News Roundup

As the News Roundup previously has noted, Charles Ray Finch was released from North Carolina prison earlier this year after serving more than 40 years for a murder that he did not commit.  This week the News & Observer reported that Finch has filed a federal lawsuit against Wilson County, Sheriff Calvin Woodard Jr., two former Wilson County deputies, and two staffers with the SBI.  According to the N&O, the suit alleges that deputies with the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, then led by W. Robin Pridgen, organized the 1976 robbery that resulted in store owner Richard Holloman’s murder and then framed Finch for the crime.  Keep reading for more news.

Finch.  The N&O report in the lead says that a 1977 FBI investigation revealed rampant corruption in the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office when Pridgen was sheriff.  During that time, deputies apparently would identify Wilson County businesses with large amounts of cash on hand and then arrange for them to be robbed, splitting the money with the robbers.  Pridgen was convicted of racketeering charges in 1979 and shortly after that conviction Finch filed a motion to have his sentence vacated and wrote to the new sheriff, L.G. Taylor, that he had been framed for the murder.  Taylor contacted the SBI but the agent assigned to the case is alleged to have not contacted the FBI or any potential witnesses Finch had identified.

Human Trafficking Conviction.  The Durham Herald-Sun reports that a recent attempted human trafficking conviction following a jury trial in Durham may be the first conviction for that offense in the state’s history.  Corey Oliver Smith was convicted of the offense in late November and was sentenced to 18 to 31 years in prison.  The article notes that there have been only nine human trafficking convictions in North Carolina courts since 2013 and that there is no data indicating any previous convictions in the state for attempted trafficking.

Threat Trial.  Earlier this year the News Roundup noted that a Black Mountain man, Joseph Cecil Vandevere, was facing federal criminal charges for allegedly threatening to lynch a candidate for state senate in Virginia.  WLOS reports that Vandevere’s trial was scheduled to begin yesterday.

Chiefs Retire.  Several North Carolina chiefs of police recently announced their retirements according to local news outlets.  The Port City Daily reports that Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous has announced that he will retire on February 1, 2020.  Evangelous has served in the position since 2004.  The Port City Daily also noted that Leland Police Chief Mike James, who has served in that role since 2012, plans to retire around the same time.  The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Winston-Salem State University Police Chief Patricia D. Norris plans to retire at the end of the year.  Norris was the Winston-Salem Chief of Police from 2004 to 2008, the first African American to serve in that role.  She took the job at WSSU after retiring from the city’s police force.

Home Safety.  Over Thanksgiving I watched the modern classic Home Alone, a movie with a plot illustrating that unoccupied houses are ripe targets for crime around the holidays.  The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention and Community Engagement Division recently announced that, unlike Macauley Culkin, residents of that county will not have to resort to improvised booby traps to keep their homes safe.  Instead, residents can sign up for a new House Watch Program where deputies will patrol enrolled homes and document their checks of the residences.  If you don’t live in Polk County you probably should go ahead and begin rigging your blow torches and hot irons.

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