Search for Vatsla Watkins Intensifies in Weekly News Roundup
Another week is in the books. In case you slept through it (lucky), we’ve got you covered with five news stories you should know about.
Police and rescue workers zeroed in on a Lake Wylie marina in the search for 39-year-old missing woman Vatsla Watkins after finding her car there on Friday morning, five days after she went missing. Watkins reportedly left her home in the early hours of Monday morning in a silver Mercedes, which was found Friday at Pier 49 Marina on York Road. CMPD’s Missing Person Unit, Aviation Unit, Canine Unit, Lake Unit and a Charlotte Fire Department dive team searched around the marina on Friday, but that search concluded at 5 p.m. on Friday with no sign of Watkins. Detectives with the Missing Persons Unit will continue the search. Anyone with information is asked to call 911 or Detective Tuttle at 704-336-8340. Watkins is 5 feet 4 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a black lightweight jacket and blue jeans. Watkins is the wife of former Mecklenburg County GOP chair Curtis Watkins.
Sheriff Garry McFadden has been at the center of controversy since taking office in January, but he’s not afraid to continue ruffling feathers. McFadden showed up to a Cornelius town commission meeting on Monday to defend the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office’s decision to set up a February speed trap operation in the north Mecklenburg town on a street leading to some of the county’s richest neighborhoods. Commissioners questioned McFadden as to why the MCSO was working without the help of Cornelius Police, especially considering that the MCSO’s duties are most often relegated to staffing detention centers and serving warrants.
McFadden cited fatal wrecks along the road and told commissioners he thought the complaining was a matter of privilege from the more affluent members of Cornelius who live along the Jetton Road corridor where the speed trap operation took place. An MCSO deputy chief later told the Charlotte Observer that the department plans to be “more visible” under McFadden, implying that the county will see similar traffic operations from sheriff’s deputies. Watch out, Ballantyne.
Construction is expected to start on Monday for Charlotte’s first permanent, protected bike lanes, which will run down 5th and 6th streets to connect the Little Sugar Creek Greenway just east of Uptown to the Light Rail Trail near the Spectrum Center in Uptown. The “cycle tracks” include two bikes lanes going both ways. The new pilot is phase one of a two-phase project that will eventually continue on past North Tryon Street into west Charlotte. Phase one is expected to be finished by April 26. That marks the beginning of BIKE! Charlotte, which will feature two weeks of bike-friendly events around the city. The second phase of the project is expected to be finished in 2021.
The upcoming District 9 congressional special election is the story that keeps on giving. A new storyline has already come and gone in the last week, but it was a fun one to watch while it lasted. Former District 9 representative Robert Pittenger had to backpedal after telling some blatant lies in an email he sent to his supporters on Tuesday endorsing former Mecklenburg County commissioner Matthew Ridenhour for the spot. In the email, Pittenger stated that Ridenhour’s opponent, N.C. Sen. Dan Bishop, was “clearly aware” of the election fraud carried out by McCrae Dowless, a political operative for Mark Harris’ campaign. Harris is the now-disgraced candidate whose shady campaign put District 9 in the position for a special election. After Bishop responded with a letter threatening to sue Pittenger for defaming him, Pittenger sent an email to Bishop and media members that read, “the statements regarding Dan Bishop are false.” Welp, that was quick.
Harris’ original opponent Dan McCready is the only Democrat running for the seat. Ten Republican candidates have filed to run against him: Bishop, known for his role in manufacturing the infamous House Bill 2; Ridenhour; Union County commissioner and Harris endorsee Stony Rushing; former Democrat Chris Anglin; Stevie Rivenbarker Jr.; Fern Shruber; Albert Lee Wiley Jr.; Leigh Thomas Brown; Kathie C. Day; and everyone’s favorite local candidate Gary Dunn. The Republican primary will take place on May 14, and if no one receives more than 30 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held on Sept. 10 with the general election taking place on Nov. 5. If there is a clear Republican winner, that person will face McCready, Green Party candidate Loran Allen Smith and Libertarian candidate Jeff Scott in a general election on Sept. 10.
A 22-year-old man was shot during an argument at an apartment complex popular with UNC Charlotte students on Monday night. The shooting happened at 901 Place Apartments in University City. Jamontae Morris died of his wounds on Tuesday, less than a week after his birthday. This morning, detectives arrested 23-year-old Fuaad Ali with the assistance of CMPD’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, U.S. Secret Service and the State Bureau of Investigations. Ali has been charged with murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
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