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  • More answers in the hot car death of a sheriff's K-9 deputy

    By Katy Harris
    Published On: Sep 17 2014 04:56:35 PM CDT
    Updated On: Sep 17 2014 08:16:18 PM CDT
    KENANSVILLE, DUPLIN COUNTY -

    We continue to ask questions in the case of a Duplin County Sheriff's K-9 deputy that died after allegedly being left inside a hot patrol car for about 24 hours.

    Now many more facts and many more questions are coming to light.

    "Kela," a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois, died last month, said Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace. She had been with her handler, Deputy Kevin Williams, for four-and-a-half years.

    We called Duplin County Manager Mike Aldridge to check on the status of this case.  Aldridge said he had been told the county attorney was going to turn the case over to the State Bureau of Investigation.  After three failed attempts at reaching the county attorney, we contacted the SBI directly. SBI officials said the case had not been forwarded to them.

    Aldridge told us members of the Duplin County Government were not made aware of the K-9's death when it happened, but only found out about it when an insurance agent contacted the county's deputy finance officer about a K-9 death claim that was filed by the Sheriff’s Office.

    "In this case, it didn't go the route that it normally would go. The sheriff's department actually made the claim to our insurance agent, who in turn notified our deputy finance officer.  So she found out through unusual channels that there had been a claim,” said Aldridge.

    Aldridge says usually if there’s a loss of county property, the deputy finance officer should be notified sooner to start working with the county’s insurance company.

    Aldridge says he was a bit shocked when his office got word on what happened.

    “Well, I was surprised. I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn't handled forthrightly and we weren't made aware of it immediately,” said Aldridge.

    Sheriff Wallace says the K-9 was left in the car on August 19. Information of the K-9's death was not released to the media until September 10.  On that day, Sheriff Wallace told us the K-9's handler, Deputy Kevin Williams, had a sick child on August 19 who Williams needed to take care of.  Sheriff Wallace said Williams rushed off to take care of the child, leaving the dog in his patrol car at his home.

    On September 17, we learned more information about that time.  We now know Deputy Williams went on vacation the next day, August 20, and that it was his father-in-law who discovered Kela dead inside the patrol car about 24 hours after she had been left inside of it.  That's according to Duplin County Manager Mike Aldridge.

    We asked Aldridge about the vacation protocol for county employees who handle sheriff's K-9s. He said it's up to the handler on how to care for the dog during vacation.

    “What my understanding is, the deputies are responsible for the animals so they are then responsible for finding someone else to either board the animal or care for it on their property,” said Aldridge.

    Duplin County Commissioner Harold Raynor called us and said the commissioners had a work session on Tuesday. They discussed the possibility of creating a vacation protocol for K-9 handlers and their dogs. Raynor said it may be on the agenda for the next meeting scheduled for October 6.

    We asked District Attorney Ernie Lee why Deputy Williams isn't being charged for the death of Kela. Lee said after reviewing this case, he can't prove the deputy's actions were intentional and willful.

    We asked Lee what he would say to the public about their concerns in this case. Lee said he understands the public’s outcry, but he said the law is the law, and the North Carolina statute requires proof of intentional and willful actions for criminal charges to be filed.

    Kela and Deputy Williams were members of Duplin Interstate Criminal Enforcement. The dog was trained to track down narcotics and people. Following Kela's death, Sheriff Wallace said Deputy Williams was reassigned to bailiff duty.

  • Father charged with murder in Kinston baby's death

    By WCTI Staff
    Published On: Sep 15 2014 05:06:11 PM CDT
    Updated On: Sep 16 2014 11:18:45 AM CDT
    KINSTON, LENOIR COUNTY -

    Kinston Police say they have charged a man with murder in the death of his 1-month-old baby, who died of "abusive head trauma" and other injuries.

    According to the Kinston Department of Public Safety, officers arrested 20-year-old Ricky Lee Clark Jr. at about 4:30 p.m. Monday at his home. Clark is charged with an open count of murder in the death of his 1-month-old son, Caden Demari Williams, of Hill Street.

    During his first court appearance Tuesday morning, the judge denied bond for Clark. The judge made it clear that Clark could be sentenced to death if convicted.  The district attorney said more charges are expected.

    Kinston Police said Caden died on Feb. 17. At that time, the cause of death was undetermined.

    But an autopsy later revealed that the baby's death was a homicide, said investigators. Caden died from "abusive head trauma and blunt/compressive force injuries of the trunk," according to the autopsy report (more details later in the article).

    On Aug. 20, the Kinston Department of Public Safety reopened the investigation, ultimately leading to the arrest of Clark on Monday.

    Baby Caden's mother, Tyrianna Williams, said she was relieved after Clark was taken into custody.

    "It feels like a whole lot has been lifted off of me now that I know he's locked up," said Williams.

    Williams said Clark never told her what happened in the hours before Caden's death.

    THE DAY OF CADEN'S DEATH:

    According to the autopsy report, 1-month-old Caden was in the care of his father when he coughed up blood on Feb. 17. The father then changed the baby's clothes and put him back to bed, the report says.

    About an hour later, the father checked on Caden and found the 1-month-old unresponsive, the report states. The baby's parents and paternal grandparents then took the infant to Lenoir Memorial Hospital.

    The report says the baby had no pulse and CPR was performed. But the infant was not responsive and was pronounced dead at 2:50 a.m. on Feb. 17,  just 16 minutes after arriving at the hospital, according to the report.

    AUTOPSY RESULTS (Details are graphic):

    The Brody School of Medicine at ECU performed the autopsy on Caden.

    "Autopsy examination revealed acute subdural hemorrhage suspicious for abusive head trauma as well as rib fractures, contusions of the thymus and right middle lobe of the lung, and multiple lacerations of the liver," the report says.

    The 1-month-old was suffering from subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that cover the brain), according to the report. In addition, the baby had mild brain swelling and retinal bleeding, as well as a skull fracture, a spinal cord injury, and four rib fractures.

    "[The injuries are] consistent with compressive grasping of the infant by the chest and vigorously shaking and slamming the infant against a relatively soft but nonyielding object. Striking the infant with a hand or fist would produce similar injuries," the report states.

    Further examination of the baby's brain revealed that the injuries were acute and occurred within hours of the baby's death, according to the report. An examination of the spinal cord revealed that the injuries were acute and in the process of healing, with some prior injuries dating back at least two to four days, the report says.

    The baby's rib fractures were healing, indicating that the injuries had occurred several days prior to his death, the report states.

    The report explains that the infant could have appeared relatively normal just hours before the fatal injuries were inflicted.

    Based on the findings, the report concluded that the cause of death is "abusive head trauma and blunt/compressive force injuries of the trunk."

    In addition to his mother, father and grandparents, 1-month-old Caden is survived by a sister, according to his obituary.

  • Camp Lejeune Marine killed in Afghanistan

    By WCTI Staff
    Published On: Sep 17 2014 10:05:36 AM CDT
    Updated On: Sep 17 2014 05:06:37 PM CDT
    Sgt. Charles C. Strong
    AFGHANISTAN -

    A Camp Lejeune Marine was killed during combat in Afghanistan this week.

    Sgt. Charles C. Strong, 28, of Suffolk, Va., was killed on Monday in Afghanistan's Herat province, according to a news release from Camp Lejeune.

    Although the release says Sgt. Strong died "while conducting combat operations," the exact circumstances of his death were not explained.

    But according to the Marine Corps Times, the International Security Assistance Force confirmed that an ISAF service member was killed in Afghanistan on Monday by an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform.

    Sgt. Strong was a critical skills operator assigned to 2d Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) at Camp Lejeune.

    "It is with a heavy heart that MARSOC announces the passing of one of our
    Marines. He was a consummate professional, who upheld our warrior ethos each
    and every day," said Capt. Barry Morris, MARSOC's public affairs officer. "Our heartfelt condolences, thoughts and prayers are with his family as they mourn the loss of their loved one."

    Sgt. Strong is survived by his wife and their unborn daughter, who is due in December.

    Sgt. Strong enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 2003, said Camp Lejeune. He
    was promoted to sergeant on Oct. 1, 2007 and joined MARSOC in 2013.

    His awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

    In addition to Afghanistan, Sgt. Strong had also been deployed to Iraq.

    A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Sgt. Strong's family. CLICK HERE to visit the page.

    To read Sgt. Strong's full Marine Corps bio, CLICK HERE (PDF).

  • Bond denied for suspect in murder of Onslow County man

    By Amber Roberts
    Published On: Sep 18 2014 11:07:55 AM CDT
    Updated On: Sep 18 2014 08:45:41 PM CDT
    ONSLOW COUNTY -

    A judge denied bond Thursday morning for a man accused of murdering a business owner in Onslow County.

    William Zachary Parker, 29, of Sneads Ferry, will remain in jail under no bond for the shooting death of 60-year-old Elmer Hudler.

    Parker is charged with first degree murder.

    The Onslow County Sheriff's Office said Hudler was found dead beside his bed at his home on Stone Creek Road, about nine miles northeast of Holly Ridge, on April 21.

    During a bond motion hearing in Onslow County Superior Court Thursday morning, a detective testified that Parker shot Hudler while the victim was sleeping in his bed. The detective said Parker shot Hudler once in the back of the head, then put a pillow case over his head and shot him twice more.

    The detective also stated the suspect admitted to the crime, telling deputies he had been using heroin the night of the murder. Deputies say Parker claimed a family member of the victim's threatened him to shoot Hudler, and in exchange for the crime, would start paying Parker $1,000 a week.

    The prosecution called this a "brutal crime" and said Parker committed the act for personal gain.

    Parker's lawyer asked for a bond to be set for the suspect Thursday morning, saying there is no indication that Parker is a danger to himself or others. In addition, Parker has no prior convictions and that there's no indication that he's a flight risk, his lawyer said.

    But the judge denied setting a bond for Parker and he will remain in jail.

    Family members of both the victim and the suspect were in the courtroom.

    The prosecution's next step is to present evidence to a grand jury.

    The victim owned HRS Mechanical Contractors, a heating and air conditioning company in Sneads Ferry. His murder was the first homicide in Onslow County in 2014.

  • Severed alligator head tied to Onslow County bridge

    By Victoria Loveless
    Published On: Sep 17 2014 06:57:29 PM CDT

    Photo credit: John Sudbrink / The Daily News

    CAMP LEJEUNE, ONSLOW COUNTY -

    A severed alligator head was found tied to an Onslow County bridge, prompting the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to investigate.

    The above picture was taken by John Sudbrink of The Daily News of Jacksonville.

    Officer Barbara Marshburn of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said the gator head was found on Monday tied to the bridge near Gottschalk Marina at Camp Lejeune.

    The alligator's body was found in Wallace Creek near Gottschalk Marina, said Marshburn. The gator was at least 10 feet long.

    Marshburn said it was obvious that the alligator was killed by someone, and did not die from natural causes. But it was unclear when the alligator was killed.

    Anyone with information on who killed the alligator is asked to call the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at 1-800-662-7137. It is illegal to hunt alligators in North Carolina.

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  • Bond denied for suspect in murder of Onslow County man

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  • College students make easy targets for identity theft

    Nearly 10 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2013. The Federal Trade Commission reports 1 out of every 5 of those cases involves people between the ages 20 to 29.  That's why North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper stopped by ECU to speak with college students about being smart consumers.