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Carolina Panthers head coach Steve Wilks watches during the first half an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

No reason known for slaying of family
  • Updated

HIGH POINT — Police don’t know what drove a 45-year-old man with a history of mental health problems to kill his wife and three children Saturday morning at home before fatally shooting himself.

Little information was released until Monday, when the High Point Police Department said that Robert J. Crayton Jr. shot his wife, Athalia A. Crayton, 46, 18-year-old son Kasim Crayton, 18, and two other children, 16 and 10, whose names were not released. All five lived at the house in the 2700 block of Mossy Meadow Drive, in a north High Point neighborhood off Deep River Road.

A man and a woman in their 20s — one a family member and one an acquaintance — got out of the house as the shooting began, police said. They called 911 shortly after 7 a.m. screaming for help.

Kasin Crayton and the 16-year-old attended Ragsdale High School, and the 10-year-old attended Union Hill Elementary School, said Gabrielle Brown, media relations specialist with Guilford County Schools.

“We are heartbroken and our thoughts are with the family,” she said. “District crisis teams will be at both schools throughout the week, and the district stands by to assist the family in whatever ways they need.”

Police Lt. Patrick Welch, head of the department’s Violent Crimes Unit, said Robert Crayton had a history of mental health problems. Police officers had gone to the Craytons’ house six times since 2014. Prior to Saturday, the most recent was Jan. 3, 2022, when officers served an order for Robert Crayton to be involuntarily committed for mental health treatment.

Welch said police haven’t found any record so far that Crayton was ever arrested.

Investigators continue to look for a motive for the shootings, but Welch and Police Chief Travis Stroud said a reason may never be pinpointed.

“We may never know why,” Welch said during a press briefing at the High Point Police Department headquarters.

Stroud said that “questions will go unanswered.”

Stroud said that, in his 27 years with the High Point Police Department, there’s never been a violent crime like what happened Saturday.

Residents of the neighborhood interviewed on Saturday said that they were stunned by the killings in what they called a usually quiet area. The neighborhood is tucked between Deep River Road and Eastchester Drive east of Oak Hollow Lake.

Stroud and Welch said that the officers who worked inside the house and saw the bodies are being offered counseling and related services.

“These police officers saw things you can’t unsee,” Stroud said.

The deaths were the first homicides in High Point in 2023. | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul

Living Arts College shuts down
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HIGH POINT — A for-profit college with a High Point campus has closed after it lost access to federal student financial aid revenue.

Living Arts College: School of Medical Arts at 906 Mall Loop Road reported on its website that it ended all of its classes last month because the U.S. Department of Education terminated federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or ACICS.

That meant students attending Living Arts College and other institutions accredited by ACICS were ineligible for Pell Grants and federal student loans, which comprise most of these schools’ revenue.

“This is not a decision made by the College,” Roger Klietz, president and creative director of Living Arts College, wrote in a letter posted on its website. “Instead it is an action forced on several schools accredited by ACICS. The Secretary of Education under the Biden administration has issued provisional rules that has (sic) made it financially impossible to continue operations.”

The main Living Arts College campus in Raleigh, where it was founded in 1992, ceased classes Dec. 13.

Calls to its headquarters were not returned.

The website says college staff had been working with students to find other institutions where they can transfer and that all full-time employees’ last day of work was to be Dec. 30.

The Raleigh campus offered programs in filmmaking, interior design, photography, game design animation and other fields.

The High Point campus offered diploma programs and professional certifications in “medical assisting,” medical office administration, massage therapy and medical billing and coding.

It relocated from Winston-Salem and opened in January 2021 in a former Barnes & Noble bookstore. The property, which includes a 25,920-square-foot building on a 3.3-acre parcel, is listed for sale for $3.5 million.

ACICS has been under scrutiny by the Department of Education for several years because it accredited for-profit colleges such as ITT Technical Institute that were found by federal investigations to have defrauded students.

After the department ruled in August that ACICS had not met the conditions for participation in federal student aid programs, the agency announced it would close by 2024.

The department offered provisional certification for ACICS-accredited institutions if they met several conditions, including posting a “letter of credit” pledging to cover any lost federal financial aid in the future if they kept operating but then closed.

In its case, Living Arts College said this would have amounted to $377,727 “that can be taken by the Department of Education at their discretion for any reason.” This, along with other conditions it would have had to meet, constituted “impossible demands” from the Department of Education that forced it to close, the college stated.

New city clerk settles in to job
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HIGH POINT — For Sandra Keeney, being High Point’s city clerk is about much more than record-keeping.

She said she sees the job as part of something bigger and hopes to contribute to the city’s upward momentum.

“The leadership here is dynamic. The City Council is progressive. It’s exciting to see all the changes,” Keeney said. “High Point is definitely a city that is on the move, and I definitely want to be a part of that.”

She was hired by the council and began the job last month, replacing Lisa Vierling, who retired in June after 21 years as clerk.

A member of the city’s executive team, the clerk — which is one of three positions appointed by the council — records and maintains all official actions, meetings and records of the council.

Keeney previously served as deputy clerk for High Point in 2018, when she left to become city clerk for Winston-Salem.

A native of Eastern North Carolina, she said she settled on her career path after a stint working for a school board in West Virginia.

“It was there I fell in love with local government and how big a part they play in people’s everyday lives,” she recalled.

Keeney said the volume of records generated from council meetings and other official actions has “increased dramatically” since her prior stint with the city.

She credits Deputy City Clerk Mary Brooks, who served as interim clerk after Vierling’s retirement, with handling the office’s workload.

“High Point is like a well-oiled machine,” she said. “Lisa was an outstanding clerk and left a good system in place. Mary has done a fantastic job of holding the fort. She is a wonderful, wonderful deputy.”

Like her predecessor, Keeney prides herself on being a meticulous record-keeper, recording every council meeting and then transcribing the proceedings word-for-word.

She said she doesn’t use software to automate this process because it can misidentify a word here or there.

“Words matter,” Keeney said.

She said one goal is to digitize more of the city’s old meeting minutes and other paper records from past years.

In the meantime, she said she expects to complete the process of obtaining her master municipal clerk certification by June or July.

This designation, which is the highest in the profession, requires coursework and other training at the UNC School of Government, as well as volunteer work, she said.

It will end up being about a three-year endeavor to earn this certification.

“I’m just so thankful and grateful to be here in the city of High Point,” Keeney said. “I feel honored that I get to work for the mayor and City Council and look forward to seeing where we go next.”

Enterprise sees leadership changes

HIGH POINT — The High Point Enterprise has a new publisher, and the person who had been publisher has taken on elevated responsibilities.

Rick Thomason became The Enterprise’s publisher on Monday. He succeeds Nancy Baker, who has been promoted to vice president of finance for the Southeast region of Paxton Media Group, which owns The Enterprise. In this role she oversees the finances for 29 newspapers. Baker remains based at The Enterprise.

Baker has been with The Enterprise since 2004, when she joined the paper as business manager. In 2011 she was named regional controller for Paxton, and she added the duties of publisher in 2019 after the retirement of Rick Bean.

Paxton’s growth in the Southeast, including the recent purchase of six newspapers in North Carolina from Gannett, had increased Baker’s responsibilities.

“We have gone from a 12-paper region when I became High Point publisher and regional controller in 2019 to 29 daily and weekly publications in the Southeast region. I am looking forward to the challenge this will bring,” she said. “With Rick’s extensive newspaper background I know he will do a great job stepping into the publisher role. I hope everyone will give him a warm High Point welcome as he becomes a part of our community.”

Thomason, 65, most recently was the publisher of the Kingsport Times-News in eastern Tennessee for six years.

Although he could have retired, “I’m just not ready. I like working,” he said. “I like being around people.”

And one of the joys of working in the news industry is “you get to be part of something new every day,” he said.

This is Thomason’s third time living in North Carolina, and he hopes this one will be less eventful than the first two — working at The Free Press in Kinston and The Robesonian in Lumberton. At each of those, he lived through flooding caused by hurricanes.

Though Thomason has worked for newspapers his entire career, starting as a reporter in his hometown Dothan, Alabama, he originally started college at Auburn University planning to go to pharmacy school. One of the required courses changed that.

“Calculus decided for me that I didn’t want to do pharmacy,” he said.

His career has taken him to Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and even Connecticut — where yet another hurricane, Sandy, hit his area shortly before he left.

High Point is a departure from most of the places he has lived.

“It’s big compared to where I lived before,” he said. “I like the energy here in this area. I think I’ll also like the climate.”

His wife, Elaine, will join Thomason in High Point in the spring.

Thomason said he looks forward to learning about the city and becoming involved in community organizations.


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