Last week Thomasi McDonald wrote about the conviction of Antonio Davenport in the killing of nine-year-old Z’Yon Person while the boy was on his way to get a snow cone. We cited some data from a new WRAL documentary, Durham Under Fire, about recent conviction rates from District Attorney Satana Deberry’s office that show that during Deberry’s tenure, felony conviction rates dropped from 51 percent to 33 percent. We received the following response from Deberry’s office.

“Looking only at people convicted as charged leaves out a significant number of cases in which people were, in fact, held accountable—including people who pled guilty to other charges and may be serving long prison sentences, people who went through rigorous diversion programs and are now less likely to reoffend, people whose cases were resolved in accordance with the wishes of crime victims or their families, and people like Antonio Davenport who were prosecuted by our federal partners. It also overlooks cases in which the evidence did not support the charges filed and moving forward would have been unethical.

“Unfortunately, these figures give the false impression that most people charged in homicides in Durham are not held accountable; in fact, it’s the opposite. Of the 88 homicide defendants whose cases were closed from 2019–2021, two-thirds were convicted of charges involving murder and manslaughter. Another 10 percent, including Davenport, were turned over for federal prosecution with the assistance of my office.”

We also received a lot of mail about Hannah Kaufman’s story on Chatham County’s Big Hole facility that could be the inspiration for the Hawkins Lab in the Netflix hit Stranger Things. Here’s a sampling:

From reader Cielle Collins:

Awesome article by Hannah!! I’m totally sucked into Season 4 of Stranger Things right now, trying to savor every second of it. I love watching it in Durham because of the overwhelming feeling that this whole story is inspired by the very town we live in. Like how the author of Dracula swears that the whole story is completely true, it’s fun to imagine that more truth than meets the eye lies behind the Duffer Brothers’ storyline. For that reason, I totally ate up the whole article and can’t believe that our very own Hawkins Laboratory really does exist! Such a fun piece, and it’s so well-researched and well-written. I love the personal accounts from townspeople, both past and present, that have been sought out and included. Hannah definitely cultivates the feeling of mystique surrounding the facility. Such a fun read. I love that she gave us a chance to take a break and learn about something like this when our news feeds are often filled with discouraging headlines. 

From reader Karen Griffin: 

I had to laugh, reading this article. Back in the early 60’s, my parents moved here from Charlotte so my dad could work on building the Big Hole. He was an ex-army, second generation Bell System linesman who, through his military service, had high security clearance. My dad worked there until his retirement in the late 80’s.

The Big Hole was one of a series of secured government communication centers on the east coast. Yes, my dad traveled frequently to all of the other sites. He had higher security clearance than his boss. These centers were built to house communication centers that would allow for the government to continue to function in a worst case scenario. The positioning was to link DC with the major east coast military bases. People forget, also, that Cuba was a huge concern back in the 70’s. My dad left the house numerous times not knowing if, or when he was coming home.

All of this info is in hindsight. I had no idea what my dad did until I was an adult. He never talked about it. The facility was stocked to run turbines for power for a minimum of 7 months. These were built in advance of today’s technologies. All communication was via landline at that point, and lines had to be tested for security.

The Big Hole still exists, and is still owned by AT&T, but no longer serves in the same capacity. Before he died, they opened up when they were converting to whatever it is used for now, and he got to go back into the facility. He came home with lots of memories, and a few office chairs. A few of his ashes might be scattered nearby.

From reader Carl Henrickson:

I worked at one of these nuclear hardened sites near DC. We were the Network Operations Center fir the Pentagon’s Autovon Network. Not nearly as mysterious as it may seem.

From reader Michael:

Its’ a shame your article fails to mention CWC (Cold War Comms), the person who runs the site was one of the first to talk about these places back in the mid 1990’s.

Everyone’s research online, including Rebecca Kastleman is based on what has been talked about for over 20+yrs by members of that Forum, who have spent thousands of hours researching all aspects of AT&T Cold War & Present Communications Systems.

I suggest combing the messages on the forum below, if your really interested in learning more about Communications from the Past & Present.

From the folks at Arcane Carolinas:

We loved Hannah’s article on the Chatham County Hole! I remember hearing friends talk about it in college at UNC in the ’90s and it’s been an object of fascination ever since. I’m not sending this to try using backtalk for advertising, I just thought Hannah might enjoy our episode about The Big Hole from April of last year and an email to hkaufman@indyweek bounced back. (The Indy profiled us in April of this year.)

From reader Michael Hains:

I worked for 40 years for the local phone company that served the so called big hole. 

My first 20 years was outside in the cable maintenance department.  Let me tell you I spent many a day up near the big hole. I located lines in and around the big hole and did maintenance on there incoming lines.

There is a buried cable that services the big hole that belongs to them, not used by local authorities.  It comes out of Chapel Hill and is buried deeper that we buried our very own cables. He was always located by a person associated with at*t. 

As for the big hole my cables stopped at what we called a D point, which was located in a?metal box located on there roof. The grassy areas between our Dmark and their cables.

Was once called to locate the cables where they go onto there buildings back to our box. This was done fir a new security system they were putting in. It was a waste of time they cut it anyway.

 The current system they have are the cameras mounted on poles and the barricades that pop out of the ground. For fun I would walk around and watch the cameras follow me. Once and awhile they would talk to me thru speakers. 

All my wasted efforts of locating the lines up near the entrance was a total waste they cut it anyway. Bad part is I had to dig it up by hand, because they thought if we used a backhoe we might damage their new lines. They watched me dig and work the entire time. That is our government at work.

From reader Doug Beckett:

I’m told that the facility at Big Hoke Rd is an analog communications station. As far as I’m told, your story is accurate about the construction and design of the building. One of the biggest threats under modern warfare will be a cyber attack which can shut down modern digital communications. The “old technology ” analog system is far more resilient to this kind of attack. Hope this helps.

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