Latest News

Brother, sister die in house fire

Cleveland County


A brother and sister died early Thursday when fire destroyed the Cleveland County farmhouse where they had grown up.

Authorities say Jerry Cook, 65, and Evelyn Bluff, 68, died in a fire that was reported about 2:30 a.m. at a house on Ken McEntire Road near Polkville.

Cook was owner of Cook and Bridges Dairy Farm, according to WCNC, the Observer's news partner.

Three fire departments battled the blaze, bringing it under control in about an hour.

Fire officials said Thursday afternoon that the blaze apparently was accidental, and they are looking at an electrical problem as the possible cause. Steve Lyttle

Water suppliers lag on drought plans

State officials have ordered 55 municipal water systems, including several in the Charlotte region, to enact water conservation measures after they ran afoul of a new state drought-response law.

The law, enacted this summer, gives the state authority to review and approve water-shortage response plans that water systems were told to file by July 1.

By today, 34 systems had still failed to file the plans, the N.C. Division of Water Resources said. Among those in the Charlotte region: Salisbury, Troutman, McAdenville, Claremont, East Spencer, Grover, Icard and Rhodhiss.

Systems without plans have to use state-written water conservation measures when they're affected by extreme or exceptional drought, as most are in the Charlotte region. Bruce Henderson

Meck briefs


Parking rates at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport will increase next month for remote and long-term parking.

Starting Sept. 15, cost for the remote lots increase to $1 an hour, with a maximum of $6 a day. That's up from $3 for 24 hours. Long-term parking increases to $4 for 24 hours, up from $3.

Officials said the rate increase is to regulate demand. The current price of the remote lot is unbalanced in comparison with the price of the long-term lots.

Cost for the other lots remains the same. Clay Barbour

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is hosting a series of community meetings in each of its 13 patrol divisions, the next three beginning early next month.

The meetings are designed to give residents in each division the chance to meet Chief Rodney Monroe, hear details of the department's reorganization plan and ask questions.

The next three meetings take place:

Sept. 2 at Independence High School on Patriot Drive.

Sept. 9 at Trinity United Methodist Church on Beatties Ford Road.

Sept 16 at Martin Luther King Jr. on Bilmark Ave.

All meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Clay Barbour

Regional briefs

Craven County

James City

The collapse of a 100-foot railroad bridge has disrupted train service between New Bern and the port at Morehead City, a route that includes Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point Marine bases.

The Daily News of Jacksonville reported that Susan Clizbe, communications manager for the State Ports Authority, said that while trains are neither leaving nor entering the port, there is nothing that urgently needs to get out.

Susan Terpay of Norfolk Southern says the bridge fell Sunday morning shortly after a Norfolk-Southern locomotive pulling 13 freight cars passed over it. No one was hurt.

Kat Christian, N.C. Railroad public affairs director, said repairs should be complete by today. Associated Press

Wake County


Progress Energy says its Shearon Harris nuclear plant has resumed generating electricity after a 10-day outage to repair malfunctions.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that operators took the plant in southwestern Wake County out of operation Aug. 11 to replace a rubber gasket.

To replace the gasket, workers had to climb inside the turbine housing and build a scaffold to reach the affected area.

When restarting the nuclear reactor this week, operators discovered a problem affecting equipment that controls the nuclear reaction.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees nuclear safety, said neither malfunction posed a safety risk to the public.

With Shearon Harris down, Progress Energy had to obtain electricity from less efficient power plants and from other power companies. Associated Press

Police digest

Caldwell County


Authorities in Caldwell County are looking for a 21-year-old mother who hasn't been seen since leaving work Wednesday night.

The Caldwell County Sheriff's Office says Amber Clarke Pennell, who has two children, was last seen Wednesday night when she left work at a Lenoir restaurant and headed home to the Buffalo Cove area of Caldwell County. Her husband reported her missing about 2 a.m. Thursday. Police concentrated search efforts Thursday on and near U.S. 321, which Pennell typically uses to drive home.

Police say Pennell was driving a white 1994 Toyota pickup truck with N.C. license tag GBAYCAM. She is described as a white female, 5 feet 1 and 120 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. She was wearing blue jeans, a blue blouse with a floral design, and white tennis shoes. She has a tattoo on her left foot with the words “Gracelyn and Cameron.”

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Caldwell County sheriff's office, at 828-758-2324. Steve Lyttle

Gaston County


Gaston County police say a series of Internet threats against a high school are being treated seriously. Police say someone claiming to be a rising senior at Ashbrook High has threatened acts of violence Monday, the first day of school.

The threats were posted on an Internet bulletin board site, police say, but other e-mail messages were sent recently to the Gastonia Police Department, the Gaston County Schools, and the Silence Hurts Web site.

“Every lead in this case will be followed up by investigators, and FBI agents and additional security measures will be put in place, based on the findings and outcome of this investigation,” Gaston County police Capt. W.S. Melton Jr. said.

Police say they are working with local and FBI agents on the case. Anyone with information in the case can call CrimeStoppers and leave an anonymous tip, at 704-861-8000. Steve Lyttle

South Carolina

Lancaster County


Authorities were looking Thursday evening for a 25-year-old Lancaster man wanted in connection with a fatal hit-and-run crash Wednesday night near Lancaster. The suspect is identified by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division as Marcevius Deandre Hood.

The S.C. Highway Patrol says a motorcyclist, whose name has not been released, was killed when his vehicle was hit from behind about 7:30 p.m. in the eastbound lane of Chesterfield Avenue (S.C. 903), near U.S. 521. Troopers say the driver of the Lincoln that hit the motorcycle got out of the car and ran off. Police searched the area around the U.S. 521-S.C. 903 interchange late Wednesday and Thursday. Steve Lyttle

Richland County


Three S.C. men accused of scamming investors out of millions are facing nearly two dozen new federal charges. A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Joseph Brunson, Tony Pough and Timothy McQueen each on 12 counts of money laundering and 10 counts of transporting checks obtained by fraud.

The men who called themselves the “3 Hebrew Boys” have previously been indicted on 35 counts each of federal mail fraud. Prosecutors say the men lured at least 7,000 investors from two dozen states, taking $80 million along the way. Associated Press