WV CARES Shows Early Success
A West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources program, WV CARES, launched August 01, 2015 to protect those in long-term care facilities around the state is already being touted as a success. WV CARES, which stands for West Virginia Clearance for Access: Registry and Employment Screening, requires applicants for jobs at long-term care facilities to be fingerprinted for not only a state background check, but a federal background check as well.
In less than two months, 9 applicants were flagged as not eligible for employment. Three of those flagged were wanted for crimes in other states.
“We quickly notified State Police when the system flagged the three wanted persons. WV CARES was able to turn over the information to the State Police for further investigation which lead to the arrest of one in less than two hours,” said Meghan Shears, WV CARES Program Manager.
The program is administered by DHHR and in partnership with the West Virginia State Police Criminal Investigation Bureau.
“We want to thank the West Virginia State Police for their quick response and diligence in this matter,” said Karen L. Bowling, WV DHHR Cabinet Secretary. ”This initiative shows West Virginia is serious about protecting our most vulnerable residents from the potential for abuse, neglect and exploitation by an individual with certain criminal histories.”
West Virginia’s long-term care facilities are home to approximately 12,000 residents and employ roughly 18,000 direct access workers.
The new checks are required of all prospective direct access personnel who apply for positions in the following provider types: skilled nursing facilities; nursing facilities; home health agencies; providers of hospice care, long-term care hospitals, personal care services, adult day care; and residential care providers that arrange for or directly provide long-term care services, including assisted living facilities, and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
The program is being phased-in and all providers will be using the new screening system by the beginning of 2016.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who has sought safeguards to protect the health and welfare of vulnerable populations, signed legislation creating the program on April 02, 2015.
West Virginia is one of 26 states and territories that received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for the National Background Check Program (NBCP).
Meadow Bridge Moves Forward With Suit after Negotiations With State Get Nixed
Meadow Bridge Citizens for Community Schools plan to move forward with a lawsuit to attain a second opinion on Meadow Bridge High School’s second story after attempting to negotiate a resolution with State Board of Education members.
Randall Patterson, who was given authority to speak with The Register-Herald on behalf of the group, said at least five of the state board members were in negotiations and were willing to allow the group to seek a second opinion on the structure,which was deemed unsuitable for occupation in February.
The discussions were quickly shot down, he said.
Kristen Anderson, Director of Communication for the West Virginia Department of Education, said, “Several state board members had been contacted by citizens of Meadow Bridge concerning pending litigation. Our legal counsel advised board members not to comment or respond as doing so could interfere with the pending litigation. Because Dr. (Michael) Martirano (State Superintendent) acts as the designee over Fayette County Schools, any comment from the State Board could interfere with the pending litigation.”
Patterson said the group wanted to come to an agreement prior the suit, which was filed on Aug. 27 because several requests to bring in a second engineer ware denied by then-acting Superintendent Dr. Serena Starcher in April. The group received no reply to requests sent to Superintendent Terry George in July.
“We disagree with the inspection provided by ZMM. There was no engineering report. We feel that rather than inspecting, he made observations. We want to know, if there is a problem, how much it would cost to repair,” said Patterson. “We feel we are being vilified by the county and state because we have asked for a second opinion.”
He said Meadow Bridge citizens want details about what is wrong. The ZMM report states, “An excess amount of deflections for the span of the joists. The wood joists that were observed had checks and splits at the knot locations which reduces the capacity of the floor framing.”
The second story was subsequently condemned.
“If it is in that bad of repair, what about the safety of the students who are under it? If it can be repaired, we think that could be an alternative,” he said.
Patterson said this assessment does not provide parents and citizens the details they need to know. Engineer Daniel Shorts, in a letter to the group’s attorney Barry Bruce, of Barry Bruce and Associates in Lewisburg, said evaluation of a wood floor framing system should include the age of the floor system, intended use of the space, floor sheathing material and thickness, lumber species and grade, slope of the floor and specific data on the joist measurements.
Patterson said the group would be willing to pay for an inspection to be done by a certified structural engineer chosen through a bidding process.
State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano has filed a motion to intervene in the suit and asks that it be moved from Fayette County to Kanawha County Circuit Court.
Anderson said the state is getting involved in the case because the county is under state control.
Patterson questions the need to move the suit out of Fayette County and feels the closure of the second floor of Meadow Bridge High School was done swiftly as a part of a larger plan to force consolidation.
Fayette Circuit Court Judge Paul Blake will hear Martirano’s motions October 26.
~~ Sarah Plummer - REGISTER-HERALDREPORTER ~~
Education • News • Courthouse • West Virginia • (3) Comments •
~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~
Six words tell the WVBOE position no matter right or wrong. “the county is under state control.“
Sad to see the destruction wrought by the self proclaimed professional educator class of West Virginia Board of Education.
Havoc, heartbreak, waste, destruction, follow their every move. Refusal to work with the public they are being paid to serve.
They are not content with their nearly completed destruction of education in West Virginia, but also want their list of destruction to include schools, communities, and families.
Destroying communities seems to be the goal of this mass consolidation mania that the WV Board of Education has, to say nothing of the destruction of quality local education. Children are not merchandise to be shipped off hither and yon, with no concern for what is best for them. Good local schools are necessary for good communities to survive. With the cost of new construction and transportation, they cannot pretend they are saving money with this nonsense.
‘Glolympics’ Event Coming to GSC - Today
GLENVILLE, WV - In partnership with the New Vision Renewable Energy program, Glenville State College will be the site of a free ‘Glolympics’ night on Monday, October 05, 2015.
Registration will take place at Morris Stadium at 6:30 p.m. and the games will begin at 7:00 p.m.
Event organizers indicate that the fun is open to anyone aged 8 to 80.
The games, which are purposefully scheduled after dark, include soccer, disc golf, volleyball, corn hole, and more. As a highlight of the program, the field will be lit with the same solar lights that New Vision helps construct and share with schoolchildren in developing countries.
Plans are already underway to incorporate construction of the solar light kits in the elementary education science courses at GSC. Students in those classes will learn how to assemble the lights and then develop a teaching unit around it culminating with a hands-on lesson in the Gilmer County elementary schools.
To help implement that plan, a fundraising goal of $6,000 has been set. That would purchase 40 light kits which could then be assembled by students here in the Mountain State before they’re shared with students in areas like Ghana and Haiti.
In the event of inclement weather, the games will be held in the Lilly Gymnasium on the main campus.
For more information about the free ‘Glolympics’ event or to find out how to purchase a light kit, contact Dr. Joe Evans at or 304.462.6314 or Dr. Kevin Evans at or 304.462.6304.
Did You Know?
TORRENTIAL RAIN SWAMPS HUNDREDS OF SOUTH CAROLINA HOMES, BUSINESSES
Emergency crews rescue scores of people from flooded buildings in Columbia, S.C., hit by over 18 inches of precipitation in the last few days.
‘WE WILL NOT BE DEFINED BY VIOLENCE’
That’s what pastor Randy Scroggins tells his congregation in Roseburg, Ore., days after a gunman killed nine people at a local community college. Scroggins’ daughter survived the rampage.
HOW MANY FEDERAL INMATES ESCAPE EN ROUTE TO HALFWAY HOUSES
More than 240 prisoners slip away from federal custody in the past three years while traveling to halfway houses, according to documents The Associated Press obtained.
NOBEL SEASON KICKS OFF
The medicine award will be announced Monday, followed by physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.
WHO’S SHAKING UP GOP LEADERSHIP RACE
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah challenges presumptive favorite Rep. Kevin McCarthy for the House speaker post.
U.S., AFGHAN OFFICIALS PLEDGE HOSPITAL ATTACK INVESTIGATION
Some top U.S. officials say the circumstances surrounding the deadly incident remain murky, but others indicate the U.S. may have been responsible.
HOPE FADES FOR FINDING GUATEMALA MUDSLIDE SURVIVORS
At least 114 bodies have been recovered from the rubble, and hundreds of people remain unaccounted for.
NO END IN SIGHT FOR EUROPEAN MIGRANT CRISIS
Over a half million refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, but “it’s just the tip of the iceberg,“ says the U.N.‘s Babar Baloch.
WHY AMERICAN HIKER WANTS TO TACKLE 20,000-MILE TREK
“I really want to inspire others to pursue their own audacious goals,“ says Bethany Hughes, who intends to embark on a five-year, non-motorized trip from the tip of Argentina to Barrow, Alaska.
OHIO STATE REMAINS ATOP AP COLLEGE POLL
TCU moves up to No. 2 in the football standings, and Baylor reaches No. 3.
West Virginia News
More sections of national forest to be surveyed for pipeline
ROANOKE, VA — The developer of a proposed natural gas pipeline plans to survey additional sections of the Jefferson National Forest for a possible route.
The Roanoke Times reports that the U.S. Forest Service has authorized Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC to survey two sections of the forest in Giles County and one in Montgomery County.
Jefferson and George Washington national forests supervisor Tom Speaks previously authorized surveying in other sections of the Jefferson National Forest. Speaks says authorization of the additional surveying doesn’t mean he’s allowing construction of a pipeline.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide whether construction of the $3.2 billion pipeline should proceed.
The pipeline would transport natural gas from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to another pipeline in Pittsylvania County.
WV court considers immunity in ex-school chief’s suit
CHARLESTON, WV — The West Virginia Supreme Court is considering whether the state Board of Education can be sued by a former state schools superintendent over its decision to fire her.
The board has asked the court to overturn a circuit judge’s denial of its request to dismiss Jorea Marple’s lawsuit. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the appeal on Tuesday.
Marple was fired in 2012. She sued the board and former board President Wade Linger last year in Kanawha County Circuit Court, alleging defamation and violation of due process rights.
Both the board and Linger are entitled to qualified, or good faith, immunity for discretionary actions taken in terminating Marple’s employment, the board’s lawyers said in a filing with Supreme Court.
“It is unequivocal that the authority to select, appoint and retain a Superintendent at its will and pleasure is a discretionary function of the Board,“ the board’s lawyers wrote.
A response filed by Marple’s lawyers said that discretion does not permit violation of constitutional or statutory rights.
“No absolute or qualified immunity protects these petitioners from the infliction by these petitioners on the rights and reputation of Dr. Marple,“ Marple’s lawyer wrote.
The board’s lawyers said Marple’s claims are meritless. If the lawsuit is allowed to proceed, the board’s lawyers said the case could spawn a flood of similar meritless litigation by disgruntled state employees who are fired from at-will positions.
They also said the state and taxpayers will incur additional and unnecessary expenses “while dishonoring the public policy embodied in the clear constitutional and statutory prescription that the position of Superintendent is an at-will position.“
Marple is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and a full hearing on why the board wanted to fire her with an opportunity to defend herself.
Marple’s lawyers said Linger and other board members held secret meetings to discuss her termination prior to firing her at a regular meeting on November 15, 2012. The matter was not on that meeting’s agenda. Board members revisited Marple’s firing on November 29, 2012, and again voted to oust her. Two board members who opposed Marple’s dismissal resigned a month later.
Marple had served as the state’s schools chief since 2011, and previously served as deputy superintendent.
Shepherd’s learning program keeps older minds stimulated
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Frances Lynch said her life blossomed when she entered Shepherd University’s Lifelong Learning program.
“I began to read books I had never read before,“ said Lynch, 75, of Boonsboro.
Lynch is one of about 150 participants in the program this semester.
Founded in 2011, the Lifelong Learning program offers courses, lectures and activities to mostly retired adults looking for intellectual development, cultural stimulation and social interaction.
“They do it for the fun of taking classes and for the enjoyment of learning,“ said Karen Rice, director of continuing education and lifelong learning at Shepherd. “Mine is a combined role.“
Many of the program’s students are former government employees from the Washington, D.C., area who owned second homes in and around Shepherdstown before they retired and moved there, Rice said.
As a result, “Lifelong Learning has been reaping these benefits,“ Rice said.
Classes last 1 1/2 hours and meet once a week for six weeks, Rice said. Students don’t earn college credits.
Volunteers teach the program’s topics and courses in class, and also oversee brown-bag luncheon lectures and cafe-society discussion groups at venues around the campus.
According to the current brochure, topics covered include “Modern-Day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Israel”; “Sociological View of Police Use of Force”; “Causes of the Holocaust”; “Coal Mining Songs”; “Readings from the Private Journal of a Public Historian”; “Short Stories: Memory and Perception”; and “Investigating the Mozart Effect.“
The program also offers tours to such places as Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware; the Canadian Rockies by rail; the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia; a wine tour in Mendoza, Argentina; six days in Costa Rica; and an eight-day “Discover Cuba” excursion.
A brown-bag lecture on October 21 at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies will feature Pittsburgh attorney Bruce Stanley, who represented clients in cases against Don Blankenship, former chief executive officer of the now-defunct Massey Energy Co. Blankenship is under federal indictment following the explosion of the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, WV, that killed 29 coal miners in 2010.
Rice credits Jack Young, a retired U.S. Navy officer who moved to Shepherdstown 16 years ago, with presenting the idea of lifelong learning to Shepherd administrators. The vice president of advancement at the time appointed an advisory committee to see if it could be done, Rice said.
“At first, there were so few people who signed up, they had to cancel classes,“ Lynch said. “Now, we have the happy problem of too many students.“
One of the biggest benefits of lifelong learning is taking advantage of the experience and backgrounds of people involved in the program, Young said.
“There was a wealth of talent going to waste,“ he said. “If we don’t keep learning, we come up short. If we rest, we rust.“
To learn more about the Lifelong Learning program, go to www.shepherd.edu/lifelonglearning.
WVU holds open house for prospective WVU Tech students
BECKLEY, WV — Officials with WVU held an open house at its Beckley campus Saturday for prospective students interested in attending WVU Tech.
Thousands of community members, business leaders and local officials attended the Beckley Campus Kickoff to tour the campus and to meet with school counselors about admissions and financial aid.
More than 150 attended a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the donation of Nick J. Rahall’s congressional papers to the university. The archives include 2,000 boxes of testimony, speeches, news releases and other documents from Rahall’s 38 years in office. The collection will be kept at the Beckley campus.
In a news release, Rahall said, “This is truly an exciting day for me to see these archives come to WVU in the hands of professionals who can make so much come alive out of old, dusty boxes. Once these are on display for future generations, I hope to have a lot to add from a personal standpoint.”
Carolyn Long, WVU Tech and Beckley campus president, also announced the opening of a WVU LaunchLab, which is designed to offer professional services to help entrepreneurs reach this business goals.
WVU Tech also hosted the 25th annual Beckley Chili Night that included activities, a chili cook-off and a t-shirt giveaway.
Former U.S. Congressman Nick Rahall donates papers to WVU
BECKLEY, WV — West Virginia University’s Beckley campus is the new home of former U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall’s papers.
Rahall donated 2,000 boxes of testimony, speeches, news releases and other documents to WVU. The documents will be curated and maintained on the WVU Beckley campus.
The university says in a news release that more than 150 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday celebrating Rahall’s donation.
Rahall represented Southern West Virginia in the U.S. House for 19 terms, from 1977 to 2015.
Board Member Asks For Fayette to Slow Down, Fix Schools While Developing A Plan
State Board of Education and School Building Authority board member Thomas Campbell proposes Fayette County stabilize schools with structural concerns and then take the time to develop a community-based plan of action.
The Greenbrier County resident said independent firms should be brought in to see what it would take to reopen Collins Middle, open the second story of Meadow Bridge High and stabilize Mount Hope Elementary. Once that is accomplished, he would like to see the School Building Authority work as a facilitator in the county to help develop a plan with the community.
In the past, SBA staff has worked with county administrators to develop plans, but never directly with the community. During the most recent review of the county’s Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, representatives from Williamson Shriver Architects acted as facilitators of the process.
“It seems to me we have been desperate and dictatorial in one direction without taking into account other possible solutions,” he said. “The state department needs to take a back seat. I know people in Fayette County are desperate, but we need to find out if these schools can be reopened.”
Campbell said he spoke with SBA Executive Director David Sneed Wednesday, who indicated the authority could consider funding repairs to the three schools with structural deficiencies.
“The board is hung up on one solution, and there is a national bias toward consolidation,” he continued. “That doesn’t mean rearranging schools leading into consolidation is bad, but having some students on a school bus anywhere between 80 minutes and two hours is counterproductive.”
“I would compliment Fayette County on having voted down two fairly large consolidations. Those votes have spoken loudly on the state level,” he said.
Campbell has long suggested the large and rural nature of Fayette County makes it impossible to consolidate smaller, rural schools. He noted that Fayette County is about 60 percent the size of the State of Rhode Island, and has “unique needs as a large geographic county.”
As a state board of education member, he voted against the county amendment to consolidate Midland Trail, Fayetteville, Oak Hill and Meadow Bridge into one high school located in Oak Hill. He also voted against approving the amendment as a SBA board member on Monday.
~~ Sarah Plummer REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER ~~
Education • News • West Virginia • (11) Comments •
~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~
Too bad Gilmer County didn’t see people like this come to the state board before it was too late. Although not a the largest we have rural. We have students right now on the bus a state board documented hour and in truth some ride an hour and a half.
Even with the state board approved numbers that number will go over 80 minutes when they have to go to Glenville next year.
The state board has been dictatorial for certain. They seem only desperate to maintain control.
With people like Mr. Campbell on board maybe that attitude will change.
Governor Tomblin can do it again come November if he will.
Didn’t Mr. Campbell have an entry in the WVBOE’s minutes in which Gilmer County was singled out for its bad truancy problem?
The WVDOE has been in dictatorial charge here well into the 5th year while it failed to tackle truancy. That gave the County another unneeded black eye.
Surely Campbell did not get his information from the Gazette-Mail and it came straight from Devono.
For attempting to do the right thing, its likely Mr. Campbell will be castigated.
Treated like all the intervention counties.
Fayette is being punished for previous lawsuits?
Does WVBOE carry a grudge? A ‘we’ll show you attitude’?
“ During the most recent review of the county’s Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, representatives from Williamson Shriver Architects acted as facilitators of the process.“
Wouldn’t it be wild if Williamson Shriver Architects got no-bid contracts to do some of the work after they helped to facilitate the CEFP plan. They sure are lucky getting all this school work. I wonder what they do with all that money? I hear they are really good on heating and air conditioning too. Oooh, that smell!
Mr. Devono is on tape saying that if WS did not get the project Gilmer would not get the State’s money for the new HVAC at the GCHS.
WS had the CEFP consulting lead for Linn, the auction barn, Crooked Run and the Hays City project.
Those of us on the County’s CEFP assumed that because of the State’s strong advocacy, WS’s professional services could be counted on as gospel.
There should be an investigation of all the no bid deals for our County’s school system and all other projects of that nature in WV through the WV School Building Authority over which Governor Tomblin presides.
What do Dr. Martirano, Mr. Sneed, Dr. Daniel, Susan O’Brien, M. Green and Chuck Hatfield think about this issue?
The typical bureaucratic response would be to urge counties to simply get over it to discourage investigations. Also, they would advocate not going ahead because it would hurt the children. What is the rationale for that attitude?
We heard that a Senate investigative committee was getting involved with emphasis on Crooked Run through initiatives of the now Senator Robert Ashely from Roane County.
We heard later that the investigation was halted by a Gilmer County source.
Where do you stand Senator Ashley?
Gilmer County BOE suffers under unprofessional and inexperienced management. The bulk of Devono’s job training came as head of the state’s temporary employment agency known as RESA.
Now he’s playing hold hands & follow the politics road with Bill Simmons who is a legend only in his own mind.
Until the dynamics of the board change there is no hope for progress and an otherwise competent group sits as a silent majority, waiting with the rest of us.
Will the Hatfield/Daniels team change anything? Do they really want to?
Abuse of authority is evident and ongoing with Prez.
Reminds you of Mr. Toad and his greed for more power VROOM VROOM!
CALHOUN COUNTY RELEASED THEIR 2014-15 SMARTER BALANCED AND WESTEST SCORES ALONG WITH COMPARISON TO STATE’S OVERALL ON THE HH.
WHY WON’T DEVONO PUT OUT GILMER COUNTY NUMBERS? BOY DID SOME PEOPLE FIB ABOUT THAT! SAID HE DIDN’T HAVE IT TO GIVE AND SIMMONS BACKED HIM!
The failure for Devono to release the scores and to say he does not have them underlines a major part of the problem in Gilmer County contributing to a lack of trust for the WVDOE and the WVBOE and the County’s turmoil.
It is information secrecy!!!
Devono has had access to information the same as all the other WV superintendents and Gilmer’s principals, teachers and his staff know it.
Dr. Martirano, Dr. Daniel, Mr. Green, Ms. O’Brien, and Mr. Hatfield when are you going to do what is right? We need a replacement superintendent and we need one now!
Wait and see when the scores are given the WVDOE’s claim will be they don’t mean anything, calculation errors, this is a trial debugging run, Gilmer is poor and our students are incapable of doing better, the students did not take the tests seriously and on and on. Never nothing about the WVDOE failing Gilmer County during intervention.
When results are not good there is secrecy with streams of excuses including intense blame on Gilmer’s backward culture. When results are good everything was done perfectly with loud fanfare and glory for the WVDOE’s bureaucrats.
Watch the tapes. Does BS think that his responsibility is to Devono, WVDOE,and the WVBOE?
It was obvious to tape watchers that BS and another board member had minds already made up about the M Hamilton move although some of the board members had not received advance financial information and other details to have an adequate basis for making an intelligent decision.
They were expected by the WVDOE to blindly go along anyway. Did they get an advance tour of MH and to be shown a drawing for the the new set up before the meeting? Highly doubtful. What about BS? Call and ask all of them.
One thing for certain. When some of the board refused to play go along the WVBOE retaliated to remove the small amount of the board’s authority for finances.
Who was involved from Gilmer to result in the punishment from the WVBOE?
Because some minds were seemingly made up in advance of the board meeting wasn’t that a violation of WV’s OGPA?
FLASHBACK™: A Look At School Shootings In The U.S. In The Past Decade
School shootings have erupted in small rural communities and major urban centers across the U.S. over the past decade. According to an analysis of all mass shootings by a group called Everytown for Gun Safety, about 11 percent of cases involves possible mental illness and in 44 percent of the cases, the shooter committed suicide. Everytown is a coalition of government officials, victims and advocates against gun violence.
Here is a look at some of the worst school shootings in recent years:
October 01, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon: A gunman opened fire, killing nine people and dying in a shootout with police at Umpqua Community College. A government official says the man was 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. One witness said he demanded to know students’ religion before shooting them.
September 30, 2015 in Harrisburg, South Dakota: Mason Buhl, 16 has been charged with attempted murder after police say he fired a handgun at Harrisburg High School Principal Kevin Lein. The principal was lightly wounded in his arm. His father has said Buhl, who has taken gun safety classes and would regularly target shoot, seemed to just be mad at everybody.
May 14, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida: Edgar Robles, 16, has been charged with second-degree attempted murder for shooting into a Jacksonville school bus and injuring two girls. Officials say Robles and some friends got into a fight with some teenagers on the bus about another person who had died. As the bus pulled away, at least three shots were fired.
February 04, 2015 in Frederick, Maryland: Two men were arrested a month after a shooting outside a high school basketball game that injured two teenage boys. Brandon Tyler, 21, and Chandler Davenport, 19, each face assault and gun charges. Police say the shooting was gang related and that the men and their victims knew each other.
December 12, 2014 in Portland, Oregon: A suspected gang member opened fire on a group outside an alternative high school, injuring four people. Three young people have been arrested in connection with the shooting. Two of them had a prior criminal history. The third pleaded guilty in May and has been sentenced to serve 10 years in a youth prison.
October 24, 2014 in Marysville, Washington: Jaylen Fryberg, 15, killed three 14-year-old girls and a 15-year-old boy after inviting them to lunch in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School cafeteria. The depressed teen turned the gun on himself after killing his friends. Fryberg had sent a text message to a former girlfriend threatening to kill himself days before the shooting.
June 05, 2014 in Seattle, Washington: Aaron Rey Ybarra, 26, is charged with first-degree murder after a 19-year-old student is killed and two others wounded in a shooting at Seattle Pacific University. Ybarra’s attorney has said mental illness was a factor.
May 23, 2014 in Santa Barbara, California: Elliott Rodger, 22, killed six people and injured 13 others in shooting and stabbing attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus. Authorities say he shot himself to death after a shootout with deputies. The shooter recorded a disturbing Internet video before the rampage, warning that he would slaughter those with a good life, especially women who had shunned him.
June 07, 2013 in Santa Monica, California: John Zawahri, 23, shot his father and brother and then shot at strangers in cars — killing three people — and then shot at people on the Santa Monica College campus. He was fatally shot by officers in the college library. Investigators say Zawahri was angered by his parents’ divorce and they believe mental illness played a role in the killings.
December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut: Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother and then used three of her guns, including a semiautomatic rifle, to shoot 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Volumes have been written about his mental health problems since the Newtown shooting.
April 02, 2012 in Oakland, California: One Goh, 43, opened fire at a tiny Christian school, Oikos Univeristy. Goh was charged with seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder but is being held at a Northern California mental hospital after psychiatric evaluations concluded he suffers from long-term paranoid schizophrenia and is unfit to stand trial.
February 14, 2008 in DeKalb, Illinois: Five students are killed and 18 were wounded when former student Steven Kazmierczak, 27, opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University, before committing suicide. A year earlier, Kazmierczak had been a graduate sociology student at the school. Authorities say he started behaving erratically after he stopped taking his medication for an unnamed illness.
April 16, 2007 in Blacksburg, Virginia: Thirty-two people are fatally shot in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech, before the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, 23, kills himself. He moved to the United States from South Korea with his family while a grade school student. Cho was in his senior year as an English major at Virginia Tech. It was the deadliest shooting rampage in American history and happened about eight years after 13 people died at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Ozzie the eagle dead after live-streamed lovers duel in Florida
ORLANDO, FL—A love triangle between bald eagles that played out before thousands of fans on a live webcam has ended badly in Florida with the death of Ozzie, longtime mate of Harriet, according to a Florida wildlife clinic.
Ozzie was critically wounded on September 20 in an aerial battle with his rival, known as Frequent Visitor, who had been stalking Harriet’s nest as Thursday’s start of mating season approached, the clinic said.
He died Tuesday evening of cardiac arrest.
Bald eagles mate for life and eagle watchers had seen Ozzie and Harriet together for more than 20 years. They raised children for the past three seasons before more than 16 million viewers on the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam on a Fort Myers ranch where the two settled in 2006.
“A very sad day but amazing to hear how Ozzie has touched so many,“ said a post on the SWFL Eagle Cam Twitter account late Wednesday.
Ozzie collapsed Sunday of septic shock from his wounds, said Heather Barron, the avian medical specialist and surgeon who treated Ozzie at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel Island near Fort Myers on Florida’s southwest coast.
He underwent two surgeries, treatment with intravenous fluids and powerful antibiotics, and open-chested cardiopulmonary resuscitation before dying in front of his medical team.
“There was just no bringing him back. We all tried so hard,“ Barron said.
More than 3,822 notes of condolence had been posted as of Thursday afternoon on the eagle cam Facebook page.
Barron estimated Ozzie was in his 30s and in the upper end of his expected life span.
The beginning of the end for Ozzie came in March after he suffered broke bones, possibly after being hit by a train or car, and spent three months in the spring recuperating at CROW’s hospital.
While he was gone, the cam was getting 200,000 hits a day from fans who also followed his progress on Facebook, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.
He returned to the nest in June to find that Harriet had been stepping out with a new potential mate, Frequent Visitor, who remained in the area. Barron said the fight for mating rights, particularly with a younger male, was common in nature.
“He went out in a blaze of glory,“ Barron said of Ozzie. “He fought the good fight.“
Librarian: I Banned a Book, Reaction Was Disappointing
<"In the library world, access to information is a human right, not to be tampered with or controlled in any way." That's how Scott DiMarco, a library director at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, starts off his piece in the Conversation. He points out the “balance in points of view” that a good library tries to achieve in the books it offers, as well as how often challenges to books are made nationwide (311 challenges reported in 2014). He notes that after being disappointed at low turnout for a Banned Books Week awareness event, he decided to rile up the locals by banning a book by a “well-liked, local author"—with the author’s blessing. It did contain some sex and violence, but the point was “to show that anything can be cherry-picked from a book as grounds for a challenge or ban.“
The reaction “from students, faculty, alumni, and the public was unexpected—and swift—in its vehemence.“ But it wasn’t exactly the reaction he had hoped for. While the outrage was there, especially on Facebook, DiMarco was disappointed that it didn’t go much beyond that—to wit, there was a lot of talk, but no action. “I was disappointed that on a campus of roughly 3,000 students and faculty, only eight people actually asked to meet with me to discuss the reasons I banned the book, and to ask what could be done to reverse the ban,“ he writes. Although he was pleased to have brought awareness to book banning, “efforts to get the book removed from the banned list should have been the real result.“ Read his entire post.
Day Care Shuttered After Baby Bitten 27 Times
When John and Jeanette Betancourt were alerted Friday that their 4-month-old son had been bitten at his San Antonio day care, Jeanette went to pick him up and noticed the day care operator was holding the infant close to her body. “She finally turns my son around and the first thing my wife notices is his legs,“ John Betancourt tells the Houston Chronicle, describing a horrific scene that involved not only bites on the baby’s legs, but also on his eye area, cheeks, stomach, and back—27 bites in all by another child at the day care, KENS 5 reports. Now the state of Texas has shut down the in-home operation, which investigators say is unlicensed and has been in business for eight years, and the incident is being probed by the San Antonio PD to see if the operator could face charges.
The woman, who was found with eight children in her charge Monday when investigators showed up, told Jeanette Betancourt that although she heard the baby crying, she didn’t think anything was wrong, per the paper. On Tuesday, the day care operator told KENS 5 that she called the parents minutes after realizing the baby had been bitten and that she wasn’t aware she needed a license, saying, “Yesterday I found out.“ But the Betancourts tell KENS 5 that the woman waited four hours to call them (and only after the baby’s wounds didn’t fade), and John Betancourt tells the Chronicle, “When we went to her house to do the initial interview ... she showed us that she had a license”; he adds he wishes they’d confirmed that. Other parents who’ve sent their children to the day care tell KENS 5 they never had any issues. The baby, meanwhile, is healing and “doing fine now,“ the dad tells the Chronicle.
Farmer Finds Mammoth Skeleton in His Field
James Bristle and a friend were digging in his southern Michigan soybean field when they unearthed what looked like a bent fence post, caked with mud. Instead, it was part of a pelvis from an ancient woolly mammoth that lived up to 15,000 years ago. A team of paleontologists from the University of Michigan and an excavator recovered about 20% of the animal’s skeleton this week in Washtenaw County’s Lima Township. Aside from the pelvis, they found the skull and two tusks, along with numerous vertebrae, ribs and both shoulder blades. “We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it,“ Daniel Fisher, the scientist who led the dig, said Friday.
Three boulders the size of basketballs found next to the remains may have been used to anchor the carcass in a pond, he said. Bristle told the Ann Arbor News he bought the property a couple of months ago. He and his friend were digging to make way for a new natural gas line when they found the odd object. “When my 5-year-old grandson came over and saw the pelvis, he just stood there with his jaw wide open and stared. He was in awe,“ Bristle said. The bones will be cleaned and examined by university researchers for cut marks that would indicate human activity, Fisher said. Study of the bones may shed light on when humans arrived in the Americas, a topic of debate among archaeologists.
Santa Claus Is Running for North Pole City Council
Apparently tired of working just one night a year, Santa Claus is running for North Pole city council. OK, so it’s just a man whose legal name is Santa Claus living in the tiny Alaska town of North Pole and not the actual Father Christmas. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Claus, who is the former president of the North Pole Chamber of Commerce, has launched a write-in campaign for the office. Two seats on the City Council are up for election. However, no one filed for office during the regular filing period; only one other person has launched a write-in campaign.
Meet the Dudes Who Make $1K a Week Waiting in Lines
Robert Samuel is a professional time-killer. As the founder and CEO of Same Ole Line Dudes (or SOLD) in New York, he’ll keep your place in line to ensure you get your hands on “iPhones, the latest Air Jordans, or the hottest Broadway tix in town.“ SOLD has even helped New Yorkers with brunch waitlists, sample sales, and passports. And because he’s paid for his time—$25 for the first hour, and $10 for every half-hour thereafter—long lines are likely a lot more welcome to him than they are to the rest of us. In fact, Samuel recently made nearly $1,000 when he spent 48 hours at the very head of the line for the iPhone 6, reports Salon, which calls the business part of the “Uber-ization of everything.“ Since starting SOLD after getting laid off in 2012, Samuel now has 15 employees.
He says he makes up to $1,000 a week, though the New York Times notes that because his business is “cyclical,“ he currently also has a full-time job as a security guard. The line-waiting doesn’t always sound pleasant. SOLD employee Adonis Porch tells Salon he’s had to wait in hot weather, freezing weather, rain, sleet, and snow. Samuel says that while his customers can be superwealthy, most are just “everyday” people for whom time is a real commodity, reports CNBC. “Moms hire me because they can’t wait in lines in the mornings. They have to take the kids off to school.“ Though in that wealthy vein, the Times recounts the time a group from the Middle East had nine SOLD workers wait in line for Cronuts. Whatever he’s doing, his advice: “The rule is always respect the order of things. First come first served.“
Warren Jeffs’ Son Opens Up About Sect Life
A son of jailed polygamous leader Warren Jeffs says he was manipulated, shuffled around the country, and assigned to work crews to atone for his perceived transgressions before leaving the sect last year. The comments by Roy Jeffs, now 23, provide a window into the secretive sect based on the Utah-Arizona border in which cellphones, toys, movies, bicycles, and even swimming lessons were strictly forbidden. He says Warren Jeffs imposed his control over followers by reassigning children and wives to different men, sending people to “houses of hiding,“ and wielding the constant threat of exile. He says he lived a childhood almost entirely cut off from the outside world and didn’t see a movie at a theater until he was 20, when he slipped away to one in Tucson, Arizona.
Jeffs says his father ordered him to confess his thoughts and temptations, then would punish him harshly for the admissions. “I was scared of him,“ says Jeffs, who left the sect last year and now lives in the Salt Lake City area. “He told me he knew exactly what I was thinking.“ Roy Jeffs also says his father sexually abused him before he was 6 years old. He says he’s not filing a police report because Jeffs is already serving a life sentence in a Texas prison. “I just want the truth to be out there,“ he says. “I want that information to be there so when people are questioning things and they are looking around, my story is there.“ He says the transition is difficult but he is enjoying his new freedom and recently went boating and wakeboarding for the first time—and has seen a lot of movies.
Robber Weds, Is Sentenced in Same Court Visit
A man sentenced to at least 20 years in prison in one Pennsylvania courtroom followed that up by walking into another courtroom to marry his girlfriend. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports 47-year-old Greg Howard was sentenced Thursday in Westmoreland County Court for robbing and assaulting an elderly woman during a home invasion. Following his sentencing, he was allowed to wear civilian clothes instead of a prison jumpsuit but remained shackled during a brief wedding attended by five deputies and the bride’s baby.
Prosecutors say Howard and two other people got into the elderly victim’s house by pretending to be delivering furniture. Witnesses say they took $13,000 and jewelry and left her on her bed with her ankles and wrists bound. Howard’s closing argument had referenced Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and the Easter bunny, but he was silent at sentencing. Maybe he was distracted by his impending nuptials.
Officials: Oregon School Shooter Killed Himself
The 26-year-old shooter who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon this week killed himself during a confrontation with police, Sheriff John Hanlin announced Saturday. The BBC reports a medical examiner determined the shooter’s cause of death to be suicide. In other developments Saturday, new interviews with survivors and their families cast doubt on whether or not the shooter was specifically targeting Christians, as previously reported. According to the AP, the shooter may have only asked victims if they were “religious,“ not “Christian.“ And one official speaking anonymously with the AP says the shooter left a pages-long “manifesto” at the scene of the shooting. He would not reveal what was in the document, and police have yet to identify a motive for the shooting.
Cops: Dental Hygienist Hired Felon to Kill Popular Dentist
Police say a dental hygienist planned and commissioned the murder of a popular Dallas dentist last month, the New York Daily News reports. “It was a murder for hire,“ Maj. Max Geron told reporters Friday. Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of 33-year-old Brenda Delgado, who is accused of paying to have Kendra Hatcher killed. According to NBC News, Hatcher was dating Delgado’s ex-boyfriend, but police have not identified a motive for the killing. Delgado was questioned and released by police in the days following the September 2 murder, according to USA Today. “All I will suggest to her specifically is that she turn herself in as quickly as possible,“ Geron said. “She is a fugitive wanted at this point for capital murder.“
Police also announced the arrest and charging of 31-year-old felon Kristopher Love, who is accused of actually pulling the trigger in Hatcher’s death, NBC reports. He is being held on $2.5 million bail. Police say 23-year-old Crystal Cortes drove Love to the parking garage of Hatcher’s apartment building for the murder. Cortes was arrested two days after the murder and reportedly claimed Delgado used an iPhone to track the location of Hatcher’s phone prior to the crime. She claims she was paid $500 to be the getaway driver for what she thought was only supposed to be a robbery.
Ouch! Thirsty leopard gets head stuck in metal water pot
Rajasthan, India - Forest officials in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan were forced to tranquilize a thirsty leopard after the animal’s head got caught in a metal water pot.
The animal struggled to get the pot off its head until the officials intervened. After removing it they released the leopard back into the wild.
Vatican Fires Priest Who Announced He’s Gay
“I have to say who I am,“ Krzysztof Charamsa told a Polish newspaper Saturday. “I am a happy and proud gay priest.“ Reuters reports that admission, also made to an Italian newspaper, cost the 43-year-old monsignor his position at the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, where he had worked since 2003. According to the AP, Charamsa was motivated to come out after getting hate mail for publicly criticizing an anti-gay Polish priest. “This is a very personal, difficult, and tough decision in the Catholic church’s homophobic world,“ he says. Immediately following his announcement—he held a press conference at a Rome restaurant—Charamsa was fired by the Vatican.
The Vatican claims it didn’t fire Charamsa for being gay—which in itself isn’t a sin—but for making his announcement immediately before international bishops were set to meet as part of a synod to discuss outreach to gay Catholics, Reuters reports. “The decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the synod assembly to undue media pressure,“ a Vatican spokesperson says. Charamsa—who also announced he had a boyfriend, which would be a sin—is still a priest, though that could change, according to the AP. “It’s time for the Church to open its eyes about gay Catholics and to understand that the solution it proposes to them—total abstinence from a life of love—is inhuman,“ Reuters quotes Charamsa as saying.
Death Toll in Guatemala Mudslide Reaches 56
A Guatemalan emergency official says the number of people killed when a hillside collapsed Friday on more than 100 homes has risen to 56. Julio Sanchez, a spokesperson for Guatemala’s volunteer firefighters, says officials estimate that 350 people remain missing. The previous death toll was 30 and estimates of the number of missing had been as high as 600. Rescue specialists from the Red Cross and fire and police departments were using dogs to search for possible survivors in the mudslide zone on the outskirts of Guatemala City, where tons of earth fell over some 125 homes, authorities from the region estimate.
10 Dead as Cannes Gets 2 Months’ Rain in Hours
Sudden heavy rains around the French Riviera have killed at least 10, including some trapped in cars, a campsite and a retirement home, and left six missing. Helicopters patrolled the region to look for other victims and 27,000 homes were without electricity Sunday after the Brague River overflowed its banks and fierce thunderstorms poured more than 6.7 inches of rain on the Cannes region in two hours Saturday night. That is the equivalent of two months of rainfall for the region, local radio France Bleu-Azur reported. President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve were heading to the retirement home Sunday morning. Hollande said in a statement that people were killed in the towns of Cannes, Biot, Golfe-Juan, and Mandelieu-la-Napoule, not far from Italy.
The Interior Ministry said of the six missing that there was “little hope to find them alive.“ Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet earlier said the death toll had reached 13; the reason for the lowered death toll and the exact circumstances of the deaths weren’t immediately clear. Several trains were stopped because of flooded tracks, and traffic remained stopped along the coast between Nice and Toulon on Sunday morning. Several roads in the region were closed, including those to Cannes, which was particularly hard hit. Winds and rain whipped palm trees along the famed Croisette seaside promenade in Cannes in images shown on television. In nearby Antibes, cars were overturned and roads were slick with mud. The flooding also disrupted a French league soccer match in Nice, forcing the stadium to shut down in the middle of play.
Summer Learning Challenge Winners Honored
To ensure that West Virginia’s students did not fall behind while school was out of session during the summer months, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) encouraged children statewide to keep their academic skills sharp through the Summer Learning Reading and Math Challenge.
The Challenge encouraged students to pledge to read and engage in educational activities throughout the summer. Many students, especially children from low income families, experience the “summer slide” or the summer learning loss that occurs among children which can result in a loss of knowledge and reading ability.
The four schools with the highest percentage of its student body who “pledged to read” were honored by WVDE. The statewide winners are: Bridgeport Middle School, Harrison County (first place); H.E. White Community School, Clay County (second place); Geary Elementary, Roane County (third place) and Hamlin Pre-K-8, Lincoln County (fourth place).
“I was excited for my students to take the Summer Reading Challenge as we have been focusing diligently on increasing our students’ literacy skills,” said April Kearns, an administrator at H.E. White Community School. “We were thrilled to learn we had the highest number of pledges in the state. I know it will continue fostering the love of reading and help our students increase their proficiency.”
Research shows that students who read proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to be successful later in life. Students who fail to meet this milestone falter in the later grades. The WVDE and West Virginia Leaders of Literacy: Campaign for Grade-Level Reading are challenging students to read every day this summer, for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Suggested summer reading goals for students based on grade levels are:
- K-2 students: 10 books
- 3-5 students: 8 chapter books
- 6-12 students: 5 fiction books and 5 nonfiction books.
A national study in 1996 found that children lose about two months of learning in math computation skills over a summer. As part of the Summer Learning Reading and Math Challenge, resources to engage students in math skill-building activities are provided. The program’s goal is to help children retain math skills they learned during the previous school year.
Techconnect WV Awarded $500,000 in Grant Funds to Boost Innovation and Entrepreneurship in WV
TechConnect West Virginia has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to “spur innovation and entrepreneurship, long-term competitiveness and job creation across West Virginia.”
TechConnect’s mission is to diversify West Virginia’s economy through innovations in advanced energy, chemicals and advanced materials, biometrics, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing.
The program, known as ScaleUp West Virginia, is a two-year suite of programs designed to accelerate the states’ capacity to diversify its economy in a 40-county region of West Virginia. The $500,000 grant will be matched with $210,000 in local funding, for a total project spend of $710,000.
TechConnect Executive Director Anne Barth said the funding “will support programs designed to accelerate the commercialization of new products and technologies, leading to the creation and expansion of small businesses and jobs.”
“With EDA’s support, ScaleUp West Virginia will also foster advanced manufacturing and support small manufacturers in the state by working with proven service providers to catalyze the creation and retention of jobs and improve economic opportunities,” she added.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, announced the grant award, saying public-private teamwork is essential.
“In order to improve West Virginia’s economic success and boost our economy, we need to ensure our public and private sectors work together,” he said “The strategies created and implemented with this funding will coordinate our resources efficiently to overcome our economic challenges and spur our economic growth and develop new opportunities across West Virginia.”
ScaleUp West Virginia will work to develop the next generation of entrepreneurship in West Virginia. The scope of work includes promotion of SBIR/STTR programs in the state;
ScaleUp WV Venture, in partnership with The INNOVA Commercialization Group at the High Technology Foundation; ScaleUp WV Advanced Manufacturing, in partnership with the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing at Marshall University; ScaleUp WV Design for Manufacturing, in partnership with the Center for Applied Research & Technology at Bluefield State College; ScaleUp WV Transformational Manufacturing, in partnership with the WV Manufacturing Extension Partnership at the WVU Industrial Extension; ChemAssist, in partnership with ChemCeption and the Chemical Alliance Zone; and a variety of programs designed to spur the next generation of entrepreneurship in communities and schools.
Counties included in the service area include Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monongalia, Nicholas, Ohio, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Roane, Taylor, Tyler, Tucker, Upshur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wirt and Wyoming.
ScaleUp West Virginia will accelerate the state’s capacity to foster business formation through programs designed to encourage entrepreneurship, help startups find the assistance needed to successfully launch, and support existing businesses in devising strategies for growing and adapting to new markets, officials said. It also will accelerate opportunities for small manufacturers to create and retain jobs by helping them explore new and cutting edge innovations in products, process, and services leading to new and expanded markets opportunities. A new generation of entrepreneurs will be connected with mentors, investors and the resources needed to accelerate the launch of startup businesses. Through fostering this economic diversification, the region’s tax base will be expanded, private sector investment will be more easily attracted, and these programs will greatly advance the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the region by building the foundation for a cycle of growth to replace a cycle of decline.
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West Virginia News
West Virginia airman among victims of military plane crash
CHARLESTON, WV — The Defense Department has released the identities of six U.S. airmen killed in the crash of a military transport plane in Afghanistan, including a West Virginia resident.
The department said Saturday that 26-year-old Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Hammond of Moundsville was among the victims.
Hammond was a 2007 graduate of John Marshall High School in Glen Dale.
Hammond and three other airmen were assigned to Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. The other two were assigned to Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts.
Five civilians on the aircraft also were killed.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
West Virginia flags lowered to honor Oregon shooting victims
CHARLESTON, WV — West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has ordered all flags at all state facilities lowered in honor of the victims of a community college shooting in Roseburg, Oregon.
On Saturday, Tomblin ordered the lowering of U.S. and state flags until sunset on Tuesday.
A gunman fatally shot eight students and a teacher on Thursday at Umpqua Community College before being killed in a shootout with police.
Tomblin called it a “senseless act of violence” and says the loss of the victims “touches us all.“
Tickets on sale for West Virginia Music Hall ceremony
CHARLESTON, WV — Tickets are on sale for this month’s West Virginia Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The ceremony will be held October 24 at the state Culture Center in Charleston.
Among the six musicians being inducted is John Ellison, the lead singer and songwriter for the Soul Brothers Six. He wrote the group’s first recording, “Some Kind of Wonderful,“ which was released in 1967. Since then, more than 60 artists have recorded the song.
Other members of the class of 2015 are jazz artist Bob Thompson, pedal steel and dobro player Russ Hicks, and the late James Edward Haley, Buddy Starcher and Harry Vann Walls.
General admission tickets are $60. For $250, fans can attend the ceremony, meet the inductees and attend receptions before and after the event.
Couple challenge forfeiture of assets in criminal case
CHARLESTON, WV — A Jackson County couple is challenging the forfeiture of their farm, more than 40 firearms and other assets, arguing that a circuit court judge erred when he found that the items were connected to illegal drug activity.
Hubert D. Messer and his wife, Sharon L. Messer, also say in a court filing that the judge incorrectly found that the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department met its burden of proof that the assets are subject to forfeiture.
“There simply was no establishment of a connection between the properties to an illegal drug transaction,“ the filing stated.
The Messers have asked the West Virginia Supreme Court to overturn the ruling and send the case back to Jackson County Circuit Court for further proceedings. The justices will hear arguments in the case on Wednesday.
State and local authorities filed a forfeiture petition in Jackson County Circuit Court in May 2013 following Hubert Messer’s arrest on a state stolen property charge. He subsequently pleaded guilty to federal drug charges.
Assets listed on the petition included the couple’s 54-acre farm, 42 firearms, two safes, a crossbow, several vehicles and lawnmowers, and eight saddles, court records show.
Circuit Judge Thomas C. Evans III ruled in 2014 that most of the assets were subject to forfeiture because they were connected to the drug trade. He said the farm was a front for Hubert Messer’s drug trade, and that Messer paid farm hands with pain pills. Other assets either were obtained in exchange for drugs, or were bought with money earned by selling drugs.
“The evidence .... indicates that Mr. and Mrs. Messer were clearly spending money exceeding what they obtained through legitimate means,“ Evans wrote in his ruling.
Exceptions included the couple’s house. Evans said there was not “a substantial enough nexus between the house and the drug deals to allow for forfeiture of the home.“
The couple argues that Evans did not properly apply a previous West Virginia Supreme Court decision regarding forfeitures. That decision said a forfeiture of real property under state law violates the Eighth Amendment and the West Virginia Constitution’s excessive fines clause if the amount is “grossly disproportionate” to the gravity of the offense.
Hubert Messer was only charged in state court with transferring and receiving stolen property, which carries a maximum $2,500 fine, the Messers’ filing said.
Jackson County prosecutor Kennad L. Skeen, representing the sheriff’s department, said in a court filing that the state potentially could charge Hubert Messer with hundreds of counts of delivery of a controlled substance. Each count would have a maximum $25,000 fine.
Crazy Sight: Mountain Lion Atop Utility Pole
One of the more unusual sights of the week comes via the Victorville Daily Press in California, which captured an image of a mountain lion on top of a power pole. The big cat apparently scrambled up the 35-foot pole in the Lucerne Valley on Tuesday when kids traveling home on a school bus startled it. Wildlife officials parked nearby to keep gawkers at a distance, and the mountain lion left its perch for the wild sometime Tuesday night.
Cops: Man Kills 3 Because They Won’t Move Out
A Salt Lake City man told police he shot three people staying at his house—including a baby—because they wouldn’t move out, prosecutors said Thursday. Alexander Tran, 32, was charged with three counts of aggravated murder. He had been living in the basement of the house that his mother bought for him, and the three victims where living on the main floor, police said. When Tran’s mother found out he was letting people stay there, she asked for them move out. Tran told her that they wouldn’t leave but called a few days later—the day of the deaths—and reported they were gone, according to charging documents.
Their bodies were found September 18 after Heike Poike, 50, didn’t pick up her 8-year-old grandson from school and officials called police. They stopped to check on Poike and found her dead, along with her 2-month-old granddaughter Lyrik Poike and an acquaintance, Dakota Smith, 28. Tran was also at the house with a gun, and police say he acknowledged the shootings. It was unclear if the victims were formal, rent-paying tenants or had some other arrangement with Tran. The baby’s mother is in jail, and the identity of the baby’s father is unclear, police have said. Tran was being held at the Salt Lake County jail on $3 million bail.
Here Are the Victims of the Oregon School Shooting
On Friday, authorities identified the nine victims of Thursday’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, the AP reports. The victims range in age from 18 to 67. According to KING, in a city of only 20,000 people it’s likely everyone knows the victims or someone who knows the victims. “I don’t even want to know the names yet. I’m not ready,“ Gail Kuntz said Thursday at a vigil. “Once the names are released, it’s going to hurt this community all over again.“ The nine victims were identified as:
- Lucero Alcaraz, 19: A Roseburg native in her first year of college, she was hoping to become a nurse or pediatrician, BuzzFeed reports. Her family describes her as “the responsible one” among her family’s six kids.
- Rebecka Carnes, 18: She had just started school and a new job.
- Jason Johnson, 33: After struggling with drug abuse, he became the first child in his family to go to college, his mom tells NBC. He started classes Monday.
- Quinn Cooper, 18: A Roseburg native, it was only his fourth day of college. His family describes him as “funny, sweet, compassionate, and such a wonderful, loving person.“
- Treven Anspach, 20: Family and friends call him as “a perfect son” and “easygoing and humble.“ He enjoyed playing basketball and soccer.
- Lucas Eibel, 18: Another Roseburg native, he was studying chemistry when not volunteering at an animal shelter and wild animal park. “We have tried to figure out how to tell everyone how amazing Lucas was, but that would take 18 years,” his family says.
- Lawrence Levine, 67: A professor, he was teaching class at the time of the shooting, KING reports.
- Kim Dietz, 59: She was a Roseburg native and had a daughter who attended UCC who was not harmed.
- Sarena Moore, 44: “May you rest in peace Sis, and may your murder burn in Hell,“ wrote a man identifying himself as her brother on Facebook.
Water in Flint, Michigan, Looks ‘Like Urine,‘ and Worse
A public health emergency was declared in Flint, Michigan, yesterday over the state of the city’s drinking water—and a story in the Detroit News illustrates just how bad the situation is. Ashley Holt, 25, tells the paper that the water coming out of her faucet looks “like urine,“ smells “like the sewer,“ and doesn’t taste “normal"—and it’s been that way for nearly a year now. Last week, a group of doctors revealed that children in the city (where 41.5% of the population lives below the poverty line) have elevated levels of lead in their blood, leading to the state of emergency and the county commissioners recommending people only use the water if it first goes through an approved filter; thousands of filters are being given to local families. On Friday, Governor Rick Snyder said it may reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water system to deal with the problem, and that the state will also expedite a pipeline to Lake Huron to get water to Flint, the News reports.
Flint stopped paying Detroit for its water service last year, citing the rising cost of the water service, and then complaints about the water quality started. Flint River is now used for the city’s drinking water, and it seems the corrosive water is releasing lead from old pipes in homes, the AP reports. Residents have complained not just about the water’s taste, smell, and appearance, but about rashes, hair loss, and other health concerns that may be related to its use; a General Motors plant even stopped using the water because it rusted vehicle parts, the company said. Citizens, alongside national groups, petitioned the EPA Thursday to order Michigan and its environmental officials to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water. As for Holt, she says she struggles to afford bottled water for her kids, and other locals echo that. “It’s a complex with a whole lot of people and a whole lot of babies there,“ says one of her townhouse complex. “These are people who probably can’t afford to go and buy bottled water. So they get forced into drinking the (tap) water that’s unhealthy.“
UVa Murder Suspect Gets 3 Life Terms for Sex Assault
Jesse Matthew Jr., charged with the murders of college students Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington, was sentenced Friday to life in prison for a sexual assault on a woman a decade ago in northern Virginia. Matthew, 33, of Charlottesville, Virginia, was officially sentenced to three consecutive life terms in Fairfax, a suburb of the nation’s capital, for attempted capital murder, abduction, and sexual assault of a woman in 2005. DNA evidence collected from Matthew during last year’s investigation of Graham’s disappearance linked him to the Fairfax case. Matthew’s family had asked the judge for leniency in letters to the court, and a former girlfriend, identifying herself only as “Diana,“ wrote a letter on Matthew’s behalf saying he was raped as a child.
But Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, who argued for the life sentence, was unmoved by the claim that Matthew himself may have been a victim of sexual assault. He told Judge David Schell he was suspicious about the truth of the claim and indifferent to its significance. “If indeed this man was ever raped, then of all people it is he who should be loath to rape someone else,“ Morrogh said. Sentencing guidelines broadly called for a term of anywhere from nine to 44 years, lawyers said. Matthew’s public defender urged the judge not to consider “what might have happened in Charlottesville"—a reference to the deaths of Graham and Harrington, which have received national attention—in sentencing Matthew for the assault. Schell said little in handing down the maximum sentence, calling the crime a “vicious and brutal attack.“ Hannah Graham’s parents and Morgan Harrington’s mother attended Friday’s sentencing.
Woman Says Disorder Caused Her to Make Herself Blind
Jewel Shuping has been preoccupied with blindness since she was a young girl. She says she used to roam the halls at night at age 3 or 4, the idea of being blind felt “comfortable” when she was 6, and she spent hours staring at the sun when her mother told her it would hurt her eyes, reports the Daily Mirror. By the time she was a teenager, Shuping was wearing dark glasses, carrying a white cane, and mastering Braille. “I was ‘blind-simming,‘ which is pretending to be blind,“ she says. “But the idea kept coming up in my head, and by the time I was 21 it was a non-stop alarm that was going off.“ Shuping says she suffers from body integrity identity disorder (BIID), in which able-bodied people think they’re supposed to be disabled.
Today Shuping, who’s 30 and lives in North Carolina, says she’s happier than ever now that her dream to be blind has finally come true, even though her mother and sister have cut off contact, reports KFOR, citing Barcroft TV. She originally told her family she lost her sight in an accident, but she says the real story is that she worked with a psychologist who put a numbing agent and then a few drops of drain cleaner in each eye. “It hurt, let me tell you,“ she says. “My eyes were screaming and I had some drain cleaner going down my cheek burning my skin. But all I could think was, ‘I am going blind, it is going to be OK.‘“ Shuping, who won’t name the psychologist, says she hopes her story will raise awareness of BIID. “I don’t think I’m crazy, I just have a disorder.“
Lawsuit: ‘Most Interesting Man’ Is ‘Least Honorable’
Jonathan Goldsmith doesn’t always get sued but when he does, it can get nasty. The actor best known for portraying the “Most Interesting Man in the World” in Dos Equis ads is being sued for breach of contract by his former talent agency, which claims he has stopped paying commission on the roughly $1 million a year he makes from the ads, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “There is nothing interesting about being a deadbeat or failing to pay those directly responsible for one’s career success,“ the complaint says. “As it now turns out, had Goldsmith landed a role that more accurately portray[ed] his true character, he would have landed the role of ‘The Least Honorable Man in the Entertainment Business.‘“
Goldsmith’s former manager at Jordan Lee, Inc. says Goldsmith, who got the Dos Equis job in 2006 stopped paying the 10% commission a year ago because he felt he had paid “enough,“ TMZ reports. The lawsuit says the actor’s relationship with the agency changed after the agent who got him the role—and is now his wife—left the company, per the Reporter. Goldsmith, whose acting career began in the 1950s, returned to acting and auditioned for the “Most Interesting Man” role after another lawsuit destroyed the business he left Hollywood for, he said in a Forbes interview last month.
Did Pork Roll Company Fire Man for Fa**ing?
An employee of one of New Jersey’s top pork roll makers was fired for passing too much gas in the office, at least according to his wife, who’s suing the company. Louann Clem claims her husband suffered serious consequences, including extreme gas and uncontrollable diarrhea, from gastric bypass surgery, the Home News Tribune reports.
The lawsuit alleges that Case Pork Roll Co. president Thomas Dolan complained about the side effects and told Rich Clem to work from home because he made the office smell. But owner Tom Grieb says Clem and his wife, who also worked there, walked out when business wasn’t good and they refused to take a pay cut. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
Hardline Archbishop Set Up Kim Davis Meeting
A Vatican official says there is now “a sense of regret” that Pope Francis ever met Kim Davis, reports Reuters—and that could be bad news for the archbishop who set up the meeting. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s ambassador to the US, was appointed by Benedict XVI and is known for his hardline stance against same-sex marriage, the Washington Post reports. Vatican officials say Francis wasn’t briefed on the Davis case and the meeting “should not be considered a form of support,“ which has left church insiders wondering whether Vigano deliberately blindsided Francis or merely underestimated just how controversial the meeting would turn out to be, the New York Times reports.
A Vatican source tells CBS 2 that Francis was “exploited” by those with their own agendas and the meeting should never have happened. Davis’ lawyer, who first announced the meeting, tells the Times that it was set up by Vigano—whom he met at an anti-gay marriage rally in Washington, DC, earlier this year—but they were “led to believe that the invitation did come directly from Pope Francis.“ The lawyer says the Vatican’s description of the meeting as a very brief one among dozens is “absolute nonsense” and “somebody is trying to throw some people under the bus.“ Bishops are required to ask for permission to resign when they turn 75, and it seems likely that Vigano’s will be accepted when he reaches that age in January, the Times notes.