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News in brief

North Shore decorations canceled through June

North Shore Cemetery Association announced the cancellation of all North Shore Cemetery Decorations through June 15. At present, all group activities within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are suspended through June 15 and this may change in the future given the complexity and unknown factors concerning the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many people look forward to getting together and celebrating the lives of those buried in the many cemeteries, but the association feels it is better to err on the side of caution, rather than risk the lives and well-being of those they love and care about in becoming infected with this devastating virus.

Currently, this will impact the decorations for Woody, Hoyle, Cable, Payne, Orr, Lauada, Pilkey, Posey, Wike, Walker, and Calhoun cemeteries. At present, decorations for Branton and Lower Noland have been rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 11, along with the decorations for Wiggins, Stiles, and Conner cemeteries. The association will be working with National Park Service staff in rescheduling the impacted decorations as able to accommodate given the complexity in moving vehicles, people, and providing safe access. Regardless, all cemeteries will be cleaned and maintained, even though public decorations may not occur.

For the most recent information, contact the association through either of the Facebook pages: North Shore Cemetery Decorations or North Shore Cemetery Historical Association, or the website:


Otto man convicted of trafficking

District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch’s office recently secured the conviction of an Otto man who played a key role in a large-scale methamphetamine operation to ferry drugs from Atlanta, Georgia, into Macon County.

Kenneth Wayne Underwood, 51, pleaded guilty to trafficking in methamphetamine. He was sentenced as part of a negotiated plea agreement. Underwood will serve at least 225 months and up to 282 months in prison. He received credit for time served, 369 days of pretrial confinement. 

Macon County Superior Court Judge Bill Coward also ordered Underwood to pay court costs and a $250,000 fine.

“The defendant attempted to build a methamphetamine pipeline into Western North Carolina,” Welch said. “Thanks to great work by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and members of my office, we were able to ensure Mr. Underwood, rather than profiting from dealing drugs, instead spends a lengthy amount of time in prison.”

Assistant District Attorney John Hindsman Jr. served as case prosecutor.

Two other Macon County residents, Nikki Wykle and Melissa Burch, were arrested by Macon County Sheriff’s Office on April 10, 2019, as part of a drug sting at Wykle’s house on Cat Creek Road. Deputies stopped a vehicle seen leaving the residence and arrested Underwood and Burch after seizing more than 2 pounds of methamphetamine. The drugs had an estimated street value of at least $90,000. 

Wykle is charged with trafficking methamphetamine by possession, two counts of conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, habitual felon indictment and maintaining a dwelling for controlled substances. She is being held under a $2.5 million secured bond. 

Burch pleaded guilty to sell/deliver methamphetamine and attempted trafficking. A judge sentenced her to probation; subsequent probation violations are scheduled to be heard in court June 1.

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