Arrest Made After 2 Killed in Orange County

A man has been charged with murder in connection with a shooting on Doc Corbett Road on Friday.

Officials with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office say Armando Garcia Lopez was arrested in Greensboro early Saturday morning.

Authorities say deputies responded to a call on Friday morning of two individuals with gunshot wounds located in a single-family dwelling in northern Orange County. Both victims were deceased when deputies arrived.

One victim has been identified as 37-year-old Armando Aguirre Jr., of Graham. The second victim has not been positively identified as of Saturday morning, according to officials.

Law enforcement says an additional murder warrant is forthcoming against Lopez.

Lopez is being held in the Orange County Jail without bond pending his first appearance on Monday.

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at (919) 644-3050. Callers wishing to remain anonymous can call CrimeStoppers at (919) 732-7687.

Two Dead in Orange County Shooting

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is investigating two deaths.

Deputies responded to a call on Friday morning of two individuals with gunshot wounds located inside a single-family dwelling in northern Orange County.

Authorities say both victims were deceased when deputies arrived.

Officials say there does not appear to be an ongoing threat for community safety while the deaths are being investigated.

The victim’s names are being withheld pending the notification of their next of kin.

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at (919) 644-3050. Callers wishing to remain anonymous can call CrimeStoppers at (919) 732-7687.

No further details are available at this time. This story will be updated as more information is released.

Orange County’s Clear the Shelter Event this Weekend

This weekend may be the perfect time to adopt a pet. Orange County will be participating in the Clear the Shelters event this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The event will be held at Orange County’s Animal Shelter on Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill.

Clear the Shelters is a nationwide pet adoption initiative in cooperation with NBC-owned television stations, including WRAL, that helps find loving homes for pets in need, according to a release.

All adoption fees for this event will be waived, officials say, because the important thing is to find the animals a loving home.

Officials say the pets that need to be adopted the most are older pets, pets with special needs, pit bulls and black pets.

If adopting a pet right now is not favorable the program is happy to take donations, volunteers and ambassadors.

For more information on the Clear the Shelters event here.

Chapel Hill Man Arrested with Over 800 Grams of Cocaine

Approximately 815 grams of suspected cocaine were found in the possession of a Chapel Hill man during a traffic stop.

Officials say a deputy pulled over a silver Kawasaki motorcycle on Highway 54 near the intersection of White Cross Road around 10:40 Wednesday morning for a registration plate violation.

A release says the suspect was making “suspicious movements with his hands toward the waist band area of the shorts he was wearing.” The deputy then “gained a position of control over the suspect” and held the individual at gun point.

Gabriel Pineda Rodriguez-Leal, of Butler Road in Chapel Hill, was then taken into custody without further incident after assisting deputies found a package that contained the suspected cocaine.

Authorities say they believe Rodriguez-Leal was trying to discard the package after being stopped, which resulted in the suspicious movement that caught the deputy’s attention.

Rodriguez-Leal was charged with two counts of trafficking more than 400 grams of cocaine by possession and transporting.

Rodriguez-Leal made his first court appearance on Thursday afternoon and is being held in the Orange County Detention Center under a $200,000 secured bond.

He is set to appear in court again on Monday.

Orange County Health Department Wins Award for Breastfeeding Support Services

The Orange County Health Department received the Mother-Baby Award for Outpatient Healthcare Clinics from the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition.

This competitive award has recognized the health department as one of the best support programs for breastfeeding families in North Carolina. Orange County Health Department’s Public Information Officer Stacy Shelp said this has been an ongoing effort from the department.

“It is a recognition we are amazingly proud of. We have been working a long time to be a breastfeeding friendly facility and encourage other county departments to be that as well,” Shelp said.

The Orange County Health Department actively supports breastfeeding families and provides a variety of services to educate and encourage women to breastfeed.

“We do have prenatal services, as well as, newborn services, and a nutritionist/dietician on staff that can work with that new mom or soon-to-be mom on their nutritional diets and prepping for the birth of that baby, and that team of lactation consultants and home visiting services are fantastic,” Shelp said. “So we have a full variety of services we can offer, as well as, an actual nursing and breastfeeding room in our facilities.”

Shelp said she hopes the community continues to advocate the education for breastfeeding mothers.

“I think the more that we can make breastfeeding normal and support moms out in the community, the better it will be as these children are raised in a healthier way with stronger immune systems and a better bond with their parents,” Shelp said. “The more we can do that the better. I am just so thrilled that the Health Department and the Board of Health and our communities and hospitals are all seeing the benefit and the need for this. They have all done their own part to make Orange County and our communities supportive for moms.”

Learn more about the services provided on the Health Department’s website.

Orange County Animal Services Open Vaccination Clinic

Pet owners will have an opportunity to get their pets vaccinated for rabies for a low cost thanks to Orange County Animal Services hosting their rabies vaccination clinic.

The clinic will be held on July 21 from three o’clock in the afternoon to five o’clock at the Orange County Animal Services Center in Chapel Hill.

The clinics offer one-year vaccinations for $10 and will be held monthly through November.

The clinic asks that pet owners keep dogs on a leash and cats in a carrier. Fractious animals are to remain in the car. A vet will come to the car and perform the vaccination there.

Orange County has had three confirmed cases of rabies in 2016.

For more information about the animal services and the clinic dates visit here.

Vigil Planned for One Year Anniversary of Three Victims Killed in Wrong Way Crash in Orange County

The 911 calls were coming in early in the morning of Sunday, July 19, 2015.

One caller described a Jeep driving the wrong way on I-85 “and he’s not driving slow.”

Another caller reported the scene of a devastating crash.

“Oh my God, it’s on fire! It’s on fire! Oh my God, it’s on fire!”

Three people were killed in that crash – 49-year-old Felicia Harris, 46-year-old Darlene McGee and six-year-old Jahnice Baird.

Another passenger, nine-year-old Jahnia King was also seriously hurt in the crash.

Chandler Kania, from Asheboro, was driving the Jeep traveling the wrong way, according to law enforcement. Kania was a 20-year-old UNC student at the time. Police reports ultimately showed Kania’s blood-alcohol content was .17 the night of the crash, more than double the legal limit to drive in North Carolina.

After a few days in the hospital being treated for his own injuries, Kania made his first appearance in court in Hillsborough, where he was served with three counts of second-degree murder. Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman laid out the events that happened leading up to that crash as was understood from the preliminary investigation.

“Based on eyewitness accounts, he was traveling that direction of travel for – we believe at this time – at least six miles,” the Assistant DA said in court.

Nieman added that investigators found that some of Kania’s friends had attempted to keep him from driving that night after the group had spent several hours drinking.

“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,” Nieman said, “and that he fought physically with at least one of those people – knocking at least one of those people to the ground.”

Kania was held in jail on a $1 million bond. After an attempt to get the bond lowered from Kania’s attorney, family members of the victims said they were happy the judge kept the bond at $1 million.

“It’s quite evident that the guy is guilty of the charges,” said Bakojo Oguntola, McGee’s cousin.

Oguntola said at the time, just over one week after the crash, that his family did not hold any malice toward Kania.

“He’s a victim as well, but like I said earlier, he’s a victim of his choices,” Oguntola said. “He’s a victim of the choices that he made. And he’s a murderer. A drunk driver.

“And we’ve seen this scenario so many times in this country. He’s a drunk driver. Whether he’s 20, 30, 40 or 50, it still comes out to be the same thing.”

But Oguntola said that he was concerned about getting justice in this case.

“There’s no mystery that privileged people have a way of pushing things under the rug,” Oguntola said. “And there has to be accountability.

“And we choose to be here to make sure that we have an eye on the situation; that in case family have an opportunity to speak up, then our voices can be heard – because Darlene’s voice cannot be heard. But we can speak on her behalf.”

After his appeal for a bond reduction was denied, Kania was released from prison after posting the $1 million bond. He left custody nine days after the crash.

Kania was indicted on all charges in late September.

Chapel Hill bars La Res and He’s Not Here both paid fines for the businesses alleged roles the night of the accident, which involved serving alcohol to a group of underage patrons that included Kania.

The case has been relatively quiet recently. Kania made a court appearance earlier this year but had his next court appearance set for this fall.

A vigil is scheduled to be held at Peace and Justice Plaza in Chapel Hill at eight o’clock Tuesday night in honor of the three lives that were lost.

UNC Student-Athletes Team Up with Habitat for Humanity for Efland Build

A group of UNC student-athletes traded their cleats for construction gear Saturday.

Luke Ciocca is a junior at UNC. He’s also a soccer player. On Saturday, he added handy man to his résumé.

“We’re mulching; we’re moving siding,” Ciocca said. “And I’ve come out and helped move cardboard as well as heavy lifting.”

Ciocca was one of over 100 UNC student-athletes who participated in the first Day of Service on Saturday. It’s a partnership with the Orange County Habitat for Humanity. Athletes from at least five different teams worked side-by-side with Habitat workers to finish a group of houses in Efland, so families could move in as quickly as possible.

“We wanted to find a summer project where a lot of our student-athletes could come together and give back to the community since they have a little more free time in the summer,” UNC assistant director for student-athlete services Korie Sawyer said at the event.

She said the project was so successful that they had almost too many people and not enough jobs to divvy up.

“This is the first time we’ve had kind of a big service project Day of Service,” Sawyer said. “And we think we might have to do it again in the fall and spring because there was a good turnout.”

Hannah Strom is the communications manager for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. She said Saturday was one of the most successful volunteer days Habitat has ever had.

“I think one of the great things about working with sports teams is that they’re so used to being a team and working together that they’re just a really fun group of students to work with,” Strom said.

Ciocca said he hopes to continue days of service with Habitat for Humanity, because he feels it’s so important to do something that helps the community.

“It’s something that UNC really tries to do is give back,” Ciocca said. “Especially student-athletes, because we have a lot of stuff that we get and so we try to give something back.”

Habitat for Humanity members also said they hope to plan more days of service like this in the future.

Fundraising Effort Underway for Orange County Veteran’s Memorial

A site has been chosen for an Orange County Veteran’s Memorial and now fundraising efforts are underway to help make that vision a reality.

“The beauty of this is that we have all theses old trees here,” Lee Heavlin said in describing the wooded plot adjacent to the Southern Human Services Center off of Homestead Road, where the Veteran’s Memorial will eventually sit.

Heavlin is the fundraising chairman for the Orange County Veteran’s Memorial and former post commander of the American Legion Post No. 6 in Chapel Hill.

“It’s a walkway with wheelchair access,” said describing the plan for the memorial. “And there’ll be a park area with paving stones and walls to kind of give it a border.”

Heavlin said a portion of the lot was being “redeveloped so you’ll be able to see the flagpole and part of the monument from the road.”

The land proposed to be used for the Veteran's Memorial. Photo via Blake Hodge.

The land proposed to be used for the Veteran’s Memorial. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Heavlin said it was important to those in the planning process that the work would not alter the land that will house the memorial.

“We can nicely do this without hurting the soil and the trees and give the people a place that they can go to,” Heavlin said. “The senior center at the bottom of the hill – that road will be realigned a little bit – there will be a walkway coming from there up.

“So they’d have a nice place to go walk too, to expand on what we already have.”

Heavlin said this placement will allow for calm reflection for visitors to the site.

“It’s easily accessible from many places,” Heavlin said. “And when you go here, it’s a park. It’s going to be an elegant-looking thing.

“We’re not losing trees. These trees will all stay. And these [are] well over 100 years old.”

Heavlin said, now that the site has been chosen, they are turning their attention to raising money.

“What we really need today, ideally, is $5,000,” Heavlin said. “If we could find a benefactor, someone in Chapel Hill said, ‘Hey, I want to make a difference, and I’m not looking to get my name on a wall somewhere. I just want to be there for the Veteran’s Memorial, and I would like to make a large contribution.’”

Heavlin said that money would continue funding the architecture work.

Once the Orange County Commissioners give final approval to the plans, which Heavlin said could come this fall, the group will be able to expand its fundraising effort. Heavlin said that would include opportunities to purchase commemorative bricks and other features to be included in the overall memorial.

He added that if everything went according to plan, a groundbreaking could be held around Veteran’s Day this November with construction beginning next spring.

Heavlin said this monument will be a benefit to the entire community, including veterans and future generations learning about Orange County’s history.

“It’s all about legacy,” Heavlin said. “Do we want to remember those who served our country? Not everyone goes to combat. Not everyone has to go overseas. For every one person who’s on the combat line, there [are] probably 10 people supporting them.

“This is for everybody. This is for people from years ago. This is for people who are serving today. It’s our way of saying to the veterans who’ve returned – or came here for the first time – that we, as citizens of Chapel Hill [and] Orange County, are proud of their service. And we honor them.”

You can learn more about getting involved and donating to the Orange County Veteran’s Memorial here.

Mountains to Sea Trail Draws Concern from Orange County Citizens

Many community members in Orange County brought concern to the last OWASA Board meeting regarding the proposed route for the Mountains to Sea Trail.

The trail could possibly go through OWASA property and some community member’s backyards.

The Mountains to Sea Trail is 1150 miles long beginning in the Great Smokey Mountains and ending in Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. The trail runs through 37 counties and 41 towns where you will hike through wildlife and historical sites.

As of right now, 470 miles of the trail is still on road ways, but it is in the process of converting to off-road pathways. The portion of the trail through southwestern Orange County going over the Cane Creek Reservoir is what has brought concern to the community.

John Silva created a petition against the proposed area.

“When this project was first brought up three years ago, there was active resistance from members of the Cane Creek Watershed communities, and Mount Mitchell, Thunder Mountain, Apple Mill and Teer Roads. There are many reasons for this opposition, but I think one of the most prominent reasons to consider is OWASA is given the responsibility of protecting this water shed,” Silva said. “That water is provided to Chapel Hill, Carrboro, the University of North Carolina, the hospital, the children’s hospital, the cancer center, the many schools in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, the businesses and the residents in that area.”

Other concerns that came from the community and the board included fire safety on the trail and proximity to the neighboring houses. Community member Scott Zimmerman supports the trail.

“North Carolina is a beautiful state. From the coast to the mountains, we have a lot to offer that is unique to the United States. And the trail tries to hit those beautiful places,” Zimmerman said. “We have some of the most beautiful places here in this county, and you are the owners of a part of that. It’s a beautiful piece of property, and [it’s a] shame that it could only be enjoyed by those who live adjacent to it.”

The Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail have partnered with the Orange County Department of Agriculture throughout this process. Department director David Stancil said the first step in their process is to listen to the community.

“We’ve heard from many people today about different ideas, comments and concerns. Then eventually get to the point where we can map a route or routes. It may be that there is no one route, and there may be places where there will be multiple routes that need to be identified. And then complete a plan and move on to construction,” Stancil said.

Stancil said they want to interact with the public on this plan.

“This process is really designed to try and engage and solicit community input. The county does not have any plans to take any land for the Mountains to Sea Trail. The process that’s envisioned is to work with landowners along the route and to identify a series of negotiations that may take many years,” Stancil said.

OWASA has not stated whether they are for or against the sea trail, but they did say they would like to provide specific conditions to the trail as it may pertain to their property.

OWASA board members did not vote on specific conditions that the trail will have to abide by. They have chosen to further discuss the conditions they would like to put into place and plan to bring them to the community at their next meeting on August 25.

Proposed Mountain to Sea Trail route. Photo via OWASA.

Proposed Mountains to Sea Trail route. Photo via OWASA.