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Kenly Dollar General Store Robbed
Kenly Police are looking for a suspect who robbed the Dollar General Store at 201 South Church Street. 

The robbery happened around 10pm Sunday.

Police said the suspect entered the business, displayed a handgun, then fled with an undisclosed amount of money.

A getaway car was parked behind the business, police believe. 

Police Chief Josh Gibson said the suspect was a light skinned black male, unknown age, between 5 foot 6 and 5 foot 9, wearing large glasses. There were no injuries.

Anyone with information about the robbery or the suspect is asked to contact the Kenly Police Department at 919-284-2116. Callers with information can remain anonymous. Photo courtesy Jason Thompson

Kenly Teen Killed In Crash
The Highway Patrol is investigating a single vehicle accident early Sunday that claimed the life of a Kenly teenager.

Eighteen year-old Erika Lynn Wells was killed in the 3:25am accident on Hawkins Road off US301 between Selma and Micro.

Troopers said Wells was traveling southbound in a 2000 Chevy SUV when she ran off the roadway to the right, overcorrected, and then overturned as her vehicle crossed the centerline. The SUV came to rest on its roof in the roadway.

Wells, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected onto the shoulder of the roadway and died. 

Trooper L.T. Robinson is still investigating the early morning accident. Investigators believe Wells may have been exceeding a safe speed at the time of the crash. |

The accident marked the 5th fatal collision on Johnston County roadways in 2015.

$4 Million In Gold Stolen During I-95 Robbery
The FBI and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the reported theft of $4 million worth of gold stolen along I-95 Sunday evening.

WRAL says the armed robbery happened after the vehicle the gold was in broken down while traveling from Miami to Massachusetts. 

Two armed security guards reported that their vehicle became disabled around 7pm near the 114 mile marker.  The guards said they were forced into the woods where their hands were bound and ordered to the ground, while three armed men operating a white van loaded the gold into their vehicle then fled.

WRAL said the guards were employed by TransValue Inc, a Florida company, which transports valuables between financial institutions.

The two guards were not injured.

Anyone with information about the gold heist is asked to contact the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office at 252-237-2118.

2 Of 3 Suspects In Princeton Area Drug Investigation Arrested

(Right) Michael Antonio Everette, 49, from the Smithfield area is wanted on felony drug charges, by the Johnston County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Division, following an undercover investigation into illegal prescription pill sales in the Princeton area

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two of three suspects in connection with a 3-1/2 month undercover investigation.

Narcotics Captain A.C. Fish said undercover officers had conducted a series of undercover buys of prescription pills in the Princeton area. The suspects charged allegedly sold the pills to the agents.

Feyon Cornelius Pratt, 31, of West Edwards Street, Princeton was arrested Friday on more than a dozen felony charges including 9 counts of trafficking in opium or heroin.

James Edward McClarin, 58, of West Second Street, Princeton was charged Saturday with three counts of trafficking in opium or heroin.

A third suspect, Michael Antonio Everette, 49, from the Smithfield area still remains at large. Everette is described as a black male, 6 foot tall, weighing 150 pounds.  He is also wanted on felony drug charges, Captain Fish told WTSB News on Monday.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Michael Antonio Everette is asked to contact the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office at 919-989-5000.

Judge Elton C. Pridgen, 90, Smithfield

Funeral services will be held Wednesday for retired Judge Elton C. Pridgen of Smithfield who died Sunday at the age of 90 at Liberty Commons in Benson.

Judge Pridgen graduated from Selma High School in 1941 and enlisted in the US Army Ordnance Department in 1943. He served for 3 years during WWII, including 27 months in England and France where he attained the rank of Technical Sergeant.

Judge Pridgen was discharged from the military in 1946 at Ft. Bragg and worked in insurance real estate until he enrolled in the University of North Carolina. He graduated in 1954 from law school and worked for several years with an insurance company in the claims department.

In 1971 he was appointed as assistant district attorney for Johnston, Harnett and Lee counties and served in that position until July 1975 when he was appointed district court judge.

He was elected to that position and served in that capacity until 1978 when he was appointed chief district court judge. Pridgen served as chief district court judge until 1988 when he retired but remained an emergency/recalled district court judge until 1995.

In Nov. 2004, the NC State Bar recognized Judge Pridgen for 50 years of service as a licensed attorney. 

He was a member of the Centenary United Methodist Church where he had been an active member since 1956. He was active in church business over the years and was an adult Sunday School teacher for 52 years.

He was a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Judge Pridgen is survived by one son, Elton C. Pridgen Jr., and wife, Lisa McGee Pridgen, two grandchildren, Elton Pridgen III and Lindsey Prigden. A son, Shadrick Lassiter Pridgen predeceased him in May 2005.

The family of Judge Elton Pridgen will receive friends at Parrish Funeral Home in Selma on Tuesday, March 3rd from 6-8pm. Funeral services will be held at Centenary United Methodist Church in Smithfield on Wednesday, March 4th at 2pm. Burial will follow at Four Oaks Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the Centenary United Methodist Church Memorial Fund, 140 E. Market Street, Smithfield, NC 27577 or to a charity of ones choice.

March 1-7 Severe Weather Awareness Week In NC
Tornado Drill Scheduled For 9:30am Wednesday

Gov. Pat McCrory has declared March 1 – 7 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in North Carolina.

Last year, 81 tornado warnings were issued and 36 tornados were confirmed.

The deadliest months for tornadoes in NC are the months of March, May and November.

In 2014, the National Weather Service issued 632 severe thunderstorm warnings and a total of 686 severe thunderstorms were confirmed. 

Tornadoes form during heavy thunderstorms when warm, moist air collides with cold air. These storms can also produce large hail and strong winds. Residents should be equally prepared when other forms of severe weather threaten, such as lightning, floods or hail.

Listen to local radio, television or a NOAA radio when severe weather is likely.  If a warning is issued, a tornado has been spotted in your area and you should take shelter immediately.  If you are at home, go to a basement if available, or to the lowest floor of the house and to an interior room such as a hallway, pantry or closet away from windows.

Schoolchildren should go to inner hallways that are away from windows. Stay out of gymnasiums, auditoriums or cafeterias where there is a large roof span.

A statewide tornado drill will take place on Wednesday, March 4th at 9:30am.  Residents are reminded this will only be a drill. Photo 2008 tornado damage on Bridgers Road near Kenly. WTSB Photo

Smithfield Police Make 2 DWI Arrests Early-Sunday

Smithfield Police made two DWI arrests Sunday morning during unrelated traffic stops.

Around 12:10am, an officer stopped a vehicle in the 100 block of North Brightleaf Boulevard. Inside the vehicle, a small amount of cocaine and marijuana were located, according to Lt. R.K. Powell.

The driver, Lynton Yates Ray Jr., 29, (top right) of Government Road, Clayton was charged with driving while impaired, felony possession of cocaine, and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.  Lt. Powell said Ray registered 0.15 on the Breathalyzer, above the legal limit of 0.08.

Ray was booked into the Johnston County Jail in lieu of a $22,000 bond.

Smithfield Police seized a van from a DWI suspect during a traffic stop around 3:44am on Broadway Street near Brogden Road.

Carlos Alexander Bacas, 30, (lower right) of Third Street, Smithfield was charged with DWI and driving on a revoked license. Lt. Powell said Bacas had a prior DWI charge and because he was driving while intoxicated again police seized his Chevy van.

Bacas registered 0.17 on his first Breathalyzer reading but refused to submit a second breath sample, Lt. Powell said.

Bacas was given a $2,000 bond pending an April 16 court date, according to arrest records.

Police: Mom Leaves 11 Month-Old Alone In Car While Shopping                                                 
The Department of Social Services has been notified by Smithfield Police about an incident involving an 11 month-old child on Sunday.

A security guard working at Carolina Premium Outlets called police around 3pm after noticing the infant alone in a vehicle in the parking lot, according to police spokesperson Lt. R.K. Powell.  Police arrived and found the vehicle running, the doors to the car unlocked, and the 11 month-old alone and secured in a car seat. 

Lt. Powell said officers later found the mother of the child shopping at the outlet center accompanied by another young child.

Karen Lizbeth Maldono Arellano, 21, of Hunting Drive, Selma was cited for misdemeanor child abuse. She was ordered to appear in court on April 1 on the citation. 

Lt. Powell said officers also notified social workers about the incident.    

Cleveland Fire Department Receives New Rating After Inspection

The Cleveland Fire Department recently completed a routine NCRRS inspection as required by the North Carolina Department of Insurance.   This inspection assists insurance companies in setting the insurance rates for homes and businesses in the local community served by the Fire Department.

The North Carolina Response Rating System (NCRRS) reflects the efficiency of the Department in their service to the community.   Among other things, the routine inspections look for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, and proper maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities and availability of a water source.

This year, the Cleveland Fire Department improved its previous score of 5/9e to a higher 4/9e.  The improved score could significantly lower business and home insurance cost for properties located within the Cleveland Fire Department's responding district known as the McLemore District.  The rating adjustment went into effect on March 1, 2015.

E.G. Burr, Assistant Chief of the Cleveland Fire Department said the department wishes to share this valuable information with the business owners and homeowners.   “It is our hope that the community will benefit from this rate adjustment during a time when the expenses of everyday life is ever increasing,” Burr said.
“We would encourage all business and home owners to contact their insurance agency after March 1, 2015 and inquire if they qualify for an adjustment to a lower rate,” Burr told WTSB.  “Citing proprietary reasons, the insurance companies that we contacted would not share details of their pricing structure.”

The NCRRS rating system ranges from 1, the highest, to 10, not recognized as a certified fire department by the state, with most rural departments falling into the 9S category. While lower ratings do not necessarily indicate poor service, a higher rating does suggest that a department is overall better equipped to respond to fires in its district. Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowner’s insurance rates in that fire district.

2015 Soil and Water Conservation Awards

The Johnston Soil and Water Conservation District recently recognized citizens who have contributed to natural resource conservation in the county.

River Friendly Farmer Award
The 2015 River Friendly Farmer Award went to Ben Shields of In Good Heart Farm in Clayton.  Ben, and his wife Patricia, operate a 6-acre organic farm where they grow produce.  A variety of vegetables, strawberries and flowers are grown using methods that do not include GMO’s or genetically modified organisms. 

With assistance from USDA-NRCS, Ben installed a seasonal high tunnel that allows for the growing season of their crops to be extended during cold weather. They market their goods at the NC Farmers Market in Raleigh and restaurants such as ‘The Irregardless Café.  They also offer a CSA, which is a ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ operation.  A CSA is where a farmer produces seasonal crops for consumers who commit to a partnership with the producer.  

Sheilds has a background in organic farming where he worked on seven different organic farms in Italy before settling in Johnston County.  Ben and Patricia have a son, Elliot, who also participates in the farm chores.

Conservation Farm Family Award
The Conservation Farm Family Award went to Brian Worley and Jason Worley from the Princeton area.

The family farm has been in the Worley Family for over a hundred years.  Brian and Jason’s father passed away at a young age and their uncle, Billy Worley, assisted with and continued the farming operation. 

The Worley family grows wheat, corn, rapeseed and strawberries.  They use a practice called ‘no-till’ in planting their crops.  No-till is when minimal soil disturbance occurs during the planting process.  This can be done using a no-till drill or no-till chisel or blade.  

The Worley’s utilize rapeseed as a winter cover crop and they no-till the seeds into the corn residue.  This maximizes the soil’s water and nutrient holding capacity and prevents soil erosion.  This also enhances their soil’s health. 

With Jason’s background in agriculture business management, Brian’s background in mechanical engineering, and Billy’s extensive farming experience, they all work together as both a team and a family in producing agricultural products for the community.

Tree Farmer Of The Year Award
Dr. Frank Stallings and his son, Donnie, received the 2015 Johnston Soil & Water Conservation District Tree Farmer of the Year Award.  A native of Smithfield, Dr. Stallings manages over 125 acres of woodland in the Cleveland community.  With the help of his son, Donnie, they grow and manage long leaf pine trees. 

Long leaf pine trees, the official NC State tree, were the predominate pine species in NC’s early history.  They were harvested for their tar and pitch, which were used in the naval stores as part of the shipping industry during the 1700’s and 1800’s.

The Stallings have 75 acres of long leaf pine that was established in the 1980’s and in 2012 to prevent erosion, protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat through the USDA Conservation Reserve Program.  They manage their long leaf pines by controlled burns and by pine straw raking.  The pine straw is raked into bales and sold to nurseries.  Long leaf pine savannahs are a unique ecosystem, which provide habitat to a variety of wildlife and endangered species.

Dr. Stallings and his wife of 61 years, Alice, live in Washington, NC where he practices pediatric medicine.  Donnie, their son, resides in Johnston County and actively oversees their woodland operation.

                                                                                                                            Downtown Smithfield Crash Injures One
Smithfield Police cited the drivers of two vehicles involved in a collision Thursday morning at the intersection of Market and South Third Streets.

Police said a Jeep traveling eastbound on Market Street, driven by Anthony Williams Keyes, 40, of Lillian Drive, Clayton, collided with a 2012 Chevy car traveling southbound on Third Street, and driven by Teri Lynn Cronan, 45, of Sullivan Road, Selma.

After the impact, the Jeep ended up on the sidewalk just feet away from the front door at Jewel’s Bridal Boutique.  The Chevy came to rest in the eastbound lanes of Market Street.

Police reported three witnesses said Keyes ran the red light at the intersection, while one witness said Cronan ran the red light. One witness said it appeared Cronan was going fast as she entered the intersection.

Police cited Keyes with a stop light violation. Cronan was cited for exceeding a safe speed and for a seat belt violation.

Cronan was treated and released at Johnston Medical Center in Smithfield for minor injuries.

The accident caused traffic delays around the intersection for about 45 minutes.  WTSB Photos

Selma Hires New Auditing Firm
The Town of Selma has hired a new firm to conduct the annual audit of the towns finances.

Ten firms submitted proposals and the three finalists were presented to the Selma Town Council for consideration. 

Town Manager Jon Barlow (pictured) said a number of criteria were used to evaluate each company, including the price, staff experience, prior municipal auditing experience, and references from existing clients.

The Town Council decided to go with Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC from Atlanta, GA.  They agreed to do the 2015 audit for $24,000.

S. Preston Douglas & Associates of Lumberton, NC had submitted a proposal of $28,000 and Winston, Williams, Creech, Evans & Company LLP of Oxford, NC submitted a bid of $30,000.

Town officials selected Mauldin & Jenkins not only because of the price, but because they have been approved by the NC Local Government Commission and the NC State Board of CPA Examiners to perform audits in NC. 

The Atlanta-firm also agreed to provide Selma employee’s quarterly training sessions, technical and financial reports updates and advice free of charge. The other two finalists did not provide those services, Barlow said.  WTSB Photo

Smithfield Teen Fights Off Would-Be Attacker
Smithfield Police are looking for a suspect who tried to assault a teenager Thursday night.

The incident happened in the 1100 block of North Brightleaf Boulevard adjacent to CVS Pharmacy.

Police Lt. R.K. Powell said an 18 year-old Smithfield resident stopped at an ice machine. Once outside her vehicle an unknown male grabbed her from behind.  The teen was able to strike the suspect in his face with her elbow then flee. The young girl was not harmed.

Police said the suspect was a white male wearing a dark hoodie.  Lt. Powell said the incident was isolated but an important reminder for everyone to be aware of your surroundings especially if you’re alone and it is after dark.

Anyone who may have witnessed the 8:15pm incident, or saw the suspect in the area, is asked to contact the Smithfield Police Tip Line at 919-989-8835.  Callers can remain anonymous.

Four Oaks Man Charged With Child Abuse

A Four Oaks man has been charged with child abuse for allegedly leaving his 5 year-old son in his car unattended.

The incident happened around 10:40am Thursday in the 1000 block of North Brightleaf Boulevard.

Witnesses reportedly told police the child had been left unattended in the vehicle for about 15 minutes. The car’s engine had been left running, and at least one witness told police the child was revving the car’s engine and also playing with the gearshift. 

Police charged Marlon Javier Lopez Escamilla, 26, of Boyette Road, Four Oaks with child abuse. Escamilla was given a citation at the scene and ordered to appear in Johnston County Court on April 14th on the misdemeanor charge.     

Smythers Completes Basic Training

Air Force Airman 1st Class Jeremy Smythers graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.

The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.

Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Smythers is the son of Joan and James Smythers of Princeton. He is a 2008 graduate of Princeton High School.  He earned a bachelor's degree in 2012 from Campbell University in Buies Creek.

Winter Storm Causes Accidents, Power Outages

Photos (top to bottom) (1) A car overturned Wednesday night on Freedom Road. Photo by John Payne (2) A car slid off Crantock Road at Freedom Road Wednesday night. Photo by John Payne. (3) Power crews replace a utility pole struck by a car Thursday morning on Market Street at Sixth Street in Downtown Smithfield. WTSB Photo (4) Ice covers a pine tree off Buffalo Road north of Selma. Photo by John Payne.(5) 13 month-old Anna Grace Powell enjoys the winter weather in Micro. Contributed photo

About 2,580 homes and businesses in Johnston County are without power Thursday afternoon due to the winter storm. That is compared to more than 100,000 who lost power from the winter storm across North Carolina.         

Areas to the north and west of Johnston County received the heaviest snow accumulation from the overnight winter storm, but it still caused its fair share of problems locally.

Most areas of Johnston County received some snow and freezing rain. Areas west of I-95 received higher accumulations.  Those are the same areas where most of the power outages have been reported.

Travel was hazardous overnight.

Accidents were reported across the county, with the most crashes being reported west of I-95 where snow accumulated on roads and bridges.

In Smithfield, three customers lost power after a car struck a utility pole on Market Street near Sixth Street around 6:43am.

Smithfield Police said a 2012 Ford driven by Kandace Nicole Williford, 21, of Goldsboro was traveling at an estimated 40mph in a 25mph zone when she lost control of her car, crossed into the oncoming lanes and slammed into the utility pole, causing it to break.

Williford received minor injuries in the crash.  She was cited by Officer S.A. Reeve with speeding and exceeding a safe speed.

Smithfield Public Utilities Director Ken Griffin said three customers were without power for about 1 hour due to the accident.

While the winter storm has left the region, there still remains some danger of falling trees and large branches weighted down by the heavy wet snow and ice accumulation.

Combined with gusty winds Thursday afternoon, falling trees and branches could potentially cause property damage, injury, and even more power outages.

If you have trees around your property, be ready to quickly more into an interior room of you home or office if you begin to see or hear trees falling around your property.

With the large number of power outages, many residents may turn to alternate power and heating sources. Be sure to exercise caution and safety when using alternate heating and cooking sources and generators.

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, never use gas grills or alternative cooking sources indoors. Make sure alternative heating sources are properly ventilated. 

When using a power generator make sure it is located well away from your home or office and well away from indoor air intakes. If you venture outdoors, stay away from downed power lines.  

Black ice was a problem Thursday night and Friday morning across much of Central North Carolina.

JCSO: Suspect Arrested After Taking “Selfie”
Johnston County authorities were able to make an arrest in a break-in investigation after a suspect reportedly took a “selfie” photo with a stolen iPod. 

The suspect apparently didn’t know the victim had linked their iPod to a system to store the photos online.  Once the victim checked their photos a few days later, they reported found the photo and turned it over to the Johnston County Sheriff Office.

Rachael Alexis McGlown, 22, of Dublin Court, Four Oaks is not charged with the Nov. 24, 2014 break-in at a nearby home in Sheffield Woods Subdivision, off Highway 210, but is charged with possession of stolen property.

McGlown was arrested Monday and released on an unsecured bond.

Sheriff’s detectives are still investigating the break-in and working to recover a number of items taken during the break-in on Sheffield Drive.    

Firearm Seized During Traffic Stop

A Clayton man was arrested during a traffic stop on US70 Business West Tuesday afternoon. 

A Johnston County deputy stopped a car for a safe movement violation, according to Tammy Amaon, spokesperson for the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

The deputy was given permission to search the vehicle, Amaon said, and inside the trunk the officer found a 22 caliber rifle with the serial number scratched off.

Justin Devon Norris, 21, of Woodbriar Street, Clayton, was charged with one felony count of altering serial numbers on a firearm. He was given a $10,000 bond after being booked into the Johnston County Jail.  

Authorities seized the weapon.

DWI Suspect Gets Struck On Railroad Tracks

A Selma police officer said he was investigating a burglar alarm call around 1:20am on Friday, Feb. 20th when he heard a loud bang nearby.

The policeman looked in the direction of the noise and saw a car stuck on the railroad tracks. 

Officers said the driver of the vehicle attempted to cross the tracks where there was no railroad crossing. When they arrived, the driver was accelerating the vehicle trying to get free from the train tracks.

Police notified 911 dispatchers to have Norfolk Southern Railroad to stop all train traffic in the area.  

The driver of the car, identified as Brian Christopher Borders, 28, of Thanksgiving Fire Road, Selma, reportedly told officers he was on the way to pick up his wife from work, was sleepy and made a wrong turn.

Police said Borders registered 0.09 on the Breathalyzer, above the legal limit of 0.08. 

Police charged Borders with driving while impaired and an unsafe movement violation.  At the time of the accident, police said Borders was out of jail on a $1,000 bond from Wayne County for driving on a revoked license and driving without insurance. 

Police estimate Borders traveled 35 feet off South Sharpe Street before striking the railroad tracks. 

Damage to his 1998 Ford was estimated at $500.   


Former Cleveland High Teacher Accused Of Taking Indecent Liberties With Student
A former Johnston County school teacher has been arrested on charges of taking indecent liberties with a student.

Ronald Lee Chewning, 25, of Greensboro, formerly of Raleigh, was served with the arrest warrants this week in Guilford County.

Chewning was a teacher at Cleveland High School during the 2013-14 school year. 

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office said they received a complaint on Feb. 12, 2015 from a former student who alleged Chewning had inappropriate contact with her, according to Sheriff’s Captain A.C. Strickland.

The student was 16 at the time of the alleged offense.

Captain Strickland said no additional charges are expected against Chewning at this time, and no other students at Cleveland High have come forward with any allegations against the suspect.

Chewning is facing charges in Wake County where is he accused of having sex with a student in December 2014 while he was a teacher at Broughton High School.  He resigned just prior to his arrest on Feb. 6th by Wake County authorities on a felony count of sex offense involving a student.      


Rouzer Named Co-Chairman Of Coastal Communities Caucus
Washington, D.C. - Congressman David Rouzer (NC-7) has been named Co-Chairman of the Coastal Communities Caucus.  This bipartisan caucus will focus on issues that our coastal communities face.

“Our coastal communities face a unique set of challenges,” said Congressman Rouzer.  “Whether it’s flood insurance, beach nourishment and re-nourishment, the dredging of our waterways and inlets, or protecting our coastlines from natural disasters, we are committed to working together to meet the needs of our coasts.”

Other members of the caucus include Representatives David Jolly (R-FL), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Lois Capps (D-CA), Denny Heck (D-WA), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

Suspect Sought For Credit Card Fraud
Authorities are turning to the public for help identifying a suspect wanted for financial card fraud.

The female in the top right surveillance image is accused of using a stolen credit at Wal-Mart on Highway 42 in the Cleveland community to make two separate transactions, one for $500 and another for $4.24. The woman also made two ATM withdrawals in the amount of $40 and $360.

She was also seen in the vehicle (shown below) in the store surveillance video.

The credit card was reported stolen from the Smithfield area on February 17.

Anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to contact the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office Detectives Division at 919-989-5000. Callers with information can remain anonymous.

200 Attend Daddy Daughter Dance
The Smithfield Parks and Recreation Department hosted its annual Daddy Daughter Dance on Saturday, February 21st.

Pink and gold colors set off the evening.

The dancing was fun for both the dads and the daughters in attendance.

Earp Entertainment provided games and music for the evening.

About 200 proud dads and their daughters attended the event at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center. Contributed photo

Inmate Charged With Marijuana Possession
A Johnston County man was arrested on charges he had drugs in his possession after being booked into the Johnston County Jail Tuesday afternoon.

A bail bondsman surrendered Timothy Brian Kirk, 22, of Maple Avenue, Kenly to authorities after originally posting his bond for shoplifting and larceny.

While being processed into the county lockup, jailors reportedly found 1 gram of suspected marijuana in his sock, according to Tammy Amaon, Public Information Officer with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

Kirk was charged with possession of a controlled substance in jail, a felony offense.

He was given a $15,000 bond on the felony drug charge and a $2,500 bond on the shoplifting charge. 


Several Accidents Close I-95
A fiery accident was among at least 3 crashes that shut down Interstate 95 in Johnston County Tuesday night.

The accidents happened starting just after 6pm on I-95. Multiple fire, EMS, and law enforcement officers responded to the crashes near Smithfield, Selma, and Kenly.

In one of the wrecks, a tractor trailer jackknifed in the southbound lanes then burst into flames.

Fire crews brought the blaze under control.

However, the accidents temporarily closed both north and southbound lanes of the interstate, causing significant traffic delays.

Injuries were reported but there was no immediate information available on the conditions of those hurt. Photo courtesy JoCoFire.com

Trailer Filled With Spices Burns On I-95

Southbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Selma were brought to a standstill early Tuesday morning, not because of the snow, but because of a fire.

A semi pulling a brand new enclosed trailer hauling spices from Maryland to Miami pulled onto the shoulder of I-95 after a trailer tire caught fire.  The fire spread so quickly, it could not be extinguished by the driver. 

Adam Cones from Miami, Florida said he had just enough time to disconnect his truck from the burning trailer and call 911.

The Selma and Micro Fire Departments battled the blaze for several hours.

Southbound traffic had to be detoured through the rest area as crews worked to bring the fire under control.

The NC Highway Patrol responded to the scene to investigate.

The trailer and its content of spices were a complete loss. No injuries were reported.  Photos by John Payne


Smithfield Police Respond To Wrongful Death Lawsuit  
Assistant District Attorney Responds To Questions

The Smithfield Police Department and Johnston County District Attorney’s Office have responded to an exclusive WTSB News story we first broke on Monday.

The estate of a Smithfield man who was reportedly assaulted outside a Venture Drive business in February 2013 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Town of Smithfield, specifically the Smithfield Police Department, claiming failure by police to render medical aid to the victim contributed to his death. Gerald Luther Burton Jr., 38, died two days later in the hospital.

Burton’s estate has also sued the person charged with assaulting him in the parking lot of the Hookah House, Trenton Kyle Hensley of Kenly.

Hensley was arrested on the day of the incident in 2013 and charged with felony assault. After Burton’s death, the charges were never upgraded. And two years later, Hensley has yet to be tried on the assault charge.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Jackson released a statement to WTSB saying, “The circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Burton Jr. are complex and still under investigation. Mr. Hensley was not the only one involved. Many other people engaged in the brawl that culminated in Mr. Burton’s death, and others may also bear responsibility. Because of the large number of people involved as well as the lack of cooperation and elusiveness of critical witnesses, the investigation has taken an unusually long time. It is important to uncover the truth and get it right no matter how long that may take.” 

When asked specifically if Burton’s death was being treated as a homicide investigation, if charges against Hensley would be upgraded, or if authorities wanted witnesses who hadn’t spoke to police to come forward, Jackson released a second written statement to our questions saying, “In order to ensure the integrity of the judicial process and the pending investigation, I cannot publicly comment regarding the specific details related to the investigation or potential charges that may be brought once the investigation is complete.”

A short time after WTSB News posted the story about the lawsuit on our website Monday afternoon, Smithfield Police Lt. R.K. Powell, a spokesperson for the department released a prepared statement.

Lt. Powell said the events that took Burton’s life were “tragic” and “prayers continue to go out for him and his family.”  But because the matter is an on-going police investigation “comments must be limited to what is public information.” 

Police said they were dispatched to a large group fighting on Venture Drive at 2:08am on the morning in question. EMS was dispatched at 2:09am. Officers arrived on the scene at 2:10am and EMS arrived on the scene, after it was secured by police, at 2:16am. 

“Members of the police department followed established police procedures dictated by such a tragic event,” Lt. Powell said. “Proper medical protocols were also followed. We are not able to comment further due to the pending civil suit and on-going criminal investigation.”

“The Town and the Police Department do however dispute… claims, as they pertain to the Smithfield Police Department, and plan to vigorously defend the suit against the Town of Smithfield,” according to a statement released to WTSB News.

Car Flips On Highway 231
The Highway Patrol is investigating a single car accident Monday night on Highway 231 in northern Johnston County.

Around 9:42pm, a Honda skidded off the roadway in the 1700 block of Highway 231, struck a ditch bank, and then overturned.

Emergency crews arrived on the scene and could not locate the driver who apparently had left the scene, according to witnesses.

State troopers are still investigating the accident. Photo by John Payne

School System Announces Feb. 17-20 Make Up Days 
Students missed four days of classes last week, Feb. 17-20, due to the wintry weather.

School officials have announced the make up dates for last weeks weather event, but have not made any decision about the make up date for the Feb. 24th-26th snow days.

For Traditional Calendar students, Feb. 17 will be a day forgiven for students. Because the school schedule already exceeds the requisite number of instructional hours, the day was waived for students to make up. However, June 15 has been added as an optional teacher workday at the end of the school year.

Early release dates on March 11 and April 29 will be changed to full days to make up for Feb. 18th.

Early released on June 10 has been changed to a full day and June 11, previously a teacher workday, will now become a student day to make up for Feb. 19th.

Feb. 20th will be made up on March 27th, which had previously been a student holiday and teacher workday.

For more information on Traditional, Year Round, and Early/Middle Make Up Days click here.

Rouzer Meets With Area Elected Officials

Congressman David Rouzer (second from right) holds a roundtable discussion with Lenoir county leaders.

Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC07) held a series of roundtable discussions with county commissioners and mayors across the district during last week’s Congressional recess period.

This was an opportunity for local elected officials to talk about the needs of their communities and how the Congressman’s office can best serve them.

“It’s important that we have strong relationships with our local leaders,” said Congressman Rouzer.  “Our district is very diverse and each community has different needs.  We will work hard to be a strong voice for all of the communities of the 7th Congressional District.” 

“I appreciate all the input and feedback we have received from county commissioners, mayors, and many other interested citizens throughout the week,” Rouzer said.  “Jobs, the economy, and infrastructure needs have been the predominant topics of concern along with the growing threat of terrorism.”

Selma Agrees To Pay For Flags On 700 Veterans Graves
American Legion Unable To Continue Paying For Flags

(Left) Eric Godwin with American Legion Post 141 in Selma appears before the Selma Town Council asking the Town to buy the 700 flags they place on Veterans graves in Selma each year. The Legion is no longer able to afford the $400 yearly expense. The Town agreed to buy the flags. WTSB Photo

The Selma Town Council says they will find funds to help the Selma American Legion Post continue to buy small flags to place on the graves of Veterans, or as Councilman Tommie Holmes said, if the town can’t find the money, the councilman will pay for it themselves.

Eric Godwin, a member of American Legion Post 141, said for many years, with the help of the Smithfield Selma High School ROTC, small flags have been placed on Veterans graves at Selma Memorial Gardens and Greenwood Cemetary, also known as the Selma City Cemetary.

The cost to place the flags on the graves is $400 each year. 

But the American Legion is unable to continue to bare the cost. 

And Godwin said the Legion building is in need of significant repairs but they are unable to afford the renovations.

The Selma Town Council agreed to help Godwin and the American Legion by paying the $400 annual cost to purchase the flags.

The Council and Mayor Cheryl Oliver asked Town Manager Jon Barlow to find funds in the current fiscal year budget and to present his findings at the March meeting for approval.

Mayor Oliver instructed town staff to be on the lookout for any potential grants that would be available for the American Legion to help pay for their building repairs.

Greensboro Football Team Gains Top Local Recruit

The Greensboro College Football Team has named Bryer Rogers to their 2015 roster.

Rogers comes from Cleveland High School in Clayton where he played for the team all four years.  Rogers has paid his deposit for enrollment for the 2015 Fall Semester.

During his freshman and sophomore year he was part of the junior varsity team where he started in 10 games each season. In Rogers' freshman year he played left guard and center and during his sophomore year he played left tackle and was part of the defensive line. Rogers had the chance to prove himself on a varsity level seven times during his first two years of high school and it paid off.

During his junior year, Rogers started in 12 games on the defensive line for the Rams. Rogers recorded 41 tackles, six tackles for loss, and five fumble recoveries. Rogers also forced two fumbles and made five sacks.

Rogers started in 12 games both on the defensive and offensive line in his last season as a Ram. Rogers made 55 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and forced one fumble. He made two fumble recoveries and three sacks.

While being a powerhouse on the field, he is also one in the weight room. Rogers benches 405 lbs and squats 550 lbs with ease. "Bryer is a hard-nosed competing player that has the size and strength to come in and compete for a starting spot and help advanced the offensive line," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wallace.

"We feel that Bryer will continue the long and outstanding tradition of fast and physical linemen at Greensboro College," said head coach Bill Young.

Bryer is the son of Julie Parrish and stepson of Daylon Beasley of the Cleveland School Community in Clayton. Contributed

Town of Smithfield Named In Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Just weeks after the Town of Smithfield settled their final civil lawsuit involving the Salary Gate scandal, a new lawsuit has been filed against the Town.

The estate of a Smithfield man who died following an altercation outside of a Smithfield business in 2013 has sued the Town and the suspect charged with assaulting the deceased man.

The suit alleges wrongdoing and neglect by Smithfield police officers that responded to the scene contributed to his death.  

On February 3, 2013, Gerald Luther Burton Jr., 38, of Smithfield was working as a security guard at the Hookah House at 181 Venture Drive.

According to the lawsuit, Burton encountered Trenton Kyle Hensley of Kenly who was allegedly highly intoxicated, loud and belligerent. Hensley was asked to leave, and did leave, but returned still intoxicated.

Hensley was asked to leave a second time but remained in the parking lot.  At the request of his employer, Burton approached Hensley in the parking lot to ask him to leave but was struck in the head by Hensley, the lawsuit contends.

Burton was knocked unconscious, fell to the pavement, and suffered blunt force trauma to the head.  He died two days later in the hospital.

The lawsuit contends Smithfield Police failed to examine Burton, render any medical assistance or summon medical care for Burton. 

“With proper medical intervention by the officers, the complications from Mr. Burton’s blunt force injuries which led to his death would more likely than not have been avoided,” the suit alleges.  “Failure by the officers for several minutes to examine, or provide medical assistance to, or summon medical assistance for a helpless, motionless, unconscious citizen in obvious distress in the circumstances… is not a procedure approved or condoned by the Town or the Smithfield Police Department.”

The suit alleges the officers failed to follow procedure, breached their duty to serve and protect, and the Town failed to adequately train and supervise its police officers, whose negligence, the suit alleges, were a “proximate cause” to the victim’s personal injuries and death.

The suit also names Hensley (pictured left) as a defendant. 

Smithfield attorney Gordon Woodruff filed the lawsuit Feb. 19, 2015.

Hensley was charged by Smithfield Police on Feb. 3, 2013, the day of the incident with felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury.  Those charges were never upgraded after Burton’s death.

And more than two years later, Hensley has yet to go to trial on the felony assault charge. The case has been postponed several times. It is scheduled to be heard again on March 26, 2015.

WTSB News contacted the Johnston County District Attorney’s Office to ask why prosecutors have not tried the case in two years, and why the assault charges were not upgraded after the victim died. As of our Monday news deadline, we had not received a comment from the assistant district attorney assigned to the case.

As for the Town of Smithfield being named in the lawsuit, Smithfield Town Attorney Robert A. Spence Jr. said the Town had not yet received a copy of the complaint. “Currently, we are unable to comment until we know more,” Spence said in an email to WTSB.  (2013 scene photo by Carter Rabil)


Selma Fire Department Celebrates 100th Birthday

(Top right)(left to right) Current Selma Fire Chief Phillip McDaniel gives certificates of appreciation to former Selma Fire Chiefs Joe Price and Joe Moore. (Lower right) This undated photo of Selma firemen.

On Saturday, the Selma Fire Department celebrated 100 years of service with a banquet at The Farm. 

The night began with refreshments and a social hour.  Festivities were officially kicked off with the posting of the colors by the Johnston County Honor Guard accompanied by the Morrisville Fire Department Pipes and Drums. 

Assistant Fire Chief Gary House Jr. provided opening remarks and recognized the many special guests in attendance.  Retired Fire Chief Joe Moore then provided a very interesting look back at the history of the Selma Fire Department.

Next, several special guests spoke, including Assistant State Fire Marshal Rick McIntyre, North Carolina Firemen’s Association Assistant Executive Director Ed Brinson, and Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver.

A special presentation was made to former Selma Fire Chiefs Joe Price and Joe Moore, recognizing 50 years of service each to the department.

The evening concluded with Captain Tramp Dunn, a retired Raleigh firefighter and long-time fire instructor, who gave the keynote speech. 

It was a very special evening, celebrating the “One Hundred Strong” Selma Fire Department theme. 

Firefighters attended in full dress uniform. Several retired firefighters and all three honorary firefighters were in attendance. 

Representatives from Selma’s mutual aid departments, Johnston County Emergency Services, County Commissioners, the Town of Selma Council, Mayor Cheryl Oliver, and several department heads attended. 

The Farm venue was decorated by the firefighters and their wives with historical memorabilia, photos and firefighting equipment. 

The front of The Farm venue was flanked by current and retired fire apparatus. Story and photos courtesy JoCoFire.com