Editor’s note: This is the first in a five part series looking back at the top five stories in cops and courts; government and civic affairs; education; weather; and events and happenings.

Eva Barlowe released from prison

A McDowell woman tied to her mother’s 2000 murder was released from prison after over a decade behind bars. On Jan. 2, 34-year-old Eva Kathleen Barlowe was released from the N.C. Correctional Institute for Women after having spent 12 years and 11 months in prison for aiding and abetting second-degree murder and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. In Sept. 2000, then- 17-year-old Barlowe and 20-year-old Jeremy Dunlap were charged in the death of 46-year-old Cynthia Barlowe after her body was found near the Burke/McDowell line having suffered blunt force trauma to the head and was set on fire on location. Despite discrepancies as far as who planned the initial assault, Dunlap pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole in 2001. Barlowe, pleading not guilty, was initially found guilty of first-degree murder, and then resentenced to the aiding & abetting and accessory charges following an NC Court of Appeals decision in 2003. Upon her release from prison, Barlowe was assigned to Franklin County to serve out her probation.

Chris Edwards trial ends with life in prison

A Marion man charged in the 2012 death of a toddler he was babysitting was sentenced to life without parole following a jury trial in McDowell County Superior Court. On June 1, 33-year-old Christopher Michael Edwards was found guilty of first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony and felonious child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury. During the lengthy three week trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys debated whether Edwards had intentionally struck 20-month-old Lily Anne Kerr while in his care the night of Oct. 30, 2012, resulting in her death three days later. Contributing factors such as an alleged history of blackouts, post-traumatic stress disorder and prior drug use were frequent topics of contention as to whether the child’s injuries by the defendant were deliberate or under an altered state of mind. After a 2 ½ hour jury deliberation, Edwards was found guilty on the above charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Dog in bag found in river, man charged with animal cruelty

In a month-long investigation, investigators searched for answers to a dog found sealed in a bag in Catawba River. On March 28, two fishermen near Yancey Bridge located a pink drawstring bag floating in the waters, with the body of a dead Chihuahua mix canine named Princess inside. As the story drew widespread media attention and a $5,000 reward from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for information, McDowell County sheriff’s investigators charged 40-year-old Charles Travis Hollifield of Marion, an acquaintance to the dog’s owner, with felony cruelty to animals. At the time of the arrest, warrants alleged that Princess – reportedly in very poor health following a necropsy – had drowned after she was stuffed inside the bag with a rock and thrown into the river. Hollifield’s next appearance in court is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2019.

Ricky Buchanan appointed, elected as McDowell sheriff

McDowell’s longtime chief deputy was sworn in and later elected to serve as the county sheriff following his predecessor’s retirement. In late May, Ricky Buchanan was appointed as the new McDowell County Sheriff, taking over from now-retired sheriff Dudley Greene. Following Greene’s announcement last December that he would not file for re-election in 2018, Buchanan, having previously served five years as chief deputy, announced his intentions to run in the next election cycle. Buchanan was sworn-in as acting sheriff on June 1 and elected to the office in November.

Double-murder suicide in North Cove

At approximately 6:30 a.m. the morning of April 11, emergency agencies and law enforcement responded to 182 Lonon Lane in Marion after receiving reports of a possible shooting at the residence. Upon arrival, units found the bodies of 39-year-old Kacey Case Haney of 182 Lonon Lane, and 49-year-old Christopher Scott Childres of Nebo inside the home and 48-year-old Jeffrey Dale Haney outside the home having suffered fatal gunshot wounds. At the time of the initial report, McDowell County Sheriff’s Office officials alleged that Jeffrey Haney, the estranged husband of Kacey Haney, had shot her and Childres, dialed 911 and then turned the gun on himself. Officials also revealed that Kacey Haney had taken out a domestic violence order on Jeffrey in 2015, which later expired or had been dismissed.

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