2018 Year in Review — October

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 28, 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 October.

Polk man charged with felony death by vehicle

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 A Sunny View man was charged with aggravated felony death by vehicle after a head-on crash that took the life of a Lake Lure man in March.

Donny Tray Ruff, of Grassy Knob Road, was charged for allegedly striking Joseph McDaniel Sr., 87, of Lake Lure. The crash occurred on March 21, with McDaniel dying at the scene and Ruff transported to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. Ruff was later released.

Tryon man, former state schools superintendent candidate sent to prison

A Tryon man who once ran an unsuccessful campaign for North Carolina schools superintendent was sent prison, according to a release from the office of District Attorney Greg Newman.

Josiah Johnson, 36, was sentenced to 38 months in prison. Johnson, who had been in the custody of the Polk County Jail, appeared in the Polk County Superior Court before Judge Gregory Horne, of Watauga County, where the defendant pleaded guilty to three felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one felony count of writing and passing a worthless check.

The charges stem from Johnson securing three loans, totaling $60,000, under false pretenses from a Tryon woman. 

Former Tryon commissioner sentenced

Former Tryon Commissioner Roy Miller was sentenced in federal court and will spend 41 months, or almost three and a half years, in prison.

Miller appeared in federal court in Asheville in October and received the sentence. Miller had been in federal custody since July, after he violated his bond by testing positive for cocaine in March, then being arrested for larceny in Columbus in June.

New development coming to Columbus

Demolition and construction began at the former Watson’s Flooring & Appliance and Columbus Hardware Store to make room for four new businesses, including a Bojangles’.

Columbus Mayor Eric McIntyre said permits were issued for a new Bojangles, an O’Reilly Auto Parts Store, an Urgent Care and a cell phone company.

He said the old building would be demolished and four new buildings constructed on the lot.

Spending $1 million

As of early October, Polk County paid out almost $472,000 of its grant money to fund emergency services for the World Equestrian Games.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners heard from Emergency Management Director and Fire Marshal Bobby Arledge regarding the grant money. 

The state of North Carolina granted the county $1 million to help pay for extra emergency personnel and medical services for the games, which took place at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring Sept. 11-23.

The grant money came from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Arledge said the county had paid out $471,472. He said county officials were still working on a few invoices and still had a couple invoices to receive from a few of the fire departments and a couple of hotel bills.

Woman charged with felony DUI

A woman was charged with felony driving under the influence after a crash that killed a Landrum man.

Jacquelynn Spivey, 50, of Lexington, South Carolina, was charged with felony DUI involving death and child endangerment, according to police reports. 

Wayne “Larry” Jerome Johnson, 62, had pulled his truck to the side of the road to re-secure his load, when Spivey’s Honda ran off the right side of the road and struck his pickup truck.

Land being acquired

 Polk County was getting ready to close on 300 acres of property to create a public walking/biking trail system on Little White Oak Mountain.

Polk County Commissioners approved a grant project budget ordinance in the amount of $1.1 million.

No county dollars will be used, as Polk County received a North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant in the amount of $375,000 and the required $725,000 match is being provided from the donation of land value from Conserving Carolina.

Mill Spring sex offender sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison

A Mill Spring man will spend at least the next 12 years in prison for molesting two children, according to a release from the office of District Attorney Greg Newman.

James Dean Huff, of Highway 108, Mill Spring, was sentenced to prison for 233 months (19 years, five months) by Superior Court Judge Athena Brooks during the Polk County Superior Court term, which ended Oct. 10 in Columbus. The man was sentenced for three counts of first-degree statutory sex offense, offenses he had pleaded guilty to.

Huff will be eligible for release after serving a minimum sentence of 144 months (12 years).

The counts against Huff stem from him molesting two children in 2017. The case was investigated by both the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Polk County Department of Social Services.  

Remembering Polk County’s own Mother Teresa

Known for her life of generosity and service to others, Polk County’s own Mother Teresa, Eloise Thompson Thwing, passed away. She was 98.

Born in Florida, Thwing grew up in a Christian home and had a heart of service from an early age. This gift led her to become a registered nurse, as she graduated from the University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial School of Nursing in 1942.

In 1981, she and her husband, Richard Thwing Sr., moved to Polk County, where she served as chair of the Imperative Program to Research Poverty in Polk County prior to opening Thermal Belt Outreach in 1991.

What started in the basement at the Columbus United Methodist Church as a food pantry grew into Thermal Belt Outreach, located on White Drive in Columbus, which today serves thousands annually. The building now bears Thwing’s name.

Thwing served as the Thermal Belt Outreach Board’s first president, and was the executive director from 1991-2010. She retired at the end of 2010 at the age of 90.

PSNC compressor station to open December/January

As a natural gas compressor station neared completion, PSNC held a public fair to share more information about the facility with the community.

PSNC Gas Transmission Construction Manager Marty Parker said pre-construction on the site began earlier this year, with grading beginning last December.

Parker said the commissioning is a pretty comprehensive process that includes safety checks of not only what PSNC is required to do, but what the company wants to do to ensure the station is safe.

The construction was on schedule to be complete around the first of the year.

Former Tryon fire chief pleads guilty

Former Tryon Fire Chief and Town Manager Joey Davis entered a guilty plea in federal court in connection with using town credit cards to pay former Tryon Commissioner Roy Miller’s personal bills in 2016.

Davis pleaded guilty to misprision, which is defined as having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States and conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority.

Davis and Miller were federally charged in April 2017. Davis was originally charged with conspiracy to commit federal program fraud and Miller was originally charged with conspiracy to commit federal program fraud, federal program fraud, extortion under color of official right and witness tampering.

Miller pleaded guilty in April this year and was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison earlier this month.

Davis’ sentencing hearing has not yet been set.