The Voice of West Virginia
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — A Marion County grand jury has handed up five first-degree murder indictments.
The prosecutor’s office said the indictments are sealed because those named are not yet in custody.
The five are accused of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit a felony and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Other indictments released are in connection with the robbery of a Fairmont convenience store. The grand jury indicted Timothy Jones, 20, of Bridgeport, and Dylan Edwards, 19, of Fairmont. Both are accused of first-degree robbery, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, grand larceny, and conspiracy.
Those indicted will be arraigned and trial dates set in the near future.
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CRUM, W.Va. — Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputies continue to investigate a crash that killed two people and injured two others.
Deputies confirm the crash happened Monday afternoon on U.S. 52, also known as Tolsia Highway near Crum in Wayne County.
They said a vehicle struck a husband and wife, Larry Smith and Brenda Smith, as they were pulling out of their driveway onto U.S. 52., killing them in the crash.
Deputies said the two other people involved were taken to the hospital.
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Properties owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family’s network of businesses are listed among lots for sale at county courthouses next week.
The properties in Raleigh and Wyoming counties were listed in public notices as available at auction because of delinquent taxes. Property taxes in West Virginia go to support public school districts, local libraries, police, public parks and additional local government services.
“Each tract or lot as described below, will be sold to the highest bidder,” stated the notices in each county.
The Raleigh County notice includes 11 properties owned specifically by James C. Justice II, the governor. The properties in Justice’s name in the Shady Spring area add up to $28,000 in taxes owed, also the amount stated for minimum bids.
The listings in the two counties also include dozens of properties owned by Justice family businesses such as Grandview Investment Company, Tams Management, Saddlebred LLC, James Land Company, Kirby Land Company, Bluestone Resources, National Resources and James C. Justice Companies. Those businesses owe even more money.
Each lot, according to the public notices, has been certified for auction by the state Auditor’s Office. Some of the corresponding listings on the Raleigh and Wyoming county tax pages say “Prior ticket was sold to the state” or “Certified to State Auditor – Current Year,” which means the Auditor’s Office has taken over the property because of outstanding debt.
The Raleigh County auction is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 15 in the Ceremonial Court Room. The Wyoming County auction is set for 9 a.m. June 16 in the lobby of the county courthouse.
The public notice indicates that the lots the lots still may be redeemed by whoever is responsible for paying the taxes on them: “Payments must be received prior to the close of business the day prior to the land sale.”
Justice, once described as West Virginia’s only billionaire, has been hit with a gusher of recent financial pressures.
The financial problems have spiked even as the Justice family businesses explore the sale of their coal operations to settle a debt with international lender Credit Suisse and as the governor’s wages are garnished over still another debt.
In the case with the most money on the line, the Justice family’s longtime lender, Carter Bank & Trust, is trying to collect on more than $300 million in debts that came due in mid-April.
The filings by Carter Bank are confessions of judgment, written and signed agreements accepting liability in instances of default.
Last week, lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil suit over $7.6 million in unpaid penalties and fees by more than a dozen companies owned by Justice and his family.
Justice has announced a high-profile campaign for U.S. Senate. In the primary election, he faces Congressman Alex Mooney, who is being backed by millions of dollars from the hardline Club for Growth, which already has an advertisement portraying Justice as a “deadbeat billionaire.”
Justice has said he does not intend to self-fund his campaign, saying it will take a team effort. So far, Justice doesn’t have any campaign finance filings with the Federal Elections Commission.
When asked about the various debts, Justice has said he turned over day-to-day operations of the businesses to his son and daughter and said the family’s businesses will make good on what they owe. And, in several instances, he has blamed political forces.
“But with all that being said, I promise you that many of the things that you may be seeing that are reported are skewed one way or another. You may absolutely be really surprised by the final outcomes. And I’ll promise you just this, that any obligation, responsibility or whatever it may be that these companies have, that they’ll be taken care of,” Justice said last month in a wide-ranging news briefing.
But there are signs of financial strain from county courthouses to federal courts.
In yet another longstanding dispute with Justice holdings over a judgment of at least $18 million, Fivemile Energy Company of Kentucky has asked a federal judge for expedited consideration because of the other major financial pressures on the Justice family businesses.
In that case, which originally focused on mineral rights leasing, the parties are currently arguing over how much money the Justice companies even have at their disposal and whether they’ve been forthcoming about their actual financial situation.
The Fivemile filing cites the possible imminent sale of the Justice coal properties as well as the press release that raised the possibility of paying down millions of dollars of the Carter Banks debt.
“In recent months, these same companies have been representing to this court that they were so poverty stricken that they could not pay off much smaller amounts awarded by the court to the plaintiffs,” wrote lawyers for Fivemile, which has been in the federal court dispute with the Justice properties since 2012.
Lawyers for the Justice companies have objected in that case that they lack the ability to pay, maintaining that economic headwinds over the past decade have whittled more than 100 coal and farming companies to just a dozen now actively operating.
The companies in that case suggest that “operating cash is chronically scarce and transferred among companies on a just-in-time basis.”
Lawyers representing the Justice companies, in a recent filing, noted that depositions by company representatives “painted a consistent portrait of a somewhat disorganized organization whose resources are stretched to the limit with respect to both finances and personnel. The cash that comes in is almost immediately transferred from those entities that have it to those that need it.”
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MetroNews will carry two of West Virginia’s premier Class A football programs for a live broadcast to start the 2023 season when Doddridge County plays host to St. Marys at Cline Stansberry Stadium.
The MetroNews SSAC Kickoff Game between the Bulldogs and Blue Devils will start at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 23, with the contest to air live in high definition on the MetroNews Channel at www.wvmetronews.com and on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.
“We’re very excited to have MetroNews back at our facility to broadcast one of our games,” Doddridge head coach Bobby Burnside said. “The last time we had MetroNews out was in 2019 on a Thursday night when we hosted Ritchie County and it was a huge crowd and successful event. To get statewide exposure from a professional organization is a very big deal. It’s exciting for our facility and players.”
The Bulldogs began playing at an on-campus and renovated Cline Stansberry Stadium to start the 2019 season and the facility is widely considered to be on a short list of the state’s top high school venues.
While St. Marys and Doddridge are both members of the Little Kanawha Conference, the 2023 season opener will mark the first regular season meeting between the two schools since 2013.
“Two small schools in what I think is the best small school conference in West Virginia,” Blue Devils’ head coach Jodi Mote said. “We have never played at their state-of-the-art facility. I have tremendous respect for them and their history and we’re so thankful to MetroNews for reaching out.”
The two teams last met in the 2017 playoffs when St. Marys, one year removed from a state championship, scored a victory over Doddridge en route to finishing Class A runner-up. The Blue Devils were also runner-up in 2014. SMHS was 7-4 and lost in the opening round of the playoffs a year ago.
Doddridge finished Class A runner-up in 2019 and is coming off a season in which it won 10 games and reached the semifinal round of the postseason.
“If you look over the last decade, both programs have been very good and made trips to Wheeling Island and consistent trips to the playoffs,” Burnside said. “Coach Mote’s had a storied career. It should be a good one.”
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DANDRIDGE, Tn. — Two members of the West Virginia Bass Nation secured high finishes in the organization’s recent regional championship event on Douglas Lake in Tennessee.
Matt Summers of Gassaway, W.Va., won the non-boater division with three day total weight of 21 pounds 11 ounces. Summers caught daily limits of 6-1, 6-14 and 8-12, and took home the $2,500 top prize. He also earned a spot in the upcoming National Championship on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina in the fall. Matt is a 20-year veteran state trooper and has been fishing tournaments for many years.
West Virginia’s top boater for the event was Dustin Hollen of Buckhannon.
It’s the fourth straight year the West Virginia team has had a top finisher in either the boater or non-boater division of the regional championship tournament. Each state’s top boater and non boater advanced to the National Championship.
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WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — The man accused in the shooting death of State Police Sgt. Cory Maynard was denied bond in a hearing that took place in Mingo County Circuit Court Tuesday morning.
Timothy Kennedy, 29, of Beech Creek, appeared before Mingo County Circuit Judge Miki Thompson. She turned down the request for bond. Kennedy was returned to the Southwestern Regional Jail.
Kennedy was charged with murder last Friday after allegedly shooting and killing Maynard in what State Police Superintendent Col. Jack Chambers has called an “ambush.”
“They were ambushed. Sgt. Maynard was hit and wounded. Another trooper that was with him did return fire, but did not hit the suspect,” Chambers said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Kennedy, who appeared in court Tuesday in an orange jail jumpsuit, likely faces additional charges. He’s the suspect in the Friday afternoon shooting of Benjamin Baldwin, 39, of Matewan. Baldwin was shot with a shotgun, according to investigators. He remains in a Charleston hospital in serious but stable condition.
Kennedy was arrested by troopers late Friday night following a 7-hour manhunt. He had two black eyes and a number of visible scratches on his face when he appeared in court Tuesday.
Maynard will be remembered in a service set for Wednesday afternoon at Mingo Central High School.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Investigators are looking for a cause of the fire that destroyed at least three Ashton Place townhomes Monday.
Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom lives about two blocks from the fire scene which is off Route 73 just south of Morgantown. He was heading home around 11:30 a.m. for lunch following a meeting of the Visit Mountaineer Country Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“They are townhouse units with five or six in a unit, and it was in the middle of one of the units where it appears the fire started,” Bloom said during an appearance Tuesday on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.” “The wind was starting to blow south and it was headed to another unit; in fact, they were about 10 feet away.”
Firefighters from nearly a dozen departments in Monongalia and Marion counties initially responded but Bloom said the addition of the Morgantown Fire Department ladder truck was key to stopping the fire’s momentum.
“They were able to put out the fire that was just about to start in the second building,” Bloom said. “You look at the second building, and you can see it melted, but it hadn’t caught fire yet, so it was just great timing.”
Units at 982, 984, and 986 Ashton Place sustained the most severe damage. There were no injuries reported, but one dog died at the scene. No damage estimate is available. A GoFundMe account has been established to help the residents.
“We’re looking at three that are totally gone, one that was 90 percent damaged, and one that was not touched at all,” Bloom said.
Bloom said the units were so close together that firefighters had to attack the blaze from a different angle to stop the spread.
“Thanks to the city of Morgantown and their fire chief and fire department because their ladder saved several units—no doubt about it,” Bloom said. “If they weren’t there we would not have saved that second building.”
Bloom said the fire scene is less than two miles from Morgantown city limits and plans to explore options to improve response in areas close to the city limits.
“Maybe when the levy comes up again we put the city of Morgantown in that levy with the volunteer fire departments so we have a first call or if there are certain townhouse communities that might want to pay a fee to have them on call.”
Volunteer firefighters from Clinton, Cassville, Triune Halleck, Granville, Westover and Brookhaven in Monongalia County and volunteers from Winfield, Valley, Bunner’s Ridge and Cool Springs in Marion County responded and were on scene for about three hours. Crews from Mon EMS and the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department also assisted.
“We were 40 feet away and the heat was intense. I can only imagine the firefighters who were there putting out a fire and fortunately it was only 70 degrees.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although the National Weather Service hasn’t officially declared a drought condition in West Virginia, the extended period of dry weather has started to create mounting problems for West Virginia farmers.
State Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt said data indicates on his own farm in Monongalia County and in parts of the Eastern Panhandle, there has been less than an inch of rain since May 5, which is normally a time of significant rainfall in the Mountain State.
“If you’re there and it’s happening to you, it’s a drought. The weather service hasn’t actually called it a ‘drought’ yet, but to me it’s a drought,” he said on MetroNews Talkline.
Farmers, in the eastern panhandle especially, are having a difficult time with seeds failing to germinate. Corn and other row crops are struggling to get started and it’s already a setback to a season which my get worse.
“It’s going to stunt the growth or if they have to replant they’ll have a shorter growing season and unfortunately, it’s going to be a smaller crop,” Leonhardt said.
The situation is different in southern West Virginia where they have enjoyed a little more rainfall than the northern and eastern parts of the state. Leonhardt added it’s not just row crop farmers who are feeling the impact.
“It affects hay growth. We turn cattle out onto the spring grass and you hope to rotate and the grass recovers, but they eat everything there and then move on to the next pasture but the grass isn’t recovering,” he explained.
It’s likely some farmers may have to exercise the crop insurance policies they’ve taken out, but for most while that will recover the cost of planting, it will not replace the revenue which will not be realized from a crop which didn’t emerge from the ground.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Smoky haze from Canadian wildfires continues to cover most of West Virginia and will likely continue to do so through midweek.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Megan Kiebler said the fires are in Quebec and Nova Scotia and the smoke from them are covering most of the state.
“It’s being lofted up into the air and following our jetstream and currently that’s situated from north to south and that’s bringing it into West Virginia,” Kiebler said Tuesday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
Kiebler said the haze can be seen as far as Maine and as far west as the Great Lakes region. She expects it to be around in West Virginia at least through Wednesday.
“We have a cold front down from the north and that’s going to push down everything and we’re going to see some showers as well and that should help disperse some of the smoke in the air,” Kiebler said.
Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the cold front will produce much rain and the dry conditions will continue, Kiebler said.
“It actually looks pretty moisture-starved so we’re really looking at maybe some isolated pockets of rain with very little accumulations with it so we’ll remain in this dry pattern through the end of the workweek,” she said.
High temperatures in West Virginia Tuesday afternoon were topping out near 80 degrees.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Hall of Fame West Virginia University gymnastics coach Linda Burdette-Good died Tuesday. She was 74.
Burdette-Good retired after the 2011 season following 37 years as coach and 644 victories. She took over the gymnastics program in 1975. It had only been in existence one year at the time, the athletic department said in a story posted Tuesday.
The Parkersburg native coached her teams to a number of national championship appearances. Her squads won multiple conference titles and she coached several gymnasts who earned All-America honors. She was named coach of the year by a number of organizations during her career including NCAA Southeast Regional Coach of the Year in 1995.
Burdette-Good’s long success has been recognized in several ways including her induction into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
A story at wvusports.com said Burdette-Good died unexpectedly early Tuesday morning in Hilton Head, South Carolina,
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