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News In Brief
An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Dylann Roof's Lawyers Hope To Show His Personality; Great Smoky Mountains National Park Reopens

Defense lawyers have told a federal judge they'd like to present more evidence about Dylann Roof's personality and state of mind. The lawyers filed the motion Friday in connection with the federal death penalty trial, where Roof faces 33 federal counts, including hate crimes, in the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in June of last year.

U.S. Judge Richard Gergel said he will take up the issues on a case-by-case basis before jurors hear testimony.

Later in the day Friday, Prosecutors played a videotape of Roof confessing to FBI agents less than a day after the shooting took place. After standard questions about knowing his rights, FBI agent Michael Stansbury made a minute of small talk about Roof's family, where he went to school, and what he did for a living.

When Stansbury asked Roof what happened last night, he paused for about 20 seconds. Then Roof said, "Uh, I did it."

Roof was speaking calmly. A few minutes later he said he thought he killed about five people.

Roof's lawyers haven't contested that Roof killed nine black parishioners in last year's shooting. The filing indicates Roof's lawyers want to include evidence that might convince jurors to spare Roof of the death penalty before they have to leave the case.

If he is found guilty, Roof has said he does not want his lawyers to represent him in the penalty phase of the trial.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Reopens Following Wildfires

A steady line of cars began snaking along a reopened road to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the nearby town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee after officials removed barriers blocking off the road Friday morning.

The national park closed down last month and the town evacuated as wildfires ravaged the area, causing 14 deaths and damaging about 2,500 buildings near the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.

Officials Investigate Lincolnton Church Break-In

Detectives with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office are looking into a series of church break-ins that occurred over the last week. A statement from the sheriff's office said the latest incident occurred Wednesday when deputies responded to a break-in at Trinity Second Chance Church. When church members arrived for Bible study, they found the main door had been broken, and a bass guitar and case missing.

Break-ins were also reported on Dec. 2, 3, and 5. Items stolen in the break-ins include televisions, money for a building fund, an amplifier and speakers.

Detectives believe the break-ins are connected because all of them occurred in the same area south of Lincolnton.