Authorities say a 34-year-old Davidson County man picked up a 13-year-old girl in Texas after persuading her to leave her home over the weekend, then kept her locked in an outbuilding at his home in Southmont until she was found by law enforcement officers.
Davidson County Sheriff Richie Simmons in a Monday news conference announced the arrest of Jorge Ivan Santos Camacho on multiple charges including abduction, statutory rape and human trafficking, and said the crimes show the importance of talking to young people about the dangers of social media.
“I thank God we were able to find this young girl,” Simmons said.
Simmons said his office was contacted about 6 p.m. Friday by special agents from a Texas FBI violent crime task force in regards to a missing 13-year-old girl from the Dallas area. The girl had communicated on a social media chat platform with an adult male, who enticed her to leave her home.
A camera was able to capture an image of a vehicle authorities said Camacho was driving when he picked up the girl in Texas, authorities said. Simmons said his investigating deputies quickly went to work Friday evening, and had Camacho’s home under surveillance within 10 minutes of getting the tip from Dallas authorities.
Simmons said deputies were able to make a traffic stop that led them to the location of the missing girl and to the arrest of Camacho.
An emergency response team of Davidson County deputies mobilized and went to the Southmont home, where they found the girl locked in a building and conducted a search of the home. After being taken for treatment locally, the girl was returned to Texas, Simmons said.
Comacho was being held in the Davidson County Jail with bond set at $1.2 million. He is charged with felony child abduction, felonious restraint of a child, human trafficking, two counts of statutory rape of a juvenile under 15 years old, two counts of statutory sex offense against a juvenile under 15 years old and taking indecent liberties with a child.
The Texas girl was being held at a home in the 10400 block of Linwood-Southmont Road, authorities said. Authorities were able to book Camacho shortly after 1 a.m. on Saturday.
“Things went very well for us on Friday, on a quick response,” Simmons said. The Greensboro office of the FBI assisted on the case, Simmons said.
Simmons said the case was almost a reverse of one in 2021 where a 14-year-old from Davidson County was rescued in Arkansas. That case took a deadly turn when the suspect engaged in a shootout with Arkansas authorities and died from what was described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
No guns were fired in the arrest of Comacho, but Simmons said he’s asking for more deputies to help deal with a rising number of crimes traceable to young people taking dangerous risks on social media.
“Parents have to wise up and see the danger to these kids,” Simmons said, adding that if the problem isn’t handled at home or in the schools, “it comes to us.”
“This is a major problem, and how kids are sold into human trafficking,” the sheriff said.
After being fooled by a “false spring,” the Triad finds itself bracing for bitter cold temperatures that could damage some fruit crops after they were awakened early from their winter slumber by record warmth in the first two months of 2023.
The National Weather Service issued a freeze warning in the Triad and much of North Carolina for Monday night and a freeze watch for Tuesday night. Similar temperatures are forecast for Wednesday night.
“Frost and freeze conditions will kill crops, other sensitive vegetation and possibly damage unprotected outdoor plumbing,” the NWS Raleigh Office advised Monday.
Nightly temperatures are expected to dip into the upper 20s Monday through Wednesday — more than 10 degrees below normal.
Those conditions pose a threat because blooming is weeks ahead of the typical timeline after the Triad and much of the state experienced the warmest first two months of a year ever recorded — a trend expected to continue in the future as climate change makes a growing number of winter days feel more like spring.
“Farmers with strawberries, peaches and other fruit crops such as blueberries will certainly be paying close attention and working to frost-protect blooming plants if possible to avoid fruit loss,” said Andrea Ashby, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
That’s because those blooms represent the essential pollination stage of fruit development. But an especially warm February made some plants and trees think it was April or May, when they typically begin to flower.
“Some farmers have even reported small strawberries on the plants already around the Raleigh area,” Ashby added.
A similar cold snap in March 2022 led to losses in North Carolina’s strawberry, blueberry, peach and apple crops.
“Having this warm winter and then cold winter nights is really detrimental because your plant is in shock,” explained Biswanath Dari, a professor of agriculture and natural resources at N.C. A&T State University. “It doesn’t know what to do. It says, ‘I’m warm. I’m going to bloom now. I’m happy.’”
But one night with temperatures below 30 degrees can lead to a 10% crop loss, and the potential damage can reach 90% in sub-25 degree weather, Dari said while offering some advice to growers.
“You should literally take your truck, go to the farm and babysit your plants,” he suggested.
There are a few fundamental strategies for protecting crops in sub-freezing conditions, Dari noted.
The most common involves applying water to create a layer of ice on the plants.
“The ice crystals stay on the crops,” Dari explained. “That creates a warm ambience (at 32 degrees) that insulates the plant and then protects your bloom, protects your plant, protects your flower or vegetable or fruit.”
On some larger farms, so-called “frost fans” move higher, warmer air down over the orchard or field, but that is an expensive option out of the reach of many farmers.
Covering crops with tarps will keep the soil and plants warm. But that’s a labor-intensive option that might not be practical, especially on short notice, Dari said.
“Some (solutions) might be feasible and some might not,” he added. “You just have to be prepared as a farmer and say, ‘This is the challenge for me, to keep my crop alive.’”
A post-bloom freeze isn’t just a risk in fields and orchards. Yards and other landscaped areas could also be impacted.
“Usually, anything that has put out new growth and especially anything flowering or with flower buds is most susceptible to damage,” said Leslie Rose, an N.C. State extension agent in Forsyth County. “If anyone has put out summer annuals, vegetables or herbs early, those are likely to die if they are exposed to frost.”
Rose also recommended protecting anything that has been newly planted or transplanted that may have broken from winter dormancy.
“Anything in pots can be moved inside or to a protected area such as a garage,” she suggested. “Outdoor plants that have started to grow can be covered with a sheet overnight. Remove (the sheet) as the sun comes out and things start to warm up in the morning. Watering is also a good way to insulate the roots.”
Low humidity, dry conditions and strong winds also will combine to create a heightened fire risk Tuesday and Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
John Deem covers climate change and the environment in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina. His work is funded by a grant from the 1Earth Fund and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
Most of the national and super-regional banks serving the Triad were caught in Monday’s riptide from the sudden collapse and federal takeover of Silicon Valley Bank over the weekend.
Silicon is considered as the largest bank failure since the Great Recession of 2008-11. There were $42 billion in withdrawals made Thursday, while the bank had $17.5 billion of regulatory capital in place.
Investors’ concerns about potential unrealized losses within financial institutions’ portfolios — particularly those with a significant technology exposure — contributed to some banks’ share prices dropping well into double digits.
Meanwhile, at least one Triad publicly traded technology company disclosed Monday having deposits with Silicon Bank.
Guerrilla RF Inc. of Greensboro said in a Monday regulatory filing that it had as of Friday a $2.2 million deposit account with Silicon. Guerrilla said it expected to have access to the deposit on Monday.
First Horizon Corp. appeared to be hammered the most by investors, dropping as much as 33% during trading before closing down 20.7%, or $4.16 to $15.94.
First Horizon also has been weighed down by heightened concerns that federal regulators may not approve the proposed $13.4 billion megadeal sale to TD Bank Group of Toronto. First Horizon disclosed March 1 there is no current closing date.
It would be the second-largest U.S. bank deal since the Great Recession of 2008-11, eclipsed only by BB&T Corp.’s $33.5 billion purchase of SunTrust Banks Inc. in December 2019 that led to the creation of Truist Financial Corp.
Speaking of Truist, its share price dropped as much as 21.4% before finishing trading down 17.2%, or by $6.67 to $32.17.
The closing share price decline for other banks with prominent Triad presences included: Bank of America Corp. (down 5.7% to $28.55); Bank OZK (down 1.6% to $36.02); First Bancorp (down 3.9% to $36.89); First Citizens Bancshares Inc. (down 4.4% to $588.82); F.N.B. Corp. (down 2.4% to $12.47); Pinnacle Financial Partners Inc. (down 4.8% to $57.03); PNC Financial Services Group (down 5.2% to $130.08); and Wells Fargo & Co. (down 7.1% to $38.43).
“All regional banks are getting hit; let’s call them the babies in the bathwater,” said Bowman Gray, a local independent stock broker. “While some may have some similar exposure that Silicon, et al. had, I think this is a severe knee-jerk reaction. This is not 2008, and I do not see a systemic issue beyond a handful of banks specializing in venture loans.
“Wall Street tends to shoot first and ask questions later. This is not a panic moment.”
When it comes to the First Horizon sharp share price decline, Gray said the deal “had already been called into question.”
“I think the news of the last few days puts TD Bank in a stronger position to try and reprice the purchase,” he said.
State Treasurer Dale Folwell issued a statement in which he said state banking regulators “have been closely monitoring the situation with Silicon Valley and Signature banks, as well as the 36 banks we regulate at the State Banking Commission.”
“The banks we regulate in North Carolina do not have the same number of unsecured deposits and are more diversified than those troubled banks.”
Morningstar said in a statement Monday that the loss of confidence in Silicon and Signature “triggered a significant sell-off in the broader banking sector in the U.S. and beyond.”
“Investors fear other financial institutions are sitting on significant unrealized losses on their balance sheets because of markedly higher interest rates.
“In our view, banks in our coverage universe have sufficient liquidity and stable funding and capital to navigate this market turbulence.”
Morningstar said it does “expect that, following the rapid rise in interest rates, some banks will reposition their securities portfolios by selling lower-yielding securities and reinvesting the proceeds into higher-yielding assets, incurring losses.”
“Nonetheless, the banks in our rating coverage universe are capable of absorbing these potential losses through earnings and strong capital buffers.”
Chris Marinac, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scoot, said the FDIC’s ability to find a buyer of Silicon and Signature “should alleviate the risk of deposit runs (overall), although we do not yet know if this eliminates the customer panic.”
“A new Fed (credit) facility allows banks to pledge securities at the Fed’s Discount Window for borrowing, which creates incremental liquidity to meet deposit demands.”
Marinac said a potential ripple effect is “a change in investor attitude for less share buybacks, more capital and better details on deposit concentrations.”
Sports wagering operators and other licensees would be subject to heightened background and criminal record checks, as well as pay considerably more in application and renewal fees, in the N.C. House version of the legislation filed Monday.
Bipartisan House Bill 347 has Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, and House Conference chairman as lead bill sponsor. Rep. Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford, is among the four primary sponsors.
Saine said in November, in his role as House sponsor of sports wagering bill Senate Bill 688, that “whether this bill rises or falls, this issue is still going to be out there the next session and the next session and the next session.”
Meanwhile, the Senate has not refiled SB688 that cleared its chamber by a 26-19 vote in August 2021, only to go unheard in the House until the final 10 days of the 2022 session.
SB688 reached the House floor on June 22, where it was voted down 52-49 with 32 Republicans and 20 Democrats voting no. They represented a mix of anti-gambling social conservatives and anti-poverty progressives.
HB347 contains much of the language in SB688, but has been expanded from 19 to 24 pages mostly to accommodate the background, criminal records and disciplinary records check requirements.
“If the legislation faces a tougher challenge in the House, supporters might want to be certain they can get a measure through that chamber first,” said Mitch Kokai, senior policy analyst with conservative think tank John Locke Foundation.
“Senators are unlikely to want to waste time and energy on the bill if it’s going to die once it crosses to the other side of the building.”
North Carolinians would be limited to wagering on professional and electronic sports with a select group of 10 to 12 wagering operators.
Sports wagering operators, as well as other licensees, would be required to report any criminal or disciplinary proceedings involving any personnel, and all new personnel would be subject to background checks.
Each sports wagering operator would be required to provide a daily summary of all sports wagering activity, including all transactions, by the close of each business day.
The distribution split remains 60% to the state General Fund, 30% to the N.C. Major Events, Games and Attractions Fund, and the rest to various sports-oriented initiatives.
HB347 would raise the application fee for a sports wagering operator from $500,000 to $1 million.
The service provider license fee would go from $25,000 to $50,000, while the supplier license fee jumps from $15,000 to $30,000.
The bill would increase renewal fees from $100,000 to $1 million for interactive sports wagering license, as well from $10,000 to $50,000 for service provider license, and from $5,000 to $30,000 for supplier license.
There would be a 14% privilege tax on operators, up from 8% in SB688, on adjusted gross revenue.
The sports wagering operator’s license would not be transferrable or assignable without commission permission.
Operators would have to maintain at least a $500,000 reserve, or the amount of outstanding wagers as money due, whichever is greater. The reserve can be in the form of bond or irrevocable line of credit of at least $50,000 and no more than $2 million, or payment processor reserves and receivables, cash or letter of guaranty.
HB347 allows for government created entities, such as statutory authorized pension investment boards and Canadian Crown operations, to be exempt from ownership and control disclosures. The same would apply for investment funds and entities registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
HB374 specifies that sports wagering can be allowed at the home of the Carolina Hurricanes, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte FC, Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Courage and any future Major League Baseball team.
Other additions include what is known as “geofencing,” which allows the sports wagering operator to verify a registered player’s geolocation before they place a wager.
It would allow wagers to be placed on not only a sporting event, but a portion of the event, an individual athlete’s performance and a parimutual wager.
HB347 clarifies that fantasy sports leagues would not be subject to the sports wagering law.
HB347 would not allow any in-person greyhound racing in the state.
The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation would receive $1 million annually in proceeds — up from $500,000 in SB688 — in which each county receives $10,000 toward buying youth sports equipment, or pays for facilities upgrades and improvements.
Seven University of North Carolina member schools would receive up to $300,000 each in proceeds: Winston Salem State, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, N.C. A&T State, N.C. Central, UNC Asheville and UNC Pembroke.
SB688 contains providing about $5 million combined — or 10% of net tax proceeds annually — to those seven universities. HB347 would provide a similar additional distribution if funds are available.
The N.C. Outdoors Heritage Advisory Council would receive $1 million annually toward the recruiting of sports events into North Carolina, which would include $5,000 per county to help with sports teams’ ability to travel in or outside N.C. to sports events or other team activities.
Sports wagering has been another socioeconomic issue that is splintering Democrats and Republicans.
SB688 co-primary sponsors Sens. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, and Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, have emphasized “that we would go from getting no revenue from an illegal activity in this state to generating (up to $50 million) in annual revenue,” Perry said.
SB688 was defeated in the House even though legalized betting in collegiate sports in North Carolina was removed via an amendment submitted by Rep. John Autry, D-Mecklenburg.
Raleigh TV station WRAL reported ln June that that North Carolina’s eight professional sports team franchises or entities want eight of 12 sports wagering operator licenses available to be allocated to them.
The other four entities are NC Courage (National Women’s Soccer League), Charlotte Motor Speedway, PGA Tour and NASCAR.
“It gives us a better opportunity to maximize the revenue,” Carolina Hurricanes team president Don Waddell told WRAL. “We can’t get money from gambling. We’re going to get money from sponsorship and if we do a restaurant or something like that.
“So, this gives us a better opportunity to capitalize on the amount of money that these people are going to make.”
Before the 2023 session began, Wake Forest political science professor John Dinan said that “of the three main policy issues that could be enacted — medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion and sports gambling — legislative leadership appears determined to move sports gambling.”
Since the session began, a Medicaid expansion bill has been fast-tracked through the House and likely is set for a Senate floor vote this week.
Meanwhile, medical marijuana bill Senate Bill 3, titled “NC Compassionate Care Act,” was passed by a 36-10 vote on third reading March 1.
However, as was the case with the 2022 version of the legislation, it’s unclear whether House Republican leadership will allow SB3 to be placed in a committee, much less advance to a floor vote.
During the 2022 House floor debate on SB688, several House legislators, including Reps. Pat Hurley, R-Randolph, Keith Kidwell, R-Craven, and Abe Jones, D-Wake, cited moral and ethical reasons in opposing what they consider a state-sponsored extension of gambling.
Autry cited gambling scandals involving N.C. collegiate sports as the impetus for his amendment prohibiting wagering on college sports, in particular the men’s basketball Dixie Classic that was held from 1946 to 1960 on N.C. State’s home court.
The tournament was disbanded after a point-shaving scandal in 1961 involving players from both N.C. State and North Carolina.
“I am troubled about the opportunity for corruption ... that the social costs associated with gambling are significant,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford.
“We’re talking about $25 million to $50 million in potential revenue, but with hundreds of millions of dollars in social costs to North Carolina.”
An amendment from Rep. Joe John, D-Wake, was approved 101-0 that would prohibit on-site wagering on college sports from eight hours before and during the event, such as at PNC Arena in Raleigh where the Carolina Hurricanes and N.C. State share the facility.
Harrison said she was concerned that the level of advertising related to sports wagering would mushroom from the original intent the way that advertising for the state Education Lottery has morphed in recent years.
Kokai said that if HB347 advances to the House floor, it likely has better odds of passing, and then the Senate will have to decide whether to accept the changes to SB688 in HB347.
“We also have to remember that this a new House, thanks to the 2022 election,” Kokai said.
“Turnover in the chamber likely shifted the number of people willing to say yes or no to government-authorized gambling on sports.”
“If it never reaches the floor, we’ll know supporters never lined up enough support to feel confident about moving the measure beyond the finish line.”