The Durham Mayor, Interim Police Chief and Sheriff gathered on Thursday to discuss violent crime in the city.
Durham had 42 homicides in 2015, almost double from the previous year, according to Mayor Bill Bell.
The police department is currently in the process of selecting a new chief but Bell said they were not going to wait to start making changes to reduce violent crime.
“It’s not going to be tolerated, we don’t tolerate it. We’re going to put a stop to it,” said Bell.
So far in 2016 there have already been two homicides in Durham.
Interim Durham Police Chief Larry Smith said in his almost 28 years with the police department he hasn’t seen violence this high.
“There is no excuse for this. There is never any excuse to take up guns and shoot people’s homes or shoot their cars for whatever reason that you may think it’s appropriate. There is never an excuse for it,” said Smith.
He said they have identified 19 individuals who they suspect are connected with violent crime. Durham police said they already have two of these suspects in custody. Smith said they are donating more resources to bringing in these individuals but would not give many details.
“We want these nineteen people who we know have a propensity for this type of violence to know that they aren’t just going to be able to ride around or go somewhere and step out of a car and shoot a house or shoot a car up, that law enforcement may be near them or already knocking on their door having conversations with them,” said Smith.
Smith said that the community is essential in helping stop this trend of violence.
“But we will have a lot more success if the citizens of this community, especially those communities that are hardest hit by this violence, will come along beside us and help us deal with this,” said Smith.
Community members were also at the meeting calling for more consistency from police.
Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews had some tough words for those committing violent acts.
“The people who are tempting you, drawing you into a life of crime and fast money are not your friends. A life of crime and killing is a fast track to prison or the cemetery,” said Andrews.
According to Andrews there are currently 50-plus detainees in the Durham Detention Facility awaiting murder charges.
But as Smith made clear, all of different law enforcement agencies are unified to stop the violence.
“Because we know that right now the city needs one mission and that’s dealing with the violent crime,” said Smith.http://chapelboro.com/featured/durham-leaders-unite-to-stop-violent-crime
A Cary man faces attempted murder charges in connection with several hit and run accidents.
Eric Jerome Nguyen, 27, also faces robbery, assault and reckless driving charges related to a December 9 crime spree.
According to police, Nguyen assaulted and robbed a 26-year-old female as she was getting into her car and stole her Honda Civic on the 600 block of Morgan Street in Durham.
Police then responded to numerous accidents involving the stolen vehicle throughout the city.
Nguyen faces two attempted murder charges related to deliberately hitting a pedestrian on Slater Road and hitting a bicyclist on South Miami Boulevard, according to police.
Eyewitnesses say Nguyen was driving the stolen vehicle without the lights on, even though it was dark. The damaged Honda Civic was later located in Cary.
Nguyen has been charged with 21 offenses including two counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of common-law robbery, two counts of malicious assault in a secret manner, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, seven counts of hit-and-run, two counts of damage to property and five counts of reckless driving.
Nguyen is being held in the Durham County Jail without bond.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/carjacker-faces-attempted-murder-charges
A Chatham County man has been charged with murder in connection with a child abuse case.
The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by UNC Hospital about a potential case of child abuse, on December 5, that occurred around Haywood Road in Moncure. The juvenile victim died as a result of injuries sustained during the incident, according to police.
24-year-old Jeffrey Ferguson was arrested, on Friday, as part of the investigation.
Ferguson was charged with murder, non-negligent manslaughter and felony negligent child abuse causing serious bodily injury.
The Sheriff’s Office says this is an ongoing investigation.
Ferguson is being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in Chatham County District Court in Pittsboro on January 4, 2016.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/chatham-county-man-charged-with-murdering-juvenile
Three years after the murder of Faith Hedgepeth, Chapel Hill Police say they are still actively seeking her killer.
Hedgepeth was a 19-year-old UNC student living off-campus. Her roommate found her body at 11 o’clock on the morning of September 7, 2012 at their apartment at Hawthorne at the View. She had been beaten to death and left partially undressed.
Last September, to mark the two-year anniversary of Hedgepeth’s murder, investigators unsealed search warrants and publicized information about the case in an effort to garner new leads.
Police Chief Chris Blue wrote in a statement that though authorities received numerous calls and emails, they are still looking for more information.
He and others in the department insist this is not a cold case. He notes advances in DNA technology may help identify the killer.
DNA evidence from a male suspect was collected at the scene, and more than 100 people involved with the case have submitted DNA samples for comparison.
At least $40,000 dollars worth of reward money has been pledged from a number of sources for information to solve this case.
If anyone has information to provide, please contact investigators at 919-614-6363. If you call this number, you will speak directly to one of the investigators who are assigned to this case and are familiar with it. This number continues to be staffed 24 hours a day.
Anyone with information, who wishes to remain anonymous, is asked to contact Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crimestoppers at 919-942-7515 or at http://www.crimestoppers-chcunc.org.http://chapelboro.com/featured/chapel-hill-police-renew-calls-for-help-in-hedgepeth-murder
The 20-year-old UNC student charged in the fatal crash on I-85 on Sunday made his first court appearance on Thursday.
Chandler Michael Kania was taken directly from UNC Hospitals to the Orange County Courthouse to appear before District Judge Charles Anderson. After being wheeled into the courtroom, Kania was served with additional felony charges including three counts of second-degree murder.
“The allegation is that he did unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously, with malice aforethought kill and murder Felicia Harris.”
Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman repeated those words, “the allegation is that he did unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously, with malice aforethought kill and murder” the other two victims who died in the crash – 46-year-old Darlene McGee and six-year-old Jahnice Baird.
Nieman announced other felony charges against Kania.
“He is also charged with three counts of felony death by vehicle,” Nieman adds. “He is also charged with felony serious injury by vehicle, allegation being he did cause serious injury – two broken bones in the lower left leg and a broken right collarbone to the person of Jahnia King.”
The nine-year-old King is the lone surviving passenger from the 2007 Suzuki Kania’s vehicle collided with.
Kania’s mother sat in the back of the courtroom, sometime audibly crying, along with his father.
Nieman says malice was shown in the case, in part, by the distance Kania traveled in the wrong direction on I-85 before the fatal crash around three o’clock Sunday morning near mile marker 163.
“Based on eyewitness accounts, he was traveling that direction of travel for – we believe at this time – at least six miles,” he says. “At least one witness indicates that he was going ‘not slow.’”
“Those vehicles [driven by Harris and Kania] met basically perfectly head on.”
Nieman adds after the crash the 20-year-old from Asheboro gave officers the I.D. of another individual, who was over 21 years of age. He says Kania went to at least two bars before the accident and others with Kania the night of the crash attempted to keep him from driving his 2005 Jeep Wrangler.
“There are eyewitness accounts of his behavior from earlier in the night in which at least one and as many as five people, before he decided to get in the vehicle in Chapel Hill, attempted to physically restrain him,” he says, “and that he fought physically with at least one of those people – knocking at least one of those people to the ground.”
Nieman says another person attempted to take his keys but was unsuccessful before ultimately taking Kania’s cell phone in hopes to keep him from leaving.
Nieman called Kania a danger to himself and others as well as a flight risk and asked the judge to set the bond at $1.5 million.
Judge Anderson settled on bond at $1 million.
“This case represents almost unimaginable horror and loss and tragedy,” he says, “and is an indictment, in many ways, of the world we live in and the world we tolerate.”
If Kania does post bond, the judge imposed conditions that Kania submit to electronic house arrest, not to consume alcohol, submit to a curfew between eight o’clock at night and eight in the morning, and have no contact with investigators, victims, or possible witnesses in the case.
The only time Kania spoke at the hearing was to agree to waive his right to a public defender and to say he did not have any questions for the judge.
If convicted on all charges, Kania could face between 40 and 50 years in prison.
Kania’s attorney was not present at the hearing and a court review to ensure he has legal counsel is scheduled to take place on Monday.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/kania-charged-with-3-counts-of-2nd-degree-murder
The Carrboro Police Department arrested a man, on Tuesday, who is wanted in connection with a death in Durham.
The Durham Police Department announced the arrest of 30-year-old Andrew Koko Scheper, by the Carrboro PD. Scheper is wanted in connection with the death of 38-year-old Trinity James Wilkins, also known as Trinity Smith.
Wilkins’ body was found on January 19 in a body of water near East Club Boulevard in Durham.
Wilkins and Scheper knew each other and the homicide did not appear to be random, according to investigators.
Scheper, of Durham, has been charged with one count of murder.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/carrboro-pd-arrest-man-charged-murder
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.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/da-woodall-says-nc-death-penalty-system-needs-reform
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall will not be seeking the death penalty in the case of a murdered UNC professor from July of this year.
59-year-old Feng Liu was hit in the head with a landscaping rock on July 23rd, while he was walking near West University Drive and Ransom Street and died the next day at UNC Hospitals.
Two men were arrested in connection with the case the next day.
They’re charged with first-degree murder – a capital crime – but Woodall says there are issues that exist with the death penalty, in its current form.
“The death penalty is really in a state of uncertainty,” he says. “There has not been an execution [in North Carolina] in many years. There are lots of challenges to our death penalty statute and the scheme that is used in North Carolina. That’s true all over the country.”
DA Woodall also says that, based on recent history, he does not believe a death verdict would ultimately be handed down.
“[Even] as horrific as the circumstances of this case are, I think it’s extremely unlikely that there would be a death verdict in this case,” he says. “I talked to the Liu family, and they did not want it pursued as a death penalty case.”
Woodall says the discussion with the victim’s family does not make the decision of whether to pursue the death penalty or not, but it does factor into his equation.
The next step in the Liu trial is a court date set for April, which Woodall refers to as an “administrative” appearance.
Woodall adds that the investigation is ongoing and new discoveries are being made. Those discoveries must then be shared with the defense throughout the trial.
The district attorney is not expecting to have evidence back from the state crime lab before the next trial date.
“It will not be a case that’s for trial for some period of time,” he says. “Waiting to get the evidence back from the crime lab will take, probably, close to a year.”
27-year-old Troy Arrington, of Chapel Hill, and 23-year-old Derick Davis II, of Durham, have been charged in killing the professor.
The two men face charges of armed robbery in addition to first-degree murder.http://chapelboro.com/news/no-death-penalty-case-murdered-professor
Additional reporting by Sarah Headley
The man accused of shooting his estranged wife to death in May 2012 outside Mary Scroggs Elementary School pleaded guilty to discharging a firm arm on educational property Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court.
Ali Cherfaoui of Carrboro was apprehended near 15-501 and Raleigh Road (NC-54) after officers, based on 911 calls, suspected him of shooting Chahnaz Kebaier just after 2:00 p.m. outside the school. Kebaier’s friend, Emily Martine, was the first to run into the school asking for help, saying her friend was just shot in front of her.
Tuesday’s guilty plea adds 23 to 37 months in prison to his first guilty plea of possession of a weapon on school property. He made that plea on September 2 when he was sentenced to 19 months in prison.
Cherfaoui’s guilty plea is part two of a four part plea series. He was also charged with one count of second-degree kidnapping and one count of first-degree murder. Cherfaoui will appear in court again on October 14.
Cherfaoui and Kebaier had two children together who both attended Mary Scroggs. A judge ruled shortly after the killing that the children would live with Kebaier’s parents in Tunisia on the African continent.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/2012-elementary-school-murder-suspect-enters-plea-2-four
Search warrants unsealed by the Durham County District Attorney’s office Friday morning reveal multiple people of interest in the murder investigation of Faith Hedgepeth nearly two years ago. Chapel Hill Police have yet to say if any have been ruled out as suspects.
The most notable connection with the victim is Eriq Takoy Jones, who lived in the same apartment complex as Hedgepeth, a few buildings away from where she was found murdered. Jones apparently had a previous relationship with Hedgepeth’s roommate, Karena Lynn Rosario.
According to a warrant, Jones told Rosario earlier that summer that he hated Hedgepeth and would kill her if Rosario didn’t get back together with him. Police were told that Jones resented Hedgepeth because he considered her a barrier to his relationship with Rosario.
Police say Rosario placed a restraining order against Jones two months before Hedgepeth was murdered, after he allegedly kicked two doors off their frame in Rosario’s apartment.
Jones gave investigators permission to search his cell phone. They found a text message Jones sent to a friend the day before the murder asking the friend to forgive him for what he was about to do. Jones also sent a tweet to someone else asking for forgiveness. Police said the cover photo on Jones’ Facebook page was changed to include, “Dear Lord. Forgive me for all of my sins and the sins I may commit today. Protect me from the girls who don’t deserve me and the ones who wish me dead today.”
Jacob Beatley of 103 West Longview Street in Chapel Hill was also questioned six months after the murder took place. A warrant shows that a cell tower search conducted early in the investigation connected an incident report to Beatley’s phone number.
Investigators said when they contacted Beatley they found that he lived with the person who Rosario was with during the time of the murder. Police said he also went to the nightclub The Thrill that night, but couldn’t recall when he left. The warrants say Beatley was asked to submit a DNA sample, but he did not do so voluntarily.
Another person of interest included Reginald Leonard Jackson, II who was living in Greensboro in November 2012 when investigators attempted to contact him.
A Chapel Hill Police officer said he attempted to get in touch with him by phone multiple times before traveling to his last known address in Greensboro. The CHPD officer said he caught up with Jackson with the assistance of local police. He said Jackson was in his car and pulling out of the parking lot of his apartment complex. The warrant says Jackson told the officers he “knew of (Hedgepeth)” but that he doesn’t talk to police like that.
In Thursday’s release, Police Chief Chris Blue said investigators collected hundreds of DNA samples, but did not name any suspects. Chapel Hill Police did report that at least one person refused to have a DNA sample submitted.
Investigators continue to ask that if you have any information regarding the case to call 919-614-6363. You can also call Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/persons-interest-listed-hedgepeth-murder-investigation-documents