Local News

Durham Garage Owner Loses Sheriff's Business, Wants Answers

Posted May 25, 2001

— Willie Johnson's auto service center is not seeing much business these days, and he thinks he knows why.

"Our business is suffering, we're behind on our bills and we're struggling to make payroll," says Johnson who used to bank on servicing the sheriff's department's cars. It is an account that Johnson says brought in over $200,000 a year.

Johnson claims that Sheriff Worth Hill took away all the department's business not because of shoddy work, but because Johnson's niece and employee, Gwen Oswald, accused the sheriff's son of stalking her.

"Everytime we had an issue with Brad, we would lose a percentage of cars," said Johnson

"'I'll show you' he said, 'I'll make your like a living hell if you pursue my son. I will take Willie's business away and bankrupt him,'" says Oswald.

Oswald filed charges against the younger Hill in January. A judge deferred prosecution as long as he did not cause any more trouble.

After that, Johnson says the sheriff's department left him with a $67,000 storage bill for keeping 30 cars on his lot, and refuses to pay him. Now, he wants answers.

"I feel like we've been bullied around. We've decided to stand up and face what we feel is an injustice," he says.

Hill would not talk on camera but he spoke to WRAL's Julia Lewis Thursday evening. He says he had started shifting his business to a different auto shop before his son and Oswald ever had a relationship.

The sheriff did not want to go into details because of pending litigation, but he insists the personal relationship had nothing to do with the professional relationship. He also said there was an understanding that the storage of those 30 cars was free.


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