News from around The Carolinas

October 13, 2012 

South Carolina


Paper appeals autopsy release ruling

A Sumter newspaper is appealing a judge's ruling that autopsy reports in South Carolina are not public records.

A lawyer for The Item said the judge was wrong to rule that autopsy reports are medical records that are required to be kept private under state law.

Autopsies are like death certificates and “cannot be considered `medical records in the normal sense' in that they are not prepared in connection with a course of treatment of an injury or an illness,” attorney Jay Bender wrote in his appeal for the newspaper.

He says if there are concerns with keeping medical information not related to the death private, that portion of the report can be kept out while the rest is released.

The dispute started when Sumter County Coroner Harvin Bullock refused a newspaper’s request under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act for the autopsy report of a man killed by Sumter police officers.

When a reporter from the Sumter newspaper got the information from another source, it contradicted what officials said after the shooting, including whether the suspect ever fired a gun. State law does not have a requirement on what a coroner should release in a suspicious death.


Speaker cuts talk short because of rude student

A speaker who regularly warns teens about the dangers of drinking and driving cut short her speech at a Summerville high school because she felt the students were disrespecting her.

Sarah Panzau told The Post and Courier of Charleston that about 80 percent of the students at Ashley Ridge High School were listening to her, but the rest were disruptive.

Panzau says she finally left the stage when one student mocked her appearance and many others laughed. Panzau has multiple scars and lost her left arm above the elbow after a drunken-driving crash in August 2003 when she was a 21-year-old college volleyball player.

Dorchester District 2 school officials say the student who made the comment would be punished.


Missing soldier sighted in Indiana

A missing Fort Jackson soldier has been sighted in Gary, Ind., and it is thought he may be headed toward his parents’ home in Minnesota.

Sgt. Rob Larson was reported missing by his wife, Pamela Larson, an Iraq war veteran, leading to a Calhoun County Sheriff Department search of wooded areas near their home.

Thursday, authorities turned up surveillance video of Larson buying camping gear at the Forest Drive Walmart around midnight Saturday, Oct. 6. On Tuesday, his charge card was used to purchase gas in Gary, his wife said.

Larson served two deployments in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2006 and has been under treatment since 2009, his wife said.

After 30 days missing from his post at Fort Jackson Larson could be declared AWOL.

North Carolina


Child dies from E. coli outbreak at county fair

North Carolina health officials say a child has died from an E. coli infection contracted at the Cleveland County Fair.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced the death Saturday. Ten children and five adults who attended the fair have gotten sick with the bacteria.

Health officials continue to investigate to determine the source of this E. Coli outbreak. The bacteria are found in the waste of animals, and people who touch contaminated material such as food or animals can transfer the bacteria to their mouths or to other people.


Pair charged in fatal underage DWI crash

Authorities say a Whiteville couple has been arrested after they served alcohol to an underage driver who was later involved in a fatal crash.

Investigators said 47-year-old Lisa Caffee is charged with giving alcoholic beverages to a person younger than 21, while 51-year-old Ronnie Caffee is charged with aiding and abetting in the underage possession and consumption of alcohol.

Authorities say the couple gave the alcohol to 19-year-old Nicholas Wilkinson at a party at their house. After the teen left, he crashed his car near Chadbourn, killing his 21-year-old passenger.

The Highway Patrol charged Wilkinson with felony death by motor vehicle and DWI. Troopers say he was driving 98 mph when he wrecked.


3-hearse crash slows I-77

A three-hearse collision caused delays Saturday afternoon on Interstate 77 north near the Remount Road exit in Charlotte.

According to N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper B. Jolly, the three hearses were with a group called “Carolina Coffin Cruisers.” They were headed to Greensboro for a car show and had coffins inside the vehicles as Halloween decorations.

Jolly says two of the three hearses slammed into one another, causing a chain reaction. A passenger vehicle also collided with the third hearse.

Traffic was slow moving as bewildered drivers passed the collision. A Department of Transportation camera showed at least one hearse with a large dent in the rear. No one was seriously injured, and no citations were issued.

From wire reports

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