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Local
Multiple women accused him of sex offenses. He could leave jail on a promise to appear after arguing a right to a speedy trial.

The head superior court judge in Forsyth County changed the conditions of a $5.5 million bond, allowing a High Point man accused of kidnapping and either physically or sexually assaulting five women, including a 14-year-old girl, to potentially walk out of jail.

Michael Dean Myers, 33, of the 600 block of Sink Lake Road in High Point, is charged with four counts of first-degree kidnapping, one count of second-degree kidnapping, one count of attempted first-degree rape, one count of statutory sex offense and other sexual offenses, including second-degree rape. He is also charged with three misdemeanor counts of assault on a female, felony assault by strangulation and armed robbery. Indictments and other court documents say that the alleged incidents happened between Feb. 23 and March 25 of 2018.

Among the allegations, he is accused of grabbing a 14-year-old girl who was walking down the street, dragging her to his car and forcing her to perform oral sex on him. He also is accused of choking her. He is also alleged to have tried to run another woman over with a car when she tried to escape from an assault.

Since his arrest, Myers has been held at the Guilford County Jail with a secured bond of $5.5 million. But on Thursday, Judge Todd Burke, who was presiding over Guilford Superior Court in High Point on Thursday, unsecured Myers’ bond, allowing him to sign out of the jail with the promise to appear in court. If he doesn’t show up at a court hearing, he would be financially responsible for the bond.

Being held on a secured bond means that a criminal defendant or his family has to put up cash, property or hire a bails bondsman to get released from jail.

Burke is Forsyth County’s senior resident superior court judge. He has been a superior court judge since 1995. He is running unopposed for another term as superior court judge. Burke could not be reached for comment on Friday.

On Thursday, Burke heard a motion to dismiss that Myers’ attorney, Michael Troutman, had filed, alleging that delays in setting a trial had violated his client’s constitutional rights to a speedy trial. Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Lori Wickline opposed the motion to dismiss.

Burke denied the motion after hearing arguments from both sides, and then ruled that Myers’ $5.5 million bond be unsecured. Wickline said Thursday that Burke also ordered the Guilford County District Attorney’s investigators to obtain sworn affidavits from the five alleged victims stating their desire to continue the prosecution. If the investigators are unable to get the affidavits or the alleged victims decline to sign the affidavits, they are supposed to write a report. The affidavits and the investigators’ report will be turned over to Troutman.

The investigators have 30 days to get the affidavits, Wickline said.

The trial for Myers is set for the week of Sept. 14. Wickline said Thursday that Burke told the attorneys in open court that one of the reasons he unsecured the bond was because an earlier trial date could not be scheduled.

Troutman declined to comment when reached at his office on Thursday.

According to a search warrant, the first alleged incident happened on Feb. 23, 2018, and involved a 14-year-old girl. The girl told police detectives that a man later identified as Myers was driving an SUV and had followed the girl while she was walking down Redding Street. When she got to a fence on Southern Place just before Courtesy Road, the man got out of the vehicle, knocked the girl to the ground and tried to drag her to his car. The search warrant said the girl kicked the man, who attempted to rape her.

The assailant picked up a rock or brick and threatened to hit her with it. At that point, she stopped struggling and the man forced her to perform oral sex while he held her by the hair. He also choked her, the search warrant said. The man let her go and she ran to a family friend’s house.

The next day, a 33-year-old woman who worked as a prostitute said a man picked her up in an SUV and drove her to the 2100 block of South Elm Street, where he assaulted her and forced her to perform oral sex. She broke free and the man chased her down in his car. He caught her and again forced her to perform oral sex. Then, according to the search warrant, he knocked her to the ground and hit her several times.

That same day, High Point police responded to a third report, this time of an attempted sex offense. A 29-year-old woman who also was a prostitute told police that a man in a light blue or gray SUV asked if she needed a ride. She accepted and asked him to take her to a hotel. The man pulled the car over soon after and started to choke her. While choking her, he demanded that the woman perform oral sex on him. She pushed the man and was able to get out. The man tried to run her over with his car as she ran away, the search warrant said.

In another court document, the woman wrote that she had mistakenly picked Myers out in a photo line-up. However, the charges against him in connection to her alleged assault are still pending, and there is no indication that prosecutors have dismissed them.

According to indictments, Myers is also accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman on March 15, 2018. He is also accused of grabbing the woman by the throat and hair.

On March 25, 2018, indictments allege that he kidnapped a 47-year-old woman. According to the search warrant, she told police that she was walking down South Elm Street when Myers approached her in his SUV. He asked her if she needed a ride and she accepted.

Once she got in, Myers sped up and made a sudden left turn onto Cassell Street. According to the search warrant, the woman said Myers was driving so fast he almost lost control of the car. He slammed on the brakes and hit the woman in the face. She got out her pocketknife and swung at him, forcing him out the car. Then she got in the driver’s seat and drove away.

Myers denied the allegations during an interview with High Point police, according to the search warrant.

Wickline said that Burke ordered Myers to not have any contact with the alleged victims and witnesses in the case. He also has to check in with Guilford County Court Services, which manages defendants who are out on pre-trial release.

Late Friday afternoon, Myers was awaiting release from the Guilford County Jail.


Local
Man shot at Hanes Mall

A man was shot Friday night outside the Forever 21 store at Hanes Mall, Winston-Salem Police said.

One person was transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center as a result of the shooting, which was called in to police at 8:37 p.m.

Police Lt. Vincent Rega didn’t identify the victim who has non-life-threatening injuries.

A person of interest was taken to the Winston-Salem Police Department for questioning, Rega said.

“We’re are conducting interviews and we are investigating,” Rega said. “At this point, there is no danger to the public.”

This was not a random act. The shooter and the victim know each other, he said.

Rega declined to say how many shots had been fired.

The glass door of the Forever 21 store was damaged in the incident.

Multiple evidence markers could be seen on Friday night.

Police investigators gathered evidence at the scene. Officers put up crime scene tape in front of store stretching into the nearby parking lot.

An officer used a flashlight to look for clues in the parking lot.

Police spent much of Friday night on the scene investigating. No other information was immediately available.

Friday night’s shooting happened five months after Julius Randolph Sampson Jr., 32, was shot and killed on Aug. 6. 2019 outside BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at Hanes Mall. Robert Anthony Granato, 23, of Cloverhurst Court was charged with first-degree murder and carrying a concealed weapon in connection with Sampson’s death.

Granato was being held Friday night in the Forsyth County Jail with his bond set at $503,000, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said.

Sampson’s death was one of 32 homicides in Winston-Salem in 2019.

Police Chief Catrina Thompson said this week that the city seized 900 guns in 2019, and is on pace to seize even more in 2020.


Z-no-digital
Wake Forest Baptist to close birthing center at Lexington Medical Center

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said Friday it is ending labor and delivery services at Lexington Medical Center by June 30.

Those services will be available at the Birth Center on the main Wake Forest Baptist campus in Winston-Salem,

That 100,000-square-foot center opened in July with 51 private patient rooms, including at least two set aside for twins, and a neonatal intensive care unit.

The decision was made Thursday by Wake Forest Baptist and the Lexington’s hospital’s board of directors.

“We hope those in the Lexington community understand that this was a difficult, but necessary, decision that will help us better meet the needs of people here in Davidson County,” Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, Wake Forest Baptist’s chief executive and Wake Forest School of Medicine dean, said in a statement.

About 24 positions — most of them in nursing — are affected by the ending of delivery services. The goal is to place those employees into other positions within the healthcare system.

Birthing services at hospitals in High Point and North Wilkesboro, which are also affiliated with Wake Forest Baptist, remain in place.

Those services have not been offered at Davie Medical Center in Bermuda Run, though Wake Forest Baptist officials said in 2007 that Davie mothers should be allowed to give birth in their home county.

In 2009, state regulators twice denied allowing a Davie hospital to offer those services. That decision came during the approval process for community hospitals in Bermuda Run and Clemmons.

Although the priority in the Lexington emergency department would be to treat the expectant mother and then transfer to a hospital with delivery services, medical staff would be able to deliver the baby if necessary.

Freischlag said that deliveries at Lexington “have steadily declined over the past 10 years — dropping to less than one birth per day.”

According to N.C. Division of Public Health data for the first half of 2019, there were 158 births at Lexington for an average of 0.87 per day.

By comparison, Thomasville Medical Center — which is operated by Novant Health Inc. — had 308 births for an average of 1.7 per day.

Jon Applebaum, president and chief operating officer of the Thomasville hospital, said it has provided birthing services for more than 90 years. “We remain committed to providing top-quality care to all our patients,” he said.

Meanwhile, Freischlag said the costs of providing delivery care have continued to rise.

“It became clear to us that we needed to refocus our efforts on expanding women’s health services that are most needed in the Lexington community,” she said.

Lillian Koontz, Davidson’s health director, said she agreed the decision was best for patient care.

“Wake Forest Baptist Health will continue to provide prenatal care at the Women’s Center in Lexington. Internally, it will likely lengthen the office visit for patients, as we will have to explain the new process, prenatal care in Lexington, delivery in Winston Salem,” she said.

Bill James, Lexington’s president, said Wake Forest Baptist’s commitment to the Lexington community includes spending $31.5 million on expanding surgical facilities.

“We now have the opportunity to increase the range of women’s health services offered so even more women of all ages can receive the care they need while remaining close to home,” James said.

Enough deliveries

Before the Birth Center opened at Wake Forest Baptist, the hospital had, since 1977, handled only high-risk pregnancies and deliveries in conjunction with Brenner Children’s Hospital.

Wake Forest Baptist had 11 such deliveries in the first half of 2019, compared with 3,208 low-risk deliveries at Forsyth Medical Center — the highest total for an individual hospital in the state.

Freischlag has said about half of births at Forsyth were handled by Wake Forest Baptist doctors prior to the opening of its birthing center.

The 1977 birthing agreement between Baptist and Forsyth Medical led to a later agreement that allowed Wake Forest Baptist to operate a trauma center that covers Forsyth County and much of northwest North Carolina.

Freischlag said in July 2018 the discussion about opening the Birth Center centered on offering birthing services to Baptist employees.

However, she acknowledged the service would be available to all women in the region, particularly those who have a Wake Forest Baptist obstetrician.

Freischlag said Wake Forest Baptist believes “there are enough deliveries in the county annually to support two birthing centers.”

Forsyth reaction

When Wake Forest Baptist confirmed its plans to resume birthing services in July, Dr. Stephen Motew, Forsyth’s top executive at the time, called the decision “surprising and disappointing.”

Motew later said he wanted to let the community know that Forsyth Medical would “continue to provide the same level of high quality, high complexity, established and complete spectrum of care for mothers and babies.”

“We are determined to compete and grow services at Forsyth Medical Center, especially in the category of women’s care and neonatal care,” he said.

That includes Forsyth stepping up marketing of its birthing services.

In December, Forsyth opened a new obstetrics emergency department that focuses on maternity services, particularly labor and deliveries.

The center, within the Maya Angelou Women’s Health and Wellness Center, is staffed 24 hours a day by an OB/GYN physician and two nurses with other medical personnel available, including an operating room staff. It features eight exam rooms.

When asked if the Forsyth obstetrics emergency department was in response to the Wake Forest Baptist birthing center, Dr. Lewis Lipscomb, physician executive with Novant’s Women’s & Children’s Institute, said Monday that “planning began several years ago as part our commitment to continuous enhancement of services at Forsyth Medical Center.”

However, Novant said the obstetrics emergency department would “eliminate concern about where to go for emergency care if you are pregnant ... and monitor mothers and babies for any complications.”


State
The Second Amendment resolution debate could spawn rival propositions in Forsyth County

Forsyth County commissioners may be looking at rival resolutions on Feb. 6 as they consider whether to take a stand on Second Amendment gun rights.

Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt, a Republican, proposed a resolution this week for the board to consider, just days after a group of residents asked the county to pass a more expansive resolution in support of the constitutionally-guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.

But some commissioners may instead be backing a more general resolution that expresses support for all the amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Whisenhunt said she and commissioners Richard Linville and Don Martin worked together on the resolution she is proposing.

“There are a large number of citizens who need this reassurance from their local representatives,” Whisenhunt told fellow commissioners this week, adding that the three hope the resolution will meet with approval from other board members.

If the resolution passes, it won’t be a unanimous vote, Commissioner Fleming El-Amin, a Democrat, said on Friday.

“It boils down to a manufactured fear to get people all fired up,” El-Amin said, adding that the right to bear arms “is already protected in the North Carolina constitution” in addition to the U.S. Constitution.

El-Amin said he hopes Forsyth County will instead support an alternate resolution that would be in support of all of the Bill of Rights. Commissioner Ted Kaplan, another board Democrat, suggested the idea on Jan. 16.

Republicans hold a 4-3 majority on the county board.

More than half a dozen North Carolina counties, mostly in the Piedmont, have recently passed amendments expressing support in one way or another for the Second Amendment. The measures are mostly symbolic, since county government in North Carolina is subordinate to state government.

The trend for counties to declare support for the Second Amendment is a spillover from Virginia, where dozens of counties passed such measures after last November’s election in Virginia put Democrats firmly in control of state government.

Virginia Democrats have used their legislative majorities to push through various gun-control measures.

A resolution passed recently in Davidson County pledged that the county would not spend any money or use employees or county resources to enforce regulations that “infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms” as set forth in the Second Amendment.

The resolution proposed by some citizens for Forsyth County uses milder language, pledging the county to “use every power and authority” to protect the Second Amendment.

Whisenhunt’s proposal states that the county is committed to protecting all constitutional rights, and asks state and federal lawmakers to use their powers to “protect our citizens’ freedom under the Constitution and specifically the Second Amendment.”

Where resolutions in some places have designated counties as Second Amendment sanctuaries, the Whisenhunt resolution indicates that Forsyth would be a “constitutional rights protection county.”

Speakers in favor of a resolution talked about the importance of gun rights during the county’s Jan. 16 public comment period. A common theme was the need people expressed for being able to keep their families and others safe.

Several citizens opposed to the resolution came to Thursday’s meeting, with El-Amin saying the county needs to “make sure they are invited” Feb. 6.

One of the resolution opponents who came to the meeting, Anne Wilson, said that passing a resolution would be to “appease this segment of people who ought to know better.”

“I don’t know anybody opposed to the Second Amendment,” she said. “It is not about that ... we need gun regulations. Nobody is going to take anyone’s guns away.”

County Manager Dudley Watts said that when various board members have different resolutions on the same subject to propose, they might be presented together to the board as various options to pursue.

Any comments that come from citizens on Feb. 6 would be offered during the public comments portion of the meeting, Watts said, since there is no public hearing scheduled for a resolution.