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Confession in the killing of 86-year-old King man, search warrants allege

A Winston-Salem man admitted to investigators in January that he killed an elderly King man and took the body to his grandparents’ land in southern Virginia to hide it, according to a search warrant in the case.

Christian Lang Willard, 20, of Gordy Trail talked to investigators in the Winston-Salem Police Department on Jan. 19, the search warrant says. Arzell Tuttle, 86, was killed in his house at 761 E. King St. sometime between Jan. 9 and Jan. 10, King police said.

An autopsy was performed on Tuttle’s body at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, but its results haven’t been publicly released.

Willard is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Tuttle’s death. Willard was being held Monday in the Stokes County Jail in Danbury with no bond. He is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

James “J.D.” Byers of Winston-Salem, Willard’s attorney, said he didn’t know about the circumstances of when Willard made his statements to the investigators.

“(They) were not subjected to a court hearing or cross examination,” Byers said of Willard’s statements.

Stokes County District Attorney Ricky Bowman couldn’t be reached Monday to comment about the case.

According to the search warrant, Willard told the detectives Tuttle’s body could be seen from the driveway of either 258 Forest Haven Drive or 262 Forest Haven Drive in Fancy Gap, Va.

No one was living at either house at the time, police said.

Willard’s grandparents, Billie Gray Gordy and Margie Gordy, own houses at both addresses, according to the warrant. Willard showed investigators a map of where Tuttle’s body was on his grandparents’ property.

“Willard told investigators that the body was not concealed,” the warrant says.

Tuttle was last seen Jan. 8, and a Silver Alert was issued for him on Jan. 12. His body was found Jan. 16, about 42 miles from his house in King, authorities said at the time.

At the site on Forest Haven Drive, investigators found charred human remains, 11 zip ties, a burned black piece of cloth, black fabric, three bottles, burned clothing, a pocket knife, bones from the burned area, and a pipe wrench, according to the warrant.

Chief Jordan Boyette of the King Police Department said he and other investigators have met with the Stokes County District Attorney’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation to determine if anyone else will be charged in the case.

“We are waiting on some evidence results that has been submitted to the SBI lab, and some final follow-up to bring back to the (district attorney),” Boyette said.

The case has been complex, involving several law enforcement agencies, including the Stokes and Forsyth County sheriff’s offices, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and King police departments, the N.C. Highway Patrol, the SBI and law enforcement officers in Virginia.

Police also haven’t released a motive in Tuttle’s killing. Willard told investigators that he had known Tuttle since Willard was in the ninth grade, the warrant said.

Investigators also executed a search warrant at Tuttle’s home in King.

Tuttle’s home was in disarray when police searched it on Jan. 11. Several drawers in his bedroom were open. There was no blanket or quilt on the bed and no trash bag liner in the trash can in the kitchen. In addition, there were several red spots that appeared to be blood inside the garage, and the presence of bleach was detected inside the house and garage. Tuttle’s rifle also was missing from the house, the warrant said.

Two vehicles were instrumental in this case: One, a PT Cruiser, belonged to Tuttle and was the first clue that he was missing. It was found burning in Winston-Salem on Jan. 11. According to the search warrant, blood was found inside the vehicle.

On Jan. 13, King police said they were searching for two people in a silver Pontiac Grand Prix that was spotted near the Cruiser. It was found on Jan. 16 on Leo Street in Winston-Salem, the same day Willard was arrested. He was not one of the people in the vehicle.



'Reconsider' Dixie Classic Fair name, committee says

The Fair Planning Committee voted unanimously Monday afternoon to recommend that the city “reconsider” the name of the Dixie Classic Fair.

At the same time, the committee is calling for more time to pick a new name, should the fair get one.

“We recommended that the name of the Dixie Classic Fair be reconsidered, not necessarily changed,” Kathleen Garber, who chairs the committee, said in an email after the action. “We want city council to give more time and resources to the process of selecting a new name should they decide to change it.”

The committee acknowledged the overwhelming response to a public survey was to keep the name Dixie Classic, which has been the fair’s name since 1956. But some committee members said they acknowledge that a number of people see the word Dixie as having racist connotations.

“Unfortunately, this term has taken on this connotation ... maybe unfairly, but this is the time we live in,” said committee member Karen McHugh. “We have to consider that as we move forward. Change is a good thing. It is hard.”

The committee’s recommendation now goes to the city’s Public Assembly Facilities Commission, then on to the Winston-Salem City Council.

Although the text of the committee’s recommendation calls for the name to be “reconsidered,” it also states that “the consideration of the new name should allow time and external resources to adequately and effectively review naming options.”

The city should consider whether the process for changing the name is being rushed, fair committee members said.

Some said name changes usually involve marketing work such as trying out names on focus groups and bringing in outside consultants. Instead, the city wants to pick a new name this summer and have it in place for 2020.

“Anyone that cares about changing the name would not follow this process,” fair committee member Joseph Hamby said. Hamby complained about “how irresponsible ... and inefficient this process has been.”

The current push to change the name of the fair started April 9 when a group of residents told members of the Winston-Salem City Council that the word Dixie was offensive and carried reminders of slavery in the Old South.

The fair will keep its name this fall, but the city put in place a timetable that calls for a new name to be brought before the city council by August.

Committee member Lisa Eldridge made a suggestion Monday that the committee could submit two resolutions. One, reflecting public opposition, would call for no change, and the second resolution would make a suggestion on a new name if the council insisted on one.

Some members of the fair committee expressed ambivalence over what should be done during their meeting on Monday. On the one hand, the massive opposition to a name change was evident in the public-survey responses.

But Hamby noted some people responded to the survey with racist remarks. He said that response supported the idea that, for some, Dixie does have racist associations.

A consensus emerged that picking a new name from those suggested by the public was too hasty.

“Can it be (changed) in 2021?” McHugh asked. “What’s the hurry? It gives us a very short timeline.”

The city received some 11,500 responses when it solicited feedback on the fair name, with 9,801 coming from an online survey that people took. Among the total number of responses, 76% said the fair should be called the Dixie Classic Fair, and another 8% said to make no change in the name.

The city hasn’t done any scientific polling on the name change. Responses came from anyone who chose to speak out. Among the survey responders, 36% came from Winston-Salem, 22% came from elsewhere in the Triad, 38% came from other parts of the state, and 3% came from other states.

There was a smattering of support for other possible names, including Carolina Classic Fair, Sparks Classic Fair and Winston-Salem Fair, along with other more obscure suggestions. The Sparks name was likely in homage to longtime fair director David Sparks, who retired in 2018.

Hamby noted that the surveys turned into more of a referendum on the current name rather than giving the committee a variety of name choices. He questioned whether the survey really did much good in providing possible new names.

Committee member Rachel Barron, a public relations professional, said a name-change should involve activities such as running name prospects through focus groups and other marketing techniques, even hiring an outside consultant to run the process.

“This is definitely rushed from what a normal process would be,” she said.

Eldridge said another problem was that the debate has created division in the community instead of a rebranding effort that’s focused on the excitement of a new name.

“The way this whole thing has been handled has been wrong,” Eldridge said.

Only a handful of people watched the committee in action, although the city had set up dozens of chairs for a large turnout that never happened.

Health care for more North Carolinians? It's not as difficult as you think

I don’t know much more about Donny Lambeth than you do.

At one time he was the president of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. In this town, that’s a big honking deal. He’s also served for years as chairman of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education and now serves in the state House of Representatives.

Make all the jokes you want about politicians — I have and I will — but public service matters. Sure they spend (waste?) time on such nonsense as voting on an official state cookie or trying to establish something called the N.C. Golf Council. That bill, backed by 21 co-sponsors, is gathering dust in a committee. Just like some legislators.

The honorables will, on occasion, embarrass the state and cost us money. House Bill 2, the infamous Bathroom Bill, comes to mind. They can — and have — gone too far in trying to micromanage local affairs. Remember the ham-fisted attempt to reconfigure the Winston-Salem City Council? That was Lambeth.

But despite the monkeyshines, a lawmaker will on occasion step-forward with something that could actually make a real difference.

Lambeth has such an idea.

Not unreasonable

As things stand now, about 2.1 million state residents — one in five — use Medicaid, and more than half of those are children.

The program is administered by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and costs about $14.6 billion a year. Two-thirds of that cost is paid by the federal government.

Two years ago, a handful of Republican representatives pushed a radical (for them) bill by which they would provide a pathway for nearly a half-million of the poorest North Carolinians to get health insurance.

Smack in the middle of that handful stands Lambeth, Republican of Forsyth County and former hospital administrator. And they’re still at it.

The bill is complicated — name one thing involving health care that’s not — but here’s the gist:

Low-income folks, those earning between $25,000 and $34,600 for a family of four, who are trapped between outright eligibility for Medicaid and being able to buy their own coverage, would get access to health insurance through the state’s Medicaid program.

Basically, it would be North Carolina expanding access to Medicaid like 36 other states. The feds, under the Affordable Care Act, pick up 90 percent of the cost of the expansion. The most recent states to do so were Utah, Idaho and Nebraska — hardly bastions of liberalism.

We haven’t followed suit for two reasons. The leaders of the House and Senate, Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, think it’s too expensive. That view isn’t too far removed from a scene in Mel Brooks’ 1981 movie “History of the World, Part I” in which Roman senators debating housing vote in unison: “(Screw) the poor.”

Anyhow, Lambeth’s bill — House Bill 655, or the “NC Health Care for Working Families Act,” is a little different than a straight Medicaid expansion.

It contains provisions for a work requirement, a buy-in (2 percent of a recipient’s annual income for premiums) and a requirement that participants engage in preventative care and wellness. It’s a lot cheaper to manage diabetes than lopping off toes and feet.

As for the work requirement, nobody’s asking for 40 hours in a coal mine. Ten or 20 hours at a part-time job never killed anyone, and there would be exceptions for the elderly, women caring for young children, kids themselves and those who are “medically frail.”

None of that is unreasonable.

Nor are the proposals to help pay the state’s costs. The bill would tax the managed-care companies that will soon run the Medicaid program and assess hospitals that will benefit by having fewer uninsured patients wander in with headaches and hangnails.

So why does any of this matter? And more importantly, why now?

Still in play

Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly are on a collision course over the state’s $23.9 -billion budget for 2019-20.

Cooper, a Democrat, has been pushing for a version of the no-strings attached Medicaid expansion. Accept the 90 percent from the feds and figure a way to cover the state’s share.

The Republicans in charge of the Legislature, most of them anyhow, don’t want to have anything to do with expanding Medicaid.

Berger, Moore and others say that the federal government could pull the 90-percent funding guarantee and leave the state holding a very expensive bag. Others might argue that access to health care is a right and keeping it from the poor is, say, morally repugnant.

Either way, the proposal does contain a provision to end the state expansion in the event the feds pull the funding.

House Bill 655 hasn’t yet passed the Legislature. It’s not likely to, either, not anytime soon. But there is a scenario under which it might come into play as the honorable (and Cooper) work to finish the budget.

Say Cooper vetoes the budget and stands firm in his demand for Medicaid expansion. House Republicans no longer enjoy a veto-proof super-majority; leadership may have no other choice but to negotiate.

Compromise, in a democracy, needn’t be a bad word. If or when that happens, Lambeth has a bill that could help break such a deadlock and do some real good for North Carolinians.

That’s a far better use of time than debating cookies or naming an official battleship.

photo courtesy King police 


Rapper Yo Gotti wants $6.6 million judgment for a Winston-Salem man vacated. Judgment was over a $20,000 deal that didn't work out.

Rapper Yo Gotti is asking a Forsyth County judge to vacate a $6.6 million judgment against him, according to court papers.

Last month, Judge Todd Burke of Forsyth Superior Court awarded $6.6 million in damages to Michael Terry, manager of local singer Young Fletcher, whose legal name is Lamont Fletcher. According to Burke’s order Yo Gotti, whose legal name is Mario Mims, was paid $20,000 by Terry to rap a verse on Young Fletcher’s song. Established artists will sometimes rap with new artists in an effort to boost new artists’ sales and airplay.

But Fletcher was never able to release the song because Yo Gotti didn’t sign paperwork allowing for the song’s release, Burke’s order said. Terry alleged in an affidavit that Yo Gotti, who has been putting out music since the 1990s, would have helped Young Fletcher get more attention. And Yo Gotti tried to lure Fletcher to his label, Epic Records, Burke’s order said.

After a nonjury trial last month, Burke found that Yo Gotti engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices. He ruled Fletcher should get $2.2 million in damages, then tripled that to $6.6 million.

Yo Gotti and his attorneys didn’t attend the trial held on May 28 and didn’t file a written answer to the lawsuit, which was filed in Forsyth Superior Court on Jan. 24, 2018.

Yo Gotti’s attorneys said there’s a good reason for that — Yo Gotti wasn’t officially served with the lawsuit, though a member of his security team got the complaint from a sheriff’s deputy when the rapper was in Winston-Salem last year.

Lamont Wynne, a member of Yo Gotti’s security team, didn’t have the authority to accept the lawsuit on the rapper’s behalf and was not told by the deputy to hand the document to Yo Gotti, the rapper’s attorneys, Brent Powell and James Cooney III, said in court papers filed Friday.

Clarke Dummit, Terry’s attorney, has said he spent months trying to track down Yo Gotti. A Forsyth County superior clerk made an entry of default in the case after Yo Gotti and his attorneys failed to file a written answer to the case.

During the hearing, Dummit entered two affidavits into evidence. One of the affidavits was from Terry, who is the chief executive officer of Stack Dollars Empire LLC, a Winston-Salem record label and talent-management company. The other was from Reggie Green, a Forsyth County resident who has worked in the nightclub and music industry for about 20 years.

According to the affidavits and Burke’s order, what Yo Gotti had agreed to do was something fairly routine in the music industry — get paid to perform on a lesser-known artist’s song as a way of breaking that artist into the mainstream.

The problem is that Yo Gotti never signed a “side artist agreement,” which would have allowed Young Fletcher to release the song with Yo Gotti’s verse, according to Burke’s order. And that was despite attempts Terry and Young Fletcher made to contact Yo Gotti.

Then Yo Gotti contacted Young Fletcher and offered him $150,000 to leave Terry and join Yo Gotti’s label, Burke’s order said. And finally, Yo Gotti recorded a song with the verse he did for Young Fletcher’s song “so it would intentionally make the plaintiff look like he was copying Yo Gotti.”