Local News

Local authors release murder mystery book

10 01 sibling IMG 1952 COPYJared and Janna Rhodes are a brother and sister duo who have always been close despite their 8-year age difference. Jared, 25, is a house parent at Falcon Children's Home and Janna, 17, is a senior at Pine Forest High School. The two wrote a murder mystery book that was released earlier this year and is available online. The pair recently sat down with Up & Coming Weekly to share the idea behind the book, their writing process and future projects.

Tell us how you conceived the idea for “Speak No Evil.”
We kind of have a specific way of talking to one another. Something happened and she said something smart to me and I said, “You better shut up before I sew that mouth shut.” We kind of laughed about it and thought it was an interesting idea. We started discussing it and it became this whole idea of what if there was a serial killer named 'The Seamstress' who killed people who used their words to destroy rather than to build people up. To tell you the truth, it was the easiest project that we have ever worked on, the first draft was probably done in about two weeks.

What is the inspiration behind this book?
We are both musicians and are big TV people. A show that we had started watching is "Broadchurch." It is a British television crime story so that was kind of fresh on our minds. We were also thinking about the show "How To Get Away With Murder." It was almost like the stars aligned and all the information that we needed was in our heads and we were like "let’s just make this happen."

What is the purpose of the book?
I think the main purpose of it is entertainment, but we definitely have something to say in the book as well. We talk a lot about how words mean something. Words can build people up and they can destroy people as well. We thought what better way to show the power of how bad words can be. It is literally having someone take on this persona where he decides to physically shut someone up and then to emotionally and mentally shut the whole town up.
Also, a purpose is to show how two different people can work on something like writing a book or trying to solve a mystery. The two main characters in the book are very much like my sister and I. We kind of use that to make a more cohesive dynamic when it comes to the main
characters.

What can you tell us about the book without giving away any spoilers?
It is set in the fictional town of Little Heaven, Georgia. We follow the exploits of a seasoned detective, Leroy Stone, and his police commissioner, Marleen Stricker. They are trying to find out who is killing these prominent members of the community. 'The Seamstress' is killing people who are not good people for the community or just in general not good individuals. To help out with the case, intrepid reporter Simone Garcia joins forces with the police to essentially uncover what’s going on in this town.

Did you encounter challenges during the writing process?
Yes, just really sweating the details because both of us are very much cut-to-the-chase big picture people. I had a friend of mine read through the first draft. We knew where the story was going but we just needed a little bit more meat so it felt like a more vibrant and cohesive story throughout.

What has been your greatest achievement with this book?
I think it may very well be the book itself. Neither of us ever thought we would write something like this. We love working with each other because we both think the same but we communicate things very differently. We can both say that we have a book that’s out and we did this and it was fun. We just want to do it again.

What do you hope to gain from this book?
Another aspect of my life is that I am a house parent at a children’s home. My boys love this kind of genre so I’ve been reading it to them. Them coming up to me having a theory about who 'The Seamstress' is or them wanting me to read them the next chapter is the best part. The fact that it is resonating with kids that have come from really bad situations and it puts a smile on their face is what we are really after.

Will there be other books in the future?
Maybe, yes. We have nine other books planned from one level to another. I can definitely say that they are not all going to be murder mysteries but they will be in the same universe.

Final thoughts?
Focus on the little details when you read the book. We put in a lot of details that if the right person knows this set amount of information they are going to find out who the killer is by the first couple of chapters. We also have a pen name and it is Grant Griffin. In the foreword and the afterword we write those things in the voice of this fictional author and he gives a thesis of the book and lets us be as weird as possible. It is just a way to spice up the book reading process.

"Speak No Evil" is available online https://www.amazon.com/Speak-No-Evil-Grant-Griffin/dp/1663206376/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=speak+no+evil+grant+griffin&qid=1598115086&sr=8-3

10 02 Speak No Evil

Top school principal named

07 Suzanne OwenThe principal of Cliffdale Elementary School, Suzanne Owen, has been named Cumberland County Schools’ 2021 Principal of the Year during the district’s first-ever virtual celebration.

With 24 years of experience in education, Owen has served as principal of Cliffdale Elementary since 2018. Under her leadership, students met growth in all measures, exceeding growth in reading.

“Her dedication to supporting teachers and building positive relationships with students is commendable, and we are fortunate to have her in CCS,” said school superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly.

Tianna O’Brien, assistant principal at Bill Hefner Elementary School, was named the CCS 2021 Assistant Principal of the Year.

As the district’s Principal of the Year winner, Owen received $3,000 from Lafayette Ford-Lincoln ($1,000 for personal use, $2,000 for school use), a cash award, iPad mini and floral arrangement from CCS, a commemorative Principal of the Year ring, an engraved desk clock and a trophy from the board of education.

“This year—more than ever before—it’s important that we celebrate our school leaders who have shown resilience during a challenging and unprecedented school year,” said Dr. Connelly. As the district's Principal of the Year winner, Owen will now compete for the regional title.

Pictured: Suzanne Owen

Local resources available for victims of domestic violence

01 01 kid abuse crayon drawingThe month of October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month to bring attention to the continued prevalence in the community and highlight resources and information available to victims and those trying to help them.

About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience intimate partner physical violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Taking a closer look, about 43.9% of women and 19.3% of men in North Carolina experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.

“We have seen an increase in calls not only in our county but in surrounding counties and out of state, all domestic violence shelters are filling up and staying at capacity,” Amy White, program director for Care Center Family Violence Program said. “As a result of COVID-19, many shelters to include the Care Center have had to reduce our capacity to be able to promote social distancing and keep everyone safe from not only domestic violence but from the virus too.”

Cumberland County has a high volume of domestic violence cases, and most cases are referred to them by Child Protective Services, law enforcement, hospitals, and a lot of self-referrals, White said.

“Our call volumes are pretty close to pre-pandemic numbers, but our crisis calls have increased from the short time-frame,” she said.

County Resources

The Care Center functions under the Cumberland County Department of Social Services to provide domestic violence counselling and education to both victims and abusers, as well as a safe house in the event that a victim and their children need to flee from an abusive situation.

White said the center offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, women and children support groups, as well as outreach to educate the community on domestic violence. The Center also has a victim advocacy program offering guidance in the legal system such as how to obtain domestic violence protective orders, with a victim advocate that can accompany the victim to court to be a support system.

The Care Center offers support groups in English and Spanish for women and children who have experienced domestic violence.

Another available resource at the Care Center is the ‘Resolve Batter Treatment Program’ for abusers who attend a 26-week intensive class to be educated about domestic violence and it costs $175 dollars, she said.

The Care Center sees the victim and the abuser separately and has three Human Services Clinical Counselors that are assigned either to the victim or the abuser. The counselors provide a domestic violence assessment (series of questions) to determine how much counseling the victim and the abuser would benefit from. Once the determination is made of how many sessions are needed, the victim and the abuser will begin counseling sessions.

“During the sessions, our counselors focus on educating customers on what is domestic violence, how to avoid domestic violence, and provide coping skills to decrease the possibility of reoffending and victimization,” White said.

We don’t allow them to graduate or get certificates because we don't know if they reoffend or not, but focus on providing the indication they need. Often times the abusers that enter the program are court-ordered to attend or are on probation, she said.

The Care Center is the only domestic violence shelter in the county that offers stay at an undisclosed location where victims are escorted in by Fayetteville Police.

“If someone calls in to get immediate shelter, we assess them to find out if they need emergency shelter, do they have any other family that they can go to and if they don’t then we accept them into the shelter,” White said.

The shelter connects victims with legal aid, medicine and clothing among other needs.

Fort Bragg Resources

Fort Bragg’s Family Advocacy Program has eight victim advocates and a 24-hour hotline said Tom Hill, program manager at Family Advocacy which falls under Army Community Services.

The program focuses on prevention but also provides advocates for victims of
partner abuse.

“The one thing we do have to tell them if an advocate is talking to them is that ‘hey if you bring up that you have been abused by your spouse or partner or child has been neglected, then the Family Advocacy Program kicks in which is mandatory,’ and there’s a review board that goes over each case,” he said.

Hill said if victims aren’t ready to give their names yet and want to be anonymous, the program will help them as much as they can.

Hill said that when working with soldiers, advocates remind them that there are rules of engagement in a combat zone and rules of engagement when they’re at home too.

“Say a wife catches her husband cheating on her, she maybe punches him or something and a lot of us would do that but rules of engagement, you can't let your feelings get the better of you and not strike out,” Hill said. “Folks really need to know that this program will kick in if you have lost your temper and abused a spouse or a child.”

The Family Advocacy Program will inform the service members command within 24 hours of a reported case.

The Army offers a variety of rehabilitation efforts and corrective behavior programs, Hill said. All reports of abuse are taken very seriously, he said. A repetitive offense may lead to a discharge from service.

“If a person has had time to get treatment done and has a second case of abuse then they are considered for a chapter or discharge but they do try very hard to rehabilitate,” Hill said. “The most difficult is to get dependents who are perpetrators into treatment.”

When family members are the victims, they are often hesitant to report abuse because of the instability it would cause to the family if the spouse were discharged from the military. Hill said when a person is thinking about leaving their spouse they might have to completely start over with housing, finances, job, and FAP has many resources that can help with that process.

“So [the Army] created a program called ‘Transitional Compensation’ where if a dependent comes forward and says I am being abused and their partner gets kicked out of the military, or incarcerated they will still be eligible for pay, medical and dental insurance and PX and Commissary privileges for up to three years after,” Hill said.

The FAP works with the courthouse to provide a person a domestic violence protective order electronically by meeting the judge online at Fort Bragg. The program works closely with shelters in Hoke, Cumberland and Moore
counties.

Signs of healthy versus unhealthy relationships

White said part of the Care Center’s responsibility is to educate both victims and abusers of what a healthy relationship looks like.

“The main important part of a healthy relationship is communication, you must be able to express your thoughts and feelings, bottling your emotions often results in an explosion and increases the risk of domestic violence,”
she said.

Other important factors of a healthy relationship include trust, being a good support system for one another and having time to yourself.

“Being together 24/7 is not healthy in a relationship, it is important to be able to have time apart and do things you enjoy doing,” White said. “The saying is true about absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

White said other signs of an unhealthy or unsafe relationship can be if the partner wants to move in after two weeks of meeting, if they become easily jealous, checking your whereabouts or your phone, throwing things when they get angry, calling you names or belittling you, making you feel like it’s your fault that they hit you.

“If you spot these early in your relationships, then you need to get out as quickly as possible. The longer you stay, the worse the abuse becomes,” she said.

Hill said the Care Center works with cases every week that involve other forms of abuse. “Some are emotional abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse by controlling the money, or holding onto a person's ID cards and such,” she said.

COVID-19

“COVID-19 and the pandemic absolutely has affected the hotline, we have seen an increase in the number of calls,” White said. “They are cooped up together, they don't have an outlet, this seems to have increased the hostility in the home, so we have seen a major increase in calls.”

Fort Bragg hasn't seen an increase in cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hill said, noting that The Army Times released an article that said the Army overall has seen less cases during
the pandemic.

“But it's still worrisome to know that there’s still folks out there that could be cooped up with an abuser and we really have to get the word out,” Hill said.

Be an ally

If you see someone who has suspicious bruises, or if you know someone who is experiencing domestic violence, give them the Care Center Crisis Line which is 910-677-2532.

White advised it is up to that victim or the abuser to seek out help, and it is important for the community to know that sometimes all you can do is provide them with resources that can help.

“Be a listening ear, let them know you are there for them. It usually takes up to 7 times before a victim finally leaves their abuser,” she said. “Often, when we have a friend who might be in an abusive relationship, we are quick to tell them to leave - do not do this. It is up to that victim to decide when they feel comfortable to leave, it is their decision.”

She said there could be several reasons a person may not be leaving a relationship some of them being financial, fear of life and safety, no place to stay.

The Care Center is always in need of donations for things like hygiene items, women’s products, clothes, diapers in different sizes for kids, twin bed sheets and comforters. To help call 910-677-2528 and the Care Center will provide a list of immediate donation needs.

Although the Care Center has been around for 41 years, many people are not aware of it, White said.

“We just want them to know that we are here for them, and if they know someone out in the community that experienced domestic violence to provide them with our contact,” she said.

Available Resources
Local area resources for victims of domestic abuse are listed below:
Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office
Non-emergency 910-323-1500
Victim assistance 910-677-5454 or https://ccsonc.org/
Cumberland County Family Court
910-475-3015 or https://www.nccourts.gov/locations/cumberland-county
Safe-Link Domestic Violence Assistance Program
910-475-3029, Cumberland County Courthouse Room 340, 3rd floor
Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office
910-475-3010

Fayetteville Police Department
910-433-1529; Victim Assistance 910-433-1849 or
bethebadge.com
The CARE Center Family Violence Program
Crisis Line 910-677-2532 or office 910-677-2528
•Legal Aid of North Carolina-Fayetteville Chapter
910-483-0400 or legalaidnc.org
Rape Crisis Center Hot Line
910-485-7273 or https://www.rapecrisisonline.org/
Army Community Service
910-396-8262 or bragg.armymwr.com/us/bragg/
U. S. Army Family Advocacy Program
910-322-3418 or hotline 910-584-4267

Holmes running for District 44 House of Representatives

10 HolmesMy name is Heather S. Holmes and I am your Republican candidate running for the House of Representatives District 44. I am a single mom and have a 12-year-old son.

I am a Christian and a member of First Baptist Church in Raeford. I’m acting youth leader at my church and the VBS director as well as a member of the choir and handbell choir.

I have humble roots. My maternal grandfather was a WWII veteran and coal miner in West Virginia. My paternal grandfather had only a 4th grade education, but as an entrepreneur taught my parents the values of hard work, perseverance, pride of self and country and instilled not only those but my Christian values in me and my younger sister.

Professionally, I’m a government contractor and I work to provide commercial products to federal and military customers with the Defense Logistics Agency.
I want to be the one to represent you in Raleigh by introducing new legislation to protect our children from pedophiles and sexual abuse. There needs to be stricter laws and harsher punishment for those who rob the innocence of others. I will be the voice for those silenced.

I believe in school choice. As a full-time working mom who homeschools I believe parents should have the right to choose how to educate your child.

As the daughter of military veterans and law enforcement veterans, I have seen first-hand the impact of war both abroad and local to our community. Our military and law enforcement (both active and veteran) are mistreated, neglected and forgotten when it comes to their mental health. I will work with medical and naturopathic doctors to provide safe and alternative treatments for those who suffer with PTSD, depression and anxiety and other mental illness. They have given so much and don’t ask for anything in return.

I am a card carrying member of the NRA and North Carolina Grassroots and will vote to protect North Carolinians’ right to keep and bear arms.

As a Christian, I believe that all life is sacred. I am a strong pro-life advocate and will fight for the lives of unborn children.

The coronavirus has hit our state pretty hard and the restrictions that were initially put in place for safety have now become about control. North Carolina needs to reopen businesses and get back to normal life in a safe way. Small business owners especially are struggling with the shutdown and it has and still is affecting their way of life. It's important to balance the needs of the economy with the concern’s citizens have for their health. I will work with the governor and other legislators and medical officials to reopen our state and bring back our thriving economy.

North Carolina has made significant improvements in education funding and teacher pay and we are committed to continuing improvement. Democrats and Governor Cooper voted against every teacher pay raise because they said they weren't good enough.

Not only do we need more teachers, we need better education, vouchers for parents wanting to use other options for their children’s education as well as more materials and funding for the arts.

I won't play politics. I will do whatever I can to improve educational outcomes for students and help retain teachers.

I will not make promises I cannot keep but I will work very hard for the citizens of Cumberland County to not only make our county better, but also our state.

I hope you will vote for me to be your House of Representative for District 44.

Aragues running as write-in candidate for school board

09 araguesMy name is Christina M. Aragues, a single mother of three and Army veteran who is currently running as a write-in candidate for Cumberland County School Board District 3 in North Carolina.

I came to Fayetteville in 2010 for assignment to Fort Bragg and made this my home. I have a varied and unique background that I can draw from to help our community. I am the daughter of a retired public school teacher. I worked for special programs in California teaching math, essay writing and SAT skills in disadvantaged schools. I was an EMT in the Air Force and then an officer in the active duty Army. I have planned and helped build training areas in Romania and Bulgaria. I have worked as a project manager for a major bank developing diverse technological solutions for its customers. Developing multiple contingency plans is my expertise.

When I first learned of the lack of solutions for returning to school whether in-person, in a hybrid manner or remotely, I was appalled. I could not understand how the board had not worked with experts in the community to find solutions. We are not the only ones in the world, country or state facing these challenging decisions. We need more diversity among our school board. We need parents with diverse backgrounds who will seek to communicate and listen to all in the community.

The school board’s mismanagement during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was the final straw that convinced me to enter the race. As an Army officer, I was taught to think about and plan for second- and third-order effects. This approach is clearly lacking with the current school board’s response to COVID-19 and I will point out why.

First, the current school board voted to keep schools closed and continue with online education. They decided this without listening to the plan that Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly had worked hard to create. Sadly, there are currently over 10,000 children in our county who have not logged onto the training and 7,000 special needs children. With each passing day, these kids fall further and further behind. The gap is greatly increasing between the privileged and underprivileged children. Had the school board planned for second and third-order effects they would have ensured that no child was left behind.

This leads me to my next point: the current school board members do not have children who attend school. In essence, they do not have a dog in the fight. It is easier to dictate closings, openings and school schedules when it doesn’t impact you at all. What was the impact of the school closings on single parents or dual-military parents? The school closings added an additional expense of up to $600 per month per kid for parents and single parents who already have tight budgets. Parents need a voice.

Lastly, if the school board failed to plan and adjust for COVID-19 , can we really expect them to handle the next pandemic or crisis that will arise? Are they planning for the reintroduction of children back into the school system? How many kids will get left behind under the current leadership? Since I’ve been in North Carolina my current district has dropped from 47% to low 30s% in test scores. We cannot let our children suffer anymore. The time for change is now.

As a last-minute write-in candidate, getting the word out is especially difficult. Our current board member is running unopposed on the ballot. Unless someone hears my name, she is the only choice. When elected, I plan to ensure that Cumberland County Schools are doing the right thing for all students.
For more information visit www.facebook.com/christinaaragues1/

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