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Johnson & Wales instructor wins national prize

Harry Peemoeller, an associate instructor at Johnson & Wales University's Charlotte campus, managed to bake himself happy this week at the National Bread and Pastry Championship.

Peemoeller and his team partner, sugar expert Sadruddin Abdullah, won the overall first prize, as well as top honors in bread and baguette and the Viennoiserie (Danish) category. The two will split the prize, $10,000.

This was Peemoeller's first major competition, and he says he practiced for 10 to 12 hours every day except Sundays all summer. “Placing first, I didn't dare dream it.”

His partner, Abdullah, is a former JWU instructor. The championship, held Sunday and Monday in Atlantic City, is the only competition that pairs a baker and a pastry chef to showcase both pastry and bread art.

Peemoeller created a bread sculpture of the Greek muse of music that he named Euterpe. Practice sculptures he made over the summer have sometimes been displayed in the window of the baking lab at Johnson & Wales, at the corner of Cedar and West Trade streets.

Kathleen Purvis

Meck briefs

Charlotte

On the day of Kyle Fleischmann's 25th birthday, his parents added $25,000 to the reward for information about the whereabouts of the Elon graduate who went missing last November.

That makes the total reward $50,000 in what has become a nationwide search.

Fleischmann was last seen leaving the Buckhead Saloon at the corner of 5th and College Streets around 2:20 a.m. on Nov. 9.

Anyone with information about his disappearance is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600. Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

Huntersville

Huntersville's controversial Discovery Place Kids project is back on track after town commissioner Charles Jeter said Wednesday that he will vote to proceed.

Town commissioners plan to vote Oct. 6 on whether the town should back out of the $18.7 million project. Two of the five commissioners have said they would back out, and two have said they would keep the project, making Jeter the swing vote.

Jeter recently held a town-hall style meeting on the project and said Wednesday he determined that moving ahead made the most sense.

“I've looked at the exit ramps for this project, and they don't exist without creating more fiscal damage to the town,” Jeter said.

Jeter said the cost to back out would be steep, because it would likely hurt the town's bond rating and could force the town to face legal action.

Dozens of residents came out for the meeting, and most favored the project. Jeter said the e-mails he received were mixed but said he won't change his mind. Kevin Cary

Regional briefs

Catawba County Hickory

Vandals spray-painted graffiti on business buildings and a city-commissioned mural in downtown Hickory Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Police are asking the public for information about who may have committed the vandalism. Investigators were still calculating damage estimates.

They believe that the vandal or vandals hit properties on and around Union Square between 7 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday.

Tags, or markings, were found on the walls of a parking deck and a breezeway off Trade Alley and on businesses on the square. The vandals also painted on portraits of past prominent citizens on a mural finished in 2006.

Anyone with information can call police at 828-328-5551. Hannah Mitchell

N.C. Government Raleigh

The credit shortage is having an impact on the state's monthly debt payment.

Sara Lang, spokeswoman for the State Treasurer's Office, said Wednesday that the variable interest rates on about $855 million in state debt have gone up the last two weeks. Those rates are now up almost five-fold from two weeks ago.

For about $500 million, the rate was 1.68 percent two weeks ago. It went up to 4.57 percent a week ago and to 7.58 percent this week.

For about $355 million, the rate was 1.58 percent two weeks ago. It went up to 4.46 percent a week ago and to 7.49 percent this week.

Lang said the difference in the monthly debt payment will be about $1.4 million more than if the rates had stayed the same. The budget assumes a 4 percent interest rate, she said, blunting any immediate impact on taxpayers.

“We continue to be hopeful that, if a federal solution presents itself, the markets will settle down and these rates will settle down,” Lang said. The $855 million in variable-rate debt is about 12 percent of the state's total debt.

Lang said there has been no impact yet on the sale of any bonds. She said another sale is not expected until the spring. David Ingram

Union County Waxhaw

Waxhaw Mayor Daune Gardner is saying little about her arrest last week on a charge of driving under the influence.

In an e-mail Tuesday to The Observer, Gardner wrote that she would not issue a statement to the media on her arrest Thursday in Lancaster County, S.C.

“This is a private matter which I will handle as such and I am grateful to the people of Waxhaw for their support and understanding,” she wrote. “Many factors are involved, which I will be addressing with the same deliberate approach that those who know me have come to expect.”

The S.C. Highway Patrol stopped Gardner, 37, about 2 a.m. Thursday on U.S. 521 in Lancaster, about 2 miles north of Waxhaw Highway. She was booked on a first-offense misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. She was released from Lancaster County jail that morning.

Gardner, who owns a graphic-design business, was elected mayor of the southwestern Union County town of about 3,500 in 2007 in her first run for elected office. Mike Torralba

Police digest

Mecklenburg County Charlotte

A 5-year-old kindergartner was hit by a pickup truck Wednesday morning in northeast Charlotte while walking with his grandmother on his way to school.

The child, a boy authorities have not identified, was taken to Carolinas Medical Center with injuries that were not life-threatening. The boy was hit in the lower leg, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said.

The child was on his way to Hidden Valley Elementary School at 7:03 a.m. At Blackhawk Street and Countryside Drive, he tripped and was hit by a white pickup truck, which fled the scene.

Police are searching for the truck but don't have a more detailed description. Greg Lacour

Matthews

Matthews police have charged a man with a series of larcenies from lockers at the Siskey YMCA.

Gregory Gerard Linneman, 47, bonded out of the Mecklenburg County jail Wednesday after he was charged with injury to personal property and three counts of misdemeanor larceny.

Linneman's arrest came after several larcenies were reported from lockers at the Y, all at the same time of day. Police used surveillance video to arrest Linneman Wednesday as he walked out of the locker room area with stolen money, Matthews police said. Greg Lacour

Rowan County Cleveland

Rowan County sheriff's deputies are searching for a Cleveland man in connection with a shooting death Tuesday on Mount Tabor Church Road.

Parra Policarpio “Pollo,” 43, of Mount Tabor Church Road, died at the scene. Officers were searching for the suspect, Balmore Merino, 38, and have a warrant charging him with murder.

He is possibly driving a 1999 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, either dark blue or purple, with N.C. license tag TYJ2299. Witnesses described the suspect as a Latino man with a small goatee, wearing a red shirt and blue jeans and armed with a handgun.

Deputies also charged Mirna Del Carmen Guevara, 38, with being an accessory after the fact. She was jailed under a $200,000 secured bond.

The shooting took place in front of her home, deputies said. They said Guevara initially provided investigators with false information on Merino, her estranged husband.

Anyone having information should contact Sgt. Chad Moose at 704-216-8687 or CrimeStoppers at 1-866-639-5245. Gail Smith-Arrants

Wake County Wake Forest

A Wake Forest woman has been charged with driving while impaired after a car sideswiped a school bus carrying 35 students.

WRAL reported that N.C. Highway Patrol troopers also charged 42-year-old Melody Parsons with careless and reckless driving.

The crash happened around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday as the bus was on its way to Wakefield High School. Troopers said the car was traveling about 65 mph in a 45-mph zone when it crossed the center line and struck the bus, then veered off the road and crashed into a tree.

Emergency crews took seven students with minor injuries to a Raleigh hospital as a precaution. All were treated and released. Parsons was hospitalized and listed in good condition. Associated Press

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