UNC Charlotte student wins $1 million

A UNC Charlotte freshman from Newton won $1 million in a scratch-off lottery ticket game over the Labor Day weekend.

Mary Baker had decided to buy a “$130 Million Blockbuster” ticket from a vending machine at a North Tryon Street grocery store, according to a news release from the N.C. Education Lottery office. She asked a friend who was with her whether she should buy two tickets or one. The friend advised her to buy two, and that's what she did, according to the release.

The second ticket turned out to be the winner for Baker, who will get $50,000 a year before taxes for the next 19 years. The lottery office said she plans to spend her first check on college expenses. Baker is studying to become a nurse.

Hannah Mitchell

A Charlotte man died Monday after his vehicle collided with a truck at the intersection of Seventh Street and Hawthorne Lane.

Curtis Gillens, 44, was driving a Chevrolet pickup northeast on Hawthorne about 8:15 p.m. Sunday when he collided with the 2008 International cargo truck, police said.

The truck, driven by Roy Carter, 45, was traveling northwest on Seventh Street toward uptown when the accident happened. Witnesses told police Gillens ran the stop light for Hawthorne Lane. He was taken to Carolinas Medical Center and died from his injuries early Monday morning, police said. Victoria Cherrie

Traffic deaths are up 8% in N.C.

AAA Carolinas reports that traffic deaths in North Carolina went up nearly 8 percent last year after significant jumps in motorcycle and drunken driving deaths.

The group's analysis also blames the increase on a lack of state law enforcement personnel.

Statistics show the number of motorcycle deaths increased 37percent, from 138 in 2006 to 189 in 2007. Traffic deaths involving alcohol were up 25 percent, from 390 in 2006 to 489 last year.

Overall, nearly 1,700 people died in traffic accidents in North Carolina last year, 121 more than in 2006. Associated Press

Regional briefs

Burke County


A Morganton man died in a single-vehicle crash that apparently happened Sunday but wasn't discovered until Monday morning.

The N.C. Highway Patrol has identified the victim as Brandon Keith Lane, 28. His body was found inside his 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe, which was discovered about 11:30 a.m. Monday on the side of Interstate 40 in Burke County.

Troopers say Lane's SUV apparently went off the road and then struck a guardrail before flipping and rolling down a 70-foot embankment.

According to the Morganton News-Herald, family members reported Lane missing Sunday morning, after he did not return from a trip to Hickory. The newspaper reported that family members searched along I-40 and discovered the wreckage. Staff Reports

N.C. Lottery


The N.C. Supreme Court must now decide whether state lawmakers violated the state constitution when they approved the state lottery in 2005.

Justices heard oral arguments Monday in a lawsuit filed by the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law.

Attorney Bob Orr told justices that a lottery ticket contains an inherent tax and must be approved like a state tax as required by the constitution. He said the bill should have been voted on twice by the House and Senate on two different days because lottery proceeds generate money for public education.

State attorney Norma Harrell argued that the lottery commission is merely a vendor and that buying a ticket is voluntary. Associated Press

N.C. Mountains

Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park say visits at its main entrances are down 5 percent so far this year, largely because of gas prices that spiked during the season.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported Monday the park had 4.9 million visitors through July. Blue Ridge Parkway tourism is down 5.4 percent to 9.3 million visitors.

Businesses that rely on tourism also are seeing declines. The newspaper said the Maggie Valley Inn and Conference Center had only 18 reservations before the Labor Day weekend. During the holiday, the inn had 60 of its 102 rooms booked and most were from walk-in customers.

Visitation hit 10 million in 2000, when tourists generated $650 million for businesses in the region. It was the most-visited national park in the country. Associated Press

Police digest

Mecklenburg County


One suspect was in custody, and police were looking for another man in connection with the armed robbery of a pizza restaurant this morning in west Charlotte.

The robbery happened shortly after 10 a.m. at the Papa John's restaurant in the 6400 block of Freedom Drive.

According to police, two men robbed the store at gunpoint. Police called in their helicopter and dog search units and set up a perimeter in the area near the crime. Shortly before 1 p.m., police found one suspect in a wooded area nearby. The other suspect remained at large. Steve Lyttle

Police say a 17-year-old student was robbed Monday morning while waiting for a school bus in north Charlotte.

The robbery happened shortly before 6:30 a.m. in the 1700 block of Venturay Way Drive.

Police say the student was standing at the bus stop when a man walked up and started a conversation. Moments later, two other men walked up behind the victim. One of those men pointed a handgun at the student, and the three suspects robbed him of money and personal belongings.

The three suspects ran off, toward the Hidden Valley community. Steve Lyttle

A man who may have been caught in a burglary shot at a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer overnight and escaped after a pursuit.

The officer was not hit by the gunfire, and authorities were looking for the suspect Monday.

Police say it began shortly before 1a.m. at the Church's Chicken restaurant in the 1700 block of West Trade Street, near Bruns Avenue.

According to police, Detective Scott Shipman spotted a man leaving the building through a broken plate glass window in the front of the restaurant. Shipman, a member of the Firearms Enforcement Unit, began following the suspect, who was driving a dark gray Dodge Charger. Shipman also called for backup help from Metro Division officers who patrol that part of the city.

A few blocks away, in the 300 block of State Street, the suspect stopped his vehicle, got out and fired several shots at Shipman, who avoided being hit.

Police say the suspect then got back in his car and drove off. Metro officers spotted the vehicle soon afterward and began a chase, but they say the man got away.

The suspect is described as a black male with long braids. He was wearing a blue T-shirt and dark shorts. The Dodge Charger had 30-day tags.

If you have information in the case, you can speak to a detective by calling 704-432-TIPS, or you can leave information with Crime Stoppers, 704-334-1600. Steve Lyttle

DWI campaign

A two-week campaign by the N.C. Highway Patrol and local police departments resulted in 2,821 DWI arrests in North Carolina, authorities said last week.

The “Booze it and Lose It” campaign ran from Aug. 15-Sept. 1 in all of North Carolina's 100 counties, and Mecklenburg County had the second-highest number of arrests for drunken driving. Mecklenburg, however, had fewer than half the arrests of the No. 1 county – Wake.

Lyndo Tippett, the state's transportation secretary, said police made 242 DWI arrests in Wake County and 108 in Mecklenburg. Third and fourth were major metropolitan counties – Guilford (105) and New Hanover (101).

In all, police issued more than 100,000 traffic and criminal citations during the effort. That included 26,911 for speeding, another 1,950 for drug charges, and more than 1,300 for child-passenger seat safety violations. Associated Press

S.C. Death penalty case


The S.C. Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's decision to throw out a death sentence against a man convicted of raping, torturing and killing a 72-year-old Aiken County woman 16 years ago.

The justices ruled 4-1 on Monday that 42-year-old Donney Council's lawyer should have done more than simply have Council's mother testify during the sentencing phase of his trial.

Council's current attorneys say his father was a violent alcoholic, that he suffered two head injuries as a child and that extensive mental illness was in his family.

Authorities say Council raped Elizabeth Gatti in her home, then forced her to ingest cleaning fluids before killing her in October 1992. Council's conviction still stands.

The state's Attorney General's office says it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling. Associated Press