Originally created 02/03/03

Across the southeast



Sheriff's office papers on death are missing

MURPHY, N.C. -Memos, letters and computer files from the past four years are missing from the Cherokee County sheriff's office - including those related to the death of a jail inmate who died of diabetes after being denied emergency care.

State law requires government documents to be available for public inspection and to be preserved when there's a change in office. Neither former Sheriff Alan Kilpatrick nor former jail Administrator Judy Mason would comment on the missing files.

The missing documents include those related to the death of Christopher Lee Wood, who died of diabetes after being denied emergency care in September.

Newly elected Sheriff Keith Lovin said he entered office in December, he found empty filing cabinets and computers wiped clean of all files except for operating programs.

Theme parks use farms to lower taxes

ORLANDO, Fla. -To save millions of dollars in property taxes, theme parks have turned to farming. Walt Disney World has cattle grazing on its property, and SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando are in the pine tree growing business.

But property appraisers in Orange and Osceola counties say the theme parks, and some hotels in Orlando's tourist corridor, are taking advantage of rules meant to help bona fide farmers by giving them cheaper tax rates on farmland. Theme parks and hotels use the rules to pay lower taxes on properties until the land is ready to be developed, officials in both counties said.

With the land classified as agricultural, Orange and Osceola counties will lose more than $4.4 million in annual tax revenue that could have paid for roads and schools, officials said.

Friends remember two factory-blast victims

KINSTON, N.C. -Two more funerals were held Sunday as federal investigators searched for the cause of a medical supply factory explosion that killed four workers.

Funerals for James Byrd, 60, and William Gray, 51, marked a day of remembering Wednesday's fatal blast at the West Pharmaceutical Services Inc. plant. Nine other victims remained in critical condition Sunday at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill.