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Law enforcement officers capture escapee from county jail

An inmate escaped Wednesday from the Nash County Detention Center but was soon captured by law enforcement officers.

Mark Barlow, who was working as a trustee at the jail, was tasked about 11:07 a.m. with taking trash to the jail’s dumpster. Barlow, who was wearing his assigned green jumpsuit, decided to take the opportunity to escape after he dropped off the trash, according to a statement from the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies quickly responded and with help from the Nashville Police Department, the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office and the State Highway Patrol, established a perimeter around the detention center as they searched for the inmate.

About 11:29 a.m., roughly 22 minutes after his escape, Barlow was located on Cedar Street in Nashville, where he was attempting to hide from law enforcement officers. He was found within a few blocks of the detention center and taken into custody without incident.

He was returned to the detention center and will face additional charges related to his escape.

Trustee inmates are usually inmates with non-violent charges such as driving with no license, failure to comply with a court order and other non-violent misdemeanors. Barlow’s criminal history met the minimum recommended requirements to serve as a trustee inmate, Nash County Sheriff Office officials said in the statement.

Barlow was arrested on Oct. 5 for driving while license revoked, failure to comply and hit-and-run. Prior to his escape attempt, he was being held under a $12,000 secured bond. That amount may increase as more charges are added.

The Nash County Sheriff’s Office thanked the other agencies that aided in the expedited capture of the inmate.

“Thank you to all participating agencies that assisted in locating and bringing the inmate back to the detention center,” the Nash County Sheriff’s Office posted in a statement on Facebook.

Food pantry honors longtime supporter of women's shelter

Grace Nelms Batchelor was always known as a virtuous woman.

After working more than 40 years as a certified medical assistant, she went on to volunteer around Nash County. Her loving spirit and concern for others led her to My Sister’s House of North Carolina.

She passed away in May at 93.

Ken Batchelor, her youngest son, donated funds to My Sister’s House earlier this year. The decision was made by the organization to use the funds to establish a food pantry in honor of his mother.

“The more I’ve learned about the work that My Sister’s House is doing in the community, the more impressed I am with the organization and its mission,” he said. “My donation is just a small token of appreciation for the good work they’re doing and for my mother’s commitment to it.”

Emily Lemus, executive director of My Sister’s House, said Grace Batchelor was a longtime supporter of the organization.

“She was an example of compassion and heartfelt giving. We are grateful to her family for sponsoring our food pantry in her memory and continue her legacy of giving to those in need,” Lemus said. “We hope by displaying a plaque in our lobby honoring her memory others will take note and consider doing something similar. We rely on generous hearts like Grace and her family to provide our clients safety in their time of crisis.”

Ken Batchelor said his mother was a firm believer in the good work that My Sister’s House provides to the community.

“She had no personal experience with domestic abuse, but she felt passionately about providing unfortunate women and children a safe place when their lives were turned upside down,” he said. “She wanted to help provide a little relief. Even though the support is temporary, a little bit of a lifeline can go a long way. My mother recognized being a victim of domestic violence is a terrible place to be in and she wanted to do all she could to help those in need.”

In 2020, My Sister’s House sheltered 59 women and 35 children and provided 2,926 sheltered nights and 8,778 meals. Additionally, the agency provides food and toiletry boxes to clients who are not in need of emergency shelter.

For more information about My Sister's House, click here.

Crime in city continues downward trend

Crime in Rocky Mount was down last month compared to September 2020.

That is according to the latest monthly data that Police Chief Robert Hassell provided to the City Council for the council’s Oct. 11 work session.

Hassell noted to the council that both crimes against properties and violent crimes have been decreasing for roughly the past three to four months, which is a good sign.

“Hopefully we can continue to see that trend,” Hassell said.

The crime report showed there were 152 instances of crimes last month compared to 221 in September 2020, which was a 31 percent decrease.

The report showed there were 106 instances of violent crimes last month compared to 148 in September 2020, which was a 28 percent decrease.

The report also showed there were 46 instances of crimes against properties last month compared to 73 in September 2020, which was a 37 percent decrease.

What was key to the decrease in violent crimes was the decrease in instances of aggravated assaults.

The crime report showed there were 37 instances of aggravated assaults last month compared to 64 in September 2020, which was a 42 percent decrease.

What was key to the decrease in crimes against properties was the decrease in larcenies.

The crime report showed there were 78 instances of larcenies last month compared to 106 in September 2020, which was a 26 percent decrease.

The decrease in crimes against properties also was helped by decreases in the number of break-ins.

The crime report showed there were five instances of break-ins of businesses last month compared to 11 in September 2020, which was a 55 percent decrease.

The report also showed there were 13 instances of break-ins of residences last month compared to 18 in September 2020, which was a 28 percent decrease.

Overall, the report said there were 177 fewer crimes so far in 2021 as of the end of last month compared to so far in 2020 as of the end of September 2020.

Additionally the report said there were 111 fewer crimes against properties so far in 2021 as of the end of last month compared to so far in 2020 as of the September 2020.

The report also said there were 66 fewer violent crimes so far in 2021 as of the end of last month compared to so far in 2020 as of the end of September 2020.

The crime report also provides data about aggravated assault cases and investigations.

There were 22 such cases last month, with there being 37 victims of aggravated assaults and seven such cases with multiple victims. Of the 37 victims of violent attacks, 15 of them suffered injuries.

The report also showed that there were 85 reports of shots fired last month either as a result of residents notifying the police department or of ShotSpotter activations. ShotSpotter is a system of sensors designed to detect, locate and alert the police of gunfire in real time.

The report showed that of the 85 reports, 35 of them resulted in shell casings being recovered. The report showed that 426 casings were recovered.

The report also showed that 35 firearms were seized, bringing the total number of firearms seized for the year to 311.

Additionally the report showed that there were nine arrests last month for firearms-related violations.

With a few exceptions, there have been decreases in the numbers of reports of shots fired.

Crime reports so far in 2021 show there were 99 reports of shots fired in January, 85 reports in February, 78 reports in March, 101 in April, 94 in May, 74 in June, 82 in July and 52 in August.

“This year to date we’re about 22 percent lower than last year as far as ShotSpotter or shots reported crimes in the city,” Hassell told the council.

During the Oct. 11 work session, Councilman Reuben Blackwell said that in a couple of communities there had been increases in shots fired and in inappropriate activities.

“And I asked for a call to action from community members,” Blackwell said. “And we had a great and outstanding response.”

Blackwell expressed appreciation to Hassell and his command team. Blackwell also extended appreciation to City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney for attending a meeting about the matter and following through on her work.

“And what I can say is that things have been a whole lot quieter,” Blackwell said. “I’ve heard nothing but compliments from the neighbors about what our Stage 1 plan is — and look forward to more activity proactively to calm behaviors that are not conducive to family living.”

Councilman Richard Joyner, who as mayor pro tem chairs City Council work sessions, concurred and also expressed appreciation to Hassell and Small-Toney in connection with a Sept. 18 cleanup effort in the Branch and Clark streets area.

Joyner also said plans are to have other walkthroughs in the communities “where the citizens will get a chance to see us in a whole different light.”

“And thank you for taking time out of your Saturday to do that,” Joyner told Hassell and Small-Toney.

New virus cases keep declining across area

New local COVID cases decreased dramatically over the past week, Twin Counties health directors reported this week.

Nash County Health Director Bill Hill said Tuesday during a meeting of the Nash County COVID Response Team that 130 new cases of COVID were reported over the past week in Nash County. That number is a marked decrease from the 215 cases reported last Tuesday.

“These numbers are steadily going down,” Hill said. “We are continuing to move in the right direction. I am pleased to report that we are on a decline.”

Hill noted that a little over a month ago, on Sept. 14, Nash County reported 490 cases in one week. After that peak in the most recent surge, the number of new COVID cases have steadily declined with this week’s numbers dropping below 200 for the first time in many weeks.

Edgecombe County also reported significantly fewer new virus cases this week. Edgecombe County health officials reported Wednesday a cumulative total of 7,848 cases of COVID. That is 77 cases higher than the number reported the week before.

By comparison, Edgecombe County reported 111 new positive cases of COVID last week.

Both counties reported significant changes in the COVID death tolls this week.

Hill had bad news to report as five new COVID-related deaths were reported this week in Nash County. Deaths are still skewing toward older adults with two of the deaths reported in patients in their 90s, two reported in patients in their 60s and one reported in a person in the 50-59 age range.

In three of these recent cases, the person died at home while two deaths were reported among patients at Nash UNC Health Care, Hill said. The total number of COVID-related deaths in Nash County now stands at 227.

According to information reported by the Edgecombe County Health Department, the COVID death toll in that county has actually decreased.

Thomas Stebner, coordinator of health services for the Edgecombe County Health Department, reported Wednesday that the county’s death toll had dropped by four. During recent months, the state-reported death toll for the county has been lower than the county-reported death toll. The Telegram has been reporting information provided by the county as it is generally more accurate than state data when the county data is available.

However, Stebner said that the county has discovered the reason for the difference in reporting.

“We went back through our COVID-19 death data as it was not matching the state’s numbers and found four cases that were classified as COVID-19 deaths at the beginning of the pandemic that had been reclassified to other causes. These cases were all in long-term care facilities. The county and state numbers now match,” Stebner said.

That current corrected number of Edgecombe County COVID-related deaths now stands at 124.

COVID-related hospitalizations remain steady from last week, though the overall illness in the patients has improved. Hill said Tuesday that 16 patients are hospitalized at Nash UNC Health Care for COVID complications.

That number is slightly higher than last week’s number but less than half of the number of patients reported a month ago, Hill said. He also noted that none of the patients are under intensive care.

Hill also said that one of the 16 patients has been fully vaccinated while the rest were unvaccinated.

Stebner reported Wednesday that three patients are hospitalized for COVID complications at Vidant Edgecombe Hospital, down one from the four hospitalizations reported last week.

Nash commissioners near decision on new county manager

Nash County commissioners are expected to announce next week their choice as the next county manager, Board of Commissioners Chairman Robbie Davis said in a recent interview.

The commissioners have been hard at work considering their options, with closed meetings held three days last week as they interviewed five in-house candidates.

“We feel like we have a lot of talent here on the county staff, and we have decided that we are not going outside the county. We are going to promote from within,” Davis said in an interview Monday. “I am a big advocate of promoting from within.”

County commissioners have not publicly posted all of the requirements for a new county manager. However, Davis said they are looking for a candidate with a master’s degree and at least 10 years’ experience working in local government.

Five Nash County employees have applied for the position and met those basic criteria, Davis said. Two of the five candidates are women. Hiring a woman for the position would be an historic event as no woman has ever held that position in Nash County.

Though Davis would not name any candidate, Assistant Nash County Manager Stacie Shatzer is likely one of the contenders for the role.

All of the candidates were interviewed last week by the full board of commissioners at the closed session meetings, Davis said.

“The interviews went very well, and I think we are close to a decision,” Davis said.

The Nash County Board of Commissioners is expected to announce its decision at 2 p.m. on Oct. 27, he said. Commissioners plan to meet before that date in a closed session to decide on their choice, but the time of that meeting has not been announced.

The county manager chosen will likely assume his or her new duties on Feb. 1, 2022. At the August meeting of the county board, Nash County Manager Zee Lamb gave six months’ notice that he was planning to retire as of that date.

There has been speculation in the community that Edgecombe County Manager Eric Evans may have applied for the position and be up for consideration. However, Evans denies that claim and Davis said the action would have been impossible as Nash County did not open up the county manager position to outside candidates.

“If we had decided to look outside the county, we would have welcomed an application from Evans,” Davis said. “I think he is a good man.”

In a recent Facebook post, Davis shared his thoughts as the board considers the new hire.

“I was involved eight years ago in hiring a new county manager and it was a very enjoyable experience. Our board had decided it was time for a change, and we all looked forward to bringing in a new person. This time it is very different as we are replacing that person we hired back then due to his retirement and moving back home to the Outer Banks to join his family business,” Davis said in the post. “Boy, has Mr. Lamb been a good one and has done a lot of good things for our county.”

In the meantime, Davis is asking for support and prayers from the community as commissioners make the decision about the next county manager.

“Fortunately, our board does work well together — and though we do not always agree, we are able to bring our action items to a vote and all support our decisions. What we need today is the thoughts and prayers of all our citizens and taxpayers to help us make the right choice for this very important position of county manager,” he said in the post.