Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Murder charge, but no body

Victoria Cherrie, Martha Quillin and Gary L. Wright, McClatchy Newspapers
The body of Sallie Jordan Rohrbach hasn't been found, but Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have charged a Union County man with murdering the state insurance examiner from Angier.
Rohrbach, who worked for the N.C. Department of Insurance in Raleigh, disappeared while in Charlotte last week to audit the Dilworth Insurance Agency.

The owner and operator of the agency, Michael Arthur Howell, 40, of Indian Trail, a Charlotte suburb, was being held in the Mecklenburg County jail without bail. He will make his first court appearance today. He has no criminal record in North Carolina.

Charlotte police, citing the continuing investigation, released little information Monday about the case. Homicide Sgt. Ricky Robbins would not say how police know Rohrbach is dead or how they linked Howell to her disappearance.

Robbins said police don't need a body to charge someone with murder. "If we have evidence to prove they committed a crime, we can charge them with the crime," the sergeant said.

Rohrbach, 44, had been assigned to look through the Dilworth agency's files, review Howell's books and interview him, said Chrissy Pearson, a Department of Insurance spokeswoman in Raleigh.

"We had absolutely no indication this would be anything but routine," Pearson said. "It wasn't anything egregious. There was no red flag that suggested we needed to treat this case different than any other."

Details of the complaint about the insurance agency, which are normally public record, are not being released because of the police investigation, Pearson said.

On Monday morning, the Insurance Department called in a minister to help with grieving employees.

"One of the prevailing sentiments here today is, of course, you look back and wonder what you could have done differently," Pearson said.

Investigators are trained to call in if they feel threatened or unsafe while in the field, Pearson said. In fact, Rohrbach had done so in the past.

"If only she'd called in for backup [this time]," Pearson said.

Last seen Wednesday

Rohrbach worked for years in the insurance industry, in underwriting and claims adjustment. She had been at the Department of Insurance for eight years, serving for the past five as an examiner, responsible for auditing insurance agencies and making sure they met licensing requirements for continuing education.

Rohrbach was last seen between 3 and 4 p.m. Wednesday -- apparently at the Dilworth agency on South Boulevard in Charlotte. State insurance department staff members reported Rohrbach missing Friday night to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police after being unable to find anyone who had seen her, Pearson said.

On Sunday morning, the state-owned vehicle that Rohrbach had been driving, a Chevrolet Malibu, was found in the parking lot of a Bojangles' restaurant on West Boulevard in Charlotte -- less than a half-mile from the insurance agency.

Police said Monday that they had searched Rohrbach's vehicle as well as Howell's business and vehicle.

Rohrbach was the daughter of a tobacco farmer who became a planter of a different kind -- sowing flowers around her house and kindnesses among her neighbors.

"I just don't have enough adjectives to describe her," said Jerry Smith, who lives next door to the home Rohrbach shared with her husband, Tim, in Angier. "She was just a great person. She tried to do everything she could to help anybody, her neighbors all around."

Rohrbach was a 1981 graduate of Garner Senior High School. In 1995, she graduated from Meredith College in Raleigh with a bachelor's degree in sociology.

Since moving into a remodeled 1920s-era Colonial-style home on Chalybeate Springs Road, the Rohrbachs had set a standard for the neighborhood, Smith said, in the way they cared for the house and yard.

Smith's wife, Jean, said the Rohrbachs always worked as a pair.

"Tim's real handy, and Sallie was right there to help him," she said. "They were a very loving couple. What one was doing, the other was doing also."

Rohrbach was known for her love of animals, both the cats and dogs she kept and those that wandered up. She kept food and water in dishes on her front porch, Jean Smith said. Stray animals who needed it knew right where to go.

Pearson, of the Insurance Department, said Rohrbach had a reputation for being a thorough and conscientious employee.

"Right now we are in a grieving period," Pearson said. "It's going to take us some time to get over the shock of it, and we have a lot of work ahead of us."

martha.quillin@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-8989

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mom's gift to kids: 'No!'

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of TLC's "Shalom in the Home" says we can't just blame kids for acting bratty or spoiled. Kids today, he says, are exhibiting a lot of anger because they feel neglected by parents who may put careers ahead of family.

"The one thing that kids need in huge doses is love," Rabbi Shmuley says. "They're insatiable for it. They're not getting it."

Rabbi Shmuley says parents have a hard time teaching discipline and respect for others because of three factors affecting many families.

1. Exhaustion: Parents can't say no because they don't have the energy to do so.

2. Guilt: Not being able to give more of their time, parents often give material gifts instead.

3. A loveless society: Shmuley says "we don't live in a very loving society. People come from broken childhoods; they often have loveless marriages. The only love they get is from their children, so they're afraid to discipline them because they think their children won't love them."

Parents, Rabbi Shmuley says, need to realize that discipline is love. "'No' is just as loving as saying 'yes,'" he says.

Rebecca, a divorced mother of two who works, knows that she spoils her kids. Since she works a full-time job, she cannot spend as much time with her son and daughter as she would like. "A lot of times I feel like I am Mom and Dad to both of my children," she says.

Because she feels guilty about not spending enough time with them, Rebecca says she tends to "overcompensate when they ask me for things ... so I overindulge."

Rebecca's children have developed certain techniques to get the things they want. Her 5-year-old son, Brandon, uses "sad eyes." Her daughter, Stephanie, uses peer pressure. "If I really want to get something from my mom," Stephanie says, "I'll come home and I'll be like, 'Mom, all my friends have [it].'"

Rebecca says her inability to deny her children's every want is getting out of control. "I want to say no, but it comes out yes," she says.

Dr. Robin Smith says Rebecca is trying to make up for her perceived inadequacy as a single working mom by showering Brandon and Stephanie with gifts. This places so much emphasis on material goods that the children are learning to define themselves by material things.

"If they were to lose everything -- if the rug gets pulled from underneath us -- you've got to be able to still know that you are good enough," Dr. Robin says. "Right now, if they lose things, they're going to feel empty."

The solution to feelings of guilt, Dr. Robin says, won't come from stuff. "I want you to really recognize that what you're trying to do, which is to love them, to make up for your not being there, you can't do it with things. Things will never satisfy and never fill the sacred hole that only a mom and dad can do."

As for Rebecca's struggles as a single mom, Dr. Robin says, "You can't be Dad, just be a good mom. Or if you're a dad, just be a good dad. Fill your own sense of being good enough and satisfied and that it's not about what you have ... and then you can feel good about yourself."

Do you think your inability to say no is harming your kids? These are three questions you need to ask yourself.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Railroad Modelers Create ‘Own Little World'

Fairgrounds Show Promotes Hobby and Trains

By Jeff Mellott
HARRISONBURG - Browsing through the displays at the Model Train and Railroading Show on Sunday, Michael Strawderman looked for something that would fit into the project he's working on at home.

Strawderman, 40, is building a scale model railroad community in his basement. The Harrisonburg resident was among the people indulging their hobby at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.

Different Stage

Strawderman said his interest in railroading took a different turn after working with building miniatures for drama productions.

The drama teacher at Thomas Harrison Middle School began creating a miniature community to compliment his model train track.

The model railroad community is a work in progress, but he has already derived satisfaction from the project that includes buildings with detailed interiors.

"It's fun to have people come over and peer inside the building and see the people in there and the detail," he said.

Fun Outing

Strawderman visited the show, sponsored by the Shenandoah Valley Railroad Club and the local chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society, because it offers a chance to find additions for his model community without driving far from the city.

Strawderman's sons, Andrew, 11, and Benjamin, 8, found lots of items that interested them.

Andrew's modeling interest is a little different than his father's. He focused his attention on the model cars and how different they are from each other.

Benjamin found model layouts the most interesting, including a train that sprouted smoke.

"It's really fun," he said.

Long Run

The club has been running the event for about 20 years, said Jim Suter, 67, who lives just west of Harrisonburg.

A member of the board of directors of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad Club, Suter's interest in railroading is real trains.

The vast majority of people who come are those who want to buy something for their model train layout, said Suter, who is retired from Walker Manufacturing.

"We do the show mostly to promote interest in trains and modeling," he said.

Attendance figures for Sunday's event was not available, but Suter said 48 dealers bought 140 tables for the show.

"We really don't know until the end of the show what affect the price of gasoline had on attendance," Suter said.

Railroad Life

Club member Paul Graham, 72, of Bridgewater, has the same interest in railroading as Suter.

He worked around railroads most of his life beginning in 1956 when he took a job with the old Erie Railroad. He continued to work with the company's successors over 22 years.

Graham then went to work for the federal Interstate Commerce Commission. His job was making sure railroad companies complied with federal regulations.

Standing behind a table covered with train magazines and calendars he was selling, Graham said last year's event drew about 1,000 people, including dealers and about 230 children, who got in free.

"We like to promote the youngsters," he said.

‘Own Little World'

Building scale models is just one of the interests of people who attend the club's meetings, said club president Randall Reichenbach.

Some of them like watching trains and others like riding them, he said.

Reichenbach's interest includes scale models, even though he has never constructed a layout.

But that hasn't stopped the 64-year-old Harrisonburg resident from collecting rolling stock, buildings and other pieces for layouts over the past 40 years.

"I haven't had the time or situation to set up a layout," said Reichenbach, who is in the insurance business.

The layouts provide a chance to "make your own little world," he said.

Personal Touch

The world that Strawderman is creating is full of personal touches.

He paints and personalizes model kits he buys.

The theater in his model community is named after one that he once worked with.

The level of detail for the grocery he is working on includes shopping carts, he said.

Model shows like Sunday's event are places for him to explore. "You never know what is out there," he said.

Contact Jeff Mellott at 574-6290 or jmellott@dnronline.com

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Daphne du Maurier festival, Cornwall, £316 a week at a cottage; three nights on Isle of Skye, £210; Majorca, £300 for a week; three nights in Riga, £1

British Isles

The Daphne du Maurier Festival, starting in a week's time and running until May 17, provides an extra reason to visit the charming and historic town of Fowey in Cornwall. Perched above an estuary, with elegant houses alongside stone cottages, the town welcomes guests as diverse as Lord Owen or Rick Wakeman, Pam Ayres and Brian Sewell to celebrate the work of the county's most evocative writer with talks, walks, drama, music and art. Cornish Traditional Cottages has properties for four to six available close to the town for a week from May 2/3 and 10 starting at £316, including Long Cottage on the opposite bank with harbour views. 01208 821666

Fowey Hall, the von Essen hotel next to the main festival marquee, has a special rate during the event of a room for two with B&B and a pre-event supper from £155 a night. The Old Quay House in the town centre, with views of the estuary and du Maurier's home, has rooms for two with breakfast from £145 a night. 01726 833866/ 01726 833302 (hotels); 0845 0940428 (festival tickets)

The Chichester Festival Theatre season has just begun with a lively production of Funny Girl and The Cherry Orchard to follow. Midweek breaks with B&B for two and theatre tickets start from £72 a night through visitchichester.org. Two nearby hotels of character, Bailiffscourt on the coast at Climping and the Spread Eagle at Midhurst, have midweek rates of dinner, B&B for £99 and £85 a person a night. 01243 775888 (visit chichester); 01903 723511/ 01730 816911 (hotels)

Outlook by name, outlook by nature sums up a period property with a circular lounge, two bedrooms and bathrooms in the Victorian resort of Saltburn-by-the-Sea, north Yorkshire. It is on offer for a week from May 10 with Yorkshire Cottages for £440 with no charge for pets. 01228 406701

Fresh fish from local waters and game from the hills are on the menu at Ullinish Country Lodge, dating back 300 years in a quiet corner of the Isle of Skye. Short breaks are on offer for the next week with dinner, B&B for three nights from £210. 01470 572214

Enjoy the late May Bank Holiday week cycling along the lanes of north Norfolk, or walking along the beach to the crab fishing village of Overstrand, while staying at Poppyland Holiday Cottages. A home for four is £575 for a week from May 23. 01263 577473

Short haul

A week on the small, delightful, pine-covered and shingle-beach Greek island of Skopelos is on offer for £155 with Olympic Holidays. The package includes a flight from Gatwick on May 9, ferry transfers and self-catering at Julie Studios, near Skopelos Town. 0844 4994448

Libra Holidays is marking the launch of a new Friday flight to the Egyptian resort of Hurghada from Birmingham with discounted deals. Prices start at £348 with B&B for a week from May 9 and rise to £473 for the late May Bank Holiday week. 0871 2267825

Savings of between 25 and 40 per cent are available on properties near the north coast of Majorca in the next three weeks with Best Villas Pollensa. A simple villa for six with a pool is £300 for a week from May 10 or 17 and a stylishly converted old house for eight with a large pool is £600 for a week from Saturday and May 10. Flights extra. 0844 5611217

If you missed last year's events to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, a new exhibition opening today in Ypres offers a further chance to examine the conflict and how it was perceived on all sides. VFB Holidays has three-day breaks in the town, rebuilt almost as it was before the war, from £141 with B&B, tickets to Man-Culture-War at Flanders Fields Museum and Channel crossings. 01452 716831

A week on Madeira for £369 is available with Atlantic Holidays. Fly from Gatwick on May 12 for B&B at the three-star Hotel Dom Pedro Garajau with a pool in a residential area on a protected coast six miles (9.5km) from Funchal. 01242 361888

The Latvian capital, Riga, is an increasingly popular short break destination and Cities Direct has a deal starting on a Sunday. Three nights' B&B at a five-star hotel a short walk from the Old Town, costs £199, flying from Bristol on May 18. 01242 536900

Long haul

Fly from Manchester to Orlando on May 18 and Travel City Direct offers a choice of two-week bargain breaks. A fortnight at Days Inn, International Drive, handy for all the city's theme parks, stats at £369, based on four sharing and with car hire; a two-centre holiday in Orlando and St Petersburg starts at £389 and the flight plus car hire only is £279. Prices are with third-party car insurance. 0871 9112415

Another good deal from Manchester is to Bali: a week from May 11 for £655. The offer with Hayes & Jarvis includes a Singapore Airlines' flight and a room at the three-star Bali Rani Resort, with a large landscaped pool, bars and restaurants in Tuban, south of the lively town of Kuta. 0871 6640246

All prices are per person and based on two travelling together and sharing a room, unless stated otherwise.