Chapel Hill Man Arrested on Child Sex Offense Charges

A Chapel Hill man was arrested by Chatham County authorities on child sex offense charges, authorities announced on Monday.

69-year-old David Laurey, of Environ Way, was arrested on August 28 for sexual offense with a child and indecent liberties with a child.

Laurey was released after posting a $192,000 secured bond, according to law enforcement.

He is due back in Chatham County Court on September 21.

Chatham Commissioners Approve Temporary Fracking Ban

Chatham County Commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to ban hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ for two years while officials update county land use plans and ordinances.

The General Assembly voted in 2012 to limit the ability of local governments to regulate fracking, but Chatham Board Chair James Crawford wrote in a press release that law does not prevent temporary moratoriums.

The new ban puts a halt to county approvals for oil and gas extraction. Crawford says board members are concerned the process produces large volumes of potentially hazardous waste and toxins. He notes the county has no facilities for treatment of such wastewater.

Chatham is one of a handful of towns and counties throughout the state that have acted to limit fracking, but it’s not clear if these bans could withstand a legal challenge from drilling companies.

Last year state legislators authorized fracking in North Carolina, though to date, no permits have been approved.

The controversial extraction process is on hold pending a state Supreme Court ruling in a lawsuit over the process of appointing members to state commissions. That lawsuit includes the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, which would be the agency responsible for issuing fracking permits.
Chatham commissioners say they’ll spend the next two years looking for ways to mitigate potential damages, should the fracking ban be lifted.

Rescued Chatham Animals Released To Shelters To Await Adoption

Nearly 200 animals seized from a Chatham County home in July are on their way to a dozen different shelters.

“Each organization that is getting animals will be evaluating their temperament and any ongoing medical issues, but certainly the vast majority is going to be adoptable,” says Debra Henzey, Chatham County’s Director of Community Relations.

Last month, the Sheriff’s Department, animal control officials and a coalition of nonprofits worked to rescue 131 cats, 23 dogs, 11 horses, 14 birds, eight goats, two cows, and one large pig from a home on Silk Hope Gum Spring Road in Pittsboro.

The animals were allegedly kept in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions. Henzey says many are still being treated for medical conditions.

“Just about all of the cats and dogs had to be spayed and neutered, and then there were an array of infections, skin issues, ear and eye infections,” says Henzey.

Shelters and rescue groups as far away as Virginia and Washington D.C. have offered to take in animals. That’s due in part to the wide variety of creatures involved, but also to avoid overwhelming any one shelter.

“We are a rural county and our shelter is not huge, by any means,” says Henzey. “This is a way of getting animals out to groups that specialize in particular types of animals.”

She notes that collaboration was made possible by the Humane Society of the U.S. Officials with the Humane Society say the Chatham County animal seizure is the largest the organization has handled in the nation so far this year.

At the local level, Henzey says about 30 cats will be housed at the Chatham County Animal Shelter.

“We truly would appreciate Chatham County and local residents coming to our shelter to adopt. We always have more incoming animals and the more that are adopted out, the more we can help other animals in need.”

The animals have been officially surrendered to the county, but no charges have been filed against the owner. The Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the case.

A list of Humane Society partners that have accepted some of the rescued animals for adoption include:

Chatham County Animal Shelter,
Chatham Animal Rescue & Education (CARE), Pittsboro, NC,
Safe Haven for Cats, Raleigh, NC
SPCA of Wake County,
Red Dog Farm, Greensboro, NC, dogs and cows,
Horse Helpers of the High Country, Boone, NC, horses, pig and goats,
Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, Indian Trail, NC, poultry only,
Norfolk SPCA, Norfolk, VA,
Virginia Beach SPCA, Virginia Beach, VA,
Angels of Assisi, Roanoke VA,
Lost Dog and Cat Rescue, Arlington VA
Washington Animal Rescue League, Washington DC

Chatham Animal Seizure Breaks Records

Officials say the rescue of nearly 200 animals from an overcrowded home on Wednesday is the largest, and most complicated, in Chatham County history.

“The thing that’s so unique about this case is, first of all, the huge number of animals,” says Erica Geppi, director of the North Carolina branch of the Humane Society. “It’s not only the largest number [of animals seized] in the county, but also the largest number of animals for the Humane Society of the United States as an organization this year.”

Ashley Mauceri, Senior Manager of Animal Crimes for the HSUS, hoses off a pig during the Humane Society of the United States animal rescue in Pittsboro, N.C., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. (Chris Keane/AP Images for The Humane Society)

Ashley Mauceri, Senior Manager of Animal Crimes for the HSUS, hoses off a pig during the Humane Society of the United States animal rescue in Pittsboro, N.C., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. (Chris Keane/AP Images for The Humane Society)

The Sheriff’s Department, Chatham County Animal Services and a host of local and national animal welfare groups assisted in removing 131 cats, 23 dogs, 11 horses, 14 birds, eight goats, two cows, and one large pig from a home on Silk Hope Gum Spring Road in Pittsboro.

The website Zillow lists the property as being a 1,200-square-foot house on a 5-acre lot.

Geppi says the removal came after months of outreach to the owner.

“Animal Services in Chatham County has been working with the owner of this particular property for an extended time, but the point had really come where the animals appeared to be suffering, particularly due to unsanitary conditions and inadequate care.”

A horse watches rescuers during the Humane Society of the United States animal rescue in Pittsboro, N.C., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. (Chris Keane/AP Images for The Humane Society)

A horse watches rescuers during the Humane Society of the United States animal rescue in Pittsboro, N.C., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. (Chris Keane/AP Images for The Humane Society)

The animals are in the process of being evaluated by veterinarians. Geppi says many were found to be suffering from skin and eye problems as a result of the unsanitary conditions. Once the animals are nursed back to health, Geppi says she hopes many will be eligible for adoption.

“Our focus at this point is getting them back to health and getting them out of the shelter and into loving homes. Attention to the issue helps get it out there in the community and helps get word out so folks can engage in adopting them.”

It’s not yet clear if charges will be filed in the case.

150 Animals Rescued From Chatham County Home

More than 150 animals have been rescued from a property in Chatham County, in an operation that brought together officials from nearly a dozen public and private animal care facilities.

Chatham County Animal Services led the rescue after receiving a tip that “more than 100 cats and dogs” were being kept in a single mobile home at 3180 Silk Hope Gum Spring Road in Pittsboro. The website Zillow lists the property as being a 1200-square-foot house on a 5-acre lot.

When responders arrived, according to a statement from the county, they found 150 animals “living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions with untreated medical conditions.”

The animals have since been moved to local rescue groups and emergency shelters; teams of veterinarians are providing treatment and PetSmart Charities is contributing food and supplies. The entire operation involved Durham and Wake County officials, the Humane Society, and several other local and national organizations.

Chatham County Officials Agree to Deal with Duke Energy on Coal Ash

Chatham County officials have reached an agreement with Duke Energy on parameters of storing coal ash at a clay mine in the county.

A deal was struck between the county and the energy giant after weeks of negotiations, according to officials.

Chatham County Manager Charlie Horne says the county’s focus was getting the best arrangement it could with Duke.

“Given that, no matter what we do, we’re likely going to get coal ash,” he says, “what is the best deal, if you will, we can get from Duke Energy to do other things potentially in Chatham County.”

Duke Spokesperson Jeff Brooks says the company is happy both sides were able to reach an accord.

“We’re very pleased to have reached an agreement with local leaders that will provide positive benefits, we believe, to the people of Chatham County,” he says. “Duke Energy is very committed to being responsible and transparent as we move forward with our work at the Birckhaven mine and ensuring that the work that we do is done safely and with a focus on protecting the environment.”

Horne says the agreement puts forward the parameters of the coal ash that can be moved to Chatham County.

“The agreement provides for a limit of 12 million tons of coal ash disposal at the Brickhaven site in Moncure,” he says. “In return for that, we will get $1.50 per ton for that disposal up to 12 million tons.”

Lee County officials agreed to a similar deal with Duke Energy earlier this year to store coal ash.

It came to this stage of seeming inevitability for the county after the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources granted Duke the necessary permits to dispose of coal ash in the pits.

Brooks says the state is the ultimate rule maker in this scenario, but Duke would prefer to operate with cooperation of local government.

“Certainly the state law directs how we operate and how we move forward with this project, but we recognize that there’s an impact to the local community,” he says. “We recognize that, just from an operational standpoint, this will be something ongoing for several years in Chatham County.

“And we wanted to be fair to the local community. We wanted to find a solution that could provide positive benefits to the people of Chatham County.”

The ash will be stored dry, rather than in the lagoons it is currently stored in across the Tar Heel state.

The pits will be lined before the ash is placed into the pit and another layer of lining will be placed over the coal ash once it is in place, according to Duke.

Horne says the county is pleased no additional ash will be brought to the site of the Cape Fear Plant.

“The Cape Fear site, which was the old power plant, Duke Energy also agreed that there will be no coal ash stored there other than what’s already on the site,” he says. “We think that’s a plus.”

As part of the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, Duke has to move coal ash from lagoons at four high-risk sites across North Carolina by 2019. Duke must move all of the coal ash from the 10 remaining sites by 2029.

Brooks says progress has been preliminary up to this point.

“We’re actually finalizing a lot of those plans,” he says. “We’ve announced some of them, obviously. We’re beginning the process of siting land fills at some of our plants that will be used for storing ash.

“We’ve begun moving ash from our Riverbend station to a location in Georgia that is accepting that material. And I think that you’re going to see over the next few months a lot of activity, a lot of new announcements on plans and other work that’s being done.”

Brooks says the nation’s largest electric utility is focused on meeting the deadlines laid out by the state.

“We believe we can meet the timelines. We are committed to complying with the law,” he says. “It’s going to be a herculean task, and it’s going to take a lot of work from many dedicated teams that are working throughout the company.

“But right now our focus is on meeting the requirements of the law and doing that in a responsible way.”

Before any coal ash can be moved to the pits in Chatham and Lee Counties, Duke Energy still needs approval from the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Brooks says that Duke is hopeful that late this summer or early this fall it will be able to begin work at the site in Chatham County.

County officials say the $18 million Duke will be providing the county in exchange for the storage will be used to monitor the environmental risks around the site. Commissioners have also asked for baseline testing to be done of water sources around the pits.

Fleeing Suspect Naps in Chatham County Home

A suspect wanted by Burlington Police on assault charges was spotted napping in a Chatham County home on Monday.

Investigators from the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office continue to look for 19-year-old Adrien Tyron Hurley, of Chapel Hill Road, Burlington.

“Yesterday, a Chatham County resident on Bonlee Carbonton Road returned to her home to find someone sleeping in her bed,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a released statement. “That person matched the description of Hurley and he fled the residence on foot.”

As of four o’clock yesterday afternoon, officers were utilizing search dogs, K-9 units, and the NC Highway Patrol helicopter to search the area where Hurley was seen shortly after one o’clock Monday.

Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek was initially put on lock down due to the manhunt, before students were released, according to police.

Hurley is wanted by Burlington Police for felony assault charges. It is believed that Hurley fled from a Highway Patrol vehicle stop on Sunday afternoon in southern Chatham County on US 421.

Authorities say Hurley was last seen wearing pajama bottoms, no shirt or shoes. If you see Hurley, do not confront him. Please contact the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office or dial 911.

DA Woodall Says NC Death Penalty System Needs Reform

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall has announced that if a conviction is brought against the two men charged with murdering 59-year-old UNC professor Feng Liu in July, he will not be seeking the death penalty.

Woodall says, “I don’t think, at this time, North Carolina has an effective death penalty.”

He says he is not opposed to the death penalty, but adds that the entire system is not in a functioning state.

“I do not have any moral opposition to the death penalty,” he says. “I think there are circumstances – extremely rare circumstances – where it is warranted. I don’t think that the law, as we have it presently in North Carolina, is sufficient to ensure that we carry it out properly.”

Woodall adds that in a case where capital punishment is on the table, there are many factors that go into that decision.

Botched executions in other states have sparked a nationwide review of the death penalty system. Earlier this year in North Carolina, two half brothers were exonerated on murder charges and released from prison after nearly 30 years behind bars. Both men were originally sentenced to death; one had his sentenced reduced to life in prison.

Woodall says that in many cases a term of life in prison can bring a victim’s family more closure than a death sentence.

“It would take decades for the sentence to be carried out,” he says, “if it were ever carried out. And victims’ families have to deal with it for decades.”

If North Carolina is going to continue to be a state that has the death penalty as an option for prosecutors, Woodall says the entire system needs to be reformed. He cites an example from the federal system that could serve as a model for North Carolina.

“For a federal prosecutor to pursue the death penalty,” he says, “they have to go before a federal panel that looks at the evidence. The defense actually gets to present a short version of their case. And that panel determines if it’s a death-penalty case.”

Woodall says this provides more consistency in the process, adding that he believes that is one thing missing in North Carolina.

“I believe it’s very important for an elected prosecutor to have a great deal of discretion to determine how the law is going to be enforced in his or her jurisdiction,” he says. “But I do think if you’re going to have the death penalty – the ultimate punishment – there has to be some way to ensure that it is going to be used consistently throughout the state.”

Juries issued three death sentences in North Carolina in 2014 – in 2013 juries returned one death sentence and none were returned in 2012, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The state of North Carolina has not executed a prisoner since 2006.

Chatham Deputies Arrest Man Allegedly Linked To Drug Deaths

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a man in connection with three drug overdose deaths this weekend.

38-year old Edwin Maurice Pennix, of  Colonial Park Road, Siler City, was charged with multiple felonies, including selling and delivering cocaine and marijuana. He was on probation at the time of the arrest for prior drug charges and for fleeing arrest.

Edwin Maurice Pennix

Edwin Maurice Pennix

Authorities say he’s involved in the sale of cocaine laced with the narcotic painkiller Fentanyl. The mixture killed three and sickened 11 others in Chatham County on Saturday.

Pennix is being held in the Chatham County Jail under a $260,000 secured bond.

The Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the incident, along with the State Bureau of Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration. If you have any information, you can contact the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit at 919-545-8139.

Duke Energy Hopes To Send Coal Ash To Chatham And Lee Counties

Coal ash could be coming to Chatham and Lee Counties, as Duke Energy looks to use old clay mines for disposal.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources received a pair of applications last week from Green Meadow LLC, a company seeking permission to move coal ash stored at power facilities to fill in open-pit clay mines.

One mine is in Chatham County near Moncure, the other is in Lee County near Sanford.

The permits would allow Duke Energy to relocate coal ash from power plants in Mount Holly and Wilmington and use it to fill the open pits after installing liners to prevent groundwater contamination.

Green Meadow LLC hopes to begin work on the structural fill projects at both mine sites in early 2015.

However, a public hearing must be held first, and the permits must be reviewed by the Division of Waste Management before work can begin.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency will likely roll out new federal guidelines for coal ash disposal in December, which could have an impact on the application.

Ultimately, Duke Energy hopes to relocate 3 million tons of coal ash to Lee and Chatham counties.