WITN News

12-year-old victim identified in Lenoir County accidental shooting

LENOIR COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - A school system here in the east is mourning the loss of one of their students following an accidental shooting.

The 12-year-old has been identified by Lenoir County Schools as Za’Dok Clark.

Lenoir County Public Schools spokesperson Patrick Holmes said in a statement:

“The loss of a student is always tragic. Our first thoughts are for the family of Za’Dok Clark and LCPS extends to them our heartfelt sympathy. The LCPS crisis management team is at Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School today to provide additional counseling and support services for students and staff members and will be there as long as needed.”

The Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office says the preliminary investigation into the shooting death of the 12-year-old boy appears to be an accidental shooting by a sibling.

The shooting happened on the 2600 block of Dean Drive just outside of Kinston around 7:00 p.m.

Authorities say the gun involved was a .22 caliber rifle. They have not said where the boy was shot.

He is a student at Contentnea-Savannah School and the sheriff’s office has contacted Lenoir County Public Schools officials and there will be guidance counselors at the school Friday to assist with students.

The name of the boy is not being released until next-of-kin and other family members are contacted.

The Lenoir County Department of Social Services is aiding the LCSO in this situation.

The sheriff’s office is consulting with the District Attorney’s office for guidance and the investigation into this incident continues.

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‘Grow Local’ program shares Pitt County jobs with area students

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Students have experienced several days of a program aimed at showing them the great job opportunities in one Eastern Carolina county.

The Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce’s Grow Local is running from April 15th to the 19th.

Thousands of students have had the opportunity to go inside the operations of local employers and see all the ways they can jump-start their career after school.

On Thursday, middle and high school students got to experience tours of Grady White Boats, Red Shark Digital Design, Jack A. Farrior Steel Works, the Pitt-Greenville Airport, and our own WITN studio.

“A small percentage of students go on to college and some are ready to enter the workforce so it is our responsibility to show our students what’s here in their backyard,” said Beth Ulffers, Pitt County Schools director of outreach.

Going on since 2018, we’re told that Grow Local has matched a program high of 3,433 students to participate in on or off-campus experiences.

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Iran fires at suspected Israeli attack drones near Isfahan air base and nuclear site

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An apparent Israeli drone attack on Iran saw troops fire air defenses at a major air base and a nuclear site early Friday morning near the central city of Isfahan, an assault coming in retaliation for Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile assault on the country.

No Iranian official directly acknowledged the possibility that Israel attacked, and the Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment. However, tensions have been high since the Saturday assault on Israel amid its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and its own strikes targeting Iran in Syria.

Speaking at the G7 meeting in Capri, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said the U.S. received “last-minute” information from Israel about the attack on Isfahan.

United States officials declined to comment as of early Friday, but American broadcast networks quoting unnamed U.S. officials said Israel carried out the attack. The New York Times quoted anonymous Israeli officials claiming the assault, which came on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s 85th birthday. Israeli politicians also made comments hinting that the country had launched an attack.

Air defense batteries fired in several provinces over reports of drones being in the air, state television reported. Iranian army commander Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi said crews targeted several flying objects.

“The explosion this morning in the sky of Isfahan was related to the shooting of air defense systems at a suspicious object that did not cause any damage,” Mousavi said. Others suggested the drones may be so-called quadcopters — four rotor, small drones that are commercially available.

Authorities said air defenses fired at a major air base in Isfahan, which long has been home to Iran’s fleet of American-made F-14 Tomcats — purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tasnim also published a video from one of its reporters, who said he was in the southeastern Zerdenjan area of Isfahan, near its “nuclear energy mountain.” The footage showed two different anti-aircraft gun positions, and details of the video corresponded with known features of the site of Iran’s Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan.

“At 4:45, we heard gunshots. There was nothing going on,” he said. “It was the air defense, these guys that you’re watching, and over there too.”

The facility at Isfahan operates three small Chinese-supplied research reactors, as well as handling fuel production and other activities for Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

Isfahan also is home to sites associated with Iran’s nuclear program, including its underground Natanz enrichment site, which has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Israeli sabotage attacks.

State television described all atomic sites in the area as “fully safe.” The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said “there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites” after the incident.

The IAEA “continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts,” the agency said.

Iran’s nuclear program has rapidly advanced to producing enriched uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels since the collapse of its atomic deal with world powers after then-President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord in 2018.

While Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, Western nations and the IAEA say Tehran operated a secret military weapons program until 2003. The IAEA has warned that Iran now holds enough enriched uranium to build several nuclear weapons if it chose to do so — though the U.S. intelligence community maintains Tehran is not actively seeking the bomb.

Dubai-based carriers Emirates and FlyDubai began diverting around western Iran about 4:30 a.m. local time. They offered no explanation, though local warnings to aviators suggested the airspace may have been closed.

Iran then grounded commercial flights in Tehran and across areas of its western and central regions. Iran later restored normal flight service, authorities said.

Around the time of the incident in Iran, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency quoted a military statement saying Israel carried out a missile strike targeting an air defense unit in its south and causing material damage. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strike hit a military radar for government forces. It was not clear if there were casualties, the Observatory said.

That area of Syria is directly west of Isfahan, some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away, and east of Israel.

Meanwhile in Iraq, where a number of Iranian-backed militias are based, residents of Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions, but the source of the noise was not immediately clear.

The incident Friday in Iran also sparked concerns about the conflict again escalating across the seas of the Middle East, which have been seeing attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen on shipping over the war in Gaza.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center warned ships in the region that they could see increased drone activity in the skies.

“There are currently no indications commercial vessels are the intended target,” it wrote.

The Houthis have launched at least 53 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sank another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Houthi attacks have dropped in recent weeks as the rebels have been targeted by a U.S.-led airstrike campaign in Yemen and as shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined over the threat.

The apparent attack also briefly spooked energy markets, sending benchmark Brent crude above $90 before it fell again in trading Friday.

However, Iranian state-run media sought to downplay the incident after the fact, airing footage of an otherwise-peaceful Isfahan morning. That could be intentional, particularly after Iranian officials for days have been threatening to retaliate for any Israeli retaliatory attack on the nation.

“As long as Iran continues to deny the attack and deflect attention from it and no further hits are seen, there is space for both sides to climb down the escalation ladder for now,” said Sanam Vakil, the director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House.

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Associated Press journalists Nasser Karimi, Mehdi Fattahi and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; and Nicole Winfield in Capri, Italy; contributed to this report.

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Iran fires air defense batteries at Isfahan air base and nuclear site after drones spotted

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran fired air defenses at a major air base and a nuclear site near the central city of Isfahan after spotting drones early Friday morning, raising fears of a possible Israeli strike in retaliation for Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile assault on the country.

It was unclear if the country came under attack, as no Iranian official directly acknowledged the possibility and Israel’s military did not respond to a request for comment. However, tensions have been high since the Saturday assault on Israel amid its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and its own strikes targeting Iran in Syria.

U.S. officials declined to comment as of early Friday, but American broadcast networks quoting unnamed U.S. officials said Israel carried out the attack. The New York Times quoted anonymous Israeli officials claiming the assault, which came on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s 85th birthday.

Air defense batteries fired in several provinces over reports of drones being in the air, state television reported.

In particular, IRNA said air defenses fired at a major air base in Isfahan, which long has been home to Iran’s fleet of American-made F-14 Tomcats — purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tasnim later published a video from one of its reporters, who said he was in the southeastern Zerdenjan area of Isfahan, near its “nuclear energy mountain.” The footage showed two different anti-aircraft gun positions, and details of the video corresponded with known features of the site of Iran’s Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan.

“At 4:45, we heard gunshots. There was nothing going on,” he said. “It was the air defense, these guys that you’re watching, and over there too.”

The facility at Isfahan operates three small Chinese-supplied research reactors, as well as handling fuel production and other activities for Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

Isfahan also is home to sites associated with Iran’s nuclear program, including its underground Natanz enrichment site, which has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Israeli sabotage attacks.

State television described all atomic sites in the area as “fully safe.” The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said “there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites” after the incident.

Gen. Siavosh Mihandoost, a local army commander, also told state TV the incident caused “no damage” around Isfahan.

Iran’s nuclear program has rapidly advanced to producing enriched uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels since the collapse of its atomic deal with world powers after then-President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord in 2018.

While Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, Western nations and the IAEA say Tehran operated a secret military weapons program until 2003. The IAEA has warned that Iran now holds enough enriched uranium to build several nuclear weapons if it chose to do so — though the U.S. intelligence community maintains Tehran is not actively seeking the bomb.

Dubai-based carriers Emirates and FlyDubai began diverting around western Iran about 4:30 a.m. local time. They offered no explanation, though local warnings to aviators suggested the airspace may have been closed.

Iran then grounded commercial flights in Tehran and across areas of its western and central regions. Loudspeakers informed customers of the incident at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, online videos purported to show. Iran later restored normal flight service, authorities said.

Hossein Dalirian, a spokesperson for an Iranian government cyberspace agency who as a journalist had ties to Iranian defense officials, said on the social media platform X that several small “quadcopter” drones had been shot down. A state television reporter in Isfahan said the same in a live report, saying “several small drones were flying in the sky over Isfahan, which were fired at.”

Around the time of the incident in Iran, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency quoted a military statement saying Israel carried out a missile strike targeting an air defense unit in its south and causing material damage. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strike hit a military radar for government forces. It was not clear if there were casualties, the Observatory said.

That area of Syria is directly west of Isfahan, some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away, and east of Israel.

Meanwhile in Iraq, where a number of Iranian-backed militias are based, residents of Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions, but the source of the noise was not immediately clear.

The incident Friday in Iran also sparked concerns about the conflict again escalating across the seas of the Middle East, which have been seeing attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen on shipping over the war in Gaza.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center warned ships in the region that they could see increased drone activity in the skies.

“There are currently no indications commercial vessels are the intended target,” it wrote.

The Houthis have launched at least 53 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sank another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Houthi attacks have dropped in recent weeks as the rebels have been targeted by a U.S.-led airstrike campaign in Yemen and as shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined over the threat.

However, Iranian state-run media sought to downplay the incident after the fact, airing footage of an otherwise-peaceful Isfahan morning. That could be intentional.

“As long as Iran continues to deny the attack and deflect attention from it and no further hits are seen, there is space for both sides to climb down the escalation ladder for now,” said Sanam Vakil, the director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House.

___

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Hossein Dalirian as a spokesperson for Iran’s space agency. He is a spokesperson for a cyberspace agency.

___

Associated Press journalists Nasser Karimi, Mehdi Fattahi and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

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Housing site names Jacksonville as top spot for young homeowners

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A popular housing site named Jacksonville one of the top places for young adults to settle down and buy homes.

In 2022, 17.91% of home buyers in Jacksonville were part of Gen Z.

“I would say that there is a big group of younger people buying homes, and a lot of it is just you can buy a house lot cheaper than what you can rent,” said Keith Darman, an on-site real estate agent.

Many say the city’s housing market may be better suited for some to purchase a home.

“We also are in a great market for here, where the prices for housing are still reasonable,” said Raqueal Edwards, a real estate broker.

Edwards says there are some other draws for the younger generation.

“Here we have the beaches. You’re a few hours away from the mountains, so you really have the option of being close to everything and having a lot of amenities.”

It’s also no secret the city has some military bases nearby.

“I’ve noticed in the recent years that a lot of people are graduating high school, and as they are coming into the workforce, they’re choosing the military as their career choice,” said Edwards.

Darman, who is an agent for new construction, said they’ve been selling new homes fairly fast.

“It is pretty busy so we do have kind of a difficult time keeping up with as many clients as we have coming in.”

Realtor.com also says the average list price of a house in the area is around $330,000. The average price for all ten cities on the list is around $424,900.

Some of the other metro areas in the top 10 include Elkhart, Indiana; Lima, Ohio; and Waterloo, Iowa.

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Carteret County trio facing numerous drug charges

CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Three people from Carteret County are in jail on hefty bonds after a traffic stop last week in Williston.

Deputies say during the stop for several traffic violations, Wendy Cahoon was seen trying to get rid of a bag of suspected drugs.

Inside the bag, deputies believe they found fentanyl, and during a search of the vehicle they also discovered oxycodone pills, and drug paraphernalia. The woman was charged with possession of drugs while the other two people in the vehicle were released.

While on the way to the jail, deputies say they learned Cahoon had drugs hidden inside her body. At the jail, the woman was put through a body scanner that showed the location of five more bags of suspected fentanyl.

Deputies say their investigation determined that the drugs belonged to all three people in the vehicle.

Anson Gillikin and Haley Cahoon were then arrested at a home in Smyrna.

Wendy Cahoon has a $500,000 secured bond.

  • Trafficking in opium/heroin by possess
  • Trafficking in opium/heroin by manufacture
  • Trafficking in opium/heroin by transport
  • Possession with intent to manufacture/sell/deliver Schedule II (Oxycodone 20mg)
  • Manufacture Schedule II
  • Possession with intent to manufacture/sell/deliver Schedule II (Oxycodone 15mg)
  • Manufacture Schedule II
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

Haley Cahoon has a $300,000 secured bond.

  • Trafficking in opium/heroin by possess
  • Trafficking in opium/heroin by manufacture
  • Trafficking in opium/heroin by transport

Anson Gillikin has a $500,000 secured bond.

  • Trafficking in opium/heroin by possess
  • Trafficking in opium/heroin by manufacture
  • Trafficking in opium/heroin by transport
  • Driving while license revoked
  • Window tint violation
  • Exceeding the posted speed limit
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UNC System committee passes policy change; diversity jobs at risk

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A committee with the UNC System is attempting to make a change that could cut jobs related to diversity at its institutions, including ECU.

On Wednesday, a 5-person committee within the Board of Governors voted to reverse and replace a policy related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

ECU Student Noah Mills disagrees with the action and says it’s important for schools to have strategies in place to welcome people from all walks of life.

“I think diversity policies especially here at ECU are needed. I love that ECU has a diverse campus. That’s part of the reason why I came to ECU and I think the diverse staff serves ECU well,” says Mills.

The proposed policy change would impact a regulation adopted in 2019 that defines the roles of various positions and the establishment of a diversity and inclusion council of members representing each university.

ECU Chair of the Faculty, Dr. Anne Ticknor, says because the vote was just passed, any conclusion on the outcome is pure speculation.

“Does that mean that there will be people who lose their jobs? Does it mean that offices or centers that are related to diversity and inclusion will be closed? We don’t know that yet and I think that is where the concern and the interest is,” says Ticknor.

If the policy is fully repealed, the UNC System could join other major universities in dismantling their diversity offices.

ECU Student Douglas Bell says as someone who has some Puerto Rican descent, he benefits from diversity programs, but that’s not exactly why he is in favor of them.

“I have many friends of different races, gay, straight, white, Black, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, my best friend who I am going to meet right now, and their perspective is very valuable to their difference in experiences,” says Bell.

At least 20 states have seen Republican bills seeking to limit diversity and inclusion programs in several public institutions.

The full board of 24 members will have a final vote in May and if approved the repeal would take effect immediately.

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Sister of man killed in downtown Kinston parking lot speaks as the accused suspects could be released from jail

KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) -The sister of a man in the east, who police say was found severely beaten before later dying from his injuries nearly three years ago, is speaking out as she says the men accused in her brother’s murder could possibly be released from jail next week.

Jennifer Rouse says she’s dealt with a lot of things in her life, but handling the death of her brother Jeffrey Hill has been one of the more difficult situations.

“I have to live with it every day,” Rouse said. “I’m not asking for too much except that justice be served.”

On the night of May 2nd, 2021, Kinston police say they found 58-year-old Hill lying on the ground at a West Gordon Street parking lot, severely beaten.

Rouse says her brother was attacked by two men after leaving a bar then called “The Office” now known as “The Proof” on North Herritage Street.

Kinston police said those two men were 41-year-old Clinton Christmas and 45-year-old Joseph Hughes as they were each charged with assault inflicting serious bodily injury, but were later indicted by a grand jury on first degree murder charges after Hill died from injuries May 11th.

It’s been nearly three years since Hill’s tragic death, but Rouse says their family was told this week by a district attorney in the case that the two men may be released from jail this upcoming Monday.

“We were pretty much told that this was the way it would be, that the grand jury didn’t matter, and that they would have lesser charges,” Rouse said. “For the time served they’ll be getting out.”

Hill left behind two children as well as other family and friends who loved him dearly.

Rouse believes letting the men accused in his death out of the Lenoir County Jail is unacceptable.

“What are we saying for this community when you’re letting people go that’ve killed somebody, who was born and raised in this community,” Rouse said.

Rouse says they will be in court Monday at the Lenoir County Courthouse at 10:00 a.m.

Be sure to stay with us as we continue to follow this developing story.

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Iran fires air defense batteries in provinces as sound of explosions heard near Isfahan

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday morning after reports of explosions near the city of Isfahan, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

It remained unclear if the country was under attack. However, tensions remain high in the wider Middle East after Iran’s unprecedented missile-and-drone attack on Israel. One government official suggested sites may have been targeted by drones.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

IRNA said the defenses fired across several provinces. It did not elaborate on what caused the batteries to fire, though people across the area reported hearing the sounds.

The semiofficial Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported the sound of blasts, without giving a cause. State television acknowledged “loud noise” in the area.

Isfahan is home to a major airbase for the Iranian military, as well as sites associated with its nuclear program.

Dubai-based carriers Emirates and FlyDubai began diverting around western Iran about 4:30 a.m. local time. They offered no explanation, though local warnings to aviators suggested the airspace may have been closed.

Iran later announced it grounded commercial flights in Tehran and across areas of its western and central regions. Loudspeakers informed customers of the incident at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, online videos purported to show.

Iranian state television began a scrolling, on-screen alert acknowledging a “loud noise” near Isfahan, without immediately elaborating.

Hossein Dalirian, a spokesman for Iran’s civilian space program, said on the X social media platform that several small “quadcopter” drones had been shot down. It wasn’t immediately clear where that happened or if it was part of the ongoing incident in Iran.

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Outrage after video shows people pulling bear cubs from trees in Asheville

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -People are expressing outrage and NC Wildlife officials are reminding people never to do what the individuals in the video are seen doing to bear cubs.

On Tuesday, NC Wildlife Resources Commission staff were contacted by the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office regarding a group of people at an apartment complex in Asheville who are seen pulling two bear cubs from a tree and taking photos of themselves with the cubs.

NCWRC staff arrived and were told both cubs had escaped after a cub bit one of the people.

One of the cubs was found later in a retention pond and taken to a licensed cub rehabilitation facility. The other has not been located.

NCWRC’s BearWise© Coordinator Ashley Hobbs captured one cub and noted that it was in poor condition. “The cub appeared to be lethargic and frightened. It looked to be favoring one of its front paws and was wet and shivering,” said Hobbs. The cub is now being cared for by a licensed and experienced cub rehabilitator with the goal of releasing it back into the wild later this year.

“The cub’s condition is likely a result of the unnecessary and irresponsible actions of the people involved,” said Game Mammals and Surveys Supervisor Colleen Olfenbuttel. “Ashley and our enforcement staff searched the area for the second cub but did not locate it. Our hope is it was able to reunite with the mother because it would not survive on its own at this young age,” said Mountain Operations Supervisor James Tomberlin.

Other bear advocates who saw the video expressed outrage and said what the people did is exactly what you don’t want to do.

Wildlife officials are reminding the public to never approach or handle bear cubs.

This incident remains an active investigation to determine if charges will be filed.

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Flights divert around western Iran as one report claims explosions heard near Isfahan

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Commercial flights began diverting their routes early Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as one semiofficial news agency in the Islamic Republic claimed there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.

The incident comes as tensions remain high in the wider Middle East after Iran’s unprecedented missile-and-drone attack on Israel.

Dubai-based carriers Emirates and FlyDubai began diverting around western Iran about 4:30 a.m. local time. They offered no explanation, though local warnings to aviators suggested the airspace may have been closed.

The semiofficial Fars news agency reported on the sound of explosions over Isfahan near its international airport. It offered no explanation for the blast. However, Isfahan is home to a major airbase for the Iranian military, as well as sites associated with its nuclear program.

Iran’s government offered no immediate comment.

Isfahan is some 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran.

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12 jurors have been picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial. Selection of alternates ongoing

NEW YORK (AP) — A jury of 12 people was seated Thursday in former President Donald Trump’s history-making hush money trial, propelling the proceedings closer to opening statements and the start of weeks of dramatic testimony.

The court quickly turned to selecting alternate jurors, with the process on track to wrap up by the end of the week. Prosecutors could begin presenting their case early next week.

The jury of Manhattanites includes a sales professional, a software engineer, a security engineer, a teacher, a speech therapist, multiple lawyers, an investment banker and a retired wealth manager.

The first-ever trial of a former American president is unfolding in New York during this year’s race for the White House, meaning the presumptive Republican nominee will spend his days in court confronted by salacious and unflattering testimony about his personal life while simultaneously campaigning to reclaim the office he held for four years.

He’s made clear his determination to use his legal jeopardy, already a central issue in the race against Democratic incumbent Joe Biden, to his advantage. After a full day of jury selection, he complained to reporters that he should have been out campaigning but was in court instead for what he said was a “very unfair trial.”

“Everybody’s outraged by it,” he said. “You know the whole world’s watching this New York scam.”

Jury selection proceeded at a plodding pace earlier Thursday when two jurors were dismissed, one after expressing doubt about her ability to be fair following disclosure of details about her identity and the other over concerns that some of his answers in court may have been inaccurate.

But lawyers who began the day with only five jurors settled on the remaining seven in quick succession, along with one alternate. Judge Juan Merchan has said his goal is to have six alternates.

The process of picking a jury is a critical phase in any criminal trial but especially so when the defendant is a former president and the presumptive Republican nominee. Prospective jurors have been grilled on their social media posts, personal lives and political views as the lawyers and judge search for any bias that would prevent them from being impartial.

Inside the court, there’s broad acknowledgment of the futility in trying to find jurors without knowledge of Trump. A prosecutor this week said lawyers were not looking for people who had been “living under a rock for the past eight years.”

To that end, multiple jurors chosen for the panel acknowledged having personal opinions of Trump or his presidency.

One juror, a man who works in investment banking, earlier described himself as “ambivalent” about Trump, adding, “I might not like some of his policies, but there has been some good” for the country.

A woman picked for the jury said she thought Trump seemed “very selfish and self serving,” adding, “I don’t really appreciate that from any public servant.” Defense lawyers were out of peremptory strikes, which would allow them to dismiss a juror without giving a reason.

The trial centers on a $130,000 payment that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, made to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from becoming public in the final days of the 2016 race.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of the payments in internal records when his company reimbursed Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.

Trump has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels, and his lawyers argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He could get up to four years in prison if convicted, though it’s not clear that the judge would opt to put him behind bars. Trump would almost certainly appeal any conviction.

Trump faces four criminal cases, but it’s not clear that any others will reach trial before the November election. Appeals and legal wrangling have caused delays in the other three cases charging Trump with plotting to overturn the 2020 election results and with illegally hoarding classified documents.

The jury selection process picked up momentum Tuesday with the selection of seven jurors. But on Thursday, Merchan revealed in court that one of the seven, a cancer nurse, had “conveyed that after sleeping on it overnight she had concerns about her ability to be fair and impartial in this case.”

And though jurors’ names are being kept confidential, the woman told the judge and the lawyers that she had doubts after she said aspects of her identity had been made public.

“Yesterday alone I had friends, colleagues and family push things to my phone regarding questioning my identity as a juror,” she said. “I don’t believe at this point that I can be fair and unbiased and let the outside influences not affect my decision making in the courtroom.”

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A second seated juror was dismissed after prosecutors raised concerns that he may not have been honest in answering a jury selection question by saying that he had never been accused or convicted of a crime.

The IT professional was summoned to court to answer questions after prosecutors said they found an article about a person with the same name who had been arrested in the 1990s for tearing down posters pertaining to the political right in suburban Westchester County.

A prosecutor also disclosed that a relative of the man may have been involved in a deferred prosecution agreement in the 1990s with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting Trump’s case.

Because the juror was questioned Thursday at the judge’s bench, off-microphone and out of earshot of reporters, it was not known whether the man confirmed or denied that either instance was connected to him.

After dismissing from the jury the nurse who had already been selected, Merchan ordered journalists in court not to report prospective jurors’ answers to questions about their current and former employers.

“We just lost, probably, what probably would have been a very good juror for this case, and the first thing that she said was she was afraid and intimidated by the press, all the press, and everything that had happened,” Merchan said.

In other developments, prosecutors asked for Trump to be held in contempt over a series of social media posts this week.

The district attorney’s office on Monday sought a $3,000 fine for Trump for three Truth Social posts they said violated the judge’s gag order limiting what he can say publicly about witnesses. Since then, prosecutors said Trump made seven additional posts that they believe violate the order.

Several of the posts involved an article that referred to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as a “serial perjurer,” and one from Wednesday repeated a claim by a Fox News host that liberal activists were lying to get on the jury, said prosecutor Christopher Conroy.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove said Cohen “has been attacking President Trump in public statements,” and Trump was just replying.

The judge already scheduled a hearing for next week on the prosecution’s request for contempt sanctions over Trump’s posts.

___

Tucker reported from Washington.

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Alligator River bridge concrete pile test begins ahead of new span

COLUMBIA, N.C. (WITN) - The replacement of a 64-year-old bridge with a new structure in Eastern Carolina is now in its beginning stages.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation says soon eighteen concrete test piles will begin in the Alligator River bed. They said this process’ results will determine the project’s next step in replacing the Lindsay C. Warren Bridge connecting Tyrrell and Dare Counties.

The DOT says that Skanska USA will be overseeing this project through guidance and engineering plans. Their plan, according to the DOT, is to replace the 64-year swing-span bridge with a modern two-lane high-rise bridge just north of the original span.

These test piles, according to the department, are heavy posts driven into the ground to act as a foundation for the bridge’s structure.

Construction on the new bridge is scheduled to begin in later this year or early next year.

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POLICE: Cyclist with no lights, reflectors critically injured in pre-dawn crash

HAVELOCK, N.C. (WITN) - Police say a woman on a bicycle was critically injured when she was hit by a vehicle early Wednesday morning.

Havelock police say Alisha Kelley was trying to cross four-lane U.S. 70 at Stonebridge Trail when she was struck by a vehicle going through the intersection with a green light. The crash happened Wednesday morning around 4:30 a.m.

Police say the 23-year-old woman’s bike had no lights or reflectors and that the intersection is in a dimly lit section of the highway.

The driver called 911 and is cooperating with police, officers say. No charges have been filed against the driver at this time, according to police.

Kelley is in critical condition at ECU Health Medical Center, the hospital said this afternoon.

Anyone with information about this crash is encouraged to call Havelock police at 252-447-3212.

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Man wanted in Jacksonville Walmart theft

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Police in Jacksonville want to find a man who is suspected of stealing from a Walmart.

Officers today released photos of the man who was at the Walmart on North Marine Boulevard on Sunday.

The man has white hair and a beard. He was wearing a white & blue plaid shirt, blue jeans, and black shoes.

If you know who this man is, you should call Jacksonville police at 910-938-5410 or Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273.

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Wilson man & woman charged in insurance fraud scheme

WILSON, N.C. (WITN) - A Wilson man and woman are facing multiple charges in an insurance fraud scheme.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey says 50-year-old Julius Kelley was charged with four counts of identity theft, two counts of insurance fraud, two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, two counts of title application fraud, attempting to obtain property by false pretenses, and forgery.

Virginia Maddox, 57, was arrested on three counts of felony notary fraud.

Agents say that Kelly used someone else’s identity to title the vehicle and then insure it. The man then filed insurance claims on it after the vehicle was involved in a wreck, according to a news release.

Investigators say Kelley also used the identity of two others in submitting a claim, along with fake medical invoices, totaling more than $15,000.

They say Maddox notarized the fake documents that Kelly had given her.

Kelly was jailed on a $60,000 secured bond, while Maddox was released after putting up a $5,000 secured bond.

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Grifton Shad Festival happening Thursday into weekend

GRIFTON, N.C. (WITN) - One of the most time-honored and longest-running festivals in all of North Carolina is returning for its 52nd year.

The Grifton Shad Festival will begin Thursday, April 16th and run through Sunday, April 21st. The festival features several days of activities including fun time amusements and rides, live music, parades, a petting zoo, food vendors, and so much more.

A free shuttle service will be available.

For a full list of events, visit their website here.

WITN is a proud sponsor of the Grifton Shad Festival.

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Man behind bars after traffic stop reveals illegal drugs Thursday morning

KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - A Grifton man has been arrested after a traffic stop, according to Kinston police.

Police say 32-year-old, Jesse Jones was arrested following a search with the assistance of K-9 Nero, at a traffic stop on West Vernon Avenue and Hillcrest Road this morning shortly before 3:00 a.m.

Officers say they found methamphetamine, psychedelic mushrooms, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia.

Authorities say Jones was jailed for possession of methamphetamine, felony possession of Schedule I, simple possession of Schedule VI, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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Woman wanted for 2022 overdose death

CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Deputies in one Eastern Carolina county are asking for your help in tracking down a woman wanted in a drug death.

Carteret County deputies say Aryanna Carter is sought for a 2022 overdose death.

They say Carter is wanted for death by distribution of drugs charges. No information has been released on who was the victim or the circumstances surrounding their death.

If you know the whereabouts of Carter, call the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office at 252-726-1911.

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Input sought for Pitt Co. parks & recreation accessibility grant applications

PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - People of Pitt County have the opportunity to voice their input toward the future of county accessibility to amenities.

Parks & Recreation is holding two events next Thursday, April 25, which will give the public the chance to give their input.

Both events will be held at the Community Schools & Recreation Center in Greenville, according to parks & rec.

The first session will be from 4:30-5:30 p.m. and will focus on a trust grant for the Pitt County Office Park Recreation Complex. The second will be from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and will seek input on the Lake Glenwood Public Park project with the North Carolina State Parks Accessible Parks Grant.

“We are building “parks for all” in areas of the County that previously lacked facilities and including accessible features that everyone can enjoy,” says Alice Keene, recreation projects coordinator. “These public meetings are an excellent opportunity for residents to understand both projects and provide critical feedback on park amenities and upgrades for which the County is applying.”

For more information, contact Keene at (252) 902-1984 or through her email.

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