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49-year-old Lisa McCreary Durant of Lenoir was convicted this week in Caldwell County Criminal Superior Court on two felony counts of trafficking in opium by possession. Durant was sentenced to no less than 90 months and no more than 120 months in the North Carolina Division of Adult Correction and was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.

The crimes occurred in January and November 2013 in Caldwell County. The investigation arose from a citizen’s complaint. As a result of that information, the Caldwell County Sheriff’s I.C.E. Unit executed two separate search warrants at Durant’s residence on Hammer Way in Lenoir. Hydrocodone pills and marijuana were seized as a result of the search.

Officers with the I.C.E. Unit handled the investigation and Assistant District Attorney Dawn Tutterow prosecuted the case. The Honorable Robert T. Sumner presided over the conviction.

Durant will be transported to the Division of Adult Correction in Raleigh for processing.

Friday, 29 August 2014 07:14

Death Penalty Sought in Daniels Case

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34-year-old Sharman Howard Odom could face the death penalty if he is convicted of murdering Margaret Elizabeth “Maggie” Daniels.

Ms. Daniels, a 31-year-old counselor at Discovery High School, was killed on June 27 of this year. Her body was found in her apartment bedroom the following morning. The nature of the death investigation was changed to a homicide on June 30. Ms. Daniels lived in the Windsor Apartment complex on West 17th Street in Newton where Odom was her neighbor.

A motion was filed on August 19 for a Rule 24 Hearing to determine if the state will be allowed to seek the death penalty. A date has not yet been scheduled for that hearing. The hearing must be held within 45 days of the filing of the request. The deadline is October 2.

The Lincolnton Police Department is continuing to investigate the illegal withdrawal of money from an elderly victim’s account at the Fifth Third Bank, 2586 East Main Street in Lincolnton. The incident occurred in March of last year. Previously, Police released a photo of a person of interest in the case. With the help of the public, that person has been identified. Police have determined that the person is not a suspect. The person in the photograph has cooperated fully with Police and is not involved in the case.

After further investigation, the Lincolnton Police Department has determined that a former employee of the Fifth Third Bank was responsible for the illegal withdrawal and intentionally told Fifth Third Bank internal investigators that the person in the photograph was the offender. After Officers interviewed the ex-employee, that person confessed to illegally withdrawing the money from the account.

The investigation is ongoing. Charges are expected to be filed next week against the former Fifth Third Bank employee. The suspect’s name has not been released at this time. The suspect will be charged with embezzlement, obtaining property by false pretense, financial identity theft and forgery & uttering.    

Fifth Third Bank has cooperated fully with the Lincolnton Police Department.

WHKY has obtained copies of search warrants in the Maggie Daniels murder case. The warrants were unsealed this morning (August 28). Ms. Daniels, a 31-year-old counselor at Discovery High School, was killed on June 27. Her body was found in her apartment bedroom the following morning. The nature of the death investigation was changed to a homicide on June 30.

34-year-old Sharman Howard Odom has been charged with the murder. Ms. Daniels lived in the Windsor Apartment complex on West 17th Street in Newton where Odom was her neighbor.

The warrants state that there were ligature marks around Ms. Daniels' neck, suggesting that she was strangled. Several items of furniture were damaged or askew, suggesting a struggle took place in her bedroom. There were no signs of forced entry, but the front door was unlocked. Evidence found at the crime scene and in the autopsy suggests that Ms. Daniels was sexually assaulted.

Dark-colored, curly hairs were found between Ms. Daniels' fingers and did not appear to be consistent with any of the hair from her head or body. Samples sent to the State Crime Laboratory show the presence of unknown male DNA.

According to search warrants, a neighbor said Odom often mentioned the victim and seemed familiar with her habits, noting that she lived by herself. Another neighbor said Odom wanted to know if Ms. Daniels dated black men. One neighbor said Odom stated that Ms. Daniels was attractive and made a statement about wanting to “get with” her. The mother of Ms. Daniels’ boyfriend said she saw Odom staring at the victim while she sunbathed and “called him down on frequent occasions” for doing so.

The warrants also detail rape, strangulation and robbery charges filed against Odom in 2010 and 2012 in Mecklenburg County. Those cases were dismissed, largely because of uncooperative victims. He is also a person of interest in another 2012 rape case.

The warrants detail the collection and testing of DNA from several subjects. Odom refused to provide a sample, saying he "did not trust law enforcement." A search warrant for various tissue, fluid and hair samples from Odom’s person was issued on July 25.

A bottle of cleaning fluid containing bleach was found at the crime scene. The warrants state that the fluid may have been used to clean Ms. Daniels’ body. An unknown stain was found on her back. Odom worked for an auto detailer and admitted keeping cleaning chemicals in his vehicle.

Odom remains in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility where he is being held without bond. He will next appear in court on October 6.

31-year-old Thomas Wilson Burkett of Highway 70 S.W. in Hickory was arrested by Hickory Police at about 10:40 last night (August 28) on one felony count of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and one misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

He was arrested after Officers on foot patrol at the Budget Inn on Highway 70 S.W. in Hickory noticed a U-Haul truck and ran the vehicle registration, which came back as a stolen vehicle from Florida.

Officers checked with the front desk to verify the room the U-Haul was paired up with. Police then spoke with the occupants and found that Thomas Burkett had rented the vehicle, but had not paid for the rental. While conducting an inventory of the U-Haul, Officers found and seized two pipes and a set of digital scales.

Two other persons were present in the room, but were not charged.

Burkett was taken into custody without incident and taken to the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $10,000 secured bond. He will appear in District Court tomorrow in Newton.

Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:47

State Budget Forces Catawba Co. Schools to Adjust

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The public schools budget formally adopted by the North Carolina legislature has left Catawba County Schools with an unexpected $1,071,923 shortfall in funding for teacher assistants.

According to Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman, the school system had tried to develop a bare-bones budget, but the late passage of the state budget and the reduction in funds means that Catawba County Schools has had to scramble to revise its budget before the beginning of the school year.

The board modified and approved a plan that does not fill vacated positions, reduces the number of days assistants will work by ten workdays and will reduce instructional supply allocations by 75 percent.

Teacher assistants were called to a meeting to learn how they will be affected this school year.

Dr. Brigman went on to say that he regrets the reduction in teacher assistant workdays, but is relieved that no layoffs were required and essential services for children can be protected.      

39-year-old Brian Keith Guzman of Alabama Avenue in Marion is wanted by the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office. He is wanted on charges of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.

Guzman allegedly assaulted and tried to rob a Marion man at the victim’s residence on Jenny Lind Drive late Monday afternoon (August 25).

Guzman is described as a white male, 6’4” tall, weighing 215 pounds. He has short brown hair, green eyes and a tattoo on his right arm.

Anyone with information concerning the whereabouts of Brian Keith Guzman should call the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office at 828-652-2235 or McDowell County Crime Stoppers at 828-65-CRIME (828-652-7463). Crime Stoppers callers may remain anonymous and could receive a cash reward.

42-year-old Erik Paul Collins of Bancroft Lane in Statesville was arrested yesterday (August 27) by Lincoln Co. Sheriff’s Detectives on one felony count each of indecent liberties with a child and disseminating obscenity to a minor less than 13 years of age. Collins was taken into custody at his residence without incident.

Collins, who is a heavy equipment operator for the North Carolina Department of Transportation in Salisbury, is accused of sending inappropriate messages and photos to an 11-year-old female. The suspect is an acquaintance of the victim’s family. The incidents occurred during the month of August.

Collins was jailed in the Harven A. Crouse Detention Center under a $125,000 secured bond. He was scheduled to appear in a Lincoln County courtroom today.

Thursday, 28 August 2014 08:31

Hickory American Legion Fair Open Through Sept. 1

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The 101st Hickory American Legion Fair is open. The fair will run through September 1. The fairgrounds are located on American Legion Avenue in Newton, just off of Highway 70 S.E.

For more information, visit the fair’s website at www.hickoryfair.com.

Thursday, 28 August 2014 08:00

Second Man Charged in McDowell County Murder Case

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24-year-old Shane Edward Webb of Forsythe Street in Marion, has been charged with murder. He is charged in connection to the shooting death of 39-year-old James Lionel Ferguson of Old Highway 10 East in Marion on Saturday, August 16.

24-year-old Andrew Clifton Johnson of Maces Park Drive in Marion was previously charged with murder in connection to the same crime, as reported August 18 on WHKY.

According to McDowell County Sheriff’s Capt. Shanon Smith, Detectives developed information that led them to believe Johnson and Webb conspired to rob Ferguson. In the course of the robbery, Ferguson was shot and subsequently died. The shooting occurred at approximately 4:30 p.m. on the 16th at a residence on Blunt Way in Nebo.

Webb will appear in a McDowell County courtroom on September 15. Johnson’s next court date is set for September 3.