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30 charged in latest drug cases

The Wilkes Sheriff’s Office on Friday announced felony drug charges filed against 30 people following investigations conducted within the last four months.

Capt. Craig Dancy, who heads the sheriff’s office’s narcotics unit, said methamphetamine originating out of the U.S. is still the dominate illegal drug in Wilkes.

Seized in these most recent investigations were 1,148 grams of meth with a street value of about $41,000; 31 grams of heroin worth about $3,000; 19 grams of cocaine worth about $1,500; and 7,836 grams of marijuana worth $20,000.

Also seized were 170 pills, which Dancy said mostly was fentanyl made to look like Oxycontin or Palexia painkiller pills.

He said many of the investigations resulted from citizens reporting seeing apparent illegal drug activities.

The cases include arrests of four men whom Dancy said were supplying people in the Moravian Falls area with meth. Three of the four are charged with conspiracy to traffic in meth. They are Tevin Jammal Jones, 29, of Wilkesboro (two counts); Tyler Andrew Saner, 23, of Hamptonville; and Tory Kentrail Young, 32, of High Point.

The other one of the four, Koljuan Demaurus Baldwin, 35, of High Point, is charged with six counts of trafficking in meth and one count each of possession with intent to sell and deliver (PWISD) meth, PWISD heroin and selling a schedule I controlled substance.

Dancy said all four were arrested in Wilkesboro. He said the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office and Jonesville Police Department assisted and also charged the four men.

He said Triad ABC assisted on the majority of the cases announced Friday. Det. Tim Sims of the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office and his drug dog, Mick, assisted in several of them also

In one case, a kilo of meth was seized when Wilkes Sheriff’s Office investigators stopped a vehicle driven by Jeffrey Jerome Reed, 57, of Jonesville. Dancy said Reed had come from Boone and was planning to distribute the meth in Wilkes.

Reed is charged with two counts of trafficking in meth, PWISD a schedule II controlled substance and maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance.

Dancy said the investigation of Reed is tied to an investigation that resulted in the arrest of Jose Manuel Zazueta, 29, of Imperial Beach, Calif., sentenced to 90-120 months in prison last month in Wilkes Superior Court after pleading guilty to maintaining a place for controlled substances and two counts of trafficking in meth.

Dancy said Zazueta claimed to be part of the Sinaloa drug cartel, based in Mexico’s Pacific coast state of Sinaloa.

Also among cases announced Friday, Javier Narvaez II, 23, of Byrd Circle, North Wilkesboro, is charged with trafficking in meth and heroin and PWISD meth, crack cocaine and marijuana. Dancy said 100 grams of meth, 28 grams of heroin, 16 grams of cocaine and 20 grams of hashish were seized when Narvaez was arrested.

Dancy said another investigation resulted in charges against five men. Tamare Raynell Cole, 21, of Jonesville, and Malachi Isaiah Wright, 20, of Elkin, are both charged with felony possession of butane hash oil and PWISD marijuana. Jacob Anthony Blevins, 19, of Yadkinville, is charged with PWISD butane hash oil and felony possession of butane hash oil.

The other two, Gregorio Jiminez Nava, 22, and John Daniel Ralston, 24, have different addresses on Reynolds Avenue, North Wilkesboro. Nava is charged with manufacturing marijuana and two counts of trafficking in marijuana. Ralston is charged with maintaining a dwelling for keeping a controlled substance and PWISD marijuana.

Dancy said investigators learned that Cole, Wright and Blevins robbed Nava and Ralston of marijuana and products containing marijuana at Nava’s home in August. Seized in this investigation were 11 pounds of marijuana; a food product containing marijuana called “Stoneos” and made and packaged to look like Oreo cookies; 54 pre-rolled marijuana “joints;” a pound of marijuana-infused lotion; and 122 grams of vape modules containing THC.

In an unrelated case, Tristen Michael Motsinger, 19, of Colonia Heights, North Wilkesboro, is charged with trafficking in fentanyl, PWISD fentanyl, possession of cocaine and maintaining a vehicle for controlled substances.

Cody Allen Shepherd, 28, Mulberry Mill Road, North Wilkesboro, is charged with PWISD and sale of fentanyl and heroin.

Charged with PWISD meth in unrelated cases are Logan Jacob Sheets, 32, Red Top Road, Ferguson; Jason Ian McKown, 39, River Street, Wilkesboro; Aimee Denise Johnson, 45, Rock Creek Road, Hays; Floyd Jay Martin Combs, 34, Hart Lane, Millers Creek; Georgia Lynn Absher, 53, Brocktown Road, Moravian Falls; Christian Tyler Smith, 20, Yellow Banks Road, Hays;

McKown is also charged with selling meth. Johnson is also charged with PWISD schedule IV pills and PWISD marijuana. Combs is also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Smith is also charged with possession of meth and maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance.

Charged with possession of meth in unrelated cases are Matthew Edward Richardson, 25, Tabernacle Road, North Wilkesboro; Melissa Sue Jones, 37, Holcomb Road, Traphill; Brooklyn Shea Lackey, 24, Austin-Little Mountain Road, Elkin; Aaliyah Diane Wolfe, 19, River Street, Wilkesboro; Wayne Thomas Miles Parsons, 40, Champion Road, Wilkesboro; David Lynn Bauguess, 45, Jennings Road, North Wilkesboro; Tiffany Nichole Walker, 37, Ruff Road, North Wilkesboro.

Richardson is also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Jones is also charged with possession of schedule II pills.

Charged with possession of meth and maintaining a vehicle for keeping a controlled substance in other cases are Herman Lee Shepherd, 44, Brown Berry Road, North Wilkesboro; James Michael Minton, 41, N.C. 18 South, Moravian Falls; and Alma Jean Fortner, 54, Dan Call Road, North Wilkesboro.

Michael Steven Smithey, 58, Hacketts Road, Millers Creek, is charged with possession of crack cocaine.

Municipal candidates speak out in forum
  • Updated

Candidates for North Wilkesboro mayor, two North Wilkesboro commissioner seats and two Wilkesboro Town Council seats introduced themselves and shared their views on a variety of topics during an event Thursday evening.

Attendance at the three-hour question and answer forum at North Wilkesboro’s Yadkin Valley Marketplace peaked at about 50 people during the session for the four mayoral candidates — Michael Cooper, William Hamby, Marc Hauser and Robert Johnson.

The first session was for Wilkesboro Town Council candidates Nellie Archibald, Russ Ferree and Lee Taylor. North Wilkesboro commissioner candidates Otis Church, Angela Day and Joe Johnston spoke in the last session.

Each candidate made opening and closing statements and responded to questions asked by Dane Mastin, moderator and Wilkes County sheriff from 1990 to 2020 and now interim Jonesville police chief. L.B. Prevette, a local leader who is active in national organizations that address social issues, was timekeeper.

The forum was organized by the Wilkes Journal-Patriot. Questions were prepared by the news staff of the newspaper, with question suggestions requested and received from the public.

Questions varied among the three sessions, but several dealt with the same topics. Shared topics included economic development and combining Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro services/merging the two towns.

Both Wilkesboro Town Council and North Wilkesboro commissioner candidates answered a question concerning a study that identified a lack of rental and for-sale housing in Wilkes.

Portions of the responses of candidates to these questions and their closing statements will be published in the next two issues of the Wilkes Journal-Patriot.

Early, one-stop voting for the three town races is from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 14-29 weekdays only and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30 at the Wilkes Board of Elections office on the third floor of the Wilkes County Office Building in Wilkesboro. A person can register to vote and vote at the same time and location in early, one-stop voting.

Election Day is Nov. 2, with municipal polling places open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The deadline is 5 p.m. for returning absentee ballots in person and 7:30 p.m. to return military/overseas ballots electronically.

Opening statements of municipal candidates during the forum were:

Nellie Archibald

Nellie Hubbard Archibald, as her name appears on the ballot in the Wilkesboro race, said she has lived in Wilkesboro most of her life. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1985, she was away for a few more years working at the News and Observer in Raleigh and then the Charlotte Observer.

She and her husband, Jim Archibald, raised their children, Mary Frances and Pat, in Wilkesboro. She retired as Wilkes Journal-Patriot advertising manager last year after her family sold the newspaper.

She served on the Wilkesboro Planning Council before being elected to the Wilkesboro Town Council in 2009. Archibald said she didn’t seek re-election due to work and family responsibilities. She said that as her children left home for college and careers and other responsibilities eased, she ran for a council seat and was elected in 2017. She is an incumbent.

Archibald said parks are among her responsibilities and she helped get new playground equipment, pickle ball courts and more. She was elected to the N.C. League of Municipalities board last year, representing towns in the district for Wilkes and nearby counties. “We try to keep as much local control as possible for towns and keep (towns) out of Raleigh politics,” she said. Archibald is on the Wilkes YMCA board and she and her husband are active members of First United Methodist Church of North Wilkesboro.

Russ Ferree

Russell F. Ferree, as his name appears on the ballot in the Wilkesboro race, said he was born in the old Wilkes hospital in North Wilkesboro and raised in that town. He said he is 71, but added that this doesn’t mean he isn’t receptive to new ideas. Ferree is an incumbent.

“I have no political ladder to climb and don’t want one. I have always kept one eye on the tax rate so that we can keep our taxes low and the other eye on the future. I’m interested in bringing new jobs to our community so our children will have a reason to come home.”

Ferree said there have been many improvements in Wilkesboro in the last few years, both seen and unseen. “We have a good town — a safe, clean place to raise our children. I do believe that that the future is very bright.” Ferree cited park and greenway expansions, mountain bike trails and other things that are important to all age groups in the community.

Ferree mentioned the town’s wastewater and water treatment plant expansions, which he said will be very important in the future. He also cited plans to have the N.C. Department of Transportation convert U.S. 421 West to a “superstreet.”

He said Wilkesboro is a good, safe and clean town to raise children. “Hopefully our children will have a reason to come back home.”

Lee Taylor

Lee W. Taylor, as his name appears on the ballot in the Wilkesboro race, said he is married to Susan Pillsbury Taylor, a minister at Arbor Grove and Union United Methodist churches in Wilkes. He said he also is a pastor.

Taylor said he grew up on a farm in Bedford County, Va. His father had an insurance agency in town and let him and his brother do the farm work. “We learned a lot — one of the best educations I had.”

Taylor said he attended Virginia Tech but left after a year because he didn’t like it. “I joined the Army, just to see what I was made of more than anything else…. They taught me not so much what I want, but what I don’t want. What you don’t want is more lasting because what you want changes from day to day.”

Taylor said he retired from Wells Fargo after running bank trust departments in different cities in Virginia. After his first wife died at age 53, Taylor rode his motorcycle around the country for a couple of years. He said it was journey of self and a positive experience.

Taylor said that after that, he was hired to raise money for Sweetbriar College in Amherst, Va., and raised $25 million for the school in three years.

Mike Cooper

Michael Cooper, as his name appears on the ballot in the mayor’s race, said his first and best memories are in North Wilkesboro, where he grew up. His mother had a used bookstore on Main Street for 36 years.

“I remember playing in the playground at Smoot Park, going to movies at the Liberty Theater and watching fireworks on July 4. All of us are here tonight because we share those memories of North Wilkesboro. We remember what we were and what we can be again. I’m a product of North Wilkesboro…. I went on to live in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., but this was always my home.”

He practiced law at the McElwee firm on Main Street for four years and served on boards of the Downtown Partnership, Wilkes Hall of Fame and Wilkes Habitat for Humanity, Catherine Barber Homeless Shelter, Project Lazarus and Wilkes Recovery Revolution and two years as Wilkes Community Foundation president.

Cooper said that as mayor he wants to help residents compete in the economy and “help us bring this community back to life, but I can’t do it alone. This campaign is about asking for your vote, but it’s also about asking for your help. This journey doesn’t end on election day. That’s when the work begins. North Wilkesboro has a proud history, but that story isn’t over…. We get to help North Wilkesboro make history again.”

William Hamby

William Hamby, as his name appears on the ballot in the mayor’s race, said he was born and raised in Wilkes County and moved to North Wilkesboro 20 years ago. Hamby said he was a small business owner before and after moving to North Wilkesboro. He has been the owner of multiple small businesses.

“I see the struggles of small business people not only out in the county but in the Town of North Wilkesboro. Something has to be done. I decided at 73 years old and having never run for an office that it’s time for me to speak out,” said Hamby.

So, that’s the reason I’m running for mayor of North Wilkesboro,” he added.

Marc Hauser

Marc R. Hauser, as his name appears on the ballot in the mayor’s race,, said he and his wife, Carla, have three children, four grandchildren and another on the way. “I want to see North Wilkesboro prosper and realize its full potential for all of us to enjoy. There’s no reason our town can’t be as attractive, as inviting and as prosperous as surrounding towns in our area.”

He continued, “A few months ago, I knocked on about 90% of the businesses in North Wilkesboro. Time and time again, I heard how difficult it was to conduct business in and business with our town. Small businesses will be the backbone of future economic development.”

Hauser said businesses should be made to feel that they have an ally in the town, not an adversary or bureaucracy. He said present and future businesses need to know what the town offers to help them thrive, but this isn’t happening and it needs to change.

Hauser said parks and public areas need refreshing to make the town more inviting. He said police need adequate funding and competitive pay to recruit and retain good officers, while firefighters need up to date training and equipment. He said cooperation is needed to make quality housing available. It will take hard work and common sense decisions to accomplish these goals, he said, adding that he has the time, energy, desire and life and business experience to make it happen.

Robert Johnson

Robert L. Johnson, as his name appears on the ballot in the mayor’s race, stated, I’ve listened to the comments that have been made. I couldn’t disagree with any of them,” said Johnson, adding that he wanted to list a few of the accomplishments that occurred through his tenure as mayor.

He said he advocated for establishing and funding a series of live “concerts on the deck” in downtown North Wilkesboro that has grown every year since it started in 2008. He said he sought support for construction of the Yadkin Valley Marketplace, encouraged the improvements made to the intersections of Ninth and Main streets and Sixth and Main streets.

Johnson said he facilitated bringing new businesses to North Wilkesboro, including Samaritan’s Purse, Copper Barrel Distillery, Tenten Thai and La Fortuna restaurants, Key City Antiques, Roger’s Discount Furniture and Dom’s Bakery.

“With those things being said, I want to continue being the mayor that will and can continue to make this town prosper and grow as it has in my tenue.” Johnson is the incumbent.

Otis Church

Otis W. Church, as his name appears on the ballot in the North Wilkesboro commissioner race, said he is a candidate because he sees a great potential for North Wilkesboro to grow and attract business. “Our town has unfulfilled promises and unfinished projects that are standing in the way of progress.” Church said his goal is to work for the people of North Wilkesboro to help the town grow. “Other towns have done it and so çan we. It’s time for change and time for action.”

Church grew up in Wilkes and has lived in North Wilkesboro since 1992, left to serve in the U.S. Air Force and had a career in textile manufacturing. Church and his wife, Jo Ann Parsons Church, started and still own and operate A Baby Celebration, a business on Main Street, North Wilkesboro.

Church said he has served on historical and downtown partnership boards and is current chairman of the North Wilkesboro Planning Board. During his time on planning board, the town’s zoning ordinance was updated to meet state standards and a non-residence zoning ordinance was established. “With the new code and guidance, our goal is to upgrade existing buildings to make our town a more desirable place to establish a business.”

He said he also served the community as a member of the North Wilkesboro Lions Club, including as president.

Angela Day

Angela J. Day, as her name appears on the ballot in the North Wilkesboro commissioner race, said serving the people in her first four-year term has been an honor. “I have met wonderful people in North Wilkesboro. My heart is just full of how many good things we have here and what has taken place here, even today in our elections.”

Day owns and operates Ivy Ridge Traditions, which has been on Main Street, North Wilkesboro, for 22 years. “I have enjoyed every second of it.” Day said she has also been a real estate agent the last seven years, which she said gives her a view of the real estate world and housing that others don’t see.

Day served two terms on the North Wilkesboro Planning Board before she was elected a commissioner. She also served two terms as Downtown Partnership president. “I have been thrilled to attend the North Carolina Main Street program, as representative of North Wilkesboro.” She encouraged others to attend this also.

Joe Johnston

Joseph A. Johnston, as his name appears on the ballot in the North Wilkesboro commissioner race, said he is running after serving as a commissioner from 2013-19 because, like others, he expects more. He said that when he decided to not seek reelection earlier, he challenged the mayor and other commissioners “to be vigilant in maintaining what we had and to be thoughtful and insightful in adding to our future.”

He continued, “Then the pandemic hit. We slowed down as our government asked us and we should have, but “we stopped making plans, we lost some direction and I am ready to reset our goals and priorities.”

Johnston said he grew up in North Wilkesboro, went to elementary school at what now is Benton Hall, played football for Wilkes Central High at Memorial Park and has lived in downtown North Wilkesboro for 15 years. Johnston is a third-generation furniture maker in North Wilkesboro as president of the company he founded, Johnston Casuals.

“I am a leader, a manager, a planner, a cheerleader, a dreamer and a proven difference maker. I am for a strong, vibrant and clean downtown with appealing stores and upscale restaurants. I want North Wilkesboro to become a destination settlement for people who want to live and play here. Together this does not have to be a dream.”

Walker Center safety protocol announced

COVID-19-related safety protocol has been announced for 2021-22 season shows at Wilkes Community College’s John A. Walker Community Center in Wilkesboro.

Precautions for the 2021-22 season resulted from consultation with the Wilkes County Health Department and staff of similar venues, said Tabitha Hudler, Walker Center director as of Oct. 1.

Hudler and Ted Hagaman, Walker Center director the prior 21 years, discussed safety protocol for the 2021-22 season in a recent interview. Hagaman is retiring next fall, allowing him to remain at WCC to assist with the transition.

Except when seated for dining in the Lakey Ballroom, masks be worn at all times in the Walker Center in accordance with WCC’s campus-wide policy requiring masks while indoors.

Masks must also be worn while riding a Walker Center shuttle bus to and from parking.

Hand sanitizer stations will be at every entrance door in the Walker Center, including auditorium entrance doors. “Everyone should sanitize their hands before entering the auditorium or the Lakey Ballroom,” said Hudler.

Hudler said all volunteers handing out programs and scanning tickets must wear gloves, in addition to masks. All tickets for Walker Center events will be scanned.

“We will not offer a meet and greet with artists after the shows and we ask that attendees exit the facility as soon as an event is over to reduce congestion,” she said.

Fresh air flow into the Walker Center has been ramped up and the auditorium and ballroom will be sanitized after every large gathering.

Hudler noted that the safety protocol is subject to change based on state and local public health directives.

“We respectfully request that anyone who has recently been exposed to COVID or is experiencing COVID symptoms not attend a performance at the Walker Center,” she said.

Hudler said the safety protocol was shared with Walker Center season and individual show ticket holders in correspondence last week.

Hagaman noted that the Walker Center is a member of the N.C. Presenters Consortium, which he said facilitates discussion with representatives of similar venues. “Very few (such venues) have been open until now” after closing at the start of the pandemic in early 2020, he said.

The Walker Center season opens Oct. 22 with a musical tribute to Merle Haggard by his sons, Ben and Noel Haggard. Country artist EmiSunshine will also perform that night. The music starts at 7:30 p.m.

This is the same show scheduled in mid-March 2020 but cancelled as part of initial unprecedented steps taken statewide to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 early in the pandemic.

Except for performances during MerleFest, the season opener on Oct. 22 will be the first performance in the Walker Center since Jan. 1, 2020.

Contact the Walker Center Box Office at 336-838-6260 or walker.boxoffice@wilkescc.edu to purchase tickets or for more details on performances, events and hospitality services. Visit the Walker Center online at www.wilkescc.edu/ walkercenter.

Several tell 2022 election plans

Several Wilkes County Republicans have announced plans to run for elected office in 2022.

The filing period for next year’s election is Dec. 6-17. Party primaries are March 8, 2022. The general election is Nov. 8, 2022.

Up for election in 2022 are Wilkes sheriff, Wilkes clerk of Superior Court, district attorney, three District Court judges and one Superior Court judge for the 23rd Judicial District, two Wilkes County commissioners, two Wilkes Soil and Water Conservation supervisors, state and federal House and Senate representatives, N.C. Court of Appeals judges and N.C. Supreme Court justices.

Two Wilkes Board of Education members will be elected when party primaries are held.

Wilkes Democratic Party Kathryn Charles said Monday that she wasn’t aware of any Wilkes Democrats publicly announcing candidacies at this point.

Shirley Randleman of Wilkesboro, a former state legislator, and Eddie Settle of the Pleasant Hill community, chairman of the Wilkes County commissioners, both said in interviews that they will file as Republican candidates to represent Wilkes in the N.C. Senate.

Randleman represented Wilkes, Surry and Stokes counties in the 30th District of the Senate from 2013-2018. Court-ordered redistricting put Wilkes with Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany and the western half of Surry in the 45th District. It left Randleman facing incumbent Deanna Ballard of Blowing Rock in a GOP primary race, which she lost.

Randleman represented District 94 in the House from 2009 to 2013. Before that, she was Wilkes clerk of Superior Court for many years.

Settle was elected to his third four-year term as a county commissioner in 2020.

Randleman and Settle both said they like the counties Wilkes is with on preliminary Senate maps tied to 2020 Census results, but it’s still early in the process.

County groupings in plans developed by a Duke University research team being considered by the Senate redistricting committee all put Wilkes with Surry and Alexander counties. Some add Stokes and the others add Alexander to this new district.

Randleman represented Surry and Stokes in the 30th and noted that her husband, Ronnie Randleman, is from Yadkin. Settle’s home in eastern Wilkes is less than five miles from the Yadkin line. He lives even closer to Surry and his business is in Elkin. He said he has close connections in both Surry and Yadkin.

Randleman and Settle both announced their Senate candidacies in Surry and Yadkin county Republican meetings last week. Randleman also announced her candidacy at the Sept. 23 Wilkes GOP meeting. Settle said at that meeting that he was considering running for the Senate.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore of North Wilkesboro said Monday that he will seek reelection to the House. The Republican is in his fifth two-year House term. He currently represents the 94th District, which includes the most heavily populated portions of Wilkes and all of Alexander counties.

County groupings for House districts in plans developed by the Duke University team show Wilkes with various other counties.

Barring legal challenges, districts being determined now will be used in every election for the U.S. House of Representatives and General Assembly for the next decade.

North Carolina will now have a congressional district map with 14 districts, which reflects and additional district due to North Carolina’s population growth in the last decade.

Other candidacies

Wilkes County Republican Chairman Doug Cotton said Chris Shew announced at a recent Wilkes GOP meeting that he will seek reelection in 2022. Shew, of the Antioch community, will be running for his fourth four-year term.

Wilkes Board of Elections Director Kim Caudill said Eric Byrd of the Boomer community recently came by the board of elections to reactivate his campaign committee to run for Wilkes sheriff in 2022. Byrd is a Republican who lost when he ran for Wilkes sheriff in 2018.

Regina C. Billings of the Hays community said in an interview Friday that she will file as a candidate for her second four-year term as Wilkes clerk of Superior Court.

Cotton said Laura Byrd Luffman, an attorney in North Wilkesboro, announced at a Wilkes Republican meeting that she will be a candidate for one of the three District Court judge seats on the local ballot in 2022. Luffman is the daughter of Chief District Court Judge David Byrd. Cotton said Byrd announced that he is not seeking reelection.

Republicans David Gambill and Brian Minton are the two county commissioners up for reelection in 2022. Minton, in his first four-year term, said Monday that he preferred to not make a statement yet.

At least two other Republicans have indicated their interest in running for county commissioner.

Wilkes Board of Education members Rudy Holbrook and Sharron Huffman are up for reelection in 2022. Holbrook, who is board chairman, said he is strongly considering running for reelection to another four-year term. Huffman said she “definitely is considering running again.”

School board races are non-partisan, but Holbrook and Huffman are both Republicans.