News Roundup

This week the United States Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.  Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the court when she takes Justice Breyer’s place at the end of the current term, and will be the only current member with experience as a public defender.  Three Republicans joined all Senate democrats to confirm Jackson with a vote of 53 to 47.  Keep reading for more news.

Neville.  The death of John Neville at the Forsyth County Detention Center was a significant news story in 2020.  Neville suffered a seizure and fell out of his bunk at the jail in December 2019.  The response to Neville’s fall by detention center staff was criticized by the public in the following months when video footage was released which showed that he was held in a hog-tie position in an observation cell following the initial response to the incident.  Eventually, five detention officers and a nurse were charged with involuntary manslaughter based on their treatment of Neville.

This week, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that a Forsyth grand jury declined to indict the former detention officers on the manslaughter charges  but did indict the nurse, Michelle Heughins.  Neville’s family criticized the grand jury’s decision and Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill said he was disappointed by it.  Neville’s family has filed a federal lawsuit against Forsyth County, Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr., and the jail’s former medical provider Wellpath LLC.

Cold Case.  The Winston-Salem Journal reports that investigators with the SBI and the Surry County Sheriff’s Office made an arrest last month in a 1992 murder case that had gone cold.  Warren Luther Alexander of Diamondhead, Missouri, was arrested on March 15 and was brought to Surry County near the end of the month where he currently is being held without bail.  He is accused of killing Nona Stamey Cobb after picking her up from a rest stop in Cleveland County.

The Journal story says that investigators used DNA testing and forensic genealogy to break the case, working with a company that specializes in using information from consumer genealogy websites to identify possible suspects.  At a press conference announcing the arrest, SBI director Robert Schurmeier described forensic genealogy as a “game changer.”  

Dash Cams.  WLOS reports that the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office is in the process of installing dash cameras in its patrol vehicles.  Chief Deputy Herbert Blake said that dash cameras, like body cameras, increase officer safety while adding accountability and transparency.  The office has outfitted 33 patrol vehicles with cameras thus far and has about 200 total patrol vehicles.

School Threats.  WLOS reports that a false bomb threat in Henderson County prompted evacuations at two schools yesterday, North Henderson and Apple Valley Middle.  Sheriff Lowell Griffin said that he learned from the SBI that there have been similar threats at 16 North Carolina high schools since Tuesday of this week.  A separate report from WLOS says that Brevard High School was among the other schools targeted.