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Trial moved for accused Kanawha County murderer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The trial date has been moved for an accused murderer in Kanawha County.

On Friday, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman moved the trial date for Arthur Owen Woods, 40, of Mt. Nebo, to January 23 at 9 a.m. with the final pretrial being January 17 at 10:30 a.m.

Arthur Woods

Woods pleaded not guilty in May in the March 2016 death of his wife, Starina Woods, who went missing that month in Charleston.

Kanawha County Defense Attorney David Ford cited Friday that the defense needs more time to collect information from the 3-year old case. Ford said being that Woods was just indicated in May, they’ve only had a few months on the extensive case.

“We’ve been to Nicholas County where a lot of this has occurred, two or three times,” Ford said. “We just need more time to gather this information from the state, get it to our experts and for us to analyze and interview these witnesses to line up.”

Investigators in the case previously said that Starina Woods voiced concerns about being in an abusive relationship. Her body was never found.

Woods never reported his wife missing, telling authorities she had left for Ecuador. They had been living together in Charleston at the time before Woods moved to Nicholas County.

The trial has been moved several times.

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City of Charleston, UC’s WV DII hosting “Grandfamilies” event

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Grandparents raising grandchildren around the state will have the opportunity to receive resources and support on Saturday.

The City of Charleston’s Coordinated Addiction Response Effort (CARE) and the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute (WV DII) at the University of Charleston are hosting a “Grandfamilies” event at the North Charleston Community Center, giving families affected by the opioid crisis a helping hand.

“We are really excited about the opportunity to meet with grandparents in the community and provide them with resources, but there will also be some surprises available to celebrate the great work they are doing,” Dr. Susan Bissett, President of WV DII said.

The event that is open to the public runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. will feature resources and demonstrations for grandparents while grandchildren participate in activities. Demonstrations include a car seat installation demonstration by the Charleston Police Department and a fire safety course for kids by the Charleston Fire Department.

Presentations will include medication safety and information about local after school programs.

“I think it’s important to celebrate them,” Bissett said. “Also provide them with community connections and resources that can help them be more successful as they are navigating through the school system, pediatricians, travel, sports, and all kinds of things that come with raising small children.”

West Virginia State University will provide information about their Grandfamilies Program which includes educational sessions about communications, health literacy/self-care, legal issues, school programming and more, according to a release by the City of Charleston.

There will also be time for grandparents facing similar situations to connect and bond, which Bissett said is just as important.

“Individuals who are experiencing similar things like kinship care or raising grandchildren have the opportunity to interact with others who are doing the same thing,” Bissett said. “They can share their stories of challenges as well as stories of success and joy.”

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Kanawha County Schools lays out goals for 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While Kanawha County Schools performs ahead or similar to the average state institution, the school system has multiple goals it wishes to accomplish next year.

The Kanawha County Board of Education heard at its meeting Thursday a report regarding test scores in the county, and where officials want to be in 2020.

According to Jon Duffy, Kanawha County School’s director of counseling and testing, the goals for the district are to increase academic achievement, raise graduation rates and boost the county attendance rate.

Kanawha County high school juniors performed ahead of the state on the SAT School Day exam; students scored 961 points out of 1600 in math and English/language arts, compared to the state’s 928 score. The average score of international students was 973.

Juniors took the exam during a school day last year.

The county’s score improved on the international students between 2018 and 2019, but most of the progress was on the English/language arts component.

“With the SAT, students can certainly strive to score at a level that allows them to get into the college they want to attend, allows them to qualify for the promise scholarship,” Duffy said.

Duffy said the school system also wants to reach a 90% high school graduation rate; the county’s graduation rate was around 84% for the 2017-2018 academic year, while the state’s rate was 90%.

“Our goal for that is to exceed 90%,” Duffy said, noting a short-term goal of increasing graduation rates by 2% every year until the mark is met.

Kanawha County Schools is ahead of the state on attendance, with 93.5% of students attending class compared to the 92.9% average.

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CPD officers to have additional training following controversial arrest

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Police officers in Charleston are going to undergo additional training on how to make arrests in stressful situations after a “use of force” complaint was filed following an arrest that took place Monday.

The arrest occurred Monday night.

A cellphone video taken by a bystander shows a person being restrained by a police officer on the street when a second officer arrives to assist. The video shows the second officer going to his knees and then throwing four punches with his right hand.

Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin, Police Chief Opie Smith and RESET Chair Rev. Roberta Smith issued a joint statement Thursday evening following a meeting earlier in the day.

After reviewing the dash cam video from Monday’s arrest with RESET members, it was decided that Charleston officers would undergo further training.

“Officers will complete additional defensive tactics trainings in two officer cuffing situations and one officer take down and cuffing tactics,” the statement said. “The goal of these trainings is to work with officers to show different techniques that can be used to defuse situations. A full outline of the training classes will be reviewed by RESET.”

The statement also said officers would take additional classes focused on communication.

“CPD members will be taking additional training classes on how to interact and communicate with individuals who have difficulty communicating in high stress situations – such as individuals with hearing impairments, autism and PTSD – so that officers can be better prepared to deal with a variety of situations,” the statement said.

The two officers involved in the incident are currently on paid administrative leave as the department’s Professional Standards Division conducts an internal investigation to determine “if the force used was necessary and within the Department’s policy,” Smith said in a statement released Wednesday.

Smith also said the investigation would be put on the fast track and would take no longer than two weeks.

Reports indicate the person being arrested was a woman and the charges included animal cruelty and resisting arrest.

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Putnam County man receives max sentence for murder

SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. — A Putnam County will spend the next 40 years in prison for second-degree murder.

Morgan Creed Vandergriff was sentenced Thursday in Putnam County Circuit Court for hitting and killing John Maynard with his car in May 2018 on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Scott Depot.

Morgan Vandergriff, 39

40 years was the maximum sentence as the judge doing the sentencing said Vandergriff never showed a sign of remorse after the incident or during the trial.

During the trial, witnesses said they saw Vandergriff speed past a school bus in the Scott Depot neighborhood while Maynard was at the end of his driveway telling him to slow down. That’s when Vandergriff went off-road and hit Maynard.

Vandergriff was found guilty on August 16, during the fourth day of the jury trial.

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Students learn valuable skills at annual Pumpkin Drop

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Dozens of pumpkins were falling from the sky at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston on Thursday.

More than 1,000 West Virginia students from 44 schools in 15 counties took part in the 21st Capital City Pumpkin Drop hosted by BridgeValley Community and Technical College. The drop is a competition of pumpkins dropping in designed packages by the students.

“We did put hay in ours to make it lighter,” Qamar Alyasin, a 6th grader at John Adams Middle School told MetroNews. “It’s also recyclable material which gives us extra points. It can hold up the pumpkin well, we already tested the pumpkin out and it’s very sustainable.”

The students’ design boxes for the competition with weight limits and other restrictions about what they can put inside. The pumpkin inside the box is then dropped from the top of a ladder on an AEP truck. Pumpkins with no marks, bumps or breaks advance to the next round.

“We learn mostly STEM,” Isabel Trusty, a 6th grader at John Adams Middle School told MetroNews. “Particularly the engineering part of STEM because you learn how to build things, build designs to keep things safe.”

John Adams Middle School, which sits in Charleston, had a design that featured two layers of hay and a blanket.

Awards were given out to students who created the best pumpkin shelter, as well as those who design creatively and sustainably for elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

“You learn how to take something that is a normal thing and turn it into something that can win and be helpful,” Alyasin said.

“This also teaches you that if you lose, you can try again and come back.”

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Fire prevention discussed, heroes honored at Kanawha-Charleston Health Department

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — October is Fire Prevention Month across the country and first responders that deal with fire in Kanawha County were celebrated on Thursday.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department hosted representatives from the Charleston Fire Department, Pinch Volunteer Fire Department, Metro 911, Kanawha County Emergency Management, Red Cross, and others to speak on fire prevention and share stories.

“Firefighters, EMS, our first responders, 911 operators they do not have an easy job,” Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Executive Director, Dr. Sherri Young said.

“They are called in the middle of the night, they come out in the worst of worst conditions to see people in the worst situations. They are literally the heroes running towards the fire.”

It’s personal for Young as she and her family survived a house explosion in January 2018 in the Pinch area. With tears in her eyes, she shared her story of a propane tank rolling down a hill into their home on Rosewood Way in Coppers Creek.

She said if it wasn’t for the 911 dispatchers telling her and two others to leave the home the way they did, they wouldn’t be alive. “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” is the theme of Fire Prevention Month in West Virginia and Young said that’s approriate.

“The heroes started from the first phone call,” Young said. “The heroes arrived on scene and helped take care of this. The heroes arrived with the American Red Cross by coming and bringing us supplies. We had nothing but the clothes on our back.”

Young said she is just beginning to open up about her story with the position she is in as a health officer. She also said the best ways for fire prevention are using fire detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and has detectors.

“I feel like now that I am in the position of helping protect the public, I feel like it was my duty to come out and say I went through this, I knew what this was like and I want you to protect yourselves,” Young said.

 

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Video of CPD arrest shows punches being thrown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two Charleston police officers are on paid administrative leave as an investigation continues into a “use of force” complaint.

The officers were placed on leave Wednesday, a move approved by Police Chief Opie Smith.

The incident in question occurred during a Monday night arrest. A cellphone video taken by a bystander shows a person being restrained by a police on the street when a second officer arrives to assist. The video shows the second officer going to his knees and then throwing four punches with his right hand.

The Charleston Police Department’s Professional Standards Division is conducting an internal investigation to determine “if the force used was necessary and within the Department’s policy,” Smith said in a statement released Wednesday.

Smith also said the investigation would be put on the fast track and would take no longer than two weeks.

Smith has asked he community group RESET to review the incident. The group, which is made up of Charleston clergy and community advocates, is serving as liaison between the police department and the community and, according to Smith, will provide updates

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Tractor trailer breaks power pole in half in downtown Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A tractor-trailer hitting a power pole in downtown Charleston late Thursday morning caused traffic and power issues.

The driver of the truck took a right turn too tight at Virginia Street East onto Clendenin Street and snapped a pole in half around 11:30 a.m.

State police were on the scene blocking lanes of Virginia Street, cutting it to one lane. Power was out at local businesses briefly.

Metro 911 said injuries were unknown.
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Charleston Police Department investigating force used during arrest

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Charleston Police Department is investigating force used during an arrest on Monday.

The police department said Wednesday its Professional Standards Division will determine if the force used was necessary and within the department’s policy. The department did not state the specific incident under review.

According to the department, Police Chief Opie Smith has spoken to Rev. Roberta Smith with RESET about the incident; RESET consists of Charleston clergy and community members and serves as liaisons between the department and community. Smith will also be asking the organization to review what happened.

The investigation is expected to take two weeks at most.

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