Afternoon Observer | 2 arrested after trans women murdered + teacher’s killing reveals drug cartels’ growing NC footprint

Kristen Kornbluth
·5 min read

It’s Friday, Charlotte. Kristen here. Looking for a way to spend some time in the great outdoors this weekend? Go visit a national park tomorrow — it’s free! National parks across the country will be free to visitors on Saturday to mark the start of National Park Week. If you want to make a road trip out of it, try Shenandoah National Park in Virginia or New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia. Some good nearby options are Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Congaree National Park (but they’re always free). Will you be visiting one of those parks (or any others) this weekend? What’s your favorite park? Let me know.

Now, let’s talk news:

1. 2 people arrested after transgender women murdered in Charlotte

An attendee to a memorial for Jaida Peterson wears a shirt with her photo on it at Tuckaseegee Park on April 9, 2021. Police discovered the body of Peterson, 29, in a hotel room, on Easter Sunday.
An attendee to a memorial for Jaida Peterson wears a shirt with her photo on it at Tuckaseegee Park on April 9, 2021. Police discovered the body of Peterson, 29, in a hotel room, on Easter Sunday.

Two arrests have been made following the murder of two transgender women in Charlotte hotel rooms, law enforcement officials said Friday. On Thursday, following the discovery of the second woman’s body, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police warned that someone might be targeting local trans women who engage in sex work. CMPD and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups alike are urging members of the community to be safe, and Charlotte Uprising is fundraising for alternative housing for Black transgender women who do not feel safe in hotels, as reported by the Observer’s Devna Bose.

The victims:

  • Jaida Peterson, 29, was discovered in a hotel room on Easter Sunday by police. Her funeral took place Tuesday in South Carolina.

  • Another victim was found in a University City hotel room early Thursday morning, according to officials. Social media posts from friends and loved ones identify the second victim as Remy. CMPD officials say her last name is Fennell. She was 28.

The investigation into the deaths of the two women is ongoing. Multiple agencies are involved in the investigations, including the FBI and police in Union County and in South Carolina.

2. Drug trafficking has “become a problem of epidemic proportions” in NC, some say

A Union County school teacher and a member of a Mexican drug cartel were shot to death last week, and officials say it illuminated a broader problem: North Carolina has become a hub for drug trafficking.

Charlotte lawyer Chris Swecker, who spent much of his previous FBI career focused on drug cartels, says North Carolina “is a perfect distribution center.”

Why? According to Swecker:

  • The state has a network of interstates — 40, 85, 95 and 77.

  • The state also has major population centers, like Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro.

But the issue isn’t isolated just to urban areas. Since Feb. 14, Alamance County authorities have seized 129 kilos of cocaine and about $2.3 million in cash from drug cartel members and associates, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said. The county sits between Raleigh and Greensboro, and Interstates 85 and 40 run through it — factors that lead to easier distribution.

Learn more about the issue here with the Observer’s Ames Alexander and Michael Gordon.

3. NC teen’s actions in viral video earned him national praise

Joshua Scott is a diehard Philadelphia Phillies fan who recently has appeared on ESPN and other outlets for an act of generosity. Joshua and his father, James Scott, attended a Braves-Phillies game in Atlanta where Joshua caught a home run ball hit by Freddie Freeman. Rather than throwing the ball back onto the field, Joshua found a young Braves fan and gave the ball to him. Joshua plays on the Covenant Day School junior varsity baseball team.
Joshua Scott is a diehard Philadelphia Phillies fan who recently has appeared on ESPN and other outlets for an act of generosity. Joshua and his father, James Scott, attended a Braves-Phillies game in Atlanta where Joshua caught a home run ball hit by Freddie Freeman. Rather than throwing the ball back onto the field, Joshua found a young Braves fan and gave the ball to him. Joshua plays on the Covenant Day School junior varsity baseball team.

Joshua Scott has been interviewed on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” by Atlanta and Philadelphia TV stations, The Philadelphia Inquirer and MLB Network. On Friday, he appeared on ESPN as the network’s “Feel Good Story of the Week.” Why?

It’s a story of generosity. A stray home run ball was coming toward him in the stands at a Braves vs. Phillies game. He missed the catch a couple times, but when he finally secured the ball, he decided not to keep it for himself. He turned around and gave it to a young boy sitting behind him. A viral video captured the whole event, and the Internet has been loving it.

“Josh has been bagging lunches since he was 4 with his older sister,” his father, James Scott, said. “I feel like that’s where Josh developed that rhythm of generosity, and I’m just grateful to God that everyone gets a chance to see who he organically is.”

Read more of Josh’s heartwarming story here with the Observer’s Joe Marusak.

4. Novant opens third COVID vaccine clinic in Charlotte area

Novant Health is set to open another vaccination clinic in the Charlotte area, according to the hospital system.

The details, with the Observer’s Hannah Smoot:

  • The new clinic, which will be in Huntersville, will be able to vaccinate up to 500 people a day, depending on vaccine supply.

  • It will open Monday, and will be open each week Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • All Novant clinics offer vaccines by appointment only.

5. Regal pushes back reopening of first NC theater

It isn’t curtain call quite yet. The Regal movie theater chain will now reopen in the Charlotte area April 23. The new date is a week later than originally announced.

The chain posted a reopening plan on its website that had a Charlotte cinema reopening Friday, but an update reflected the change in opening date.

The theater opening was in conjunction with the opening of Warner Bros. fantasy-action film “Mortal Kombat,” as reported by Catherine Muccigrosso.

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