911 abuser gets maximum sentence

Published 12:41 pm Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ronnie Wayne Craddock

Ronnie Wayne Craddock


Multiple threats called into 911 landed one Beaufort County man in jail this week.

After a brief trial and jury deliberations, Ronnie Wayne Craddock was found guilty of the Class 3 misdemeanor of interfering with emergency communications for a series of 911 phone calls on March 8, 2012.

“Yeah, I want WITN’s number,” said the agitated man on a recording played in court. “We’re getting ready to take down (Sheriff) Alan Jordan for his lying and murdering in Beaufort County. It’s coming.”

Craddock made three calls, all of a similar nature, to emergency communications that day, according to telecommunicator Crystal Marriner. Both Marriner and Corporal Thomas Salinas were called to testify to the nature of the calls, as well as to the identification of the person calling.

“There’s nobody else in all of Beaufort County that sounds like that, no ma’am,” Marriner responded when Craddock’s defense attorney, Norma Laughton, questioned her identification of the voice over the phone.

According to Marriner’s and Salinas’s testimony, the sheriff’s office has a long history of run-ins with Craddock: Marriner, through non-emergency 911 phone calls expressing his dislike for the sheriff’s office; Salinas, through past incidents requiring law enforcement.

On the stand, Craddock denied the voice played to the jury was his, while his attorney questioned the county 911 system’s ability to accurately trace the location of calls made from a cell phone.

According to Marriner, the 911 system’s satellite triangulation between cell phone towers is guaranteed to pinpoint location within 50 to 100 yards, but in her experience, it’s far more accurate — within 3 to 10 feet, the exception being vertical location in multistoried buildings. On the date in question, the calls were traced to Pinetown and Craddock’s Carls Woods Road address, a number and address identified many times on prior occasions, said Marriner.

The first of the three calls on March 8 came in at 5:35 p.m. By 6 p.m., during the communications center’s busiest time, Craddock had called three times. At 8:35 p.m., arrest warrants were served.

In an interview on Friday, Capt. Charlie Rose, head of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office patrol division, said that because of Craddock’s long history of assaulting law officers, they take Craddock’s threats, and misuse of the 911 system, very seriously.

He explained that the two telecommunicators per shift, answering calls on three land lines and two cell phones, are responsible for all sheriff’s office communications, emergency communications for the county, as well as updating a computer program that keeps track of every agency and every emergency, who’s available and who’s been dispatched.

From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily, the communications center can receive “upwards of 150 to 250 calls,” Marriner said on the stand.

“In the grand scheme of things, five lines is not a lot to bank on when someone’s trying to call 911,” Rose said.

Which is why interfering with emergency communications is a punishable offense, he said.

The communications center receives an average of 20 non-emergency calls per day, largely comprised of misdials, 911 hang-ups and complaints, Rose said.

For misdials and hang-ups, telecommunicators are required to call the number back to verify there is no emergency situation. If no one answers, a deputy is sent to the location. If someone answers and verifies there is no emergency, a deputy is still dispatched to the location to make sure no one has intercepted an emergency call, which often happens in domestic situations, Rose explained.

Those calling to complain — whether about a high electric bill or treatment by a law enforcement official — are informed that 911 is for emergencies only and instructed to call the administrative line. If the person calls again, a deputy is sent to the location to explain in person.

“A lot of times we can get through without charging someone,” Rose said. “But if they call one time and it’s explained and they call again, they are in violation of the law.”

In 2012, three people, in addition to Craddock, were charged with interfering with emergency communications in Beaufort County. After Thursday’s guilty verdict, Superior Court Judge Russell Duke Jr. gave Craddock the maximum penalty for the misdemeanor charge: 20 days in the Beaufort County jail.