Looking Back 2003-2005

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By Rachel Johnson, Staff Writer


Editor’s note: This is the next part in a year-long series reflecting on the history of The Brunswick Beacon, which turns 50 years old this year. Each month, we bring readers a glimpse into the past.



•A front-page headline for the first issue of the Beacon in 2003 read “Home sales skyrocket in Brunswick County.” The county saw a 126 percent increase in sales of existing homes.

•A former Civietown Volunteer Fire Department chief was arrested for embezzlement from the department.

•Ocean Isle Beach considered moving its airport to Old Georgetown Road.

•A Calabash business owner was arrested for scamming customers by taking payments for furniture and not delivering it.

•A 2002 shooting of a Shallotte man on Ruby Way was featured on “America’s Most Wanted.”

•A meeting of concerned citizens met to come up with a plan to clean up Longwood. Residents wanted to find a solution to keep drugs and dealers off the street.

•In February, Jimmy Fletcher was hired as the football coach at West Brunswick High School.

•The original founders of Sea Trail were prepared to sell the 2,000-acre area for a reported $45 million to Atlanta-based real estate company Signature Horizons Inc. In June it was announced the deal was off the table.

•Members of the Shallotte National Guard were put on alert status in early March.

•Highest Praise Ministries began a $2 million addition set to include a 700-seat sanctuary.

•More than 600 people attended a Southeastern Freedom Rally to support American and coalition troops fighting in Iraq at West Brunswick High School in early April. “They sang. They prayed. They dried during the course of the program.”

•A former Boiling Spring Lakes Church of Christ pastor was found guilty and sentenced to more than 49 years in prison for molesting a 10-year-old.

•Wallace Layne became Holden Beach’s new police chief in May. He was welcomed with a standing-room-only reception at town hall.

•The June 5-11 issue of the Beacon announced the paper was sold to Landmark Community Newspapers Inc. after 33 years of ownership by Edward and Carolyn Sweatt, who turned the paper into the largest paid weekly in the state.

•A manhunt took Shallotte Police Chief Rodney Gause and Sgt. Scott Branning to Philadelphia in July on a manhunt for a suspect who robbed Waccamaw Bank on Main Street. The thief was wearing a mask resembling the face of former President Richard Nixon.

•A 3-year-old rode his bicycle with training wheels on a 2-mile trip, including a jaunt down U.S. 17 to Red Bug Road, before reaching the N.C. 130 intersection, in 90-plus-degree weather. The child was seen riding in the middle of Gray Bridge Road with cars going around him before someone called the police. The boy said he was trying to find his father.

•Smith Avenue extension plans were revealed complete with a map of the new road.

•Sara McCullough, outgoing Shallotte alderwoman, was re-elected by a write-in vote after she had decided not to run for the position again. The win surprised McCullough, who said she didn’t know about the write-in campaign.

•WBHS senior Cedric Simmons signed an official letter of intent to play basketball at N.C. State.

•Debbie Smith became the mayor of Ocean Isle Beach. Betty Williamson served as the town’s mayor from 1987 until 2003.

•Lt. John Ingram resigned from the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office where he served as the head of the county’s drug enforcement unit and the SWAT team.




•A report released in early 2004 showed there were no murders in Brunswick County in 2003.

•A “Forensic Files” episode was filmed in the area documenting a string of crimes that perplexed detectives in two states for seven years, including several bank robberies in the Calabash area.

•The Shallotte Fire Department celebrated its 50th anniversary.

•In late April a driver decided he wasn’t waiting for the Sunset Beach pontoon bridge to open to accommodate a barge. The driver accelerated as he bypassed the bridge’s red light and barricades. The truck landed in the Intracoastal Waterway while the driver and a passenger swam to shore.

•A Lockwood Folly couple found a 25-year-old message in a bottle in their backyard while installing an irrigation system. The sender was later found; she dropped the message as an 11-year-old on vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

•A foreclosure sale was set in June for the four Ocean Ridge golf courses. Later that month, Mark Saunders, CEO of Coastal Companies called off the foreclosure.

•Ocean Isle Beach was informed there was no long-term nourishment available for the east end of the island.

•After an inspection, the projected life span of the Sunset Beach Bridge was said to be about four years.

•A lightning storm killed a man walking on Bird Island and caused the Sunset Beach Bridge to sink on one side, closing it to heavy trucks.

•Carolina Shores commissioners discussed wanting to shut down Close Encounters, an adult nightclub.

•Hurricane Charley causes an estimated $4.5 million worth of damage to 2,200 homes and crops in Brunswick County in the middle of August. The hurricane devastated the county’s tobacco crops.

•In 13 months, the Brunswick County Planning Board approved the development of 15,236 homes in major subdivisions and planned developments.



•The new year began with families throughout the county welcoming home their loved ones serving in the armed forces.

•In early January, Boiling Spring Lakes police officer Mitch Prince was murdered while conducting a routine traffic stop. Prince was the first Brunswick County law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty since 1914. Darrell Maness, 19, was captured after a manhunt by the BCSO. Maness’ father was serving a life sentence for killing a police officer.

•Carolina Shores and Calabash town governments tried to find a common ground in order to work together.

•Several homes on the east end of Ocean Isle Beach sustained heavy damage after a winter storm caused more than 30 feet of erosion. One house toppled over, leaning into a neighbor’s.

•Several hotels in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., refused to rent rooms to locals from Brunswick and Horry counties. The decision upset many area residents who frequented the area.

•A documentary called “Sheriff” was released chronicling the life of then Sheriff Ronald E. Hewett.

•Darrell Maness accused of killing police officer Mitch Prince pled not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and 10 other felony charges.

•Carolina Shores planning and zoning board conducted an illegally closed meeting.

•WBHS senior Jerek Hewett broke school records on his way to winning the 100-meter and 200-meter dash events and placing third in the long jump at the state 3A championships. He became the first track athlete from WBHS to win a state championship in more than one event in the same year or different years.

•Vacationers from Ohio pranked beachgoers and police at Holden Beach by digging a large hole in the sand and placing an aluminum foil covered rock in the bottom, roping off the area and placing a sign with a phone number. An answering machine picked up the number professing to be a university with a message that said they were too busy to pick up the phone because they were busy dealing with a meteorite on Holden Beach.

•Hurricane Ophelia caused more than $1 million in damage.

•In October a tropical storm dumped rain on the county for four days causing widespread flooding on roadways.

•In early December two men found two cannonballs in the sand on Holden Beach. One cannonball was still loaded and the SBI Emergency Ordinance Disposal team from Raleigh was called. They blew it up.