Investigation into allegations of misconduct in Stanly Co. raises more questions

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:

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STANLY COUNTY, N.C. —

A continuing Channel 9 investigation into allegations of misconduct in Stanly County is raising more questions about why action was never taken against a court official who may have used her job to improperly obtain a copy of a certified birth certificate of a relative of Albemarle native and country music singer Kellie Pickler.

Eyewitness News has learned in June 2009, Stanly County trial court coordinator Susan Honeycutt applied for a certified copy of a birth certificate for Eric Shane Pickler, the half-brother of Kellie Pickler.

Access to a certified copy of the vital record is restricted to certain parties, according to UNC School of Government professor Charles Szypszak.

"Certified copies are used to prove your identity. You get drivers licenses, passports, things like that, so that's why they're restricted," Szypszak said.

When Stanly County Register of Deeds Suzanne Lowder discovered Honeycutt's application, she emailed Professor Szypszak with questions.

In copies of the emails obtained by Channel 9, Lowder said when Honeycutt applied for the certified copy, she implied Pickler's birth certificate "...was for child support...stating she was an authorized agent, attorney or legal rep..."

Lowder also wrote "I believe this individual misrepresented herself. I checked with the Clerk of Court. There was no case involving this child."

Szypszak said he directed Lowder to contact the county attorney and go to Sheriff Rick Burris to report the incident.

"Any intentional misrepresentation to get a restricted public record, such as a certified copy of a birth certificate, could be a crime," Szypszak said.

Under North Carolina general statute, willfully and knowingly making a false statement on an application for a certified birth certificate is a felony.

In a phone interview with Eyewitness News, Lowder confirmed she went to Sheriff Burris's office to file a report, and instead she said he picked up the phone and called Susan Honeycutt's boss, Chief District Judge Lisa Thacker.

Lowder's emails detailed what happened next. "The Sheriff and judge are of the opinion that nothing further should be done," Lowder told Szypszak.

For weeks, Channel 9 tried to contact Judge Thacker and Sheriff Burris, wanting to ask why they did not file an incident report or pursue an investigation.

Eyewitness News left messages at their offices, visited Thacker's home and went to the Sheriff's office.

Neither official responded to our repeated requests for interviews.

Susan Honeycutt did later provide Register of Deeds Suzanne Lowder with a statement, apparently signed by Eric Pickler's mother, authorizing Honeycutt to obtain the certified birth certificate.

Honeycutt has not responded to repeated calls for comment.