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Source: MedleyStory

Health Department warns of possible mumps case

The Mecklenburg County Health Department sent out a letter Friday warning parents of students at a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school about a possible mumps case.

Parents of Piedmont Middle School students received the letter on the last day of classes before school dismissed for two weeks.

"One student at your school has been diagnosed with parotitis (possibly from the mumps virus)," the letter said.
 
The letter lists symptoms, which include fever, muscle aches, loss of appetite, fatigue, headache, earache, tenderness or pain in the jaw area.
 
Parents were asked to look for signs of a fever to determine if a child might have been exposed.
 
Parents with whom Channel 9 spoke hope it's an isolated case and said they're not worried.
 
“I mean, they could pick it up anywhere -- school, the mall. (I'm) not so concerned about where it came from,” parent Lorie Lindley said.
 
Vaccination has made mumps a rare disease. Schoolchildren are required to receive two immunizations against the mumps well before second grade.
 
“We believe in vaccinations. We think that's important,” parent Steve Lindsley said.  
 
The letter said the child in this case is up to date on vaccinations.
 
Channel 9 called the two numbers on the Health Department letter and got messages saying that the nurses and staff won't be back in the office until Monday.            
 
Mumps cases have been reported recently, even though the virus was nearly eradicated by vaccines.
 
There's been a mumps outbreak in the National Hockey League, and since the first case was reported two months ago, 16 players have been diagnosed, along with three people associated with teams.
 
In 2013, 438 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with mumps. Between January and November of this year, there were already more than 1,000 cases.

WEBSITE: Information on mumps

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Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 22:14:51 -0500

UPS employees become sick at Charlotte hub

UPS employees were taken to the hospital Friday night after they became sick at a distribution hub at 1600 Cottonwood St. in Charlotte, a UPS spokesperson said.

The employees said there was an unusual smell in an empty trailer that was being prepared for loading.

Two employees were taken to the hospital for observation, according emergency officials.

There is no impact on service or the hub, the spokesperson said.

UPS is working with authorities to investigate this situation that the Charlotte Fire Department called a HAZMAT situation.

Stay with www.wsoctv.com for updates on this story.

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Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:45:48 -0500

State Dept. warns US travelers to be extra careful

The U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert Friday, one of the busiest travel days of the year, urging international travelers to be cautious.
 
The alert followed what the State Department called a "lone wolf" attack in Australia this week in which two hostages were killed after being held at a busy cafe.
 
Charlotte Douglas International Airport officials said Friday is the airport's busiest day of the year, with more than 25,000 passengers expected.
 
The airport backup began long before the check-in lines Friday and was growing by the minute.
 
"Surprised to see these long queue at Charlotte airport. Usually it's half an hour into the gate actually," said Srikant Telikeplli, who was traveling from Charlotte to Dallas with his family.
 
But wait times were much longer Friday.
 
Many travelers told Eyewitness News that they allowed extra time to make sure things went smoothly.
 
"The traffic was a little worse than usual," said Jennifer Givot, who came to drop off her daughter for a cross-country flight.
 
Despite the security warning from the State Department, she said she believes that her daughter will be safe.
 
"I feel like Charlotte is pretty good," Givot said. "I feel like everybody keeps an eye on things."
 
The travel warning urges people to be "extra cautious," specifically when traveling abroad.
 
The warning said there is a "focus by terrorists not only on the targeting of U.S. government facilities but also on hotels, shopping areas, places of worship and schools" during the holiday period.
 
Travelers who spoke to Channel 9 said they aren't worried about airports at home.
 
"I feel that TSA takes good care of us, so it is not a problem," Telikeplli said.
 
But many were concerned about how long they'd be waiting in lines and also about their baggage.
Friday's warning doesn't expire until March. 

The State Department urges people traveling internationally to register with its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://step.state.gov/step/.

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Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:21:02 -0500

Police: Vale man charged with child sex crimes

Lincolnton Police Department investigators arrested Danny Lee Hensley, 40, of 7873 Matthew Miller Road in Vale and charged him with child sex offenses, officials said Friday in a news release.

The police department received a report on Sunday of a child being molested.

That was when police collected enough evidence to charge Hensley with second-degree rape, kidnapping, sex offense in a parental role and first-degree sex offense of a child.
 
Hensley was a boyfriend of the child's mom and lived with them from Sept. 1 to Dec. 14, officials said.
 
Hensley is under a $500,000 bond and was placed in the Lincoln County Jail.

The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible.
 
If anyone has any information regarding this case, please call Detective Brent Heavner of the Lincolnton Police Department at 704-736-8900. 

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Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:09:02 -0500

Legislature, Congress maps upheld by NC high court

The North Carolina Supreme Court Friday upheld the boundaries for General Assembly and congressional districts drawn by Republicans three years ago that helped the GOP strengthen its grip on legislative seats.

Nearly a year after hearing oral arguments on the maps, a majority on the state's highest court ruled that a three-judge panel was correct last year in determining the lines were lawful under the state and federal constitutions.

Two of the six sitting justices ruling in the case disagreed and said lawmakers wrongly packed black voters under the belief it would provide them protection from litigation, and the maps should be revisited by the three judges. The case could wind up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The maps, which were first used in the 2012 elections, have helped strengthen the grip of Republicans in state politics. The GOP holds comfortable margins over Democrats in the General Assembly and will carry 10 of the 13 seats in the state's U.S. House delegation starting in January.

Election and civil rights advocacy groups and Democratic voters sued over the maps, arguing the boundaries illegally clustered black voters in districts to benefit Republicans, creating oddly shaped districts. Republicans said the districts were lawful and designed to protect the state from legal claims under the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The litigation focused on 30 districts — 27 for the General Assembly and three for Congress.

"We are proud to have broken the cycle set by previous legislatures that repeatedly saw their maps tossed out by the courts as illegal," Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, and Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, who oversaw the drawing of the maps in 2011, said in a release. During the 2000s, lawmakers were required to redraw legislative boundaries three times.

For 26 of the districts deemed subject to the Voting Rights Act, the trial court panel determined that race was the predominant factor in forming their boundaries and thus required a higher level of scrutiny. Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Bob Edmunds said the panel didn't offer enough findings of fact to determine race was the leading factor and thus a lower level of scrutiny was applicable.

"Nonetheless, this error is not fatal and does not invalidate the trial court's order," Edmunds wrote, adding later in his 51-page opinion the boundaries still withstood the higher scrutiny and were thus lawful. The other four districts also met the law, the justice wrote.

"The General Assembly's enacted plans do not violate plaintiffs' constitutional rights. We hold that the enacted House and Senate plans satisfy state and federal constitutional and statutory requirements," he wrote.

Associate Justice Cheri Beasley wrote in a 29-page dissenting opinion the higher scrutiny did apply but those districts failed to meet that threshold. She said other districts also violated the state constitution's directive barring the splitting of counties to form House and Senate districts — as long as the boundaries first comply with federal civil rights voting laws.

"For any of these errors, this court would do well to vacate and remand rather than prematurely affirm a defective and ultimately undemocratic districting plan," Beasley wrote. Justice Robin Hudson joined in Beasley's opinion.

In news releases, plaintiffs and lawyers who sued said they plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

"It is simply wrong for the legislature to carve up this state on the basis of race in these circumstances." said attorney Anita Earls, representing the North Carolina NAACP. Rucho and Lewis said they hoped "hyper-partisan rhetoric" by opponents of the maps would now end with Friday's ruling.

Since the Supreme Court heard from the lawyers in person last Jan. 6, Chief Justice Sarah Parker stepped down from the court after reaching the mandatory retirement age for judges. Mark Martin is now the chief justice. Associate Justice Bob Hunter, who joined the court in September but lost an election for an eight-year term last month, did not participate in the deliberations, the court said.

While Supreme Court elections are officially nonpartisan, Hudson and Beasley are registered Democrats. The remaining sitting justices — Martin, Edmunds, Paul Newby and Barbara Jackson — are Republicans.

Copyright The Associated Press

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:52:25 -0500

Authorities arrest gang member on firearm charges

On Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, a known Crips gang member with multiple felony convictions for crimes of violence was arrested by federal, state and local authorities in Rowan County.

They arrested Cameron Jamar Neely, 27, of 780 Corriher Gravel Road, in China Grove on firearm charges, according to a news release.

Rowan County Sheriff's Office said that in October, it learned Neely was possessing and selling firearms and extended-capacity magazines.

Multiple agencies started surveillance on Neely and found out that he had firearms on Oct. 22-23 and Dec. 4, officials said.

On Dec. 18, the Sheriff's Office, with assistance from other agencies, executed a search warrant at the residence after arresting Neely in a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 29.

Investigators said they found found a .45-caliber handgun, magazines and a variety of ammunition inside the residence.  Investigators said they also seized numerous bags of fake crack cocaine, which are frequently used by drug traffickers to sell to unsuspecting drug customers.

Neely was charged with four counts of felon in possession of a firearm, one count of possession of a weapon of mass destruction, one count of transportation of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of selling a weapon of mass destruction.

Neely was placed under a $500,000 secured bond.

Neely has previous felony convictions in Davidson and Rowan counties for assault with intent to kill, assault inflicting serious injury, common-law robbery and larceny.   

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Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:10:55 -0500

Neighbors upset about halfway house for sex offenders

A single-family house in an east Charlotte neighborhood was recently approved to be a group home for six sex offenders and neighbors are upset they were never told about it.
 
It's part of a transitional-housing program to get them out of shelters and off the streets and it may be expanding in Charlotte and other cities across the state.
 
Six sex offenders moved into a home three weeks ago on McAlpine Lane at the end of a cul-de-sac in the middle of a neighborhood with single family homes.
 
The resident are convicted of charges including rape, kidnapping, exploitation of a minor and indecent liberties with a child.
 
"None of the kids come down here and play anymore," said Victoria Golba who lives two houses down from the home.
 
Channel 9 learned the Bradley-Reid Corporation bought the house from the previous homeowner who the CEO said is a volunteer with the Bradley-Reid Corporation. It offers housing and re-entry services for veterans and this is its first group home for sex offenders.

The program is under the Department of Public Safety to provide temporary housing for sex offenders still on probation.
 
"The residents can be offenders who have been released from prison and are serving post-release supervision or who are on probation and have exhausted all other housing options and would otherwise be homeless," a DPS spokesperson wrote in an email to Channel 9.
 
Neighbor Michael Layman said residents received no notice this was happening.
 
"That was a real shock and kind of a kick in the gut," said Layman.
 
The house received a zoning-use permit to become a group home from the city of Charlotte's planning department.
 
The prescribed condition is that new group homes be separated from existing homes by 800 feet. 
 
"The location of the transitional home meets the state's legal requirements for sex offender housing and was approved by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Department Sex Offender Registry Unit," said a DPS spokesperson.
 
The DPS believes this type of housing is better than having sex offenders wander the streets.
 
"We believe in second chances absolutely. The problem that we have with it is that there are so many," said Golba. "How did this happen to a neighborhood like this? And if it happened to ours then it could happen to someone else's."
 
DPS pointed out 117 sex offenders live within 3 miles of the home.
 
The house is supposed to have 24 hours supervision and had to be inspected by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office. Residents are also subject to curfew and regular drug and alcohol screening.
           
Channel 9 was told two other homes could be opening this spring in other parts of the Charlotte and facilitators are not obligated to notify residents about the move.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:35:17 -0500

Time Warner Cable to increase rates in January 2015

A Time Warner Cable spokesman said there will be a rate increase in January 2015 for customers.

Time Warner customers were notified by letter with their statement, the spokesman said.

Increases include:

  • $2.75-per-month fee for sports programming
  • 50 cent increase to broadcasting TV surcharge
  • $2 increase for Internet modem lease
  • $2 increase for HBO movie channels purchased “a la carte”

The spokesman released the following details about the increase:

  • Many customers are in promotional package pricing and will not see any increase until their promotional period expires.
  • About 30 percent of all TV customers will not see a Broadcast TV Fee increase or the new Sports Programming Surcharge immediately because their TV service is currently part of a promotional package.
  • About 75 percent of TV customers who have Standard TV or above will not be charged the Sports Programming Fee immediately because their TV service is currently part of a promotional package. Broadcast and sports programming costs are by far the biggest drivers of higher TV prices; our fees paid to local broadcast channels have soared 60 percent the past two years alone — and the cost of cable sports networks has increased 91 percent since 2008. The broadcasting TV and sports programming surcharges listed on customer bills represent only a fraction of what we actually pay for broadcast TV and sports content and we think that it’s important to show customers the impact of these rising costs through a specific item on their bills.
  • We’re investing millions of dollars in deploying new modems that support faster speeds and a better Internet experience in all our markets. The modem lease fee helps pay for this equipment as well as the maintenance and service we provide to our modem customers who can have a malfunctioning modem replaced at any time with no extra charge.  Any Time Warner Cable customer who doesn’t want the benefit of these services can avoid the Internet modem lease fee by purchasing their own modem. 
  • Equipment fees include not only the cost of the equipment, but also the operational costs associated with providing this equipment and supporting its use in customer’s homes.
  • Time Warner Cable continually invests in its network, making it possible to add the new content and features customers want and the reliable, dependable service customers deserve.  In the past year, Time Warner Cable has invested more than $345 million in network improvement and reliability across our Carolinas markets.
  • The vast majority of Time Warner Cable customers who subscribe to HBO get that content as part of a package price, and those package prices aren’t changing.  This change only affects customers who get HBO on an a la carte basis.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:21:18 -0500

Staples: Customer data exposed in security breach

Staples Inc. said nearly 1.2 million customer payment cards may have been exposed during a security breach earlier this year.

The office supply retailer said in October that it was looking into a potential credit card breach, adding to a long list of retailers recently hit by cyberattacks.

Staples said Friday that an investigation shows that the criminals used malware that may have allowed access to information for transactions at 115 of its U.S. stores. That includes cardholder names, payment card numbers, expiration dates and card verification codes.

The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company is offering free identity protection services, including credit monitoring, to customers who might be at risk.

The security breach affected different stores at different times between July and September.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:06:37 -0500

Deputies: Someone may be helping wanted Catawba Co. man

Catawba County Sheriff's deputies believe someone may be helping a wanted man hide from authorities.
 
Deputies and federal agents have been hunting for Jeffrey Dean Tucker since Thursday afternoon, when they said he ran from a deputy attempting to arrest him on a federal warrant for possession of firearm by a felon.

READ MORE: Authorities search for convicted felon in Catawba County
 
Authorities said the deputy chased Tucker to Tower Road, where he bailed from his car and disappeared into the woods.
 
"That's two miles from where he grew up, that's all the area with his family friends, and I'm sure he had a plan where he was going at the time," said Capt. Joel Fish.
 
For hours Thursday, deputies combed the area but with no success.
 
"The phone rang four different times -- it was the sheriff, warning me not to go out, to keep my doors locked," said Martha Owens, who lives on Tower Road.
 
By Friday afternoon, deputies ended the active search and now believe Tucker is receiving assistance from a relative or friend.
 
"I'm sure he's still in the area, he probably got a ride, or he's at somebody's house," Fish said.

Channel 9 dug through Tucker's criminal history and found convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, robbery and DWI.
 
Authorities are asking anyone who might have seen him to call them.

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Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:51:52 -0500

Police task force makes arrests in drive-by shootings

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police told Eyewitness News they arrested more than 10 people they believe to have been involved in a string of drive-by shootings in the last month on the city’s north and west sides, including a slaying at a car wash the day after Thanksgiving.

The arrests, mostly on charges unrelated to the shootings, came after police formed a special task force that met twice a day to focus on the shooting spree that hit several homes and apartments while families were inside.

“Gunshots start ringing out at my house like ‘boom, boom, boom, boom,’” said a woman who lives at a home on Statesville Avenue where the shootings began early in the morning Nov. 28.

She said she believes the bullets were intended for her son’s friend who had parked his car in front of the home. Ten hours later that friend, Jose Cuestas, was shot and killed at a car wash on Sunset Road.

Police have not made any arrests in that homicide but said that it may have triggered two shootings the next day outside apartment complexes in west Charlotte.

“As soon as I moved from the window they started shooting. I mean, there were a lot of shots. I thought I was in Beirut,” said Corinthia Reed, who was in her apartment with family, including her 3-year-old son.

Jenna McGee had just stepped outside her front door.

“All I heard were gunshots, gunshots, gunshots so I just fell to the ground,” McGee said.  

She watched as half a dozen bullets hit her minivan, leaving her frozen with fear.

“I don't know exactly how many rounds hit the front of this apartment,” Lt. Mike Barron said Friday as he stood in front of the complex off Dr. Carver Road.

Minutes before the shots were fired, someone fired into two apartments on Clanton Road. Barron said.  He said it appeared that someone had been shooting at a group of people on the sidewalk.

No one was hit but police two groups, one on the city’s west side and the other on the north side, had been engaging in a running gun battle that was threatening innocent bystanders.

“For us it's a race against time,” said Maj. Jeff Estes, a week after the task force began meeting twice a day to update the investigation.

With little cooperation from the people involved, even potential victims, police focused on identifying the people involved and finding other ways to take them off the streets.

Three weeks and more than 10 arrests later, Estes said it appears to have worked.

“The amount of violence associated with these two groups seems to have diminished significantly,” Estes said Friday.

With more possible suspects and the homicide at the car wash still unsolved, police are keeping the pressure on and no one appreciates that more than Reed, who’s not taking the silence for granted.

“It may stop for a day but then it's right back,” she said.

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Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:44:36 -0500

NC regulator says no to homeowners rate increase

North Carolina insurance companies that wanted to raise the cost of homeowners coverage by an average of 26 percent were told Friday the state's regulator is instead approving a zero overall change.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said that after a hearing on the requested rate increase that lasted several weeks this fall, he found "no factors or events justified the excessive costs requested by the insurance companies."

READ MORE: The full order from Wayne Goodwin

The rates vary by geographic territory and type of insurance, but Goodwin's office said the impact is no average change on the statewide cost of policies taking effect beginning in June. North Carolina homeowners saw a statewide average 7 percent increase last year.

The North Carolina Rate Bureau sought the increase on behalf of nearly 100 companies selling homeowners policies in the state. It is needed to cover expectations of a sharp rise in projected repair and replacement costs and the growing risk of catastrophic losses, Rate Bureau General Manager Ray Evans said.

"The commissioner looked more at the historical record than the prospective," he said. "It is a surprise. We put on what we thought was a good case with lots of supporting detail both from our experts, the data and statistics, showing an increase overall is in order."

The Rate Bureau's board of directors will meet next week to discuss whether to appeal Goodwin's decision, which would go to the state Court of Appeals, Evans said.

PDF: 2014 Homeowners Rate Changes by Territory

Goodwin's order turned the insurance industry's wish list upside down in some of the state's regions.

While companies asked to raise homeowners premiums in the cities of Durham and Raleigh by 24 percent, Goodwin ordered a 7.5 percent reduction. Policies in Greensboro and Winston-Salem that companies proposed increasing by an average of 18 percent were held flat by Goodwin's order. Charlotte homeowners who might have faced a 17 percent increase are slated to get a 4 percent cost cut under Goodwin's order.

Homeowners in coastal counties that have seen years of rapid premium increases also can anticipate reductions under Goodwin's order. Insurers have warned that homes along the coast are under threat from hurricanes.

Insurers are responding to premiums they think are inadequate to make their risk worthwhile by increasingly refusing to issue policies unless homeowners sign an agreement accepting rates higher than those set by Goodwin's office.

Such policies increased last year to 30 percent of North Carolina's $2.4 billion homeowners market, up from 23 percent in 2010, according to state Insurance Department data.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:34:55 -0500

Jacknifed tractor-trailer halts traffic on I-277

A tractor-trailer jackknifed on Interstate 277 and crashed into a guardrail Friday afternoon.

The crash occurred on the outer loop just past the Graham Street entrance ramp.

There were no injuries, but traffic was back up behind the crash.

A second crash occurred near the Church Street ramp involving two cars.

Stay with wsoctv.com for updates on this story.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:14:54 -0500

Small but mighty helpers donate coats to Steve's Coats for Kids

They are not even in school yet, but some children in southwest Charlotte are helping with Channel 9's collection of Steve's Coats for Kids.

The collection kicks off in a few weeks.

Chief Meteorologist Steve Udelson already has an army of small but mighty helpers.

At The Learning Experience, 4- and 5-year-olds are donating coats to help other children stay warm this winter.

For several weeks, these children donated money toward the collection.

Owner Donna Portagallo used the donations to buy coats -- in all, 114 brand new coats.

“This way as they grow up, they understand giving. If someone doesn't have what they have, they have to understand that,” Portagallo said.

It's a lesson these kids are obviously learning.

“You need to donate it, because in case you don't have a jacket and it's raining, you could be sick,” one of the children said.

This is a good reminder that sometimes the youngest among us can have the biggest hearts.

Steve gave a big “thank you” to Portagallo, the children and parents at The Learning Experience.

Channel 9 will be sure the coats get to kids who need them.

The Steve’s Coats for Kids campaign officially begins Jan. 12.

For more on drop off locations click here.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:03:41 -0500

Social media jumps on Obama's 'James Flacco' slip

President Obama had a slip of the tongue Friday during a press conference, referring to actor James Franco as James Flacco.

Joe Flacco is the Baltimore Ravens quarterback and there has long been a debate whether he is considered an "elite" quarterback in the NFL.

Social media was quick to pile on the jokes after Obama's blunder.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:35:39 -0500

Man accused of setting woman’s house on fire for Facebook rejection

A man in Kentucky has been indicted on burglary and arson charges after he allegedly set a woman’s house on fire for rejecting his advances on Facebook.

WLKY reports that James Graham, 37, is accused of breaking into the home of Joanie Yount Nov. 28 and setting a box on fire near her bed. The woman and her child were not home at the time of the incident. The house suffered extensive damage and is not habitable at this time. Yount and her child are staying with family.

The indictment claims that Graham’s criminal actions were sparked by Yount’s rejection of him on Facebook. After he left comments on some of Yount’s Facebook photos, she rebuffed him.

Yount’s sister, Samantha Beagle, told WLKY that Graham was a friend of a friend, and there was never a relationship between Graham and her sister.

Graham’s bail has been set at $50,000.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:19:10 -0500

Georgia woman accused of biting teenager after bout of road rage

An outraged 39-year-old driver was arrested this week after she pursued a teenage driver and bit her when she parked at her Georgia school, sheriff's office deputies said.

Jennifer Stegall Edge was angry because she believed the 17-year-old girl had cut her off in traffic, Newton County Sheriff Sgt. Cortney Morrison told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday.

A magistrate released Edge from jail on her own recognizance Thursday. She was charged with aggravated assault, battery and cruelty to children.

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The teenager, whose name was withheld from the report, was negotiating a roundabout Tuesday afternoon when she pulled in front of Edge’s 2002 Nissan.

Edge followed the teenager to the Alpha Omega Middle/High School in Covington, rapped on her car window and threatened to beat her, Morrison said.

After the girl got out of her car and tried to summon help from the school office, Edge attacked, biting her shoulder and threatening to strangle her with a rope, Morrison said

Edge, who had an infant in the car, drove off but witnesses got her license plate number and called the sheriff.

Deputy Mark Lovell investigated and found an indented mark on the teen’s shoulder. “Complainant stated the female attacking the student had a yellow cord and was trying to strangle her with it,” Lovell wrote in his report.

Deputies tracked Edge to her home in Oxford by her tag number and arrested her, Morrison said.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:44:55 -0500

Parents outraged over slave journal school assignment

A California school is under fire for giving students a controversial homework assignment.

KTLA reports that eighth-grade students at Hawthorne Middle School were required to keep a slave diary. The English class assignment instructed students to write in the diary in the voice of a slave for five days. The English teacher is white; the students and parents who took offense are black.

One student told KTLA that the assignment “made her feel bad” and that she “wouldn’t want to imagine being a slave.”

Parents called the assignment “inappropriate and demeaning.” One parent also pointed out that it would be impossible to write like a slave since most slaves were not allowed to learn how to read or write.

Some students, with their parents’ support, refused to complete the assignment. A few parents claimed they would be transferring their kids to another school.

School officials stand by the assignment. In a statement, Hawthorne School Superintendent Helen E. Morgan explained that the assignment was an “appropriate teaching strategy.”

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:42:45 -0500

Prepackaged caramel apples linked to 5 deaths, several illnesses

Health officials are warning consumers to avoid prepackaged caramel apples after they were linked to five deaths and more than two dozen illnesses in 10 states.

The CDC says it knows of 28 cases in which people were sickened with the same strains of the bacterial illness listeria, with 26 of them hospitalized. Of those who were hospitalized, five died. The CDC said listeriosis contributed to at least four of the deaths.

>> Read more trending stories

The agency said interviews showed that 83 percent of those sickened reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before falling ill.

Three cases of meningitis linked to the listeria were also reported in children, the CDC said. The three children were not among those who died.

Those who fell ill got sick between Oct. 17 and Nov. 27. CDC said it's possible other illnesses have occurred since then. Christopher Braden of the CDC said the agency is still trying to determine the specific brands that were involved.

Two of the deaths were in Minnesota and one was in Texas, according to the CDC. The agency was not able to say where the other two deaths occurred.

The CDC said the illnesses also occurred in Arizona, California, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:29:19 -0500

Sheriff: Ashe Co. father charged with shooting, killed son

A father in Ashe County is accused of fatally shooting his son Thursday night.

Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said Benjamin Tirado, 57, is charged with murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, GoBlueRidge.net is reporting.

Daniel Tirado, 20, died at the hospital after being shot in the shoulder area, the sheriff said.

The sheriff has not released any information on what led to the shooting. Benjamin Tirado was jailed without bond.

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Published: Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:18:15 -0500