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Police charge man in homicide
  • Updated

Anthony T. Oliver

HIGH POINT — A 28-year-old man from Greensboro was shot and killed Sunday afternoon at a house in the eastern part of the city, and a 25-year-old High Point man was arrested Monday.

The shooting took place just before 2:15 p.m. in the 3700 block of Eskdale Drive, which is in an area north of the intersection of E. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Dillon Road. When High Point Police Department officers arrived, they found Michael S. Brown Jr. dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Police began a search for Anthony T. Oliver, who was identified as the assailant and left before police arrived.

On Monday morning, officers received calls about Oliver running from a house on Eskdale Drive. Officers quickly went there, found Oliver, who tried to run, and arrested him in the 3600 block of Densbury Drive, one street over from Eskdale, about 10 a.m.

Oliver is charged with murder. He is in the Guilford County Jail in High Point with no bond allowed.

Police didn’t release further details but called the shooting “an isolated incident.” The shooting was the fifth homicide in the city this year.

A woman who lives near the scene of the shooting described what happened in a call to a 911 emergency dispatcher Sunday afternoon. In a recording of the call, her voice trembling, she said Brown was sitting in the backyard when someone she had never seen before showed up at the house asking if Brown was there, then went to the backyard and started shooting. He walked away when he finished firing his weapon.

The woman said she didn’t see what type of gun was used or what led up to the shooting.

“I don’t know what was going on because I had just come from church,” the woman said.

As the woman cried, the dispatcher calmly told her that officers were on the way.

YMCA celebrates Chavis branch renovations

HIGH POINT — The freshest, shiniest, swankiest YMCA branch around now is the one that sits on Granville Street in southeast High Point.

It doesn’t have all its furniture or fitness equipment yet, and it will be March 20 before all its programs are up and running again, but the Carl Chavis branch welcomed a crowd of well over 100 people Sunday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the expanded and newly renovated building, and more people arrived as the afternoon passed.

Lynn Lomax, the president and CEO of the YMCA of High Point, called the $4.5 million renovation and expansion the centerpiece of more than $10 million in projects planned at all of the Y’s facilities in High Point.

“We wanted to set the foundation for the next 20 to 25 years,” he said. “We’re doing work everywhere.”

The renovations include a new lobby expansion and entrance, renovated classrooms, a new childwatch and teen center, a raised indoor track in the gym, fully redone flooring for the basketball court, and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

It also includes a feature in the lobby that Lomax said will be added to all of the High Point branches: a prayer wall. It consists of a section of stone slabs, and people can write down their prayers and slip the paper into a crack between the stones, similar to a part of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Renovation of a separate building that will be a new child care center continues. YMCA officials announced in June that the building will be named in honor of Carlvena Foster, who has been the executive director of the Chavis branch for more than 20 years.

A pillar of the community since being established in 1943, the Chavis branch is named in honor of the first African-American soldier from High Point to die during World War II. In addition to offering wellness services, the branch serves more than 130 children per week in summer day camp and nearly 50 children newborn to age 5 in its child care.

Plans for the renovation were announced in 2020, but Lomax said the details kept evolving during the project, driven largely by Foster.

Speaking to the jubilant crowd just before Sunday’s ribbon-cutting, Foster credited Lomax for wanting to get the renovation done, and she expressed relief that it finally had come to pass.

“This has been a long time coming, but we’re here, and that’s all that matters,” she said.

Council adopts new ward map
  • Updated

HIGH POINT — The City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a new ward map that will be used in High Point municipal elections for the rest of this decade.

The new district boundaries for the six council wards are almost identical to those that have been in place for recent elections, except for a few neighborhoods that will switch wards.

Besides the six ward representatives, the mayor and two additional council members will continue to be elected at-large.

All nine seats will be on the ballot in November of this year.

Monday’s vote brought an end to the redistricting process that’s required after every census to account for population changes.

The council decided last fall to keep its existing election system in place and that it would oversee the drawing of the new boundaries, with assistance from consultants with the Poyner Spruill law firm in Raleigh.

The council directed the consultants to keep every incumbent ward member in their districts, unpaired with any of their colleagues, which the new map does.

The council’s other redistricting priorities were to keep precincts whole and the core of the existing wards intact, so that neighborhoods and other communities of interest aren’t divided between districts.

According to the consultants’ demographic data, wards 2, 5 and 6 were the only districts that needed adjustments to their boundaries so that all of the wards would have roughly equal populations.

The new map makes three primary changes in various parts of the city to achieve the required balancing.

In north High Point, a section of Ward 6 that includes the Oak Hollow Estates neighborhood west of Eastchester Drive was switched to Ward 5. This was done to accommodate shifting all of the Alderbrook subdivision off Kendale Road, which was split between the two wards, to Ward 6.

That change was made at the behest of the council, so that the entire neighborhood would have the same representative.

In south High Point, neighborhoods around Nathan Hunt Drive near Blair Park Golf Course were switched from Ward 3 to Ward 2, to give it the required population figures.

A public hearing Monday on the new map drew one speaker, the Rev. Frank Thomas of Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Washington Street.

He said he was happy that there weren’t any significant changes made to the ward lines and that the few residents he’s spoken with about the topic were of the same view.

HIGH POINT CONFIDENTIAL: The pseudo-killer - Jessup’s life of crime led to a surprise ending

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second story in a two-part “High Point Confidential” series. Part one was published Saturday and can be found online at


A murderer he was not.

Ray Hilton Jessup may not have strangled a woman to death and buried her behind Highland Cotton Mill in 1952 — as he told High Point police he had done — but he had plenty of other crimes on his resume, both before and after his infamous murder hoax.

And just wait’ll you hear the final, unexpected chapter of his adventurous odyssey.

Jessup’s trail of trouble began in 1950, when he was a 17-year-old Army soldier, home on leave in Greensboro. He and a buddy were nabbed in a stolen car full of stolen goods — everything from whiskey and cigarettes to a typewriter, a gun and — true story — cold wieners. He was sentenced to 2½ years in the slammer, but he would soon make the first of his many prison escapes.

He was recaptured after cracking a beer bottle over a man’s head in a local bar.

At the time, Jessup told a High Point Enterprise reporter he had “rabbit blood” that made him run away from prison road crews. That would happen again and again — at various prison camps across the state — throughout the convict’s colorful life of crime.

In the fall of 1953, following the High Point murder that wasn’t, Jessup appeared to feel some remorse.

“I’d just like to tell all other young boys that a life of crime is just not worth it,” he told The Enterprise. “If you’re going to live a good life, you have got to do it inside the law.”

Unfortunately, Jessup was lying — or maybe it was just that “rabbit blood” flowing through his veins — because he continued escaping from whatever prison camp the state sent him to.

On June 1, 1964 — after yet another escape, this time in Greensboro — authorities took the extreme measure of officially declaring Jessup an outlaw. This meant that if he resisted arrest by either an officer or a private citizen, the officer or citizen could shoot him without fear of prosecution.

Jessup was recaptured, unharmed, just over a week later in Washington, D.C. And can you guess what happened after this capture?

Yep, rabbit blood … again. He remained on the lam for three months before being captured in California. Two years later, it happened again, and he was recaptured at a dinky motel near Asheboro.

If Harry Houdini was reincarnated — as he believed he would be — he might’ve come back as Ray Hilton Jessup. The elusive convict’s final breakout in 1967 was his 23rd escape from a North Carolina prison, and his escapes included some amazing tales: Sawing his way out of prisons with hidden files and hacksaws. Scaling barbed-wire fences. Dodging prison guards’ bullets. Outrunning bloodhounds in hot pursuit.

On one occasion, as Jessup was being returned to North Carolina on a train from Louisiana, he quietly lifted the handcuff keys from his sleeping guard and slipped away, then jumped from the speeding train into a river, nearly drowning in the process.

Another time, he was buck-naked when he knocked an unsuspecting guard cold, climbed the prison fence and bolted through a nearby tobacco field. He found an empty cement bag, cut some holes in it and wore that until he could find a more suitable outfit.

Jessup’s final stretch in prison lasted 15 years, from 1967 to 1982, when he was paroled and came out of prison — ready for this? — a changed man.

“I’m sorry I wasted my life in prison, but the experiences I had there and the person I have become make it all worthwhile,” the 49-year-old Jessup told reporters upon his release.

And who was the person he became?

A television evangelist — not professionally, but in practice.

Jessup had become a Christian in prison, but it wasn’t a jailhouse conversion. When he got out, he began sharing his testimony on a Christian television program called “Adventures in Faith.” He had an amazing, genuine story to share, remembers James Layton, a Raleigh-area pastor who befriended Jessup in prison and hosted “Adventures in Faith.”

“The warden here said there wasn’t a prison in North Carolina that Ray couldn’t break out of if he wanted to,” Layton says. “But Ray went on to become one of the most gentle men I’ve ever met, just an outstanding gentleman. It just hit him one day during a church service in prison — he didn’t like the way he’d been living his life.”

Layton eventually lost touch with Jessup, who moved back to the Greensboro area and died in 2001 at the age of 68.

It was an anti-climactic ending for an ex-con who once fled from a prison buck-naked and another time jumped off a speeding train. But isn’t it nice to know Jessup finally broke free of the criminal lifestyle that had shackled him for so long?

Confidentially, that may have been his greatest escape of them all. | 336-888-3579


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