There were 11 murders in Catawba County in 2011. There were five murders countywide in 2010.
Authorities say the increase could be due to several factors, but is not abnormally high or reflect a negative trend.
The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office handled seven murders in 2011, compared to three in 2010.
Sheriff Coy Reid said his office deals with three to six murders each year. He said he didn’t think the 2011 increase in murders reflect a bad trend or growing crime presence, but rather thinks it was a reflection of the type of crimes that were committed.
“I think the reason it was so high was that on one of the murders there were two people killed and another one had three,” Reid said.
One of the incidents Reid is referring to was a triple homicide in Conover in March 2011. Everette Hewitt, 32, of Claremont, is charged with murdering three people in March 2011, when he allegedly walked into a Conover mobile home and started shooting. He is also charged with second-degree trespassing, first-degree burglary and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Hewitt allegedly shot four people inside the trailer on Emmanuel Church Road in Conover about 4:45 a.m. on March 15, 2011. Three of those people died. The Catawba County Sheriff's Office identified the victims as Wade Sigmon, 49; Susan Kay Blevins, 51; and Connie Canipe Miller, 42, all of Conover. Joseph Burke, 38, survived the incident. Burke was shot in the back of his neck, and he called 9-1-1 to report the crime.
In a recording of Burke's call, he told a 9-1-1 operator that an unknown man came into the residence and demanded Burke's ATM card.
Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said police think the four shooting victims and Hewitt were using drugs together early on the morning of March 15, before the shootings occurred.
Hewitt allegedly fled the mobile home on Emmanuel Church Road after the shootings, prompting a 26-hour manhunt that involved more than 100 deputies from Catawba County and the surrounding area.
Police located Hewitt on March 16 in Claremont at the home of his girlfriend. He was taken into custody without incident.
Hewitt has been in the Catawba County jail without bond since his arrest. His next court date is scheduled for this month.
Hickory Police Department investigated four murders in 2011, a number HPD Maj. Clyde Deal says fits within the norm.
“For the last decade, that’s within about one of being the normal,” Deal said.
Deal said most of the murders in 2011 were acquaintance-based incidents.
One of the most high-profile murders of 2011 was the stabbing of a Hickory cab driver outside the LongHorn Steakhouse off U.S. 70.
According to police, Yellow Cab Company driver Adam Williams, 32, of Hickory, picked up one rider outside LongHorn Steakhouse headed for Tate Boulevard and 15th Street NE in Hickory at about 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 23. The rider wanted to change his destination to Hildebran, and Williams called it in. That was last communication Yellow Cab heard from Williams.
At 10:35 p.m., employees of LongHorn called 9-1-1 after Williams tried to enter the restaurant bleeding from wounds to the neck and face area.
Williams was transported to Frye Regional Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.
Five suspects were later charged in connection to the murder, including Camyron Johnson, 23, and Matthew Hopkins, 22, who are both being charged capitally.
Deal said the taxicab murder is a irregularity for the Hickory area and the county.
“That’s rare for this area to have someone in a business-type robbery,” Deal said. “We don’t normally see that around here.”
He added that the last time annual murder rates were abnormally high was in the 1990s.
“Back in the 1990s, when crack cocaine was making its way here, there were some years where we saw 11,13 and 14 and things like that,” he said. “For the last decade, it’s been very stable.”
In the past 10 years, the county has averaged about 9 murders each year, according to statistics compiled by the State Bureau of Investigation. The highest number of murders came in 2008, when the county had 12.
From 2001-2010, the county’s murder rate has averaged about 5.49. The murder rate charts offenses per 100,000 people.
Catawba County’s murder numbers and rates compare similarly to neighboring counties, but are much lower than major metropolitan areas like Charlotte or Raleigh.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, for example, had 62 murders in 2010.
Also, the county’s murder rate over the past 10 years averages to be about 9.29.