Orange County Sheriff’s Office Open for Craigslist Deals

Any of us that have dealt with Craigslist have probably felt a bit uneasy about the experience at the beginning.

Craigslist, and other sites like it, allow you to post items you would like to sell – a couch, a truck, a washing machine, whatever it may be – or post objects that you are looking to buy.

You can save some money on certain items, but the drawback is you are dealing with strangers and there is no accountability that exists with in-store purchases.

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood says concerned calls over these deals come in frequently in reference to horrifying stories from around the country regarding Craigslist postings being used as bait for criminal activity.

“People in turn calls us and say, ‘I’m looking to buy something on Craigslist, but I saw where these people were killed,’” the sheriff says. “We try to explain to them that that’s an older case but, certainly, you want to be cautious and pick the location that you want to have this to take place in.”

If you are feeling a bit cautious about meeting the other party for a Craigslist deal, now you can meet up at the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s a better and safer way to conduct online business transactions with Craigslist and similar purchases that are made via the Internet,” Blackwood says.

Blackwood says the Transaction Safe Zone has been established to increase the sense of security for the buyer and seller after striking a deal.

“It was a no-brainer for us to try to create a situation where the buyer and/or the seller have that level of confidence that they have a safe place, that is in public, [and] that potentially could ward off anyone who had any ill will to begin with,” he says.

At the request of either party, the Sheriff’s Office is also offering to check the serial number of the item being bought or sold to ensure that it is not stolen merchandise.

You can use the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office in Hillsborough as a meeting point without notifying law enforcement. You can also come inside to the lobby during business hours. And if you would like a deputy to be with you during the transaction you can also make that request through the Sheriff’s Office.

Domestic Violence Victims Need Long-Term Support To Leave Abusers

Orange County deputies responded to more than one thousand domestic violence calls last year, prompting Sheriff Charles Blackwood to call for Orange County to tackle domestic violence head on.

“It is unconscionable that Orange County does not have a shelter for our victims,” says Blackwood.

Ardith Burkes is the interim Executive Director for the Compass Center for Women and Families. She agrees, but says the need for services extends beyond an emergency shelter.

“There’s a need for shelter options, both a crisis shelter but also to look at long-term housing options for victims who are leaving an abusive situation, but they really don’t have the financial means yet to be able to support themselves and their children separate from that abuser,” says Burkes.

Currently, women who seek help to leave their abusers are either referred to shelters outside Orange County, or temporarily housed in local hotel rooms. Beyond the immediate question of where to go, Burkes says those fleeing abuse need long-term support to rebuild their lives.

“It’s really hard to be able to support yourself long-term when you leave a relationship that’s abusive, and so, the solution is not just having a domestic violence shelter, but really, what is the long-term housing support that can be offered for those families so that they feel like they have somewhere to live if they’re going to leave their abusive situation and start over,” says Burkes.

A county task force was created in 2011 to explore the need for a crisis shelter, but those plans were put on hold while the Family Violence Prevention Center merged with the Women’s Center. Now, Burkes says students at the UNC School of Social Work are conducting an assessment of community needs.

“We’re bringing some energy back into the shelter discussion and figuring out how the community can really own this challenge and come together for the best outcomes,” says Burkes. “What do we need for the whole system to come together, so we don’t end up with just a shelter, but we end up with longer-term solutions with community buy-in?”

Blackwood and Burkes both say one key to preventing relationship violence is to educate young people about healthy power dynamics.

“Some of our work with dating violence and bullying prevention is to do just that, really primary prevention measures so that the next generation has had open, frank conversations about what is OK in relationships and create healthy relationships based on people having equal power, versus what really is not OK to do to or with your partner, so that they could be spared being victimized or becoming someone who has abusive behaviors or characteristics.”

The Compass Center offers a 24-hour hotline (919-929-7122) as well as a range of counseling and support services. To find out more, click here.

Missing Person Reported by Orange County Sheriff

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is asking for help from the community to find a missing person.

41-year-old Brice Edward Holliman Sr. has been missing since Thursday, April 9.

According to authorities, he left a friend’s house on Saxapahaw Bethlehem Church Road near the Orange-Alamance County line around 6:30 in the evening.

He reportedly told friends he would be back for dinner in about 30 minutes but has not been seen or heard from since.

He was last seen driving a white Lexus ES300 with North Carolina license plate CMN-9691.

Holliman is described as 6’ 3” and approximately 250 pounds. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a white tank top, and a baseball cap.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Holliman, please contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Office or your local law enforcement agency.

Arrests Made in 2007 Orange County Murder

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has arrested 67-year-old Jerry Wayne Sawyers and his 29-year-old son Christopher Ray Sawyers for the September 2007 murder of Charles Sidney Lloyd.

Authorities say new evidence surfaced in the fall of last year, after the case had remained open for seven years.

No other information was available. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at (919) 644-3050.

Orange County Looks to Harlem Initiative to Help Kids in Poverty

Orange County is taking steps to address the effects of poverty on children, “from cradle to college” and beyond.

A county initiative called the Family Success Alliance is modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, an acclaimed New York program that works to keep Harlem kids on the track toward college graduation.

“We were inspired by the work of the Harlem Children’s Zone,” said Meredith Stewart, program manager of the Orange County Health Department, “because of their focus on picking a specific geographic area and saying, ‘How do we work with families and children in that geographic area or zone, to really create changes at scale?’

“So we want to see changes in the community, not just at the individual level, but at the community level.”

Two out of six local zones being considered were selected as pilot zones for the project.

Wednesday, from 5 until 7, partners from Zone 4 – the area between I-40 and I-85 in central Orange County – will join members of the FSA for a public meeting at A.L. Stanback Middle School, at 3700 NC 86 South, in Hillsborough.

They’ll discuss the findings of door-to-door surveys in Zone 4, which includes Stanback and New Hope Elementary. Fifty-five percent of Zone 4 students receive free or reduced lunch.

“What I might see on a daily level is a parent calling me and telling me they don’t have a place to live,” said Aviva Scully, a social worker at Stanback Middle School, “or they need help paying a bill; they’ve had a shutoff notice; they need help with clothing; lots of calls for help with food.”

A similar meeting will be held Thursday for Zone 6, from 5 until 7 p.m. at Carrboro Elementary School, at 400 Shelton St. The zone stretches from downtown Chapel Hill southwest to Highway 54, and has the highest number of the county’s children under 18 living in poverty – nearly 900.

Child care, a light dinner and interpreters will be available at both meetings.

Sunshine Week: When Will We See Orange County’s Emails?

Sunshine Week is a national effort to encourage transparency in all levels of government. With that in mind, Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich says it’s time to shine some light on local government emails.

“We’re living in a world where we need information quickly and we can have that information quickly,” says Rich. “Why not make it available?”

Under the North Carolina Public Records Law, emails sent to or received by government officials are considered public records. Anyone can make an information request to get a copy of those documents.

The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro have gone one step further, putting government emails online in archives immediately accessible to anyone with a computer.

Now, Rich and other commissioners are pushing for Orange County to do the same.

“There’s an overall feeling, ‘let’s share this information, let’s have these emails available,’” says Rich. “And let’s face it, there’s not a large percentage of people who are going to spend their days scouring through county commissioner emails, but if there is one specific topic that you’re interested in and you want to see if that discussion has already taken place, or if there are any replies to that discussion, it’s a good first place to go.”

Rich says the main obstacle right now is money.

“I think it’s just a matter of how to make it happen financially. I don’t think there’s any push back about not sharing information; I think it’s just changing up the systems to allow that to happen. That has to come in front of the board.”

Whatever system is put in place to catalog the emails will need to filter out confidential discussions involving personnel matters, legal issues and property purchases.

There’s no set standard for how local governments should share emails online. Chapel Hill and Carrboro each take a slightly different approach.

Chapel Hill’s archive includes letters from staff, citizens and a flood of spam. The Mayor’s emails are released in batches each quarter. Carrboro’s emails trickle in at the rate of one or two a day, mostly in the form of comments between board members and staff.

It’s not clear what form an Orange County email archive could take, but Rich says it should be as inclusive as possible.

“In general, I would say 90 percent of our emails should be out there and people should be able to see what our conversations are.”

Rich says it’s not yet clear if funding for a public email archive will be up for discussion in next year’s budget negotiations.

OC Health Department Receives Funding Help

The Orange County Health Department Dental Clinic received a $4,000 check from the Delta Dental Foundation, last Friday. This money is meant to assist in providing dental care to uninsured children.

Delta Dental of North Carolina CEO Curt Ladig says this money can go a long way.

“This will help serve an additional 100 children per month, in Orange County, receive oral examinations, fluoride varnish, and sealant,” he says. “This would be directed to children who are poor and underserved in our community, that are not receiving dental services.”

Ladig adds the Orange County Health Department’s Dental Clinic was in extreme need of these funds to serve underprivileged children.

“The Orange County Health Department made it known to us that 28 percent of children receiving Medicaid up to age ten, in Orange County, did not receive an annual dental visit in 2013,” he says.

He adds missing these annual visits can increase the risk of tooth decay, which is preventable.

“About a third of the children entering kindergarten today have tooth decay, and left untreated it can cause significant pain and discomfort,” he says. “You can imagine if you have pain and discomfort, you’re not focusing too much on your studies at school.”

That can lead to students missing additional days of class time and falling behind their peers.

Delta Dental has the largest network of dentists in North Carolina to provide these services for children in need.

The non-profit organization will donate $40,000 to oral health organizations and programs statewide.

Measles Outbreak Sparks Vaccination Debate

A Measles outbreak across portions of the United States has sparked concern from parents here in Orange County and enflamed the debate over vaccinations.

Stacy Shelp, Public Information Officer with Orange County Health Department, says there is no presence of measles in our community. But you don’t have to think back very far to remember an outbreak.

“Measles is extremely contagious; to the point of about a 90 percent contagion rate,” she says. “We did have an outbreak here in Orange County back in 2013. We had eight confirmed cases in Orange County and 23 in the state.

“As of that time, what we would continue to do is really encourage people to get their vaccination.”

Shelp says she does not have current numbers, but Orange County has traditionally had a high vaccination rate.

“In 2013 here at the Orange County Health Department, we actually had a very high vaccination rate at about 97 percent of our patients were vaccinated.”

Most public school students in North Carolina receive a shot to help fight off the measles, but there are waivers that can be filed by parents who do not want their children vaccinated.

“There are medical and religious exemptions that parents can use for school reasons,” she says. “It’s not going to be for us to track down and say ‘prove it, prove it, prove it.’ It really is for that parent to say.”

Shelp adds the vaccination is the best preventative measure parents can take to avoid the viral infection.

“They can get their first dose of the MMR between twelve and fifteen months old, and a second dose at four to six years of age,” she says. “That’s obviously, and with a lot of evidence behind it, the best way to protect yourself from measles.”

There have been no confirmed cases of measles in North Carolina in 2015. There was a scare with two potential cases in Cleveland County, but test results for measles were negative.

Winter Weather Advisory Expires; Threat Persists

The Winter Weather Advisory that was issued by the National Weather Service in Raleigh due to the threat of black ice expired at 10 o’clock Wednesday morning.

Road conditions are still very icy and causing major cancellations. And weather forecasts are calling for the possibility of light precipitation Wednesday evening, coupled with overnight temperatures in single digits.

Governor Pat McCrory gave a briefing on conditions across the state, Tuesday evening.


Lt. Josh Mecimore with the Chapel Hill Police Department told WCHL’s Blake Hodge that it appears most residents heeded the warning to stay off the roads.


More than 100 flights were canceled at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, according to RDU Spokesperson Mindy Hamlin. She gave an update to WCHL.


The winter weather means long hours for Orange County Emergency Services. Director Jim Groves spoke with WCHL.


The cold weather can be difficult for animals as well. Bob Marotto, Director of Orange County Animal Services, says that the best solution is to bring pets indoors.


For those without a warm place to go, the Inter-Faith Council has open doors.


AAA Carolina’s Tiffany Wright offers some tips for making it through the cold weather unharmed.

Winter Weather Approaching

Winter weather is approaching the Tar Heel state and could cause travel issues late Monday evening though mid-day Tuesday. The impending weather prompted Governor Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency.

Listen to the full press conference with Governor McCrory and other state officials below:

Shawna Coakley, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh, says the projected forecast calls for snow Monday afternoon.

“We’re looking probably to see some of that starting around 3 [or] 4 o’clock,” she says. “The real active stuff probably won’t ramp up until this evening; we’re looking around 7 [or] 8 o’clock.

“We’ll see a switch over to more of a sleet and freezing rain situation. That could make for some potentially hazardous travel. And that’ll continue through the overnight hours and then start to move out in the morning hours on Tuesday.”

Brad Wall, Division Maintenance Engineer with the NC Department of Transportation, says that they have been preparing for this after getting a reliable forecast.

“On Sunday, we applied salt brine as conditions allowed and as time allowed,” he says. “Today, we are preparing our trucks: getting the spreaders on, getting the plows on and we’ll have them loaded out with salt.”

With the cold temperatures in recent days, Wall says that he is expecting the winter weather to begin accumulating quickly once it starts falling. That could lead to dangerous road conditions late Monday and into Tuesday morning.

The State Highway Patrol also released tips to stay safe during the winter weather, including avoid travel unless necessary, decrease speed, and wear your seatbelt. State troopers also encourage you to allow additional travel time. Law enforcement also cautions that, if you are in an accident, they may require additional response time due to the conditions.