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Killing of friend led new WCNC anchor on campaign against domestic violence

Sarah French, the new WCNC anchor starting Monday.
Sarah French, the new WCNC anchor starting Monday. mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

Sarah French, the new co-anchor on key evening newscasts on WCNC (Channel 36), says even close friends could be victims of domestic violence and you’d never know.

“You have an idea of what domestic violence is until it reaches you,” she said, reflecting upon the tragedy of a friend and co-worker killed in 2009 in Connecticut.

Alice Morrin, 43, was shot to death by her estranged husband, who then killed himself. Their two daughters were in the house when it happened.

“She was bubbly, happy,” French said. “She never gave a sign.”

Morrin hid in a closet and texted a friend in her final minutes, asking that he call police. She finally called 911 herself, and was discovered by her raging husband.

French said she decided to turn her sorrow over her friend into action. She became an advocate against domestic violence and championed a campaign to make it possible to text 911 to seek help rather than call.

She met with Connecticut lawmakers and telecommunications executives on the issue and now the state is one of a dozen with agencies taking emergency calls by text.

York County launched a similar service this month, saying it can be potentially life-saving for those in situations of domestic violence, home invasions or other situations where the caller needs to remain silent.

French said she plans to continue to serve as an advocate for victims of domestic violence in Charlotte as well.

Cherokee heritage

She starts Monday beside anchor Fred Shropshire on the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. She replaces Beth Troutman, who left the station in January.

French grew up in Hot Springs, Ark., and has Cherokee Indian heritage. She is distantly related, through her great grandmother, to Sequoyah, who developed the Cherokee alphabet in the early 1800s, making it possible for religious works, history books and even newspapers to be printed in the language.

French comes to Charlotte from Boston, where she covered the Boston Marathon bombing, among other stories. It was there she was assigned to cover the centennial year of the Boston Red Sox.

She followed all the players on Twitter, and one sent her a message: “Emmy winner, must be nice,” referring to the award listed on her bio. She was in a restaurant with a friend who worked for ESPN and asked whether she should reply.

Yes, said the friend, and I know just what to say: “World Series winner, must be nice.”

But it turned out there were two Chris Carpenters in the major leagues (they even share the same middle name, John), and this was the other one. This one pitched for the Cubs and Red Sox – his fastball topped out at 102 mph – but he never made it to the series.

They’d connected, though, and now are married and have an 18-month-old daughter. Carpenter is a financial planner for pro athletes and will operate his firm from Charlotte.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007, @WashburnChObs

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