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Hudson man arrested after attempted kidnapping in Vilas

VILAS — The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office charged a Hudson man with second-degree kidnapping, child abduction and breaking and entering after he allegedly broke into a Vilas home and attempted to kidnap children and one adult.

According to WCSO, deputies responded to an 11 a.m. call on Aug. 17 regarding attempted kidnapping on Eagle Lane in Vilas by an unknown man. The man — Christopher James Chandler, 43, of 4485 Diamond St., Hudson — had reportedly driven up Eagle Lane and encountered some adults who were walking.

After being informed by the adults who were walking that Eagle Lane was a private drive, Chandler continued ahead and stopped at a residence in the area. He reportedly entered the residence and ordered a 10-year-old child to get into his vehicle. WCSO stated that the 10-year-old told the man no, and then Chandler allegedly attempted to abduct a 3-year-old child.

The child’s grandmother entered into a struggle with Chandler that prevented the abduction, WCSO stated. Chandler then reportedly left the residence and in the process encountered another adult, and attempted to abduct her as well. The woman resisted him; Chandler then grabbed the family dog and fled in his vehicle, according to WCSO. WCSO stated that the victims in the incident did not know Chandler.

WCSO stated that the person who called 911 to report the incident provided specific and accurate information about the vehicle Chandler was reportedly driving — a red Toyota truck. Deputies encountered the vehicle on U.S. 421 and were able to stop Chandler on Greer Lane.

Chandler was arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of child abduction, felony breaking and entering, common law robbery, larceny of a dog, animal cruelty and possession of stolen goods. Officials were not aware of Chandler’s motive in the incident as WCSO stated the investigation is still ongoing.

Chandler was issued a $155,000 bond at the Watauga County Detention Center. The N.C. Courts database listed Chandler as having an Aug. 25 court date, and the arrest report listed an Oct. 22 court date.

App State one of largest UNC system universities still holding in-person classes

RALEIGH — Appalachian State and UNC-Greensboro were the two largest UNC system institutions still conducting a portion of fall semester undergraduate classes in person as of Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Over the past week, the system’s four largest universities in terms of enrollment — UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State, East Carolina and UNC-Charlotte — have announced that all undergraduate classes will take place online, at least temporarily, amid rising COVID-19 infections on college campuses.

UNC-Chapel Hill was the first to announce it would shift from a mix of in-person and online instruction to remote learning for all undergraduate courses — one week after fall classes began on Aug. 10. In the week since UNC-Chapel Hill announced it would make the shift and work to “de-densify” its campus, including moving students out of residence halls, 513 new student cases have been reported, including multiple clusters in residence halls. Granville Towers is the largest cluster, with 152 cases in the student housing complex, according to UNC-Chapel Hill’s COVID-19 dashboard.

For the week of Aug. 17 to 23, the percent of tests with positive results had risen to 32.2 percent, according to the dashboard.

N.C. State University, which also began fall classes on Aug. 10, on Aug. 20 became the second University of North Carolina system institution to announce it would move all classes online.

N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson announced in a statement to campus that all in-person and hybrid undergraduate courses would move to online instruction beginning Monday, Aug. 24. While student residence halls will not close, the university will offer housing and dining refunds for those who choose to move off campus, he said.

Woodson thanked the staff and faculty who “worked tirelessly over the past many weeks to prepare our campus to be an effective, and safe, learning and living environment” but had strong words about “the negative impacts caused by those who did not take personal responsibility.”

“We’ve had reports of large parties in off-campus apartments. In the last two days alone, we’ve identified three COVID-19 clusters in off-campus and Greek Village houses that can be traced to parties and behavior outside of our community standards and the governor’s mandates,” Woodson said. “We’re seeing significant infections in Greek life, and at this time there have been another seven Greek houses that have been quarantined due to a number of additional positive cases.

“Battling the spread of COVID-19 is a challenging endeavor even when everyone is practicing safety measures,” Woodson continued. “Unfortunately, the actions of a few are jeopardizing the health and safety of the larger community.”

In a statement to the Associated Press, Josh Ellis, spokesman for the UNC system, said that decisions on whether to shift to remote classes will be made by individual campuses with the necessary approval.

“Any decision to modify campus operations will be made by the president (Peter Hans), with each chancellor, in consultation with the leadership of both boards of trustees and the Board of Governors, and always grounded in reliable public health data and prevailing local health conditions,” Ellis said.

In a statement released Aug. 20 by the UNC system, Hans, like Woodson, pointed the finger at students.

“Over the spring and summer every institution prepared for the fall semester under the guidance of well-known public health officials,” Hans said. “This hard work is being undermined by a very small number of students behaving irresponsibly off campus, which unfairly punishes the vast majority of their classmates who are following the rules.”

“Since my arrival on Aug. 1, I’ve worked closely with each chancellor to support their efforts and to make adjustments based on local health conditions,” he added. “We’ll continue to provide a high-quality mix of online and in-person educational options as the entire nation strives to manage its way through a lengthy global pandemic to a better and safer place for everyone.”

East Carolina University and UNC-Charlotte announced Sunday, Aug. 23, that their institutions would move courses online in response to the coronavirus pandemic. East Carolina suspended classes on Monday and Tuesday to adjust, while UNC-Charlotte had yet to begin its fall semester.

UNC-Charlotte will begin classes as scheduled on Sept. 7, but it’s delaying the start of undergraduate and graduate in-person instruction for three weeks until Thursday, Oct. 1, the AP reported. All instruction will begin as planned on the first day of classes Sept. 7, but will now be delivered online.

In a message to campus following UNC-Chapel Hill’s announcement on Aug. 17, Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts said there were no immediate plans to change course delivery methods at App State. The fall schedule at Appalachian consists of 30 percent face-to-face classes, 30 percent hybrid classes and 40 percent remote/online classes, spokesperson Megan Hayes said earlier this month.

“We are in constant communications with UNC system officials, as well as our local public health experts, to monitor conditions on our campus,” Everts said at the time. “While there is no exact set of metrics that will determine when a UNC system campus may move to all-remote learning, we know that if we can keep the transmission of COVID-19 low, we will be able to stay on campus.”

Everts said she was encouraged by the campus’s numbers so far: Of 2,006 COVID-19 tests conducted during move-in week, 27, or 1.3 percent, were positive. As of Aug. 25, the campus had 33 active cases among students and one among employees, and to date, there have been 138 student cases, 23 employee cases and 41 subcontractor cases, according to App State’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The chancellor said that 86 percent of the university’s isolation and quarantine space was available as of Aug. 17, with additional options that can be utilized if needed.

At least two clusters — five or more cases within a 14-day period that are linked — have been identified on the Appalachian State campus, including at the Child Development Center and among the football team.

AppHealthCare, the regional health department, confirmed that 34 people associated with App State’s football team — 30 athletes and 4 staff — have tested positive for COVID-19 since June, when the football team began a phased return of players to campus for summer workouts. AppHealthCare and the university announced a cluster of 11 active cases associated with the football team on Aug. 18.

Appalachian leaders have strongly discouraged gatherings that exceed current COVID-19 restrictions in North Carolina, which limit gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

On Aug. 14, Everts said, the Delta Chi fraternity was placed under interim suspension by the university and a cease and desist order by the national organization, pending an investigation, for failure to follow the Joint Council Safety Statement regarding off-campus gatherings.

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that it is up to each of us to minimize the spread of COVID-19 among members of our university and the greater community,” Everts said.

The university’s Student Government Association issued a statement on Aug. 12 indicating it was aware of “numerous large gatherings hosted and attended by students,” which it said “cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Student Body President Michael Davis spoke at the Boone Town Council’s online meeting on Aug. 18, expressing support for police enforcement of the state’s executive orders. He mentioned a recent party on King Street that reportedly had 200 people in attendance.

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App football practice resumes after COVID-19 cluster reported

BOONE — Appalachian State’s football team resumed practice this week after the university on Aug. 18 reported a cluster of 11 active COVID-19 cases associated with the team.

The cluster, which included seven students and four staff, had decreased to five active cases by Friday, Aug. 21, and three active cases by Monday, Aug. 24, according to Melissa Bracey, spokesperson for AppHealthCare, the regional public health department.

Bracey told the Watauga Democrat on Aug. 18 that to date, “We can confirm there are 34 individuals, consisting of 30 athletes and 4 staff, associated with App State’s football team who have tested positive for COVID-19 since June.”

App State’s football team began a phased return of athletes to campus in June for limited workouts in small groups.

“They have implemented infection control measures and testing protocols for players and staff to be tested frequently since June,” Bracey said. “All of these measures support our surveillance efforts to identify cases early.”

A cluster is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as a minimum of five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiological linkage between cases.

AppHealthCare made contact with the individuals and instructed them to recover in isolation. Public health staff identified close contacts, who were instructed to quarantine and who are being provided access to testing during their quarantine period. A close contact is defined as someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.

“After consultation with AppHealthCare and Chancellor Sheri Everts, (App State Athletics Director) Doug Gillin has suspended practice until further consultation warrants a change in status,” the Aug. 18 statement said.

Three days later, Gillin announced that football practices would be resuming.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we suspended football practice on Tuesday. Football student-athletes and staff underwent scheduled COVID-19 testing on Wednesday, and based on the results, the football team is returning to practice in small groups, or ‘pods,’” Gillin said in a statement. “We are placing even more stringent capacity limits on shared facilities like the locker room and weight room. Throughout this process, we have been in constant communication with the AppHealthCare public health team and our medical professionals, and will continue to follow their guidance.

“We continue to prioritize the health and safety of our student-athletes, staff and the university and greater community. We will continue to work with AppHealthCare and the university’s medical team to monitor and make the best decisions for our student-athletes, staff and community.”

The football team is preparing for a fall 2020 season that is slated to begin Saturday, Sept. 12, when the Mountaineers host UNC-Charlotte at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Officials have not yet finalized game day plans for spectators, but have said they expect fan attendance to be limited.

Earlier in the summer, App State head football coach Shawn Clark noted that the team had “a couple” of positive cases when asked by a reporter. Asked by the Watauga Democrat for clarification about the cases, Athletics spokesperson Joey Jones on July 10 replied, “We work closely with AppHealthCare to keep our student-athletes as safe and healthy as we possibly can. Under their advice, we are not releasing any further identifying information about any students who have tested positive for COVID-19, and moving forward we will not identify their student-athlete status.”

During a Zoom call with reporters on Aug. 6, Clark was again asked by a reporter if the team had additional positive cases; the coach replied that reporting of cases would come from the university and the health department.

AppHealthCare reported 47 active COVID-19 cases in Watauga County as of Aug. 25, with Appalachian State University reporting 34 active cases among students and employees. Cumulatively, 454 county residents have tested positive in Watauga, and 202 Appalachian State students, employees and subcontractors have tested positive to date.

“We recognize the benefit college students have within our local community and know they are an important part of our COVID-19 response effort,” stated Jennifer Greene, director of AppHealthCare. “This virus is highly contagious, and sometimes people can spread the virus without realizing it because they have mild or no symptoms at all. Now is not the time to be attending large gatherings and parties with large groups. We are depending on the Appalachian community to support contact tracing efforts. These actions help protect everyone in our community and helps make sure we have the health care system capacity that we all depend on.”

Every weekday, AppHealthCare, App State Athletics and App State Emergency Management meet to review confirmed cases and outline a plan of action to care for individuals who need to be in isolation or quarantine, the organizations said, with collaboration continuing on the weekends.

“The university continues working closely with public health and values this relationship, which has allowed for increased testing, consistent and transparent reporting to the university and Boone communities and coordinated public health education measures,” the statement said.

Autopsy: Stab wounds caused deaths of Borlase couple

RALEIGH — Approximately a year and four months after the April 2019 deaths of a Deep Gap couple, autopsy results have concluded that “stab wounds of the torso” were the causes of death of both Jeffrey David Borlase and Tanya Mae Borlase.

The Borlases were found dead outside of their home at 1174 Orchard Road in Deep Gap on April 10, 2019. Their son — Tristan Noah Borlase — was arrested the following day and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. At the time, Tristan Borlase was nearly a month away from turning 18. He is one of eight children of the couple.

The autopsies of Jeffrey Borlase, 43, and Tanya Borlase, 44, were conducted on April 12, 2019, by A.G. McDonald at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The findings for Jeffrey Borlase were reported July 11, 2019, and findings for Tanya Borlase were reported 13 days later. Results were sent to the Watauga Democrat by the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Aug. 20, 2020.

The medical examiner’s reports indicated the manner of death of both persons as a homicide, with a knife listed as the weapon.

The autopsy report for Jeffrey Borlase noted multiple stab wounds to the left chest and back. Additional injuries included incised wounds on the arms and hands, abrasions on the scalp and forehead and blunt-force trauma to the torso and extremities.

The report of Tanya Borlase’s autopsy indicates that she was stabbed multiple times, including in the left chest, back and arm. Multiple sharp-force injuries to the left arm were “likely consistent with defensive-type injuries,” the report said, and there were blunt-force injuries to the head, neck, torso and extremities. The report noted asphyxial injuries that “could have been sustained during compression of the neck.”

Toxicological analyses detected no alcohol in either victim.

As previously reported, court documents indicated that the bodies appeared to have been removed from the residence and that authorities believed an altercation took place inside the residence. The autopsy report states that authorities indicated that Jeffrey Borlase was found outside approximately 50 yards from the home “after possibly being dragged down the hill.” The reports stated that Tanya Borlase was covered with a tarp and found in the back of a truck parked in the woods.

Tristan Borlase, now 19, remains in custody at Watauga County Detention Center as investigators have been awaiting the autopsy results from OCME. His next scheduled court date is Aug. 31.