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Hubbard speaks in court, deemed capable to proceed

JEFFERSON — In Ashe County Superior Court Monday, Feb. 10, Jessie R. Hubbard was deemed capable to proceed in his case by Judge Eric Morgan. This comes nearly eight months after he was initially deemed incapable to stand trial by doctors from Central Regional Hospital, a state-run psychiatric hospital in Butner.

Hubbard, 61, of Crumpler, is charged with the Aug. 19, 2018, murder of Diane Goss, and four counts of possession of a firearm by a felon. Hubbard physically appeared in the courtroom for the first time since his Aug. 27, 2019, date.

Assistant District Attorney Lee Bollinger presented the court with a request to determine Hubbard’s capacity to proceed. Bollinger pointed to a report dated Jan. 21, from forensic psychiatrist Bruce R. Berger, deeming Hubbard capable. Morgan decided to send the court into recess, allowing him time to look over exhibit A, which included the report.

After reconvening, Morgan wanted to question Hubbard’s attorney, Jak Reeves. Morgan asked Reeves about recent conversations with Hubbard, whether or not he felt Hubbard was capable and Hubbard’s mental faculties. Reeves said he felt Hubbard was coherent, understanding and capable to proceed in the trial.

Reeves also noted Hubbard was taking “a substantial amount of medications for various ailments.” He added Hubbard is worried he is not taking the proper amount of some, but Reeves said he would look into it.

Morgan then turned to Hubbard, wishing to evaluate his capabilities for himself. Morgan made sure Hubbard could hear and understand him, with Hubbard noting he would let Morgan know if there were any issues. Morgan also asked Hubbard if he knew what he was charged with.

“I’m pretty sure, I think I do,” Hubbard said. “I’m not sure if I understand the meanings of it all, but I understand the best I can.”

Hubbard was also asked about the work of Reeves, the district attorney, judges and juries. Hubbard indicated he understood, and Reeves noted Hubbard was not the most knowledgeable as to the inner workings of the court, but got the gist of it all.

Morgan said that based on the totality of information submitted via documentation and their interaction, Hubbard was deemed capable to proceed in his trial. Morgan also said he would be submitting a written order, which would be sealed alongside Berger’s report.

Bollinger then asked that the case be continued to Monday, May 18. Reeves had no objection, but added that in the meantime, he may reach out to the DA’s office.

Hubbard was deemed incapable to stand trial June 14, 2019, by doctors from Central Regional Hospital, a state-run psychiatric hospital in Butner, which was revealed by Reeves at Hubbard’s Aug. 27, 2019, court date.

At a later court date, Sept. 23, 2019, it was revealed Hubbard had been taken from the Ashe County Detention Center to Raleigh for safekeeping, which is done to prisoners as a way to keep either them or those around them from harm, authorities said. Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell said at the time the transport was related to the medications Hubbard was taking.

The Hon. Michael Duncan, who presided over the Aug. 27, Sept. 23 and Nov. 12, 2019, court dates, ordered in September that Hubbard should be taken from Raleigh to Broughton Hospital in Morganton, where he would receive treatment and it would be determined if he is capable to stand trial in the future. There, he was seen by Berger.

Ashe Post & Times will continue to provide updates for this case as they develop.

Schools resume instruction after closing due to flu outbreak, AMH under visitor restrictions

Ashe County Schools students and staff resumed instruction on Feb. 10 after a deep cleaning of the facilities was conducted during the weekend due to a spike in influenza in the community.

That spike has been significant, said Tonya Greer, administrative assistant at Ashe County Schools, with schools reporting dozens of absences on the parts of both students and staff.

Ashe Memorial Hospital has also put visitor restrictions into place to prevent the spread of the flu. The hospital asks that those who are experiencing flu-like symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, rashes, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting refrain from visiting patients and the facilities.

Melissa Lewis, director of Community Outreach at AMH confirmed that there have been no flu deaths.

“It’s hit all ages, it’s not discriminating by age, kids came first it seemed like and then the older ages started about that time and now it is affecting the middle ages since everybody else has been infected,” Lewis said.

Early voting opens Feb. 13

ASHE COUNTY — Polls open Feb. 13-29, with one-stop early voting for the 2020 elections opening up. Voter registration ended Feb. 7.

Voters in Ashe can go to the Ashe County Courthouse’s Board of Elections office to vote, according to Ashe County BOE Director John Shepherd.

In Ashe, Paula Perry, Jonathan Jordan, Jason Krider, Wayne Osborne, Beth Sorrell, William Sands, Jerry Powers, Jim Cain Jr. and Russell Killen are up for three seats on the Ashe County Board of Commissioners. Republicans Perry, Jordan, Krider, Osborne, Sands and Powers will go through a primary vote, which will trim their side of the field to three.

According to the North Carolina BOE, prospective voters must be a U.S. citizen, have been a resident of North Carolina, the county and precinct for 30 days before the election, be at least 18-years-old and not be serving a sentence for a felony conviction. Seventeen-year-olds may register and vote in a primary election if they will be 18 at the time of the general election.

The 2020 North Carolina primaries are semi-closed, meaning that the state’s political parties can limit who can participate outside of their party’s own members. According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, unaffiliated voters have a choice to vote in North Carolina’s Republican, Democratic or Libertarian primaries, but not for the Green or Constitutional parties, as decided by each party’s state leadership.

In the 2020 primaries, a previously enacted “voter ID” law will not be in effect. A state law that would have required voters to show photo identification in order to receive a ballot was blocked by a judge in late 2019. The case is currently ongoing.

The 2020 N.C. Primary takes place on Tuesday, March 3.

Ashe Post & Times will continue to provide coverage as the election unfolds.

Thomas Sherill contributed reporting to this story.

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Celebrating a 'Champion of Ashe County'

A long-time Ashe County teacher and community advocate, Maude Evelyn (McNeil) Calhoun, died on Feb. 2, at Ashe Assisted Living and Memory Care.

Calhoun was born Nov. 30, 1934, in Ashe County to the late Smith and Bessie Turner McNeil. In addition to her parents she was also preceded in death by her husband, Bernard Calhoun and sister-in-law Jeannie McNeil.

She is survived by, her son, Bob Calhoun, and wife, Laura, of Lansing, her daughter, Brenda Day and husband, Bobby Joe of Shelby, her brother, Fred McNeil of Crumpler, her sister, Mary Dollar and husband, Joe, of Lansing, sister–in-law and caregiver, Imogene Ham, seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, several nieces and nephews

Calhoun was a member of Phoenix Baptist Church where she taught Sunday school for 66 years and was a 4-H leader for several years. She loved crafts, flowers, traveling, working in her yard and bird watching.

Calhoun’s legacy will live on as she is remembered for her impact on the children of Ashe County as a teacher, her energetic personality and her passion for the local arts community.

During the Ashe County Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Feb. 3, Chairman Todd McNeill mentioned the passing of Calhoun, his aunt, during the commissioner comments.

At that time, he also mentioned Calhoun’s great involvement in the community.

“I’m not mentioning her in the comments because it’s my aunt, but rather because she was a champion of Ashe County for a lot of years. And it’s entirely likely, if not certain, if not for her efforts that the Ashe County Civic Center and a whole lot of other things would not have come,” Chairman McNeill said. “So aside from being my aunt, Ashe County lost one of our very best yesterday.”

Calhoun’s son, Bob, shared his memories of his mother and commended her for her persistance. He also described how his father, Bernard, put all of the seats in and was responsible for all of the painting and landscaping work at the Civic Center.

“I don’t think anybody realized what an asset it would be to the community, but mom had that vision years ago and that’s why she pushed so hard to get it done,” Bob Calhoun said.

Jane Lonon, who served as executive director of the Ashe County Arts Council for 31 years, shared her memories of Calhoun’s personality and passion.

“Maude Calhoun was a bulldog when it came to her passionate desire to build the Ashe Civic Center. She had a vision and she poured her heart and soul into bringing it to fruition,” Lonon said. “Ashe County is so fortunate to have a facility the caliber of our Civic Center; it was a long time coming and Maude was at the foundation of making it happen. Ashe County was fortunate to have had Maude Calhoun.”

She fondly remembers being in the presence of Calhoun, who always had a smile on her face and an infectious laugh.

“I enjoyed being around Maude and Bernard. He was always at her side and their partnership was such an inspiration,” Lonon said.

Eva Ingle has also contributed much of her life to service. Some local organizations which Ingle has been involved in are the boards of the National Committee for the New River, the Paul and Florence Thomas Memorial Art School and the Ashe Civic Center.

Ingle has also played a large role in organizing the Blue Ridge Brutal Bike Race.

In the late 1990s, Ingle worked with Calhoun because she served on the board for the Civic Center.

A group of people in the 1980s wanted a theater in the county to have Broadway shows and they wanted a small space to hold 300 seats. According to Ingle, something happened where the group had raised money and then had run out of funds.

During this time, Calhoun was on the Civic Center’s committee and a new group formed and she was put in charge of fundraising.

Ingle said that Calhoun owned the new position and she held a Christmas holiday house tour and a Benny Parsons golf tournament, where golfers could come and play golf with Parsons.

Ingle recalls Calhoun asking everybody she could for money because she was determined to get the Civic Center up and running.

According to Ingle, Calhoun was always on the lookout for fundraising opportunities, and during this time she met a man from Florida. He suggested hosting a charity bike race, which would be timed but would have no winners or prizes.

Calhoun took his advice and in August 1990 she set out to start what is now known as the Blue Ridge Brutal.

“She started this on her own, not being a biker or knowing anything about bikes. And she enlisted the help of Dr. Elam Kurtz,” Ingle said.

Kurtz was a physician and avid biker who was responsible for designing the first 100 mile course which began in Glendale Springs, followed the Blue Ridge Parkway into Virginia, and returned on Highway 16, including the old steel bridge on Highway 16, then back to Glendale Springs.

Ingle also wrote a story in 2010 about the history of the Blue Ridge Brutal to commemorate its 20th anniversary. The story titled “Early Days of the Blue Ridge Brutal Bike Ride” gives a detailed the efforts of Calhoun and Kurtz.

In the early 2000s, Calhoun resigned from her position at the Civic Center but did not retire. Instead she became a substitute teacher at the local elementary schools and the middle school.

“Her spirit, oh my goodness, it was just great. And another thing I loved about Maude is she always looked wonderful. She dressed beautifully, she always had her hair done, she always had on matching jewelry. I mean she looked great,” Ingle said in her recollections of Calhoun.

According to the news story written by Ingle, some people refer to the Ashe Civic Center as “The house that Maude built.”

The LED sign, which is used to announce shows and is located near the top of the building and faces Hwy. 221 featured a special message.

The message read “Thank You Maude 1934-2020.”