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FRAZIERS BOTTOM, W.Va. — State police say an argument between two men in Putnam County resulted in a shooting and criminal charges.
Troopers said John Hesler, 61, of Hopewell, Va., traveled to the home of John Bilzor, 53, of Fraziers Bottom, on Friday. The two men got into an argument and Bilzor took out a gun and fired three shots at Hesler. Two of the rounds went into Hesler’s leg.
Bilzor is charged with malicious wounding and unlawful assault.
Hesler was taken to CAMC General with what troopers describe as non-life-threatening injuries.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One person was injured in a fire that occurred early Saturday morning in Charleston.
The blaze was reported in a one-story residence in the 1500 block of Bridge Road.
Crews with the Charleston Fire Department said the house was engulfed in flames when they arrived on the scene at shortly after midnight.
Authorities said one person inside the house suffered burn injuries and is hospitalized.
Further details were not immediately available.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is promoting a new phase in its focus on mathematics with the help of local media outlets.
On Friday, the WVDE hosted a Media Math Field Day in Charleston. Media representatives were invited to take part in the recently-launched Unite with Numeracy program. The effort expands on the math4life initiative that focuses on improving math proficiency for students in pre-K through grade 12.
Media members went through math-related hands-on activities in the West Virginia Board of Education Board Room with the WVDE mathematics team. Some activities were done individually while others required work in teams. They also discussed how anxiety and certain stereotypes could affect the mindset of a student in a math classroom.
Tim Flatley, a mathematics coordinator with the state Department of Education, said the goal is to eliminate the negative stereotypes that people and school students may have about math.
“We all must be committed to increasing student proficiency in mathematics,” said Flatley. “We would never accept a person giving up on literacy and not being able to read, and we should support math learning with the same vigor.”
The math4life work first began in 2018. It includes a comprehensive plan that helps support educators and students to better understand mathematics. Another part of the plan is to build a network of representatives from each county who support it’s rollout.
Flatley said they wanted the members of the media to retain information and go through the activities in a classroom environment in order to get feedback on the ideas for their Unite with Numeracy program. They could use their understanding as a way to improve teaching concepts and student learning.
“We explored mathematics in a different way, we thought about our experiences in a math classroom and we just really want to promote a message of being positive around mathematics,” Flatley said.
WVDE math coordinators have spent time traveling around the state to talk and connecting with county and regional teams on how to use more effective instructional practices in their classrooms.
“Just promoting how math is in the world around us is something that we can all do and all work on together,” said Flatley.
Flatley said the state’s math standards are currently under scheduled revision and will be released sometime this summer.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia has recently made a nearly $1 million dollar recovery of funds that had previously been stolen from the state amid an ongoing check fraud investigation.
State Auditor J.B. McCuskey and United States Attorney for the Southern District Will Thompson were joined by West Virginia State Police and representatives from Truist Bank Friday at the state capitol for a news conference regarding the successful recovery efforts.
The check fraud scheme remains under investigation, but through the collaborative efforts made by the State Auditor’s Office, the Treasurer’s Office, the U.S Attorney’s Office, the Governor’s Office, West Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigators and Truist Bank, approximately $966,083.04 has thus far been recovered and deposited back into a state account.
McCuskey said through this collaboration of entities, they are making sure money coming into the state is going exactly where it’s supposed to go.
“In a world where fraud is running rampant, nothing is more important than having a coalition of law enforcement, be it the U.S Attorney’s Office, State Police, or our Public Integrity and Fraud Unit working hand-in-hand to make sure all of the citizen’s dollars are protected,” McCuskey told MetroNews.
McCuskey said the case involves two checks in question totaling roughly $1 million that had been mailed to a vendor in Texas. They were sent to a Department of Health and Human Resources vendor as part of a Medicaid contract, but at some point, fell into the hands of some bad actors.
However, he said they were very quickly able to identify that the checks were not deposited into the vendor’s account, thus beginning the investigation.
So far, the amount recovered in the ongoing investigation represents roughly 85% of what is owed to the vendor.
U.S Attorney Will Thompson said it involves a check washing scheme where the payee’s name on the check was washed off using a chemical agent and a new payee was put in their place on the check.
Thompson said it’s a particular fraud tactic that’s happening more and more.
“It’s pretty prevalent, it has been increasing in recent years, and it’s a situation where we’re not only seeing states being defrauded but corporations and private individuals,” he said.
However, he said while it is happening to individual people, fraud schemes like this one typically occur across a larger platform.
“I’m aware of some individuals who’s checks have been stolen and the payee has been wiped out, however, most of the fraudsters are looking at larger-scale like corporations or states, because, obviously the checks are generally larger,” said Thompson.
McCuskey said the Auditor’s Office formed the Public Integrity and Fraud Unit 7 years ago, and in doing so, they created the first-of-its-kind group that works with county prosecutors to prosecute government fraud on a large-scale.
He said so far, the unit has convicted and arrested a total of 46 people with fraud-related felonies and has more than 90 open ongoing cases.
McCuskey said while fraud and its prominence in the state has somewhat been overlooked throughout the years, the established coalition is now changing the game in fraud scheme accountability.
“For most of my lifetime, government fraud was at the bottom of the stack for county prosecutors, because they were dealing with murders, and rapes, and drug charges, and things that are a real public safety issue, but what we did was, we knew our prosecutors wanted to prosecute fraudsters but probably didn’t have enough time,” he said.
Fraud prosecution is a top matter in his office, Thompson said, as they work to try and prosecute as much fraud as possible, but it remains a difficult undertaking.
“It’s very time consuming, these investigations require a lot of work and prosecutors are dealing with very tough issues such as violent crime, drugs, things of that nature, some of which my office is dealing with, as well, but we are pretty well equipped to handle fraud cases, so I think the more we look into it the more fraud we will uncover,” said Thompson.
In addition, McCuskey said he has been pushing to eliminate check payments to vendors since he took office in 2017, because he said they pose a greater risk of fraud. Instead, he has been advocating for Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) payments, which is a faster and more secure form of payment.
McCuskey said the state was issuing 22,000 checks to vendors per week on average when he took office, but now those checks being issued have been reduced to an average of just 9,000 per week.
The team is still working to recover all of the stolen funds in the particular fraud investigation announced Friday, so specific details in the case remain confidential. No arrests have yet been made.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Union workers at nearly three dozen Kroger stores in West Virginia could be headed for the picket line after soundly rejecting the company’s contract offer.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 400 announced Friday Kroger’s three-year proposed deal was voted down by its members 1,347 to 229. Union spokesman Jonathan Williams told MetroNews it was no surprise.
“The proposals that we had on the table were not ones we could recommend for ratification and we couldn’t get members to vote for it if we wanted to,” Williams said. “It’s time for the company to get serious and give us a contract offer that we can actually recommend.”
Eight-five percent of the union workers have authorized a strike. Williams said there’s no date set yet but one could be coming soon.
Williams added that talks with the company will continue in hopes of reaching a deal. Union members will continue to report to work in the meantime.
A series of rallies are planned to be held at select stores on March 11.
“We’ve reached out the company and we’re working with a federal mediator. We hope they (company officials) have come to their senses, but if not, we will be announcing next steps this (Friday) afternoon,” Williams said.
Kroger repeated again Friday afternoon that its offer was an “historical investment of $300 million in associate wages and healthcare in West Virginia.”
“Our associates are the heart of Kroger, and we respect and value their hard work,” Kroger Mid-Atlantic President Lori Raya said in a statement. “Our proposal would put more money in every associate’s paycheck and preserve high-quality healthcare at 72% less than the average healthcare expense for West Virginia families. We remain dedicated to finding common ground and extend an open invitation to UFCW Local 400 for further dialogue.”
The company added its goal in every negotiation is “to reach a fair and balanced agreement that provides a comprehensive compensation package of wages and benefits for our dedicated associates.”
Williams said inflation has increased 18% in the last three years but the raises in the contract would amount to 12%. He added part-time workers at the bottom of the pay scale would be earning around $14 an hour at the end of the contract. He said workers also didn’t favor the proposal that would have allowed Kroger to raise out-of-pocket limits for health care following the second year of the contract.
“Members were not happy about the company trying to put money in one pocket and try and take it out of another with these health care costs,” Williams said.
UFCW Local 400 represents around 3,000 workers at 38 Kroger stores. Most of the stores are in West Virginia, with a handful in neighboring Kentucky and Ohio.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Six people are celebrating their recent recovery journey from substance abuse and graduating from the Kanawha County Adult Drug Court.
Kanawha County Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey presided over the drug court graduation Thursday during a ceremony in the historic Kanawha County Courthouse.
Amanda Taylor, Jamey Gillenwater, Raven Ratliff, Carroll Kirby, and Jaimie Logan were presented with their certificates of graduation after spending an 18-month stint in the program along with various rehabilitation and recovery programs in practice of a sober life.
Bailey said all of the graduates Thursday were brought to the program out of the justice system as non-violent offenders, but were driven to criminal activity due to their addictions.
She said they were given the opportunity to work on themselves towards recovery rather than be incarcerated, and they have made a complete commitment to change their lives.
“Most of them have been here almost two years, participating in the program and learning about sobriety, learning about recovery, learning to accept support,” said Bailey.
All of the graduates told their addiction and recovery stories at the podium before receiving their certificates.
One of them, Amanda Taylor, said she had been in addiction since she was 15 years old and had been in trouble many times with the law.
However, she said she is grateful for a new beginning.
“I’m very proud of myself, I’ve come a long way, and it’s just really exciting to start my new life,” said Taylor.
Taylor said in order to complete the 18- month-long drug court program and graduate, clients must start by going to court once a week for the first out of three phases. She said they then take classes, work with sponsors, attend recovery programs, and receive support from other recovery community members.
Taylor said she’s now putting the past behind her and giving herself a fresh start.
“This was a new beginning to straighten everything out, I have completed a long-term rehab, and I’m now getting to reunite with my children again,” she said.
She said she also completed the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous during her time in the program.
Taylor said she has been working at Charleston Area Medical Center and plans to go back to school.
She encourages others who are on the recovery journey to keep pushing through and not give up, and to always reach out for help when they need it.
“You can’t do it alone, and there’s a lot of people out here with great stories, motivation to help you, anybody I’ve ever met in recovery is willing to lend a helping hand,” said Taylor. “Just take it one day at a time, get rid of all your junk and start a new life.”
Judge Bailey has been presiding over Kanawha County Drug Court since its inception in March of 2009 as the eighth county to start the program in the state.
She said those who work on the drug court assess the clients when they enter the program and then through rehabilitation and intense monitoring, the clients return to the community as drug-free, productive citizens.
Bailey said despite some challenges, they have managed to graduate numerous people within the program and its been very successful.
“You know, like many things we had some setbacks during Covid and we are still sort of coming through a regrouping of that, because this is a program based on accountability and actually seeing people and working with people,” she said.
Bailey said they generally graduate between five to eight people a couple times a year.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. — A Sissonville man is being held on $500,000 bail after being charged with attempted first-degree murder of a police officer following a Thursday morning shooting.
According to a criminal complaint released during the Thursday afternoon arraignment of Nathan Oxley, 43, of Sissonville, Deputy S.B. Savilla responded to a disturbance at a home on Galena Lane in Sissonville around 1:10 a.m. Thursday. The caller said Oxley was violent and may have been under the influence of methamphetamines.
Savilla spotted the suspect vehicle on his way to the call. The vehicle fled and the pursuit ended a short time later. The criminal complaint said Deputy Savilla got out of his crusier and Oxley “leaned out the driver’s side of the vehicle, and fired multiple rounds at Deputy Savilla.”
Some of the rounds struck the driver’s side door and windshield of Savilla’s cruiser.
“Deputy Savilla returned fire at Mr. Oxley from behind the driver’s side door. Dep. Savilla was struck on the hand by a round fired by the suspect,” the criminal complaint said.
Law enforcement from throughout the area responded and soon had Oxley in custody. The criminal complaint said he told detective he knowingly shot at a police officer.
Deputy Savilla is in stable condition at CAMC General.
Kanawha County Chief Deputy Joe Crawford said a second individual, identified as Becky Linville, also fled the scene. She was located shortly before 8 a.m. She was not charged.
KANAWHA CITY, W.Va. — A longtime Kanawha County record store is closing after 52 years.
For more than half a century, Budget Tapes & Records operated at it’s Kanawha City location. They announced in a social media post Tuesday night that their days are numbered.
“I feel great that I’ve have such wonderful business all these years, but I feel sad that we’re closing down,” said Priscilla Pope, co-owner of Budget.
The store’s last day is Sunday, March 3.
Ever since the announcement, hundreds of people have flooded in to grab one more vinyl or maybe a piece of merchandise. Pope said folks were ready to shop on Wednesday even before doors opened.
“They were outside waiting on us when we opened at 10,” she said.
A few hundred people made their way to the store Wednesday. Pope expects more larger crowds leading up to their last day.
Longtime store employee John Nelson has been working at Budget for a majority of it’s time, 48 years. He said business was booming on Wednesday, the day after they announced their retirement.
“I’m as happy as can be,” said Nelson. “I don’t really know what to say.”
Curtis Workman was one of many that stopped by. He remembers coming to the store many years back with family.
“It’s been a staple of Kanawha City and Charleston since I was young, but it’s really nice to see the community come together for it,” said Workman.
Budget’s first day of business was in July of 1972. With Pope and Nelson retiring, they said they’re going to continue living their lives similar to how they have been already. For Pope, some actual time off first is in order.
“First, I’m going to rest. I really haven’t had a day off in 52 years.”
“Just try to enjoy life,” said Nelson about what he’s looking forward to most in retirement.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston may have been the victim of a set-up.
Charleston Police Chief Scott Dempsey said Wednesday afternoon that both internal and external investigations are continuing in connection with a traffic stop involving Wriston on Interstate 77 just south of the state capitol on Tuesday night, Feb. 20.
Wriston was stopped after a person, who identified as an off-duty trooper, called Kanawha County Metro 911 and said they were behind a motorist on Charleston’s East End and the driver was driving erratically including running up on a curb and running a stop sign. Dempsey said Wednesday the investigation has concluded that wasn’t true.
“As of today, we have determined that information relayed to CPD regarding Mr. Wriston driving erratically does not appear to be accurate or truthful,” Dempsey said.
Police previously determined the person who made the call was not an off-duty trooper.
The information has been turned over to Kanawha County prosecutors for consideration of possible charges.
Several media outlets received an anonymous email with photos and a video the morning after the traffic stop.
Dempsey also said an internal investigation into how officers conducted the traffic stop is also continuing. Dempsey said Wriston smelled of alcohol but passed two field sobriety tests. He was also given a preliminary breath test, according to the chief.
“CPD Officers on the scene believed that the test was inconclusive and inconsistent with other tests being performed that Mr. Wriston
passed. In addition, the lack of evidence Mr. Wriston was driving erratically, and lack of information received from the 911 caller, led CPD Officers not to charge Mr. Wriston,” Dempsey said.
Wriston was allowed to call a friend who came and picked him up.
Dempsey said the department is still investigating whether officers followed CPD’s body camera policy.
Gov. Jim Justice expressed disappointment in the entire situation during his media briefing earlier Wednesday.
“How does Jim Justice feel? He’s very concerned,” Justice said during his Wednesday media briefing. “And how Jim Justice feels–is probably disappointed.”
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia International Yeager Airport Director and CEO Dominque Ranieri says the airport board is hopeful the ongoing $5.1 million General Aviation Apron Expansion project will be their first major groundbreaking ceremony this year.
The project was a main topic up for discussion during Wednesday’s board meeting at the airport with the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority.
Wednesday the board approved a reimbursable agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the project, which Ranieri said will allow them to review construction plans under the agreement that are subject to affect FAA equipment, as well as to implement staff with the administration to monitor the equipment during construction.
Ranieri said CRW will soon have construction bids going out on the project to expand the airport’s apron and hope to have the construction officially underway for it by late summer or early fall.
“It has been under design for quite a while, and we’re looking forward to moving forward and actually getting it done,” Ranieri said.
She said a Congressional Directed Spending award has made the project possible at CRW.
Ranieri said the project will add additional pavement all the way down to near where the General Aviation is located at the airport to create more space for aircraft carriers.
“If you’ve visited the airport recently you may have noticed in that area where the private aircraft come to the airport we are running out of parking, so this allows us to gain additional pavement for aircraft parking,” she said.
Ranieri said the project will open up much more space at the airport, and she said they are very excited to be moving forward with it.
“It is a great opportunity to expand the General Aviation area of the airport which welcomes tons of business travelers that are coming to our state as well as general aviators that are just passionate flyers, so, anything we can do to fit more of that at our airport we are very excited to do,” she said.
In addition, it was also announced during Wednesday’s airport board meeting that three new officers join the CRW PD.
Officers Mike Sims, Tom Carper and Stan Miller were sworn in on Feb. 2 and all come to the airport with previous experience in law enforcement careers.
Ranieri said this helps boost officer retention at the airport and will improve its around-the-clock safety standards.
“We strive to have at least two police officers on staff at the airport 24 hours a day.” she said. “We had a few police officers notify us that they were going to retire or a few that wanted to go part-time, so Chief Johnson was able to recruit some new officers to join us, we’re very excited.”
Finally, a couple of upcoming March events were announced at Wednesday’s meeting.
Ranieri is set to speak at the Charleston Area Alliance’s Elevations Professional Women’s Network Luncheon series on March 11 at University of Charleston starting at 11:30 a.m.
And, Hercules, the working Border Collie and the Airport Wildlife Patrol dog will join the Kanawha County Public Library and the community in celebration of his 7th birthday. That event is set for March 27 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the library’s main location on Capitol Street. Everyone is invited to come out and attend.