News Roundup

Late last week Governor Roy Cooper’s office announced that he had commuted the sentences of three people who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms as teenagers and had served decades behind bars.  April Leigh Barber, now 46, served 30 years in prison after being convicted of killing her grandparents by setting their house ablaze when she was 15 years old; she has a job lined up as a paralegal when she is released, according to WFMY.  Joshua McKay, now 37, served 20 years for the murder of Mary Catherine Young in Richmond County when he was 17; the Richmond County Daily Journal says that he would have been released in November of this year absent the commutation. Finally, Anthony Willis, now 42, has served 26 years for the murder of Benjamin Franklin Miller in Cumberland County at the age of 16; WRAL reports that Willis has earned several college degrees while in prison, including a masters degree.  The commutations were recommended by the Juvenile Sentence Review Board, which Cooper previously established by executive order.  Keep reading for more news.

Early Warning System Webinar.  Last month Jeff blogged about new legislation requiring that all North Carolina law enforcement agencies implement an early warning system.  He explained that while many larger agencies already have a system in place, some agencies do not and will need to implement a system to comply with the new law.  The North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police and the School of Government Judicial College are partnering together to present a webinar about practical ideas for implementing an early warning system.  The webinar is scheduled for this coming Wednesday, March 23, from 10:00am to 11:00am.  The registration link is here.

Spring Lake.  The Fayetteville Observer reports that an investigation by the state auditor’s office into potential financial wrongdoing by employees of the town of Spring Lake has uncovered evidence suggesting that the town’s former finance director may have diverted more than $400,000 of town funds for personal use.  The investigation also revealed more than $100,000 of questionable credit card charges by other town employees, that $36,400 collected by the town never made it into its bank account, and that the town’s former economic development director was erroneously overpaid nearly $10,000 for a cellphone stipend.  The investigation report is being forwarded to the FBI and SBI so they can determine whether criminal charges are warranted.  The state Local Government Commission took control of the town’s finances several months ago.

Trooper Pleads Guilty.  As a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina explains, late last week a former North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper, Timothy Jay Norman, pleaded guilty to dealing in firearms without a license after investigators discovered that he was making a significant profit selling decommissioned NCSHP service weapons and other firearms.  Norman was caught in a series of controlled buys.  A search of his home turned up over fifty firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition; an AR-15 rifle and another firearm, neither of which were issued by the NCSHP, were discovered in his patrol car along with an envelope of cash that included money from the controlled buys.  Norman is scheduled for a sentencing hearing in June.

Officer Pay Bump.  WRAL reports that the small town of Princeton, N.C., is hoping to alleviate a 40% staffing shortage at its five-person police department by increasing the starting pay for new officers to more than $45,000 per year, a 22% increase.  Chief Tyrone Sutton told WRAL that his department had been trying to fill one vacancy or several months but did not receive applications from qualified individuals.  When another officer recently left the force, town commissioners approved the pay raise in hopes of attracting and retaining qualified officers.

Primed Pump.  WXII reports that a Bizzy Bee gas station in High Point was the victim of an unusual theft earlier this week that involved a person using a “remote control like object” to bypass a gas pump’s payment system and fill up 15 different cars with nearly 400 gallons of gas after the station had closed for the night.  The owner of the station said that he was completely unaware that it was possible for others to bypass a pump’s payment system and had never heard of such a theft in his 15 years in business.  An investigation of the incident is ongoing.