barber walking alone, followed him for several blocks and pulled out a gun when he got close behind him.

Sterling testified Wednesday that he felt conflicted about robbing Barber and changed his mind. But, at that moment, he said Barber turned around and grabbed the gun. Sterling said he pulled the gun back and Barber lunged at him. Sterling fired two shots.

Lawyers on both sides of the case focused in closing arguments Thursday on a central question: Did Sterling intend to commit armed robbery when he shot Barber?

Prosecutor Clayton Jones argued that Sterling had been planning to rob someone because he couldn’t find a job and needed money to help support his daughters. Jones said Sterling did not tell the truth on the witness stand when he testified that he changed his mind.

“When Barber turned around … an arm’s length away … the crime of attempted robbery is committed,” Jones said. “The only reason he wasn’t able to take money from Mr. Barber is because Mr. Barber grabbed the barrel.”

Defense attorney Scott Gsell disagreed. He said Sterling told the truth in his confession and there was no reason to doubt that he told the truth in court.

“Before he could turn around and run, Mr. Barber turned around,” Gsell told jurors. “What Chauncey told you all is that he did not have intent at that moment. … It is an incredibly fine line.”

Felony Murder Rule

Sterling was tried under the felony murder rule, which is based on 16th -entury English common law. It holds that any death committed during the perpetration of certain felonies, or attempted felonies, with the use of a deadly weapon, is first-degree murder. Robbery is among those felonies; others include arson, rape, kidnapping and burglary.

To find him guilty of first-degree murder, the jury first had to find him guilty of attempted robbery.

Jones suggested in his cross-examination of Sterling Thursday morning that he may have tailored his testimony to fit the felony murder rule.

When Sterling was interrogated two days after killing Barber, he didn’t mention any indecision to detectives.

“Back when you gave that interview, you didn’t know what the felony murder rule was?” Jones asked Sterling.

“No, sir.”

“But you know what it is now?

“Yes, sir.”

Gsell sought to portray Sterling as a good, honest teenager who made a fatal mistake.

Jones countered that image with photographs from Sterling’s Facebook page, one of which showed him wearing a bandana and holding his hands in what he testified was the “F-U” sign.

“Mr. Sterling, these are gang signs, aren’t they?” Jones asked.

“No … “

“You’re a gang member?”

“No, I’m not.”

‘A Choice He Made’

Jones asked Sterling to show jurors how he snuck up behind Barber with a gun.

Sterling held up the weapon he used to shoot Barber and, with his hand visibly shaking, pointed the 9-millimeter handgun at the prosecutor. Only a few inches separated the end of the barrel from Jones’ back.

Jones then turned around and faced Sterling.

“You’re face to face with him at this distance with the gun pointed at him?” Jones asked.

“Yes.”

Jones later told jurors, “That was a choice he made over a period of time … a choice he made that he could have undone.”

It was a choice that will haunt many families for years to come.

“Two years, two months, three days ago, you murdered my brother,” Betty Barber told Sterling. “You robbed Debbie of her future. … He won’t ever see his grandchildren. You put your mother and sister in the horrible position of possibly having to testify against you. And you robbed your children.

“We hurt, and we will hurt for a long time because of your actions.”

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/13/4104960/jury-convicts-sterling-of-murder.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 14, 2013 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Trial in Murder of Hospital Executive in Foxcroft Neighborhood Continues

From The Charlotte Observer By Elizabeth Leland, June 12, 2013

The first-degree murder trial of Chauncey Sterling began Wednesday with tearful testimony from the victim’s widow. It ended with a dramatic account from the defendant, who said he changed his mind about robbing Robert Barber after stalking him for several blocks.

Debbie Barber reacts after looking at her late husband’s autopsy photo during the trial of Chauncey Sterling at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse Wednesday, June 12, 2013. Sterling is charged with killing Robert Barber, 64, as Barber walked home from from a coffee shop in south Charlotte in April 2011. (Photo by TODD SUMLIN)

But then everything went wrong.“I froze,” Sterling testified. “In all the time I was following him, I was pumping myself up that I can do it. … I just panicked when I came upon him. I couldn’t do it.

“That’s when he turned around.”

They struggled over the gun, Sterling testified.

“I pulled away, and he lunged toward me, and I fired. I don’t know why I fired.”

Barber, a 64-year-old hospital executive who was married with two stepsons, staggered onto a lawn on Mullens Ford Road in South Charlotte and collapsed. Sterling ran.

Robert Barber

It was around 10:15 on a rainy morning, April 22, 2011. A couple of hours later, Debbie Barber was on lunch break from her nursing job and heard on TV that someone had been shot in the neighborhood where her husband was taking a morning walk.

She testified that she frantically tried to reach him on his cellphone.

No answer.

She telephoned a neighbor. Was Bob working in the yard?

“No,” she said the neighbor told her. “But there are a lot of policemen at your house.”

As difficult as it was for Debbie Barber to recount how she found out her husband was killed, the most emotional moment of her 20-minute testimony came at the very end. Prosecutor Clayton Jones showed her a photograph of Barber’s face taken at the Mecklenburg Medical Examiner’s office, then Jones quickly turned the photograph over.

“That’s Bob, my husband,” Debbie Barber said. She bowed her head and wept.

‘I was scared’

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Sterling, 20, of Rock Hill, was arrested two days after the shooting and admitted that he killed Barber. He said he saw Barber leave the Caribou Coffee on Fairview Road and followed him down the street.

His testimony Wednesday in Mecklenburg Superior Court for the first time revealed his internal conflict leading up to the confrontation.

He said he had spent the night at his sister’s Charlotte apartment across Simsbury Road from the coffee shop.

“I woke up with a feeling I never felt before,” Sterling said. He said he felt depressed and confused; the mother of his two young daughters, ages 1 year and 1 month, was unemployed, and he needed money to help support them. But he hadn’t worked in a year. He had depended on family members for money to buy diapers, wipes and clothes.

“I was tired of asking people,” he said. “I felt like I needed to man up.”

So the next morning, he said he stole his sister’s handgun out of her closet and went out looking for someone to rob.

He didn’t find anybody, so he returned to the apartment. Around 9:40 a.m., he went out hunting again.

He said he saw Barber walk out of the Caribou parking lot onto Simsbury Road. Sterling said he followed him about 18 to 20 feet behind.

“I was still undetermined,” he testified. “I was contemplating whether I should do this or I should not. I was scared. I never did this before.”

It began drizzling. Sterling said he stopped for a minute or two, then convinced himself to try it. He caught up with Barber, and when he got about five feet away, he said he pulled the gun from his pocket. Then, he claimed, he changed his mind.

“I couldn’t take no money from this man,” he testified.

That’s when, he said, Barber turned around.

Their final conversation

Debbie Barber recounted how her husband had asked her to wake him that morning even though he didn’t have to go to work. He had Good Friday off.

He kept a busy schedule. He filled in as interim CEO at hospitals acquired by Carolinas HealthCare Systems, where he had worked for about 20 years. He also taught health administration at several colleges and was a mentor to many students around Sterling’s age. “Dr. Bob,” they called him.

Debbie Barber usually stopped for coffee on her way to work at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. That morning, he joined her.

Afterward, he wanted to walk the nearly three miles home for the exercise.

She later called to warn him about a big downpour that might be heading his way. He called back around 10. He had stayed at Caribou, reading the newspaper and waiting out the rain. It was letting up, he said, and he would be starting for home.

“I didn’t get to talk to him very much because I was taking care of a very sick child,” she testified, regret in her voice.

Gunshot to his chest

Michael Sullivan, medical examiner for Mecklenburg County, told jurors that Barber died from a gunshot wound to his chest.

He said the bullet entered Barber’s right shoulder, passed through both lungs and his heart, exited his body and then re-entered through his upper left arm. A second bullet went through his upper right abdomen and out his left lower side.

Glenn Berry, who lived near where Barber was shot, testified that he heard two shots and went outdoors to see why.

Barber lay face down in the grass. On the advice of a 911 operator, Berry grabbed some T-shirts to apply pressure to the wounds. But before he could, he said, authorities arrived. Barber was declared dead at the scene.

He was wearing his trusty pedometer. He had walked about half a mile.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/12/4101076/widow-recalls-learning-of-husbands.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 13, 2013 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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