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Moore County - A Timeline of Terror - Part One

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Writer’s note: This is the first of a five part series that will attempt to both lay out a detailed timeline of how Moore County became so divided and angry, and tell the stories of the people who live and work in Moore County who have been negatively impacted by the right wing takeover of the Moore County Republican Party leadership and our elected offices. The timeline starts in 2014 and will continue into the aftermath of the terrorist attack on two of our county’s electrical substations.


What is happening in Moore County closely resembles what is happening in small, rural communities all over the country. There is a clear national strategy by far right wing and alt-right Republicans to take over all elected leadership. This plan is a clear coordinated attack that almost always begins at the local level with Board of Education races. However, this timeline will focus on Moore County and will only mention national events when they directly affect the timeline.


Part one of this series covers 2014-2018. Every event mentioned in this timeline has a direct impact on the division and harassment that comes down the road.


Part two will cover 2019-2020.


Part three will cover 2021-2022.


Parts four and five will cover the real world negative impact this campaign of demonization and division has had on the citizens of Moore County.


***



Moore County, North Carolina - Timeline of Terror

How a sleepy little county in the Sandhills became a hotbed of alt-right radicalization, anger, and division


***


PART ONE:

2014 - 2018 - Triggering events and the Seeds of Division


***


May, 2014 - Dr. Robert Grimesey is offered and accepts the position as Superintendent of Moore County Schools.


December 1, 2014 - The Moore County Board of Education seats new members. They are unable to come to an agreement on who is to be Chair of the new board, splitting the vote 4-4 between Ben Cameron and Bruce Cunningham in 77 consecutive votes. On the 78th vote, Mr. Cunningham wins the chairmanship on a 5-3 vote. The gridlock on the chairmanship vote makes state-wide news and embarasses the Moore County community and Moore County Schools.


June 4, 2015 - Dr. Bob Grimesey is abruptly fired from his job by a 5-3 vote of the fractured Moore County Board of Education.


June 4 - 7, 2015 - The public outcry over the firing of Dr. Grimesey reaches a fever pitch. “Parents for Moore,” a social media group with thousands of members, begins an all out grassroots campaign to have Grimesey reinstated. Moore County’s local newspaper, “The Pilot,” calls for the resignation of the Board members who voted to fire Grimesey. Sandhills Community College President, John Dempsey, demands that Board of Education members who voted in favor of the firing be recalled. Moore County Board of Commissioners Chair Nick Picerno threatens to withhold funds from Moore County Schools if Grimesey isn’t immediately rehired. Jamie Boles, Moore County’s Representative in the North Carolina General Assembly, seeks and is granted an injunction from Moore County’s Chief Superior Court Judge James Webb, that prevents the Board of Education from hiring a new Superintendent. Three of the Board members who voted for the firing abruptly resign as a result of the public pressure.


June 8, 2015 - The Moore County Board of Education votes 4-1 to reinstate Dr. Grimesey as Moore County Schools Superintendent. Another Board member resigns immediately following the vote.


June 11, 2015 - Pam Thompson is appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Moore County Board of Education.


June 17, 2015 - Helena Wallin-Miller is appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Moore County Board of Education.


June 22, 2015 - The Moore County Board of Education selects a site for a proposed new elementary school in Aberdeen. As the land is near an EPA Superfund site, The BoEd agrees to buy the it with the following caveat: "Moore County Schools’ administration has 90 days to conduct a number of property inspections, including an environmental phase I inspection, surveys and geotechnical explorations, before purchasing the property from BVM Properties, LLC for $180,000." Libby Carter and Stacey Caldwell are appointed to fill the remaining two vacant seats on the Moore County Board of Education


September, 2015 - The North Carolina General Assembly enacts a law to reduce the number of members on the Moore County Board of Education from 8 to 7 in order to prevent future 4 to 4 votes gridlock.


October, 2015 - Moore County Board of Commissioners votes to place a proposal for a quarter-cent sales tax increase before voters on the March 15 primary ballot with the intention of using the extra revenue generated to build three new elementary schools and one new high school for Moore County Schools.


Winter, 2016 - JD Zumwalt announces he will challenge Jamie Boles to Represent Moore County in the NC House. Zumwalt is supported by Chair of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, Nick Picerno and an unlikely coalition of the extreme right wing/Tea Party faction of the Moore County Republican party and center/left-leaning public education advocacy groups. Public education advocates mobilize to campaign in favor of the ¼ cent sales tax increase.


February, 2016 - Moore County Board of Commissioners receives a recommendation from Emergency Superior Court Judge Michael Beale to begin construction on a new Moore County Courthouse immediately. This result (over a period of months) is the Commissioners promising Beale the new courthouse would be constructed within 5 years, the commissioning of space use studies, the hiring of an architect, and the spending of $1.4 million dollars to provide temporary renovations to the existing courthouse and District Attorney's offices.


February 29, 2016 - Moore County Deputies are called to First Health Moore Regional Hospital to answer a report of a deputy attempting to take custody of and transport an inmate while intoxicated. Days later, it is leaked to local media that the inebriated Deputy was Brent Godfrey - son of Moore County Sheriff, Neil Godfrey.


March 2016 - The North Carolina General Assembly passes HB2 - known as the bathroom bill. The law becomes the center of controversy in Moore County when Sandhills Community College President John Dempsey says publicly he will not enforce the law on SCC’s campus. Moore County Tea Party members begin a social media campaign against Dr. Dempsey, accusing him of being “unapologetically liberal.” SCC’s Board of Trustees release a public statement making it clear Dempsey has no choice but to enforce the law.


March 6, 2016 - Sheriff Godfrey announces that his son, Deputy Brent Godfrey has resigned from the Moore County Sheriff's Department.


March 15, 2016 - Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger formally requests the SBI conduct an investigation into the Brent Godfrey incident and Sheriff Godfrey’s handling of it. Jamie Boles narrowly defeats JD Zumwalt in the Republican Primary to represent Moore County in NC House District 52. The proposed ¼ cent sales tax increase to finance the building of new public schools in Moore County fails by less than 500 votes.


May 11, 2016 - Sheriff Godfrey announces his intention to resign when the SBI investigation into his conduct is revealed to the public.


May 20, 2016 - Steven Markel McGreggor is struck by a truck in a hit and run while walking to work. His body is left in front of the fence at West End Elementary School and is found by school staff when they arrive for work.


May 31, 2016 - Sheriff Godfrey reverses his decision to resign.


July, 2016 - Carol Wheeldon from Pinehurst, a volunteer with the Voter Integrity Project, single handedly challenges the registration of approximately 400 registered voters in Moore County based solely on undelivered, returned letters from a mass mailing.


July 9, 2016 - Several highway overpasses in Moore County are vandalized with racist graffiti. The graffiti features the terms KKK, the N-word, and obscenities. Police investigate briefly, but no arrests are ever made.


July 19, 2016 - Moore County Commissioners decide not to place the ¼ cent sales tax increase back on the ballot for November’s election.


September 6, 2016 - The Moore County Board of Elections hold a preliminary hearing about the voter registrations challenged by Carol Wheeldon and sets nearly all 400 cases for review at a formal hearing on October 14 (less than 90 days before the election),


October 14, 2016 - The Moore County Board of Elections removes all but a few individuals who had their voter registration challenged by Carol Wheeldon from the voter rolls. Moore County NAACP President O’Linda Watkins sends a formal letter to Moore County Board of Elections Director, Glenda Clendenin, protesting the removal of voters from the rolls.


October 30, 2016 - Moore County NAACP files lawsuit to have voters purged by Wheeldon’s challenge restored to the voter rolls.


November 4, 2016 - U.S District Court Judge Loretta Biggs rules that all voters purged from Moore County voter rolls as a result of Carol Wheeldon’s challenge must be immediately reinstated. Biggs says she is “horrified” by the “insane” process by which voters were targeted and removed from the rolls with no notification. She states, “It is almost like a cattle call, the way people are being purged. This sounds like something that was put together in 1901 during Jim Crow.”


November 8, 2016 - Betty Wells Brown, Helena Wallin-Miller, Bruce Cunningham, and Libby Carter win their elections for Moore County Board of Education. Pam Thompson loses her bid to stay on the Board of Education. Roy Cooper (Democrat) is elected Governor of North Carolina, while Dan Forrest (Republican) is elected Lt. Governor. Donald Trump is elected President of the United States of America (overwhelmingly winning Moore county and narrowly winning the state of North Carolina).


January 2017 - Moore County Sheriff Neil Godfrey’s son, former Deputy Brent Godfrey is charged with operating a patrol car after consuming alcohol, failure to carry out his duties as a deputy sheriff, and failing to make reports, stemming from the 2/29/16 incident at Moore Regional Hospital.


Early 2017 - Moore County Board of Education focuses on plans for two proposed new schools - a new elementary school in the area one attendance zone to relieve overcrowding at Farm Life Elementary School and a new high school to relieve overcrowding at Pinecrest and Union Pines, plus provide expanded opportunities for students to focus of vocational and technical career studies, The proposed new high school is dubbed the “Advanced Career Center.”


March 30, 2017 - HB2 (the bathroom bill) is repealed by the NC General Assembly.


Spring 2017 - Moore County Board of Commissioners first expresses a willingness to consider approving funding for the new Area 1 elementary school and the Advanced Career Center without voter approval.


April 2017 - Brent Godfrey pleads guilty to operating a patrol car while intoxicated and is ordered to pay a $100 fine, $190 in court costs, and to turn in his law enforcement certificate.


May 2, 2017 - The Moore County Board of Commissioners holds a meeting at which the Aberdeen school site and its environmental problems are discussed AT LENGTH. Commissioner Quis questions the wisdom of buying the land. Commissioner Graham states she is worried about environmental issues even though the county had done "due diligence" because of a problem with county offices being built on an unsafe site in the past. She also says the "previous board" would have to take the blame for anything bad that happened because they were the ones who approved purchasing the land. Former candidate for NC General Assembly, JD Zumwalt, is present at the meeting and makes several Facebook posts about the discussions of the Commissioners.


June 6, 2017 - Moore County Board of Commissioners are forced to reschedule and move the annual public hearing on the budget due to a huge crowd of public school advocates attending to demand the county fund “specials” like music and art after those classes are threatened by an unfunded class size reduction mandate by the North Carolina General Assembly.


June 7, 2017 - Hundreds of public education advocates attend the rescheduled public hearing on the budget to plead with Moore County Commissioners for increased funding for our public schools to prevent losing extracurricular classes ("specials"). Several MoCo Tea Party members address the Commissioners and demand that public schools receive no additional funds. The Board of Commissioners ultimately side with education advocates and public schools and grant the request for additional funding.


July, 2017 - The Moore County Board of Commissioners votes to move forward with a courthouse design that does not include offices for probation officers. They do so against the advice of a consultant firm they had paid almost $40,000 of taxpayer's money to advise the Board and without consulting the advisory committee that had been tasked with guiding the Board on courthouse design. This leads to a public spat between commissioner Graham and the head of the consulting firm and, even more embarrassing, a public rebuke from Judge Webb, the senior Superior Court judge presiding in Moore County. County Manager Wayne Vest demands Solutions for Local Government, Inc turn over all relevant material relating to plans for the new courthouse, but it is unclear from public reporting whether or not any of the studies and plans conducted by Solutions for Local Government, Inc (costing the taxpayers $36,250) will be used.


July 15, 2016 - Jacob Green is arrested for the hit and run that killed Steven McGregor. Press reports indicate that Green was intoxicated at the time of the accident and actively tried to cover up his involvement. Green spends one night in jail before posting his $100,000 bail.


September 2017 - Moore County Board of Commissioners publicly commits to financing the construction of the New Area 1 school and the Advanced Career Center, plus a new courthouse without voter approval. The Board of Commissioners also throw out all existing plans for the new courthouse and considers reducing the planned size of the building to save money (as new estimates put the cost at $47 million).


September 19, 2017 - “The Pilot” runs a front page story detailing the County Commissioners' public promise to build the new schools and the courthouse without voter approval. Commissioner Quis is quoted as saying “the public has spoken, they want these schools built.” Commissioner Otis Ritter is quoted as saying he would “take the heat,” for moving forward without voter approval.


October 2017 - Moore County Board of Commissioners does an about face and announces that it will not fund the Advanced Career Center (the new high school). It also requires the Moore County Board of Education to bring them an emergency resolution regarding the need for the Area 1 Elementary School. Public education advocates, infuriated about the flip-flop, accuse the members of the Board of Commissioners of caving to the Moore County Tea Party, which threatened to primary BoC members if they voted to fund the schools without a public referendum. The Board of Commissioners denies that accusation. WEEB radio personality JD Zumwalt (formerly an ally to Moore County public education advocates) runs a series of commentaries on his show (The Zumwalt Zone) vehemently defending the County Commissioners and calling education advocates “and angry mob” for the first time.


October 17, 2017 - The Board of Commissioners eventually agree to provide funding for the Area 1 elementary school without voter approval after the Board of Education makes an emergency declaration.


November 2017 - Under pressure from the Board of Commissioners and Moore County Tea Party activists, the Moore County Board of Education drops its request to place the Advanced Career Center (the new high school) on a 2018 bond referendum and instead asks for three new elementary schools to be placed on the May 2018 primary ballot.


Late 2017/early 2018 - Moore County public education advocates begin organizing a campaign to convince the people of Moore County to vote for the education bond referendum to build three new elementary Schools. Members of the Moore County Tea Party oppose the bond referendum, but decline to make an organized effort to defeat it. Ken Byrd announces he will be challenging incumbent Jamie Boles to represent Moore County in House District 52 and Whispering Pines Mayor Michelle Lexo announces she will challenge Tom McInnis to represent Moore County in the NC Senate. Lowell Simon and Helen Probst Mills announce they will challenge the winners of the Republican primaries for seats in the NCGA as Democrats in November. Three candidates (Republican Ronnie Fields, Democrat Mike Connor, and unaffiliated Steve Adams) announce they will challenge incumbent Moore County Sheriff Neil Godfrey. All five sitting Moore County Board of Commissioners and both the incumbents and challengers to represent Moore County in the NC General Assembly (except for Tom McInnis - who refuses to comment on the issue) publicly support the Education Bonds.


January 20, 2018 - Moore County Tea Citizens hold a town hall focused on education in Southern Pines. Questions and comments from Tea Party members are sharply critical of the proposed costs of the three new elementary schools, MCS Superintendent Dr. Bob Grimesey, and sitting members of the Moore County Board of Education.


February 2018 - Moore County Tea Citizens and more conservative members of the Moore County GOP line up behind Michelle Lexo and Ken Byrd in their efforts to defeat incumbents Tom McInnis and Jamie Boles for seats in the North Carolina General Assembly. It is revealed that state Republican leaders pressured Lexo not to challenge McInnis and threatened to withhold support from future campaigns as punishment for running against McInnis. Public education advocates tentatively move towards backing Lexo and Byrd as well.


February 28, 2018 - Local media reports that as part of an agreement worked out between Moore County defense attorney Eddie Meachem and Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger, Judge Tonya Wallace accepted a Guilty plea from Jacob Green regarding the death of Steven McGregor. Green was sentenced to three years probation and substance abuse treatment. Citizens on the right and left are outraged by the plea deal and the African American community publicly question if Green was let off so easily because he is a white man and McGregor was African American.


March 23, 2018 - It is reported JD Zumwalt has filed a notarized affidavit with the Moore County Board of Elections accusing Jamie Boles (incumbent candidate for House District 52) of committing a felony by knowingly lying about his place of residence when he filed for reelection. Zumwalt also reveals that Jamie Boles’ step father is a sitting member on the Moore County Board of Elections, creating a huge conflict of interest as Boles is a perpetual candidate for public office in Moore County. A subsequent investigation by the Moore County Board of Elections found Jamie Boles did not lie on his re-filing form and he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Mr. Boles’ stepfather eventually steps down from the Board of Elections.


April 20, 2018 - Moore Tea Citizens hold a candidate forum for those seeking election to represent Moore County in the North Carolina General Assembly. Tom McInnis does not attend. Boles, Lexo, and Bryd all back away from their public support of the education bonds after being questioned by members of the audience who are hostile towards spending the money on new schools. Lexo and Byrd make statements making it clear they are running to the right of McInnis and Boles, by demanding the dissolution of the Department of Education, the Department of Public Instruction, the ceasing of teaching evolution in public schools to be replaced by teaching creationism, and declaring that LBGTQ+ people are not guaranteed civil rights. The candidates statements at the Tea Party town hall alarm moderates and left-leaning voters. Education advocates decide not to endorse or support any of the candidates running for General Assembly in the Republican primary.


April 27, 2018 - “The Pilot” runs a story written by Jaymie Baxley about a confidential memo from Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger to Moore County Sheriff Godfrey. The letter was leaked to “The Pilot” from an anonymous email account under the name “Joe Smith”. The memo (which was strangely full of typos and misspellings) informed Sheriff Godfrey that DA Krueger had concluded that one of his officers (Sergeant Tracy Carter) had lied to the State Bureau of Investigation during their inquiry into the February 29, 2016 incident of Godfrey's son (a deputy with the Moore County Sheriff's Department) working and driving a county owned patrol car while intoxicated and the alleged cover-up that followed. DA Krueger stated in the memo that because Sergeant Carter had been “untruthful” during the investigation, the DA's office could no longer use him as a witness in any case. The timing of this letter and its leak to the press is concerning. Although DA Krueger had the SBI report in her possession since at least early 2017 (when Brent Godfrey was charged with two misdemeanors by the SBI), she never disclosed the report to the public nor (according to Sheriff Godfrey) did she ever discuss either the report or her findings regarding Carter with the Sheriff until days before the 2018 primary election. JD Zumwalt begins a series of commentaries on WEEB’s “The Zumwalt Zone” claiming that he was in possession of irrefutable proof that Godfrey lied to SBI investigators. Zumwalt never produces the promised proof - either before or after the election. Krueger refuses to share the results of the SBI investigation with the public.


May, 2018 - Rumors begin to swirl throughout Moore County that WEEB radio show host JD Zumwalt and Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger are involved in a romantic relationship. This is relevant, because if true, it means that Zumwalt covered the DA’s office and its public spat with Moore County Sheriff Godfrey - taking Krueger’s side without providing evidence - without disclosing the relationship bias to listeners.


May 8, 2018 - Jamie Boles wins the Republican Primary for House District 52.Tom McInnis wins the Republican Primary for Senate District 25. Ronnie Fields defeats incumbent Godfrey in the Republican Primary for Moore County Sheriff. The education bonds pass with almost 80% of the vote. Ronnie Fields is the only Tea Party backed candidate to win his primary.


May 2018 - Sheriff Godfrey fires Sergeant Carter after DA Krueger shares the SBI report with him. Krueger continues to refuse to share the report with the public.


Summer 2018 - Moore Voices, a left-leaning political commentary blog, is created by long time Moore County public education advocate Cheryl Christy-Bowman.


July 17, 2018 - The Moore County Board of Commissioners decides to place a ¼ cent sales tax increase on the November ballot to help defray the costs of the education bonds.


Late July 2018 - “The Zumwalt Zone” and “Moore Voices” both report that Democrat Candidate for Moore County Sheriff, Mike Connor, is facing hit and run charges stemming from an incident in the parking lot of an ABC store in Montgomery County.


July 28, 2018 - The family of Kenzie Garner call 911 to report he is behaving erratically. Moore County Deputies and Aberdeen Police officers respond. An officer yells “shots fired” and officers open fire on the home, killing Garner and doing extensive damage to the house and surrounding property. Sheriff Godfrey at first tells the community that Garner fired at officers but has to walk that statement back days later after forensics and eyewitness testimony contradicts that claim. The SBI is called in to investigate. The officers are eventually cleared, but Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger refuses to release the results of the SBI investigation to the public or even to the family of Kenzie Garner.


July 31, 2018 - “The Pilot '' publishes an article about Mike Connor’s hit and run charges. Connor gives a statement to reporter Jaymie Baxley that he was unaware that his truck had hit another vehicle until law enforcement contacted him.


August 2018 - Mailers, social media posts, and letters to the editor in the local newspaper begin appearing opposing the proposed ¼ cent sales tax increase and accusing Moore County Schools administration of wasting taxpayer funds. Moore County Tea Party members come out in opposition to the sales tax increase.


September 4, 2018 - “The Sandhills Sentinel” reports that Democrat Candidate for Sheriff Mike Connor has been charged with a DUI in Montgomery County. The DUI charge stemmed from another accident unrelated to the hit and run charge from July.


September 6, 2018 - Mike Connor formally withdraws from the Moore County Sheriff’s race.


October 2018 - Public education advocates in Moore County unite, announce public endorsements for Lowell Simon and Helen Probst Mills, Democrat Candidates for North Carolina General Assembly, and begin campaigning in favor of the ¼ cent sales tax increase. Tea Party members in Moore County ratchet up their campaign to defeat the sales tax increase. Moore Voices publishes several opinion commentaries in favor of Simon, Mills, and the sales tax increase. County Commissioners publicly support the sales tax increase, warning voters that without it, property taxes would have to be significantly increased to help pay for the recently passed education bonds.


November 6, 2018 - Boles and McInnis both win reelection with comfortable margins. Ronnie Fields defeats WEEB owner Steve Adams for Sheriff by a landslide. Libby Carter and Ed Dennison are reelected to the Moore County Board of Education. Pam Thompson is elected to the Moore County Board of Education. The ¼ cent sales tax increase passes with almost 60% of the vote.


Early November, 2018 - Moore Voices writer and editor, Cheryl Christy-Bowman, receives a phone call from WEEB radio personality, JD Zumwalt. Zumwalt informs Christy-Bowman that he has met with David Hensley and other prominent members of the right wing (formerly known as the Tea Party) of the Moore County Republican Party, and they have formulated a plan to “go after Democrats hard.” Zumwalt explains that public education advocates have been too successful influencing election results and that Moore County Schools Superintendent Grimesey and the Board of Education needed to be “taken down a peg or two.” Zumwalt also confirms he is in a romantic relationship with Moore County DA Maureen Krueger in this phone call.


December 2018 - Members of the Moore County Board of Education are sworn into office and the Board makes redistricting and completing the new elementary schools their primary objectives. WEEB radio begins to refer to Dr. Robert Grimesey as “PhD Bob,” and public education advocates as “ Bob’s Mob,” and the “Moore County KKK '' incessantly on air. Individual “leaders'' in the public education advocacy community start receiving phone calls and texts warning them that WEEB and the Republican party of Moore County were targeting them personally, education advocates as a group, and Moore County public schools as an institution.


December 30, 2018 - “The Pilot” names “The Women of Wonder” as their newsmaker of the year. The article highlights the work of the education advocacy community in getting Dr. Grimesey reinstated and passing the education bonds and the ¼ cent sales tax increase. Several women are mentioned by name in the article (including Helena Wallin-Miller and Rollie Sampson). Public comments on the article viciously attack the women and other education advocates in Moore County with the terms being popularized on WEEB (Bob’s Mob, The Moore County KKK).”


End of Part One.


Part Two will pick up in January 2019 and detail the rise of David Hensley and Emily Grace Rainey in the Moore County Republican Party, the misinformation campaign conducted to attack Moore County Public Schools and Education Advocates, how Covid restrictions were weaponized to cause deep division in the community, and the beginning of demonization against racial minorities, left-leaning citizens, and members of the LBGTQ community.

















































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