Across the Region |

Lack of rain may mean smaller apples this year

Some Western North Carolina apple growers are concerned the drought will result in smaller fruit in this year's crop.

The lack of rain has resulted in smaller apple sizes in the 6,146 acres of apple orchards in Henderson County, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported Friday.

Processors and growers want fruit that are at least 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

“This year you're probably looking at 70 to 80 percent of them that are going to be that size, at least 2 1/2 inches,” said Adam Pryor, president of the Blue Ridge Apple Growers Association.

“If we get a little bit of water in the next week or so, that could change. There's still time for them to put some size on.”

Pryor's family orchard in Edneyville has about 100 acres of apple trees.

Associated Press

Regional briefs

Polk County Saluda

A firefighter with the state forest service fell at least 50 feet to his death from a waterfall near Saluda.

Curtis Jessen, the division's assistant district forester in Asheville, suffered critical injuries after falling from the Big Bradley Falls near Saluda on Thursday, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

A statement from the N.C. Division of Forest Resources says medical personnel pronounced Jessen dead a short time later.

The 32-year-old Jessen was from Black Mountain. He was working on a fire when he fell from a cliff.

State and local firefighters responded Wednesday night to a wildfire that burned overnight in the wilderness area northeast of Saluda. A division spokesman said Jessen fell while scouting the burned area for flare-ups.

Associated Press

Police digest

Mecklenburg County Charlotte

A man who fired at several officers was shot and wounded in return fire late Thursday night in northwest Charlotte, police said.

Alfonza Edwards, 36, was hospitalized when hit by an officer's gunfire. His wounds are not life-threatening, police say.

According to police reports, the incident happened about 11:10 p.m., when officers went to the 1300 block of Orvis Street, off Oaklawn Avenue between Beatties Ford Road and Interstate 77. The officers had a search warrant to look for drug activity at the residence.

Police say a suspect fired at them as they entered the house. No officers were hit, but police say Officer Joseph Milliken shot back, hitting the suspect in the knee.

Police say a woman in the house also was armed, but she did not fire her weapon.

Milliken is on paid administrative leave, which is typical in cases where police use weapons. Edwards is hospitalized and faces charges, police say.

Edwards has a police record dating back 17 years. It includes charges of assault and drug violations.

Steve Lyttle

Cabarrus County Concord

James Nathaniel Mills' death was an accident, based on results of an autopsy, Concord Police said Friday.

Last Saturday, Concord officers responded to a report of an unresponsive person outside 299 Odell Drive. Mills was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators later learned that Mills, 52, of 220 Lincoln St., had been involved in a dispute with a woman.

Gilbert William Voorheis tried to intervene. Voorheis and Mills started wrestling, and both men fell off a ledge that was about 6 feet high by the road, police said.

Mills died as a result of striking his head on the pavement, according to the autopsy. The medical examiner said the cause of death was a blow to the back of the head during the fall, and there were no other injuries to Mills, police said.

The police and the Cabarrus County District Attorney's Office have ruled the death as accidental and are not filing any criminal charges.

Gail Smith-Arrants

Kevin Trent Morgan of Concord has pleaded guilty to the murder of John Wade Huneycutt in January 2006.

Morgan, who was arrested by Concord police in September 2007, pleaded guilty Thursday in Cabarrus County Superior Court to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years-to-nearly-19 years in state prison. The 25-year-old already was in prison on a nine-year sentence for possessing the victim's pickup truck and being a habitual felon.

Huneycutt, 77, was killed in January 2006 in his home on Park Drive in Concord. He was found on his kitchen floor and died from a blow to the head, according to the state medical examiner.

Concord Police charged Morgan, of Parks Lafferty Road, with first-degree murder.

Lukas Johnson

Durham County Durham

A woman accused of trying to kidnap her virtual ex-boyfriend from Delaware and Pennsylvania has been arrested in Maryland.

Delaware's New Castle County police said 33-year-old Kimberly Jernigan of Durham planned to kidnap the 52-year-old man to start a new life. Police said the two met online, but the man rebuffed her this year after meeting her in person.

The man called 911 on Thursday, saying Jernigan was in his apartment. She fled before police arrived but left behind her dog, handcuffs, duct tape, a Taser and a BB gun.

An hour later, Maryland State Police arrested Jernigan at a rest stop on Interstate 95 in another county.

Police said Jernigan tried to kidnap the man at gunpoint at his Pennsylvania job two weeks ago.

Associated Press

Union County Indian Trail

A man who held Union County sheriff's deputies on a four-hour standoff died Friday from a self-inflicted gunshot.

The standoff began about 5 a.m. Thursday when deputies responded to a domestic dispute at the home on Fincher Road, near Waxhaw-Indian Trail Road.

Deputies found the man, identified as Craig Lynn Gibson, 39, involved in a confrontation with his girlfriend in front of the house. Union County sheriff's officials say Gibson shot Cpl. Todd Braswell in the shoulder with a revolver and then went inside the house.

Deputies say they heard another shot but didn't see the man for several hours.

About 9 a.m., authorities sent a robotic camera inside the house and discovered the suspect on the floor. Gibson was taken to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he died about 4:30 a.m. Friday.

Braswell, who was not gravely injured, was resting Friday and was expected to return to duty Monday, Chief Deputy Ben Bailey said.

Gibson, a registered sex offender in North Carolina, was convicted in 1998 of taking indecent liberties with a child and served 14 months in prison, a criminal-records check found.

Mike Torralba and Steve Lyttle

York County Rock Hill

A 70-year-old man was in custody in connection with a shooting death outside a convenience store Friday on Heckle Boulevard, said Lt. Larry Vaughan of Rock Hill police.

Deloyd Hardy is being held in connection with the death of William Henry Westbrook, 65, who was taken by ambulance to Piedmont Medical Center after being shot once in the chest around 7:25 a.m. Vaughan said Westbrook later died.

“There was an altercation in the parking lot, somebody broke it up,” Vaughan said. “Several minutes later, there was a confrontation between the two, at which time the suspect pulled a high-powered rifle and shot the victim once in the chest.”

No police report documenting the shooting was immediately available.

No motive was immediately available as police continue to probe the incident. Two vehicles were roped off with crime tape as was area around the convenience store.

(Rock Hill) Herald