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Both Sheriff Candidates Support Satellite Office In Calabash
BY ERIC CARLSON Calabash fire hall Wednesday night. About 40 people School board member Yvonne Bright, the only in- jury's recent decision to increase hoard of ^duration h
Both men seekino thi> mnntu'c inn l.?, ? ? , J ? ......
BY ERIC CARLSON
Both men seeking the county's top law enforcement
post told voters last week that they would support ef
forts to locate a satellite sheriff's department office in
the Calabash area.
The two sheriff's candidates, Deputy Lt. Ronald
Hewett and businessman James Brown, also said they
would apply for money through a state program aimed
at putting more deputies on the road to target drunk dri
Brown and Hewett were among the 14 local party
nominees who spoke at a candidates fonim at the
1 ' / 3 -
F ) f ? i 1 K
?: > p i |v p . ' , o 7
Calabash fire hall Wednesday night. About 40 people
attended the event, organized by the town's community
Robert Anderson, Republican candidate for U.S.
Congress, also attended. He was the only nominee for
local office who was not given an opportunity to ad
dress the gathering.
County Chairman Don Warren was the soie incum
bent commissioner to show up for the town's first
"Meet the Candidates Night." He was joined by chal
lengers Douglas Simmons, Alfonza Roach, Leslie
Collier and Bill Sue.
School board member Yvonne Bright, the only in
cumbent to be nominated for re-election, attended the
forum along with challengers Bud Thorsen, Rozell
Hewett, Pat Brown, Clara Carter, Beth Osiek and
While the local crowd applauded the commitment of
both sheriff's candidates to a more visible law enforce
ment pi c?c i icc in southwestern Brunswick County,
much of the evening's comments revolved around the
ongoing funding conflict between the school board and
Warren defended the county's decision to appeal a
jury's recent decision to increase board of education by
nearly $5 million. He noted that current case law gives
little guidance about what priority a county should
place on school funding compared with c..ier spending
needs. He said the question needs to be clarified by the
N.C. Court of Appeals.
He also insisted that the outgoing school board
should not be the one ?? fWidc how to allocate the ad
ditional money awarded by the courts. Warren suggest
ed that the current board of education has misplaced its
(See CANDIDATES, Page 2-A)
>NS BOM p T rC?
SWICK fe BEACON
Shaliotte, North Carolina, Thursday, October 6, 1994 50? Per (
i, 4 Sections, Plus Inserts
Mark Saunders makes a bottom turn on a nicely formed h <ave near his home on H olden Beach. A
passing Ioh1 pressure system and offshore winds brought long , tubing waves U> Brunswick Islands
beaches this week.
BETTER ACCOUNTABILITY ?
Brunswick Will Ask
State To Let Schools
Boards Have Own Tax
BY ERIC CARLSON
Frustrated by what Ihcy call a lack of "accountability"
in school spending, the Brunswick County Com
missioners will ask legislators for rhanges in state law to
require thai boards of education raise their own taxes
In a unanimous vote Monday night, the county board
adopted a resolution authorizing Chairman Don Warren
to seek support from the N.C. Association of County
Commissioners for the idea of splitting school and coun
ty funding into two separate budgets
I he resolution asks the association to lobby state law
makers for a change in the way schools currently arc
funded through appropriations by county a>mmissioncrs.
Warren recently was named to the association's board
of directors. Me plans to present the proposal at the
group's next meeting Oct 15
The move came after it was announced that the
Brunswick County School Board, citing a scheduling
conflict, declined to meet with the commissioners and
representatives of the state auditor's office to discuss a
staie audit of school spending
Both boards have tentatively agreed to an outside
studv of school performance and budgeting In a Sept.
26 letter. State Auditor Ralph Campbell Jr. asked repre
sentatives of the two boards to meet "for one and a half
to !wo hours" on Oct. 5 with Deputy State Auditor
James Benson and others to discuss details of how the
audit would be conducted.
topics of Campbell's letter were addressed 5o War
ren. school board Cha>nnan Donna Baxter, Superinten
dent Ralph Johnston and County manager Wvman Yel
ton. Warren said.
"For the record, we were ready to meet with them,"
Warren said Monday night. "But the school bdard did
not have an hour and a half to two hours to meet with us
Yelton told the commissioners that state officials have
assured him that Brunswick County will be "first on the
list" of school systems targeted for performance audits
once the auditor's officc completes its assignments for
the N.C. General Assembly. He estimated that the auait
could be performed "shortly after Jan. 1."
Yelton said the state asked to have a preliminary
meeting with school and county officials this month to
plan the audit However, he said "the schools have a
conflict and they need a different date "
The county schools are currently operating under a
court ordered level of funding equal to the amount they
spent in 1993-94, pending the outcome of a civil suit
filed against the commissioners by the board of educa
tion. In August, a jury awarded the schools nearly $5
million more than the county appropriated in its 1994-95
budget. The county has appealed the decision and plans
a 10-cent property tax hike to cover the additional ex
(See BOARD, Page 2-A)
THREE YEARS LATER
Keeler Finally Leads Detectives To His Murdered Wife's Grave
BY LKIC CARLSON
Residents of the Ash community have driven past the
spot hundreds of times in the past three years, little sus
pecting that the body of Rhonda
Diane Keeler lay buried in a shallow
grave just a stone's throw from the
One after another Wednesday
morning (Sept. 28), they pulled over
to glance into the woods where a
strip of yellow crime scene tape was
tied around a rectang'.c of saplings
just off Simmoas Road.
Some followed the fresh tire
tracks leading back to the root-lined
hole where, a few hours earlier, their former neighbor
Timothy Jam?* Kffl", ^4 ?hr?w??H Rmnswick County
Sheriff's detectives where his young wife was buried.
"He didn't say a word about what happened. He just
showed us where it was," said Assistant District
Attorney Rick Green, who accompanied investigators to
the grave site.
Mrs. Keeler's nude body was found wrapped in plas
tic and burlap and buried under about a foot of dirt in a
wooded area about a tenth of a mile from N.C. 130,
Sheriff John Carr Davis said Wednesday. She was tenta
tively identified by a metal rod known have been in
serted in her leg.
An autopsy later determined that Mrs. Keeler, 29,
died of a bullet wound to the head, probably from a .22
caliber weapon, said Detective Lt. Donnell Marlowe,
who headed the original investigation into her disap
Mrs. Keeler was last seen Aug. 17, 1991. At the time,
neighbors told detectives that they heard screams and
CRIME SCENE tap e outlines the shallow grave in Ash where Brunswick County Sheriff's detectives
found the body of 29-year-old Rhonda Diane Keeler last week. Her husband Timothy James Keeler,
34, (left) led investigators to the wooded area beside Simmons Road where he allegedly buried her
three years ago.
gunshots coming from the Keeler home that night. They
also said the couple had ongoing marital problems.
When originally questioned, Kecler told investigators
(hat his wife wandered off while the two were drinking
at "biker bar" in Q.arlotte. As the police investigation
began to focus on Keeler, he told detectives he would be
willing to take a lie detector test.
Keeler disappeared from Brunswick County the day
before the polygraph test was scheduled to be adminis
tered. Me was charged with murder a few days later.
Many of those who stopped at the grave site last week
remembered the massive search that ensued when a
piece of Rhonda Keeler 's finger and some of her hair
were found buried behind the couple's home on
Milligan Road shortly after Keeler left the area.
Helicopters, airplanes, boats, body-sniffing dogs and
scores of volunteers from the Ash community, including
local fire and rescue squads, combed the area without
"We probably searched within 15 feet of where the
body was eventually found." Sheriff Davis said
Investigators believe that after killing his wife. Keeler
initially buried her in a swampy area about 300 yards
from their home. When police began to close in on him,
Keeler is thought to have dug up the body and moved it
to its final resting place, about three miles away.
Detectives feel that the hair and finger segment were
probably severed and left behind at the first grave site
when Keeler uprooted the body.
The sheriff would not say why, after more than three
years, Keeler suddenly decided to reveal the where
abouts of his dead wife. He was captured outside
Charlotte last month when a car in which he was a pas
senger was stopped by police conducting a routine DWI
"He hasn't told us anything cxccpt where she was,"
Davis said Wednesday. "He just decided yesterday that
he would show us the spot this morning."
Lt. Marlowe said detectives are unsure about Keeler 's
(See MEMORIAL, Page 2-A)
ANNUAL MEETING SATURDAY
BEhAC Drops Membership Fee , But Not Its 42,000 Members
BY SUSAN USHER
Brunswick Electric Memi)ership Corp.,
which holds its annual meeting Saturday, isn't
doing away with its membership, but it has
done away with its membership fee.
Until recently, anyone who signed up for
electrical service paid not only a connection
fee, but a $5 membership fee as well, and sig
ned a membership card. The membership fees
were held, and eventually returned to members.
No more. Two months ago, BEMC direc
tors changed co-op bylaws to eliminate the $5
one-time membership fee.
That doesn't mean that BEMC is trying to
buy out memberships, as one rumor circulat
ing through the community suggests, said
General Manager David Batten. "The board of
directors can't legally offer stock or sell cut.
Only the membership can."
Batten said the decision to drop the $5 fee
accomplished several benefits: it immediately
saves each new member $5, and it saves the
co-op the administrative time and cost in
volved in receiving, tracking and refunding
membership fees. New member-customers
will continue to sign a membership card and to
pay a connection fee.
BEMC's annual membership meeting will
be held Saturday at the Odell Williamson
Auditorium at Brunswick Community College
on U.S. 17 north of Supply.
Registration begins at 8 a.m., along with ac
tivities such as a members' arts and crafts fair
and entertainment. The business meeting starts
at 10:30 a.m., and will be followed by the
awarding of about SO door prizes.
During the business meeting members will
hear operating and financial reports and elcct
directors from four districts. For the first time
in recent years, the incumbents are unopposed:
Hubert K. Brittain, District 7; Bryan R. Smith,
District 9; Calvin Duncan. District 10; and
Monroe Enzor, District 1 1 . Enzor was appoint
ed to the board this past year following the
resignation of Leroy Williamson.
This will be the second annual meeting at
which members will not be allowed to nomi
nate candidates from the floor. A slate of can
didates was presented last month by the nomi
nating committee and members could have
nominated additional candidates by petition.
Organized in 1939, BEMC has more than
42,000 members and more than 50,000 service
connections in Brunswick and Columbus
counties and parts of Bladen and Robeson
Birthdays ? 2B
Business News ? 10-UD
Church News 9D
Crime Report 12D
Court Docket 8D
People In The News 6B
Plant Doctor 7B