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THE REGISTER-HERALD Saturday, November 16, 2013

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Case continues to build in man’s death Greene sentenced to By Jessica Farrish REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

Evidence in a case against a father and son suspected of killing a coworker in April 2011 has been sent to the state crime lab in Charleston. West Virginia State Police Sgt. R.A. Maddy of the Jesse detachment said police were still following leads Friday and did not rule out the possibility that more suspects may be arrested. Oscar Combs Jr., 21, of Herndon, was charged Tuesday evening with first-degree murder in the death of James “Bo” Butler, of HillTop, who disappeared on April 5, 2011, while on his way to work. Butler, 55, was reported missing after he failed to report for work. Searchers in Mercer County checked the Lashmeet area, part of the route Butler usually

took to work, for clues. Butler’s body was found three weeks later in a remote part of Wyoming County. Combs’ father, Oscar “Ross” Combs Sr. of Bud Mountain, was arrested Monday on first-degree murder charges. Maddy said Friday that the Combses knew Butler’s schedule because the three men worked together, but they had met with Butler prior to the work day on April 5 in order to rob him. “The motive for the killing was robbery,” said Maddy. “The motive appears to be robbery, period.” Maddy said that early reports that Butler was shot during the commission of the robbery are not accurate. He added that the suspects wanted to steal Butler’s money, and that they believed he had a

significant amount at the time of the murder. The murder occurred in Mercer County, where the younger Combs appeared at a preliminary hearing Friday, said Maddy. Suspects took Butler’s body several miles into Wyoming County to dispose of it, police speculated. When Butler didn’t come to work, his employer, Dan Farley, called his family. “He was a very reliable employee,” said Maddy. “His boss said he was just super reliable and never missed work, and that’s one of the first indicators that he was missing.” Butler’s children and female partner reported to State Police in Summers County that he was missing. Maddy said other leads are being followed and that evidence is be-

ing examined. Maddy said the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office has helped him and the lead investigator, Cpl. A.S. Reed, with the investigation and arrests of the Combses. He declined to say how investigators were able to piece together the evidence to make an arrest after two years. “We actually had new information come in, and it’s brand new, completely fresh,” he said. “We were able to follow up on several different leads, and it just literally kept progressing with each lead we would run down, which eventually ended up giving us enough for arrest warrants for both of the individuals.” Some evidence was uncovered on the Combs property during a warranted search, Maddy said.

probation for fraud By Wendy Holdren REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

Richard Donald Greene, 27, was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for fraud with an access device, but that sentence was suspended while he serves two years probation. Greene pleaded guilty Sept. 5 to stealing a credit card from a West Virginia State Police dispatcher and making personal purchases. Raleigh County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tom Truman said Greene’s face was not visible at a City Bank ATM, but his clothes and a necklace were. Greene was wearing the same clothes and necklace when he was arrested and confessed to the crime, Truman said.

Public defender Benjamin Hatfield said that Greene was not a convicted felon and he is at an age where he still has a chance to turn his life around. Hatfield asked Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge Burnside to consider probation, as the crime was nonviolent. “For the victim’s part, I highly apologize,” Greene said to the court. “I would like to compensate as much as possible. I don’t know if I can ever fix the problem, but I want to make it as good as I can.” Greene also asked Burnside to grant him probation so he could spend time with his three children. Burnside granted the motion for probation and ordered Greene to pay restitution to the victim.

Racist serial killer facing execution in Missouri Mount Hope mayor ST. LOUIS (AP) — No one knows exactly how many atrocities Joseph Paul Franklin committed as he crossed the country more than three decades ago, fueled by hatred of blacks and Jews. Along the way he bombed a synagogue, robbed banks, shot and wounded a porn icon — and killed, by his own account, nearly two dozen people. Even among the hardcore criminals on Missouri’s death row, Franklin is perhaps the most notorious, a cunning killer who picked out victims at random, using marksman skills to murder and maim from a hidden spot in a vacant building, a grassy field and a highway overpass. “All of his acts were

kind of cowardly,” said St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, whose prosecution sent Franklin to death row. “He just hid in the weeds and shot people.” Franklin, 63, is scheduled to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, the first execution in nearly three years in Missouri and the first in the state to use a single drug, pentobarbital. His attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said he is a paranoid schizophrenic who was badly abused as a child. She has asked federal and state courts and Gov. Jay Nixon to intervene. So far, all have declined. Franklin did not respond to interview requests from the AP, but has told media outlets

that he now regrets his crimes after getting to know black inmates in prison. “He’s done a complete 180 as far as his views,” Herndon said. “He believes he should be kept alive so he could help other people overcome their racist views.” Franklin, born in Mobile, Ala., in 1950, was influenced after reading a stolen copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” as a child. By his 20s he was an avowed white supremacist and a smalltime criminal drifting across America. It wasn’t long before the crimes took a deadly turn. He bombed a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn., in July 1977. A Sabbath service let out just before

the bomb exploded, and no one was hurt. The first of Franklin’s known victims were Alphonse Manning, a black high school janitor, and Toni Schwenn, Manning’s white girlfriend, killed in Madison, Wis., during a 1977 road rage encounter with Franklin. Other victims were more random. He was convicted of killing two black cousins, ages 13 and 14, in 1980 in Cincinnati, shooting from a highway overpass as the boys walked to a convenience store. He reportedly killed three female hitchhikers — one in Wisconsin, two in West Virginia. Herndon said no one really knows how many crimes Franklin has committed.

featured actor in movie By Cody Neff REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

‘Tis nearly the season and a local mayor is just one of those getting into the spirit. Mount Hope Mayor Michael Martin is a featured actor in “A Christmas Tree Miracle,” a Christmas family film that premieres today at 5 p.m. at the Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton. There will be a special Q&A session after the screening. According to a flier for the event, “A Christmas Tree Miracle” follows the George family, a family that lives a high-class life that

catches up to them when they continue to live above their means. Martin The family is taken in by an eccentric Christmas tree farmer and is shown that miracles can come true. The film also stars Princeton native Kevin Sizemore. Tickets are available by calling 304-425-5128 or visiting www.chuckmathenacenter.org and looking under “upcoming events.”


RALEIGH RELAY FOR LIFE KICKS OFF

DESPITE SURGE, MANY DON’T SEE STOCK BUBBLE

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VETERAN FOOTBALL COACH EDDIE SOUK RETIRES SPORTS | Page 1B

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Wyoming father, son denied bond in 2011 murder By Jessica Farrish REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

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Corporal Jamie Blume is a K-9 officer with Beckley Police Department. He and his partner, Ciro, a two-year-old Slovak German Shepherd, are part of the department’s narcotics unit.

K-9 makes for rewarding year By Brandi Underwood REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

With one year with his new partner in the books, Cpl. Jamie Bloom of the Beckley Police Department said that it’s been his most rewarding year in his 12-year law enforcement career thus far. He gives the credit to his sidekick and K9 companion Ciro, a two-year-old full-blooded German shepherd that hits the streets with him each night in the patrol car. Tasked as part of the department’s narcotics unit, Bloom explained that Ciro hails from Eastern Europe — Slovakia, to be specific — and each of his commands are given in the Czech language. Ciro is certified on both the national and state level by the North American Police Work Dog Association and the West Virginia Police Canine Association, respectively. Beyond the usual drug dog skills of sniffing out marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, Ciro is also trained in tracking and suspect apprehension. See K-9, 10A

Ciro indicates the presence of drugs in front of an evidence locker at police headquarters. Ciro is trained as a passive alert dog. When he detects drugs, he indicates the presence by sitting down and staring at the location rather than aggressively alerting his handler by scratching or barking.

Three senior Concord football players arrested in alleged home invasion robbery By Bill Archer FOR THE REGISTER-HERALD

ATHENS — Three Concord University football players, all seniors and two of them starters, were arrested Friday evening on charges related to a home invasion robbery that occurred Nov. 11 in Athens, police said. Russell Bailey Jr., 22, of Beckley; Maricco Sanders and Riyahd Richardson, both 22, and both of South Carolina, were arrested by Mercer County sheriff’s deputies, West Virginia State Police and Concord University police. The three suspects were

housed Friday night in the Bluefield city jail, according to Deputy H.L. Walters of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department. “We responded to a call Monday night concerning a home invasion robbery in Athens,” Walters said. “A fight ensued at the residence and the victims had to be hospitalized. A firearm was present in the residence, but it was not discharged during the fight. The victims reported that money and a gun were taken from the residence.” Walters said three law enforcement agencies worked together on the investigation.

“The suspects knew the victims,” Walters said. “The victims are out of the hospital. We were able to find them through their football photographs.” All three suspects were arrested on malicious wounding, petit larceny and conspiracy charges. The suspects were arraigned Saturday, but Walters was uncertain as to their postarraignment disposition. “We recovered the firearm,” she said. “The three individuals we arrested are the only suspects, but the case remains under investigation.” Bill Archer is a reporter for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

WEATHER

Volume 134 Number 153

Mostly sunny High 40. Low 26. Details, Page 10A

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PRINCETON — Mercer County Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope denied bond Monday for a father and son facing first-degree murder charges in the 2011 death of a Summers County man. Oscar Combs Sr., 44, of Bud, and Oscar Combs Jr., 21, of Herndon, appeared in separate bond hearings. Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash said the state objected to bond in both cases due to the seriousness of the charge, and the possibility of both men being a flight risk. James “Bo” Butler, 55, was shot execution-style in the back of his head, according to the complaint, filed by West Virginia State Police Cpl. A.S. Reed of the Hinton detachment. His body was discovered two or three weeks later in Wyoming County. Police arrested the father and son last week in connection with Butler’s death. In the complaint, Reed said that Butler’s slaying appeared to have been planned. On the morning of April 4, 2011, Combs Sr. expected

Combs Sr.

Combs Jr.

Butler to have money since he had recently received a paycheck, Reed stated. The elder Combs and his son decided to rob Butler, according to the complaint, which also alleged that Combs Jr. told his father that he would kill Butler. Prior to the shooting, Combs Sr. contacted Butler on the pretense that he had “clamps” that Butler needed, the complaint said. The Combs men met Butler along W.Va. 10 on Herndon Mountain Road in Mercer County so that Butler could pick up the clamps. According to the complaint, Combs Sr. told police that he met with Butler and took the clamps from his own truck, placing them in Butler’s vehicle. See MURDER, 10A

Injured miner seeks $4 million in lawsuit against ICG, co-worker By Wendy Holdren REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

A Raleigh County miner is seeking more than $4 million in damages for injuries he allegedly sustained in April while working at International Coal Group’s Beckley Pocahontas mine. James Gregory Davis, 42, of Eccles, filed suit Nov. 1 in Raleigh County Circuit Court, naming ICG Coal Group LLC, Arch Coal Inc. (the parent company of ICG Beckley) and Raleigh County resident George Taylor as defendants. According to the complaint, Davis, a mine electrician, was standing beside a two-person, rubber-tired man trip buggy when Taylor pulled the throttle cable with a pair of channel locks, which caused the buggy to energize. Davis claims the buggy ran over him, pinned him to the mine rib, injuring his leg. A day shift safety compliance officer had “tagged out” the buggy before the incident, according to the suit, and it

was taken out of service and unavailable to anyone except a “qualified person” to perform repairs. The suit claims that Taylor was not qualified to use the buggy. Davis was taken to a Beckley hospital, where he remained for a week to undergo fibula and tibia surgery, which involved multiple procedures. The suit claims Davis’ left leg “is no longer useful for any work-related purpose” and he must have additional surgeries and physical therapy in the future. Davis is claiming the defendants are liable for his injuries because they failed to ensure a safe working environment. The suit said Davis has been a coal miner for the past 10 years and a mine electrician for the past four. Aside from electrical training and on-the-job mine training, the complaint states that Davis has no other work-related training. See MINER, 10A

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THE REGISTER-HERALD Tuesday, November 19, 2013

• SIX-DAY FORECAST

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• W.VA. FORECAST

• NATIONAL FORECAST

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• SEVERE WEATHER, ROAD CONDITIONS To report severe weather, call the National Weather Service toll-free at 877-633-6772 Current weather and alerts on-line: www.WVVA.com West Virginia road conditions www.transportation.wv.gov or 877-WVA-ROAD

• ALMANAC Yesterday’s high Yesterday’s low Record high Record low

Precipitation (period ending 6 p.m. yesterday) 55° 45° 76° in 1921 10° in 1959

Last 24 hours

For month

For year

inches

inches

inches

0.05

1.37

Sunrise today Sunset today

34.57

7:09 a.m. 5:10 p.m.

• LAKES, STREAMS, FISHING • For statewide fishing reports on-line, visit: www.wvdnr.gov/fishing/ weekly_fishreport.shtm • For the latest river and stream reports, which are updated at 8 a.m. each day

by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, phone the following numbers: Bluestone Lake

304-466-0156

Lake, New River, Greenbrier River information

Summersville Lake

304-872-5809

R.D. Bailey Lake

304-664-9587

Lake, Meadow River information Lake information

LOTTERY

Daily 3: 0-3-7 Cash 25: 04-05-07-08-17-19

Daily 4: 1-3-5-4 Mega Millions: Est.: $165 million

Hot Lotto: Est.: $1.5 million

Powerball: Est.: $40 million

N1SUD414

MURDER Continued from 1A As Combs Sr. engaged Butler in conversation, the complaint stated that Combs Jr. sneaked up on Butler from behind and shot him in the back of the head, instantly killing him. Butler’s supervisor

K-9 Continued from 1A A little more than a year ago, Blume traveled to Pennsylvania to complete a two-month-long K-9 program at nationally-renowned Shallow Creek Kennels. Until that point, he had no experience working as a K9 officer, but jumped at the opportunity when it arose. “The staff there did several months of work with him, working on imprinting and creating the connection between his mind and nose to locate drugs,” Blume explained. “They also worked on his obedience, tracking and apprehension skills.” “When I went to the school, they were mainly just working with me to bring me up to the dog’s level,” Blume explained. He and Ciro worked together for those two months to establish a rapport as partners before Ciro was transported back to Beckley at the program’s completion.

MINER Continued from 1A Davis is demanding a trial by jury and he is being represented by Richard Neely, with Neely and Callaghan in Charleston.

contacted Butler’s family, alerting them that Butler — a model employee — had not shown up for work, according to police. Butler’s sister then filed a missing persons complaint in Summers County. An intense search for Butler was conducted. His body was discovered several weeks after

the murder on Crumpler Road in Wyoming County, a few miles from the MercerWyoming line. ■■■ Oscar Combs Sr. waived his time limit for a preliminary hearing, according to Magistrate James Dent, but after Monday’s bond hearings, Combs Jr. was brought to the Mercer

County Courthouse Annex where he chose to have his scheduled preliminary hearing before Dent. Reed testified during this hearing that new information became available when a confidential informant told investigators about hearing the father and son discuss Butler’s murder. With this infor-

mation, the murder weapon was located, Reed said. Both the father and son gave investigators conflicting statements about who had shot Butler. At first, the senior Combs and his son named each other as the shooter, but later Oscar Combs Jr. said he fired the shot, but he did it under duress because he

feared his father, Reed said after the hearing. Magistrate Dent ruled there was probable cause in the case of Oscar Combs Jr. to bind the case over to the grand jury. Greg Jordan, a reporter for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, contributed to this story.

That’s when the real work began. In addition to their normal patrol work, Blume explained that he and Ciro often work alongside the department’s special enforcement unit. “They’re basically our proactive street-level unit,” Blume explained. “There’s out there making the traffic stops and looking for drugs, guns and fugitives.” As part of the night shift, Blume and Ciro often get calls from agencies all over the county needing Ciro’s skills to help with tracking or clearing buildings. “We’ve gone as far as Mercer County before,” Blume said. “Pretty much anywhere we’re needed, we’ll go.” Blume explained that dogs can often clear buildings and locate evidence in a fraction of the time it would officers, therefore drastically increasing manpower and making their job a bit easier. With three dogs in the department, including

Artie, a bloodhound handled by Jonathan Legursky, and Helo handled by Cpl. Will Reynolds, Blume said that he wishes that even more officers could have a K-9 sidekick. “Dogs are crucial to the way we fight the drug epidemic,” Blume said. But beyond that, the dogs are also instrumental in tracking and apprehension. “I can think of at least three occasions this year that our dogs have tracked and gotten the bad guy,” Blume said. “If we wouldn’t have used the dog to track, we wouldn’t have been able to make those arrests.” ■■■ While Ciro’s foreign pedigree came with a hefty price tag of $12,000, it’s safe to say he’s been well worth his weight in salt in the year he’s been with the force. “In not even a year, Ciro has more than paid for himself just in drug and cash seizures,” Blume said. “We’ve seized tens of thousand of dollars this year in

drug busts that he’s been responsible for.” Those seizures can all be attributed to Ciro’s acute sense of smell that drug dogs are bred for. “A human looks at a pot of stew and we just smell stew,” Blume said. “A dog can not only smell the stew, but he will smell the meat, the potatoes, the carrots and every individual ingredient.” Oftentimes people try to mask the smell of drugs with other items to confuse the dog, but Blume said those attempts are futile. “If he walks around a vehicle and someone had wrapped a pound of marijuana in foil, mustard and dryer sheets in order to throw off the smell, it really isn’t working,” Blume explained, adding that the dog still picks up on the marijuana, he just smells the foil, mustard and dryer sheets, too.” When not on the clock, Blume said that Ciro enjoys his down time just like anyone else. “He loves to run in the backyard. He’s a normal

dog when he’s home, but as soon as he sees me getting into my uniform, he starts getting excited,” Blume said. “If my lights and siren come on in the cruiser, he starts barking and pacing in the back of the car. “Little things like that key the dog up.” Blume explained that Ciro’s extremely high energy level is what they look for in a good drug dog. “In their mind, they don’t know what cocaine is. They don’t know what marijuana is. They’re just looking for their toy,” Blume explained. “They’re constantly looking for it, and they aren’t going to give up until they find it. That’s what makes them good drug dogs.” ■■■ With the growing drug problem in the area, Blume and Ciro’s job is becoming more and more important each day. “We obviously do have a drug problem in the city. Our narcotics unit just got about 20 pounds out of a house a couple

weeks ago. We have overdose deaths all over the city. It’s becoming more and more of a problem.” Blume said that he and Ciro haven’t found their motherload yet, but they’re confident it’s coming. Instead, Blume explained that most of their weight comes taking traffic stops to a new level, constantly working to get the bigger fish after smaller drug seizures. “It’s been more of an ounce of cocaine here and a half-pound of marijuana there. But it’s been consistent,” Blume said. At the end of the day, Blume said that having a K-9 companion makes his job feel more like fun than work. “I love it. I’ve done almost everything there is to do in the law enforcement field, and being a K-9 officer is by far the most rewarding for me. It keeps me excited about my job and keeps me motivated. I’ll have a dog as long as they let me.”

Davis is seeking $2,915,000 for lost wages and lost future earnings, $850,000 for lost of past and future enjoyment of life and $500,000 for past and future pain and suffering.

■ GREENBRIER VALLEY CAMPUS

— E-mail: wholdren @register-herald.com

State college enrollment drops 2.3 percent CHARLESTON (AP) — Enrollment at West Virginia’s colleges and universities has dropped more than 2 percent this fall compared with the same time last year. West Virginia lawmakers were presented fall enrollment figures by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission on Monday. Statewide, about 90,000 students were enrolled at

West Virginia colleges. About 64,000 students came from West Virginia, while the others came from out of state. The commission’s report says there were declines in enrollment from both groups of students. The report says enrollment is particularly down in regions with dwindling population and where the oil and gas industry is booming.

New River CTC accepting applications for EMT cohort The EMT-Paramedic Certificate Program at the Greenbrier Valley Campus of New River Community and Technical College is accepting applications for a new cohort that will begin classes on Jan. 13. Classes are held at New River’s Lee Street Complex in Lewisburg. Interested applicants will need to take preentry exams and complete the screening process to include background checks, health and drug screenings as well as other application pa-

perwork prior to the cohort start. Students planning to apply for financial aid should submit the Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) right away. The Paramedic Certificate program is an intensive four-semester certificate program designed to prepare students for careers as paramedics in a variety of health-care settings as well as preparing and making them eligible to participate in the National Registry for EMTs testing program

leading to national certification. The curriculum provides students with classroom, lab, field and clinical experiences in a variety of emergency care environments and facilities. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). For additional information, contact Rich Ball at 304-793-3004, rball @newriver.edu; or Rich Bernhardt at 304929-5003, rbernhardt @newriver.edu.

— E-mail: jfarrish @register-herald.com

— E-mail: bunderwood @register-herald.com

Trial to start for man accused of killing 3 in 1974 FAIRMONT (AP) — A man charged in the 1974 slayings of three people in Fairmont is set to go on trial. Sixty-year-old Eddie Jack Washington’s trial starts Monday in Marion County Circuit Court on three firstdegree murder counts and a conspiracy count. He’s accused of killing 20-year-old Lester Phillips, 19-year-old Wanda Jane Phillips and 27-year-old Billy Ray Cobb at Windmill Park. Washington was arrested in February in Tampa, Fla., where he’d been living for more than a decade. A co-defendant, Phillip Reese Bush, also awaits trial. Bush is serving life sentences at Mount Olive Correctional Complex for two first-degree murder convictions in Ohio County.


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Local&Region

THE REGISTER-HERALD Saturday, November 23, 2013

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The Lewis Automotive Pre-owned showroom was a full house Friday evening for the United Way of Southern West Virginia’s Wonderland of Trees auction. F. BRIAN FERGUSON/THE REGISTER-HERALD (2)

Tree trove The auctioning of these creatively decorated trees helped the United Way of Southern West Virginia as the group seeks to reach its fundraising goal in order to support a variety of community agencies.

Mullens woman helped dispose of gun, police say By Jessica Farrish REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

A Mullens woman who was arrested Wednesday for allegedly conspiring with her son and exhusband to murder a Summers County man in April 2011 later helped to dispose of the gun that killed the victim, police reported. Linda Combs, 38, knew one day before the murder that her son, Oscar Combs Jr., 21, of Herndon, and husband, Oscar Combs Sr., 44, of Bud, planned to kill 55year-old James “Bo” Butler of Hilltop, according to Cpl. A.S. Reed of the West Virginia State Police Hinton detachment.

Butler’s body was found several weeks after he was shot to death execution style on April 4, 2011, by the younger Combs, according to a criminal complaint against the son. Reed charged that Combs Sr. arranged a meeting with Butler, a former co-worker, on W.Va. 10 and distracted him while Combs Jr. shot him once in the back of the head. Reed reported in a criminal complaint filed against Linda Combs in Mercer County that she stole “a small amount of change” out of Butler’s truck after the murder, then took parts of the truck and disposed of them. According to the complaint,

Linda Combs also helped the men dispose of the murder weapon, a revolver. The motive for the murder was robbery, Reed stated. Combs Sr. believed Butler had recently received a paycheck. Linda Combs and Combs Sr. are now divorced, according to police, and Child Protective Services workers had removed a child from Linda Combs’ custody prior to her arrest. Combs Sr. told police that his ex-wife had learned about the plan to rob and murder Butler on April 3, and both men reported that Linda Combs had helped dispose of the truck.

RGH won’t change policy covering non-emergencies By Jessica Farrish REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

Changes to insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act will not impact Raleigh General Hospital’s policy for providing non-emergency care to patients, CEO David Darden reported via e-mail Friday. ACA mandates that Americans must be covered by an insurance plan by Jan. 1, 2014. While Appalachian Regional Healthcare officials announced that the ARH system will no longer provide non-emergency care to uninsured patients, except for those who pay with cash, after Dec. 31, Darden said the RGH policy will not change. Emergency, or emergent, care is care provided for a condition in which a delay in treatment is likely to result in the recipient’s death or permanent impairment. Currently, RGH evaluates uninsured patients who come to the hospital for non-emergency care to determine their ability to pay, Darden said. “We offer patients a number of payment options and provide assistance in determining their eligibility for Medicaid or other governmental plans, or we determine whether they meet charity criteria,” he stated. He said RGH employees currently help patients to enroll in the expanded Medicaid program or the Marketplace, the new federally mandated exchange for health insurance. Patients must commit to an “appropriate alternative” determined by hospital staff, then the

patient is offered the service, explained Darden. “Patients qualifying for charity, who are determined unable to pay, are offered the service without a requirement to pay,” he added. Emergency care at RGH is provided to everyone, in accordance with the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). The 1986 law ensures that hospitals which receive Medicaid or Medicare must stabilize anyone who visits an emergency room, regardless of the patient’s insurance status, citizenship or ability to pay. “Raleigh General Hospital’s policy is to accept all patients that present to the Emergency Department and provide a medical screening exam by (a physician or midlevel provider),” Darden stated. “If the patient is not stable or is in active labor, then we will continue to treat until the patient is stable or delivers.” Darden said that under current policy, which is not expected to be changed by ACA regulations, a patient who does not need emergency care will be counseled by hospital staff on the services that were received and services the patient “can continue to receive through RGH.” “From that point forward, the stable patient decides whether to continue treatment and the best alternative to fulfill their financial obligation for the services,” Darden stated. “Of course, if the patient does not have the ability to pay, the patient’s account may be classified a charity and written off as such.”


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