Man shot in the neck inside home

Union County


A Stallings man was hospitalized after being shot in the neck inside his home Monday night, police said.

Steve Wayne Hargett, 45, was found with a single gunshot in the neck in the den-kitchen area of his home on Lake Drive in the Fairfield Plantation subdivision off Stevens Mill Road, Stallings police Chief Larke Plyler said. No suspects have been identified.

The shooting was reported around 9:30 p.m. Monday. Hargett's wife and daughter were home but were asleep in their bedrooms, Plyler said.

There were no signs of forced entry or a struggle. Police are pursuing leads and trying to determine a motive in the shooting. Hargett was sent to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. He was in stable condition Tuesday, Plyler said.

Neighbors told police they saw a dark-colored, late-model, full-size Chevrolet pickup truck leaving with its headlights off.

Police are asking anyone with information to call the Stallings Police Department at 704-821-0301 or Union County Crime Stoppers at 704-283-5600.

Mike Torralba

Growers predict abundant apples

Remember last fall, when early spring freeze and summer drought stripped fall fruit trees?

This year is looking very different, says Dave Butler, owner of Skytop Orchard near Hendersonville.

Skytop is a popular destination for people heading to the mountains and Butler says this year, they'll have more reasons to stop.

“There wasn't much up here last year,” he said. “But this year, it looks really promising.”

Some apples will be smaller, thanks to a dry summer that has left lakes and streams very low in the mountains. But that actually may make the fruit better, he says. When the fruit is smaller, it concentrates the fruit sugar and starches.

Butler says Labor Day visitors will find Honeycrisp, Gala and McIntosh apples ready to pick, with Jonathans coming in about Sept. 10. He still has freestone peaches through Labor Day as well.

For details, directions and hours for apple farms, you have several sources. You can go to www.skytoporchard.com, or go to www.ncapples.com for apple farms in the Henderson County area. Or go to www.charlotteobserver.com/food for a database of pick-your-own farms, including fall crops such as apples and pumpkins.

Kathleen Purvis

Meck briefs


A Charlotte company, its former president and a former employee have been sentenced in federal court for Clean Water Act violations.

Ecosolve LLC is paid by restaurants and food outlets to clean out grease traps, pretreat the waste and dispose of it. Instead, prosecutors say, the company trained drivers to dump the grease back into the traps or into the sewer system.

Ecosolve was ordered Monday to pay $160,000 in fines and serve three years' probation, to include allowing government inspection of its records and equipment without notice, operating under a supervised plan and self-reporting further violations.

The company's former president, Ralph Rogers, will serve three years' probation, including 12 months of home confinement, and pay $7,200 in fines. Thomas Forebush, a former employee, was ordered to serve 12 months and one day in jail.

Four other company officials – Leanne Ingram, Tara Presson, James Branham and Whit Gibson – were earlier ordered to serve probationary terms and pay fines.

Bruce Henderson


Matthews commissioners have placed a 60-day moratorium on enforcement of the two-hour parking rule for 65 public parking places along North Trade Street and East Charles Street.

The moratorium resulted from complaints from several business owners who said their businesses were being hurt.

Town manager Hazen Blodgett says the two-hour ordinance has been in place for years but regularly enforced only for the past 30 days.

He says that enforcement was a result of complaints by other downtown merchants who claimed commuters riding the CATS buses parked all day in prime spots taking up spaces needed by customers frequenting local businesses.

As more and more folks chose to ride CATS, the problem increased.

Melinda Johnston

Regional briefs

Cabarrus County


More than 20 people have already signed up to speak at the Cabarrus County school board's public hearing on 2009-10 student reassignments.

The hearing will start about 6 p.m. Thursday at the county Education Center, 4401 Old Airport Road.

Under one proposal, some students from Northwest Cabarrus and Robinson high schools would be reassigned to the new Cox Mill High School. The other plan involves shifting a portion of the Central Cabarrus attendance area to Mount Pleasant High.

Seniors in 2009-10 will be grandfathered and remain at their current schools. The board will discuss the reassignment plans and reach a decision at a future meeting.

Copies of the plans and maps are posted at www.cabarrus.k12.nc.us. Those who wish to speak should call Ailene Monroe at 704-262-6238, or register from 5-6 p.m. before the meeting starts.

Gail Smith-Arrants


A New Mexico respiratory research organization has agreed to join the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, campus officials said Tuesday night.

Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute is one of several private companies that are coming to the $1.5 billion biotech hub created by billionaire Dole Food owner David Murdock. He is developing it in collaboration with several N.C. universities, and several of its first buildings will be opening soon.

In Kannapolis, Lovelace will work on improving human health through research on the risk, cost and progression of respiratory and related diseases and pharmaceutical treatment. Lovelace plans to open its center in October. It is a private, nonprofit research group with an annual budget of $65 million.

Adam Bell

Gaston County


Gaston Memorial Hospital will remain independently owned and not merge or affiliate with two of the region's major health care systems, officials said Tuesday.

Hospital Board Chairman Robert Blalock said the board voted Monday against possible affiliations with Carolinas Healthcare System and Novant Health. Blalock said Gaston Memorial already collaborates with Carolinas Healthcare and Novant

Owned by Gaston County and operated by CaroMont Health, Gaston Memorial employs about 3,000 people. Blalock said it's the largest independent hospital in the state.

Joe DePriest

Lincoln County


More than 100 cats and dogs and other animals, many described as in unhealthy condition and malnourished, were being removed from a residence in the Denver area during “Operation Noah's Ark,” Lincoln County authorities said Tuesday.

In a sheriff's office news release, animal services director Jack Kerley said a search warrant to remove the animals was served on Vicki Rauch at 3454 Petite Lane. The animals, which included horses, a llama, birds and guinea pigs, will be moved to a central location where they will be examined and placed in proper care. A veterinarian will check them later this week, authorities said.

Animal services officers and Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies were helped by Lincoln County Emergency Management, the fire marshal's office, East Lincoln and Denver Fire Departments, the American Humane Society, N.C. Department of Agriculture, Lincoln County EMS, East Lincoln and Lincoln Rescue and volunteers from animal rights organizations.

Joe DePriest

N.C. government


Prosecutors say the evidence is clear: Former state Rep. Thomas Wright had something to hide, and did so by failing to respond truthfully to questions from state election officials.

That argument came Tuesday at the end of the Wilmington Democrat's trial on a charge of obstruction of justice. Jurors adjourned without a decision and will resume deliberations today.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Wright hid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, money he used to supplement his income as a lawmaker. Wright attorney Douglas Harris argued prosecutors had trumped up charges against his client. Wright is serving a six- to eight-year prison term after being convicted on four fraud counts in April.

Associated Press

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