Local News

Federal death penalty resumes

07 01 ronald gray 1988 court martialThe U.S. Department of Justice wants to clear the way for the federal government to resume capital punishment. Some experts view it as a potential sign of things to come. There are currently four military death row inmates held at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Two of the inmates were convicted of crimes in Cumberland County, North Carolina, in the 1980s: Ronald R. Gray and Timothy Hennis.

Gray, a former Army cook, was convicted in 1988 of four murders and several rapes in Fayetteville and at Fort Bragg. He appears to be the closest of the four to being put to death. Gray was initially given an execution date in 2008 after then-President George W. Bush approved it. But a stay was granted less than a week afterward. That stay of execution was lifted in 2016; he doesn’t face an immediate execution date. 

Hennis, a former master sergeant, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of a Fayetteville woman and two of her children in 1985. Kathryn Eastburn, 5-year-old Kara and 3-year-old Erin were found dead in May 1985 at their Summerhill Road home off Yadkin Road. A third child, then 22-month-old Jana, was found alive. Hennis was tried three times and was initially convicted in Cumberland County Superior Court and sentenced to death. He won an appeal and was found not guilty during a new trial in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1989. Hennis resumed his Army career and retired in 2004 as a master sergeant. The Army brought him out of retirement two years later when DNA evidence not available earlier linked him to the murders. He was court-martialed at Fort Bragg in 2010 and a military judge sentenced Hennis to death. 

“Attorney General [William] Barr’s announcement does not affect the individual status of any of the four death row inmates,” a Department of the Army official said. 

But the new Trump administration policy clears the legal path to resume using lethal injection for federal death row inmates. The eagerness of Trump’s DOJ to change the status quo could bode badly for Gray, Hennis and the07 02 Timothy Hennis 2 other two inmates held at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth. 

“If I were on death row, I would consider this a very bad sign, but not a sign that anything is happening immediately,” said Eugene Fidell, a Yale Law School lecturer on military justice. “There is going to be litigation over this.” 

The military hasn’t executed anyone since 1961, though capital punishment remains a legal penalty under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. In the 1970s, capital punishment was invalidated by the Supreme Court only to be reinstated later by the high court. In 1983, the Armed Forces Court of Appeals also ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. But it was reinstated by executive order by President Ronald Reagan the following year. 

Retired Lt. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army judge advocate, said he hopes the DOJ guidance signals a change. “Hopefully it is a harbinger of things to come,” he said. “Obviously the military appeal system is broken, and hopefully, the DOJ’s decision will energize a revamping of the military’s appeal process so that the victims can have justice.”

Pictured from top to bottom: Ronald Gray, Timothy Hennis

The Paul H. Thompson Library at FTCC helps students achieve success

14 BooksStudents who use the library do better. That's a bold statement, but one I believe the Paul H. Thompson Library on the Fayetteville campus of Fayetteville Technical Community College can back up. 

While going about our daily work as librarians, students often come by to let us know they got an “A” on their research paper and offer thanks for our help. Recently, a nursing student came by after graduating to express her thanks. “I couldn’t have done it without the help of library staff,” she said. 

Success stories like these let us know that we are having a positive impact on student success and making a difference within the Fayetteville community. 

The faculty engage with the library by arranging library orientations that familiarize students with library resources, how to access resources on and off campus and how to use those resources to complete assignments. Our faculty members tell us that students attending library orientations are showing marked improvement in the quality of student research and writing, class engagement and willingness to request additional help at the library. 

A report released by the State Library of North Carolina titled "Community College Libraries & Librarians and Student Success" provided a direct link between library use and students completing all first year courses successfully, learning basic skills needed to be employed, learning English and reading skills needed to succeed in college and preparing to transfer to a four-year college or university. 

The library’s ability to help students succeed relies primarily on its willingness to adapt to meet the needs of students on campus and distance learners. The Paul H. Thompson Library underwent a physical renovation, and library staff have received valuable feedback from students about how they enjoy using the new space. Students can move tables around for large groups, use the charging stations for their laptops and phones and connect them to interactive computers or spend some time alone in a welcoming and comfortable space to escape for a while by enjoying a good book. In the fall 2019 semester, the library will introduce a 3D printer to enhance student creativity and learning. 

Whether a student is across town or across the world, distance learners have access to library staff at the Paul H. Thompson Library to assist with reference questions during business hours, in person or by calling 910-678-8247 or emailing library@faytechcc.edu. When the library is closed, students can contact a librarian by using the online “Ask-a-Librarian ChatNow” button located on the library homepage at https://www.faytechcc.edu/campus-life/academic-support/library/. The library web page provides students with access to thousands of e-books, electronic journals and online tutorials that demonstrate how to use library resources. 

Three locations support FTCC students with library services and dedicated library staff: the Paul H. Thompson Library at the Fayetteville campus; the Spring Lake Campus Branch Library (910-497-3650); and the John L. Throckmorton Library at Fort Bragg (910-396-2665). We look forward to serving you and invite you to learn more about FTCC at www.faytechcc.edu. 

The Paul H. Thompson Library underwent a physical renovation, and library staff have received valuable feedback from students about how they enjoy using the new space.

Raeford Road to see center median construction

06 highway median 2A North Carolina Department of Transportation highway improvement program in Fayetteville will likely affect local traffic for years to come. Planning and development are underway on a project to replace the center turn lane along Raeford Road with a median. The undertaking will involve more than 6 miles of Raeford Road between Old Raeford Road in West Fayetteville and Robeson Street in the Highland Village area. The nearly $150 million project will result in a roadway resembling Ramsey Street, which was reconstructed several years ago. DOT will reconstruct the road into what’s known as a superstreet design by replacing the two-way center turn lane with a raised concrete median or landscaped area. The superstreet design will result in the elimination of numerous cross streets, which will require motorists to turn right and make U-turns at signalized intersections. 

DOT says the construction will be divided into three segments, beginning at the western end where Raeford Road intersects with Old Raeford Road. The section will include the area eastward to Bunce Road. The second segment of the plan will be from Bunce Road to the combined intersection of Glensford Drive and Hope Mills Road. The final segment will take the project through the in-town commercial district to Robeson Street. 

Each segment will be funded separately as construction contracts are awarded. DOT said the road’s reconstruction will improve traffic flow and pedestrian access. The N.C. Board of Transportation is scheduled to fund the first segment in February with construction to begin in the spring of 2020.

The state said Raeford Road is one of Fayetteville’s most congested and dangerous routes. According to the Raeford Road Corridor Study’s final report in 2010, about 78% of the crashes occurred between intersections, a statistic that highlighted DOT’s safety concern of the numerous cross street and driveway openings along the route. The Raeford Road corridor has a higher-than-average crash rate because motorists must cross several lanes of traffic to turn left. There will be 11 directional crossover intersections. Crossovers allow traffic on Raeford Road to turn left while preventing side-street traffic from going straight across or making a left turn at the same location. 

Other improvements to Raeford Road include adding a third travel lane westbound between Graham Road and Old Raeford Road and adding a third travel lane eastbound between Graham Road and Bunce Road. Sidewalks will be built on both sides of the road. As part of the project, the road’s T-intersection with Skibo Road, where traffic often backs up, will be redesigned. A new southbound exit ramp will be built from the All-American Freeway for motorists wanting to go west onto Raeford Road. The freeway’s existing southbound off-ramp will continue to be used to head east onto Raeford Road. 

For more information, this undertaking is listed as Project U-4405 in the N.C. DOT’s State Transportation Improvement Program.

Planning and development are underway on a project to replace the center turn lane along Raeford Road with a median. 


Cape Fear Valley Health and Vident Health systems partner to improve population health

08 Vidant Health LogoCape Fear Valley Health and Vidant Health Systems have announced a new partnership aimed at addressing and improving chronic health conditions in rural eastern North Carolina. It’s part of the growing focus on population health. “By working collaboratively, we can address many of the factors that influence health outcomes for the rural populations we serve south and east of the urban areas of the state,” said Michael Nagowski, chief executive officer of Cape Fear Valley Health System. 

“This partnership advances our vision in every way, improving the quality of every life we touch. Both of our organizations understand the unique challenges facing this region,” agreed Todd Hickey, chief clinical network development officer of Vidant Health in Greenville, North Carolina. 

This clinically integrated network of care will allow both health systems to strategically align resources in a way that will deliver better care to some of the most underserved populations in the country. 

Many of the counties in eastern and southeastern North Carolina rank in the bottom half in overall health outcomes, according to a 2019 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Vidant Health is a 1,708-bed health system that annually serves a region of more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. The not-for-profit system is made up of more than 14,000 team members, nine hospitals, home health, hospice, wellness centers and Vidant Medical Group, a multispecialty physician and provider group with more than 500 providers in more than 100 practice sites in eastern North Carolina. Vidant is affiliated with The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. As a major resource for health services and education, Vidant’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. 

Cape Fear Valley Health is a 950-bed health system serving a region of more than 800,000 people in southeastern North Carolina. It is the state’s eighth-largest hospital system and is made up of 7,000 team members and 850 physicians. It includes eight hospitals and more than 60 primary care and specialty clinics. Cape Fear Valley Health offers residencies in emergency medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and general surgery. The partnership between Vidant and Cape Fear Valley will engage their communities in a collaborative, patient-centered approach, including the use of technology, localized care management and streamlined patient experiences to accomplish shared goals.

This joint project is the first step in introducing local physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in 35 counties through a larger collaborative approach that will be a vehicle toward improving engagement, quality and patient outcomes while lowering costs to patients and their families. 

“We are continually assessing ways in which we can adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of health care,” said Hickey. “Our priority is and always will be the communities we serve and we are committed to creating networks of care to keep our family, friends and neighbors healthy.” 

Purple Heart Dinner recognizes service and sacrifice

12 Purple Heart 3The presence of the military in our community is prominent and unmistakable; but far too often, the accomplishments and sacrifice of the individuals who serve this country, as well as their families, are neglected. Whether they are active-duty or veterans, the men and women who serve and who have served in the military deserve a resounding “thank you.” The Sandhills Purple Heart Committee is stepping up to applaud those brave men and women by hosting the third annual Purple Heart Dinner on Aug. 24.

“The Purple Heart is America’s oldest medal, established by George Washington to honor those wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States,” said Senior Vice Commander Barry Pearce, a representative of The Military Order of the Purple Heart. The first of the awards was given to three noncomissioned soldiers of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.  The order said, “Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the Purple Heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen.”

After the American Revolution ended, the award fell into disuse until 1932, when the Army declared the restoration of the use for “persons who, while serving in the Army of the United States, perform any singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service.” Moreover, the award would once again be used to recognize soldiers who acquired wounds in the line of duty that necessitated treatment by a medical officer “with an enemy of the United States, or as a result of an act of such enemy.” 

The mission of the Purple Heart Dinner is “to honor those who have given so much. We are honoring true heroes and role models,” said Andrea Tebbe, the cochairman of the Sandhills Purple Heart dinner.  “Our purpose is to honor and thank Purple Heart recipients who shed their blood for our country, while also honoring Gold Star mothers and the families of those (killed in action).” 

Gold Star mothers are those whose son or daughter dies while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The number of Purple Hearts awarded since 1932, when it was reestablished by the Army, remains unclear, since the Department of Defense does not keep a record of the number of recipients. However, according to a 2019 report to Congress on the Purple Heart, military historians believe that 1 million Purple Hearts have been awarded since 1932; the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor estimates the number to be closer to 1.8 million.  According to the Fort Bragg Order of the Purple Heart, there are at least 476 Purple Heart recipients in the Fayetteville and Fort Bragg area. 

The Sandhills Purple Heart Committee understands the importance of showing support to the families of fallen soldiers and thus Gold Star mothers will also be recognized at the event. During World War I, families of service members flew service flags. The flag would have a blue star on it to indicate that the person with the flag had an immediate family member who was serving in the war. If the service member died in the line of duty, the blue star was replaced with a gold one as a reminder of the sacrifice the service member made for his country. 

 The first Purple Heart Dinner was held in 2009 in Wake Forest, and the initiative has since spread to seven other North Carolina cities and two other states. Since then, the numbers of attendees have continued to reflect not just the sacrifices of the recipients and their families but of the immense support for them from their communities. 

“We recognize Purple Heart recipients, Gold star mothers and the families of those who are (killed in action) or (prisoners of war). The numbers vary year to year; this year we have over 100 Purple Heart recipients and 12 Gold Star mothers and several families of those (killed in action) (being recognized),” Tebbe said. 

There will also be a recognition of World War II Veterans. 

In a community with a strong military presence, it comes as no surprise that there are several Purple Heart Chapters in the Sandhills area. “The one in Fayetteville is the Fort Bragg Chapter,” Pearce explained. Visit the website at http://www.purpleheartfortbragg.com/donate-to-the-bragg-moph-chapter.php for more information.

Pearce encourages the community to show its appreciation for the heroes who have sacrificed so much for their country. “If you know of a recipient, thank them for their service and sacrifice,” he said. “The volunteers of the committee believe it is important to recognize all they have sacrificed and what they have been through. (The dinner) is our way to say ‘Thank you,’ and ‘We support you.’”

While many ceremonies have a keynote speaker or several speakers,  the Purple Heart Dinner’s focus is on the honorees. 

“We do not have speakers,” explained Tebbe. “The Walk of Honor, where we recognize the Purple Heart recipients, is what we do instead of a guest speaker.” The event opens with a reception for the recipients. After that, the Purple Heart recipients walk through a saber salute. During that time, the emcee will explain the military story of each individual. 

Most sponsors come from community business and families of recipients. Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor, though, can visit www.sandhillsphdinner.com or contact one of the committee members, also found on the website. 

The Purple Heart Dinner will be held at the Crown Coliseum Expo center Aug. 24, from
5-8 p.m. The ceremonial dinner is open to the public for $25 per ticket. The Purple Heart recipient and two guests can attend for free. 

To show support of those being recognized, people can sponsor the event on a number of levels, starting at $100 for the first level. 

Visit https://www.sandhillsphdinner.com/ for more information on the event, purchasing tickets or becoming a sponsor. 

The Sandhills Purple Heart Committee is hosting the 3rd annual Purple Heart Dinner on Aug. 24 at the Crown Coliseum Expo center from 5-8 p.m.

Photo credit: Kellie Marie Photography


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