Year in Review: Top stories from 2023

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, December 26, 2023

As 2023 says its final goodbyes, we would like to take a moment to review unforgettable stories from the year. From Tragic and unbelievable to heartwarming and happy, 2023 kept everyone in the newsroom on their toes and on the edges of their seats. 

One in ten million shot 

Washington Police Chief Phil Rollinson discussed a shooting where a bullet traveled a half mile from E. Fifth Street to Festival Park and struck a 67-year-old woman. The woman was transported to ECU Health Beaufort for treatment of a non-life threatening wound. “That’s just one of those one in ten million shots that can happen,” Rollinson said. He speculated the gun was pointed in the air; otherwise, if it were pointed straight it could have hit trees, power lines or  a home. 

Town Clerk arrested on embezzlement charges 

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, former Town of Chocowinity Town Clerk Joy McRoy was arrested on embezzlement charges by agents with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s Financial Crimes Investigations Unit. She’s alleged to have embezzled more than $500,000 from the Town of Chocowinity from 2015 to 2022 by inflating her salary and using town credit cards to make personal purchases. 

Aurora Industrial Park underway 

Aurora Mayor, Clif Williams, announced that funding had been secured for an Aurora Industrial Park and construction would begin soon. The industrial park is a $5 million investment in the town, Williams said. The announcement was made in September at the annual Fish and Farm Festival. 

ECU Health closes Aurora medical clinic 

In January, ECU Health closed a family medicine clinic in Aurora. It was the only medical facility in the town. The closure came on the heels of ECU Health’s announcement of losing $46 million last year. In addition to Aurora, ECU Health closed four other health clinics in Eastern North Carolina. 

Sheriff announces plan to place SROs back in schools 

In October, Beaufort County Sheriff Scott Hammonds announced his plan to place school resource officers from the deputies office back into public schools. The last time public schools had resource officers was in 2018 before previous Sheriff Ernie Coleman pulled officers out, citing differences between his office and the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners. From 2018 to spring of 2024 schools have been protected by Allied Universal. 

Washington man sentenced for threats of mass violence 

Allen Hardison III, of Washington was convicted and sentenced in August 2023 to 19 months active confinement following his arrest in January 2022 where investigators determined he used prepaid wireless phones to make numerous threats to schools and government establishments throughout Eastern North Carolina. An investigation revealed he took extra measures to conceal his involvement in the crimes. He created false texts and emails and created accounts for the phones used to commit bomb threats in the names of other people, and planted evidence in an attempt to frame other people. 

BCS bus driver communicates threats 

In April, Joshua Michael Boyd, 39, of Washington was charged with one felony count of Communicating a Threat of Mass Violence on Educational Property. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a threat against Beaufort County Schools Transportation Department employees. The threat was made to a third party via text message. No threats were made to students or school campuses. 

Two boaters die in fatal accident 

59-year-old Charles Bailey and his wife 58-year-old Suzanne Bailey, of Bath died in a fatal boating accident on November 4 while on their way home from having dinner in Washington 

Their boat, a 2022 34-ft. Fountain powerboat, was found crashed in a wooded shoreline near Dinah’s Landing on Nov. 5. Investigators reported speed as a contributing factor in the accident. 

New police chief announced, new police station opens 

Phil Rollinson was named the City of Washington’s new police chief in April. Rollinson previously served as Investigations Captain for the Washington Police Department for three-and-a-half years.  On May 6, the Washington Police Department held a ribbon cutting for their new $8 million, 17,000 sq. ft. facility in downtown Washington. They were using a temporary facility on Highway 264 after their previous facility on Third Street was damaged by flooding in 2018 during Hurricane Florence. 

Washington-Warren Airport receives $13 million

Washington-Warren Airport was allocated $13 million in a state budget passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in September. The airport will receive the money at the beginning of 2024. According to the airport’s director, Earl Malpass, the one-time allocation will be used for infrastructure improvements, construction of a state of the art data center and a proposed industrial park at the airport. 

Bug House Park has grand re-opening 

On July 15, a grand re-opening was held for Bug House Park after it underwent a major renovation that included historic markers and informative signage about the historic museum, the Bug House Laboratory, that existed in Washington from 1923 to 1945. Bug House Park has newly poured pickleball courts, tennis courts and new playground equipment made to look like cartoon bugs