District Attorney Waters Addresses Granville Sheriff Investigation

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-Press Release, Office of District Attorney Michael D. Waters

Statement of District Attorney Michael D. Waters 

As reported, the Grand Jury of Granville County returned indictments on Monday, September 16, 2019, against Sheriff Brindell Wilkins for felony obstruction of justice. The investigation that led to these indictments has been led by Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman at my request, beginning in November of 2018. My request of Ms. Freeman came following conversations with the State Bureau of Investigation and Ms. Freeman, with the intent of avoiding any conflict that may arise by my being involved in this matter as a witness. 

In 2014, while I was still in private practice, a client provided to me a recording that I immediately turned over to investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and subsequently provided to the State Bureau of Investigation.

At all times since then, I have cooperated with investigators, and once Ms. Freeman opened a criminal investigation, have urged that this matter be given investigative priority. I understand it is a matter of great importance to the people of Granville County, and it has been a point of frustration that the investigative process has not been more expeditious. 

As District Attorney for Granville County, I am concerned with the allegations set forth in the indictments against Sheriff Wilkins. Any allegations of wrongdoing by law enforcement are troubling, especially when they involve the elected Sheriff in whom the community has placed its trust. The justice system must be fair and impartial. No one is above the law. 

Over the next few months, my office will continue to aid the ongoing investigation as requested, while we continue to do our daily work of protecting victims, prosecuting those who violate the law, and seeing that justice is administered.

Murder Plot of Former Granville Co. Deputy Results in Indictment for Sheriff

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In a move that has shocked the local community, Granville County’s Grand Jury returned indictments Monday against Sheriff Brindell Wilkins for two counts of felony obstruction of justice.

Sheriff Wilkins, who has served as Granville County Sheriff since 2009 and was recently reelected in 2018, will now stand trial on charges stemming from a recorded conversation in 2014 with an unidentified individual regarding the potential homicide of former Granville County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Freeman.

The outcome of the indictment follows an investigation that began in November 2018 when the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) received a recording provided by District Attorney Michael D. Waters. DA Water serves the 9th Prosecutorial District, including Granville, Vance, Warren, Franklin and Person counties.

In a letter to the Honorable N. Lorrin Freeman, district attorney of Wake County, dated November 14, 2018, DA Waters states that while still in private practice as an attorney in 2014, he received a recording believed to involve Sheriff Wilkins, while representing Joshua Freeman as a client.

Believing he had a conflict in the matter, DA Waters requested that DA Freeman adopt the case.

In response, DA Freeman stated in a letter to the SBI that the recording “contains a conversation between two individuals, one of whom appears to be the Granville County Sheriff, about a former deputy sheriff and culminates in a discussion about committing a homicide.”

The discussed homicide was not carried out.

According to a press release provided by DA Freeman’s office, Sheriff Wilkins was voluntarily served with the indictments by agents with the SBI, assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and processed on the charges.

The Bill of Indictment, which is now a matter of public record, indicates that on or about August 12, 2014, Sheriff Wilkins “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did obstruct public and legal justice by withholding knowledge of credible threat made by an individual known to the Sheriff to imminently kill Joshua Freeman at a certain place and time in Granville County.”

“Defendant failed to properly execute his duties because of his personal animosity towards Joshua Freeman, who defendant was told had expressed an intention to publicly disclose to authorities a purported audio recording of the defendant using racially offensive language.”

The indictment bill further states that Sheriff Wilkins expressly encouraged the individual also involved in the conversation to “take care of it” and “if you need to take care of somethin’, you just take care of something” and that “the only way you gonna stop him is kill him,” in regards to Joshua Freeman.

Sheriff Wilkins further appears to counsel the individual on how to commit the murder in a manner as to avoid identification including informing him that “you ain’t got the weapon, you ain’t got nothing to go on” and “the only way we find out these murder things is people talk. You can’t tell nobody nothin’, not a thing.”

Sheriff Wilkins then appeared to provide assurances to the individual that he would not reveal to any investigation authorities, thought to be the Granville County Sheriff’s Office investigators, any prior knowledge he had as to the individual’s expressed intention to kill Joshua Freeman, according to the bill.

Following the indictment, Sheriff Wilkins appeared before a magistrate and was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond.

Granville County Manager Michael Felts and County Attorney James C. Wrenn, Jr. were notified by Sheriff Wilkins of his indictment on two counts of obstruction of justice Monday afternoon after 5 p.m., according to a press release issued by Wrenn’s office.

The press release also states that Wrenn was called by DA Freeman yesterday at approximately 5:30 p.m. and briefed on the charges.

The Granville County Board of Commissioners, though lacking supervisory authority over the Sheriff, were also notified yesterday evening and held an emergency called meeting at 7:30 a.m. this morning to discuss the matter.

“As this situation unfolds, the Board hopes that all parties involved remember that the focus must remain on the welfare of the citizens of Granville County. All involved must prioritize the need to maintain the public trust and faith in the effective and unbiased enforcement of laws and administration of justice in Granville County. Like all people charged with a criminal offense, Sheriff Wilkins is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” the release states.

Sheriff Wilkins first court date will be October 9, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. in Granville County.

Decisions about Sheriff Wilkin’s position, particularly if he will remain on-duty, remain unknown at this time. As would be the case in this incident, a change to an elected official’s status is subject to a judiciary process.

A second investigation into allegations concerning the Granville County Sheriff’s Office’s accounting practices and controlled substance interdiction efforts remains pending.

A press conference will be held by Attorney Wrenn today (Tuesday, September 17, 2019) at 4 p.m. at the Granville Expo & Convention Center in the auditorium. The Granville Expo & Convention Center is located at 4185 Highway 15 South, Oxford, NC  27565.

WIZS will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Wilkins, Granville Narcotics & Interstate Interdiction Under Investigation

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A recent indictment of Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins for his alleged role in the potential homicide plot of a former sheriff’s deputy is not the only concern for the man who has been sheriff since 2009.

In a second, pending North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) matter, Sheriff Wilkins, the Granville County Narcotics Division and the Interstate Interdiction Team are under investigation for allegations of financial wrongdoing, according to a letter sent by District Attorney Michael D. Waters to the SBI in March.

Waters serves as DA for the 9th Prosecutorial District which includes Granville County.

WIZS will provide additional information as it becomes available.

 

Granville’s Tourism Development Authority Awarded for Marketing Campaign

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-Press Release, Granville County Government

The Granville County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) has received a top honor for marketing from the North Carolina Travel Industry Association. The TDA earned the coveted platinum award in the Community Relations category for its innovative approach to communicating and building relationships within a community.

The partnership between the TDA and members of the community was the result of a recent re-branding effort, in which the tourism brand “Uniquely Carolina” was created for Granville County Tourism’s new marketing campaign.

As part of the re-branding process, the TDA and the Hughes Marketing Group (brand consultant) interviewed over 100 county stakeholders for their ideas and input. Focus groups were also incorporated, with more than 650 completing surveys online and through intercepts.

A final community outreach session, broadcast on Facebook Live, reached an additional 680 people who viewed the presentation on social media, with more than 60 people in attendance to see the results of the marketing campaign in person. Attendees included representatives of the tourism industry and the TDA Board, as well as interested residents and government/community leaders.

“Tourism is not the charge of a single person or department,” says Angela Allen, Executive Director of the TDA. “Everyone in a community impacts and is part of attracting visitors, and – more importantly – greeting, interacting with and making a visit to the community either positive or negative.”

“The primary challenge,” she added, “was to get folks to partner with us in developing our new brand. In the process, we broke through walls by incorporating our stakeholders in this effort. This award validates the community approach we used to promote tourism in Granville County.”

For more information on this community relations effort and the re-branding of Granville County Tourism, contact Allen by email at [email protected] or by phone at 919-693-6125. Those interested can also visit the new website at www.visitgranvillenc.com

To learn more about the North Carolina Travel Industry Association, visit nctia.travel.

Granville Sheriff Brindell Wilkins Indicted for Obstruction of Justice

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-Press Release, Wake County District Attorney’s Office

On Monday, the Grand Jury of Granville County returned indictments against elected Sheriff Brindell Wilkins for two counts of felony obstruction of justice. These charges come following a ten-month investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the request of Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

District Attorney Freeman adopted the case at the request of District Attorney Mike Waters, whose district includes Granville County, following a determination by Waters that he had a conflict in the matter.

Wilkins was voluntarily served with the indictments by agents with the State Bureau of Investigation, assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and processed on the charges. He appeared before a magistrate and released on a $20,000 unsecured bond.

His first court date will be October 9, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. in Granville County.

A second investigation into allegations concerning the Granville County Sheriff’s Office’s accounting practices and controlled substance interdiction efforts remains pending.

WIZS will bring you more on this story as it develops.

VGCC Introduces Online Career Coach Program for Students

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-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College

Vance-Granville Community College recently introduced a new web-based service that will help students explore careers and make plans for their future.

Through the interactive “Career Coach” program, students can:

  • take a career assessment and get suggestions for possible career goals, based on their interests;
  • access the latest information about jobs and salaries in the region for various career fields; and
  • learn about particular VGCC education and training programs that lead to the careers they want.

By linking jobs to education, current or future students can see the potential “return on investment” of community college programs. They can even see a list of employers in the region who have posted jobs for a particular type of career within the last year.

“Not only current students, but also people who are thinking about becoming students, can use the site to learn more about various career options and the VGCC programs that prepare them for those careers,” said VGCC Director of Career Services Linda Fletcher. “Users can create accounts which allow them to save the results of their assessments and their favorite careers or programs of study. We think this will help members of our community make well-informed career decisions and get training for skills that are in demand by employers.”

Other special features of Career Coach include a tool that allows veterans of the armed services to find civilian careers that are related to their military occupations and a tool that helps users create a professional resume.

Career Coach is linked from the VGCC.edu home page and can be accessed directly at vgcc.emsicc.com.

Thorndale Oaks to Host Fall-Themed Women in Business Luncheon

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-Information courtesy Granville County Chamber of Commerce

You are invited to the Granville County Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business Luncheon at Thorndale Oaks in Oxford on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. The event will be held from 12 until 1:30 p.m.

In addition to a delicious lunch, participants will learn about the latest fall trends in home decor, floral and apparel shared by local women in business.

Chamber member entrepreneurs Cathy Crews, owner of C Squared, and Stephanie Walker, owner of The Home Decorator Shoppe, will be guest speakers for the occasion.

Fall exhibits by Annie’s Flowers and Gil-man Florist will also be on display.

Cost to attend is $20 for Chamber members and $22 for non-members.

Please RSVP to Wanda, (919) 693-6125/[email protected] or Toni Anne, (919) 528-4994/[email protected]

Event is sponsored by the Granville County Chamber of Commerce.

VGCC Experiences Enrollment Growth

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-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College

Vance-Granville Community College received welcome news as it celebrated its 50th anniversary recently: an increase in enrollment over the same time last year. As of the beginning of the fall semester in August, VGCC had 3,073 students enrolled in curriculum programs. That represented a 3.7% increase compared to the beginning of the fall 2018 semester when enrollment stood at 2,963.

VGCC Board of Trustees Chair Danny Wright and President Rachel Desmarais, Ph.D. cut the cake at VGCC’s 50th celebration. (VGCC photo)

A significant source of the increase was enrollment by high school students in college programs, either through Early College High Schools or other Career & College Promise pathways. There were 15% more of those students enrolled than there were at the beginning of fall 2018.

“We are pleased that an increasing number of students are participating in our high-quality education and training programs, which are preparing them to achieve their career goals,” said Dr. Rachel Desmarais, president of VGCC. “For 50 years, Vance-Granville Community College has been providing opportunities for education and training, with the strong support of the community. Thanks to that support, we continue to serve as an accessible, innovative, student-centered higher education partner for our region.”

Established in 1969, VGCC offers more than 40 curriculum programs, in which students work toward certificates, diplomas and degrees.

Area residents and businesses can also take advantage of a variety of Continuing Education opportunities, as well as the High School Equivalency and Adult High School Diploma programs.

High school students can also get a step ahead by starting their college education early with VGCC courses.

The college has four campuses – one each in Vance, Granville, Franklin and Warren counties – and offers online programs, as well.

For more information, visit www.vgcc.edu.

Granville Heritage Association to Hold Annual Harvest Show

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-Information courtesy the Granville County Chamber of Commerce

The Lord Granville Agricultural Heritage Association will hold its 13th Annual Harvest Show featuring lawn and garden tractors October 4-5, 2019, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the corner of 12th and G Streets in Butner, NC.

Highlights include antique tractors and equipment, food, tractor games, Mama’s Kitchen old-time cooking, antique homestead display, a blacksmith at work, farm shop, free games and rides for children and other vendors.

A tractor parade will go through town on Saturday.

Daily admission $5; Two-Day admission $8. Children under 12 are free. Family rate is available.

Proceeds support the Heritage Association’s scholarship program.

For exhibitor information, contact Al Gulvin at (919) 528-1652. For vendor information, contact James Adams at (919) 575-6043.

For additional information, visit www.lgaha.com.

Granville Shrine Club to Hold Fall Fish Fry

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-Information courtesy Randy Newman, Granville County Shrine Club

It’s fish fry time again! The Granville County Shrine Club will hold a fish fry on Wednesday, October 9, 2019, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Shrine Club on Roxboro Road in Oxford. Proceeds will benefit the Shriners Hospital.

Eat-in or take out plates available for $8. Plates include fish, slaw, potato salad and hushpuppies.