News In Brief - December 8, 2008

Report: N.C. probation system risks public safety

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A report on North Carolina's probation system suggests that public safety is at risk because the system has either neglected or lost track of thousands of criminals.

The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., reports that since the start of 2000, 580 people have killed in North Carolina while under the watch of state probation officers. That accounts for 17 percent of all convictions for intentional killings.

Documents and interviews show that probation officers lose contact with the people they are required to supervise.

The report's findings said probation leaders have failed to take advantage of technology advances, leaving their officers with no automatic tracking of the people under their supervision. Officers often weren't aware when probationers were arrested on new charges.

Fire kills man in Conway; autopsy performed

MYRTLE BEACH -- A Saturday morning woods fire behind a shopping center on U.S. 501 in Conway killed one man and injured another who had been camping there, authorities said.

Clarence Edward Wike Jr., 53, whose last known address was in Myrtle Beach, died from injuries in the fire, which started shortly after 7 a.m. behind the Wal-Mart Supercenter property on U.S. 501, said Capt. C. Rodney Sessions of the Conway Police Department.

Wike was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy was performed Sunday, but officials were unable to obtain preliminary results, said Tamara Willard, Horry County deputy coroner.

The other man, who is 38, was treated at Conway Medical Center and released, Sessions said.

"Both the individuals were homeless and had set up camp out there," Sessions said. "Pretty much, we are investigating why the fire started. We're doing interviews."

Willard said she hopes Wike's autopsy will begin to bring answers.

"I don't know if we'll have a cause of death," she said, "but at least we'll be able to start ruling out the possibilities."