News & OpinionWeekly News Roundup

5 Things to Know: Charges Dropped in 2008 Murder of UNC Charlotte Student

...and four more stories from Aug. 7-13, 2022

Irina Yarmolenko, wearing a bandana headband, smiles at the camera
Irina Yarmolenko was killed in May 2008.

Charges Dropped in 2008 Murder of UNC Charlotte Student

The Gaston County District Attorney’s Office on Friday dismissed all charges against Mark Carver, who had previously been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 2008 murder of 20-year-old UNC Charlotte student Irina Yarmolenko.

Carver was convicted of first-degree murder in 2011 and had served nearly 10 years in prison before a judge ordered a retrial in June 2019, ruling that DNA evidence used in his trial would not be admissible by today’s standards. It appears he will not face a retrial, however, as the Gaston County District Attorney’s Office does not believe they have efficient evidence to re-try the case, according to a document obtained by WSOC’s Ken Lemon.

Carver and his cousin Neal Cassada were fishing near where Irina Yarmolenko’s body was found strangled to death with multiple items tied around her neck on the banks of the Catawba River in May 2008. They were both arrested and charged with first-degree murder seven months later. Cassada died in October 2011 on the day before his trial was set to begin. 

Carver has been out of prison and wearing an ankle monitor since the judge’s retrial order in June 2019. 

StarMed Launches Monkeypox Testing

StarMed Healthcare this week announced the launch of drive-thru monkeypox testing at its FreeMore (4001 Tuckaseegee Road) and Eastland (5344 Central Ave.) clinics as the number of cases in North Carolina has surpassed 120. 

Patients can schedule an appointment for monkeypox testing at the StarMed website. The tests are administered by swabbing the rash and, if positive, a patient can schedule a tele-visit to evaluate and discuss treatment options. StarMed does not carry monkeypox vaccines, according to a Thursday press release. 

Medical insurance will cover the cost of monkeypox testing. If a patient is uninsured, the testing costs $95 and the provider visit costs $125.

A StarMed staff member at a COVID-19 testing site on Tuckaseegee Road in January 2022. (Photo courtesy of StarMed)

Through Aug. 10, there have been 10,392 cases of monkeypox in the United States, including 122 cases in North Carolina, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though anyone can be vulnerable to monkeypox, it has been spreading most prevalently among men who have sex with men. During a recent interview with Queen City Nerve, Charlotte Black Pride co-founder Jermaine Nakia Lee said he was thankful that no cases were reported during or after the recent Charlotte Black Pride Week, though he was concerned about the amount of people traveling into town for the upcoming Charlotte Pride festivities. 

He said he has been working with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network and Mecklenburg County Public Health to help raise awareness. 

“It’s especially transmissible through pre-sexual and sexual contact, but there are several non-sexual ways to contract: prolonged face-to-face interaction or just rubbing up on somebody’s lesion or scab, which all can happen innocently at a Pride event situation,” Lee said. “I’m excited that the health department did approach Charlotte Black Pride about coming to our events to disseminate information, but there’s got to be more strategy. They’ve got to be at all the nightlife events, and they need to definitely have a much bigger strategy for Charlotte Pride.” 

CMS Officials Learn of Vacancies Before New School Year

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education received updates on back-to-school readiness at its Aug. 9 meeting.

Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh told board members that all schools are on track to be ready for the first day of school Aug. 29. There is still work to be done, however. As of Aug. 9, CMS had 377 teacher vacancies, 151 teacher-assistant vacancies, 41 bus-driver vacancies and 100 cafeteria-worker vacancies. That would mean the district hired 38 teachers in just over a week’s time, as the number of vacancies was reported to be 415 on Aug. 1. 

Tuesday’s numbers mean that, despite having lost more than 2,100 teachers since the launch of 2021-22 school year, CMS currently has about 96% of its teacher positions filled with just over two weeks until the first day of school. 

Three Traffic Fatalities Reported in Charlotte

Three people were killed in separate traffic incidents this week, bringing the total number of people killed on Charlotte streets this year to 37, according to Queen City Nerve’s reporting. Though it is unclear how many total traffic fatalities were reported in 2021, Charlotte does appear to be on pace to see less death on the roads than last year, and far less than 2020, when 81 traffic-related fatalities were reported in Charlotte. 


A 36-year-old man has been charged with felony death by motor vehicle in the first deadly wreck to occur this week in which a driver struck and killed a 73-year-old man standing at the scene of a previous wreck. The crash occurred on East Independence Boulevard near Briar Creek Road just after midnight on Sunday. Police believe 73-year-old Iyasu Gebrehawariat was struck while standing near a car that he had just wrecked while driving east on Independence. The driver who struck him was found to be impaired and will be arrested and charged with felony death by motor vehicle upon his release from Atrium-Main.

At 11:11 a.m. on Tuesday, 81-year-old motorcyclist Patrick Ramia was killed after attempting to merge into the center lane of Freedom Drive and running into a Charlotte DOT pick-up truck. Speed and impairment are not suspected for either party. There were no charges pressed in connection with the incident. At around 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday, 29-year-old Devon Kerr was killed in a head-on collision on Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road in northwest Charlotte after it’s believed he crossed the center line and struck a car coming the opposite direction. 

Death Investigation in University Park

Homicide detectives are investigating a shooting death that occurred in northwest Charlotte’s University Park neighborhood on Thursday, though it’s unclear at the time of this writing whether the death will be ruled a homicide.

According to CMPD, police responded to a call for a person shot on Southwest Boulevard in the Birch Townhomes complex in University Park and found a male victim with a gunshot wound. Medic transported him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. No other details were released, other than that homicide detectives are investigating. 

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