Local News

Johnston County attorney, under fire, is missing

Posted July 22, 2009 10:40 a.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2009 11:28 p.m. EDT

— A Johnston County attorney facing his own legal battle is missing, Sheriff Steve Bizzell said Wednesday.

Chad Lee, 32, of 3751 U.S. Highway 301 South in Smithfield, was last seen on June 25 driving a tan 1999 Toyota Tacoma with N.C. license plate PRF-6194. Lee's father and brother met with Bizzell Tuesday to file the missing person's report.

Lee, along with five others was indicted in March on charges that he altered court records and knowingly used illegal dismissal forms to get traffic cases against 37 people dropped.

A source told WRAL News that Cyndi Jaeger, a former Johnston County assistant district attorney, gave at least one blank dismissal form to a defense attorney. The majority of the defendants who saw their cases dismissed were clients of Lee, a former Johnston County prosecutor.

The indictments show that 70 dismissal forms with Jaeger's signature were filed after she left her job in September 2007.  Jaeger is charged with 81 misdemeanor counts of failure to perform duty of office.

Bizzell said Wednesday deputies were following leads and investigating places Lee was known to frequent. Neighbors said he has been laying low since his brush with the wrong side of the law.

"I know it's been embarrassing and a blow to the family," said local store owner Phil Wilkins.  

“We didn't even see him the beginning of June,” neighbor Dawn Fall said.

Craig and Dawn Fall have lived next door to Lee for about four years. Until Lee was reported missing by his family, they said they didn't think it was unusual that he hadn’t been seen.

“I’ve noticed, he hasn't been over there, but he would go away for a week or two from time to time,” Craig Fall said.

Former deputy court clerk Portia Snead and defense lawyers Lee Hatch, Vann Sauls and Jack McLamb face the same charges as Lee.

District Attorney Susan Doyle asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the high rate of dismissed drunken-driving cases in the county after a tracking system found several discrepancies in cases that were scheduled for trial but had been dismissed months earlier, she said.

A WRAL News investigation found that 46 percent of the DWI charges filed in Johnston County in 2006 were dismissed, compared with 21 percent statewide and 20 percent in neighboring Wake County.