Across the Region |

Officials: Dead bear was a prank

Authorities said Tuesday that a student prank, not a political statement, was the motivation for dumping a dead bear cub draped in Barack Obama signs on a North Carolina campus earlier this week.

Seven Western Carolina University students were involved, and possible charges were being discussed with the local prosecutor, said Campus Police Chief Tom Johnson. Police did not release the students' names.

The students told authorities they took political signs at random to cover the bear's wound and prevent blood from spilling into the bed of the truck they were driving.

They discovered a carcass of the cub, which had been shot in the head, while camping over the weekend and brought it back to a gathering at an apartment near campus Sunday night, according to a statement from the school.

Associated Press

Regional briefs

North Carolina Fort Bragg

Officials say U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will visit two N.C. military bases this week to help swear in new citizens and hold a news briefing.

The 18th Airborne Corps public affairs office said Tuesday that Gates is scheduled to preside over a naturalization ceremony Thursday morning at Pope Air Force Base. Gates will administer the citizenship oath to 40 military members from North Carolina bases.

Later in the day, Gates has scheduled a media briefing after he visits adjacent Fort Bragg.

Officials said it will be Gates' first visit to Fort Bragg.

Associated Pre



N.C. public safety officials said they will appeal a decision that ordered the rehiring of a former state trooper who was fired for kicking his patrol dog.

The State Personnel Commission ruled Friday the state Highway Patrol failed to prove Charles Jones' actions amounted to personal misconduct, and that he was owed back pay.

Patrol spokesman Capt. Everett Clendenin said Tuesday the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety decided to appeal after conferring with the state Attorney General's office.

Jones was a 13-year veteran of the patrol when he was fired last year after being caught on video kicking his dog. The dog, which has been retired from the patrol, was not injured.

Jones has been working as a police officer in Apex.

Associated Press

Someone noticed “some sort of a handoff” between two ticket-takers at the N.C. State Fair, leading to charges that the pair had stolen nearly $980 in cash and tickets, authorities said.

Travis Baker Rhodes, 87, and Olivia Lee Jordan, 55, both of Raleigh, were charged Monday with embezzlement. Rhodes and Jordan worked at an admission booth for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the fair, said Brian Long, a fair spokesman.

The pair were listed as state employees but were hired solely for the fair, Long said. The spokesman said he understood that Rhodes was working part-time for the fair. Long said he was not sure how much Rhodes and Jordan were paid.

Thomasi McDonald, (Raleigh) News & Observer

South Carolina Columbia

A month after state unemployment reached a 15-year high, South Carolina's jobless rate dropped slightly in September, but the reason for the drop wasn't good news.

South Carolina's jobless rate for September was 7.3 percent, compared to 7.6 the month before. In its analysis of unemployment, South Carolina's Employment Security Commission on Tuesday attributed the lower rate not to an improving economy but to the unemployed halting their job searches.

“There's very little positive news regarding the national or state economy right now,” Executive Director Ted Halley said in a release. “There is not a lot to be optimistic about right now.”

At 1.95 million jobs, total nonagricultural employment was down in September by 12,900 from a year ago and decreased by 14,400 jobs from August, the largest September decrease on record.

Associated Press

Felony suspects will now have DNA samples taken when they're arrested after the S.C. House joined the Senate in overriding Gov. Mark Sanford's veto of the bill.

The House action came with a 86-25 vote Tuesday over the objections of state Rep. Chris Hart. He said the legislation grows government and is too expensive.

The samples would be taken when people are arrested for felonies, eavesdropping, peeping or stalking.

Sanford said the legislation intrudes too far into civil liberties and privacy rights because the information becomes part of a federal database.

If suspects are cleared of wrongdoing, the legislation allows the information to be removed from state but not federal databases.

The Senate overrode the veto with a 38-0 vote Monday.

Associated Press

Police digest

Mecklenburg County Charlotte

A woman was found dead Tuesday morning after her car ran off John Belk Freeway and slammed into a guardrail.

Nicole Marie King, 38, was found about 7 a.m. in her 1997 Acura down an embankment off Interstate 277 near the Fourth Street exit, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. She wasn't wearing a seat belt.

An out-of-town driver first reported the accident just before 1 a.m.

Police say that driver gave them the wrong location, said Officer Robert Fey, police spokesman. Police, firefighters and a Medic unit drove the freeway looking for the accident, to no avail.

The driver reported the accident at mile marker “19.” There is no 19 on I-277. The accident actually happened near mile marker 1.7, Fey said.

“The woman who first called 911 admitted she wasn't from Charlotte and that she was having a problem giving the location,” Fey said. “The car had gone down some type of embankment and officers weren't able to see it from the road.”

That area may also have been dark Tuesday morning because lights near the crash site weren't working.

David Perlmutt