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'Brain-eating' amoeba killed Guilford County man who swam in water park

A Guilford County man died Monday following an illness from a rare “brain-eating” amoeba after swimming in Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County.

Attorney Justin Plummer of Greensboro identified the victim as Eddie Gray, the Associated Press reported. Plummer said in an email that he represents Gray’s wife and estate.

The infection was caused by the amoeba naturally present in warm freshwater during the summer, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. Gray became sick after swimming in the lake in Hope Mills on July 12.

Gray went to the lake with a group from Sedge Garden United Methodist Church in Kernersville, WRAL reported.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that Gray’s death was caused by Naegleria fowleri, a single-celled organism known as the “brain-eating” amoeba. It can be fatal if forced up the nose, but doesn’t cause injury if a person swallows it.

The symptoms are severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms include a stiff neck, seizures and coma. The amoeba can cause severe illness up to nine days after exposure.

Infection due to Naegleria fowleri is rare, with only five cases reported in North Carolina between 1962 and 2018.

“I would like to first express my sincere, condolences to the family of this individual, said Duane Holder, Cumberland County’s interim health director and an assistant county manager. “We encourage everyone to use precaution when swimming, diving or water-skiing in warm water freshwater lakes.”

The amoeba cannot be eliminated from fresh water lakes, but state health officials recommend the following precautions:

  • Limit the amount of water going up your nose. Hold your nose shut, use nose clips or keep your head above water when participating in warm freshwater-related activities.
  • Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperatures and low water levels.
  • Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas.

Gun violence awareness fashion line by Winston-Salem family will be shown at New York Fashion Week

Orange is the new black for fashion designer Angel Fant as she takes a stand on the New York runway against gun violence.

The Winston-Salem mother of three will feature an all-orange collection of various tints and shades when she unveils her collection in September at Fashion Week in pursuit of change.

“Each garment in New York will represent what we think gun violence is overall and what it looks like in our world,” said Fant, noting that orange is symbolic of gun safety. “We hope we can make a difference.”

In 2015, Fant and her two daughters founded “No Punching Bags,” a fashion line that focuses on bringing awareness to domestic violence, abuse and social justice issues.

The brand for social change draws on Fant’s history as a domestic violence survivor to bring awareness to the issue and highlight resources available for those in need.

“The fashion industry is a good way to spread the message that no one should be harmed by violence in general,” Fant said. “We hope our work will inspire and empower people.”

Hand-sewn garments

Each of the 15 hand-sewn garments in their collection for the New York show will explore a different topic within the greater theme of gun violence, Fant said.

Fant is raising $4,500 for the week-long fashion show, which runs from Sept. 6 to 14, to help cover the cost of the travel and expenses for the 15 models.

The names of individual donors and business sponsors will be featured on the finale garment, she said.

“The upper part of the garment will have the businesses’ names,” Fant said of the finale dress, which is still in the works. “Then from the waist down to the ankles to the train will be the names of all the individual people who donated or gun violence victims they want to honor.”

Fant, 38, and her two daughters, Tenijah and Danielle, run the business as a three-woman team, bringing each design from an idea to life.

They divide up the work, each sewing the garments — which take up to 16 hours to create — and sometimes hand-painting designs on them as well, Fant said.

One of their previous creations includes a denim cape adorned with hand paintings of notable women, like Oprah Winfrey, Marilyn Monroe, Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama and Mary Haglund from Mary’s Gourmet Diner.

The three entrepreneurs are in the midst of creating the garments for the New York fashion show and also designing earrings and shoes to go along with the outfits.

“We start with a pen and paper and create the finished product,” said Fant, who also has a 14-year-old son. “We’ve worked so hard to make our dreams real.”

Shedding a light on domestic violence

In late February, Fant and her daughters attended Paris Fashion Week to showcase not only their designs but also to bring more awareness to the issues their clothes trumpet.

The eight garments they showed in Paris were purple, the color of domestic violence awareness.

“Anyone from any background or any neighborhood can experience domestic violence,” Fant said. “I experienced domestic violence for the first time at age 17.”

As a child and into adulthood, Fant said she has been sexually, physically and verbally abused.

Fant said, on average, a person in an abusive relationship will attempt to leave seven times before finally leaving for good, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

She said she tried to get help several times and wants to shed light on the many resources available.

Her mother is also a domestic violence survivor, Fant said, and she became her then-19-year-old single mother’s third child when she was born.

“If you look at the statistics, I wasn’t supposed to be anything. I definitely wasn’t supposed to go to Paris,” Fant said. “People like me are invisible because the whole world doesn’t know what I can do yet.”

While it sometimes felt like her life was coming apart at the seams, Fant said sewing and creating new designs in the name of a greater purpose has felt natural.

She had aspired to be a fashion designer since she was in third grade, she said, and later wanted to be a model, but was told she was too short.

As she tried out different careers, putting her art to the side, she took a job as a 911 operator that she said was an eye-opening experience.

“It allowed me to see another side of the picture and made me fight harder for a lot of the views I have,” she said. “Being a 911 operator cemented the idea I wanted to help more people.”

Looking forward

Fant said she’s toyed with the idea of one day opening a design firm where she and her two daughters could focus more on the creative process and furthering their message.

It could give them an opportunity to hire struggling single mothers to help with the sewing and creation of the garments and help them become more self-reliant, she said.

The trio would also love to do work for celebrities, like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Celine Dion, she said, to help promote awareness on a larger scale and put North Carolina on the map as a fashion capital.

“Our pieces are very unique, not an everyday type of thing,” she said. “They’re something you might wear to a formal or a ball or if you’re just very artsy.”

Fant’s oldest daughter Danielle, 19, is studying fashion design at Mars Hill University, and Tenijah, 18, recently graduated high school and is studying business administration online.

The trio has been extended offers to attend upcoming fashion shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, Dallas and Australia, where they hope to explore new issues with their clothing.

“The runway gives us a much larger platform,” she said. “It’s the best way to get the message out: ‘You’re not a punching bag.’”(tncms-asset)bc7b712e-af24-11e9-b089-00163ec2aa770 —(/tncms-asset)

Hateful social media posts, threats against N. African band headed to Ramkat put spotlight on Winston-Salem

A stream of threatening and hateful posts on The Ramkat’s Facebook page announcing a concert by Tinariwen has instigated a local and national backlash, while resulting in more ticket and album sales from people eager to support the band.

A North African band that makes penetrating, mystical music, Tinariwen is scheduled to play Sept 17 at The Ramkat, a live-music venue on the northern edge of downtown Winston-Salem. A publicity photo posted by The Ramkat shows many band members wearing traditional clothing — robes, headdresses and scarves. Some commentators, noting their clothing, said they looked like terrorists and told them to get out of the country.

One person mentioned bringing an automatic rifle to the show.

Many of the posts intensified after President Donald Trump’s rally in Greenville on July 17 when some in the audience chanted “Send her back,” in reference to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, said Richard Emmett, one of the owners of The Ramkat. Omar, D-Minn., is a Somali refugee who became a U.S. citizen. A Muslim, she was elected to the U.S. House in November 2018 and has been a frequent critic of Trump.

Since the story about the social media trolling broke earlier this month, ticket sales for Tinariwen’s show have spiked, Emmett said.

“It sucks we’re talking about this, that people think these guys are ISIS or the Taliban because they’re from Africa, but we’ve been able to turn it around and get support and we’ve gotten tons of comments from people who have said, ‘I’ve never heard of the band. They’re awesome, and we’re coming to the show and buying their records,’” he said.

Emmett said he plans to make Winston-Salem police aware of the threatening comments.

“We’re going to be very safe and cautious when the show comes,” he said. “We’ll have additional security on our end, and we will definitely work with Winston-Salem police to make sure it has a presence.”

Tinariwen said in a statement: “For nearly 30 years, Tinariwen has delivered a message of peace and freedom for their people from the Sahara. We have been performing in the USA since 2004 and our audience has continued to grow, including the recognition of a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 2011. We are very sad that a minority of people can think that Tinariwen is supporting extremist religious movement. It means that we have to work harder and continue our fight against ignorance.

“Tinariwen has played more than 1,100 shows all around the world to spread messages about our culture and to try to educate the world about the issues of nomadic people who are suffering from every kind of persecution and climate change.”

Several national media outlets have reported on the story. including NPR’s “All Things Considered” and public television’s “PBS NewsHour.”

The support from the community for the band has been heartening, Emmett said.

“We wanted Tinariwen to know that what was said is not representative of us,” he said. “We’re more open-minded and inclusive.”

Beloved by such musicians as Robert Plant, Bono and Carlos Santana, Tinariwen plays a style of mesmerizing music known as “desert blues.” Members of the band are Tuaregs, a semi-nomadic group in Africa whose ancestral homeland spreads across several countries in Northern Africa, said Elizabeth Clendinning, an assistant professor of music at Wake Forest University.

“New geopolitical borders divided up this land that the Tuareg used to roam across,” Clendinning said. “They found themselves as minorities.”

Poetry and music have long been important to Tuaregs, she said.

As in other desert blues bands, the electric guitar plays a prominent role. Members of Tinariwen have said they were not familiar with Southern blues until they began to tour internationally.

The blues in Tinariwen’s music, Clendinning said, has more to do with a pervasive sense of loneliness and longing.

“It’s about being caught in a militarized situation and not having a homeland, the constant state of war and longing for peace,” she said. “And that came to the attention of rock stars, and they’ve been promoted on the world stage and larger festival circuits.”

Child exploitation, secret peeping conviction for Clemmons man who hid a camera at in-law's changing room

A Clemmons man put a camera in the basement of his in-laws’ house in Davidson County to take secret pictures of his wife, mother-in-law and other women who were changing into bathing suits to use the swimming pool, a Forsyth County prosecutor said in court Thursday.

Not only did he take those photos, Assistant District Attorney Pansy Glanton said; he also shared those photos on a social media application and he faked some pictures to make it appear that some of the women were engaging in sexual activity.

And on top of all that, the man was also downloading images of child pornography, she said.

On Thursday, Brent Maurice Ward pleaded guilty to 10 counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, 10 counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and several charges related to allegations that he secretly took nude or partially nude photos of several women and disseminated those photos.

Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court consolidated everything into two judgments, per the plea arrangement. He gave Ward, who had no previous felony criminal record, one active sentence of two years and one month to seven years and six months in prison. Hall gave a second suspended sentence of two years and one month to seven years and six months. He placed Ward on supervised probation for five years and ordered Ward to serve an additional six months. Once released from prison, Ward will have to register as a sex offender for 30 years.

According to Glanton and a search warrant, the investigation into the secret peeping started in June 2018 when Garry Frank, the district attorney in Davie and Davidson County, was contacted by a member of a local church about images being shown on a social media application called Whisper. Whisper allows people to post text and pictures anonymously.

The person who made the report showed a detective with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office several images of women who were either nude or partially nude. That person said he had received those images from someone who called himself “thathusband” on Whisper. Police were able to track the account for “thathusband” back to Ward.

“The reporting party advised this affiant that user ‘thathusband’ claimed that some of the images sent were of his wife, his mother-in-law and also of both he and his wife’s best friend,” the search warrant said.

Glanton said in court that Ward’s in-laws had built a pool and had reserved a section of the basement in their Davidson County home so that women could change into bathing suits. That room was used by Ward’s wife, mother-in-law and other women, including Ward’s daughter and nieces, his wife and mother-in-law said in court Thursday.

Glanton said no images were found of Ward’s daughter, who is a teenager.

She said Ward would “morph” the images of the women onto other images depicting sexual activity.

In a separate investigation, law-enforcement officials received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that someone had downloaded seven images of child pornography, Glanton said. Those images were eventually linked to Ward, who admitted that he had downloaded child pornography.

Indictments allege that Ward copied materials that contained visual images of boys and girls as young as 5 performing oral sex, being raped by men and women and being photographed nude.

Ward’s wife and mother-in-law sat in Courtroom 5A, mere feet from Ward, who wore a dark-blue jail jumpsuit.

Ward’s wife, who is divorcing her husband, read a multi-page letter to Hall that outlined in exacting detail the level of betrayal and pain Ward had brought to her, their children and her family.

When she identified herself to Hall, her voice trembled on the words “his wife.”

She told Hall that Ward had lied to her and to everyone who tried to help him during their marriage, including those in a men’s group at their church.

“You will never know how it feels to be betrayed by the person who vowed to protect you,” she said. “My heart is sad for you. I believed in you but you would not listen to anyone.”

She said Ward’s actions resulted in her and her children losing everything. Forsyth County Child Protective Services had to be called to their house and investigate because of Ward’s child-pornography charges, she said. That experience was a nightmare for her and her children, she said.

And the idea that her husband not only took nude pictures of her and other women but also downloaded child pornography disgusts her, she said.

Ward apologized for his actions in court Thursday.

“My choices have destroyed my marriage and my home,” he said.

Cara Smith, his attorney, said Ward had suffered from a mental health issue for which he did not get proper treatment. He eventually was diagnosed with bipolar depression. But because he hadn’t been properly diagnosed and gotten the right treatment, he coped with his mental health issues in other ways, including child pornography, she said.

He is getting the proper treatment now and she said he is not likely to do this type of thing again.

Hall wasn’t quite convinced.

“This redemption has been fleeting with you, Mr. Ward,” he said. “That will change or you will be incarcerated for a very long time. Do you hear me, sir?”

“Yes, sir,” Ward answered.

Forsyth County Sheriff's Office 


courtesy of the Ramkat