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News General

Lifelong Jackson County resident Steven D. Lillard, a Gulf War veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, is Western Carolina University’s new assistant chief of police.

A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a 1996 graduate of WCU with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Lillard comes to the position from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, where he was operations major. He was also formerly a detective and criminal investigator with the Sylva Police Department.

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Two years after the death of a 22-year-old Highlands woman, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office has been ordered to release witness statements collected in the course of its investigation to the woman’s father.

Elizabeth Coram died at the home of an acquaintance on July 9, 2009, due to a lethal dose of prescription drugs combined with alcohol. In September 2010, Coram’s father, Jennings B. Coram of Scaly Mountain, Ga., filed a civil suit complaint of wrongful death against two witnesses in the case: Larry Murray and Adam Hicks.

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The staff attorney from a national organization dedicated to preserving the Constitutional separation of church and state has sent a formal letter to Macon County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Dan Brigman, requesting that he “take immediate steps to ensure that religious ritual and proselytizing” are kept out of high school graduation ceremonies from now on.

The letter from the nonprofit organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is in direct response to the sermon delivered last month by Rev. Daniel “Cowboy” Stewart during a commencement address given last month at Nantahala School. The graduation ceremony was held on June 4 in the gymnasium of the small, K-12 school in the mountainous northwest corner of Macon County.

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The district attorney will seek the death penalty for the man accused of a brutal murder last year in the Cartoogechaye community of Macon County.

In a special session of Superior Court last week, assistant district attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch made official her office’s intention to seek capital punishment for Randy Boyd Fouts, 44, who in May was indicted by grand jury for one count of murder in the death of Thomas Larry Ramsey.

Ramsey, who was 61 at the time of his death, was found at his Johnson Road home in the Cartoogechaye community on the morning of Aug. 12. According to his autopsy report, Ramsey died from strangulation by asphyxiation and blunt force trauma to the head. The victim had also reportedly been bound by the hands and feet with electrical chord.

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