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State plan to cut wellness incentives

The state employee health insurance plan is eliminating a wellness incentives program in part to cut costs – because the plan is struggling financially.

The N.C. State Health Plan announced Thursday it's discontinuing the “Blue Points” program at the end of the month. Blue Points allows members who are physically active or participate in wellness activities to earn points they can use toward prizes.

Health plan officials say fewer than 10,000 of the plan's 650,000 members participate in the plan. Eliminating it will save the plan $1 million.

The plan is tightening its belt after legislators said its finances fell $115 million short of expectations for the fiscal year ending in June.

Plan executive director George Stokes was fired. Associated Press

Regional briefs

Iredell County Mooresville

A Mooresville resident was killed on U.S. 21 Thursday morning when a car and a tractor-trailer collided.

Authorities said Ines Beatriz Garcia Rolzan died after her car was struck at 10 a.m. A police report said she had attempted a left turn from Abberly Green Boulevard onto U.S.21.

Officials said the driver of the tractor-trailer was taken to Lake Norman Regional Medical Center with minor injuries. The crash is under investigation.

Kevin Cary

South Carolina Columbia

A civil rights organization says it has filed a federal lawsuit against South Carolina, contending the state unfairly limits how candidates are chosen to be on ballots.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Columbia. The organization says the state's so-called sore-loser law is unconstitutional. The law prevents a candidate who loses a primary election from appearing on a ballot as the candidate of a different political party.

The ACLU filed its lawsuit on behalf of a voter, the Green Party and a one-time state House candidate.

Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire says the law protects a party's selection process.

Associated Press

Florence

The state Supreme Court has tossed out Florence Mayor Frank Willis' appeal of his one-vote loss in June's Democratic primary. After hearing about the ruling Thursday, Willis told the Morning News of Florence, “It's over.”

Willis lost by one vote in the June 10 primary to attorney Stephen Wukela. A recount found the same total, and the Democratic Party denied Willis' appeal, prompting him to take his case to the courts.

Willis argued voters were confused because municipal elections took place the same day as the state primaries. He says several people who lived in the city weren't allowed to vote, while some voters outside city limits did get to cast ballots.

No Republicans have filed for the seat.

Associated Press

Police digest

Cabarrus County Kannapolis

Kannapolis Police said Thursday they were still searching for the suspect in a double homicide Saturday. They were looking for Joaquin Alvarez Rios, 35, of 702 W. 8th St., Kannapolis. He is wanted in the shooting death of his wife, Lorena Manzanares Soto, 27, and an acquaintance, Javier Jiminez Mendez, 24, of 2210-B Brookside Drive, Kannapolis.

Three children in the house may have witnessed the shootings, police said.

The slayings in Kannapolis are not connected to a Sunday shooting involving a Charlotte-Mecklenburg officer, as officials had speculated, police said.

Anyone with information about Rios is asked to call Kannapolis police at 704-920-4000 anytime or 704-920-4001 on weekdays.

Gail Smith-Arrants

Iredell County Statesville

Authorities are looking for a man who robbed a Statesville bank Thursday morning and walked away with an undisclosed amount of money.

The robbery was reported shortly after 10 a.m. at the Citizens South Bank, in the 300 block of North Center Street. Police say a man demanded money from a teller, although he never showed a weapon.

After receiving money, the suspect escaped on foot. Police describe the suspect as a white male, about 6 feet tall and 170 pounds.

Witnesses say the suspect seemed to have a mustache or goatee and was wearing tan pants, a tan shirt, and a blue baseball cap. Anyone with information is asked to call 800-209-2293.

Steve Lyttle

Lincoln County

An eastern Lincoln County man was charged with mistreating and abusing dogs, authorities said Thursday.

Terrance Lee Vanepps Jr., 32, was charged with 10 counts of cruelty to animals, 12 counts of failing to have animals vaccinated for rabies and one count of failing to bury a dead animal, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office. He was being held in the Harven A. Crouse Detention Center under a $5,000 secured bond.

Authorities said a civil officer went to serve an eviction notice on Vanepps and, in the backyard outside the apartment, found a dead dog that was decomposing, and nine malnourished dogs.

Inside the apartment were two more dogs and two pups, along with large snakes, lizards and ferrets, authorities said. All the pets inside were in good condition and had food and water, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The outside dogs did not have food or potable water and were in poor condition, authorities said.

The owner signed cards donating the animals to Lincoln County Animal Services, authorities said. A veterinarian has been called in to evaluate the condition of the dogs. Authorities said the snakes, ferrets and lizards will be returned to the pet shop where they were purchased.

Joe DePriest

Union County, S.C. Union

Union police think someone intentionally set a fire in an elevator at an apartment building for low-income elderly residents.

Authorities told WSPA-TV that no one was injured and about 50 people were evacuated from the Pinckney Place Apartments after the fire started around 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

Officials struggled to get some residents out of the building with the elevator not working.

Investigators think the fire was arson and are now reviewing previous fires in a garbage chute and a couch that were initially believed to be accidental.

Associated Press

Mecklenburg County Charlotte

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are investigating the death of a man who was found in his east Charlotte home Thursday after he didn't show up for work.

The man, whose name and age was not released, lived in the 3500 block of Burner Drive. Officers who went to check on him found his body inside about 11:30 a.m.

It's unknown how the man died. Police have said only that he suffered “severe trauma.”

Investigators are trying to reach his family.

Anyone with information should call 704-432-TIPS to speak with a homicide detective.

Victoria Cherrie

New Hanover County Wilmington

The manhunt for a suspect charged with killing his ex-girlfriend, a New Hanover County detention officer, ended abruptly Thursday when he committed suicide in a nearby county.

New Hanover sheriff's officials said Anthony Antwand Bowen, 30, shot himself with a handgun shortly after 4:30 p.m. Thursday after police tracked him to a wooded area of southwest Onslow County.

Authorities had charged Bowen with first-degree murder in the death of Tarica Ann Pulliam, 27, who had worked for the Sheriff's Office for two years and leaves behind a 7-year-old daughter.

Sheriff's Office spokesman 1st Sgt. Tim Fuss said investigators believed Bowen approached Pulliam shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday morning as she was leaving home for work, shot her several times and then fled. She died later that morning at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Through the Sheriff's Office, Pulliam's family declined to comment.

Associated Press
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