09.13.2018 • Thursday • M 2
sT. LOuIs POsT-dIsPaTCh • A7
Storm’s uncertain track sows fear FLORENCE • FROM A1
The National Hurricane Center’s best guess was that Florence would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then push its rainy way westward with a potential for catastrophic inland ﬂooding. Florence’s winds in the afternoon were down to 120 mph from a high of 140 mph, and the Category 4 storm fell Wednesday night to a Category 2, with a further weakening expected as the storm nears the coast. Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency invoked a former boxing champion to warn residents that it would bring “a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.” Tropical storm-force winds extended 195 miles from Florence’s center, and hurricane-force winds reached out 70 miles. The National Weather Service said 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches. As of 5 p.m., the storm was centered 385 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C., moving northwest at 16 mph. The hurricane center said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore. As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. Airlines had canceled nearly 1,000 flights. Home Depot and Lowe’s activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm. Duke Energy, the nation’s No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm’s aftermath. Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave. “In 12 or 18 hours, they may be saying different things all over again,” he said. Computer models of exactly what the storm might do varied, adding to the uncertainty. In contrast to the hurricane center’s official projection, a highly regarded European model had the storm turning southward off the North Carolina coast and coming ashore near the Georgia-South Carolina line. Reacting to the possibility of a more southerly track, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not imme-
BY KIM BELL AND DENISE HOLLINSHED st. Louis Post-dispatch
ST. LOUIS COUNTY • A woman once
Clark Williamson (left), exhibit designer, and Mark Lewis, conservator, carry the painting “Emma at the Piano” by George Wesley Bellows at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday. As Hurricane Florence approaches, staff members pulled priceless paintings off the walls near windows and skylights.
diately order any evacuations. The shift in the projected track spread concern to areas that once thought they were relatively safe. In South Carolina, close to the Georgia line, Beaufort County emergency chief Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst. In Virginia, where about 245,000 residents were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, officials urged people to remain away from home despite forecast changes showing Florence’s path largely missing the state. Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, N.C., David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter’s one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte. Unsure of what they might ﬁnd when they return home, the couple went shopping for a recreational vehicle. “We’re just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time,” David Garrigus said. Melody Rawson evacuated her firstﬂoor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird. “We hope to have something left when we get home,” she said. Forecasters worried the storm’s damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.
The trend is “exceptionally bad news,” said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it “smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge.” With South Carolina’s beach towns more in the bull’s-eye because of the shifting forecast, Ohio vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand. Most other beachgoers were long gone. “It’s been really nice,” Nicole Roland said. “Also, a little creepy. You feel like you should have already left.”
OLIVIA HITS HAWAII
A gradually weakening tropical storm hit Hawaii on Wednesday, soaking a part of Maui and sending gusts of wind that toppled trees and canceled ﬂights at a number of airports in the state. Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa urged residents and visitors to stay off the road until the Tropical Storm Olivia passed, but he was hopeful the effects of the storm on his county would be limited. “I’m not seeing any really large areas of damage, no homes destroyed or ﬂooded to any kind of extreme measures as we did in previous storms,” Arakawa said. Reuters contributed to this report.
Nearly $10 million diverted from FEMA to ICE WASHINGTON POST
The administration of President Donald Trump appears to have diverted nearly $10 million in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The reallocation of public money is documented in a “Transfer and Reprogramming” notiﬁcation prepared this ﬁscal year by the Department of Homeland Security, the parent department of ICE. It was made public by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolinas.
LAW & ORDER ST. LOUIS > Man is killed during carjacking • A man was killed in a neighborhood near Carondelet Park during a carjacking Tuesday night, police say. Officers investigating reports of a shooting in an alley behind the 5400 block of Idaho Avenue shortly after 10:15 p.m. found the body of Michael Puckett, 56. He had been shot multiple times, police said. The victim was pulling into a garage when he was shot, according to a police source. He lived on the block, police said. Officers found the man’s car, a 2017 Hyundai Tucson, unoccupied in the east alley of the 1800 block of North 22nd Street, about six miles to the north. Authorities asked anyone with information to contact CrimeStoppers at 866-371-8477. Tipsters can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward. TROY, MO. > Woman accused of stealing dying daughter’s painkillers • A woman stole pain medications she was supposed to give to her terminally ill daughter, police say. Carol Virginia Ballweg, 46, was charged Wednesday in Lincoln County with four counts of stealing a controlled substance and two counts of abuse of an elderly, disabled or vulnerable person, according to Troy Ballweg police. Police were called Monday to Troy Family Practice by medical staff who were concerned that a 20-year-old female patient in hospice care wasn’t being given her prescribed pain medications by her primary caregiver, her mother. The patient, identified by police as C.M., is terminally ill and had been prescribed fentanyl and oxycodone to treat pain, police said. Medical staff also gave police photos showing C.M. had developed bed sores. Medics had became concerned that C.M. wasn’t getting her medications after Ballweg repeatedly requested prescription refills ahead of schedule, police said. A drug test of C.M.’s urine last week showed no signs of the prescribed medication in her system, police said.
Once feared missing, woman now charged in death of sister she lived with
The 39-page budget document shows that DHS requested that about $9.8 million going toward FEMA efforts such as “Preparedness and Protection” and “Response and Recovery” be funneled instead into ICE coffers, specifically underwriting “Detention Beds” and the agency’s “Transportation and Removal Program.” The U.S. Secret Service was also a beneﬁciary of the reallocation. “This is a scandal,” Merkley said in an emailed statement to the Washington Post. “At the start of hurricane season — when American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA’s inadequate recovery
efforts — the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA. And for what? To implement their profoundly misguided ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. It wasn’t enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents — the administration chose to partly pay for this horriﬁc program by taking away from the ability to respond to damage from this year’s upcoming and potentially devastating hurricane season.” DHS did not dispute the authenticity of the document in a statement on Twitter. The department acknowledged that funds had been redirected but said the transfer did not jeopardize relief efforts.
Medical staff stopped refilling her prescriptions afterward. Medical staff told responding officers Monday that they reported their concerns to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, police said. Officers confirmed the investigation with the officials. Officers searched Ballweg’s home Tuesday, during which she admitted to having an addiction to opioids and using her daughter’s oxycodone medication, police said. Ballweg was being held Wednesday at Lincoln County Jail with bail set at $100,000, with the condition that she cannot contact her daughter if she is released.
State Police Sgt. Jamie Brunnworth said only that the homicides stemmed from a “domestic dispute.” Gowin, 28, is being held in the Greene County Jail with a $2.5 million bail. The village of Rockbridge, with fewer than 200 residents, is about 45 miles north of St. Louis.
JEFFERSON CITY > State worker gets payout for harassment • A tax auditor at the Missouri Department of Revenue has won a $475,000 payout from the state after alleging her co-workers harassed and discriminated against her. Kimberly Russell, who was working in the agency’s Kansas City field compliance bureau at the time, alleged in 2014 that she was retaliated against by her supervisor after she complained about a co-worker’s harassment. She brought the suit in 2016. Among the allegations were negative job reviews, the denial of a higher paying position and not being given a disabled parking space near her office. Russell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012, court records note. State payroll records show Russell remains with the agency. She earned $37,000 in 2017. LITCHFIELD, ILL. > Suspect charged in deaths of uncles • A man has been charged with murder in the stabbing deaths of his uncles in tiny Rockbridge, Ill. The Illinois State Police say Adam Gowin has been charged with two counts of murder for the deaths of Billy Plummer, 54, and Ronald Plummer, 55, on Sunday. The brothers were killed in the 500 block of State Road. The brothers lived near each other in Rockbridge and were found dead in Ronald Plummer’s home. The victims are brothers of Gowin’s father, police said. Authorities have not revealed a motive in the case. Illinois Gowin
HAZELWOOD > Student wounded in shooting near school • A shooting near Hazelwood Central High School on Wednesday left a student with a graze wound, officials said. The student was a senior at the school. He was taken to a hospital for treatment, police said. Police responded to reports of a shooting in a neighborhood near the school on New Halls Ferry Road just after school let out Wednesday afternoon about 2:40 p.m. Police emphasized that no part of the incident took place on school grounds and the scene was in the 800 block of Greenway Manor Drive at a nearby apartment complex. A home in the 3100 block of Sabrina Lane was damaged by a “projectile,” police said. Police say they believe the individuals involved knew each other. No arrests have yet been made. Police ask anyone with information about the incident to call 636-529-8210. To remain anonymous, call 866-371-8477. ST. LOUIS > Two shot near transit station • Two people were wounded Wednesday night in a shooting near the bus stop at the Delmar Loop transit station, police said. The shooting was reported just after 7:30 p.m. The victims were both conscious and breathing when officers arrived, police said. Police on scene did not give any other details about the injuries or the circumstances Wednesday night. Trisha Martinez said she was sitting at the Metro bus stop with her headphones on when the shooting started. “I saw people running and laying on the ground, so I laid on the ground,” Martinez said. “The shooting kept going and going ... the lady one bench over got shot in the leg.” Martinez said that while she didn’t see who was shooting, she saw police put handcuffs on a man who had been at the bus stop.
considered missing and possibly in danger after police found her sister dead in North County was charged Wednesday with murder. Sylvia Brown, 57, faces ﬁrst-degree murder and armed criminal action charges in the death of her sister, Brenda Brown, 59. Sylvia Brown shot and killed her sister on Sylvia Brown Sept. 5 at the home the sisters shared in the 2500 block of Dukeland Drive, police say. Her body was discovered by officers ﬁve days later, when someone called police and asked them to check on her. Officers went to the home and found Brenda Brown dead with gunshot wounds to the arm and neck. Police initially said only that her death was suspicious and she had “apparent physical injuries.” That night, police issued an “endangered person advisory” for Sylvia Brown, saying she hadn’t been seen since Saturday and that there was concern she could be the victim of a crime. They also said she has medical conditions and didn’t appear to have her medicine with her. Police said she rarely left her home without an escort, but did not say why. Police canceled the alert on Tuesday, saying that detectives had been in contact with her and they no longer considered her endangered. Sylvia Brown told police she had planned her sister’s death “for some time” because she was in ﬁnancial debt and did not want her sister to ﬁnd out, court documents say. The two sisters lived together in the home for more than 20 years, said Leon Hamilton, who has lived across the street since 1969. “They were quiet people,” said Hamilton, 76. “You would only see them coming and going. People rarely went to that house.” Sylvia Brown had worked at a St. Louis area post office until an illness caused her to go at least partially blind, Hamilton said. Brenda Brown, who worked at Centene, took care of her after that. “She used to drive her around everywhere,” Hamilton said. The last time Hamilton saw either sister was Saturday, he said. He saw Sylvia Brown come out of the house “dressed up, looking nice,” wearing a wig and nice clothing, he said. She grabbed a trash can from the front and took it to the back of the house. Then, she sat in a chair by the front door, Hamilton said. He thought she was waiting on someone to pick her up. On Monday, one of Brenda Brown’s co-workers showed up at Hamilton’s door and asked him if he knew if the Browns were home, he said. She told him she came by to check on Brenda Brown because she hadn’t shown up to work since Tuesday. The coworker told Hamilton that she found the Browns’ front door open but that no one answered when she knocked, he said. She asked if she should just go inside, he said. He told her: “No, call the police.” The two walked over to the home as they waited for police. “The door was open and you could smell the stench from her body coming out the door,” Hamilton said. Police told the two that Brenda Brown was found face-down on the kitchen floor. Detectives took footage from Hamilton’s security cameras to review. Hamilton was shocked to learn Wednesday that police suspected Sylvia Brown killed her sister, he said. He never saw any signs of conﬂict at the Browns’ home, he said. “When I saw her (Sylvia Brown) on Saturday, and she came out, she acted like there was nothing going on,” he said. “She was in that house with her sister’s dead body and she was walking around that body. “I just can’t understand it.” Hamilton’s brother Lawrence, 77, said he used to see the sisters across the street when he would visit. “To kill your own ﬂesh and blood, and to leave them there to rot, it’s just awful,” he said. He looked at his brother: “You wouldn’t do me like that would you?” Uber driver William Guerin Sr., 70, of Florissant was the person Hamilton saw Sylvia Brown waiting for, Guerin said. But he said he picked her up on Friday, not Saturday, and took her to the casino. He remembered the trip after he saw her photo on TV Wednesday. “Whoa, wait a minute,” he recalled saying and asking his wife to rewind the DVR. “That’s the woman I took to the Casino Queen.” Uber keeps records of every trip, Guerin said. He found Sylvia Brown’s address and other details of the trip on his phone. Sylvia Brown fell asleep on the drive to the casino, Guerin said. She told him she had been “up all night” gambling. Guerin asked her if she had had any luck, he said.“Not lately,” she told him. Guerin called police after seeing Sylvia Brown on the news. “I can’t hardly get over this,” he said. “Knowing that woman was in there dead the whole time, that blew me away.”