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Rowan County leaders discuss prayer before meetings

Leaders in Rowan County met for hours behind closed doors discussing the issue of prayer before meetings.
A chaplain led a prayer Wednesday night before commissioners went into the closed-door session.
Leaders met with attorneys to discuss what options they have.
Earlier this month, a judge ruled commissioners had to stop leading Christian-based prayers before their meetings.
“It's really about a First Amendment issue of whether or not do we have a right to pray however we see fit,” Commissioner Mike Caskey said.
The commission is under a permanent injunction not to give sectarian prayers before its meetings.
Some commissioners believe it's a violation of free speech.

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Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 22:09:51 -0400

6th-grader advances in Scripps Spelling Bee

A local Charlotte student remains in the running to become the next national spelling champion.

Akshra Paimagam, 12, a sixth-grader at Randolph Middle School is one of 49 spellers who have advanced to the semifinals in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Akshara advanced to the semifinals with the correct spelling of the word Camphor.

The semifinals start Thursday at 10 a.m. and the championship is Thursday night.

The winner takes home a $30,000 prize and an engraved trophy.

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Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 22:05:25 -0400

Bill extending NC abortion wait period advances in Senate

(AP) — A state Senate committee approved a proposal Wednesday for North Carolina to join the handful of states that require a 72-hour waiting period for abortions.

The bill advanced by a Senate judiciary committee would extend the waiting period from the current 24 hours, which became law less than four years ago. The bill would also require that the procedure be performed by a specialist in obstetrics or gynecology.

The bill will head next to the Senate floor Thursday for debate and a vote.

Since a version of the bill passed the House last month, Senate Republicans also have expanded the bill to include provisions related to statutory rape definitions, protection for domestic violence victims and places sex offenders must avoid.

Under the waiting-period provision, women would have to talk to a doctor or other qualified professional 72 hours before having an abortion, unless there's a medical emergency.

Three other states have 72-hour waiting periods: Missouri, South Dakota and Utah. Oklahoma's waiting period of that length goes into effect in November.

The bill's sponsors have said they want to give pregnant women more time to collect information before making a difficult decision. They also are hopeful that the measure would lead to fewer abortions.

Those speaking in favor of the bill at the committee hearing included Wendy Banister, the executive director of Gateway ministries. She said she's counseled women who planned to have an abortion but reconsidered upon further reflection.

"Fear can drive a woman to make a knee-jerk decision she can't undo," she said.

Abortion-rights activists say the extra 48 hours is medically unnecessary and demeans the ability of women to make their own choice.

Dr. Amy Bryant, an assistant professor in the University of North Carolina's department of obstetrics and gynecology, spoke against the bill and said women seeking abortions have typically thought through the decision and are resolute.

"Waiting three days does not change their mind. It only delays their care," she said.

Since Republicans took over North Carolina's legislature in 2011, the state has passed several laws aimed at limiting abortions, including the current 24-hour waiting period. Some GOP leaders and anti-abortion groups credit the laws with contributing to the 26 percent decline in the number of abortions in North Carolina since 2010. During the same period, overall reported pregnancies in North Carolina have fallen slightly.

Two provisions added by the Senate — one to toughen statutory rape laws and another to ensure that sex offenders registered in other states avoid playgrounds and schools if they move to North Carolina — were introduced this year in separate legislation by Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte.

At Wednesday's hearing, Jackson asked for an amendment taking out those provisions but was rejected.

Jackson, a former Mecklenburg County prosecutor, said Republicans inserted his ideas into the abortion measure to force Democrats into "no" votes that could be used against them in election ads.

"They're such good ideas that they decided to include them in legislation that they know Democrats are likely to oppose," Jackson said in an interview, adding his bills "have been used in weapons against me and my party."

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Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 21:05:58 -0400

Video shows cellphone-absorbed man stepping on snake, panicking

Surveillance video captured the moment an Oklahoma man stepped on a snake and skipped away in a panic. 

Scroll down to watch the video.

Tim Malone, a DJ at Skateland roller rink for 20 years, said he was paying attention to his Android and not where he was walking as he passed through a parking lot. 

As he approached the building to go in, he looked up and realized he was stepping on a snake, which caused him to dance away in panic.

Malone said he felt an adrenaline rush and started kicking when he realized it was a snake.

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The reptile, a 4-foot-long bull snake, got a bite in but Malone was not seriously injured, and the snake was not venomous. 

Malone said the snake may have been moving away from floodwaters.

>> Click here to view the video on mobile

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 21:03:49 -0400

Man accused of assault faces federal gun charges

A man accused of assaulting a woman and tying her up in a bathroom now faces federal gun charges.

“Ice Tee” Hudson made his first court appearance Wednesday. Hudson plead not guilty to one count of unlawful transport of a firearm.

 Police first arrested Hudson in September after he allegedly tied up the mother of his child in her Monroe home.

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Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 20:51:14 -0400

NASCAR team joins I-77 toll lane discussion

One of Charlotte’s biggest names in NASCAR has joined the conversation about the controversial toll lanes on Interstate 77.

Michael Waltrip Racing will host local business owners Thursday concerning the planned toll lanes between Charlotte and Mooresville.

The racing company says it doesn’t have an opinion about the project but wants business leaders to talk about the potential impact.

Last week, the state signed the final paperwork for a deal with the private company Cintra to build the 26-mile stretch from uptown to Mooresville.

Four cities and two counties on the route have approved resolutions asking the state to back out or delay the nearly $650 million deal.

The meeting will take place at 4 p.m. at Michael Waltrip Racing in Cornelius.

More than 100 businesses are expected to turn out.

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Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 20:12:37 -0400

Neighbor accused of shooting brothers in Catawba Co.

A neighbor is accused of shooting two brothers Wednesday night on West Bandys Cross Road in an ongoing domestic dispute, police said.

Caleb and Alijah Jackson were smashing the windows of an SUV on Joshua Edward’s property with a hammer before the shooting, police said.

The brothers also threatened to kill Edwards and harm his family, the sheriff said.

One brother was shot once and the other was shot multiple times.

The Jacksons were airlifted to the hospital from the Sherrills Ford community in Catawba County.

Edwards has not been charged.

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Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 20:03:58 -0400

Woman found safe after leaving note at Wendy's saying she'd been kidnapped

Atlanta police say they've found a woman who disappeared after leaving a note with Wendy’s restaurant employees  saying she was being held against her will and needed help.

The woman, identified as LaShonda Marie Cortez, is alive and well, according to police. They said she was being interviewed Wednesday afternoon.

Police had asked for the public’s help finding Cortez after she left the note.

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Police say Cortez left the note about noon Monday and then got into a waiting pickup truck, which drove away.  An employee said Cortez also talked to a family while inside the restaurant.

The driver of the truck later told police he’d known Cortez about a month and that he dropped her off and had not seen her since. He said he did not have issues with her and was not aware of the note saying she had been kidnapped.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 19:41:52 -0400

Girl douses shark bite wounds with humor — and a shark tattoo

A 13-year-old girl whose foot was bitten by a shark while swimming off the coast of Cocoa Beach was able to keep her limb — and, also, her sense of humor.

As soon as Alysa Whetro was bandaged and released from the hospital, she headed to a shop and got a temporary henna tattoo on her leg, just above the injured foot.

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Whetro said she got to choose the shark depicted in the tattoo — and it looks like her attacker.

Asked how she kept her sense of humor, Whetro said, “I mean, it hurt, but it wasn’t that bad.”

Asked jokingly if she had anything to say to the shark, Whetro said, “No, not really” and giggled.

Read the full story here.

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 18:54:12 -0400

Thief smashes car window but leaves $1 million lottery ticket behind

A Seattle couple has lucked out twice with the same lottery ticket. 

On May 14, they checked online and realized the Powerball ticket they bought in February and left in their car for months was actually worth $1 million. It was a second-chance prize for the Feb. 11th drawing, which had a jackpot of $350 million.

When they found out they had a winning ticket, they had to laugh because someone had broken into their car, swiping a pair of sunglasses but overlooking the winning ticket.

“Someone broke into our car a few weeks ago and stole a pair of sunglasses,” the couple told Lottery officials. “The stolen sunglasses were actually sitting atop the winning ticket. What a close call!”

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The couple told the Washington Lottery they had not thought about a second-chance prize and were totally surprised by their sudden fortune.
They were surprised but quick to make plans.

“Well, we already popped a bottle of champagne! We’re also planning a trip to Paris and Iceland for this year. Other than that, I think we’ll just take care of our house.”

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 18:11:19 -0400

Police: 1 shot in east Charlotte carjacking

One person was shot Wednesday in a carjacking on Harrill Street in east Charlotte.

Quintavious Brown, 23, went to sell his Crown Victoria to someone at the location, family said.

The person then shot Brown in the neck and stole the car.

“The victim had some kind of meeting with the suspect,” Lt. Christian Wagner, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, said. “The suspect basically robbed the victim at gunpoint and shot the victim.”

The shooter was not in custody Wednesday night.

Paramedics said Brown was taken to Carolinas Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

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Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 17:31:24 -0400

Parents upset after 'Wall of Ugly' teacher named teacher of month

Some parents of students at a charter school in Huntersville said they’re upset that the school allowed students to name a teacher involved in a racially-charged project as teacher of the month.

The parents spoke after learning that students at Lake Norman Charter School had voted to give the honor to a biology teacher.

Two months ago the teacher had initiated an experiment asking students to draw what their randomly mixed children might look like.

The result was a poster called the “Wall of Ugly” that led to an apology by school administrators.

READ: 'Wall of Ugly' display at high school angers parents

“They apologized and then turned around (and) allowed that teacher to be teacher of the month,” said one parent who did not want to be identified.

“The school is showing us they aren't taking ownership of the diversity issue,” she added.

A school spokeswoman said the school did not endorse the selection, but let students vote on their favorite teacher.  

Lake Norman Charter is having a Cross Cultural Town Hall Meeting Wednesday night, during which the issue was expected to come up, but the spokeswoman said it is one of many regularly scheduled town hall meetings that the school has held since 2011.

But the parents who raised concerns about diversity at the school said it is time to do more than talk.

“Actions speak louder than words, so after you've voiced your opinion lots of times, you expect a response, not just words,” one parent said.

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Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 17:15:50 -0400

Rugby teammates remember teen who drowned as 'fierce competitor'

A local high school is devastated after a rugby player drowned in Mountain Island Lake Tuesday.        

Marco Hernandez’s teammates are leaning on one another as they deal with the sudden loss.

Hernandez, 17, was a junior at North Mecklenburg High School and played for the school’s rugby team.

Channel 9 reporter Ken Lemon was at the school Wednesday with the team as it prepared for the state championship this weekend.

It was a tough day for students, especially for the members of the team that were the closest to Hernandez.

Team members said Hernandez was a fierce competitor and an encouraging teammate.

The team posted a photo on its Instagram page of him celebrating after a state semifinal win over Hough High School Friday night.


“He had a rare combination of fearlessness and compassion,” said head coach Bo Pasko.

“He was tough. He wasn’t afraid,” said teammate Anthony Reccinos.

Players heard Tuesday after practice that Hernandez drowned at Latta Plantation.

Chopper 9 flew over as divers went into the water.

“We were gutted. The whole team is devastated by what happened,” Pasko said.

It was most difficult for Hernandez’s older brother, who is also a member of the team.

He said there is an empty space in his family, at school and at home.

“It’s a big spot right there,” said brother Edgar Magana.

He wished he could turn back the clock and keep his brother on shore.

"I hope we can go back one day and tell him just to not do that. Just come back home,” Magana said.

The group said it has learned from this loss.

“Cherish life. You’ve got to cherish life. You can’t take a day for granted,” said teammate David Moore.

Hernandez’s team will play for the state championship this weekend.

They talked about whether they had the emotional strength to play. Ultimately they decided not to cancel because Hernandez would have wanted them to compete.

Leave your condolences for Hernandez's family and teammates on our Facebook page.


Officials ID North Meck HS student who drowned at Mountain Island Lake

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 17:04:44 -0400

Must-see video: Big fish caught by man in tiny boat

One Florida fisherman had quite a catch when he was fishing from his kayak in Cape Coral, Florida, last week.

Jon Black caught a 552-pound Goliath grouper that is known for bottom feeding in shallow Florida waters. 

In the video you can see Black struggle to pull the giant fish to the surface, grunting as he deals with the extreme weight of the animal. 

The fish was released moments after the fisherman sized it up.

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 16:44:24 -0400

UNCC students given week to move out of off-campus apartments

Students at the Circle Apartments near the University of North Carolina at Charlotte were just told they have a week to move out.

The owners said they need to inspect the flooring after it collapsed inside one of the rooms.

Crescent Communities has since hired a private engineer who said some repairs may be needed.

“Certain modifications are warranted throughout the community, because of suspected concerns regarding a pre-fabricated floor truss. This is similar to a product defect type of issue,” said Crescent Communities representative Ben Collins.

Some renters are angry at how Crescent is handling the problem.

Everyone has to move out by June 2 so engineers can inspect the building.

They are letting them out of their leases and paying them $500 for the inconvenience.

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Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 16:36:41 -0400

Couple questions response in animal abuse complaint

Neighbors said nothing has been done at an address in Rowan County after repeated complaints of animal abuse have been filed.

They told Eyewitness News reporter Dave Faherty that the problem goes way past neglect.

Jennifer Majors has been around horses all her life and had her first pony was she was just 10 years old.  
So when she saw a horse arrive at property nearby, she knew something wasn't right. 

"This spotted horse is very thin,” Majors said. “I feel like it needs more than just to be thrown out and left in a pasture where nobody lives and checks upon it in a regular basis. It needs a proper diet."
Majors and her husband own more than two dozen horses on their farm near the town of Cleveland.
The malnourished horse next door isn't the only gruesome discovery that they said they've made on the property.  

"There's carcasses of ponies, goats, llamas, horses everywhere,” David Majors said. “Eight or 10 carcasses lying on the ground."
When Faherty contacted animal control, officials said they have received complaints in the past, including one this month, but haven't cited the owner.
They said that during their visits, there has been enough food and water to keep the animals healthy.
The Majorses believe that if something isn't done, more animals could suffer.

"It's just not right,” David Majors said. “It is a health problem and it needs to be taken care of. If they can take care of the animals, that's fine but if they can't, they need to get rid of them."
Animal control officials said Wednesday that if they get a complaint and the animal is in bad enough shape, they call a veterinarian to investigate further. 

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 15:59:53 -0400

STD rates spike after rise in hookup apps

As directors of romantic comedies are wont to do, humans have taken something pleasant and ruined it.

Apps on our smartphones that help people hook up are being blamed for a historic rise in STD rates.

Health officials in Rhode Island say the Tinder app, which functions much like a high-tech Rolodex for young millennials, is partially to blame for sexually transmitted diseases being “way up.”

How much higher is way up? Between 2013 and 2014, cases of syphilis grew by 79 percent, reports CNN.

HIV infections were up 33 percent and gonorrhea cases increased by 30 percent.

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 15:57:46 -0400

Teen girl describes bloody shark attack off Cocoa Beach, Fla.

A 13-year-old Seminole County girl's dream to run in the Junior Olympics is on hold because of a violent shark attack in Cocoa Beach.

Alysa Whetro was bitten Sunday while swimming in waist-deep water off the coast of Cocoa Beach to celebrate her birthday.

"When it bit me, I felt like a pain, like a sharp pain and then I pulled my foot up," Alysa said.

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The attack was so quick that all Alysa, who is part of the central Florida Gliders track team, saw was a pool of blood next to her.

"My whole foot was covered in blood when I first pulled it up," she said.

"The worst things go through your mind," said Alysa's father, Dewann Whetro. "The hope that it's not your kid, their leg is missing, their foot is missing, their arm is missing, they're dead, you know?"

Alysa's father was down the beach when he noticed a crowd gathering around his daughter.

"In a horror movie, in that moment when they open the door and it's complete fright, that is what she looked like," he said.

But unlike other horror movies, Alysa's story has a happy ending.

The track star is getting a unique surgery that will put a graft from an umbilical cord on her Achilles tendon to help her get back on her feet.

The crutches may be stopping her from running in this summer's Junior Olympics, but they're not stopping her sense of humor.

The middle schooler got a temporary tattoo of a shark right above her injuries.

"Everybody was asking what happened and then some people didn't believe it so I showed them the picture of it and they were like, 'Oh, you actually did get bit by a shark,'" she said.


Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 14:47:49 -0400

Half-snouted gator spotted in Fla.

The power of nature can sometimes be terrifying -- or just sad.

An alligator was spotted Monday by a woman in Lakeland, Fla., missing the top half of its snout, ABC News reports.

Myra Evers photographed the poor gator when she saw it swimming in the marsh in Lake Hancock.

“The alligator looked really horrible like he couldn’t eat anything. I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about it,” Evers told ABC News.

Unfortunately, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said these types of injuries are common.

Gary Morse, FCC spokesman, told ABC News that alligators “fight with each other, mostly for territorial or cannibalistic reasons … they tend to get aggressive toward one another, particularly males during mating season.”

Even worse news, Florida does not provide funding to help these injured alligators since they are not listed as endangered.

“We can feel for these animals, but there are unfortunately times when there is nothing you can really do to help,” Morse said to ABC News.

In other alligator news, one recently took a bite out of a man's truck.

Read the full story at

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 14:15:23 -0400

How do you spell W-I-N-N-E-R? 5 things to know about the National Spelling Bee

It's a sporting event for kids and adults alike, but it doesn't take a ball or a puck to compete.  All it takes is being not just a good speller, but a great one as the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee has begun just outside of the nation’s capital. 

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Held at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center  in National Harbor, Md., 285 students from all 50 states, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense schools all over the world are trying to spell many words that would not come up in everyday conversation.

>>Could you pass the National Spelling Bee test?

1. Some of the competitor favorite words include, flibbertigibbet, schadenfreude, tchotchke and of course triskaidekaphobia and onomatopoeia, according to the National Spelling Bee's official site.

2. The competitors range in age from 9 to 15, but the vast majority are between the age of 12 and 14.

3. Three spellers have a brother or sister who have previously won.  

4. 117 spellers speak more than one language. 

5. Indian Americans have won all but four of the last 15 competitions- including the last seven, The Washington Post reported.  The streak has received much backlash as the newspaper discovered.

Last year, the co-champions SriramHathwar and Ansun Sujoe were the subject of hate on social media. Many of the views, despite the fact the students are American citizens, featured comments that assumed that they were not.  

One Twitter post last year, quoted by The Washington Post said "We need an american [sic] to win this spelling bee."

>>Click here to read The Washington Post's feature on the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the past winners.

The Spelling Bee is being televised.  The Semifinals will be shown live Thursday on ESPN2 starting at 10amET.  The Finals will be live Thursday night at 8pmET on ESPN. If you can't watch it, you can follow the Scripps Live Tweet here or below.

Published: Wed, 27 May 2015 13:51:49 -0400