Archive - 2011 - News Article
The man accused of murdering a Catawba County teen was arraigned Tuesday in court.
John Lee Mitchell, 48, is charged with murdering Travis Lee Baker, 19, who was reported missing in 2007.
Mitchell's attorney, Lisa Dubs, was present for the arraignment, which is the formal reading of a criminal complaint against a defendant. Mitchell is in Catawba County jail with no bond.
Investigators combed the county for signs of Baker or his red Camaro, and the teen's remains were located in June 2009 on a property in Catawba County.
The Hickory woman accused of stealing money from an elementary school organization had her case continued in court.
Holly Lafone Specht, 30, is charged with stealing money from the Webb A. Murray Elementary School's Parent Teacher Organization when she served as the organization's treasurer during the 2008-09 school year.
Specht was scheduled to appear in Catawba County Superior Court on Tuesday, but her attorney, Mark Killian, appeared in her place.
Specht's attorney requested the case be continued, so he could obtain evidence relating to the investigation from third parties.
New details emerged Tuesday in the Zahra Baker case, revealing inconsistencies in accounts provided by key players in the investigation.
According to recently unsealed search warrants, Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, told police her stepdaughter died Sept. 24. Elisa Baker said Zahra's father, Adam Baker, then dismembered the child and scattered her remains the next day in various locations in Caldwell and Catawba counties, including Christie Road in Hudson and the Dudley Shoals Road/Burns Road areas.
An electrical malfunction led to a fire at Valley Hills Mall on Tuesday morning.
Hickory Fire Department responded to an activated fire alarm at 5:05 a.m. Tuesday at the mall, 1960 U.S. 70 SE. Even though no smoke was seen from the outside of the mall, firefighters were let into the building by a security guard. The guard confirmed he smelled smoke inside the mall.
After searching the mall, firefighters saw smoke and water coming from the Hot Topic store on the mall's lower level. Firefighters forced entry into the store and found smoke in Hot Topic's storage area.
A judge released 29 more warrants Tuesday in the Zahra Baker murder investigation.
The warrants total 200 pages and include information from Hickory Police's search for the missing 10-year-old Australian native.
Check The O-N-E's Wednesday edition for details uncovered in the warrants.
A Newton man was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Jonathan Caleb Burke, 31, of Newton, was charged with reckless driving, felony hit and run and second-degree murder after he hit and killed Tammy Wallis, 29, of Newton. Wallis was killed as she walked to her mailbox in September 2008.
Burke was offered a plea agreement that consolidated his reckless driving and felony hit-and-run charges into the second-degree murder charge.
Nine residents were selected Monday who could potentially determine the outcome of an investigation into the death and disappearance of Zahra Baker.
Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin presided over the selection Monday of new members of the Catawba County Grand Jury. It's these people who determine if there's reasonable cause to charge someone in connection with Zahra's death.
The man accused of killing a woman with his vehicle and leaving the scene of the crash was in court Monday.
Jonathan Caleb Burke, 31, of Newton, appeared in Catawba County District Court on charges of injury to real property and a motions violation.
Burke is charged with felony death by motor vehicle, driving while impaired and reckless driving to endanger after he allegedly struck and killed Tamara Wallis, of Newton, as she stood outside her home on N.C. 16 in September 2008.
Residents have a couple more days to pay their taxes without having interest added to their bills for delinquent payments.
The deadline for residents' tax payments is Wednesday.
Catawba County tax administrator Mark Logan said more people paid their tax bills as the year ended, and the county continues to collect payments.
Tax collection increased more than 2 percent this year in comparison to last year.
Logan said, as of Dec. 31, about 70 percent of tax money owed to the county was collected, which increased from about 67 percent collected during 2009.