Harrah’s Announces New Restaurants at Murphy Casino

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel (HCVR) officials announced the line-up of its Food Market on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

“We’re excited to offer these five quality brands to the Food Market at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel,” said Lumpy Lambert, HCVR general manager. “They represent a variety of freshly prepared menu options and will be complemented by terrific service from our team.”

Guests of all ages will have access to these outlets, which will be conveniently located between the hotel, main casino entrance and the gaming floor.

The following will be offered at the property: Starbucks, Panda Express, Earl of Sandwich, Papa John’s, and Nathan’s Famous.

Starbucks officials commented, “We believe that our stores, our partners (employees), our customers and our coffee can help bring people together and are proud to play a significant role in building awareness of the finest coffee around the world.  We’re excited to be opening a new location with Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino this fall and look forward to continue serving the community.”

Gunman in Haywood County Church Identified; Father of 9

Investigators said Thursday that multiple law enforcement agencies responded to a 911 call claiming that four people had been shot at about 3:15 p.m. at Maple Grove Baptist Church on Stamey Cove Road in Waynesville.

Sgt. Heidi Warren of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office said there was a man alone in the church when law enforcement crews arrived. The man exchanged gunfire with the officers, she said.

The man has been identified on Thursday as Wade Allen Baker, 44, formerly of Marshalltown, Iowa. He was living in Clyde, N.C.

Shannon O’Toole, assistant special agent in charge, said the four law enforcement officers involved in the shooting were: officer Brennan MeHaffey, of Maggie Valley PD, deputy Jamie McEntire, of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and officers Heath Presley and Tyler Howell, of Waynesville PD.

He died from injuries sustained in the shooting.

“Wade was a husband and father, son and brother. Wade is survived and will always be loved by 6 sons and 3 daughters: Nicholas, Mason, Jackson, Jakobi, Tanner, Gage, Kyla, Dana and Kayla; his wife Michelle; loving parents Candy and Daryl; a sister Laura, and his service dog Honor,” reads a statement from his family.  “Like other members of our community and family, we are struggling to understand these events. We are grieving for our loss. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers in the coming days, and hope that others will respect our privacy.”

Investigators contacted Paw & Effect after finding a dog with Baker. He is a 6-year-old service dog. The dog is safe and healthy. The group helps place therapy dogs with veterans.

The dog was reportedly placed with  Baker in March 2012. Baker served in the U.S. Army from August 1989 to Nov. 1998




Canton Officer Hit By Car

A Canton Police Officer was assisting a motorist just east of Exit 104 on U.S. 19/23 when he was struck and injured by a passenger car that had apparently lost control.

Around 1.p.m. Wednesday, Officer Darren Joppa was assisting the driver of a Ford pickup truck who had been pulling a trailer that was hauling a trenching machine. The trenching machine had fallen off the trailer into the roadway.

Joppa was struck while trying to move the equipment out of the travel lanes. No one else was injured in the accident.

The identities of the passenger car driver and pickup truck driver have not been released at this time pending investigation.

The officer was transported to Mission Health by Haywood EMS.

U.S. 19/23 was closed down to one lane while the investigation was conducted.

Stepmother sentenced in Haywood Child’s Death

A Haywood County woman was sentenced Friday to a minimum of six years in prison for her part in the murder of her stepson, 4-year-old Jake Russell, on Aug. 16, 2012. Julia Marie Phillips, 25, is the former wife of Michael Swayngim.

Swayngim pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in March 2015.

Phillips, who has since divorced Swayngim, took an Alford Plea. The Alford Plea is a guilty plea by the defendant who proclaims he or she is innocent of the crime, and admits that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove that he or she is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

She was sentenced for the crime of aiding and abetting felony child abuse.

Church Shooting In Haywood County

Maple Grove Baptist Church

Maple Grove Baptist Church, Waynesville


UPDATE: 01:12pm (08/20/15)

The State Bureau of Investigation was requested to investigate the officer involved shooting that occurred at a Haywood County church yesterday.

The incident took place at the Maple Grove Baptist Church located at 2501 Stamey Cove Road, in Waynesville.  Officers from Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to a 911 call claiming four people were shot. After a brief standoff, Wade Allen Baker, 44, of Clyde, was pronounced dead at the scene. Four law enforcement officers were involved in the shooting.  They have been identified as officer Brennan MeHaffey, of Maggie Valley PD, deputy Jamie McEntire, of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and officers Heath Presley and Tyler Howell, of Waynesville PD. There were no other individuals or shooting victims located at the church, as the caller had claimed. As with all officer involved shooting investigations, the investigative report will be delivered to the District Attorney’s office once complete.

(07:38pm 08/19/15)

At approximately 3:15pm on Wednesday, Haywood County Sherriff Dispatchers received a 911 call concerning shots being fired from the vicinity of Maple Grove Baptist Church on Stamey Cove Road. Officers responded and found a lone gunman inside church. Gunfire was exchanged between the suspected gunman and law enforcement. No law enforcement or personnel were injured. EMS were called in to render aid. It is believed that the gunman is deceased, but that is not confirmed at this point. The SBI has been called in to investigate. No one else was injured in this incident.

Forum to update WCU campus on master plan, reaccreditation, enrollment trends

Members of the Western Carolina University community will have an opportunity to hear updates about three important university topics – the campus master plan, the bid for reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and emerging enrollment and demographic trends – during a public forum Monday, Aug. 24.

The event will be held in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center from 2 until 3:30 p.m., with WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher providing opening remarks.

Mike Byers, WCU vice chancellor for administration and finance, will give an update on construction and renovation projects underway as part of the master plan. Approved by the WCU Board of Trustees in December 2013, the plan is designed to serve as a tool to closely link physical facilities of the university, including construction and renovation, to goals of its strategic plan.

Arthur Salido, associate professor of analytical chemistry and WCU’s SACSCOC director, will share information about the university’s accreditation reaffirmation process, including development of a Quality Enhancement Plan. Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar appointed Salido to take the reins of WCU’s SACSCOC reaffirmation process in May.

A comprehensive multiyear effort, the reaffirmation process involves demonstrating that WCU has met in-depth SACSCOC standards that ensure the university is offering high-quality programs for students. Successful reaffirmation of accreditation is important for reasons such as preserving WCU’s ability to be able to confer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and maintaining eligibility to receive and distribute federal financial aid funds. The university has been continuously accredited by SACSCOC, WCU’s institutional accrediting body, since 1946 and last reaffirmed accreditation for a 10-year period in 2007.

Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, will discuss enrollment and demographic trends that are expected to have an impact on institutions of higher education. Those trends include a predicted decline in the number of college-going North Carolinians in the year 2021 (the result of a drop in birthrates after Sept. 11, 2001), followed by an increase in college-bound residents in regions of the state east of WCU’s service region.

School Bus Safety: What You Need To Know

Every day millions of students use school buses as transportation to and from school. Although school buses represent the safest form of highway transportation, there are a number of safety factors of which both student and drivers should be aware. Hoping to ensure school bus safety, Sheriff Greg Christopher encourages caution whenever school buses are present.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 134 people die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year and more school-aged pedestrians have been killed during the hours of 7 to 8 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. than any other time of day.

“Children are often eager to get off the school bus because they are excited to tell their parents about all of the fun they had at school that day,” said Christopher. “It is crucial that parents re-enforce the school bus safety rules children learn at school.”

Christopher also suggests that parents drive their child’s bus route with them to practice the proper safety precautions they can take to help ensure their child enjoys a safe ride to and from school.

Teachers return to school Monday, Aug. 17, and students will begin classes Wednesday, Aug. 19. Parents are encouraged to discuss the following safety measures with their children:

— Always arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early.

— While the bus is approaching make sure to stand at least three big steps away from the curb; wait until the bus has come to a complete stop; the door opens; and the bus driver says that it’s okay to board.

— Always walk on the sidewalk when preparing to cross the street near a bus. Make eye contact with the driver so that you are sure he or she sees you.

— Never walk behind the bus.

— If you are walking beside the bus, walk at least three giant steps away.

— Use the handrail when entering and exiting the bus. Take extra precautions to make sure that clothing with drawstrings and book bags do not get caught in the handrail or door.

— Never stop to pick something up that you have dropped when a bus is stopped. Tell the bus driver or wait until the bus has driven off to avoid not being seen by the driver.


— Remember that children are unpredictable in their actions. Take extreme caution when traveling in a school zone.

— If there are no sidewalks, drive cautiously. Be more alert to the possibility of children walking in the road.

— Slow down and prepare to stop whenever you see yellow school bus lights flashing.

— Never pass a school bus when there are flashing red lights and the stop arm is extended. This is a sign that children are getting on or off the bus. Motorists must wait until the red lights stop flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.

— Learn and obey the school bus laws in North Carolina.

Hit and Run in Cullowhee Hospitalizes 12 year old boy

A 12-year-old boy was hit on a bicycle around 7 p.m. last night off Old Cullowhee Road in front of Carolina Village Apartments.

August Lusk, of Sylva, was riding his bicycle when a truck attempted to pass him. The vehicle hit the boy from behind knocking him off his bike. The truck fled the scene of the accident. NC Highway Patrol is trying to locate the driver of the black Ford truck with a tan camper top.

Two people witnessed the accident and provided a description of the truck, but authorities have not yet identified the owner. Glass from the broken headlight was found in the road after the accident.The vehicle is believed to have damage to the front right headlight.

The boy was airlifted to Mission Hospital in Asheville and is listed in serious condition.

Anyone with information about the owner of the truck should contact the N.C. Highway Patrol Clyde office at 828-627-2851 or *47 after hours on a mobile phone.

Sheriff Offers Back to School Safety Tips

Christopher_3519 3504 Hi JpegSheriff Greg Christopher of Haywood County offers some safety tips for those youngsters who will be walking back and forth to school this year.

“Parents can teach their children the following safety tips which will inform the youngsters of the danger signs to watch for and avoid when walking between school and home,” Sheriff Christopher said.

“Drivers should be cautious of children walking back and forth to school,” added the Sheriff. “We can all learn from the safety tips below and abide by them to make Hyawood County safer for all.”

• While walking, remember to always travel with a friend. Two heads are better than one, especially if there’s an emergency.

• A stranger is anyone you or your parents don’t know well.

• You or your friend must never take candy, money, medicine or anything else from a stranger.

• If a stranger in a car asks you questions, don’t get close to the car (you could get pulled in) – and never get in the car.

• Strangers can be very tricky – they can ask you to walk with them to “show” them something; they can offer to pay for your video game, or ask you to help them find a lost dog or cat. Don’t be fooled!

• Don’t tell anyone your name or address when you’re walking and don’t think that because someone knows your name that they know you – they may just be looking at your name printed on your lunch box, school bag or T-shirt.

• If you think you’re in any danger, yell, and run to the nearest store or “safe house” or back to school.

• Always tell your parents or teacher if a stranger has approached you.

“By taking the time to carefully prepare your child on how to handle these situations, you can insure your child’s safety whether they are on their way to school or home, playing on a playground or riding their bikes,” Sheriff Christopher concludes.

Haywood Community College Celebrates 50 years

Haywood Community College is pulling out all stops to celebrate its 50th anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 19.

The day will begin at 8 a.m. with the Freedlander 5K and Fun Run, then continue with many activities throughout the day.

To satisfy attendees of all ages and interests, the celebration will have something for everyone.

Following the 5K, there will be live music beginning at 10 a.m., headlined by Joe Lasher Jr. and the Jeff Santiago Band, a classic car show, bounce houses, putt-putt golf, creative arts activities for adults and children, a photo booth, and a fishing tournament with cash prizes at the Millpond.

Adding to the festivities, the event will host a Timbersports demonstration featuring HCC’s Collegiate National Champion, Ben Kniceley, as well as a flag raising ceremony to honor HCC alumni.

“The goals of this event were defined early on and really drove the decision making process as to what we wanted to feature,” said Aaron Mabry, director of marketing and communications for the college. “We (HCC) wanted to celebrate the 50th Anniversary, invite the community, make every aspect of the event family friendly, honor the heritage and the alumni of the college. More than anything, outside of food and the 5K registration, we wanted the event to be free to the community.”

For the food, HCC has invited Dickey’s BBQ of Canton to cater the event. As a thank you from the college, HCC alumni who attend and provide their most up to date contact information (name, address, e-mail), will receive a $5 voucher for the purchase of food at the event. Also in attendance will be HCC’s Waynesville Soda Jerks, serving up their local, handcrafted artisan beverages.

“We’re extremely excited to invite the community to our campus and celebrate this community-wide milestone. Our mission began in 1965 and remains intact to this day- providing accessible, affordable, and high-quality education, workforce training, and lifelong learning. This event celebrates fifty years of achievement for the college, our alumni and ultimately, Haywood County,” said HCC President Barbara Parker.

Freedlander 5K, Fun Run
The Freedlander 5K is open to runners and walkers for both individuals and teams of four. All registrants in the 5K and Fun Run will receive a race t-shirt. To honor the heritage of the college, the T-shirt is a replica of the shirt given to runners of an HCC 5K in 1980.

The Fun Run is a .44 mile-walk/run that is designed for kids and older adults. All children completing the Fun Run will receive a finisher’s medallion at the finish line and race t-shirt. The Fun Run will start at 9:15 a.m.

Regular Registration for the 5K through Aug. 31 is $25. Late Registration is $30 from Sept. 1 – 19. Registration for the Fun Run is $15. Online registration at haywood.edu ends at midnight on September 17. Race day registration on-site is Sept. 19.

Heritage and Growth
HCC opened in August 1965 as Haywood Industrial Education Center with one curriculum program, nursing and 39 students. Today, HCC offers over 23 curricular programs to over 2,200 students.

More than 5,000 more students attend classes through the Workforce Continuing Education division, including College & Career Readiness, occupational courses, and community service programs.

The college offers some unique programs that are known not only throughout the state but nationally. The Professional Crafts programs of clay, fiber, jewelry and wood combines a unique blend of studio experience, classroom education, and hands-on business experience. Students gain the skills needed to start their own business or become valued, skilled employees in the craft industry.

Another unique area of study for HCC is the Arts, Sciences, and Natural Resources Department. With Associate degrees available in Fish and Wildlife Technology and Forest Management Technology, students come from many counties to be a part of these leading programs. The hands-on style gets students out of the classroom and allows them direct application of the skills learned, often making ties with professionals in the field.
Oftentimes, HCC alumni have jobs before finishing their programs of study.

Graduate Success
According to HCC 1999 Fish and Wildlife Management Technology graduate Shawn Martin, “As a student at HCC, you are able to build your resume while you are still in college. You get job offers before you finish the program. It’s a tough program. A lot of four-year programs don’t give students this kind of exposure.”

Martin is Sergeant of District 9 for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. He enjoys being able to give back to HCC by teaching some classes and speaking to the Natural Resources students. In addition, Martin is an adjunct Basic Law Enforcement instructor. He is certified in the state as a general law enforcement instructor and specialized firearms instructor for law enforcement.

For Donna Forga, 1991 HCC Business Administration graduate, the college was a stepping stone to continuing her education. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and Language from UNCA. In 2000, she finished law school at Chapel Hill.

Forga is a District Judge for seven counties including: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain. She was first elected as District Court Judge in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014.
Forga says that HCC taught her that she could succeed and overcome obstacles. “Without coming to HCC first, I would not have continued my education to become a lawyer then a judge. HCC showed me I could make the grades and balance being a parent while going to school.

Ben Kniceley, HCC 2014 Fish and Wildlife Management Technology and 2015 Forest Management Technology graduate, recently became the STIHL USA Collegiate Champion in Timbersports. He won the title competing in Central Park in New York against five other national qualifiers. This is the fourth HCC student to go to the nationals.

The next stop for Kniceley will be in Austria in November for the world championships. He will spend 2016 competing in the professional series. Kniceley works at the Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
He has worked for the Lumberjack Feud for three years. He also spent a summer working in Alaska for the company’s sister attraction, The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.

“Being a community college, no one thinks any good can come out of it,” Kniceley says. “But travelling with the school’s timbersports team, Haywood is the team everyone wants to beat.”

At HCC, we know education changes everything. Graduates from the college work throughout Haywood County in many offices such as medical, accountants, and cosmetologists. They also work on cars, build houses, and make a living from their creative artistry. The college would love to hear from these graduates and know what they are doing now.

For more information about HCC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, please visit haywood.edu/50. If you would like to share your HCC story with us, please call 828.627.4679 or email dconard@haywood.edu.

Famers should have corn tested

Dry weather means that farmers are harvesting their corn a little earlier this year. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is encouraging farmers to have their corn tested for aflatoxin to prevent contamination of feeds and food.

Aflatoxin is a byproduct of the mold Aspergillus flavus, and can be harmful to both humans and livestock.
“Corn that has been harvested from areas that suffer from drought will be highly susceptible to aflatoxin,” said Troxler. “Farmers in drought–stricken areas are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this testing. We have six drop-off locations at research stations across the state to make it easy for farmers to submit samples.”

Some farmers may need to have corn samples tested for crop insurance or quality assurance purposes. These samples must be submitted to a grain marketing location certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The tests cost $22.20 per sample.
For insurance or quality assurance purposes, farmers must submit a 5-pound sample of shelled corn by mail, UPS or FedEx to a USDA-certified grain marketing location. The following locations can conduct USDA-certified testing, and they will accept samples between 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays:
Cargill Soybean Plant
Attn: Jason Jernigan
1400 S. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC 27603
Grain Grading Office
Attn: Judy Grimes
407-G South Griffin St.
Elizabeth City, NC 27909
Farmers who grow or buy bulk corn to feed to their own animals can have it tested for free by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Constable Laboratory, 4000 Reedy Creek Road in Raleigh. This Laboratory is not on the Risk Management Agency’s approved testing facility list; therefore, results from this location will not be accepted for insurance claims.

Farmers may drop off 5-pound samples of shelled corn at the Constable Laboratory or at one of six agricultural research stations. Forms for submitting samples will be available at the laboratory and the following collection sites:
• Border Belt Tobacco Research Station, 86 Border Belt Drive, Whiteville, 910-648-4703;
• Peanut Belt Tobacco Research Station, 112 Research Station Lane, Lewiston-Woodville, 252-348-2213;
• Tidewater Research Station, 207 Research Station Road, Plymouth, 252-793-4118;
• Lower Coastal Plain Tobacco/Cunningham Research Station, 200 Cunningham Road, Kinston, 252-527-3579;
• Piedmont Research Station, 8350 Sherrills Ford Road, Salisbury, 704-278-2624;
• Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, 74 Research Drive, Fletcher, 828-684-3562.
Samples mailed via the US Postal Service should be sent to:
N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Food and Drug Protection Division
Attn: Forage Testing
1070 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1070
Samples mailed via FedEx or UPS should be sent to:
Forage Testing, NCDA&CS
4000 Reedy Creek Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27607
For more information about the aflatoxin testing program, call George Ferguson, feed compliance officer, 919-733-7366.

Mountain State Fair offers new attractions, rides and more

Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the WNC Agricultural Center for the N.C. Mountain State Fair to celebrate the people, agriculture and traditions of Western North Carolina. This year, organizers are adding new rides, attractions and exhibits to the lineup of annual favorites.
“This year, we’ve brought in several new attractions,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We’ve also expanded the footprint of Heritage Circle to highlight even more traditional crafters that continue to add to the region’s rich culture.”

Heritage Circle adds exhibitors

Heritage Circle will feature craftspeople offering daily demonstrations, ranging from molasses making and blacksmithing to pottery and basket weaving. New exhibitors will demonstrate traditional canoe-building techniques and teach fairgoers how to dye fabrics using natural materials. Visitors will have a chance to ask artisans about their crafts and the traditions intertwined with the mountains of North Carolina. In addition, visitors can purchase unique handmade gifts from exhibitors.

New attractions on midway

The midway is one of the more popular draws for many visitors. James H. Drew Exposition will return with a full midway featuring more than 40 rides and carnival games for the whole family. Crowd favorites, such as the chair lift and Seattle wheel, will return along with three new family-friendly attractions:

The Balloon Ferris Wheel, a pint-sized Ferris wheel, has eight enclosed cars that rotate around a smiling sun.
The Lollipop Swing, another miniature version of a popular fair attraction, will send children soaring through the air in seats attached to colorful lollipop arms.
The Black Forest Fun House offers children a unique place to explore and have fun.
Ice Cream Eating Contest

One of the new competitions is the Ice Cream Eating Contest, sponsored by PET and Ingles. The contest will be held in the Davis Event Center at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Anyone 5 and older attending the fair the day of the contest is eligible to participate, but space is limited. Registration will take place the day of the event, and all contestants must be registered by 6 p.m. The competition has five categories: ages 5-7; 8-12; 13-17; 18 and older; and celebrity. Trophies will be awarded to winners, and ribbons will be given to second- and third-place finishers in each category.

New performances aim to educate and dazzle

The fair will have four new performing attractions in 2015:

The Mobile Dairy Classroom teaches children about the dairy industry with the help of a live dairy cow. Instructors demonstrate how to milk a cow, describe how milk gets from the farm to the consumer, and answer questions from the audience.
Horses Horses Horses! is a performance featuring 12 miniature stallions, a Friesian horse and a black Arabian horse. The horses will waltz, dance and perform other tricks to the delight of the crowd.
Hansen’s Spectacular Acrobatic Sensations joins the entertainment lineup with lots of high-flying aerial acts. The act includes juggling, trampoline routines, skating tricks and cloud-swinging.
Rowdy Rooster and his sidekick, Diesel the Weasel, perform an interactive puppet show that’s well-suited for families with small children.
Save money with advance tickets

The 2015 N.C. Mountain State Fair runs Sept. 11-20 at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. Advance tickets are now available at area Ingles stores, the WNC Agricultural Center and the WNC Farmers Market. Fairgoers can save $2 on admission tickets and 50 percent on ride tickets by purchasing in advance. More information about the fair is available at www.mountainfair.org.

WCU Potential for 4th Year of Record Enrollment

The potential exists for a fourth straight year of record enrollment as the Western Carolina University community prepares to welcome new and returning students for the start of the fall semester.
Fall classes start Monday, Aug. 17, but WCU’s official student headcount will be an unknown until the 10th class day Friday, Aug. 28, which is “census day” as specified by the University of North Carolina General Administration. Current indicators point to the possibility of another all-time high for WCU’s total enrollment, said Phil Cauley, the university’s director of student recruitment.

The recent upward trend in enrollment began in 2012, when 9,608 students attended WCU, followed by 10,107 in 2013 and 10,382 last year. At this time of year, student registration totals ebb and flow as final orientation sessions, course change periods, drop for nonpayment and late registration occur, Cauley said. “Stronger retention rates in the large entering first-year classes in recent years, solid transfer numbers and healthy distance learning registrations could add up to another total record enrollment,” he said.

Last year’s freshman class at WCU exceeded expectations at 1,745 students, the largest class of first-year students since an enrollment boom of the post-Vietnam mid-1970s, Cauley said. “While this fall’s entering first-year class will not challenge last year’s total, the fall 2015 entering class is expected to be the second- or third-largest entering class since the 1970s,” he said.

Former Harrah’s Employee Convicted of Embezzlement

Keith Alan Franklin, 27, of Waynesville was sentenced to more than two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $400,000 from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino while he was an employee. He must also pay $475,000 in restitution to the casino.

In a sentencing hearing Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Asheville, Franklin was sentenced to 27 months in prison. Franklin pleaded guilty to theft by an employee of gaming establishments on Indian lands.

Franklin was ordered to serve three years of supervised release after he leaves prison.

According to court records, Franklin embezzled money from Harrah’s from October 2013 to April 2014. Franklin was employed at Harrah’s and had direct access to the casino’s funds during this period, according to court documents.

Franklin was fired in April 2014 and pleaded guilty in October 2014 to the embezzlement charge.

Franklin is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

The U.S. Secret service handled the investigation, assisted by the Cherokee police.

Homicide Arrest in Cullowhee

On August 12, 2015 Deputies with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to a residence located on Setting Sun Lane, Cullowhee, North Carolina. Deputies with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office along with Agents with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation located Jennifer Sellers deceased inside the residence. Also located at the residence was eighteen year old Daniel Sellers, the son of Jennifer Sellers.

Upon further investigation investigators obtained sufficient probable cause to arrest Daniel Sellers. Daniel Sellers has been charged with murder and is being transferred from the Jackson County Detention Center to a North Carolina Department of Corrections facility that is better suited to meet his medical needs. This is an ongoing investigation.

Buncombe Commissioner Holly Jones to run for Lt. Governor

Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones announced today that she is entering the race for Lieutenant Governor. Jones, who has spent the last 14 years serving in local government, said she is running because of the General Assembly’s constant meddling in local affairs. She says that Raleigh needs new leaders who better understand and respect the role of local government instead of partisans who just want to score political points.

“As County Commissioner, I’ve seen firsthand the damage these legislators have done to our counties,” Jones said. “In 2011, Buncombe became ground zero for their heavy-handed tactics. They’re playing politics while we’re trying to govern.”
Jones says the legislature redistricted Buncombe County, meddled in airport business, and even tried to seize Asheville’s water supply, a multi-million-dollar asset. She also points to redistricting in Wake County and Greensboro, as well as changing nonpartisan elections to partisan ones in Lee County.

Jones also criticized Republicans for cutting budgets that pass expenses to local governments. She called them unfunded mandates, and said they hurt the state as a whole.

“In their ideological zeal, Republican legislators have slashed public education, leaving our schools underfunded and our teachers underpaid,” said Jones. “They’ve short-changed our children and our future.”

Jones was elected to the Buncombe County Commission in 2008, and before that, spent seven years on the Asheville City Council, including two as Vice Mayor. During her tenure, Asheville and Buncombe County have seen impressive economic growth. In the last five years, Jones and her colleagues have created 2,860 jobs paying an average of $44,667 a year, and Buncombe County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. They have accomplished this while passing the state’s most ambitious carbon emission reduction goals and awarding teachers among the dozen highest salary supplements of any county.

Jones is the Director of Member Services for YWCA USA. Prior to that, she was the Director of the Southeast Region and Executive Director of the Asheville YWCA. She began her career as a public health educator in Durham after obtaining her B.A. in Public Policy Analysis and a Masters of Public Health from UNC-Chapel Hill. Jones also has a Masters in Divinity from Duke University and spent three years doing mission work.

“I’ve never been one to sit idly by, and I’m certainly not going to now,” Jones said. “I’m ready to fight to put North Carolina back on the right track, and to bring the Buncombe success story to the rest of the state.”
Jones grew up in Wadesboro and Asheboro, the daughter of a public school teacher and a former state senator and county commissioner. For the last 19 years, Jones has made her home in Asheville, where she lives with her husband, Bob Falls, and their daughter, Gabriela.

Haywood County High Speed Motorcycle Chase

Monday Waynesville Police and Highway Patrol were led on a high speed chase involving a stolen motorcycle. They are still looking for the driver who was involved in a high-speed pursuit along U.S. 23 /19 and U.S. Business 23.

Trooper Hunter Hooper attempted to stop a pair of motorcycles for speeding as they were headed east on U.S. 19/23. One of the riders fled, reaching speeds in excess of 140 mph.

During the chase, a car got between the trooper and the motorcycle who was fleeing and the officer lost sight of it near the 100 mile marker. Another trooper picked up the chase near the 102 mile marker and followed it.

The motorcyclist turned off on Howell Mill Road, which is in the midst of construction renovations. The driver, described only as a white male wearing a white full face helmet and black vest, ditched the bike in a motorcycle-parking shed behind the Evergreen Packaging plant.

He left the cycle running with the keys in the ignition and took off on foot. Despite an extensive search of the surrounding area by Waynesville police officers and Highway Patrol troopers, the suspect could not be found.

The blue Yamaha sport bike was reported stolen from Tennessee, and carried Florida plates set to expire in August 2015.

The incident is still under investigation.

Abducted Jackson County Girl Found

A missing girl has been found. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office wants to report that Phoenix Coralee Crawford has been located in Greenville, South Carolina.

Investigators with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office while following up on leads for the whereabouts of Phoenix Coralee Crawford and her mother, Samantha Diane Crawford were able to determine a possible location.

With the assistance from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Investigators were able to locate Phoenix Coralee Crawford and Samantha Diane Crawford. Currently Samantha Diane Crawford is in custody in Greenville, South Carolina awaiting extradition back to Jackson County, North Carolina. Phoenix Coralee Crawford is in good health and is being reunited with her family.

New Traffic Pattern at SCC for Back to School

Due to the ongoing nature of multiple construction projects on and around the Jackson Campus, Southwestern Community College officials encourage faculty, staff, students and visitors to check the college’s website and social media outlets for updates before fall semester classes start on Monday, Aug. 17.

Road construction related to the R5000 project will not be completed before fall classes begin, so there will be only one entrance into the Jackson Campus. The middle turn lane from NC Highway 116 has been shortened to roughly 2-3 car lengths, so vehicles waiting to turn left into College Drive will spill into the primary westbound lane at peak traffic times in the morning hours of school days.

R5000 as well as other on-campus construction projects will also alter both pedestrian and vehicle traffic patterns.

Governor Announces New Transportation Secretary

The acting secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation will assume permanent leadership over the agency a week after the former head Tony Tata resigned to focus time on his writing career.

Gov. Pat McCrory announced Thursday to a meeting of the state Board of Transportation that Nick Tennyson, a former chief deputy secretary of the department, would assume the top job full-time.

Tennyson has been a supporter of the governor’s proposal to borrow almost $3 billion for road and infrastructure projects. The House recently unveiled a similar proposal focused more on infrastructure.