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January 27, 2018 - 12:00 am


The Latest: Sheriff: NC child's death appears accidental

LAURINBURG, N.C. (AP) — The clearly emotional sheriff of a North Carolina county where a body believed to be that of a missing 4-year-old was found in a drained pond says the death appears to be accidental.

Scotland County Sheriff Ralph Kersey said at a news conference Saturday that what's believed to be the body of Raul Gonzalez Johnson was found about 1:45 p.m. Saturday after about 8,000 gallons of water were pumped from the pond.

A medical examiner must confirm the identity and cause of death. But Kersey and another investigator said they had met Raul last year so they knew what he looked like.

Kersey's voice cracked, and he struggled to speak during the news conference. He described the discovery of the body as heartbreaking.

Scotland County authorities have said Raul left his home Wednesday while his grandfather was babysitting him.


Final SC officer shot in ambush is recovering at home

YORK, S.C. (AP) — Police say the last of three South Carolina law enforcement officers shot and injured by a domestic violence suspect is recovering at home.

The Herald of Rock Hill reports York County Sheriff's Lt. Buddy Brown had several surgeries at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. York police Sgt. Kyle Cummings and sheriff's Sgt. Randy Clinton were released earlier.

A fourth officer, sheriff's Det. Mike Doty died Jan. 17, a day after the ambush. The four officers were shot while searching for 47-year-old Christian McCall, who fled after his wife called 911 to say he was beating her.

Police shot McCall, who hasn't been charged because he remains hospitalized. Prosecutors say they plan to charge him with murder in Doty's death, and attempted murder in the other shootings, among other charges.


Congressmen criticize end of free checking accounts at BofA

(Information from: The Charlotte Observer,

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Two Democratic U.S. congressmen want Bank of America to explain its decision to eliminate a popular free-checking account.

The Charlotte Observer reports Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Jimmy Gomez of California on Friday requested a briefing from Bank of America officials on the decision and for the bank to provide documents by Feb. 9.

The information requested includes the number of people enrolled in free accounts at the bank and an analysis of how the tax overhaul affects Bank of America's financial results.

Bank of America spokeswoman Betty Riess noted in a statement that the bank stopped offering the eBanking account to new customers five years ago. The account didn't have a monthly maintenance fee as long as customers received paperless statements and didn't use bank tellers for routine transactions.



DA: Teen kept bystanders at bay with gun while man murdered

(Information from: Winston-Salem Journal,

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Prosecutors say the 16-year-old charged in connection with the shooting death of a North Carolina college student used a gun to hold bystanders at bay while another man shot and killed the student.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports prosecutors sought a $5 million bond for the teenager during a hearing Friday. The judge set bond at $100,000 for the teen, whose charges include assault by pointing a gun.

The charges involve the fatal shooting of Winston-Salem State University football player Najee Ali Baker during a Jan. 20 party outside an events center at Wake Forest University.

Police are searching for 21-year-old Jakier Shanique Austin on charges of murder and possession of a firearm on educational property.

District Attorney Jim O'Neill says he sought the $5 million bond out of concern for public safety.



NC teacher group won't invite education chief to convention

(Information from: WRAL-TV,

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In a break with a long tradition, North Carolina's largest public school employee organization won't invite the state's education superintendent to its annual convention.

The president of the North Carolina Association of Educators tells WRAL-TV the group has many reasons to not invite Superintendent Mark Johnson to its convention in March, including his support of vouchers and for-profit charter schools while remaining silent about budget cuts to public schools.

Johnson said Saturday he's disappointed the NCAE "wants to shut out" different ideas on how to improve schools.

The NCAE's decision comes one day after Johnson said $35,000 is a good starting salary for some young teachers.

NCAE President Mark Jewell says it's the first time in 48 years the NCAE hasn't invited a sitting superintendent to speak at the convention.



Dogs seized from North Carolina owners for third time

(Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times,

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Police in North Carolina have seized dogs from their owners for the third time in three months.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office says in warrants that its deputies seized three of the dogs from a home in Leicester on Thursday. Warrants said they seized another dog, "an emaciated hound bearing a brand," several days earlier after receiving multiple complaints that the animal was tethered outside without food or water.

According to a search warrant, sheriff's deputies responded "on numerous occasions" in 2017 to complaints about the health of four other dogs and their living conditions.

Deputies said 19-year-old Dylan Lee Hightower and 20-year-old Cierra Star Newcomb are each charged with one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and multiple misdemeanor counts of animal neglect.



UNC Wilmington chancellor to undergo heart bypass surgery

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — The chancellor at a school in the UNC system school says he will be undergoing heart bypass surgery.

UNC Wilmington Chancellor Jose Sartarelli said in a statement on Friday that he will be out of his office for a few weeks beginning Monday, adding that he expects to have the surgery next week before returning home to recover.

Sartarelli said he has discussed his absence with his leadership team to ensure his absence won't interfere with ongoing or upcoming projects.

Provost Marilyn Sheerer will serve as chancellor in Sartarelli's absence, and he said she will have full authority on matters affecting UNCW.

Sartarelli is the sixth chancellor at UNCW. He took office on July 1, 2015.


Judges refuse to delay North Carolina legislative districts

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A three-judge panel has refused a request by North Carolina Republican lawmakers to block the use of new legislative district maps the judges approved for this year's elections.

Even with Friday's unanimous denial by the federal judges, GOP lawmakers have a similar pending request at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lower-court judges agreed this month that House and Senate maps approved by the General Assembly last August still contain lingering racial bias from boundaries approved in 2011. The judges also decided lawmakers violated the state constitution by redrawing several when they didn't have to.

The judges rejected arguments that they had created a new racial gerrymandering test and wrote boundary changes are limited and can be implemented with minimal harm to the state or legislators. Candidate filing begins Feb. 12.

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