Across the Region |

Legislature funds exams for victims of sexual assault

Victims of sexual violence in North Carolina will no longer be forced to pay for the forensic exams needed to help capture their attackers.

The N.C. General Assembly approved more than $1 million this summer to revamp a program designed to help cover the cost of rape kit exams for uninsured victims. The exams are used to collect bodily evidence of an attacker and are standard in the prosecution of sex crimes.

Now, hospitals will settle directly with the state, sparing victims of sexual assault the aggravation and trauma of receiving a bill.

The News & Observer reported in February that the vast majority of the estimated 3,000 patients examined for rape in N.C. hospitals last year were shouldering a portion of the bill. Legislators promised swift action, saying it wasn't fair for rape victims to have to pay for the state to prosecute sex offenders.

“It seemed inhumane to not take care of this,” said state Rep. Alice Bordsen, a Democrat from Alamance County and one of the sponsors of the legislation.

The increased funding comforted victims who, for years, had to settle these costs on their own.

“The bills just throw the attack up in your face over and over again and make it that much harder for the wounds to heal,” said a 36-year-old Wake County woman who was raped in 2006. Aside from the forensic exam, the program also will pay for the victim's initial visits to a mental health care provider.

Associated Press

Regional briefs

Orange County Chapel Hill

An N.C. high school football player died after practice and officials are investigating whether he was dehydrated.

Seventeen-year-old Atlas Fraley of Chapel Hill High School died Tuesday.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Tom Clark said Wednesday evening he was investigating whether dehydration caused Fraley's death. The newspaper said Fraley's coach initially thought he died from an asthma attack.

David Finley said his son had followed a strict hydration routine after collapsing at practice last year. But he said Tuesday's early morning scrimmage didn't allow his son to follow the routine of Gatorade and water he drank before the usual evening practice sessions.

His parents found him unresponsive Tuesday evening when they returned home.

Associated Press

Lenoir County Kinston

A 68-year-old woman who used a wheelchair died when fire engulfed her home in Kinston.

When firefighters reached the home Wednesday night, they found Christine Powell unconscious on the floor near her wheelchair.

Emergency personnel immediately performed CPR and transported Powell to Lenoir Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Woody Spencer of Kinston Public Safety said the cause of death was smoke inhalation.

Spencer said the furniture in Powell's home had been lowered to make sure she could move from her wheelchair to the furniture. But a lowered love seat was resting on top of an electrical cord, which caused the cord to fray, spark and ignite the fire.

Associated Press

Cabarrus County Concord

Cabarrus County and Concord leaders met again Thursday to try to finalize details of an $80 million incentives package for billionaire Lowe's Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith, but were unable to finish their work.

Government leaders are just making their way through the fine print, Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said, and no one issue is holding up the deal. Another closed-door meeting, the fourth, has not been set.

Smith had threatened to move the speedway last year after a dispute with Concord over his planned drag strip. He later agreed to stay, build the drag strip and proceed with $200million in speedway upgrades in exchange for the incentives, which mainly involve road improvements.

After the city and county agree on the wording, the plan heads to Smith, then to the two government boards for public hearings and approval. Leaders have not said how they intend to pay for the plan.

Adam Bell

Cleveland County Shelby

Jeff Ledford has been appointed new chief of the Shelby Police Department.

He has served as interim chief since April, when Tandy Carter left to become police chief in Columbia. Ledford, 40, is a graduate of Kings Mountain High School, Cleveland Community College and Columbia Southern University.

The Shelby Police Department has 87 employees, including 72 sworn officers and 16 civilians.

Ledford, who joined the department in 1992, will be sworn in Monday following the Shelby City Council meeting. Joe DePriest

South Carolina

Horry County

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach's city leaders want to put an end to motorcycle rallies.

The city council has been given 33 pages of options to curtail the rallies.

The council raised property taxes to pay for studies on getting rid of the 10-day Harley-Davidson spring rally in the middle of May, which attracts mostly white bikers. They also want to get rid of the five-day Atlantic Beach Bikefest around Memorial Day, which attracts black bikers.

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reports one option given the council Tuesday was to create infractions, rather than crimes, for some problems bikers cause.

Councilman Randal Wallace says he's worried about creating an administrative court that could accept hearsay testimony.

Several council members worry about the possibility of closing bars at 2 a.m. and imposing a youth curfew in the tourist city.

Associated Press

Police digest

Cabarrus County Concord

Concord police are asking for the public's help in identifying the man who they say sexually assaulted an 8-year-old boy Sunday inside a bathroom at a Wal-Mart store.

Wal-Mart officials supplied Concord police with video-surveillance camera coverage of the incident, which happened about 7:15 p.m. Sunday at the store in the Northlite Shopping Center, on Dale Earnhardt Boulevard.

Police say the boy was in a bathroom stall when an adult man crawled under the door and touched the youth inappropriately. The child was not injured physically, police say.

Police say video coverage shows two men arriving in a purple Honda Odyssey van. The suspect was accompanied by another man, police say.

After entering the store, the suspect went to the restroom, while the other man began shopping. The other man, who was wearing a flowered shirt, is not believed to have been involved in the bathroom incident.

The suspect is described as a white man, 40 to 45 years old, who is between 5 feet 10 and 6 feet tall. The man weighs between 220 and 240 pounds and was wearing a burgundy knit shirt, black dress pants, tan shoes, and a black baseball cap with a white Celtic cross symbol on the front of the cap.

Police are asking that anyone who recognizes the suspect or has information in the case call CrimeStoppers, 704-932-7463 (704-93CRIME) or contact the Concord Police Department, 704-920-5000.

Steve Lyttle

Spartanburg County


A Spartanburg mother has been charged with child neglect after police say she locked her two small children in an SUV for hours while she had sex for money.

Jail records showed Thursday that Maribel Lazaro Lopez is free on a $5,000 bond. She was arrested Tuesday after witnesses reported seeing the 2-year-old and 4-year-old in a locked sport utility vehicle.

The children have been placed in emergency protective custody.

A police report says deputies saw the 26-year-old Lopez and an 18-year-old woman coming out of an apartment building. Lopez told police she and the other woman were in an apartment performing sex acts for money.

Associated Press

Wake County Raleigh

A man shot and wounded by Raleigh police during a confrontation last week has died.

Renford Butler, 34, died Wednesday evening at WakeMed hospital, police spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

Butler was shot twice Aug. 7 by an officer after Butler apparently carjacked a Durham taxi and led police on a chase that ended in downtown Raleigh, police said.

Butler crashed the taxi and emerged with a straight razor, according to police. The report says Butler ignored commands to drop the weapon. An officer tried to tackle Butler from behind and he swung the razor, narrowly missing the officer. Another officer fired twice, striking Butler.

The State Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the shooting.

Associated Press