2018 Year in Review — March

Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 20, 2018

Over the next several issues, we will publish our annual look back at some of the top stories, newsmakers and images that shaped the year. The following are several of the top stories published in the Bulletin in March.

Woman’s death still a mystery

Local authorities discovered the body of Karen Denise Jenkins, 46, who went missing from the Landrum area in November 2017, in a well in Columbus in early March.

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The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested Jeremy Bradshaw, 34, of 228 Windwood Drive, Columbus, on charges of concealing a death and obstruction of justice after he told investigators he buried Jenkins’ body in his grandmother’s abandoned well.

Search warrants state that Bradshaw told Capt. B.J. Bayne, of the sheriff’s office, that Jenkins died of a drug overdose at his home in November. 

The search warrant stated that Detective Gaddy, with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, contacted Bayne about Jenkins, stating she had not been seen since November, and was transported to Polk County by a friend. Polk County law enforcement took over the investigation on Jan. 31. 

Construction on final Streetscape phase begins

It had been almost 20 years in the making, but the last piece of downtown Tryon’s Streetscape plan began construction in early March. 

Trace & Company began to replace the sidewalk between the St. Luke’s Plaza and Palmer Street downtown. Trace estimated the construction would take about eight weeks, weather permitting. 

Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis said the design would be the same as the rest of the Streetscape project downtown. The only difference in this sidewalk project than the rest of downtown is the step in front of the block onto the street will be taken down to a traditional curb. 

Convicted murderer considered for parole

The North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission investigated the case of Edney Whiteside, who has been in prison for 37 years, for parole in early March. 

Whiteside, of Tryon, was convicted of the second-degree murder of Stephen Faggart, who was 18 years old at the time of the murder. The murder occurred in October 1981, with Whiteside shooting Faggart on Trade Street in Tryon. 

Whiteside shot and killed the victim while he was working on the Faggart building in Tryon, according to reports. 

Whiteside was 25 years old when he pleaded guilty, and was convicted of second-degree murder in January 1982. Whiteside was sentenced to life in prison, and was 62 years old at the time of his parole consideration.

Creating new jobs in Polk

High paying jobs could soon be coming to Polk County, after the county applied for a $250,000 grant for a new company to come to Columbus, which promises 43 high-paying jobs over the next five years. 

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met March 5, and approved a grant application following a public hearing. 

The county applied for a North Carolina Department of Commerce, Rural Division Building Reuse Program grant of up to $250,000 for what the county is calling “Project Wolverine.” The name of the company had not been released at the time of the grant application.

Florida sheriff says Landrum trio killed with a hatchet

The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office issued arrest warrants in early March for two suspects believed to be involved in January’s Landrum triple murder, which a Florida sheriff revealed was committed with a hatchet. 

Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright held a press conference on March 9 to announce that Christopher Taylor, 31, and Kristina Sluss, 36, were indicted on murder charges for killing three people in a home on Landrum Mill Road, whose bodies were found on Jan. 20. Taylor and Sluss were charged with three counts of murder, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and armed robbery, according to the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office.

Murdered at the Landrum residence were Nathan Louis Poffenberger, 23, and Francis and Fred Richards, both 59, all of Landrum. 

Taylor and Sluss were in jail in Polk County, Florida, on other murder charges at the time of their indictments in Spartanburg County. Taylor was jailed in Florida on accusations of beating a homeless man, John Bowling, to death with a frying pan and a baseball bat.

During the March 9 press conference, Sheriff Wright said three people were brutally murdered at the Landrum Mill Road home. Wright did not release how the three Landrum residents were killed, but the next day, Polk County Florida Sheriff Grady Judd said the three were killed with a hatchet. 

TIEC zoning decision postponed

Polk County residents and officials with the Tryon International Equestrian Center had to wait almost a month to know if the center’s requests in mid-March for zoning changes would be approved or not by the county board of commissioners. 

The commissioners met March 19 and held a public hearing for TIEC’s zoning change requests, which were to rezone almost 40 acres of the property. Some of the changes included changing much of the zoning to Equestrian Village District, which allows up to 60-foot buildings and no limit on the amount of rooms a hotel can have. 

The meeting was standing room only, with most of the comments during the public hearing being against the zoning change.

During the agenda adoption, commissioners approved delaying the vote until the county’s April 16 meeting. 

Some of the zoning changes requested by TIEC include to add uses for a chapel, a quarantine facility, schools and veterinary clinics.

Italian VIPs come to Saluda

They brought their culture, they brought their language and they brought gifts.

Mayor Gianfranco D’Isabella and his wife, Paola, of Carunchio, Saluda’s Italian sister city, started their visit with an official reception and gift exchange on March 19.

During a special called meeting of the Saluda City Commission, D’Isabella presented Saluda Mayor Fred Baisden with a plaque representing 33 towns in the region where Carunchio is located on the Adriatic side of Italy.

Other gifts included a bell that is used to ring at the beginning and closing of the town’s meetings, a calendar of pictures from the area, postcards, an apron featuring the Ventricina Sausage logo and a colorful coffee table book with photos of the Abruzzo province where Carunchio is located.

 Pacolet River rail car is coming home to Landrum

The Landrum city council signed a contract for a rail car to be donated to the town in late March, which would be used to create a railroad museum in the city.

The next step was to select a location for the museum and request bids for shipping the car.

Landrum Mayor Robert Briggs said the council was considering one of three locations on North Trade Street, at either end of the street between North Rutherfordton and Coleman, or somewhere in between. The goal was to be sure the rail car museum can be seen and easily accessed without interfering with the farmers market.

The car was built around October 1949, is made of stainless steel and is 85 feet long, 10 feet wide and 13 feet tall. It is a Pullman 10-6 sleeper (10 roomettes for one person and six bedrooms for two people). This particular car was numbered 2008 and is named “Pacolet River.”

Polk driver hits, kills Lake Lure man in head-on crash

A head-on collision took the life of an elderly man from Lake Lure after a Polk County man allegedly hit his vehicle on March 21. 

The crash occurred on U.S. 64/74 in Rutherford County, near Green Hill. 

A truck driven by Donny Trey Ruff, of Mill Spring, swerved and hit a vehicle driven by Joseph McDaniel Sr., 87, of Lake Lure, according to police reports.

Ruff was taken to the hospital with serious injuries, according to reports from the North Carolina Highway Patrol. Ruff was transported to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.

McDaniel was driving a Nissan pick-up truck, and Ruff was driving a Dodge pick-up truck, according to reports.