01/01/08 — Dail, storm top local story tally

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Dail, storm top local story tally

By Renee Carey
Published in News on January 1, 2008 1:52 PM

If you were to take a stroll through downtown Goldsboro, snapshots from the 2007 chapter of the Wayne County history book would be all around you.

As you make your way down John Street and toward Center, you might remember the image of Dwayne Allen Dail walking out of the Wayne County Courthouse a free man after 18 years of wrongful imprisonment for a rape he did not commit.

If you stop by the Flying Shamrock for a quick bite, you would likely realize that no more than a year ago it didn't exist.

And then, you get to Center Street.

There are recently restored Liberty and Justice sitting atop the city's original City Hall, which officials say is only a few months away from reopening.

And coming out of the building next door are some of the new department heads and council members -- and familiar faces like Mayor Al King.

But then you might take a slow walk in the other direction, pacing yourself for the picture that could very well sum up this past year better than any other.

You come to a place that was a cleared lot a year ago and a charred façade the year before.

And looking up at that nearly completed Paramount Theater, you accept that the celebration of the New Year, at its very root, is about new beginnings.

2007 brought with it great triumphs and tragedy.

Local airmen were sent to war, some "old friends" retired and rainy days were few and far between.

Here are the stories, as chosen by the News-Argus staff, that for better or worse, shaped the lives of every Wayne resident in some way this past year -- whether they ever knew it or not.

1. DWAYNE DAIL VINDICATED, PARDONED -- After spending more than 18 years in prison for the rape of a 12-year-old Wayne County girl, DNA evidence cleared Goldsboro native Dwayne Allen Dail on Aug. 28. Dail, who always proclaimed his innocence, was then pardoned by Gov. Mike Easley nearly a month and a half later and is expected to receive a settlement of more than $300,000 for his wrongful imprisonment. Dail now lives in Florida with family members and his 18-year-old son, Chris.

2. RECORD DROUGHT TAKES TOLL ON COUNTY, STATE -- Crops didn't grow as they should have. Goldsboro restaurants could only serve water when ordered. Even the Christmas tree business took a hit. The worst drought in recorded history has left water levels as the Neuse River and Falls Lake dangerously low. Experts predict that if significant rain events do not occur soon, Falls Lake would eventually run dry. Goldsboro City Council members and Mayor Al King agreed that mandatory conservation of water was necessary and fines are still being handed out to those who break the guidelines outlined under mandatory measures.

3. LONGTIME SENATOR JOHN KERR ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT -- Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne, announced recently he will not run for re-election in 2008 after serving more than two decades in the state legislature. Kerr, 71, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1986, where he served three terms. He then was elected to the state Senate in 1992, where he plans to finish out his eighth term. A powerful voice for Eastern North Carolina, he will leave a power vacuum that several hopefuls -- including two local candidates -- hope to fill.

4. SCHOOLS, COMMISSION COME TOGETHER ON FACILITIES PLAN -- The Board of Education voted 6-1 to accept a $23 million proposal from the county commission to fund a portion of the district's construction plan, but that does not mean the rift between the two boards is completely mended. Several school board members balked at the proposal, appreciative of the first step, but concerned that the amount came up short of the most recent $105 million facilities plan. County Manager Lee Smith announced that the county would fund renovations and improvements to 10 county schools through existing revenues, which include the state lottery and half-cent sales tax. Proposed financing for the next three years would come from $16.4 million borrowed through certificates of participation, with $4.5 million cash to be divided equally between the county and the schools.

5. LAGRANGE VETERAN PRESTON GARRIS CONFESSES TO STEALING VALOR -- After two-plus years under investigation, local veteran Preston Garris confessed to federal officials that he lied about his military record. Officials inside the U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed that Garris lied about receiving a Silver Star in Vietnam and lied about being commissioned while stationed there. Both are violations of United States Code -- and felonies. But Garris kept himself out of the courts with pre-trial diversion, a plea arrangement that assured the former Marine he would not face charges if he sent a letter of confession and apology to veterans' organizations he belongs to and serves probation.

6. SHOOTINGS LEAVE SOME CITY RESIDENTS SCARED, OTHERS DEAD -- As spectators poured out of the McIntyre Funeral Home on South George Street April 26, they heard gunshots. Minutes later, one of the mourners -- the deceased's girlfriend -- was dead. Family and friends of 23-year-old Raheim Kornegay of Olivia Lane, who died a few days earlier from a gunshot wound, were headed to their cars at about 12:30 p.m. after his memorial service. At the same time, an unknown assailant walked up to a vehicle that was parked nearby at Shepherd Electric Supply Co. and opened fire. Inside the car was Sharon Nichole Sheppard, 28, of 602 Courtyard Circle, who was called a "person of interest" in the Kornegay case and was allegedly his girlfriend. A rash of other shootings this past year in downtown Goldsboro as well as several similar incidents in Mount Olive have many residents taking a hard look at safety and crime in their communities.

8. WINDSTORM RIPS ROOF OFF DAYS INN, DAMAGES OTHER AREAS -- Four people were taken to the hospital Aug. 10 after a windstorm leveled the roof at Days Inn on Wayne Memorial Drive, forcing an estimated 70 to 100 people to scramble from the 35-year-old structure. A line of storms accompanied by hail and strong wind moved through Wayne County at about 6:30 p.m., snapping trees and power lines, leaving thousands without power, and prompting some to seek temporary shelter. Within a week of the storm, city crews had most of the neighborhood streets cleared. But three days after the storm hit, city inspectors ruled the Days Inn a "total loss." The building has still not been demolished.

9. 916TH AIR REFUELING WING WELCOMES NEW COMMANDER, SQUADRON -- A formal ceremony made it official July 14 -- 916th Air Refueling Wing Commander Col. Paul Sykes relinquished command of the wing, passing the flag to Col. Stephen "Fritz" Linsenmeyer. Leadership from Team Seymour, the 4th Air Force and the Goldsboro and Wayne County communities were on hand for Sykes' final address to those who had been under his charge for the past three years. Before he passed the flag, Sykes was decorated with the Legion of Merit by 4th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Duignan. By next summer, members of the 4th Fighter Wing will no longer be the sole active-duty airmen living and working on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Linsenmeyer said the wing is preparing for the arrival of the more than 300 active-duty airmen who will make up the 911th Air Refueling Squadron, a group that is being activated upon recommendation from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Linsenmeyer said it will take 260 full-time and 104 part-time positions to stand up the squadron. Flight crews, medical and life support personnel, maintainers and others from bases across the country will man them. Lt. Col. Bill Uptmor, currently stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, will be named commander of the unit at an activation ceremony in April.

10. WAYNE COMMUNITY COLLEGE TAPS FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT, DR. KAY ALBERTSON -- After Dr. Ed Wilson announced his retirement after 15 years at the helm, Dr. Kay Albertson was named the fourth president of Wayne Community College July 1. The State Board of Community Colleges met at Wayne Community on April 20, unanimously approving Dr. Albertson's selection, which had been announced in March by the local board of trustees. Becoming the first female president at the college was only one of several historic aspects of the day. The on-site meeting had been scheduled well in advance, to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebration of the college. Wilson would later be honored with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Cornerstone Award for his contributions to the community.