Laurels and darts: Darts to drunk killer avoiding punishment

Darts to Catawba County’s justice system that allows a person to walk free even though they are directly responsible for the death of an innocent man.
Sadly, this situation is becoming a disconcerting norm in a county where drunk motorists can endanger roadways and motorists and have the very real hope of never facing punishment for any deadly crimes they might commit.
This week Tiffany Jade Vassello received a sentence of five years probation in exchange for a guilty plea for her misdemeanor crimes that resulted in the death of Reynardo Funez. Vassello pleaded guilty to hitting Funez with her SUV while he was outside his car alongside U.S.
321 almost two years ago. Inside Funez’s vehicle, his wife and children watched as a husband and father was run over and the driver fled the scene.
In court Tuesday, the community got a better understanding of the crime and probably arrived at a realization for why Vassello fled the death scene: she was very likely drunk when she hit and killed Funez in front of his family.
According to statements in court, Vassello and a friend had been drinking beer and liquor before she killed Funez. In fact, after she ran over the man, according to prosecutors, she texted her drinking buddy inquiring whether she hit something. Her car, prosecutors say she texted, was driving “funny.” From this evidence alone, it seems pretty clear that not only was Vassello intoxicated enough to swerve off the road and kill a person, but she was so inebriated that she didn’t even realize she hit something.
Yet Catawba County’s prosecutors only pursued misdemeanor charges, including misdemeanor hit and run, misdemeanor careless and reckless driving and misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.
A man is dead, and a family is left without their bread-winner and role model, and this young woman didn’t even lose her license.
Why was Vassello charged only with misdemeanors when a person is dead? Why will her criminal record never bear the felony marks warranted by a crime which she admitted to committing? Is the county’s top prosecutor so incapable of delivering justice to crime victims in this county that he refuses to even pursue felony charges and jail time when a life is lost?
Citizens must be concerned about the conclusion of this latest death that comes at the hands of a drunk driver. They must be concerned about the precedent that continues to be set: when it comes to drunk driving, even careless killers have a chance of avoiding serious punishment for their crimes.
As Catawba County residents, we can only hope that Vassello learns her lesson on probation and doesn't attempt to drink and drive again in her lifetime.We can only hope that this “punishment” doesn’t serve as signal to other drunk drivers that they can hit and kill someone without facing serious penalties or jail time. We can only hope that the next time a person is hit and killed by a drunk driver, that it won’t be one of our own loved ones. Because if such a frightening fatality does occur, this case offers forth more evidence that justice, in Catawba County, won’t be served.

Laurels to a new website to help small, rural businesses get ahead.
Catawba County Economic Development Corporation received $209,975 to create a web-based program to help connect small companies with possible clients. The website will provide area companies worldwide exposure they may not typically have because of a low budget and resources. The grant came from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.
The website program will assist Catawba County businesses that have 50 or less employees that don't have advertising funds or manpower to create an online presence.
The Rural Center estimated the program will create 100 jobs, retain another 250 jobs and serve 100 businesses.
The grant includes $70,101 for personnel salaries; $25,704 for student salaries; $48,600 for purchased services; $46,000 for printed collateral; $17,500 for Internet advertising; and $2,000 for travel.

Laurels to the announcement Monday by JER Partners that Sutter Street Manufacturing, a division of home-good manufacturer Williams-Sonoma, will lease a warehouse on Kelly Boulevard in Claremont.
The warehouse is reported to be 411,706 square feet and was built in two phases in 1999 and 2003. The warehouse has a racking system and 36-foot ceilings. Since its last tenant left, the building has sat empty.
This news means that the property will be occupied again and, if this is related to Williams-Sonoma’s 2008 announcement of plans to create 820 jobs, it means more people have the opportunity to earn an honest living for fair pay.
In a time when unemployment and a difficult economic environment continues to plague the region, news like this is reason for hope that these conditions are beginning to change.