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Panel: Child death rate higher in 2007

North Carolina's child death rate rose more than 2 percent last year, inching up from a historic low in 2006, mostly because of a rise in infant deaths, according to data released Tuesday.

The 2007 death rate was 75.1 deaths per 100,000 children ages 17 and under, up 2.6 percent from the 73.2 deaths per 100,000 children in 2006, according the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force, a legislative study commission.

The number of infant deaths rose 7 percent in 2007, likely because of an increase in premature births, said Tom Vitaglione, the task force chairman and a senior fellow at the advocacy group Action for Children North Carolina.

Overall, 1,649 child deaths were reported last year.

But the data still reflect a general decline, as the child death rate has fallen by nearly 13 percent in the past decade and 29 percent since the task force was created in 1991, Vitaglione said. Associated Press

Regional briefs

Lawyers hired to defend the city of Durham in lawsuits stemming from the 2006 Duke lacrosse case have charged the city $1.2 million.

Durham has a $5 million coverage limit, after which Durham taxpayers will foot the bill.

The first lawsuit was filed in October 2007 by the three former Duke lacrosse players accused of raping a stripper at a team party in 2006. State prosecutors later declared the men innocent and dropped all charges. Two other groups that include lacrosse players have also sued. Associated Press

Greenville County, S.C. Greenville

One of the S.C. poultry plant workers arrested this summer in an illegal immigration probe has pleaded guilty to lying about his Social Security number.

Court records show Daniel Badillo-Baca pleaded guilty in federal court in Greenville on Monday to using a fake Social Security number in his employment paperwork at N.C.-based House of Raeford Farms.

Last month, seven former workers pleaded guilty to identity theft and admitted they used fake identities.

The Charlotte Observer reported in February that plant managers knew some workers were in the U.S. illegally. The trial of a human resources manager accused in the case has been delayed. Associated Press

Federal regulatory judges have rejected a request from an environmental group that objects to Duke Energy's plan for two nuclear reactors in northern South Carolina.

The Greenville (S.C.) News reported Tuesday that Atomic Safety and Licensing Board judges ruled against 11 of the group's objections about the reactors near Gaffney.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League questioned the impact of the plants on water supplies, global warming and other issues.

The judges said the group failed to submit appropriate issues.

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League science director Louis Zeller says the group is considering appealing to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Associated Press

Wake County Raleigh

An advocacy group for disabled people asked a judge Tuesday to prevent patients at Dorothea Dix Hospital from being moved to a new mental hospital in Granville County, saying state regulators haven't followed what the legislature required before the transfer.

Disability Rights North Carolina and three Dix patients sued in Wake County Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order blocking the scheduled Oct. 1 move of the first patients, executive director Vicki Smith said. No date has been set for a hearing.

The group, which receives federal funds and is obligated to monitor mental hospitals and take legal action to address problems, said Central Regional Hospital in Butner remains unsafe for the 170 patients slated to move from Dix by Oct. 8.

Patients and staff at Central hospital “have experienced technological and operational breakdowns that result in the denial of a safe and therapeutic environment for the patients,” the lawsuit reads. Associated Press

Police digest

Mecklenburg County Charlotte

Two alleged MS-13 members have been charged with gang-related murders – including one in Charlotte – months after they and 24 others were arrested in a federal crackdown this summer.

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the case of Elvin Pastor Fernandez-Gradis, who is charged with the death of Ulises Mayo, a 17-year-old who was shot to death on Belton Street in Charlotte on April 12. In a release, prosecutors said the death was related to gang racketeering activity. Prosecutors will also seek capital punishment for Alejandro Enrique Ramirez Umana, who is charged with killing two brothers in Greensboro on Dec. 8.

In all, the indictment now charges the 26 alleged gang members with 70 different charges, from using a firearm while committing a violent crime to murder. Prosecutors said the suspects in the killings apparently received help from other MS-13 members to elude police. Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

A man suspected in a shooting last week that injured two people has turned himself in to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.

Christopher Rush, 35, surrendered Monday and was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.

The shooting happened at about 9:45p.m. on Sept. 15 at the Delta Crossing Apartment Complex off W.T. Harris Boulevard.

Eric Dewayne Linton and Felicia Prescott were in a car; Linton was shot in the pelvis and an arm, and Prescott was struck by shattered glass when the car was fired upon. Witnesses told police that Linton and Prescott were leaving the complex after an argument with Rush, who lives there. After the shooting, officers set up a perimeter around Rush's apartment building but couldn't find him. Greg Lacour

Robeson County Lumberton

A 12-year-old boy was recovering from a shotgun wound he sustained from a booby trap in an unoccupied house, authorities said.

Robeson County Sheriff Ken Sealey said Josh Harold Locklear of Lumberton was shot in the side Sunday after he and a friend entered the house through an open window. The boy was wounded when he saw a box on the floor and tried to lift it.

Sealey said Locklear was in stable condition after surgery at Southeastern Regional Medical Center.

More devices were discovered in the house after police were called, but there was no sign of illegal activity in the building. Associated Press

Rowan County

Rowan-Salisbury schools in the western part of Rowan County were on lockdown Tuesday after a nearby fatal shooting.

The shooting happened at about 10:48 a.m. on Mount Tabor Church Road. Shortly after that, sheriff's deputies found a man dead at the scene.

Witnesses described the suspect as Latino with a small goatee, wearing a red shirt and blue jeans. The armed man fled in a vehicle, which was found abandoned near the crime scene, the Rowan County Sheriff's Office said.

Anyone with information should call the sheriff's office at 704-216-8700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245.

Gail Smith-Arrants
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