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  • Sheriff Mark Buchanan

One Arrested During New Year Celebration



On the evening of 12/31/23 and morning of 01/01/24 operation “Two Too Many” was conducted around Clay County by area law enforcement in conjunction with the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), and the WNC Regional DWI (Driving While Impaired) Task Force. Clay County Sheriff’s Sgt Steven Smith coordinated this operation. Other law enforcement participants were the N.C. Highway Patrol, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Forest Service. A total of 25 law enforcement Officers were involved with this event in order to keep those driving drunk off the roadways on New Years eve.


Operation Two Too Many involved setting up multiple checking stations around Clay County. The vast majority of folks passing through these checking stations were law abiding, with most expressing their appreciation for law enforcement keeping the roadways safe.


Surprisingly, there was only one arrest for DWI ! Additionally, these checking stations resulted in the following charges: one Driving While License Revoked, six Driving Without a Driver’s License, being a Fugitive from Justice out of Florida, and one arrest relating to a felony drug possession.


Karen Lea McDaniel, 46 years of age from Hayesville was arrested after it was found that she was wanted out of Tallahassee, Florida for Felony Battery of a Police Officer and drug offense(s). McDaniel was charged in Clay County via a Fugitive Warrant and given a $10,000 secured bond.


Haley Grace Benefield, 23 years of age from Hayesville, was arrested for Felony Possession of Methamphetamine, Assault on a Government Official, Resist-Delay-Obstruct an Officer, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Driving with No Operator’s License. Benefield was held without bond. Benefield’s assault charge was a result of her biting an arresting Officer who subsequently had to be seen at the Emergency Room.


The lack of DWI arrests from operation “Two Too Many” is seen as a positive. During this operation social media was ablaze with postings warning of these checking stations. Regardless, the measurement of success for any traffic enforcement activity is to make our streets and highways safe for the motoring public. This was certainly accomplished in Clay County while bringing in the new year, as evidenced by only one drunk driver found traveling the roadways and no reported traffic accidents.



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