Across the Region |

Ailing femaleinmate dies

A 66-year-old female inmate died Sunday morning at the Mecklenburg County Jail apparently of natural causes, officials said. A medical examiner will determine today whether an autopsy will be performed.

Beverly Craft of Indian Trail was alert and communicating with staff at breakfast time Sunday, which usually ends by 6 a.m. An employee doing a routine check found her unresponsive in bed about 7 a.m., said Sheriff's Capt. Mike Smith.

Craft, who was arrested in March, had been living in the jail's medical housing unit – an area like an infirmary that has holding cells with medical beds and other equipment needed for sick inmates. It's unclear how long she'd been there, but Smith said she was being closely monitored.

Based on her medical history, authorities suspect she died of natural causes, he said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, who were called to the jail just before 8, are investigating the death. Craft's body was at the medical examiner's office today. Officials will decide today whether an autopsy is needed, a spokesman for the medical examiner's office told the Observer.

Jail records show Craft had numerous charges, including three counts of false pretense, and one count each of misdemeanor larceny and uttering a forged instrument.

Victoria Cherrie and April Bethea

Regional briefs

Gaston County

Three small towns in eastern Gaston County are looking at a joint venture for treating wastewater that could save taxpayers money and help the environment.

Leaders in Cramerton, Lowell and McAdenville will meet Tuesday to hear details of a $150,000 feasibility study.

Gaston County commissioners have been invited, and the meeting is open to the public.

Instead of each town owning separate sewer plants, all of which discharge into the South Fork River, the operations would be combined at Cramerton's plant.

The facility off Eagle Road recently had $5.3 million in upgrades and can treat up to 4 million gallons of wastewater daily. Currently, Cramerton treats about 600,000 gallons a day.

Joe DePriest

Iredell County Statesville

The new owner-publisher of The County News, a newspaper serving Iredell County's AfricanAmerican community, expanded into Mecklenburg and other counties last week and changed from a biweekly tabloid to a weekly broadsheet.

New owner Fran Farrer is the former advertising and marketing director of The Charlotte Post.

Her former boss at The Post, the late Bill Johnson, helped start what was then called the Iredell County Post in 1980, at the urging of local businessman Mason McCullough, who was publisher until last week.

“What's so important and exciting about this venture is that (Johnson) had a vision and saw a need in Iredell County in April of 1980,” Farrer said in a news release. “I, too, see the need, and I have the energy and determination to make The County News a valuable servant of the underserved people of our enlarged circulation area.”

Sale terms weren't disclosed. McCullough said he will remain at the paper to help with the transition.

Joe Marusak

Union County Indian Trail

Indian Trail is joining Stallings to support an N.C. Department of Transportation study of the Chestnut Connector.

The connector would link Old Monroe Road and U.S. 74. It also would run parallel to Indian Trail and Stallings roads, the main streets through the respective towns.

In July, the Indian Trail Town Council balked at an idea by Barry Moose, an N.C. DOT district engineer, to take $17million slated for widening Stallings and Indian Trail roads and apply that money to the Chestnut Connector project.

The town has since learned that supporting Moose's idea does not mean Indian Trail will give up the money for widening Indian Trail Road.

Council members agreed 4-0 to notify the N.C. DOT by letter of its support for the study.

Marty Minchin

Moore County Robbins

Firefighters from five counties responded to a fire at an abandoned textile plant in Moore County that John Edwards used as a backdrop to announce his first presidential bid in 2003.

WTVD reported that the plant was vacant at the time of Sunday morning's fire. The television station quoted officials as saying the former Milliken plant was equipped with sprinklers, but they apparently didn't work. Nearly 20 fire departments responded to the blaze, which was reported at 9:56 a.m.

No homes were affected, but an evacuation order was in effect for some homes in a three-block radius around the plant.. Associated Press

Police digest

Cabarrus County Concord

Concord police are awaiting autopsy results before referring the death of 52-year-old James Nathaniel Mills to the Cabarrus County district attorney, Chief Merl Hamilton said Sunday.

It's unknown whether charges will be filed. Mills died Saturday after an altercation outside a home at 299 Odell Drive. Police declined to give details about the fight and wouldn't release the name of the other man involved other than the two knew each other, Hamilton said.

He couldn't elaborate on Mills' injuries, but said the victim was not shot or stabbed. Investigators spent Saturday interviewing people who saw the fight and called 911 about 3:15 p.m.

Victoria Cherrie

Iredell County Mooresville

Mooresville police are investigating a weekend shooting behind Big Daddy's Lake Norman Restaurant and Oyster Bar. They have not released the victim's name or age but said the man was taken to Lake Norman Regional Medical Center and had surgery. His condition was not available Sunday.

The shooting happened just after midnight Saturday at 1162 River Highway near one of three commercial rental properties behind the restaurant, said owner Freddie Lancaster. The restaurant had closed. Investigators could not be reached on Sunday and 911 operators told the Observer there was no new information to release.

Victoria Cherrie

Rowan County China Grove

A 3-year-old boy was found safe in McDowell County after police say he was abducted by his mother. On Thursday, Edwin Bender brought his son, Dakota, from West Virginia to North Carolina so his mother could see him.

They met Kesha Bender at an auto sales shop in China Grove and while Edwin Bender was inside, the boy's mother sped off with the child, authorities said.

On Saturday, someone reported seeing the woman and child, who were later found in a home in McDowell County, authorities said.

Kesha Bender, 22, was taken to the Rowan County Jail. Deputies on Sunday could not provide information about charges.

Victoria Cherrie

Lancaster County, S.C.

A building supply warehouse was destroyed by fire apparently after being struck by lightning during an early morning storm, officials told NewsChannel36, the Observer's news partner.

The fire started about 8:15 a.m. at Dave Lyle's Building Supply off Riverside Drive, the station reported.

The warehouse was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived.

Firefighters from four different departments helped extinguish the fire, which took several hours to get under control, authorities said. The National Weather Service reported five lightning strikes in the area of the warehouse around the time the fire started, the station reported.

The 6,000-square-foot warehouse contained building materials such as wood, plywood and other combustible products worth several hundred thousand dollars.

Victoria Cherrie and NewsChannel36.