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5 Things to Know: Alleged Spree Killer Charged in Murder of Scott Brooks

…and four more stories from Nov. 15-21, 2020

spree killer
A vigil was held last December for Scott Brooks. One of the men charged with his murder is an alleged spree killer. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Alleged Spree Killer Charged in Murder of Scott Brooks

CMPD charged a second man this week for the December 2019 murder of beloved Brooks’ Sandwich House co-owner Scott Brooks, and the suspect is an alleged spree killer believed to be responsible for five murders in a two-month span between December 2019 and January 2020. On Tuesday, police announced they served 31-year-old Steven Staples with new warrants for murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, all related to the Brooks murder. Staples was already in custody on charges related to multiple other murders. 

In March, police arrested Terry Connor Jr. as the first suspect in Brooks’ murder, which was carried out by two people during an armed robbery early on the morning of Dec. 9, 2019. Both Connor and Staples are also facing charges for the double murder of Asa Shannon and Siojvon Joseph, believed to have been taken from their Highland Creek home during a robbery in January before they were found dead in a car on Atando Avenue on Jan. 11.

spree killer
A spree killer is defined as someone who kills two or more victims in a short time, in multiple locations. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Staples was arrested for that murder in February, then in September was served with new warrants for the murder of Anthony Leakes in north Charlotte on Dec. 23. At a press conference on Tuesday, CMPD Lt. Bryan Crum said Staples has also been charged with the murder of Andres Moscotte in Hickory on Jan. 23. 

“He was involved in a tremendous amount of violent crime and it just seems senseless,” Crum said. “Every single one of us in the homicide unit scratched our heads trying to understand what could lead to these senseless crimes — such a horrible spat of violence in such a short period.” 

Selwyn Pub Closes, Changes Story About Why

Management at Selwyn Pub released a statement on Sunday announcing the bar and restaurant would close down because they “deem it prudent to stay safe during the current surge,” though they failed to mention that they had been cited by CMPD on the previous Saturday for violating Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 orders. After local news stations reported on the citation, Selwyn Pub released a follow-up statement acknowledging the citation and claiming to have “misunderstood the ‘standing while drinking’ rule.”

Since Gov. Cooper began rolling out his phased reopening plan, it has been stated in the executive order that diners must be seated at a table to take their masks off and eat or drink. The Wednesday statement from Selwyn Pub claimed that the Myers Park bar had been operating at 37% capacity, less than the mandated 50%, and blamed CMPD’s COVID ambassador program for not helping them “navigate a complex set of rules” rather than issue a citation. Pictures of the Selwyn Pub patio on the Saturday the citation was ordered show a good crowd on the property and a large line of folks waiting to get in. 

(Graph courtesy of Mecklenburg County Public Health)

According to the most recent data released by MCPH on Friday morning, there had been 39,935 positive cases of COVID-19 reported among Mecklenburg County residents and 430 deaths resulting from the coronavirus to that point. That’s an increase of 2,408 cases and 17 deaths since the same time last week. In-depth data for cases that occurred through Wednesday showed, on average, around 180 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 at any given day during the past week with an average 8.7% test-positivity rate — both stats trending up compared to the previous 14 days.

Cheri Beasley Calls for Recount in Chief Justice Race

With votes from all 100 counties fully counted, it appears Republican challenger and current Senior Assistant Justice Paul Newby has ousted incumbent Democrat Cheri Beasley from her seat as North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice, though Beasley has called for a recount due to the slim margin of victory for Newby: 406 votes out of 5.4 million ballots cast in the race.

State law allows a candidate to ask for a recount if they trail by 10,000 votes or less. Beasley’s lawyer filed the formal request for a recount on Tuesday. The process is expected to be finished by Nov. 25. In a statement on Tuesday, Beasley’s campaign manager Benjamin Woods stated the campaign would challenge recent decisions by some counties to reject 2,000 absentee ballots. 

Once all the votes are counted and every voice is heard, we’re confident she will continue her important work in a new term,” Woods wrote. 

N.C. election results
N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley may have lost her seat. (Photo courtesy of Beasley campaign)

Local Advocate Launches Fund for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

Melody Gross, CEO of Courageous SHIFT, a domestic violence coaching and consulting company, announced the launch of The Eva Lee Parker Fund to support Black women currently experiencing intimate partner violence this week. The fund will provide direct financial assistance to survivors and is named after Gross’ paternal grandmother who experienced abuse from her husband. The goal is to raise $50,000 in donations by Jan. 3, 2021. 

“Financial abuse is one of the key factors in why women who are experiencing abuse stay in bad relationships,” Gross stated in a press release on Friday. “The goal of the Eva Lee Parker Fund is to alleviate some of the costs accrued by victims such as changing locks, fixing broken items or travel expenses when trying to escape. As a victim, I told myself many times I couldn’t afford to leave. When I reflect on how hard it must have been for my grandmother, the woman who raised me, knowing it was not financially feasible for her to leave, I know this fund is a necessity.”

Melody Gross (Photo by Alvin Jacobs Jr.)

According to the Centers For Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, one out of every four women have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. The statistics are even more dire for Black women. A 2017 report from Institute of Women’s Policy Research states that more than 40% of Black women experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime.  

The fund’s nonprofit fiscal partner Sanctuary in the City has already donated $10,000 to kick-start fundraising efforts. Both donations and applications to request funds are being accepted at the Courageous Shift website

Anti-Abortion March To Go on as Planned Despite Petition

Despite the rapidly increasing COVID-19 rates in Mecklenburg County, local anti-abortion organization Love Life Charlotte is planning to go forward with its largest event of the year, the Love Life Week 40 Prayer Walk, scheduled for this morning outside of A Preferred Women’s Health Center.  

A petition calling on Gov. Roy Cooper and/or local officials to cancel the event, which in the past has drawn thousands of marchers walking shoulder to shoulder and gathering in front of a stage at a property the organization bought next to the clinic, had garnered nearly 150,000 signatures as of Friday night. Reiley Baker, who created the petition, pointed out that Cooper’s executive order prohibits gatherings of more than 100 people at amphitheaters or arenas. 

“Though Love Life regularly violates this 100 guest rule, their Week 40 Prayer Walk is a blatant disregard of not only these restrictions, but the health and safety of the Charlotte community,” Baker wrote. 

Love Life Charlotte held the last Week 40 Prayer Walk in November 2019. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

In a statement on its Facebook page, Love Life Charlotte wrote: “This year, we are doing our part to keep all of our prayer walk participants safe during the Coronavirus pandemic. Masks and hand sanitizer are provided at all prayer walk locations. We encourage all participating to wear face coverings, especially in states and cities where they are mandated.” 

Mask use has been minimal during recent prayer walks, as observed by Queen City Nerve. 

On Twitter, Charlotte City Council member Larken Egleston responded to one call for city leaders to cancel the event on Twitter with the following statement: “CMPD & [Mecklenburg County officials] are aware of this & in contact w/ organizers regarding health guidelines. There’s no way [Charlotte officials] can proactively cancel a gathering where no permit has been issued. If Love Life assembles 1000’s unsafely during pandemic they can no longer claim to value life.” 

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