Obama prescribes reform in N.C.

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By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

RALEIGH — President Barack Obama took the national health care debate to North Carolina on Wednesday, working during a town hall meeting to ease sweeping concerns over the cost of reform and seeking to calm fears of a massive government takeover.

AP photo
AP photo

Attempting to dispel what he called misinformation about health care reform, Obama told the crowd of 2,000 at Broughton High School in Raleigh that keeping the current system would lead to rocketing health insurance premiums, more people left uninsured and little help for small business owners hoping to cover their employees.

Many in attendance stood and cheered in agreement.

The pendulum of public opinion, however, seems to have swung on the president in recent weeks, with polls reporting fewer and fewer voters supporting the Democrats’ plan to reel in medical costs and guarantee all Americans have health insurance.

The White House said Obama’s visit was intended to dispel many of the “rumors” and “myths” of health care reform and to remind voters how important the overhaul is.

Continue reading “Obama prescribes reform in N.C.”

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FBI called in to probe series of murders

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By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram


Local authorities confirmed Monday federal officers are helping investigate a string of similar Rocky Mount murders dating back to 2005.

Police didn’t say when the FBI joined the task-force probe into the case, which has gripped the area in recent weeks, and authorities still will not say if they believe the murders might be the work of a serial killer.

One national expert on such crimes, however, said federal involvement in the investigation indicates officials are chasing a habitual killer.

“In my experience, they definitely wouldn’t come in if it wasn’t a serial killer,” said John Kelly, president of the New Jersey-based System to Apprehend Lethal Killers. “At some point, they’ll start to put a profile together on this person. They’ll start to focus in on his personality, what kind of killer he is, what types of women he’s after.” Continue reading “FBI called in to probe series of murders”

Woman struggles with daughter’s death

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram
Thursday, July 23, 2009

WHITAKERS — Diana Nicholson wishes she could have done more to lure her daughter away from the world of hard drugs and promiscuity. She struggled against tears this week as she recalled her youngest child’s dogged but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to get clean and off the streets.

If only she had more time, Nicholson wondered aloud, maybe her daughter, Taraha Nicholson, wouldn’t have been killed earlier this year – strangled by an unknown abductor and dumped in the woods.

Telegram photo / Ben Goff

“My baby girl is still here with me,” Nicholson said, clinging to the only photo she has left of her slain daughter. “She’s in my heart, and nobody can take that.”

Investigators knew almost immediately the body discovered March 7 in the woods off Marriott Road belonged to 28-year-old Taraha Nicholson, who had been reported missing from East Rocky Mount three weeks prior. A vaguely distinguishable tattoo of her name was scrolled across her arm.

Continue reading “Woman struggles with daughter’s death”

Women on the fringe fear for their lives

By Mike Hixenbaugh

Rocky Mount Telegram
Saturday, July 18, 2009

Turning tricks and the crack pipe have been her way of life for the better part of two decades, Denise Shae said last week, leaning forward on a leather couch in her disheveled Rocky Mount living room.

Prostitution isn’t the most virtuous way to pay bills, Shae admits, but that doesn’t mean she or others like her deserve to die.

Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

“It doesn’t matter what you do or what you’re into,” Shae said. “Nobody has a right to kill. Nobody needs to die like that, naked out in the woods.”

Since police publicly connected dots this month between a series of missing women and murders in her community, Shae said she has locked herself inside, terrified she’ll become the next in a line of small-framed, black women whose unclothed bodies have been dumped along rural Edgecombe County roads the past few years.

“It makes me scared,” said Shae, 45, whose name has been changed for confidentiality. “We’re all terrified.”

Whispers of a possible serial killer and rumors of more missing women have been on the lips of many throughout East Rocky Mount the past month, ever since a worker found the body of 31-year-old Jarniece Latonya Hargrove abandoned in the woods off Seven Bridges Road. Continue reading “Women on the fringe fear for their lives”

Woman copes with loss of job, loved one

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By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram

Friday, February 27, 2009

She’s calling it the “perfect storm,” but there has been nothing ideal about the way fate has crushed down on Juneann Tesarz-Galbraith the past several months.

The New York native sat smoking in her Rocky Mount living room Thursday, surrounded by photos and artifacts of the one woman she has ever loved, her three small pets – the only loves she has left – and a couple of space heaters strung up along an orange extension chord, keeping them all warm.

Telegram photo / Alan Campbell
Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

Tesarz-Galbraith struggled to describe her reaction less than a month earlier when she watched through tears as medics carried her domestic partner, Pam, out of their home in a body bag. The 44-year-old has had an even more difficult time mourning the unexpected loss while at the same time searching for work and pleading with unemployment officials to extend her benefits. Continue reading “Woman copes with loss of job, loved one”

Obama rumors fuel rage among fringe voters

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By Mike Hixenbaugh

Only a few days remain until Election Day, a gray-haired widow noted, leaning over the untreated wood railing of her front porch in rural Nash County. Sarah Ashby has been following the presidential race closely, she said, nodding to affirm the statement.

And with each day that passes, her concerns deepen.

“If America puts him in as president, we deserve what we get,” Ashby said, shouting over the rumble of a passing pick-up truck. “I think he’s a Muslim. The media knows he’s a Muslim-Arab, and they won’t do anything. They’re brainwashed.”

Ashby, 64, was expressing her beliefs about the Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, who she says is an African-born Muslim who uses campaign contributions to support Islamic terrorists.

All of that, of course, is false.

A broken and winding dirt path leads through the mostly wooded Riverside Mobile Home Park where Ashby lives, less than two miles outside the town of Spring Hope. A few faded Confederate flags, discarded appliances and a miniature Dale Earnhardt statue line the trail through the secluded trailer community.

“People are just ignorant,” Ashby said. “People don’t know who this guy is.” Continue reading “Obama rumors fuel rage among fringe voters”

Tow truck driver’s murder trial offers closure

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By Mike Hixenbaugh

More than a year and a half has passed since Lynn Corbett’s life unexpectedly crumbled around her. The 3 a.m. phone call. The rush to the hospital. Her son’s motionless body lying on a gurney.

But even now, as she fights to pick up the pieces and prepare for a trial in the wake of her son’s violent murder, Lynn Corbett said sometimes, all she can do is cry.

William “Lee” Corbett, a 24-year-old Rocky Mount tow truck driver, was killed in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2007, outside a gun shop on North Church Street. The parking lot was marked as a tow-away zone and when Corbett tried to move a vehicle, he was confronted by a group of men and shot once in the chest, police said.

Doctors fought to save his life, but he never regained consciousness. He died nine days later at Pitt County Memorial Hospital.

Three days after the shooting, James Taylor Jr., 24, surrendered himself to police and was charged with shooting Corbett. Taylor, accused of first-degree murder, goes to trial Monday.

“I’m very nervous,” Lynn Corbett said of the pending trial. “But I look at things this way; Whatever happens at this trial is not going to make me happy – it’s not going to bring my son back.” Continue reading “Tow truck driver’s murder trial offers closure”