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Photo gallery: Spring Mills defeats Hedgesville, 44-29 in Class AAAA Region I, Section 1 final

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Spring Mills’ 44-29 win over Hedgesville in the Class AAAA Region I, Section 1 final. The Cardinals will host Musselman Tuesday in the regional round while the Eagles visit Jefferson.

(Photo gallery courtesy of Christopher C. Davis/@EP_BigCameraGuy)

 

 

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Third suspect charged in Harrison County murder

SALEM, W.Va. — Detectives in Harrison County have made a third arrest in last week’s killing of Dallion Lewis.

Douglas Steiner (WVRJA)

Douglas Steiner, 35, of Mount Clare, was charged Friday with being an accessory after the fact of murder.

Shortly after Lewis’ death on Feb. 21, police arrested Dennis High, 36, of Salem, and charged him with felony murder.

Jennifer Kirk, 48, of Clarksburg, was the second suspect arrested on Feb. 24 and charged with felony murder.

Sheriff Robert Matheny said detectives from the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department have been working with multiple agencies, including the Harrison County Drug Task Force, the Clarksburg Police Department and federal authorities, in what is being called a “complex investigation.”

The investigation remains active, and tips can be left by calling 304-423-7700.

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WVU closes regular season with 23rd victory, 57-49 over TCU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In his first season as WVU head coach, Mark Kellogg has used the same starting lineup in all 29 games. The Mountaineers have remained remarkably injury-free throughout the course of the year.

That good fortune changed in the late stages of Saturday’s Senior Day contest against TCU. However, the Mountaineers finished the job without junior guard JJ Quinerly in a 57-49 win.

Quinerly collided with a teammate in the late stages of the third quarter and did not return to the game. TCU trimmed a 23-point deficit down to 9 midway through the fourth quarter. However, West Virginia saw the game out despite being outscored 19-9 in the fourth quarter.

The Mountaineers scored the final 15 points in the first quarter to take a 21-7 lead. That run extended to 20 points between the quarters [26-7] and WVU led 37-17 at halftime.

“We need to come out and kind of punch first,” said WVU head coach Mark Kellogg. “Playing from the front is what we talked about a little bit. We had kind of gotten away from that or haven’t been able to do that through that [three-game] losing streak even though I thought we played fairly well at times.”

“We started the game off and I think we turned them over ten times in the first quarter,” said WVU guard Lauren Fields. “That’s when our offense was flowing. We know that we have to create offense from our defense.”

WVU extended their cushion to a game-high 23 points [46-23] midway through the third quarter and the Mountaineers took a 48-30 lead into the fourth quarter.

However, with Quinerly icing her right knee on the bench, the Horned Frogs (19-10, 6-12 Big 12) used an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter to pull within ten points.

“JJ is certainly the leader of this group on the court. You never want to see somebody go down,” Kellogg said. “I do not have any report for you as of right now. I am sure over the next couple of days we’ll get a better report on that one.”

“We had to be able to step up and fill in big shoes,” said WVU senior guard Jayla Hemingway.

Needing a response, Hemingway scored five consecutive points to halt TCU’s momentum.

“We didn’t want them to get going,” Hemingway said. “We just wanted to keep the lead and be able to close out this game right. I think we were able to do that in the end.”

“She is playing like a senior right now who knows that the career is towards the back end, I guess,” Kellogg said. “The seniors should play that way. There is more of a sense of urgency.”

Quinerly and Jordan Harrison each scored 14 points to lead the Mountaineers. Hemingway and Kyah Watson each added eight points.

Madison Conner led TCU with 18 points. Sedona Prince notched a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

West Virginia (23-6, 12-6 Big 12) awaits their seed in next week’s Big 12 Conference Tournament. Sunday’s Oklahoma State-Baylor contest will determine if the Mountaineers can find a way into the “double bye” in Kansas City.

“Today was a good game for us to get back on track and give us momentum going into the tournament,” Fields said.

“We closed the chapter today but there is still going to be a page to turn. We’ll turn the page sometime tomorrow when we figure out what the next steps are, who we play, when we play and those types of things. A really good book we have written so far this year,” Kellogg said.

“If you would have given me 23-6 and 12-6 before the year started, I think I would have taken you up on that one.”

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Elkins High School senior named 2024 West Virginia Journalism Student of the Year, headed to national convention

ELKINS, W.Va. — Elkins High School senior Kaelan Lovett has been selected as the 2024 West Virginia Journalism Student of the Year and will represent the state at the Journalism Education Association’s National High School Journalism Convention in Kansas City early next month.

Kaelan Lovett

His submission to win the honor included a narrative about his experience as a journalist and his leadership, team building, web and social media design, photo journalism, writing, editing, and reporting.

Lovett confessed on a recent edition of WAJR’s “Talk of the Town” to being a “news junkie” who likes to write and developed that passion at an early age.

“I’ve always liked to write,” Lovett said. “I remember writing books in third grade whenever I had the chance, and I remember teachers telling me I had to do something else other than that.”

Lovett moved to Elkins from Texas last year and has quickly become a member of the journalism program at the high school.

“For the broadcast, I act as the technical director, making sure everything works—the lighting system, sound, and everything,” Lovett said. “I also write and act as a news reporter for the newspaper, and I’m on the debate team as well.”

The Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association features media tours, the JEA Outreach Academy, a trade show, and broadcast competitions.

“They’ll offer workshops and an opportunity to become a more stable journalist,” Lovett said. “And it’s a chance for me to be recognized as the West Virginia Student of the Year.”

Lovett said there are differences in media coverage between West Virginia and Texas. In Texas, he said there is much less writing about the environment and more about politics. West Virginia media coverage offers more in-depth information at the county level and is more personal.

“The West Virginia news system as a whole is a lot more personal, with a lot more personal stories than in Texas, where they have more overarching news discussions,” Lovett said.

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Spring outdoor burning restrictions return

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  The month of March means the return of burning restrictions.

The West Virginia Division of Forestry is reminding residents that outdoor burning hours are now in place from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., which is according to State Code Chapter 20-3-5.

“Our fire laws protect one of West Virginia’s most valuable resources: our forests,” State Forester Jeremy Jones said. “We urge everyone who decides to burn anything outside to be completely familiar with the guidelines available on our website. During the spring months it doesn’t take long for our fuels to dry out and fires to escape easily.”

Jones said they have responded to nearly 100 fires already this year.

“Since January 1, we have responded to 95 fires that have burned approximately 389.1 acres,” said Jones.

The West Virginia Division of Forestry lists the following regulations when it comes to outdoor burning:

  • All fires must have a safety strip
  • The safety strip itself must be cleared of burnable material and be at least 10 feet wide
  • Fire must be attended until completely extinguished
  • Only vegetative materials such as leaves, brush and yard clippings are permitted to be burnt
  • Spark-throwing machinery such as power shovels or sawmills operating on land subject to fire must contain an adequate spark arrestor
  • Inflammable waste disposal areas must annually remove all grass, brush, debris, and other inflammable material adjacent to disposal areas to provide adequate protection, preventing the escape of fire to adjacent lands

A permit is required for any commercial burning during prohibited periods. Permits are issued by local WVDOF offices.

Anyone who causes a fire on any grass or forest land would have to reimburse the state for costs to suppress the fire. Forest fires caused by negligence can result in a fine that ranges from $100 to $1,000 with an additional civil penalty of $200.

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Man charged in Putnam County shooting

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.

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Lawmakers turn to levity when discussing perennial Article V resolution

Story by David Beard, The Dominion Post 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House Judiciary Committee members appeared to have about as much fun as allowed by law on Friday approving yet another resolution demanding Congress call a convention of states for constitutional amendments.

Brandon Steele

The debate was sprinkled with rock and pop song quotes and frequent chuckles. But there was also a new twist, and the discussion took a serious turn at the end.

HCR 57 demands Congress call and Article V convention “to propose amendments to the Constitution of the United States to create fiscal responsibility by and within the federal government.”

Committee counsel Brian Casto reminded the delegates the the full Legislature adopted HCR 31 in 2022, which included a fiscal responsibility element along with Congressional term limits and limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

So for this one, he said, “in that sense it’s somewhat duplicative, but it’s a belt and suspenders. If you adopt this, you’re, in the words of the great Johnny Rotten, saying, ‘We mean it, man.’”

There were questions on whether a redundant request would be counterproductive. Casto said it’s really up to Congress, but there’s no harm in trying.

HCR 57 also calls on the state to join with other states to file a law suit to force Congress to act. Asked who would do that for West Virginia, Casto said it would fall to the attorney general.

Bill Ridenhour

The twist came in the form of a proposed amendment by Delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, for Congress to consider and propose an amendment to repeal the 16th Amendment, which authorized the federal income tax and was ratified in 1913.

Steele offered the next song (almost) quote: “As Olivia Newton John once said, ‘Let’s get fiscal.’”

Steele said the tax was originally a 1% tax on the richest 1%, but it’s ballooned. “Our constituents are the ones footing the bill.”

He added later that state lost their identities when the federal government started taking income tax. “That’s when we became homogenized. … The wealth and work product of the everyday citizen was taken and redistributed how some rich men north of Richmond wanted it to go.”

And the next song reference: With this addition to the resolution, Judiciary is “the first elected body in the nation to do what Rage Against the Machine said: ‘Take the power back.’ Its best in our citizens’ hands, not the bureaucrats’.”

Lead sponsor Delegate Bill Ridenour, R-Jefferson, pondered Steele’s amendment for moment, then said, “The hell with it, lets go for it.”

It was approved in 21-0 roll call vote followed by lots of laughs.

Ridenour also proposed an amendment, striking the word “almost” from this sentence: “Whereas, the national debt has increased from $850 billion in 1979 to almost $34 trillion today.”

He said the debt is now more than $34.4 trillion. “We’re dancing about as fast as you could possibly get and not reach the moon in a couple of minutes.”

It was approved in a unanimous voice vote.

Larry Kump

The tone turned more serious when the discussion shifted to approving the amended resolution.

Delegate Larry Kump, R-Berkeley, said, “I would agree that our fiscal situation in this country is both deadly and urgent,” but the resolution added nothing to 2022’s HCR 31. But Steele’s amendment gave it new relevance.

Delegate Bryan Ward, R-Hardy, voiced full support of the whole thing. “We’re leaving our next generations with no opportunity for hope. We’re concerned about our republic and this is what we can do.”

Debates on Article V conventions in past years have been weighted with angst over the possibility of a runaway convention, where the delegates ignore the call and do what they please, to the point of perhaps scrapping the whole Constitution.

The prime example of that always cited is the 1787 convention to amend the Articles of Confederation, which was conducted in secret and led to a whole new Constitution and form of government.

There was no prolonged angst this time, just a couple questions about it from Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia. For one, the resolution sometimes says “amendments” and other times “amendment.”

Casto suggested the different words may make allowance for the possibility of more than one amendment to accomplish the single purpose. Also, the amendments would be “specifically regarding fiscal responsibility.”

In the roll call vote to adopt the resolution, Hansen offered the only opposing vote. It goes next to the full House. Because it’s a concurrent resolution, it will also have to go to the Senate for final adoption.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution establishes two ways to amend the Constitution. First, two-thirds of both houses of Congress can propose amendments. Second, two-thirds (34) of the 50 states can apply to Congress to call a convention of states to propose amendments. HCR 57 takes the second approach.

 

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One injured in Charleston fire

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.

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Judge’s order gives Justice company 72 hours to turn over helicopter for sale

A judge entered an order Friday directing a company owned by Gov. Jim Justice to turn over a helicopter for sale within 72 hours.

The judge’s order represented the climax of a dispute between Justice’s Bluestone Resources and Caroleng Investments, parent company to the Russian mining company Mechel that bought and sold properties with Justice. Caroleng is seeking the seizure over a debt now amounting to about $13 million already recognized and awarded in the federal court system.

U.S. District Judge Robert Ballou of the Western District of Virginia had already ruled that a 2009 Bell helicopter should be sold to pay down debt. The most recent order lays out the path to set that in motion with a sale through Helicopter Exchange, Ltd, known as Heli-X.

“Bluestone shall surrender the Helicopter to Heli-X or its named agent in an orderly manner, together with all logs and records, all accessories, attachments, parts, repairs, additions, accessions, substitutions, and exchanges relating to the helicopter, within 72
hours of entry of this Initial Sale Order,” Ballou wrote.

The entry also specified, “Bluestone shall take immediate steps to reprogram the Helicopter’s transponder to allow for inflight tracking.”

The judge also laid out a backup plan.

“Should Bluestone fail to surrender the Helicopter in the manner described, Caroleng shall be authorized to proceed with enforcement,” the judge wrote, “seizing the Helicopter with the aid of the U.S. Marshals Service, and delivering it to the custody of Heli-X.”

Gov. Jim Justice

Justice, a two-term Republican governor running for U.S. Senate, has faced a series of major financial pressures over his sprawling family-owned businesses. Most notably, the family company’s longtime lender, Carter Bank & Trust, is trying to collect on $300 million in personally-guaranteed debt.

This case all started when Caroleng sought the helicopter’s seizure over a multi-million dollar debt.

Justice sold the family’s coal assets to Mechel in May 2009 for $436 million in cash and 83.3 million preferred shares of Mechel stock. Justice then bought Bluestone back in 2015 for $5 million.

The mines had closed under Mechel, but Justice reopened them.

The deal to buy back the Bluestone properties included a provision to pay Caroleng $3 a ton in royalty payments for mined coal, along with defined portions of future sales. In court filings, Caroleng claimed Bluestone withheld the royalty payments.

Mechel first made its debt case to a three-person panel for the International Chamber of Commerce, which arbitrated the dispute in Paris, France, in October 2019, two years into Justice’s first term as governor.  The panel awarded $8.4 million plus pre-award interest of $1.7 million. Representatives of Mechel says the debt has continued to grow.

Caroleng, on behalf of Mechel, has been acting on a 2021 federal court order to enforce the arbitration award but it hasn’t been able to collect on its judgment. Liquidating the helicopter, conceivably, could satisfy a portion of the debt.

Bluestone Resources has objected to the helicopter seizure by a company “controlled by a Russian oligarch.” Bluestone’s lawyers said that if the helicopter is seized and liquidated then the money should instead go to different lenders higher up the debt priority list.

One of those lenders, 1st Source Bank of Indiana, jumped in to identify itself as a lender with a perfected, first-priority security interest on the helicopter. The bank said Bluestone still owed millions of dollars for the helicopter and other loans on additional property.

Bluestone and the bank estimate the helicopter’s value at $1.2 million.

After the judge’s ruling in January that the helicopter should be sold, representatives of Caroleng and 1st Source have been cooperating on a plan to move forward. Bluestone, according to filings in the case, has not participated.

Separately, 1st Source launched its own lawsuit in February against Bluestone over $4.5 million in debt and described intentions of seizing property like construction equipment.

In the helicopter case, once the sale has gone through, the proceeds will be held in escrow with arrangements for Caroleng and 1st Source to figure out.

 

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2024 WVSSAC Boys H.S. Basketball Regional matchups

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Following the final day of sectional competition on Friday, March 1, regional matchups in the WVSSAC Boys Basketball playoffs are set. Regional winners advance to the state tournament at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, which will be played March 12-16.

Class AAAA (All games Thursday, March 7)

Region I

Wheeling Park (15-8) at Bridgeport (20-4)

University (10-14) at Morgantown (22-1)

Region II

Musselman (14-10) at Spring Mills (22-1)

Hedgesville (14-9) at Jefferson (16-7)

Region III

Princeton (11-12) at South Charleston (17-7)

George Washington (14-9) at Woodrow Wilson (14-9)

Region IV

Parkersburg (7-17) at Spring Valley (18-6)

Huntington (15-8) at Parkersburg South (10-13)

 

Class AAA (All games Wednesday, March 6)

Region I

Keyser (7-17) at North Marion (10-11)

Weir (10-14) at Hampshire (9-14)

Region II

East Fairmont (17-7) at Lincoln (14-9)

Robert C. Byrd (10-13) at Fairmont Senior (23-1)

Region III

PikeView (8-16) at Sissonville (14-10)

Lewis County (14-10) at Shady Spring (19-4)

Region IV

Ripley (11-13) at Logan (15-9)

Wayne (10-12) at Nitro (22-2)

 

Class AA (All games Wednesday, March 6)

Region I

Ritchie County (9-14) at Wheeling Central Catholic (18-5)

St. Marys (10-14) at Williamstown (20-3)

Region II

Trinity (11-10) at Moorefield (8-16)

Frankfort (15-7) at Braxton County (10-13)

Region III

Mingo Central (7-17) at Bluefield (18-5)

Wyoming East (16-7) at Chapmanville (17-6)

Region IV

Wirt County (11-13) at Charleston Catholic (20-4)

Buffalo (11-13) at Ravenswood (18-5)

 

Class A (All games Tuesday, March 5)

Region I

Madonna (11-13) at Doddridge County (17-7)

Clay-Battelle (18-6) at Cameron (19-5)

Region II

East Hardy (18-3) at Pendleton County (14-8)

Tygarts Valley (11-11) at Tucker County (20-3)

Region III

Greater Beckley Christian (14-10) at Webster County (20-4)

Greenbrier West (13-11) at James Monroe (19-4)

Region IV

Wahama (17-7) at Tug Valley (18-6)

Tolsia (15-9) vs. Huntington St. Joseph’s (16-7)

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