Author Archive for Donovan Justice

Missing Men in Haywood County


James Christopher Franklin

James Christopher Franklin


Robert Douglas Parks

Robert Douglas Parks

The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office is searching for two people who are reported to be missing in separate incidents.

 Robert Douglas Parks, 38, was reported missing today after he failed to keep an appointment. Friends and family reported they have not heard from him since late last night.  Mr. Parks is a white male approximately 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighing about 185 pounds, with reddish brown hair and brown eyes.  He was last known to be wearing a black shirt, blue jeans, blue athletic shoes with yellow laces and a black coat.

In an unrelated incident, James Christopher Franklin, 28, was reported missing Saturday by his family. He was last seen in the area of Paragon Parkway in Clyde.  Mr. Franklin is a white male approximately 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighing about 180 pounds, with short brown hair, blue eyes, and walks with a distinct limp.  Though his clothing description on the date he went missing is unknown, family reports he frequently wears blue jeans and an oversized hooded jacked or sweatshirt.

 Anyone with any information as to the whereabouts of either man is asked to contact the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office at (828) 452-6666.

ECU Dental Clinic Near Completion


ECU Dental Clinic

ECU Dental Clinic

Back in December of 2012, Local officials and Administrators from East Carolina University broke ground for the news Community Service Leaning Center for ECU’s School of Dentistry. The $3 million, 7,700-square-foot center, located next door to the Jackson County Rescue Squad just above the Jackson County Senior is nearing completion and should be ready for occupancy within the next 60 days. The center is the third of ten centers that East Carolina University plans to open across the state. Each center contains 16 dental chairs and state-of-the-art general dentistry facilities.

ECU School of Dental Medicine faculty members, post-doctoral residents and dental students will provide patient care, giving the residents and students experience practicing in a community setting. The center will also employ local staff members. Medicaid and other forms of insurance will be accepted by the center.

Paula Carden, director of the Jackson County Health Department, stated at the ground breaking, “Dental health is essential for overall health, and many are being left out. I’ll be happy when we can refer patients to the center.”

The School of Dental Medicine intends to place fourth-year dental students in rotations in community service learning centers throughout the state. Also, the centers will provide various state of the art dental services to a wide range of patients. They will also serve as opportunities to encourage graduating dental students to set up a practice in rural areas of the state upon completion of the program.

“We are proud to be a part of this initiative by East Carolina,” said Chuck Wooten, Jackson County Manager. “Our hope is that the dental center will help more students in our region consider dental professions and that some of ECU’s dental students who work here will fall in love with the mountains and want to stay.”

WCU Kicks Off 125th Year Celebration

wcu 125 imageA yearlong celebration of Western Carolina University’s 125th anniversary kicked off on Thursday as students, faculty, and community members gathered in the school’s University Center for the first of several such events that will be held throughout the year. WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher began the celebration with some remarks reminding the crowd of the many changes that have occurred at the institution over the years. In 1889, a one room school house with one teacher and eighteen students was the founding of the Cullowhee Academy. Over the past 125 year that school has evolved into the multi campus Western Carolina University with an enrolment of over 10,000.

 “In the two-and-a-half years Susan and I have been at Western Carolina, one of the things that has struck me the most is how, despite the remarkable changes this university has witnessed here in Cullowhee over the decades, the fundamental mission of this institution remains the same. Through all of the changes, a strong mission to serve the people of Western North Carolina has been the foundation of this strong institution,” said Chancellor Belcher.

Following his remarks, the celebration continued with a fashion show of clothing from throughout the university’s 125 years of history, along with apparel adorned with WCU’s commemorative 125th anniversary logo. Highlights of the fashion show included Will Peebles, director of WCU’s School of Music, wearing 19th-century vintage overalls; Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson in an Edwardian bustle dress; Susan Belcher, wife of the WCU chancellor, in a purple 1930s May court dress; and Paws, the Catamount mascot, dressed in a 1940s football uniform with padded pants. Various University musical and dance groups also performed.

The official 125th birthday bash will be held in August, the month in which the school that became WCU was founded in 1889. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 26, with a picnic on the University Center lawn, old-fashioned games and music all in the theme of the late 19th century. The final celebration event is set for Friday, Dec. 5, in the Ramsey Center, with music from the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band (which will have just returned from its appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade), refreshments, remarks from the chancellor. Other events will be designed around traditional highlights of WCU’s annual calendar, such as spring commencement ceremonies, Mountain Heritage Day, the Spring Literary Festival, and Homecoming. For more information, about the school’s history or the 125th anniversary events visit the website at celebrate125.wcu.edu.

Utility Larceny Arrests in Haywood County

The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office has arrested eight people for allegedly cutting telephone wires and selling them for their copper content. The incidents occurred in the Hyder Mountain Road and England Road areas between October and December of 2013.  The replacement cost for the damages caused in the crimes is estimated to be $50,000.

After weeks of investigating, breaks in the cases came through information provided by witnesses and the public. Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher said, “Our citizens were a key element in solving this case. We’re very grateful for the partnership we share with the people we serve.”

The eight individuals arrested have been identified as Sara Kent, 20, of Canton, Kevin Douglas Gibson, 28, of Clyde, Steven Charles Allred, 43, of Canton, Clifford Lowell Lance, 33, of Canton, Gwendolyn Wikes Burnette, 43, of Clyde, Leiha Boyer, 31, of Clyde, Ricky Hill, 26, Canton, and Ryan Green, 30, of Clyde. All are facing felony charges ranging from Larceny, Possession of Stolen Property, and Injuring Utility Wires/Fixtures. Secured bonds ranged from $5,000 to $10,000. Investigators say there are additional suspects with more arrests pending.

2013 Yields Record Rain Fall for Western North Carolina


Flooded Tobacco Field

Flooded Tobacco Field

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension reports that the western counties of North Carolina saw an average of 75.2 inches for the year in 2013 which is nearly 10 inches higher than the previous annual record and nearly twice the normal annual rain fall of 40-45 inches. The heavy amounts of precipitation lead to a landslide last January that closed Highway 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for weeks. There were other landslides as well as high levels of flash flooding and erosion reported throughout the region during the year. The Cooperative Extension says in agriculture, dry weather crops, such as tobacco, were the most effected, but nearly all aspects of growing saw changes. Hay growing was effected for cattle raisers, and even the regions bee colonies saw lower production since bees cannot fly and pollinate in the rain. Last year’s record rain fall has regional farmers hoping for a dryer 2014 with the approaching spring planting season.

Waynesville Man Faces Felony Shooting Charges


Anthony Scott Price

Anthony Scott Price

On Tuesday evening around 5:45, Haywood County Sherriff’s Deputies responded to reports of shots fired on Geneva Lane in Waynesville. Upon arriving on the scene deputies say they found a 2002 Mazda Protégé with evidence of bullet damage and a male victim claiming that he was fired upon while inside the vehicle by 26-year-old Anthony Scott Price, of Waynesville. Also on the scene was a female victim who claimed that Price had struck her in the face during the incident. While conducting their investigation, officers suspected that Price could still be in the area and began searching the scene and nearby woods. After hiding from investigators for some time, Price walked out of the woods and surrendered to law enforcement without incident. Anthony Price has been charged with felonious discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle, and misdemeanor counts of assault with a deadly weapon, resisting a public officer, and domestic assault on a female. He is remains in custody in lieu of $20,000 secured bond.

Jackson County Librarian Retiring

The Jackson County Public Library will be celebrating a bitter sweet milestone with County Librarian Dottie Burnette on December 11th. Burnette will be retiring from her post at the end of the year. Brunette has served as Jackson County Librarian since May 2007, and before that was branch librarian at the Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library, as well as an assistant librarian at the Macon County Public Library and WCU’s Hunter Library. A native of Sylva, Brunette graduated from Western Carolina University and received her Master of Library Science degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. As Jackson County Librarian, Brunette oversaw the library’s 2011 move from its previous location on Main Street, currently the Sylva Police Department, to its new home on the site of the Old Courthouse overlooking Main Street. The December 11th reception, held in her honor, will be from 2:00 to 4:00 pm in the Community Room of the Jackson County Library. It is open to the public and light refreshments will be served. For more information, call the Jackson County Public Library at 586-2016.

NCSHP to Participate in Nationwide Thanksgiving Highway Campaign

Research indicates that the Thanksgiving holiday period is one of the most heavily traveled times in the United States, heaviest of which are 12 p.m.-12 a.m. the Wednesday before and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. the Sunday following.  To promote a safe and uneventful driving environment, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol will join forces with numerous highway patrol and state police agencies across the nation in an enforcement campaign concentrated solely on I-40. During the two-day operation, North Carolina troopers, along with other states, will be patrolling along the I-40 corridor every 20 miles from coast to coast.  It is hoped that the constant visibility of law enforcement from state to state will create a safe driving environment for all motorists but more importantly save lives and prevent injuries. Last year during the Thanksgiving holiday, the highway patrol investigated 11 fatal collisions, 432 injury collisions and 1,457 property damage collisions. Many of these collisions were attributed to excessive speed. Speed remains the leading cause of traffic collisions and fatalities in North Carolina as well as across the country. Last year the Highway Patrol investigated 1,801 fatal collisions on North Carolina. Of those, 245 deaths were contributed to speed, compared to 244 deaths in 2011. Motorists who are travelling the highways this Thanksgiving holiday are urged to contact the State Highway Patrol should they observe motorists who are driving in a careless and reckless manner. The Highway Patrol can be reached on any cellphone by dialing *HP or *47.

Smoky Mountain High Declared Ineligible for Playoffs

Tonight’s high school football playoff matchup between the Smoky Mountain Mustangs and the Forest Hill Yellow Jackets has been cancelled and will be recorded as a loss/forfeit for the Mustangs. The issue stems from a player who was found to be illegible on the Smoky Mountain squad. During a check of athletic records at the high school, it was discovered this morning that a Mustang football player had an out of date physical on file. As soon as school officials were made aware of the situation, they self-reported the circumstances to the North According North Carolina High School Athletic Association. According to NCHAA policy, any player without a current physical on record is automatically ineligible for competition, and any game that they participated in while ineligible must be forfeited by the offending team. After looking at the documentation, the NCHAA has determined that the player in question is indeed ineligible, and further ruled that SMHS must forfeit tonight’s game. After further investigation, it is likely that the NCHAA will make further changes to Smoky Mountain High’s record for the year. Dr. Mike Murray, Superintendent of Jackson County Schools said, “It will affect their season. There will be retro-active actions taken, but right now that is still under investigation.” Forrest Hills will now advance to round two of the High School football playoffs.

Haywood County Man Charged with Additional Counts of Fraud


Jeremy Ryan Clark

Jeremy Ryan Clark

Last week WRGC brought you the story of Jeremy Ryan Clark, 30, of Canton, who was arrested on November 2nd, and charged with felony obtaining property under false pretense. Haywood County Deputies arrested Clark without incident at his home, after receiving a complaint from a 93-year-old-man, who stated he gave Clark $200 after Clark claimed that he had a sick child and did not have the money to fill the child’s prescription. Arrest warrants report that Clark’s child was not sick at the time, nor was the child in his custody. After seeing media coverage of the story, several other victims have reported similar crimes committed by Clark. All alleged incidents have been reported to have taken place during the same week, and after investigations, detectives have served Clark with three additional warrants for felonious obtaining property under false presence. Clark remains in custody in the Haywood County Detention Center under a secured bond, and has a scheduled court appearance for November 20th. If you think you may have been a victim, or have similar crime to report in this case, you are asked to call the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office at 828-452-6666.

Local Realtors Donate to Area Elementary Schools

Members of the Northern Jackson Board of Realtors and Multiple Listing Service voted unanimously at their annual organizational meeting in October, to donate up to $2,000 per public elementary school in Jackson and Swain counties for a total of up to $14,000 for 2013. Several options and organizations were considered by the Board for receiving the donations. In their considerations the Board recognized the growing continued needs in school funding and that each elementary school in the region had unique challenges that needed addressing. This led to the decision that the funds not be donated to one school or project, but to all area elementary schools to be used at their discretion. Leaders at each local elementary school were thrilled with the news of the donations, and may have already begun using the funds. Some schools are buying much needed supplies such as copy paper, tape, crayons, pens, pencils, and art supplies.  Others, such as Scotts Creek Elementary School, are adding to their lacking library collections with much needed non-fiction books. Fairview Elementary School will be getting new readers that students could take home and begin to learn the importance of books and reading. The full list of area schools receiving donations includes Cullowhee Valley Elementary, Fairview Elementary, Scotts Creek Elementary, Smokey Mountain Elementary, Swain East Elementary, Swain West Elementary, and Blue Ridge Elementary. The Northern Jackson Board of Realtor members have already established that these are ongoing needs in local schools and are looking to make this an ongoing effort.

Suicide Investigation Temporarily Closes Jackson Plaza

In continuing coverage of a story we reported on Sunday, emergency personnel responded to a report of a possible suicide in the parking lot of Jackson Plaza on Grindstaff Cove road late Sunday morning. Upon arriving, officers found a deceased person in a vehicle with signs clearly posted on the windows warning of dangerous fumes inside. Due to the hazardous situation, all businesses in the Jackson Plaza were closed and evacuated and the North Carolina Hazardous Materials Regional Response team was called to assist. Upon safely entering the vehicle, authorities were able to remove and identify the body of 19-year-old Claude Bolton of Sylva, who is believed to have died of hydrogen sulfide poisoning. Once deemed safe, businesses located in the Jackson Plaza were allowed to reopen Sunday afternoon. The body was taken by medical examiners for autopsy and the police investigation into the incident is still ongoing.

Haywood County Man Arrested for Fraud


Jeremy Ryan Clark

Jeremy Ryan Clark

A Haywood County man was charged with fraud after detectives said he deceived an elderly person into believing he needed money to buy prescriptions for his sick child. Jeremy Ryan Clark a thirty year old of Canton, was arrested on Nov. 2 and served with a warrant for felony obtaining property by false pretense for knowingly defrauding $200 from a 93-year-old man.  The warrant states Clark’s child was not sick, nor was the child in his custody. Deputies arrested Clark at his home without incident, and he is being held in lieu of $5,000 secured bond.  His court date is set for Nov. 13.

Canton Man Charged with Child Sex Crimes

David Wallace Bidou

David Wallace Bidou

A Canton man was arrested yesterday and charged with 15 sex crimes involving a child. Forty-six-year-old David Wallace Bidou, has been charged with eight counts of felony sexual offense with a child and seven felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.  The crimes are alleged to have taken place more than five years ago. A cooperative investigation between the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and Canton Police Department, is ongoing. Bidou is being held in lieu of $800,000 secured bond, and is scheduled to appear in court November 20th.

Macon County Commission Receives LTLT 2013 Conservationist Award

Left-to-Right: Ken Murphy, LTLT Board Chairman; Ron Haven, Macon County Commissioner; Bobby Kuppers, Former Macon County Commissioner; and Paul Carlson, LTLT Executive Director

Left-to-Right: Ken Murphy, LTLT Board Chairman; Ron Haven, Macon County Commissioner; Bobby Kuppers, Former Macon County Commissioner; and Paul Carlson, LTLT Executive Director

At their annual Fall Celebration, the Land Trust of the Little Tennessee awarded their 2013 Robert and Virginia Ramsey Brunner Land Conservationist of the Year Award to the Macon County Commission. The Macon County Commissioners received the award in recognition of their role in conserving the historic Cowee School, which is now being repurposed as a community and heritage center. The old Cowee School is now known as the Macon County Heritage Center and has already begun hosting a bluegrass concert series, various groups, including the Macon County Historical Society and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and the Cowee Pottery School and Cowee Textiles. At the event LTLT Board President Ken Murphy said “Without the Macon County Commissioners this project could not have happened. The Macon County Commissioners, our elected officials, not only approved the repurposing of this facility, they provided critical support including financial support. Their approval and support was evidence of their real vision for the future, and we recognize that they made their decisions in light of many competing considerations and alternative uses of the funding provided.” The LTLTs Brunner Conservationist of the Year Award was established in 2004 to honor Robert and Virginia Ramsey Brunner, whose generosity and vision of land conservation in Western North Carolina were instrumental in the founding of LTLT.

Medwest Harris/Swain to Partner with Duke Hospitals

After a several month process the WestCare Board of Trustees has voted to pursue a partnership with Duke LifePoint Healthcare, a joint venture of Duke University Health System and LifePoint Hospitals. This process was initiated by the MedWest Health System board with the support of both the WestCare and Haywood Regional Medical Center boards. Bunny Johns, the chair of the WestCare Board said about the agreement, “This is a game-changing step forward for the WestCare hospitals. This relationship provides us the opportunity to focus on our hospitals and medical community serving Jackson, Swain, Macon and Graham counties in a way that makes sense for local patients, their families, and physicians.  WestCare will be operated independent of Haywood Regional Medical Center. We intend to continue to ensure that our patients have access to the full continuum of quality healthcare services as we develop new services to meet local needs while preserving our long-standing clinical relationship with Mission Health.” WestCare and Duke LifePoint will enter into a memorandum of understanding which is non-binding and signifies the intent of both parties to execute the partnership. Upon completion of a due diligence period, Duke LifePoint will purchase Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital and their respective outpatient facilities.

Grand Jury Indicts Davis

Yesterday investigators with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office presented their evidence to a Jackson County Grand Jury about the child abuse investigation involving the suspect, Eric Lorenzo Davis. On October 11th Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of child abuse at the Qualla Motel in Whittier. When they arrived deputies found four year old Erika Davis suffering from severe bodily injuries for which she was transported to Mission Hospital. She later died of her injuries. Eric Davis was taken into custody at the scene and has been held at the Jackson County Detention Center on $1,000,000 bond. At yesterday’s hearing the Grand Jury issued Indictments against Davis for one count of First Degree Murder and two counts of Felony Child Abuse-Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury. Davis has been served his indictments and is still being held now on no bond.

Cullowhee Planning Meeting Scheduled


According to the 2010 US census, Cullowhee is the fastest growing and largest township in Jackson County. With this past and continued growth, Jackson County is undertaking a community planning effort to identify the need and support for the growing of the Cullowhee community. The Cullowhee Community Planning Advisory Committee and the Jackson County Planning Department will be hosting a community planning forum at library of Cullowhee Valley School beginning at 5:30 PM. need The meeting will explore ideas and answer questions regarding the future development of the Cullowhee community.  For more information contact the Jackson County Planning Department at 828-531-2255 or planning@jacksonnc.org

Park Plans Burn in Cataloochee

Fire management officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are planning two 200-acre prescribed burns in the Canadian Top unit adjacent to Cataloochee Valley. Weather permitting, burn operations could begin as early as Monday, and may continue at different times through early November. The two burn sites are located on Bald Top adjacent to Mathews Branch near the Cataloochee Ranger Station. The units are part of the larger Canadian Top multi-year prescribed fire project where fire managers have been conducting a series of low-intensity, controlled burns to restore the composition and open structure of the oak woodlands that occur on upper slopes and ridges within the site. “One of the goals of the prescribed burn is to improve elk forage and habitat,” said Great Smoky Mountain Wildland Fire Module Leader Shane Paxton. “This series of burns will reduce the number of fire-sensitive trees and shrubs while increasing the regeneration of oak and yellow pines along with increasing the cover and diversity of native grasses and wildflowers. Over time, this increase in herbaceous vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows.” Roads and trails will remain open to the public throughout the burn operations, although Little Cataloochee Trail may be temporarily closed if fire activity warrants. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area. The burn operations will be conducted by park staff and are being funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains NP, visit the website www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/fire-regime.htm.

WCU Kacey Musgraves Concert Rescheduled for Spring 2014

Due to a scheduling conflict, the Kacey Musgraves “Same Trailer Different Tour” concert schedule at the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee for Saturday, October 26 has been postponed until a later date in early 2014.  All tickets purchased for the October 26 show will be honored for the rescheduled show.  Full refunds at place of purchase will be available for anyone who is unable to attend the rescheduled date. For information, visit the website ramsey.wcu.edu, or call 828-227-7677.