Local

Theft of $3 watermelon could mean jail

The theft of a $3 watermelon could mean jail time for a Chowan County board of commissioners candidate.

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported Tuesday that 53-year-old Dana Soles was charged with felony larceny of ungathered crops after admitting he plucked the watermelon from a farmer's field. Soles is running for the Chowan County Board of Commissioners.

Soles said he was delivering groceries Aug. 21 to the family of an unemployed former colleague. He said he took the watermelon after hearing the field would soon be tilled, and later admitted the theft to a sheriff's deputy.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Johnson said he wasn't familiar with the case, but said the offense has been on the books since 1811. It carries a maximum sentence of 30 months in prison. Associated Press

Regional briefs

Union County Stalllings

Stallings police officers soon will be carrying Taser guns.

The Stallings Town Council approved a strict Taser use policy by a 5-1 vote Monday, allowing the police department to train officers and issue them Tasers.

Police Chief Larke Plyler said the department has bought 10 Tasers, and Sgt. Heath Cranford is being trained as a Taser instructor. He will train the rest of the Stallings officers.

Council member Wyatt Dunn voted against the Taser policy, although he added restrictions to it. Dunn has said Stallings is safe and officers don't need Tasers.

All on-duty police officers could be carrying Tasers by mid-October, Plyler has said. Marty Minchin

Wake County Garner

A state Highway Patrol trooper injured in an accident with a garbage truck has died.

Officials said Trooper A.J. Stocks, 43, may have been headed to an accident when his car collided with the truck just after 1:30 p.m. in Garner, south of Raleigh. The cruiser was struck on the driver's side door.

Stocks was taken to WakeMed's Raleigh Campus, where he was pronounced dead just before 5 p.m.

Highway Patrol spokeswoman Julia Jarema said a reconstruction team was trying to determine what caused the accident.

Stocks, who joined the Highway Patrol in 2004, is the 60th trooper to die in the line of duty since the patrol was formed in 1929. Stocks leaves his wife and one child. associated press

York County, S.C. Fort Mill

A 17-year-old driver from Fort Mill was killed late Monday night in a single-vehicle wreck, the S.C. Highway Patrol reported.

The wreck happened about 10 p.m. on Williams Road, about a half-mile east of Fort Mill. Troopers said the driver was northbound on Williams Road when he apparently lost control, went off the road, and hit a power pole.

The victim, identified as Travis Nell, was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle.

The Rock Hill Herald reported that a passenger was taken by helicopter to Carolinas Medical Center. Patrol Lance Cpl. Jeff Gaskin said speed was considered to be a factor.

The collision knocked down power lines, and more than 1,000 Duke Energy customers lost power. Service was restored in a few hours. Steve Lyttle

Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a record $181million federal grant to study health, poverty and gender programs across the world.

Awarded to the university's Carolina Population Center, the U.S. Agency for International Development grant is the largest ever received. Up to $181 million will be granted to the center's MEASURE Evaluation project, which monitors and evaluates international programs focused on family planning, maternal and child health, nutrition and HIV/AIDS. (Raleigh) News & Observer

8th District Race

Republican U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes released an ad Tuesday criticizing his Democratic opponent, Larry Kissell, for not supporting plans to open North Carolina's coast to oil and natural gas drilling.

In the ad, the five-term GOP incumbent says the country must do “everything possible” to lower oil prices by developing alternative energy sources and permitting exploration and drilling off the coast.

But Kissell's campaign called the ad misleading because the Democratic candidate does support drilling in some coastal waters, but not North Carolina's, spokesman Tom Thacker said. Hayes campaign spokesman Steve Quain said the campaign plans to spend $75,000 this week in air time.

Two years ago, Kissell narrowly lost his bid to unseat Hayes. Associated Press

Police digest

Burke County Morganton

A 16-year-old Morganton boy is dead after he raced away from a driver's license checkpoint, lost control of his vehicle and crashed.

Shortly after 11:30 p.m. Sunday, a teen driving a Ford minivan ran a checkpoint that Morganton police were operating on Independence Boulevard near Freedom High School, N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Phillips said.

Officers tried to get the driver to stop, but he continued, Phillips said. Maj. Billy Bradshaw with the Morganton Department of Public Safety said the minivan nearly hit one of the officers who was trying to flag him down.

An officer in a police cruiser tried to catch up to the minivan, Bradshaw said, but wasn't able to do so before the vehicle crashed off nearby N.C. 126. The minivan reached speeds greater than 80 mph before the crash, he said.

Phillips said the driver lost control in a curve, ran off the left side of the road, hit a fire hydrant, rolled and hit two trees and an embankment before coming to rest.

Mark Evan Skarpalezos, 16, of Morganton was pronounced dead at the scene.

Skarpalezos had a learner's permit, but the permit had been suspended, the trooper said. The boy had taken the minivan without his parents' permission, Phillips said.

Standard toxicology tests were done. Results will take about a month, Phillips said. Hannah Mitchell

Cabarrus County Mount Pleasant

Although a preliminary autopsy on 5-year-old Phillip Alexander Lee has been completed, investigators with the Cabarrus County Sheriff's office said Tuesday they still don't know how the boy died.

Phillip died Sept. 1 near his mother, at their home outside Mount Pleasant. Robin Lee, 45, was taken to Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast, where she was treated for several days before being released. The autopsy and investigators ruled out carbon monoxide, said Chief Deputy Paul Hunt.

“The preliminary autopsy was unable to determine the cause of death,” Hunt said. “The autopsy probably could have showed if there were high levels of carbon monoxide … We're still kind of puzzled.”

The boy's mother has talked with investigators but it's still not clear what happened, Hunt said. He said the boy had no serious underlying medical conditions.

Phillip's 13-year-old brother called 911 when he found his brother and mother unresponsive at their home.

Hunt said there was no indication of foul play, but also said nothing had been ruled out. The case has been turned over to the N.C. Medical Examiner's Office in Chapel Hill and it may take up to two months to get toxicology test results back, Hunt said.

Investigators also are waiting for the results of medical tests on Robin Lee. During a search of the house, investigators did remove some prescription medications, but “there was nothing illegal,” Hunt said. Gail Smith-Arrants

Concord

An 85-year-old Concord man died Tuesday when his car was hit by a tractor-trailer at the U.S. 601 Bypass at Woodland Drive.

Lee Jerome Foster Jr. was killed when the tractor-trailer operated by Mariusz Feliks Siwiec, 51, of Ontario, Canada, ran the red light, Concord Police said. The truck struck the passenger side of Foster's 2001 Jeep Cherokee as he was crossing the intersection to Troutman's Bar-B-Q Restaurant to meet a friend for lunch.

Concord Police charged Siwiec, who was not injured, with misdemeanor death by vehicle. Gail Smith-Arrants

Colleton County, S.C. Walterboro

Solicitor Duffie Stone says a judge has denied bond for two men charged in the shotgun slaying of a sheriff's deputy.

Eighteen-year-old Jacoby Jermaine Fields of Walterboro and 19-year-old Travis Javon Harris of Smoaks appeared before Circuit Judge Ferrell Cothran on Tuesday morning.

They are charged in the death of 39-year-old Colleton County Deputy Dennis Compton. He was fatally shot after responding to a burglary alarm Aug. 6 at a home near Smoaks.

Stone said the men also face three burglary counts, one stemming from an earlier burglary in which the shotgun used in the slaying was stolen. Associated Press

Onslow County Jacksonville

A former police chief faces a murder charge in the 1972 shooting death of a Marine.

The Daily News of Jacksonville reports the Onslow County Sheriff's Office charged 57-year-old George Hayden with killing Marine Sgt. William Miller. Hayden, who was police chief in Cape Carteret and Belhaven, was arrested Monday night.

Miller was found shot to death on Sept. 16, 1972, after returning from a deployment. Investigative reports say that Hayden had moved into Miller's mobile home and that Hayden later left with Miller's wife. The sheriff's office said a cold case report in the newspaper inspired a witness to come forward. Associated Press

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