Across the Region

Water-use measure advances in House

RALEIGH A modified proposal from Gov. Mike Easley that gives the state more power to curb water use during droughts is advancing in the House.

The House Environment Committee voted Tuesday to approve the measure.

The bill gives the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the authority to step in when it determines local water systems are not sufficiently reducing water use during shortages.

State law already requires that all municipalities and water systems create their own conservation plans. Associated Press

Regional briefs

Cabarrus County Concord

Concord and Cabarrus County leaders met in private for about 90 minutes Tuesday to work on formalizing their $80 million incentive package for billionaire racetrack owner Bruton Smith.

But Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said more meetings are needed, and he hopes to have a legal agreement to present to Smith by the end of the month. After the city, county and Smith agree on the deal, the two government boards plan to make the details public, hold hearings and vote on the package.

Last fall, Smith threatened to move his Lowe's Motor Speedway out of Concord following a dispute with the city over his plans to build a drag strip there. In exchange for the incentives, Smith agreed to stay, and move forward with the $60 million drag strip and $200 million in track upgrades.

Local leaders were meeting to discuss revenue sources, the structure of the incentives, the projects they would cover and other details. Prior funding talks by local leaders have ranged from seeking legislative approval for a sales tax rate increase to cutting local budgets. Adam Bell

Police digest

Buncombe County Asheville

The man accused of killing a state Highway Patrol trooper during a traffic stop now faces six other charges, including trying to kill a sheriff's detective.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that a grand jury handed up the new indictments on Monday against 37-year-old Edwardo Wong III of Ormond Beach, Fla. Wong initially was charged with first-degree murder in the June 17 death of 24-year-old Trooper David Shawn Blanton Jr.

The new indictments charge Wong with attempted first-degree murder of Haywood County Sheriff's detective Bruce Warren. Wong also faces three counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, possession with the intent to sell marijuana and possession with the intent to sell the psychedelic drug ecstasy.

Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty against Wong, who has a court hearing set for July 25. Associated Press

Union County Monroe

Two more men have entered pleas in connection with the fatal beating of a Marshville man in September 2006 by an angry mob.

Rodney Leon Belk, 18, of Marshville, pleaded guilty to assault inflicting serious bodily injury in the death of Tony Lorin Blakeney.

Shaun Danelle Burns, 30, of Peachland, entered an Alford plea to aiding and abetting assault inflicting serious bodily injury. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but is treated as if he had entered a guilty plea.

Prosecutors dropped first-degree murder charges against Belk and Burns in exchange for the pleas. In the pleas entered last week, both men were sentenced to supervised probation. If convicted of another crime, Belk would receive at least four years on the assault charge and Burns would receive at least 15 months in prison.

Investigators have called Blakeney's death a mob's act of misplaced revenge. Eleven men were searching for their missing relative and friend, Patrick Antwone McClendon. They turned on Blakeney, one of the search party's members, when they found McClendon's car near his home. Police said Blakeney was innocent. Another man, Leonard Lomart Staton, 18, of Monroe, tipped off police to his involvement in McClendon's murder. In June, Staton pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Elisabeth Arriero

A Union County man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a beating death connected to drugs and money, according to court documents.

Haywood Lenoir Taylor, 42, pleaded late last week in the April 2006 beating of Bulmaro Neri Chepetla. Taylor told police that the two men had smoked crack with a woman. He said Chepetla took Taylor's and the woman's money and left to buy more drugs. But when Chepetla returned, he didn't have the drugs or the money. Taylor then beat Chepetla and hit him in the head with a beer bottle, killing him, according to court documents.

As part of his plea agreement, Taylor's charge was reduced from first-degree to second-degree murder. He faces a sentence of 16 to 20 years. Elisabeth Arriero

Florence County, S.C. Florence

A federal judge has delayed the trial of an S.C. teen accused of plotting to blow up his high school, according to court documents.

Jury selection in Ryan Schallenberger's case had been scheduled to begin next week. But on Monday, U.S. District Judge Bryan Harwell granted a request by Schallenberger's attorneys to give them more time to prepare for the 18-year-old's trial on federal explosives charges.

The straight-A student was arrested April 19 after police say his parents picked up a package addressed to him containing 20 pounds of ammonium nitrate. Police said a search of his home found other materials needed to make several bombs and a cassette tape Schallenberger wanted played after death in an assault planned on Chesterfield High School.

Authorities also found a journal in which Schallenberger praised the Columbine High School killers in Colorado. A judge is considering a request by Schallenberger's attorneys to seal the journal, which authorities say also contains notes the teen made about explosives he had evaluated.

Schallenberger pleaded not guilty last week to receiving an explosive, attempting to destroy property by explosive and possessing an unregistered destructive device. If convicted on all charges, he would face a maximum of 40 years in prison.

Associated Press