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Big Dawg News

Friday, May 29

Steven Len Baird was charged with Felony Carjacking, Felony Attempted Kidnapping, and Misdemeanor Communicating Threats following an incident that occurred in Lenoir on Wednesday.

Baird approached 83-year-old, Helen Rogers Embler of Lenoir at Just Save grocery store located at 1208 Hickory Boulevard. He demanded she get in her car and drive him or he would shoot her. Instead, Embler ran inside the grocery store to call for help. Baird then stole her car and drove off from the parking lot.

Soon after the call to 911, investigators from the Lenoir Police Department Criminal Investigations Division saw the vehicle and preformed a felony traffic stop on the vehicle at the Dollar Tree, located on Blowing Rock Boulevard.

Baird was taken into custody and received a $250,000 bond with his initial court date on May 28th in Caldwell County District Court.


Putting for the Pink Golf Tournament has raised over $70,000 in the past eight years.

This year, Quentin Lail, Mark Biggerstaff, Josh Moses and Randy Walker were the winners of the eighth annual Putting for the Pink Golf Tournament held May 15th at Mimosa Hills Golf & Country Club.

Organized by the Breast Cancer Action Team of Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge, this year the event raised money for the Susan G. Komen NC Foothills Affiliate. 22 team participated in the tournament.

The Komen NC Foothills Affiliate keeps 75 percent of all funds locally and 25 percent will go to the national headquarters to advance breast cancer research.


Congressman Patrick McHenry, Wednesday, announced five service academy appointments from across the 10th Congressional District.

Attending the U.S.Military Academy will be Nathaniel Meade of Hickory, who attends Fred T.Foard. Three students will attend the U.S.Naval Academy, Tyler Mispley of Stanley, an East Lincoln graduate, Anabelle Motley of Asheville, who attends Roberson and Krysta Pres-trel-ski of Swannanoa who attends Owen. Attending the U.S.Air Force Academy will be Zoe Barnette of Kings Mountain who attends Kings Mountain High


A 32-year-old man pled guilty to multiple sexual offenses with a minor and was sentenced to spend at least 25 years in prison in Catawba County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Robert Lee Downs of Claremont was sentenced to spend 25-35 years in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections by Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge, Hugh B. Lewis. According to a press release from the District Attorney's office, the defendant pled guilty as charged to 10 counts of indecent liberties with a child and seven counts of sex offense with a child by an adult offender.

The alleged offenses occurred in Catawba County between October 2009 and 2012 and involved a juvenile female between the ages of 10 and 13 when the offenses occurred.

Downs is required to register as a sex offender and enroll in satellite-based monitoring for the remainder of his life.


A jury found Jaime Sarmiento Mejia not guilty of of indecent liberties with a child in Catawba County Superior Court on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old from Maiden was accused of touching a 14-year-old female under her shirt in March 2012. According to a press release from the District Attorney's office, the defendant did not deny the allegations but his attorney, Blair Cody, argued his actions were of his native Columbian culture.

The jury deliberated for two hours before making deciding Mejia was not guilty, ending the six-day trial.


Caldwell County has hired Shelly Stevens of Sawmills as the County's new Planning Director.

Stevens, who will begin as the new Planning Director of Caldwell County on June 1st, has served as Planner with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) since May 2013, Planner for the Town of Catawba and the City of Claremont in Catawba County and for the Town of Gamewell in Caldwell County.

According to a release from Caldwell County, some of Stevens' previous experience includes work on the Flint Hills Frontiers and a plan for a nineteen-county area within the Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma, among other projects.

Stevens graduated from North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy in 2010. In 2012 she earned her Master of Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Internet service providers have expanded their services in the High Peak area of Burke County.

According to a news release from the Burke County Community Development Department, internet service providers have been encouraged to expand broadband access in underserved areas of Burke County. Most recently, providers have expanded service to the High Peak area of Burke County.

Burke County citizens are encouraged to visit the county website at for information on all internet service providers or to see if the new high speed internet is available in their area.


The Hickory Police Department is asking for the public's help in gathering information on a Hickory home was intentionally set on fire Monday night.

According to a news release from the City of Hickory Fire Department, firefighters responded to a possible structure fire around 9:30 Monday evening. Damage was confined to the outside of the home and estimated approximately $30,000 in damage. An accelerant sniffing dog from Caldwell County Fire Marshal's Office was brought in to assist the ongoing investigation. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Hickory Fire Department Division of Fire & Life Safety at 828-323-7522 or Hickory Police Department at 828-328-5551.


On Monday, Burke County residents gathered at the Foothills Higher Education Center in Morganton to honor and remember American soldiers who had died while serving their country. Special Guest speaker North Carolina's Governor Pat McCrory, spoke at the annual Memorial Day Service praising the armed forces and their families as "his heroes". In addition Governor McCrory reassured the crowd of his commitment to helping veterans transition back into society citing several new services for veterans including education programs, resource guides, and new identification protocols on State ID Cards which will help identify veterans.


17 new full-time furniture jobs are coming to Burke County with American Hospitality Furnishings through the Building Reuse Grant.

American Hospitality Furnishings received a $212,500 Building Reuse Grant from the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority that allows them to move forward with renovating the former Drexel Heritage facility.

According to a press release from Burke Development Inc., the Building Reuse Program provides grants and loans to local governments to renovate vacant buildings, renovate and/or expand a building occupied by an existing North Carolina company, and/or renovate, expand or construct health care facilities that lead to the creation of new, full-time jobs.

The City of Morganton and Burke County split the required match.


A school in Hickory evacuated Thursday morning due to a gas leak caused from construction crews.

Firefighters were dispatched to a gas leak at Hickory Career Arts and Magnet School, 409 8th Ave. NE. According to a news release from the City of Hickory Fire Department, firefighters responded with two engines, one ladder, one rescue and two command units.

It was determined upon arrival a 1.5" gas main that had been damaged had an active natural gas leak. The school was evacuated and students were relocated to a safe and nearby location. Piedmont Natural Gas was immediately notified of the leak and was on the scene with the leak controlled within 15 minutes.

No injuries were reported. Catawba County EMS was on standby.  


A Conover man was convicted of felony intentional child abuse inflicting serious physical injury in Catawba County Superior Court on Wednesday.

The jury needed 70 minutes to find 27 year-old, Luis Alberto Villa-Campos, guilty of the charges which left a then 3-month-old female child with multiple broken limbs. The body trauma stems from an alleged incident of tugging on the cild between the defendant and the child's mother, Ruby Hoard of Conover.

Villa-Campos' sentencing was postponed to Aug. 24 and Hoard is awaiting her court date facing similar charges related to the case.


East Burke High School, Patton High School, and Draughn High School have been awarded Bronze Stars from U.S. News and World Report in the 2015 Best High School rankings.

According to a press release from Burke County Public Schools, U.S. News and RTI International reviewed over nineteen thousand high schools across the country analyzing student-to-teacher ratios, reading and math test scores, minority and low-income student performance and college readiness successes.

There are 14 gold medal schools, 26 silver medal schools and 100 bronze medal schools on the 2015 North Carolina list.


This summer, McDowell County Schools will offer children free lunch five days a week.

An update was given in McDowell County's Board of Education meeting on Monday on a new program to help kids who may be at risk of hunger receive meals during the summer.

The federally funded program is administered by the state through the school system and comes a year after McDowell County Schools began participating in a program that provides free lunch to all McDowell's public elementary school students, known as the Community Eligibility Program.

According to Director of Child Nutrition, Jon Haynes, the program will begin Monday, June 22.