North Carolina Tax Info
By James C. Faw
Certified Financial Planner Professional
Certified Public Accountant
I think it's safe to say these are unprecedented times, and there has been talk as I write this (and there may have been changes by the time you read this), but eventually if you owe additional tax on your 2019 tax return, you will have to pay it. Unless the time to pay is extended, you must pay your 2019 tax liability in full by April 15, 2020 or you will face additional interest and/or penalties on the unpaid balance. I will talk in a later article about how to get an automatic extension of time to file your 2019 return, but whether it's April 15th or some later date, there will be a date by which you must pay in order to avoid penalties or interest on the unpaid balance.
There are several ways to pay your taxes in today's world. In addition to the April 15th payment, many taxpayers are required to make estimated tax payments throughout the year. If you're a sole practitioner, partner in a partnership, or shareholder in an S Corporation, and you expect to owe more than $1,000 or more when you file, you're generally required to make estimated tax payments.
So how can you pay? Of course, you can mail a check like most folks have done for years, but there are other options.
One of the easiest ways to pay your balance due, extension payment, or estimated tax payment, is to use electronic funds withdrawal when you e-file your return, extension or estimate. This option is built into most tax software and is set up by your tax preparer. If you've had a tax refund direct deposited into a bank account in recent years, think of this as the opposite of direct deposit. There is no charge for this service.
Another way to pay that is also free is IRS Direct Pay. Most states also have this option, which allows you to pay electronically directly from your checking or savings account. This method is also safe and easy, and in most cases, you can set it up so you're notified by email when payments occur. Please be careful though. Scam emails are everywhere now, and you should be careful if you get an email about IRS Direct Pay. The IRS only contacts taxpayers who request this service and you'll only get confirmation emails. An email that looks like it's from the IRS asking you to confirm any Direct Pay information should be considered a scam and deleted. Direct Pay, and most state direct pay type options, are free.
You have been able to pay with a debit or credit card for many years, but unlike the previous methods, if you pay using a debit or credit card, you will incur a fee for the service. Paying with a debit card is generally inexpensive. The IRS partners with payment processors to process the card payments and most debit card transactions are a flat fee of less than $5, no matter how much your payment is. Credit cards, on the other hand, are generally charged a fee that increases as the amount of the payment increases. These fees are around 2% of the transaction, so no matter how much cash back or airline miles you receive for using the card, you're better off paying with a different method.
While rare, there are taxpayers that want to pay their taxes with cash, and the IRS has a way for you to do that. Visit the IRS Official Payments website (officialpayments.com/fed) and you can set up a cash payment through one of over 7,000 participating PayNearMe sites nationwide. There is a fee for cash payments and other restrictions apply.
If you need to pay your taxes but can't pay the balance in full, the IRS, and most states, allow you to set up a payment agreement online to make monthly payments. There are fees and restrictions, but this is a much better option than not paying anything. File your return on time to avoid non-filing penalties, which are generally much more substantial than non-payment or late payment penalties. Set up a payment plan and pay the full amount due as soon as possible. All these payment options I've outlined above work for making payments in installments.
If you have questions about ways to pay your taxes, please contact our office. As always, I am looking for article ideas that you would like me to cover. If you have an idea for a future article, or just have a topic you would like more information on, please send me an email.
At Faw & Associates, we are always available to answer any of your tax or financial planning questions. You can get more information on this or many other topics at our website - www.fawandassociates.com or you can contact us directly by calling our office at (336) 838-3080. You can also email me at email@example.com any time with your question or concern.
We are accepting new clients. Please call our office for an appointment.
Wilkes County resident tests positive for COVID-19
A Wilkes County resident has tested positive for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). This is the first positive case in Wilkes County.
In a press release dated Monday, March 30, from Wilkes County Health Director Rachel Willard, she stated: “We have been preparing should we see a positive case of COVID-19 in our community. Now that we have a positive case, we will continue to work diligently to protect the public’s health. It is our top priority, and we will work to keep the community informed in a timely manner. We also want to encourage the public to practice social distancing and take prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when you’re sick, and keeping distance from others who are sick.
Wilkes Health is working closely with local partners and agencies to ensure the public’s health is protected and precautions are being taken to protect all residents of Wilkes County, Willard added.
Wilkes County Manager John Yates stated, “We will continue to monitor and respond to the guidance from health officials for all Wilkes County Services. We continue to work with Wilkes County Health Department, stakeholders and local agencies to protect our community’s health
Willard stated, “We understand that people are going to have questions and we encourage the public to call us or their local provider if they are ill and believe they may need care. Please remember to call prior to arrival, so healthcare personnel have time to limit exposure to themselves and others. Again, we would like to remind and encourage the community to not use the hospital emergency room unless it is a true emergency. We need to preserve our local hospital capacity to respond throughout this event to meet the various healthcare needs that require urgent action in our community.”
Wilkes Health wants to remind the public to share credible, reliable information and practice prevention measures like hand washing, covering your cough and sneeze, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.
How to Protect Yourself:
Frequent hand washing
Staying home when you’re sick
Keeping distance from others who are sick
Avoiding touching your face
Cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces in common areas like doorknobs, remotes, light switches, tables and handles
Practicing social distancing of at least six feet from others
Do not congregate with more than nine people
Please be aware that you may hear about people who have been instructed by their healthcare provider to self-isolate since they have been tested for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). This does not mean that they have tested positive, it means that they are being guided to stay home until a test result is provided. This is a standard procedure for managing public health outbreaks.
COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) Signs & Symptoms:
Shortness of breath
If you develop a fever, symptoms of respiratory illness or think you may have COVID-19, please call your healthcare provider. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your symptoms so they can be prepared.
Those at higher risk for severe illness include:
Adults over the age of 65
Underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
Weakened immune systems
Wilkes Health will not be issuing any more press releases for new cases. For an updated case count for Wilkes County please visit NC DHHS website.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
North Carolina resources can be found on the Division of Public Health website at www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus. To view the case count for North Carolina, including a county map, please visit the NC DHHS website here.
A COVID-19 toll free helpline has been set up to answer general, non-emergent questions at 1-866-462-3821. To submit questions online, go to www.ncpoisoncontrol.org and select “chat.”
James C. Faw, CPA
Faw & Associates, PLLC
Concorde Financial Resources, LLC
1702 W US Hwy 421 Suite P
Wilkesboro, NC 28697
Phone 336.838.3080 or 336.838.4100
I can’t think of another way to describe all that’s going on except unprecedented. If you’re like me, you’ve probably started a lot of sentences over your lifetime with “I can’t imagine…” and “I would be surprised…”.
While I, and probably you, could not have imagined a lot of things happening right now, I am trying to not answer any question with “I would be surprised…” because we have had so many surprises over the past few weeks. The lives of CPA’s and other tax professionals are certainly not immune to the issues and obstacles we’ve been faced with recently. Everyone in our community, our state, our nation, and most everyone in the world has been impacted in some way by this outbreak.
News is breaking constantly with governmental actions that impact our ability and desire to go about our daily routine. In a time like this it’s reassuring that compliance with our tax laws, which is generally at the forefront of our minds as the calendar turns to Spring, has been pushed back and is, at least for the time-being, something we don’t have to concern ourselves with until Summer.
First the President made a statement during a national address that there would be relief from tax filing deadlines and tax payment deadlines. Then, the Treasury Secretary made slightly contradictory announcement that gave most taxpayers payment relief until July 15th (individuals owing over $1 million or corporations owing over $10 million were not given relief) but the filing deadline remained April 15th . Of course, this created a lot of discussion to say the least in the tax preparer community. I must admit, I am sure I said “I can’t imagine that they won’t extend the filing deadline”. In this case I was right because late on Friday March 20th the IRS officially announced that tax returns due April 15, 2020 will not be due until July 15, 2020. The postponement applies to any “individual, trust, estate, partnership, association, company or corporation” with a federal income tax return or income tax payment due on April 15th. No action by the taxpayer is required. This new action covers all affected taxpayers, no matter how much tax is due.
The announcement says that no interest, penalty, or addition to tax for failure to file a federal income tax return or to pay federal income taxes will accrue between April 15, 2020 and July 15, 2020, for any return or payment postponed by the notice. This notice applies only to federal income tax returns and payments (including self-employment tax payments) due April 15, 2020 for 2019 tax years, and to estimated tax payments due April 15, 2020 for 2020 tax years. The notice explicitly does not apply to any other type of federal tax return.
What this means is that if you have a federal income tax return that has a due date of April 15, 2020, and you’re an individual, trust, estate, partnership, association, company or corporation, you have until July 15, 2020 to file and pay your federal taxes. As of the time I’m writing this, no other federal returns or taxes are being granted filing or payment relief. Also, this means that unless the states tax action, we will still have to deal with state returns, extensions and payments by April 15th. Currently North Carolina has only specifically addressed returns due between March 15 and March 31, granting penalty relief for failure to file or pay taxes due between these dates, as long as the returns are filed, and taxes paid by April 15th. They specifically have not addressed, nor have many other states, returns that are due April 15th. Look for much more on this topic in the news over then coming days and weeks.
This has got to be a community effort. We are always available to answer your questions and we are happy to tell you the latest, as we know it, about delays or other changes in the filing and tax payment deadlines. There are going to be many other resources made available to citizens. Many are going through what we all hope are temporary hardships and there are several measures being discussed at the local, state and federal level to help those in need. Expedited unemployment benefits are available because so many small businesses are being forced to close, causing many to lose their jobs.
Other bills are being considered that will provide some financial assistance to those in need, and they may be enacted by the time you read this. Reach out to local, state and federal agencies to get the assistance you need. At Faw & Associates, we are always available to answer any of your tax or financial planning questions. You can get more information on this or many other topics at our website – www.fawandassociates.com or you can contact us directly by calling our office at (336) 838-3080. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org any time with your question or concern.
We have made the decision to limit contact with the public in our offices so currently we are only allowing folks to drop off or pick up documents. We are accepting new clients but ask that you call or email us for an initial consultation, and we will make arrangements to get your documents in the safest manner possible. We recommend that you don’t email sensitive documents over open email. We have several secure options for sending documents electronically. Contact us for more information.
Wilkes remains COVID-19 free as of Monday, March 23
As of this morning (March 23) there were no reported cases of COVID-19 in Wilkes County, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The department reported, however, there are 297 cases statewide, but no deaths from the virus in North Carolina. Across the state, 8,438 tests for the virus have been completed.
Wilkes neighboring counties of Iredell and Watauga both have confirmed cases of the virus with Iredell having six and Watauga having two.
Go to this website for updates
The killing of Rhonda Hinson Part 49
James "Flash" Pruett and his wife Rhonda, as they embark upon a trail conducting them to the petroglyphs discovered near their home at Pahvant Butte in Fillmore, Utah. It was snapped in July, 2015 by Ruth Riddle Jones.
By LARRY J. GRIFFIN
Special Investigative Reporter
For The Record
Editor’s note: This is the continuation of a series on the Dec. 23, 1981, unsolved murder of Rhonda Hinson.
To James “Flash” Pruett—a foremost champion of the law of his generation…whom I shall ever regard as one of the best and wisest men whom I have ever known.—Adapted from, “The Final Problem,” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
As a tear trickled down his cheek, Detective James “Flash” Pruett silently slipped away into perpetuity on Saturday, March 14, 2020. The time was 7:15 p.m.
His wife, Rhonda, was by his side, as she has been over the last heart-rending months, weeks, and final days of her husband’s life struggle. “I know he heard us,” Rhonda Pruett averred during conversation with this writer. “He had been out of it the entire time. So yes, I talked to him and gave him jobs to do when he left….”
Ironically, the 69-year-old lawman died on the birthday of the Pruetts’ beloved dog, Paiute, that they lost just weeks ago. “He died on her 14th birthday, Pi day,” Rhonda informed friends on her personal Facebook page.
The former detective will be missed by a plethora of appreciative admirers for the impeccable, incomparable investigative work that he did relative to the Rhonda Hinson murder case—the proof of which can be found on the Remembering Rhonda Hinson Facebook page. As of press time, over 9,400 friends and followers of the page have read the post announcing his demise, with over a hundred respondents offering their commiserations to Flash’s family and friends. And condolences continue to come.
Jill Turner-Mull—Rhonda Hinson’s best friend and lifelong activist for obtaining resolution for the 38-year-old murder case—was one of them. “This saddens me deeply but I do find comfort in knowing heaven gained an angel. Big hugs and prayers sent to Rhonda and the family.”
Connie Barnes—Rhonda Hinson’s friend and indefatigable advocate for justice for the slain 19-year-old—agrees with Jill, “Heaven gained an angel for sure.” Then she adds, “Thinking of his family and praying for their comfort in the days to follow. You are our hero, Flash…your dedication to Rhonda’s case was the best.”
Mark Perrou—a friend of the Hinson family and activist for justice—directly addresses the detective who worked diligently to solve Rhonda’s case: “Thanks, Flash for being a loyal servant to the community. Godspeed, Sir.”
Janis Mullis—a Hinson family friend and outspoken advocate for the resolving of Rhonda’s case—offers, “Many, many prayers for his family and much appreciation for his hard work that will live on!”
Others write descriptively of Mr. Pruett’s professional prowess:
“--Absolutely the very best, trustworthy awesome intelligent detective I have ever known and I had the honorable luck of calling him and his equally precious beautiful and talented RN wife for my friends.”
“--I had the pleasure of working with Flash at BCSD. He was a Great Detective and a very honorable man. This world needs more men like him. He will be missed greatly.”
“--So sad to hear this. I met Flash and worked with him as an electrician. A very smart and proficient individual not to mention a great guy.”
“--He was a very caring and kind officer, enjoyed working with him.”
“--I’m sorry to hear this. He tried hard for Rhonda and her family to solve this murder. God Bless you Flash—you were one of the good guys for sure!”
Still other respondents—far too numerous to enumerate—sent condolences, prayerful commiserations, and expressions of love to Detective Pruett’s wife, Rhonda, and the rest of his family.
For Bobby and Judy Hinson, the detective was more than just a lifeline back to the investigation into the murder of their daughter, he was a friend. Judy Hinson writes articulately about the man whom they felt cared the most:
“Flash was one of the finest people we have ever met. There was never a time that he was too busy to talk to us. He always answered any questions that we had. He never made us feel like we were bothering him when we called the department and the times we called him at home. Flash was always so kind and so caring. Not only his family but all the people who knew him have lost someone that can never be replaced.”
Detective Pruett’s comprehensive investigation into the killing of Rhonda Hinson has become legendary. As previously reported, Flash was officially assigned the case by Major Robert Lane and Lieutenant Greg Calloway on Friday Jan. 20, 1995, during the Richard Epley administration. Gene Franklin was tasked with the responsibility to assist Detective Pruett in the continuation of the investigation.
Over the next five-years, Flash applied a systematic, logical approach to the conduction of his investigation—in contrast to the often inconsistent, inconstant efforts of most of his predecessors, as reflected in case documentation. In an interview with News Herald staff writer, Jen Pilla, three-years after his assignment to the post of lead investigator for the Rhonda Hinson case, the detective articulated the course he would pursue throughout: “When I was assigned to this case three-years ago, I decided it was time to go back to the basics and back to the crime scene itself.”
And back to the basics it was as he conducted interviews, tracked leads, and continuously examined and re-examined the totality of accrued evidence. Moreover, on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 15, 1997, he initiated and assisted in the performance of an SBI ballistics assessment for the expressed purpose of ascertaining the trajectory of the projectile that killed Rhonda Hinson on the early morning of Dec. 23, 1981. He, along with a team of SBI agents, utilized a 1982 Datsun 210—similar to the 1981 Datsun 210 driven by the decedent—that the Hinsons had acquired and ceded to BCSD to be used to perform whatever testing deemed necessary.
The results obtained from the ballistics assessment, as reported in the summary, forever dismissed any possibility that the shooting was done from Interstate 40, from Elmer Buff’s property, or from either embankment along Eldred Street/Hwy 350. The conclusion? Only a person standing on ground level and behind Rhonda’s car could have fired a shot that matched the calculated trajectory of the missile that extinguished her brief life.
There were some “firsts” accomplished by Detective Pruett: the assignment of significance to the articles found in Rhonda Hinson’s Datsun 210 that were not present when she left her parents’ residence to attend a company Christmas party on Tuesday evening, Dec. 22, 1981, and the first-ever interview of Mark Turner—Jill Turner-Mull’s boyfriend and Greg McDowell’s friend—over fourteen-years after Rhonda’s murder. Flash seemed convinced that the gray-hooded sweatjacket, belonging to Miss Hinson—that she left in Turner’s automobile, yet managed to be prominently displayed on the sundeck of Rhonda’s Datsun 210 on the morning she was murdered—was as a key to cracking this case. Turner, however, told the detective that he could not remember how it got out of his car and into that of the slain 19-year-old—an asseveration that Flash clearly did not believe.
Detective Pruett also applied surveillance equipment to the investigation, as he leveraged the relationships that Mark and Faith Turner and Jeff Hinkle had with Greg McDowell, in an effort to capture incriminating statements offered by Rhonda Hinson’s former boyfriend while engaged in casual conversation.
On Tuesday afternoon Dec. 23, 1997, Detective Pruett—along with Sheriff Richard Epley and an entourage of others—interviewed Greg McDowell in his engineering office in Hickory. He noted that the 34-year-old engineer admitted—for the first time—that he knew that Rhonda had called him from Sherry Pittman Yoder’s house, in contrast to his statement to law enforcement, proffered immediately following the murder, in which he maintained that he thought Rhonda was at home. McDowell also informed Flash and the others that a pink snake, acquired during a Myrtle Beach trip and among the items found in Rhonda’s Datsun 210 on the day of her death, “stayed on his dresser at home.”
Unfortunately, subsequent to a near-fatal automobile accident that occurred during Winter 2000, Detective Pruett’s days as lead investigator and employee at the BCSD were numbered. While he was having back surgery to repair damage sustained in the accident, Flash was supplanted by Sheriff John McDevitt when he hired former SBI agent, John Suttle to head his criminal investigations division. It was News Herald staff writer Cheryl Moose Bollinger [Shuffler] who reported the action in a Nov. 19, 2000, article entitled, “Retired Agent Back in Law Enforcement.”
Shortly after his return to the BCSD and not completely rehabilitated, James Pruett was afforded the option to resign or face the prospect of termination, according to statements that Flash made to this writer across several interviews. A similar scenario was recounted by former Sheriff McDevitt when he admitted to the Hinsons, at a local restaurant in the Fall 2019, that he had to get rid of Flash because he didn’t think that he could do the work any longer.
Though Mr. Pruett admitted to being treated badly under McDevitt’s administration, he refused to castigate his fellow law enforcement colleagues who were instrumental in effecting his departure from the BCSD.
One singular feature of Detective Pruett’s investigation that distinguishes it from those conducted by others, was his detailed notes that he assiduously recorded at the conclusion of every day that he worked the Hinson case. They not only offer descriptions of actions, procedures, and factual summaries of interviews with principals, they also provide insight into the detective’s hypotheses and questions yet to be answered.
Whether intended or not, Flash’s notes are reflective of the measure of the man himself—his characteristic dedication and compassion; and his respect and caring concern for Bobby and Judy Hinson. Sometimes they bespeak his own very human, personal feelings which were otherwise masked beneath the stoic façade of a seasoned law enforcement officer. None illustrates his inherent character better than the final paragraph of his detailed description of activities on what would have been the day of Rhonda Hinson’s birthday –Wednesday Dec. 13, 1995:
“The last thing I did today was to go by Rhonda’s gravesite. I spent about five minutes there in prayer. I could see the pain in Judy and Bobby’s faces when I was with them today, Rhonda’s 33rd birthday. I could feel the weight of that pain on me at the gravesite. It was especially hard on all of us today.
Though he was criticized for his “obsessive” attachment to the “most investigated case in Burke County history,” Detective James “Flash” Pruett persevered. Some of his last sentiments expressed to this writer indicated his desire to leave the rehabilitation facility and continue—on his own time—the investigation into the killing of Rhonda Hinson.
“There are things that I should tell you,” Flash declared to me. “But I can’t tell you right now and not here.”
In his final two months of life, while in the throes of Parkinson’s Disease, the quintessential detective was ready to resume the work toward achieving resolution to the 38-year-old murder case and obtaining a modicum of peace for the Hinsons.
This is the “stuff” of heroes.
James “Flash” Pruett
August 16, 1950—March 14, 2020
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Arthur Lowe Turns 101
Arthur Lowe with one of his prize world champ horses “Totally Arrogant.”
Record photo by Heather Dean
By HEATHER DEAN
Arthur Lowe was born in Wilkes County March 18, 1919, today (Wednesday) he turns 101.
When asked what he attributes to his longevity he said “Wild Ginseng. I’ve got a pack here in my pocket, and I chew on some of it every day. It gives you strength and energy, you know, we’ve been using it since the 1500’s and the Native Americans did before that… Daniel Boone even dug Ginseng.”
Growing up, he had access to plenty of the herb. His father was Carl A. Lowe, who ran the fur and herb business on Forester Avenue. After they moved from the Peach Orchard in Moravian Falls to Wilkesboro, he grew up in the Victorian era house, now an historical property, on Hill Avenue, above Glenn’s Tastee Freeze.
“My daddy was a fur buyer, he taught me how to grade fur when I was young,” Lowe said. Out of five brothers, he was the only one to serve in the military. He was deployed to Okinawa in WWII, and served in combat with the Army’s 32 Infantry on a mortar crew. Lowe received a Purple Heart for shrapnel lodged in his leg. Lowe said he watched as the last 65 Japanese soldiers surrendered. “We didn’t know it was because the war was over” he said.
When he came home, he bought part of the business, and along with his brother, Elmer, it became Lowe Brothers.
“In 1976 I was the biggest dealer in the south, with 20,000 pounds of Ginseng, and 100,000 muskrat pellets,” Lowe said. “I used to go to Hong King and New York City a lot, I met the biggest Ginseng dealers in the world, and I still know many of them by name.”
Lowe also told me about his World Champion Leopard Appaloosa horses. “I had three of them that got the title. I’ve tried a little bit of everything over the years I suppose,” he said with a laugh.
Lowe lost his childhood sweetheart of 76 years, Elizabeth, last May. He talked about his daughter in Knoxville, Tenn., how his son, Arthur Jr., now runs the business, but says it’s mostly just scrap metal these days.
And about his dogs, Otto and Blackberry, I had to ask if he named the dog after the Wilkes County Robin Hood, Otto Wood.
Lowe said “No. I named it after Otto Smithey. He drove a truck for my daddy a lot of years, and we all thought real highly of him. He was a good man, and so I named my dog after him.”
Happy Birthday Arthur and here’s to another year of Wilkes County life being celebrated!
Wilkes reacts to COVID-19
From Record Staff Reports
With schools called off statewide in North Carolina for at least two weeks, Wilkes County Schools will offer breakfasts and lunches for children ages 1 through 18.
The meals started being offered on Tuesday, March 17. Meals may be picked up at the school site in the car line with the exception being Wilkes Early College High School, which is on the campus of Wilkes Community College.
Breakfasts will be served from 7:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
This information was released Monday afternoon following a minimal two-week school cancellations which was announced over the weekend.
On Tuesday The Governor closed dinning rooms in restaurants limiting food services to only take out and deliver. He assured that grocery stores would remain open, but urged citizens not to hoard and to leave items for people who can’t afford to stockpile food and other commodities.
Wilkes County has suddenly become a different world.
If you’ve been to the grocery store recently, you’ve bound to have noticed the toilet paper section.
It’s basically empty.
Folks across Wilkes, the state and the country are hoarding such items including hand sanitizers and bottled water it seems in case there is a mass mandated quarantine to halt or slow the spread of COVID-19.
The New York Times quoted Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II as saying, “Toilet paper is not an effective way to prevent getting the coronavirus, but they’re selling out.”
Although there may be humor in that statement, local, state and national officials are not taking the threat of the spread of COVID-19 lightly.
And as of Sunday afternoon, the virus was knocking at Wilkes’ door with one confirmed case in Watauga County and possible cases under investigation in Yadkin County.
Although there have been talk of COVID-19 already being in Wilkes, no such report had been substantiated.
The Tribune in Elkin reported that there are two persons under investigation who have been tested for the corona virus, or COVID-19 as of Friday at 12:30 p.m. in Yadkin County. These individuals have been informed about the virus and how it is spread and are self-monitoring while waiting test results, according to a news release from Yadkin County Human Services Agency.
WBTV, a Charlotte-based television station, reported that a Boone-based staff member of the international relief charity Samaritan’s Purse tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after returning from an overseas trip.
According to the company, the employee returned nine days ago from countries “considered to be at lower risk at the time of travel.”
The staff member didn’t return to work and self-quarantined upon their return home. They were tested at their home by the Watauga County Health Department.
“We are working in full cooperation with the local health department in identifying other staff who may have been in contact with the employee who has tested positive, and though we can’t know for sure whether their contact was prior to or after the virus was contracted, each of these employees has also self-quarantined,” the organization said. The organization said it is reducing staff on its Boone headquarters and Wilkes campus effective immediately and moving many employees to work-from-home status, the WBTV report stated.
In Wilkes, and across North Carolina, schools are cancelled, MerleFest has been cancelled as well as many church services and most any other event where people usually gather in significant numbers.
As of Tuesday there have been 32 confirmed cases reported statewide. The counties which reported confirmed cases are: 14 in Wake County; four in Mecklenburg; two apiece in Hartnett, Johnston and Forsyth counties; and one apiece in Durham, Brunswick, Craven, Chatham, Cabarrus, Onslow, Wayne, Brunswick, Craven, and Watauga counties
According to the website for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention you should call your doctor if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing.
Watch for symptoms.
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.*
· Shortness of breath
*This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include*:
· Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
· Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
· New confusion or inability to arouse
· Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
Record Editor Jerry Lankford asked some of his Facebook friends their thoughts on the virus. Here’s what they said:
Ashley Osborne Jones: “I’m not afraid. I am not stocking up on anything. I don’t live in fear. I have faith that I will be OK. If not I have already on hand two weeks worth of food and supplies.”
Melissa Triplett: “I’m not afraid. ‘Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:103.’”
Rebecca Davis: “I could stand to shed some pounds. So with what food we have it will make do. We have growing grandchildren to feed in the home. They love to eat cereal. So milk, cereal, bread, peanut butter, jelly and eggs.”
Leslie Michelle Rivera-Cruz: “Not afraid at all. I’m only afraid of the consequences of fear.”
William M. Harden: “I’m not afraid but it’s because I have done my research on it. At the same time I’m not recklessly acting like it’s no big deal. I’m a young healthy man, but not everyone has my immune system. Not afraid of catching it (is very likely at some point) but am concerned for the elderly/youth/immune compromised that will have a harder time fighting it off. Stay educated and don’t panic you guys, it will only make the situation worse.”
Kellene Wells Bock: “I have a healthy respect for the virus but I’m not afraid. I think the steps being taken now should keep it to manageable status in the U.S. Not stocking up on anything because I don’t foresee steps taken in foreign countries being necessary in the U.S. (if people will just be smart) so we should be able to get what we need, once shelves get restocked.”
Anne Privette Johnson: “As an elderly woman with underlying health concerns Mom plans to stick close to the house. I made sure her prescriptions were filled and we have all her OTC meds. We keep toilet paper and paper towels on hand. I checked the pantry and inventoried cleaning supplies. We were in pretty good shape, so I picked up just a few things we needed. With schools closed I will be here more. I bought some breakfast items and sandwich fixings. I guess I didn’t stock up - just the normal grocery shopping. Prayers for everyone.”
Andy Rhodes: “I’m more afraid of main stream media hype than Covid19. Get your info from the CDC, not the nightly news frenzy of doom and gloom. Will I get Covid19, probably so, I am a nurse in a health care setting, am I worried? A little, but I’m confident all will be OK.”
Alayna Taylor Harden: “I’m far more bothered by/afraid of the hysteria than the actual virus. I know it’s a threat to certain people in our communities (and I say this as someone who has a compromised immune system and small kids), but this is far beyond reasonable precautions. The fact that sheer panic has been manufactured by the media is a very scary thing on its own.”
Lisa De Maio Brewer: “This is a very concerning virus. We've never seen anything like this in our lifetime. If we do not take it seriously, we will face the sad consequences. Seek wisdom!”
Terrie Byrd: “Yes I'm self quarantined due to my immune system not functioning properly. I'm both immune deficient and immune compromised. What I have in terms of antibodies fighting germs comes from 1,000 to 1,500 people in the form of plasma which I need to live. This is serious folks. Even with infusions, we are not protected from COVID 19. Please take care of yourself and follow the CDC guidelines. It's not a joke. It's real and it's here. Stay ahead of the curve. God bless us all. I'm in no way panicking, just being vigilant and exercising caution.”
Rita Roman: “I've been preparing for this for years and years.... food and water...oops forgot about the toilet paper. I'm staying motivated and happy. P.S. Just got off a cruise last Sunday. Everyone is staying in touch via Facebook. No one is sick. Living my life!!!”
Cheryl Shumate: “Well I’m 63 yrs old and yes I’m taking this very seriously. I have diabetes and an immune deficiency disorder along with several other problems. I’m staying in away from people as much as I can. I’m not one that bought 100 rolls of TP but I would like to have gotten a bottle of hand sanitizer for when I am out. Thinking of all the elderly we have in our county. I do pray daily for our nation and watch CDC updates.”
Jill Minton Woodie: “I remember when I was a young girl hearing a preacher talking about a pandemic that would affect the entire World and there would be thousands of people die from it. I really hadn’t thought of this message until this pandemic. This is very serious and I’m afraid it is going to get a lot worse. It is no joking matter. We are dealing with a virus that the mortality rate is 10 times worse than the flu, no medicine or vaccine. Also, a person can have the virus and show no symptoms and that is why we need to stay home. The United States don’t have enough ventilators to handle this crisis. We all have got to work together and help stop the spread of this virus. People if at all possible stay home and use common sense that the LORD gave you. GOD HELP US.”
So far, there have been no reports of business closures in Wilkes due to the virus.
Tyson Foods has released its virus-related policy:
The company announced that it is only allowing visitors considered essential into its offices and facilities. The determination of who is essential will be made by Enterprise Leadership Team (ELT) members.
Tyson Foods also announced changes impacting hourly employees, including:
• relaxing attendance policies in processing plants by eliminating punitive effect for missing work due to illness;
• waiving the five-consecutive day waiting period for short term disability benefits;
• waiving the co-pay, co-insurance and deductible for doctor visits for COVID-19 testing as well as eliminating pre-approval or preauthorization steps;
• waiving co-pays for use of telemedicine;
• relaxing refill limits for 30 day prescriptions of maintenance medication.
Many corporate Tyson employees will work remotely through March 27.
Management will determine which business personnel will be asked to continue working in the corporate offices while others operate from home.
Late last month, Tyson Foods suspended all international business travel on commercial carriers. Effective immediately, all U.S. commercial business travel has also been suspended. Exceptions must be approved by an (ELT) member.
The company encouraged Tyson personnel to avoid personal travel via cruise ships, airplanes and other common carriers.
“Depending on where you travel, you may be subject to self-quarantine for 14 days when you return. You should consider this and your ability to work remotely before traveling.”
The CDC says “currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.”
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported, “There is no evidence at this time to suggest that the Coronavirus is a foodborne pathogen.”
The USDA also said, “We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.”
Tyson has an internal coronavirus page with access to videos and information about the virus, as well as the company’s efforts to address it.
Wilkes County Schools will be closed for at least two weeks.
This comes as a directive from N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper who ordered all K-12 public schools in North Carolina to close for a minimum of two weeks in response to COVID-19. The executive order also bans gatherings of more than 100 people.
Cooper stated: “We do not have the luxury of a wait-and-see approach. These are hard decisions but they are necessary so we can learn more about the virus,” Cooper said. “We do not want any regrets in the rearview mirror, and I am guided by one objective – doing what we must to keep people from getting sick and to make sure that those who do can get excellent care.”
Wilkes County School Superintendent Mark Byrd in a recorded message sent out Sunday.
Byrd stated, “Monday, March 16 will be a required teacher workday. Bus drivers, teacher assistants and child nutrition workers should not report to work until you have further information.
“Parents will be contacted early this week by your child’s school with information about how you can help your child focus on learning during this two-week window. Our website and social media will be updated with information about what students can do to obtain meal service during this closure, beginning Tuesday, March 17.”
Wilkes Community College
All classes on all campuses of Wilkes Community College have been cancelled for a week.
The college website states: Wilkes Community College is adjusting its class schedule in accordance with guidance from state and local officials to proactively limit the spread of COVID-19.WCC will cancel all classes (Curriculum, Workforce Development, Career and College Readiness) for the week of March 16-22, 2020. Cancelled classes include all classes regardless of delivery method, including online, on-campus, and off-campus. All WCC facilities will be closed to students including Wilkes Campus, Ashe Campus, Alleghany Center, and Herring Hall.All full-time college employees should report to work on Monday, March 16, unless they are in self-quarantine.On March 23, the college plans to shift to a modified schedule with most classes transitioning to an online, hybrid, or otherwise adjusted format.An update will be provided by Friday, March 20 regarding the following week of classes and campus activities.
MerleFest 2020 Cancelled
For following is a press release posted by MerleFest officials at 4 p.m., on Friday, March 13:
In response to directives from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and growing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Wilkes County officials have cancelled all mass gatherings of more than 100 people in Wilkes County through the end of April. Therefore, MerleFest 2020 has been cancelled. While this decision is disappointing for all of us, we fully support the directive from our county officials. The health, safety, and well-being of all involved with MerleFest is, and always will be, our primary concern.
As you all know, MerleFest serves as the largest fundraising event in support of the students of Wilkes Community College. The WCC Foundation, which plans and manages the festival each year, has already incurred significant costs in the lead up to MerleFest 2020.
We need your help. We are calling on all our loyal MerleFest fans and supporters to help alleviate the financial burden this puts on the college in this unprecedented moment of crisis. Please consider converting your festival purchase this year to a 100 percent tax deductible donation. This will help sustain the mission of MerleFest and its impact on WCC students.
We will be offering three options for those who have purchased MerleFest 2020 tickets through the official MerleFest ticketing system:
Option 1: Convert your purchase to a donation. Convert your festival purchase to a 100 percent tax deductible contribution to the WCC Foundation to help sustain the mission of MerleFest and its impact on WCC students.
Option 2: Roll your tickets forward. Ticket holders may roll purchases over to MerleFest 2021. This option allows fans to retain the same seat, package, parking, ticket, etc. at 2020 prices. The dates for next year’s festival are April 29 – May 2, 2021. Please consider the roll forward option in support of the festival.
Option 3: Refund. If for any reason, you feel that neither option 1 nor 2 is appropriate for you, we can certainly offer you a refund for your ticket order. All refunds must be requested by April 15. We will refund everything except service charges which are non-refundable.
IMPORTANT: All ticket holders must contact the MerleFest box office between March 16 and April 15 to confirm the option you are choosing. Failure to contact the box office by April 15 will result in an automatic roll forward of your tickets to 2021. You can contact the MerleFest box office Monday-Thursday 12 p.m.-5 p.m. and Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Here are four ways to contact us:
Mail: MerleFest Tickets, P.O. Box 120, Wilkesboro, NC 28697
Phone: (800) 343-7857
Visit our box office located in the Walker Center at Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, NC
We ask for your patience while we work through the transition process. We will add staff to handle your requests as quickly as possible, but it will just take time. Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you at MerleFest in April of 2021!
MerleFest, a four-day Americana music festival was set to run from Thursday, April 23, to Sunday, April 26, on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. The event draws upwards to 80,000 participants from all over the country and the world each year and pumps million of dollars into the local economy and is WCC biggest fundraiser.
The Walker Center, also on the college campus, cancelled its Haggard Brothers with Special Guest Emi Sunshine concert that was scheduled for Friday, March 13. Center officials says they’re going to try to reschedule the event.
Starting Monday and running through at least March 29, Wilkes Family YMCA in Wilkesboro and all other facilities of the YMCA are closed due to the coronavirus.
It was stated in a press release: “After much thoughtful consideration for the health of our members, staff and community as a whole, the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina will temporarily close all facilities. As we navigate these challenges ahead, please know that we never make a decision to close Y facilities in haste.”
Chief Justice Beasley Announces Judicial Branch Response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)Effective Monday, March 16, superior court and district court proceedings will be rescheduled for at least 30 days, with some exceptions.
In an order entered today (Friday, March 13), the Chief Justice has directed that local courts postpone most cases in district and superior court for at least 30 days. While the work of the courts must continue and courthouses remain open, the first priority of the court system must be the health and safety of the public and of the employees who serve them.
“We must be proactive in taking steps to prioritize the health and safety of our fellow North Carolinians while also maintaining the integrity of our judicial system,” said Chief Justice Beasley. “Today’s order will allow us to drastically reduce the exposure caused by crowded sessions of court, which often bring hundreds of people at a time into our courthouses.”
Although the superior courts and district courts remain open, effective Monday, March 16, superior court and district court proceedings will be rescheduled for at least 30 days, with some exceptions. These exceptions include (see more in the Supreme Court Order)
the proceeding will be conducted remotely;
the proceeding is necessary to preserve the right to due process of law (e.g. a first appearance or bond hearing, the appointment of counsel for an indigent defendant, a probation hearing, a probable cause hearing, etc.);
the proceeding is for the purpose of obtaining emergency relief (e.g. a domestic violence protection order, temporary restraining order, juvenile custody order, judicial consent to juvenile medical treatment order, civil commitment order, etc.); or the senior resident superior court judge, chief business court judge, or chief district court judge determines that the proceeding can be conducted under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.
This emergency directive does not apply to any proceeding in which a jury has already been empaneled or to any grand juries already empaneled. It also does not prohibit a judge or other judicial officer from exercising any in chambers or ex parte jurisdiction conferred by law upon that judge or judicial officer, as provided by law.
Additionally, the superior courts and district courts are encouraged to liberally grant additional accommodations to parties, witnesses, attorneys, and others with business before the courts who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
All counties will post a notice at all court facilities directing any person who has likely been exposed to COVID-19 to not enter the courthouse. Any person who has likely been exposed and has business before the courts should contact the clerk of superior court’s office by telephone or other remote means for further instruction.
As the courts work to postpone thousands of cases, court officials will notify parties and their attorneys of new hearing and trial dates.
The Judicial Branch will be providing continuous updated information and answers to frequently asked questions on our website, NCcourts.gov. The public is encouraged to visit NCcourts.gov as a first resort to determine if a question can be answered without calling the local courthouse.
Sports and Field Trips
Also on Thursday, March 12, Wilkes County Schools released the following announcement:
“Effective March 12. 2020, Wilkes County Schools will suspend all field trips and will reevaluate this in early April. Wilkes County Schools will follow the recommendation of the NCHSAA (North Carolina High School Athletic Association)
and suspend the Spring Sports Season at the conclusion of tonight’s games (Thursday, March 12, 2020). This decision impacts practices as well as scheduled games for both middle and high schools.
Per the Governor’s recommendation, all gatherings of more than 100 people should be postponed. The governor did not recommend school closings at this time.
Again, we appreciate your understanding as we make decisions to ensure the safety of our students and our staff.”
VFW: The Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans day, scheduled for Saturday, March 28, at VFW Post 1142 in North Wilkesboro, has been cancelled due to health concerns.
The post also cancelled its popular Saturday night dances until further notice.
The Veterans Coffee Call, that has been held the second Tuesday of each month, has been cancelled until further notice.
Shinetopia, a benefit concert, cook-off and bike show scheduled April 18 in North Wilkesboro has been cancelled.
Wilkes Senior Resources has cancelled all instructor-led classes until further notice, effective immediately. The center remains open for individual exercises and other individual activities.
Wilkes-Yadkin Home Builders Association’s annual raffle drawing set for March 19, at the Wilkesboro Civic Center, has been postponed. The drawing, which raises funds for the Joe Faw Scholarship and SkillsUSA, will be held at a later date.
But back to the hoarding hysteria
Apparently it has become somewhat out of hand.
One local business manager was heard saying that law enforcement had to be on hand as guards when trucks hauling restock items arrive at their store, and added that thefts of items were becoming more commonplace.
Another manager told about how some were taking advantage of the situation and buying up the most sought after goods and attempting to pirate them on the internet. They were allegedly caught and stopped.
According to one internet report a bottle of hand sanitizer bought for $8 at a drug store sold the same day for $138 on a website.
And there are cases of downright rudeness.
“Some people act like it’s my own personal fault that we’re out of certain items,” another manager said.
Businessman, adventurer, musician Mule Ferguson dies
Harold ‘Mule’ Ferguson
Mr. Harold “Mule” Wayne Ferguson, age 87, of North Wilkesboro, passed away Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
He was a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wilkesboro, for over 20 years. Memorial services were held at St. Paul’s at 2 p.m., Saturday, March 7, 2020, with Rev. Stephen Sedgwick officiating. The family received friends in the parish house immediately following the service.
Mule was born June 6, 1932, in Boomer, to Ruby Ferguson. He attended Wilkesboro High School and was a former Quarter Master 2 in the United States Navy where he studied Naval Mine Warfare at the University of Korea from 1951 until 1955. He later studied at Clevenger Business College and for 24 years worked for Lowe’s Home Improvement. After retirement from Lowe’s, Mule owned and operated Pumpkin Creek Video Productions. As the videographer of the first Eddie Merle Watson Memorial Festival (today’s MerleFest), Mule created a key video that was instrumental in building momentum for continuing the festival.
Mule was a fun-loving, kilt-wearing adventurer who embraced new experiences throughout his life. A lover of flying and being in the air, Mule completed over 1,300 parachute jumps, and he and a friend built a Vari-Eze airplane which he flew for several years. In 1986 he became a hot air balloon pilot and later began flying a motorized parachute. He loved new technology and became an early adopter and evangelist for electric vehicles. Mule was also a talented singer and musician who played guitar, banjo, dulcimer and pedal steel guitar. But it was his legendary imitation of a braying mule that became his signature sound.
In addition to his mother, he was preceded in death by a sister, Barbara Ferguson Laws and a brother, Roger Ferguson.
He is survived by his wife, Debbie Ferguson, of the home.
The family requests in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Humane Society of Wilkes, PO Box 306, North Wilkesboro, NC 28659.
Online condolences may be made at www.reinssturdivant.com.
The killing of Rhonda Hinson part 48
Criminal Profiler Pat Brown
Editor’s note: This is a continuation of a series about the Dec. 23, 1981, unsolved murder of Rhonda Hinson.
By LARRY J. GRIFFIN
Special Investigative Reporter
For The Record
Murder is rarely something that isn’t premeditated, at least to an extent. Usually there is something building up to the moment the decision of [SIC] to kill is made and therefore the events of that night are extremely important. It is also particularly important in this homicide because of the time and location of the crime making it an unlikely stranger homicide.—Criminal Profiler Pat Brown, in a Monday April 22, 2002 Profile of the Homicide of Rhonda Hinson.
Early in 2002, Bobby and Judy Hinson contacted The Sexual Homicide Exchange, Inc. (SHE) seeking assistance in identifying the killer of their 19-year-old daughter. Specifically, SHE was asked to ascertain the person who pulled the trigger from a list of possible suspects and suggest any action that law enforcement could take 21-years after the killing of Rhonda Hinson—with little to know actual physical evidence to take to court.
Chief Investigative Criminal Profiler and Executive Officer of SHE, Pat Brown, was the Hinsons’ point-of-contact. Born in New Jersey, Ms. Brown moved with her family to Virginia when she was but 9-years-of-age. She attended the University of the State of New York and graduated with a liberal arts degree in 1981—the year that Rhonda was killed. Subsequently, she achieved a Master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University. In 1982, Pat moved to Maryland and has resided in the state ever since.
In 1996, Ms. Brown founded SHE that eventually evolved into the present-day Pat Brown Criminal Profiling Agency, located in Bowie, Maryland—about 20 miles from Washington, D.C., and 31 miles from Baltimore (www.patbrownprofiling.com). Herself a nationally known criminal profiler, television commentator, and author, Pat—through her agency—provides criminal profiling consultation, education, and training to law enforcement, media, attorneys, universities, corporations, and private individuals.
And in 2002, Ms. Brown agreed to provide the Hinsons with a profile of the homicide of their daughter murdered during the first hour of December 23, 1981.
Initially, Sheriff John McDevitt was purportedly receptive to the prospect of a fresh perspective and ostensibly agreed to cooperate with SHE as they conducted their inquiry. However, on Sunday Jan. 6, 2002, Ms. Brown complained to the Hinsons that his promise to forward a package of case information to her had not materialized. In an email she wrote:
“We still have not received anything from the Sheriff [John McDevitt]. He was very cooperative in our first conversation and actually WANTED our analysis, so I am more than confused over what is going on. He told you he sent us a package although he never called and asked for the address. He could have pulled it off the [web] site if he went there and clearly, it would have arrived (or if he had addressed it incorrectly) he would have gotten it back. I called him as he requested and left the mailing address on his voice mail. To date, nothing. So, I have no idea what is going on in NC.”
But 15 days later—Monday Jan. 21, 2002—Pat sent another missive to Judy Hinson in which she announce that the promised material had finally arrived at her office:
“Hi Judy! Everything is fine. I did get the package and I am finding it VERY interesting. I have sent a copy over to my partner, Dr. Sinclair, and we will be getting together to discuss the suspects and see if we are both in agreement and then will will [SIC] write up our recommendations.”
Within the packet, Sheriff McDevitt included “good crime scene reports, police reports, and an excellent analysis of the bullet trajectory, and the movement of the vehicle.” Immediately, Ms. Brown ruled out “an accidental shooting as a result of a shot fired from afar or from misbehaving teenagers shooting at taillights from the bridge.”
“This leaves us with a deliberate shooting,” Pat averred in a six-page summary that was completed on Earth Day—Monday April 22, 2002.
Noting that SHE had been supplied with an “assorted suspects” list for whom there was no significant evidence implicating them, Ms. Brown’s focus fell upon four possibilities—two of which she eliminated almost instantaneously as having neither motive nor opportunity. One was a “young group of partygoers, some who had stopped and discovered the car and the victim.” This designation was an obvious reference to the young men who, according to their own statements and those of law enforcement, found Rhonda Hinson’s car and left the crime scene to eventually locate Officer Harry Feimster—Marc Micol, Tim Pons, Todd Garrou, Jerry Baker, and Brent Smith. Clearly, neither had anything to do with the killing of the 19-year-old.
The second spurious suspect was a young man “who had asked Rhonda out and been refused.” Initially, investigators considered him a person-of-interest. Judy Hinson identified this youth as Bryan Lowman.
“Rhonda walked passed an accident involving a tractor/trailer while going toward interstate to catch her ride on the morning of December 22nd. A crowd had gathered near the accident site; among those there was Bryan Lowman. He had asked Rhonda out on a date. For one thing, he was much younger than she, and I don’t even think that he had his driver’s license yet. Well, Rhonda told him that she had a boyfriend whom she was dating—so that was the end of that. She called me several times that day; one of those times—and I don’t remember which one—she told me about seeing Bryan.”
Subsequent to the elimination of the aforementioned suspects, Ms. Brown focused upon the two whom she concluded were the most viable: Greg McDowell and his father, Charles. Of Rhonda’s former boyfriend, the SHE profiler wrote:
“Rhonda’s boyfriend was angry with her for attending a party that he had requested she not attend, and after talking with her after she left the party, it seems they had reached a point of breaking up. Also the boyfriend had a history of obsessive jealousy of Rhonda and had recently written a letter in which he stated if she didn’t smile and be happy, he would shoot her with his shotgun (even if this is just a joke, it is a strange and concerning ideation).”
Attention then turned to the Rev. Charles McDowell, of whom Pat wrote:
“The father of this boyfriend is suspected of making sexual overtures at Rhonda and possible sexually abusing her. He has since had an affair while married, divorced his wife, and subscribed to pornographic materials in spite of being a church pastor.”
At this juncture, Ms. Brown turned attention to the events of the night and early morning of Rhonda’s death—what transpired right before and immediately after she was murdered. In her summary, she opined that:
“Murder is rarely something that isn’t premeditated, at least to an extent. Usually there is something building up to the moment the decision of [SIC] to kill is made and therefore the events of that night are extremely important. It is also particularly important in this homicide because of the time and location of the crime making it an unlikely stranger homicide. Someone had to know Rhonda was coming home at that particular time and on that particular route. Because of the trajectory of the bullet and the position of the shooter, the killer knew exactly the place his opportunity to kill was the best and still protect his identity.”
It has long been debated by investigators and interested commentators as to whether or not the shooter intended to kill Rhonda Hinson. In her summary, Profiler Brown proffered her insights:
“…Was he aiming at the car, the taillights, or at Rhonda? Because the car was climbing a hill at the time Rhonda was shot, and the bullet went through the trunk, we can discern that the killer was most likely aiming at Rhonda’s head and he did not take into account the forward movement of the car. Had he been aiming above the car, he most likely would have shot through the window and had he been aiming at the taillights, he most likely would have shot out a tire or missed altogether.
“It also would seem that this killer was no sharpshooter, as then he would have taken into account the movement of the car and aimed slightly higher than the intended target. The lack of thought and skill indicate a young, inexperienced, enraged killer.”
Pat also weighed-in on the question as to how long Rhonda lived after she was shot. She observed that, “the importance of the issue is in the specific behaviors of either Rhonda or the shooter prior, during, and after the shooting.” Her commentary is compelling:
“When Rhonda and the vehicle were viewed by investigators, she was not wearing her seatbelt and her body was outside of the car with the door ajar, the car was in neutral and running, and the window appeared to have been rolled down and up again. Should Rhonda still be alive at the time the car rolled back into the ditch, could she have removed her seat belt [SIC] and opened the car door?”
Clearly, Ms. Brown surmised that when Rhonda Hinson was struck by the fatal projectile, she was instantly incapacitated and could not remove herself from her Datsun 210. In her profile, she ventured to describe Rhonda’s final moments of life as she pulled away from the scene:
“…By the time she was hit by the bullet, it appears she would have been shifting into third gear. This would explain why the car was not in gear when it was found. The shift from first to second is very quick, but the shift from second to third requires more time and effort, as it must pass through neutral. Most likely, Rhonda had her left hand on the wheel and was shifting with her right, when she was shot. She only got halfway to third. With the car now in neutral and her left hand dragging the wheel to the left, the car wheels would be turned in a direction that would cause the car to roll off into the ditch on the left side of the road and the car would still be running.
Pat Brown hypothesized that if Rhonda Hinson was incapacitated or dead by the time the car backed into the ditch, she could not have removed her seatbelt, opened the door, or rolled down the window. Moreover, she maintained that it was “highly unlikely” that the killer had any reason to roll down the window after Rhonda was dead; nor would he have reason to remove her from the car. Even if the killer had opened the driver-side door, it is most unlikely that he would have removed her; rather she would have “pitched out” toward him.
Next the profiler applied her considerable expertise toward answering one of the most salient questions of the case: For whom did Rhonda Hinson stop on the early morning of Dec. 23, 1981?
Wilkes Art Gallery opens exhibit, host Art Walk
The Wilkes Art Gallery kicked off Youth Art Month on Friday with a reception at the Gallery on C Street in North Wilkesboro. More than 200 works by Wilkes students were on display. Also on Friday evening, the Gallery had another of their popular Art Walks with artists working in various mediums showcasing their talents at a dozen stores in Downtown North Wilkesboro. Pictured above is North Wilkesboro resident Cynthia Sturdivant, who, along with Bobbie Calloway demonstrated knitting at Jennifer Dancy's new store on 10th Street, Spinning Wheels Yarns & Creations. Record photo by Ken Welborn
Wilkes writer felt compelled by God to write book of spiritual poems
Valerie Pierce Andrews
Valerie Pierce Andrews said had a book she wanted to write in mind, but didn’t really have the time to write it.
But, according to Andrews, a lifelong resident of the Boomer Community, after God told her to get it done, she put pen to paper.
The result is a130-page book of spiritual poems entitled “Believe Jesus Loves You.”
She began writing the book in 1981 and completed it in 2019 – and it was published in October of that year by Christian Faith Publishing.
“My prayer is to bless people and others to be saved,” Andrews said.
One of the poems is on the back of the book and is as follows:
“Are you living in a bubble-handed down? A bubble is round, no exit to be found. Do you live in a bubble never seeking to find? Generation after generation believing only what came down the line. A bubble is round with no exit to find if something is wrong or right. It only has certain amount of knowledge for your sight. Living in a bubble never knocking, closed the door to anything new. Jesus said knock and the door shall be open unto you. Some traditions are good as long as truth has guided the way, Jesus is truth and he will give light even this day. Jesus came to earth to teach a new and living way. Seek for Jesus, the bubble will soon pop. The law of sin and death will stop. A new and living way will give you a ride. Grace and truth will be your guide. The love of Jesus is an open door. Praising the gift of life forevermore, Jesus.”
Andrews, who has worked at the Boomer Post Office for more than 30 years, is well known throughout Wilkes, having also worked (“loaned out”) at Post Offices in Moravian Falls, Millers Creek, Scotts, McGrady, Wilkesboro, Purlear, Ferguson and Wilbar.
Book sales have been going well, Andrews said. She added that she’s had “great” feedback from those who have read her work.
The book can be purchased from Andrews or online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
Rickards Chapel will observe its annual African Heritage Day March 15
Rickards Chapel will observe its annual African Heritage Day March 15, 2020 at 3pm. Guests are encouraged to wear African attire to celebrate our Heritage.
Specials musical guests are Minister Keith Armstead. His bio- Minister Keith Armstead is a native of Caroline County, Virginia and resides in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He is a composer, author, arranger, vocalist, playwriter and recording artist Minister of Christian music. Minister Keith Armstead attended Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Minister Armstead has served as Minister of music in various churches and now serves as music pastor of King George Church of God, King George, VA.
Among his many accomplishments, he has performed at the National NAACP
Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. He released his first book " Grow Your Music Ministry Health 101 " and new cd titled “Oh Happy Day”. Six other CD releases also to his credit. Keith has also opened in Cincinnati Ohio and New York City for President Obama appearances. Minister Armstead has made TV appearances on CBS and has performed on Bobby Jones Gospel and National Conferences such as the Hampton Ministers Conference and have served as minister of music at Virginia Union Ministers conference.
Minister Armstead has shared the stage with many great artists such as Melba Moore, Byron Cage, Luther Barns, F.C. Barns, Sensational Nightingales, The Williams Brothers and many more.
Keith Armstead is the President and CEO of Bubble Shooters & Novelties LLC in Fredericksburg, VA.
Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy’s Ladies Ensemble
This is an invitation only Ensemble established by Mrs. Phifer in 2013 at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy. They are patterned after the illustrious Winston-Salem State University “Burke Singers” under the direction of Mrs. Phifer’s mentor, Mrs. D’Walla Simmons Burke. These young ladies are dedicated students pursuing academic excellence while being highly involved in other school organizations such as Cheerleading, Track and Basketball. In existence, this group has been sought after in the triad and surrounding areas, performing for civic organizations, formal events and church services. They meet after school for rehearsal once a week. This Ensemble is composed of young ladies who truly love singing a diverse repertoire of Choral music.
Ms. Renee Matthews a native of Staley, NC is the daughter of Vera Andrews and the late James Wesley Matthews. She was educated in the public-school system of Randolph County. She is a proud graduate of Winston-Salem State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education with a concentration in Vocal Studies. During her time at Winston-Salem State University, she was a member of the nationally renowned University Choir under the most capable baton of Maestra D’Walla Simmons-Burke. Later, she served as Assistant Director of the Choir, composing and arranging for them and as well as the illustrious Burke Singers.
Ms. Matthews began her public-school teaching career with the Downtown Middle School as the general music and chorus educator. She transitioned to the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System at Kimberley Park and Cook Elementary Schools. While there, her choruses were highly sought after, performing frequently for the former Superintendent, Dr. Donald Martin as well as events for principals and visiting local and state dignitaries. These groups also earned Superior ratings at choral adjudicated festivals. In August of 2013, Mrs. Phifer began teaching middle and high school chorus at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy.
Under her direction, the choruses have flourished as she has founded 3 groups: WSPA Ladies' Ensemble, Men's Ensemble and the Advanced Mixed Ensemble. They are known for presenting a diverse array of classic choral literature as well as powerful renditions of World Music, Spirituals and Gospel pieces. Currently, she is the Director of Choral Activities at Paisley IB Magnet School in Winston-Salem where she is having 5 performing ensembles.
Ms. Matthews is the Minister of Music at Oliver’s Chapel AME Zion Church in Staley, NC and the former Director of the Durham District Youth Choir of the Central North Carolina AME Zion Conference.
She is the mother of two wonderful and talented children, Sean, 25 and Kayla, 22 and a super proud grandmother to her amazing 3-year-old, Raphael.
N.W. Rotary and Wilkesboro Methodists do Rise Against Hunger events
On Sunday, March 1, the Rotary Club of North Wilkesboro conducted another Rise Against Hunger project. Rotarians and a host of other volunteers including family members, Rotaract and Interact members from Wilkes Central High School and Wilkes Community College, youth from the North Wilkesboro Methodist Church, and several members from the Wilkesboro Church of Christ, packaged 10,000 meals at the Wilkes Agriculture Center in Wilkesboro. Also on Sunday, Wilkesboro United Methodist Church, a very active Rise Against Hunger group, packaged 20,000 meals at their church on Main Street in Wilkesboro. Above, Cooper Urness, a volunteer for Rotary, carries completed meal packages to be boxed for shipping. Urness is the son of Bob and Parin Urness of Wilkesboro, and came to the project with Rotarian Matt Matthews and his children Emerson and Beckett, who also volunteered.
Rotary photo by Dick Whittington
The Killing of Rhonda Hinson Part 47
This 2001 photo, first appearing in The News Herald in Morganton, is that of Judy Hinson, John McDevitt and Bobby Hinson standing at Rhonda Hinson's gravesite at Burke Memorial Park.
Editor’s Note: This is the continuation of a series about the Dec. 23, 1981, unsolved murder of Rhonda Hinson.
By LARRY J. GRIFFIN
Special Investigative Reporter
For The Record
This case does not need a fresh set of eyes looking at it—no, that has happened already. The case was solved years ago. What it needs is someone in law enforcement and the judiciary to act upon the evidence already in the files—evidence that has been there for years.—A respondent’s comment in a private message to The Record.
While sitting in the bedroom of Robert [Robbie] Hinson on the evening of Wednesday Dec. 23, 1981, 25-year-old detective John McDevitt announced his hypothesis relative to who pulled the trigger that ended the life of Bobby and Judy Hinson’s 19-year-old daughter.
“The boyfriend—that’s what he said before Steve Whisenant cautioned him to not be too hasty with his conclusion,” the Hinsons vividly recalled. As already reported, Mr. McDevitt declined to confirm his observation when Judy asked him to do so recently.
Yet two decades later—while speaking with Cheryl Bollinger [Shuffler] of the Morganton newspaper, The News Herald in 2001—the now Sheriff John McDevitt seemed to ‘second-guess’ his initial inference.
“One of the most discouraging factors of this case…is there are so many suspects…I’ve never zeroed in on one suspect and wouldn’t be surprised to clear or arrest any of the suspects… I can sit down with you and convince you that 10 people did it, but none of the suspects are any better than the others.”
Approximately a year before John McDevitt assumed the office of sheriff, Detective James “Flash” Pruett was interviewed by Jen Pilla of The News Herald and consequently quoted extensively in an article published in December 1997, near the 16th anniversary of the killing of Rhonda Hinson.
Detective Pruett was assigned the cold case in 1994 and conducted the most extensive, comprehensive investigation to-date. He assiduously documented his progress—and, at times, lack thereof. He had interviewed a vast pool of potential suspects and narrowed his focus to just a few possibilities. Flash said as much to Ms. Pilla who reported the fact that, “Pruett said investigators have whittled down a pool of hundreds of suspects to just a handful.”
Factually, the detective had narrowed his focus to just one suspect—Greg McDowell, ‘the boyfriend.’ As early as March 1995, Flash had consulted with FBI Special Agent (SA) L. B. Thomas whose office was located in Raleigh. During at least two phone conversations, he asked SA Thomas to “do a profile of the shooter.” Of this consultation with Thomas, Mr. Pruett wrote:
“I faxed him…my version of the key events and my summary of the case. Agent Thomas is in agreement with my conclusion that Greg McDowell is the shooter. He stated all the responses the shooter would have are inherit to Greg McDowell, for example, throwing up, no eye contact with the family, fear of being alone with Rhonda’s body and cutting all contact with the family after Rhonda’s death. Agent Thomas feels Greg confessed to his parents and may have been suicidal shortly after the shooting.”
It was at that juncture, that Flash began to leverage Greg’s former relationships with Jeff Hinkle and Mark and Faith Turner to obtain incriminating information that would provide the basis for a ‘probable cause’ warrant.
Certainly, Sheriff John McDevitt had access to the copious case files regarding the “…case [that] has been worked harder than any other case in Burke County”—at least that’s the way he characterized it in a News Herald article published on Sunday Dec. 19, 1999, a year after he assumed the duties as the sheriff of Burke County.
Surely, Mr. McDevitt perused the detailed case notes of the lead detective of the Hinson investigation, James Pruett—an officer who was under his supervision in the nascent days of his administration and a supporter who helped him win the 1998 election, besting incumbent Richard Epley. Moreover, he must have been aware that Flash had narrowed his investigative gaze to one viable suspect. Yet, his comments to Reporter Cheryl Bollinger [Shuffler] in September 2001 suggest that he either was unfamiliar with Pruett’s synopses or was simply discounting them altogether—effectively abandoning his own 1981 asseveration that concurred with the inferences proffered by both his lead detective and FBI Special Agent Thomas.
In the same news article—published on Monday Sept. 3, 2001—Sheriff McDevitt is quoted as offering a speculation that was convincingly controverted within the text of an SBI ballistics report that summarized results from an Oct. 15, 1997 investigation initiated by Detective Pruett. Reporter Bollinger [Shuffler] wrote:
“Mr. McDevitt said…‘There’s a slight chance the person who pulled the trigger to this day does not know they killed someone,’ he said. ‘But, more than likely they do, and they’ve carried that with them very quietly for 20 years now. And if the person who did it has told someone, they told the right person because they’ve kept a heck of a secret.”
The language of SBI ballistics summary leaves little doubt that the shooter had full knowledge that the bullet fired had found a target.
“It was…determined that no suitable spot could be found in the surrounding terrain, due to the incorrect elevations that would give a trajectory of about 16 degrees (plus or minus) a few degrees, where a shooter could have concealed himself and have fired the fatal bullet…Trigonometric calculations reveal that if the shooter was, in fact, standing somewhere on the road at the time the fatal shot was fired, the muzzle-to-target distance was greater than four feet (4’) and less than or equal to eight feet (8’)…These calculations assume the shooter is taller than five feet eight (5’8”) and less than or equal to six feet four inches (6’4”).”
Given the accuracy of the 1997 calculations, the killing of Rhonda Hinson was neither accidental nor was the missile that ended her unfinished life fired from a distant vantage point, e.g., I-40, either ridge on Eldred Street [Hwy. 350], or Elmer Buff’s property.
A perusal of the articles written across the years about the killing of Rhonda Hinson—most appearing in local newspapers—reveals a repetition of the same information offering more conundrums than conclusions: Who killed Rhonda Hinson and why? Was it a random shot or was the bullet seeking an intentional target? Did Rhonda Hinson remove herself from the car? Who was the mysterious man observed standing near the open-door of Rhonda’s 1981 Datsun 210—was he a Good Samaritan or the shooter?
Despite the fact that information can be found in case files offering viable answers to many of these queries, the ubiquitous, threadbare questions persist. And Burke County law enforcement appears to be oblivious relative to the contents of the voluminous case file and—outwardly at least—clueless as to what transpired during the early morning of Dec. 23, 1981 and are presently unwilling to discuss the 38-year-old investigation. Their conduct over the years has incessantly frustrated the Hinsons who have waited patiently for answers promised yet undelivered.
Before the 1998 election for sheriff, Judy Hinson was asked by a member of the McDevitt campaign to write a letter of support in favor of the challenger who was facing-off against an incumbent. In Letters to the Editor, published in The News Herald, Ms. Hinson spoke directly to the seated sheriff, Richard Epley—the caustic tone of the language used bespeaks that frustration:
“…People in law enforcement…have only turned a deaf ear to our pleas for help like Sheriff Epley and his administration have. Sheriff Epley, you asked me recently when we met why I was angry, you asked if something had happened that day we talked. I told you, not it happened 16 years ago. My child was murdered. Yes sir, I am angry. I have every right to be angry.
“Sheriff Epley you can sit in your office and tell me if there was anything to work on Rhonda’s case it would be worked. This is just not the truth. In your next breath you said if the State Bureau of Investigation report was correct now you knew enough to go out and arrest the person responsible for Rhonda’s death. Sheriff Epley you can’t play both sides. Either you have nothing or you have something…
“Sheriff Epley, you gave me a list of hours that you say have been spent on Rhonda’s case. Through my tears I had to laugh and shake my head in disbelief. Sheriff Epley you know that these hours worked have been greatly exaggerated by someone….
“Sheriff Epley while you were in our home you asked me a question; I could not answer it then because I needed time to think. You asked if I really believed John McDevitt would work this case if he were Sheriff. Mr. Epley, I think he would! He has never been anything but honest and straight forward with us. I don’t know what he would do, but I certainly would like the chance to see!”
Judy Hinson admitted in a recent follow-up interview with this writer. “I have been wrong before, and boy was I wrong about that one. Truth is that Richard Epley did about as good a job as anybody else. But we believed that John was going to really work to solve Rhonda’s case—that’s what he promised he would do. But it didn’t take Bobby and me long to realize that he wasn’t going to do what he said he would. He is a politician.”
Recalling their most recent interaction with Mr. McDevitt at a local Morganton restaurant during the Fall of 2019, Judy provided a ‘case-in-point.’ “When we saw him at AJ’s, Bobby was talking to him about the weapon used to fire the bullet that killed Rhonda. He [McDevitt] said, ‘Well they tell me it was a high-powered rifle.’ He was sheriff for a long time and had worked Rhonda’s case from the beginning—why would THEY [Ms. Hinson’s spoken emphasis] have to tell him anything?”
As frustration with law enforcement continued to mount and still desperate for answers, Judy and Bobby Hinson commenced scouting around for “fresh eyes” to look at their daughter’s stalemated case. So, in 2002—during the McDevitt administration—they contacted an organization called, The Sexual Homicide Exchange (SHE) and a criminal profiler named Pat Brown.
Primaries see Misty Smithey keep Register of Deeds seat, and Kennedy, Walker and Caudill win school board election, Shumate takes Judge’s seat.
By JERRY LANKFORD
In the Register of Deeds Republican Primary, incumbent Misty Smithey took a handy victory over her opponent, Wilkes Commissioner Brian Minton.
On Tuesday, March 3, Smithy received 6,687 votes for 61.66 percent. Minton had 4,159 votes for 39.34 percent.
During a Tuesday night interview, Smithey said, “It’s a win for all of us. We have all worked hard and we all won. Experience, honesty and integrity matter.”
The primary decided the winner of the post because no Democrat filed to run for the office.
In the non-partisan election for the Wilkes County Board of Education, former board member and Wilkes Community College instructor Hardin Kennedy was the top voter getter.
There were three open seats with Kirk Walker being the only incumbent in the five candidate race. Walker brought in the second most votes, followed by political newcomer Joan Caudill.
Kennedy had 8,853 votes for 25.42 percent, Walker 8,315 votes for 23.88 percent and Caudill 7,174 votes for 20.60 percent.
About the outcome, Kennedy said, “I’m feeling pretty good about it. Everybody worked hard. “I’m humbled by the support. I think it sent a strong message throughout Wilkes County that all students deserve a chance to succeed in life and in their education. I give all the glory to the Good Lord. He made all this happen.”
Walker said, “I want to congratulate Hardin Kennedy and Joan Caudill. I look forward to working with them. I want to thank the people in Wilkes County and look forward to working for the students in Wilkes County.”
This will be Walkers’ fourth four-year term. He, Kennedy and Caudill will be sworn in during the June meeting.
Caudill said, “I’m just blessed. Surprised and blessed. I thank the Good Lord. I can campaign but he’s the one who did it.”
Rounding out the polling in the race were Brandon Whitaker with 6,636 votes for 19.06 percent, and George Shafer with 3,633 votes for 10.43 percent.
In the Republican Primary in the race for Wilkes County Commissioner, incumbent Eddie Settle collected the most votes in the eight-candidate race for three seats.
Newcomer Casey Joe Johnson came in second and incumbent Keith Elmore third. The top three candidates will serve four year terms on the county board.
Settle received 5,771 votes for 19.52 percent, Johnson 5,449 votes for 18.43 percent, and Elmore 4,436 votes for 15 percent.
Others in the race included Bill Sexton with 4,226 votes for 14.29 percent, Ralph Broyhill 3,677 votes for 12.44 percent, Dale Pierce 2,494 votes for 8.44 percent, Rachel Carr Jarvis 1,886 votes for 6.38 percent, and Miranda Gray Pruitt 1,628 votes for 5.51 percent.
Settle, Johnson and Elmore will face Democrats David Watkins and Chalma Wynola Hunt in the November election.
In the race for the seat to be vacated by retiring 23rd Judicial District Judge Jeannie Houston, Attorney Donna Shumate of Sparta took the victory in a nail-bitter of a race against Assistant District Attorney Matthew Leach.
There was less than a 2 percent difference in the voting tallies in the district which serves Wilkes, Ashe, Alleghany and Yadkin counties. Shumate collected 10,926 votes, while Leach brought in 10,541 votes.
Leach, of Wilkesboro, published on his Facebook Page entitled Matthew Leach for District Court Judge, the following statement:
“Hello, friends! We fought the good fight but came up just a bit short in the end... I wish to extend my sincerest congratulations to my opponent Donna Shumate. I am confident she will serve Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes, & Yadkin Counties with distinction. Well done on your hard fought campaign, Judge-elect!”
Wilkes Prison Ministry helps foster spiritual hope in inmates
Daniel Cox received a 70-84 month sentence for opiate related drug offenses in 2013.
Three years into his sentence, he was transferred to Wilkes Correctional Center.
According to the Mount Airy man, he was at a very low point in his life and things looked hopeless. One night he wandered into a chapel service, organized by Wilkes Prison Ministry and heard a sermon from volunteer Rev. Joe Hendricks and, according to Cox, his life began to change.
A few weeks later he attended another service, this one led by Rev. Craig Church and, although Cox doesn’t remember the specific sermon he knew that he wanted to change his life. Since that time his life has been totally different. He said that he started seeing things from a more positive perspective, learned to accept things easier and learned to make goals and stick to pursuing them.
Since then Cox has graduated from the Project Reentry and Chaplain’s Reentry programs. He served as the Chaplain’s Assistant and graduated with his GED in 2016. He was assigned to Work Release and worked at Tyson’s for six months before moving to Gardner Glass, where he has now worked for two years.
Cox also attended the Fathers’ Accountability classes. He has continued to grow spiritually and now attends Bibleway Baptist Church regularly with a community volunteer. In 2018, Cox was one of 10 offenders who helped the prison ministry with their booth at Faithfest.
Relations with his Mother, who has always been supportive, have also matured since they both share a faith which has been Cox’s focus while changing his life for the better.
One of the best parts of his new life is his ability to advise his son, who is now 21, from a Christian perspective.
Cox said, “I thank God for putting Wilkes Prison Ministry in my path. The chaplains, committee members and volunteers have been real examples of Christian living for me to follow. I am living proof that God still changes men and that He is using Wilkes Prison Ministry. I’m one of many who have been blessed by this ministry.”
Cox was released on Sept. 26, 2019, and remains at Gardner Glass. Since there, he has learned much about the glass business and hopes to be with them for a long time. Cox mentioned their Christian atmosphere as one of the biggest reasons he likes it so much there.
Rev. Larry Ford, who serves as the Wilkes Correctional Center chaplain, said, “Daniel is an excellent example of how dozens of offenders at this facility have been positively influenced and affected by the Wilkes Prison Ministry. It is thrilling to see the changes he has made in his life and the influence he is having on others.”
As chaplain, Ford coordinates all many services at the local prison and relies heavily on over 100 volunteers. For information about volunteering, contact him at 336 667-4533.
Wilkes Prison Ministry is funded by donations from local churches, individuals and the United Way. No state funds are used for the religious services.
The Influence of Black Churches
By KEN WELBORN
Over 20 churches were recognized this past Sunday afternoon at the Rickard's Chapel AME Zion Church on Old US 421 in Wilkesboro.
This service was a continuation of the Wilkes County Local Black Pioneers series began at Rickard's Chapel in 2010, this year entitled "The Influence of the Black Church." The church sanctuary had dozens of photographs on display from past events, and, this year as each church was recognized, a large photograph of the church was placed on an easel and a representative of the church could come forward and receive a commemorative statuette of the event as a biography of their church was read to the congregation gathered.
An excerpt from the introduction in the printed program for the event reads: "In the pulpit and the pews, in choir lofts and Sunday Schools, the Black church continues to offer affirmation and dignity to people still searching for equality and justice, still willing to reach out for a more inclusive, embracing tomorrow. Rickard's Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, under the leadership of our pastor, Rev. Richard Watts, celebrates the contributions of the Black church as the foundation of our daily living. Our churches have, and continue to provide to the heritage and culture of education, faith and religion in our daily living in the communities of Wilkes County. The churches are the center of the lives of Black people. As the song says, ‘We have come this far by faith.'"
Pictured above at Sunday's recognition of Black Churches in Wilkes, is Nikki Morgan, representing New Direction Ministries Church which is located on Statesville Road on North Wilkesboro, and which is pastored by her grandfather, Bishop George Morgan.
Primaries, Board of Education election are March 3,
Several of Wilkes County’s political races will be determined on Tuesday, March 3.
Then, Wilkes Register of Deeds incumbent Misty Smithey will face Wilkes Commissioner Brian Minton in the Republican primary.
Since there is no Democrat running in November, the winner of the primary wins the race. If Minton wins and resigns from his post on the Wilkes County Board of Commissioners, the remaining board members will choose a replacement from his party.
Two Republican candidates are seeking the seat that will be left vacant at the expiration of Jeanie Houston’s District Court judgeship. Houston chose not to run for reelection.
The candidates are Assistant District Attorney Matthew Leach of Wilkesboro and Attorney Donna Shumate of Sparta. The seat is for District Court Judge for the 23rd Judicial District, which includes Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes, and Yadkin counties.
Five candidates are running for three seats on the Wilkes County Board of Education.
Of the five candidates, Kirk Walker is the lone incumbent. School Board members Darren Shumate and Leslie Barnes did not file to run for reelection.
Walker will face former board member Hardin Kennedy III along with Joan Caudill, George Shafer and Brandon Whitaker.
The non-partisan election will be held on Tuesday, March 3.
In the Republican primary for Wilkes County Board of Commissioners, two incumbents and six challengers are going after three available seats.
Commissioner Gary D. Blevins is not running for re-election.
Incumbents Keith Elmore and Eddie Settle will face Ralph Broyhill, Rachel Carr Jarvis, Casey Joe Johnson, Dale Pierce, Miranda Pruitt and William G. Sexton in the March 3 GOP primary.
Two Democrat candidates - Chalma W. Hunt and David Watkins - have filed, but will not be on the ballot until the Nov. 3 general elections.
The polls are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
The killing of Rhonda Hinson Part 46
Rhonda Hinson’s Datsun as it was discovered on the morning of her death on Dec. 23, 1981.
Editor’s note: This is a continuation of a series about the Dec. 23, 1981, unsolved murder of Rhonda Hinson.
By LARRY J. GRIFFIN
Special Investigative Reporter
For The Record
With the recent case of Baby Michael solved using forensic genealogy and all the publicity—maybe this could be an option for the DNA found under the arms [of Rhonda Hinson’s sweater].—Comment offered by a respondent to the Remembering Rhonda Hinson Facebook page.
In 1984—approximately three-years after the killing of Ronda Hinson—Alec Jeffreys and his associates at the University of Leicester in England discovered that each person’s DNA varies, rendering every individual on the planet unique. Moreover, they found that specific areas of the long human DNA molecule exhibit a characteristic that they labeled as polymorphism—meaning that the molecule can assume many different forms.
Subsequent to that revelation, Jeffreys developed an efficacious process by which these areas of human DNA could be both identified and analyzed—a procedure that he named DNA fingerprinting or, as it is most commonly known, DNA typing. It was also during the same year that DNA typing was utilized to implicate Colin Pitchfork in the brutal rape and murder of two teenage girls in the rural English hamlet of Narborough. A DNA match was confirmed, eliciting a confession from Pitchfork. It was, incidentally, the first time in which mass DA screening was used to solve a crime.
Prior to this advancement, the only failsafe method for making positive identification of suspected perpetrators was fingerprinting. To date, it remains an extremely powerful forensic tool, with this caveat—fingerprints are not always found at a crime scene because criminals have discovered gloves and the necessity of wiping prints from objects touched during the commission of crimes.
As previously reported in an earlier installment, fingerprints were found on the driver’s side window of the 1981 Datsun 210 on the day of the killing of Rhonda Hinson—Wednesday, Dec. 23, 1981. According to an SBI document detailing the nascent investigation:
“One (1) area of fingerprints was noted on the window and (2) lifts were made from this area. The rest of the door on the driver’s side was fingerprinted without results. The door on the passenger’s side was not fingerprinted, as it had been exposed to the weather on the outside and had been locked at the original crime scene.
However, in a report written by Detective Gene Franklin on Feb. 10, 1995—over 13-years subsequent to the murder—he noted that a substantial amount of evidence had been lost or destroyed, among which were the negatives of the crime scene photos and the, “...fingerprints taken from the door and windows ….”
“We were given a couple of explanations by law enforcement as to what happened to the fingerprints,” Judy Hinson explained in a recent follow-up interview. “One was that a person at the SBI Lab in Swannanoa was responsible for corrupting the fingerprints. We were told that he had attempted to enlarge the prints and messed them up during the process. So, we contacted this man in Swannanoa to ask what happened. He told us that the story we were told was not accurate, that he did not mess-up the prints, and that he would be willing to come to Burke County to quickly straighten things out.”
There is no indication that the fingerprints-of-interest lifted from Rhonda Hinson’s Datsun were ever matched to any individual/individuals present at the crime scene the early morning of Dec. 23, 1981.
Even though his/her fingerprints may be absent or may have been assiduously wiped clean, it is still virtually impossible for even the most fastidious perpetrator to remove every biological indication of her/his presence from the site of a crime. DNA fingerprinting provides an investigator or criminologist with an effective tool for utilizing the most infinitesimal amount of genetic material to identify those individuals who were at the scene of a crime.
DNA can be found in almost every cell in the human body—skin, hair follicles, semen, saliva, and blood are frequent sources of DNA collected at a crime scene. But DNA can be left behind by simply touching something or someone at the site. Touch DNA, as it is commonly known, can provide a complete profile of the perpetrator by using just a single skin cell from her/his finger pads.
It was during the John McDevitt administration, in 2007, that Captain Becky Weatherman of the Burke County Sheriff’s Department and SBI Special Agent Marc Sharpe submitted Rhonda Hinson’s sweater to the SBI Lab to ascertain the presence of DNA on the fabric. The test results indicated that DNA—not belonging to the descendant—was found in both armpit areas, likely the “signature” of the person who removed her from her automobile. Suddenly, “new life was breathed” into what had become a moribund, stagnant 26-year-old investigation.
But the question remained, whose DNA was it—the shooter who, for whatever rhyme and reason, pulled Rhonda from the driver’s seat of the Datsun before fleeing the crime scene or one of the young men who discovered her Datsun backed into a ditch on the west side of Eldred Street and, according to witnesses passing by the crime scene, removed her from the vehicle?
According to a Friday Dec. 23, 2011, article about the discovery of the sweater DNA, written by Matthew Hensley for the Morganton News Herald, a DNA profile was obtained and logged into state and national DNA databases. “…And the sheriff’s office is just waiting for someone to enter a match,” Mr. Hensley reported. “New DNA samples are entered into these databases daily, including samples from every person in North Carolina charged with a felony and many convicts, and Weatherman is hopeful this is how investigators will crack the case.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) oversees DNA databases referred to as Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National DNA Index System (NDIS). These are repositories of DNA fingerprints gleaned from felons and from biological fluids obtained from crime scenes, such as assaults, homicides, and rapes.
Though DNA profiles can be compared through referencing these sources, there does remain a couple of challenges: First, as late as 2019, the databases are still not being systematically used by every state and jurisdiction across the nation. Second, the databanks only contain DNA from those who have been implicated in the commission of crimes. Unless a person-of-interest has a profile previously indexed in the databases, it would be impossible for an investigator to obtain a match for a DNA sample extracted from a crime scene.
Unquestionably, there are instances in which the evidence uncovered during an investigation points to a specific suspect who has never been involved with the jurisprudence system; therefore his/her personal data would not appear in anyone’s records. However, investigators have avenues available to them through which the DNA of a person-of-interest could be collected.
According to sources, it is legal for law enforcement to request that a person submit a sample of her/his DNA. In doing so, it is incumbent upon the officer to inform him/her that it is voluntary and carries with it no legal obligation to provide one—in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
Another option is to obtain a probable cause warrant compelling a person to provide a DNA sample. Probable cause can be established if an investigator has reason to believe that an individual is somehow connected to a crime or crime scene. In many cases, strong circumstantial or indirect evidence has provided ample justification for the successful attainment of a probable cause warrant.
When asked if they believe that enough substantive circumstantial evidence exists to merit a probable cause warrant to collect DNA samples from any person-of-interest connected to the case, Ms. Hinson replied simply yet emphatically, “Yes we do!”
Additionally, if evidence is deemed insufficient to obtain a probable cause warrant, law enforcement has the option of resorting to familial DNA testing—asking a family member of a person-of-interest to submit a DNA sample. Humans share much of the same DNA; however, the minor variations, which differentiate individuals, can express themselves across close family members.
According to Dr. D.P. Lyle, in his book, Forensic for Dummies, brothers, sisters, parents, and children share more DNA than nonrelated individuals. While the DNA of relatives is not similar enough for true DNA matching, it is close enough to suggest a connection and to provide ample bases for obtaining a probable cause warrant.
“To our knowledge,” Judy Hinson averred, “there has only been one attempt to match DNA gleaned from Rhonda’s sweater to anyone. We were told by Marc Sharpe [SBI] that after Bryan Lowman died, his wife gave Marc her husband’s toothbrush to use to get a DNA sample and make a possible match.” Judy said that they never heard back from anyone about the outcome of any attempted match, and can only assume that nothing of consequence resulted.
[NOTE: Mr. Lowman had been a person-of-interest to investigators, at one juncture, but was never connected to the killing of Rhonda Hinson, despite some rumors to the contrary. Marc Sharpe was contacted earlier relative to discussing the Hinson case with this writer—especially the efficacy of polygraph testing—but said he preferred not to comment, even though he is no longer actively connected to the investigation.]
As of this installment and according to the extant information available, there is no indication that any sustained effort has been made to actively seek and obtain—through request or warrant—DNA samples from the principals connected to the investigation into the killing of Rhonda Hinson. Rather it appears that the Burke County Sheriff’s Department continues to wait for someone to enter a match in the state and national DNA databases against which they can compare the DNA profile of the sample lifted from the sweater of the 19-year-old who has been dead for over 38-years.
Upon reading last week’s installment of The Killing of Rhonda Hinson, a number of respondents expressed dismay at having to wait a week to learn the identity of the person whose DNA was recovered from Rhonda Hinson’s sweater. One frustrated reader wrote, “I hate waiting another week, left hanging in mid air [Sic] stranded. I wish these articles were not left hanging…just like a movie that does not complete the scene…you are left waiting until a sequel is written and movie made….” A couple other respondents offered similar observations.
Understandably, it is disconcerting and exasperating to be “left hanging” with no answers visible upon the immediate horizon. However, one equally frustrated friend and follower of the Remembering Rhonda Hinson Facebook page proffered a different perspective in response to the former complaint:
Imagine waiting each week for 38 years. Left hanging with no answers. We are only getting a glimpse of what the Hinsons have been through! And Rhonda was THEIR daughter.
So whose DNA was collected from the blood-soaked sweater of Rhonda Annette Hinson? That is—and has been—a question best addressed to the Burke County Sheriff’s Department.
Wilkes Register of Deeds Misty Smithey to face Brian Minton in primary
Incumbent Wilkes Register of Deeds Misty Smithey will face Wilkes County Commissioner Brian Minton in the March 3 Republican primary.
Since no Democrat has filed to run for the office, the contest will be decided during the primary.
If Minton wins the primary and leaves the Wilkes County Board of Commissioners, it will be left up to the remainder of the board to choose a replacement from the same political party, according to Wilkes Board of Elections officials.
The Record recently sent questionnaires to the candidates. Below are their responses.
Why are you seeking office? “I am seeking office again because Wilkes County’s citizens deserve a Register of Deeds who is EXPERIENCED and has hands-on knowledge of every aspect within the office. I am seeking re-election because the citizens need a Register of Deeds who is COMMITTED to staying in office as Register of Deeds, as long as the voters keep electing them in. I am seeking office again because I love serving and representing the citizens of Wilkes County and I consider it an honor to be the elected Custodian, Safekeeper and Preserver of Wilkes County records. These records, documents and data are the history of our lives.”
What do you feel are your qualifications? “Foremost, 15 years of working at the Register of Deeds makes me the most qualified candidate. I know the office up one side, down the other, in and out. I have obtained my Register of Deeds certification and recently attended the Elected Registers of Deeds school at the UNC School of Government. It was an in-depth study of my duties, and of the statutes and laws that govern my office. I am on the N.C. Association of Register of Deeds Vital Records committee and serve on the Special Recognitions Committee. The staff and I have brought the office into the 21st century, modernizing it, safely and securely. We have implemented modern technology in ways that make us competitive with every county in North Carolina.”
What are your immediate plans in office if re-elected? “Having 12 years of experience when I first took office allowed me to hit the ground running with things that needed to be done. No training required. I have worked hard and put in a lot of hours updating, cleaning, organizing, setting and reaching goals to bring the office forward. The staff and I have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. My plans, when re-elected, are to continue the work of safekeeping and preserving our historical records, staying on top of technology, modernizing for the future, in the most safe, secure and cost effective way, always striving to make Wilkes County Register of Deeds office the best in the state.”
Why are you seeking office? “While working at Lowe’s (23 years), I also, trained and became a North Carolina licensed Real Estate Broker-in-Charge. My real estate involvement has allowed me to work with, and in Register of Deeds Offices east to Guilford County, south to Mecklenburg County and counties in between. I know from experience that the Wilkes County Register of Deeds Office is operating at least a decade or two behind. Did you know that Wilkes County was the last county to put deeds online? Using my experience with IT platforms and programming, I can bring our Register of Deeds Office into the 21st century.”
What do you feel are your qualifications? “During my time at Lowe’s, I worked in various departments ranging from Credit and Logistics to Information Technology. Supervising other employees taught me the importance of strong work ethics. The same was true when working as the Manager of The Goodwill Store. Strong work ethics from top management down determines success or failure. This strong work ethic is what I will bring to the Office of Register of Deeds. As a County Commissioner, I fully understand the operations of County Government and the need for the various departments to work within their set budgets. I understand the correlation between court records and the records in the Register of Deeds Office, and, the importance of accuracy and timely recording. Confidential personal information is private and should be safe guarded under any circumstance.
What are your immediate plans in office if elected? “We need to explore different digital computing platforms and select the best to bring The Wilkes County Register of Deeds Office into the 21st Century while being efficient, effective and user- friendly. Also, I will remove the added fee currently charged for online access because taxpayers purchased and pay to maintain the system.”