Friday News: Remember Heather

PROSECUTORS UPGRADE CHARGE TO 1ST DEGREE MURDER FOR WHITE SUPREMACIST WHO DROVE CAR INTO CROWD: The man accused of driving into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville faces a new charge of first-degree murder after a court hearing Thursday in which prosecutors presented surveillance video and other evidence against him. Prosecutors announced at the start of a preliminary hearing for James Alex Fields that they were seeking to upgrade the second-degree murder charge he previously faced in the Aug. 12 collision in Charlottesville that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens injured. The judge agreed to that and ruled there is probable cause for all charges against Fields, including nine lesser felony counts, to proceed. Fields was photographed hours before the attack with a shield bearing the emblem of Vanguard America, one of the hate groups that took part in the rally, although the group denied any association with him.

ON ANNIVERSARY OF SANDY HOOK SHOOTINGS, VIGIL HELD FOR HOMICIDE VICTIMS: Survivors gathered at a Raleigh vigil Thursday night to raise awareness about resources needed for people who have lost a loved one due to homicide. The vigil comes during Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness Month, which continues until Dec. 20. The Puryear family joined those gathered on the State Capitol Grounds for the candlelight vigil. In November of 2014, they lost their daughter Britny to domestic violence. "It never gets easier, especially now at the holidays," Stephen Puryear said. "It's good to be around people like this because we're all in a group no one wants to be in, and we're the only ones that know what they're going through." MacDonald and others are using vigils like this to bring awareness to the lack of resources for people coping with the murder of a loved one. She says group sessions got her through one of the most difficult periods of her life.

REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS EYE RADICAL ALTERING OF SCHOOL FUNDING FORMULA IN NC: Adam Levinson, chief financial officer at the state Department of Public Instruction, urged lawmakers to show caution before making any major changes, but some legislators say an overhaul is needed. “If you’re waiting for DPI to come up with a big and bold new plan for funding the schools, you will never see it,” Tillman said. “They will do it in one of two ways: the State Board (of Education) will direct it if we direct the state board or we ourselves propose a plan. Now in this committee is the very time to do something bold.” Some legislators such as Tillman have urged the group to recommend changes that would increase funding for charter schools, which are taxpayer-funded schools that are exempt from some of the rules that traditional public schools must follow.

MARCO RUBIO EDGING TOWARD A "NO" VOTE ON GOP TAX SCAM: The Republicans' razor-thin margin for driving their sweeping tax package through the Senate was thrown into jeopardy Thursday when GOP Sen. Marco Rubio declared he will vote against it unless negotiators expand the tax credit that low-income Americans can claim for their children. Rubio's potential defection complicates Republican leaders' goal of muscling the $1.5 trillion bill through Congress next week, handing President Donald Trump his first major legislative victory by Christmas. Senate Republicans could still pass the package without Rubio's vote, but they would be cutting it extremely close. An original version was approved by only 51-49 — with Rubio's support. The co-sponsor of Rubio's proposed change, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, is undecided on the overall bill and pushing to make the credit as generous as possible, said Lee spokesman Conn Carroll.

KENTUCKY REPUBLICAN COMMITS SUICIDE AFTER TALL TALES AND SEX SCANDAL WITH 17 YEAR-OLD GIRL EXPOSED: The Kentucky lawmaker’s resume included enough material for an award-winning memoir: He was a peacekeeper at the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, a White House chaplain to three presidents and a 9/11 first responder who gave last rites to hundreds of people at Ground Zero. But Republican Dan Johnson’s carefully crafted history crumbled this week following an extensively reported story from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. The story tore down his claims and portrayed him as a con man whose deceptions propped up his ministry of a church of outcasts in Louisville and hid a sinister secret: a sexual assault allegation from a 17-year-old girl. Johnson denied it all, declaring his innocence from the pulpit of the church where he was the self-appointed “pope.” By Wednesday night, he was dead, his body found on the side of a secluded road with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.