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ROCKY MOUNT — Retired Brig. Gen. Arnold N. Gordon-Bray will head a new team to spotlight unsolved murders and missing person cases in the Twin Counties and beyond.
Still in the early stages of organization, the nonprofit board will serve as a roundtable team of individuals from various backgrounds in close communication with law enforcement officials to assist in engaging the public to help solve cold cases in an effort to bring closure to victims’ families and respective communities as a whole.
Christened as Team Cold Case by Gen. Gordon-Bray, the board will also oversee donations and issue reward money to be paid to anonymous tipsters for information about unsolved homicides in Nash and Edgecombe counties with an eye toward expanding into Wilson County and eventually Fayetteville, Wake County and throughout central and eastern North Carolina.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for citizens to participate in enforcing the rule of law, bring closure for loved ones and let all know, just because a case is cold...it ain’t over,” Gordon-Bray said. “Do I expect instant or tons of success? No. First, I trust our District Attorney Robert Evans and investigators. The missing piece has been civic participation.”
SHERIFFS, CHIEF INVOLVED
Gordon-Bray pledged the TCC board will practice parity in case selection and show the utmost respect for victims and their families. The cases will be referred to the board by the area’s top law enforcement officials including Rocky Mount Police Chief George Robinson, Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson and Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone, who will each appoint members to the board.
The sheriffs and Robinson, who attended organizational meetings, said they are 100% behind the project. All three said they are committing all available resources to get the job done.
“I’m with this all the way,” said Atkinson. “Anything this team needs, I’ll be there.”
Robinson said he hopes the board helps to bring closure to grieving families.
“I’ve seen people who didn’t get closure leave this world,” Robinson said. “That’s a sad thing to see.”
$15,000 IN REWARD MONEY
The TCC board will hold regular meetings with detectives directly involved in cold case investigations and vote on the award amounts to be distributed to tipsters who provide information leading to arrest. So far, local business owners have raised $15,000 to be added to existing reward amounts.
Hope Fisher Connie, a Rocky Mount attorney, signed on as the team’s legal liaison.
“It’s a worthwhile cause and I look forward to serving our community in this way,” Connie said.
‘THE KAY FILES’
The board involves a three-pronged approach using law enforcement, members of the civic and business communities and the news media. Under the TCC board’s umbrella, Sandra Smith of WHIG-TV, a local television station; Lindell Kay, an award-winning investigative reporter who writes for The Enterprise; and Katheryn Zughbi, who operates Fighting Crime, a popular local crime blog; have joined forces to present detailed information about unsolved murders and missing person cases.
In addition to his continued coverage of cold cases for The Enterprise, Kay will appear live with Smith at 8 a.m. every Thursday on the station’s morning show. The hour will be repackaged to run in primetime at 7 p.m. Fridays as “The Kay Files,” a brand Kay developed while reporting about unsolved cases in the area.
Zughbi will receive tips generated by the show via a special hotline — 252-406-6736 — and turn the information over to detectives. All tipsters will remain anonymous. Zughbi said only the pertinent tip information will be passed along to authorities. Personal information will never be shared in order to protect informant identities and prevent them from having to appear in court.
“Fighting Crime has been helping us for years with good tips,” Stone said. “I’m excited about this new group. It will be good to get citizen involvement. I’m here to help in any way that I can.”
More information about the board appointees and move to include Wilson County will be shared in real time on the show.
“I am praying this will incentivize those who know something to say something without fear of retribution,” Gordon-Bray said. “It’s a great start. Lindell and Kat have been doing this for years. Let’s give them a boost.”
Gordon-Bray served more than three decades in the U.S. Army as a joint-qualified officer. A combat leader, the general commanded more than 4,000 men and women from Fort Bragg in the Iraq war. He is a Ranger-qualified paratrooper who’s earned numerous medals, including the highest award for peacetime service and two bronze stars for combat.
Gordon-Bray was deputy operations officer for the continent of Africa and principal staff officer for all U.S. Army installations worldwide. He holds multiple advanced degrees including an honorary doctorate of humanities from N.C. Wesleyan College. The general has served on numerous national, state and local community boards. He’s the founder of ANGB Consulting LLC.
A print journalist since 2003, Kay covered Nash and Edgecombe counties for local newspapers for five years before moving to The Enterprise and The Wilson Times last summer. In his short time at The Enterprise, he’s already won an award from the North Carolina Press Association. It was Kay’s 19th such acknowledgement, which includes numerous accolades for writing about unsolved homicides, many of which have been reopened or resolved.
A Navy veteran, Kay’s training includes body recovery with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, suspicious activity reporting with the Department of Homeland Security and recognizing sexual abuse with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. He’s been featured on WRAL, CNN, Fox News, “Dateline” and programs on “Investigation Discovery.”
Since 2012, Zughbi has operated Fighting Crime News and Who’s Wanted, a blog and social media page with more than 70,000 followers. She has a track record of helping law enforcement solve crimes. In the last year, Zughbi has been directly involved in helping solve at least two homicides, one involving a woman who’s been missing for more than a decade.
Having vanished in 2004, Debra Deans remained a missing person until information from Zughbi led authorities straight to Dean’s shallow grave, and the arrest of Dean’s sister-in-law on a murder charge.
In another case, Zughbi received tips and relayed the information to police in Nashville, resulting in two arrests in a man’s killing during a 2019 home invasion. Nashville Police Chief Anthony Puckett publicly thanked Fighting Crime for the information provided.
WATCH THE SHOW
Smith is an on-air personality and president of WHIG-TV. An employee of WHIG for two decades, Smith is the recipient of several honors, including the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Advocate Award. She serves on the Twin County Hall of Fame Board of Directors and the Christian Fellowship Board, where she was chairwoman from 2017-19.
WHIG appears over the air on Channel 31.1; SuddenLink on Channel 17; Greenlight on Channel 19; CenturyLink Prism on Channel 31; and CBN on Channel 26.
WHIG reaches Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson, Cumberland, Wayne, Wake, Harnett, Warren, Franklin, Person, Vance, Granville, Moore, Sampson, Roberson, Halifax, Northampton and Johnston counties including the major cities of Rocky Mount, Wilson, Tarboro, Nashville, Fayetteville, Clayton, Fuquay-Varina, Louisburg, Henderson, Oxford, Zebulon, Wake Forest, Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Roanoke Rapids and Carthage.
Questions about the WHIG program should be directed to Sandra Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gordon-Bray can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Team Cold Case is receiving tips at 252-406-6736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.