Archive for: December 20th, 2017

Crime/Court Local News
Motion to suppress Hoyle statements to police in murder case denied
December 20, 2017
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RSW Jail mugshot of David Glynn Hoyle shortly after his arrest. The strap-on vest is indicative of an inmate on suicide watch. Photo/RSW Jail

 

FRONT ROYAL – Defense motions to suppress statements made by accused murderer David Glynn Hoyle Jr. to police in the immediate aftermath of the March 27 shooting death of his mother’s fiancé were denied by Judge Ronald Napier following an hour-and-10-minute hearing on Wednesday afternoon, December 20.

Hoyle, 32 at the time of the shooting in the Grand Avenue home he shared with his mother and 58-year-old Warren Howard Ramsey, is accused of First Degree Murder and Use of a Firearm in the commission of a felony.  He faces 20 years to life on the murder charge and a three-year mandatory-minimum of three years on the firearm charge.  Hoyle remains incarcerated without bond at RSW Regional Jail.

Defense attorney Ryan Nuzzo argued that his client was questioned without proper Miranda rights being exercised by town police on the scene and during a subsequent interview during which he was given a gun residue test.  The defense team from the Public Defenders Office was also seeking suppression of the result of that gun residue test.

At issue for the defense was their client’s ability to comprehend a waiver of his Miranda rights, as well as whether initial questions asked by officers immediately after they arrived on the scene of a report of a man down with gunshot wounds were made without Miranda rights being offered.

Nuzzo solicited an admission by one officer, Investigator Landin Waller who conducted the post-arrest interview and residue testing of Hoyle, that he was aware from previous police interaction with Hoyle that the defendant had suffered a brain injury at an earlier point in time.  The defense position was that Hoyle may not have been capable of understanding the implications of several affirmative answers to officers regarding his willingness to talk about the crime and his part in it, both before and after being Mirandized.

Judge Napier said he had reviewed four hours of police video from the scene and subsequent Waller interview with Hoyle.  After explaining that he had been impressed with the defense motion on the suppression of the interview evidence, Judge Napier said he had approached the videos with a skeptical mind as to their admissibility.

“But I didn’t see anything improper,” the judge said in prefacing his denial of the defense motions.  Napier agreed that officers arrived to a very tense and emotional scene with both Hoyle and his mother present and no information on whether an armed shooter might still be on the scene.

Judge Napier said he believed initial questions to a very agitated Hoyle were simply attempts get a handle on the situation.

“I think the officers were just trying to figure out what’s going on here – they weren’t pointing the finger at anybody … the defendant very spontaneously admitted he shot him,” Napier said of what he had seen on video and read from transcripts of the videos.

Hoyle’s ability to be understood at times, particularly during the post-arrest Waller interview, as well as contradictory answers to questions, also came into play in the defense argument.  Defense counsel Nuzzo pointed to one sequence where Investigator Waller asked Hoyle if he understood his Miranda rights.  An initial “no” answer was followed by an additional explanation and subsequent “yes” from Hoyle, followed by what Nuzzo described as a “mumbling shriek”.


The Grand Avenue home Hoyle shared with his mother and victim Warren Howard Ramsey. Photo/Roger Bianchini

 

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond countered that officers at the scene had bent over backward to accommodate a very distraught and emotional Hoyle.  “All the officers were extremely kind, gentle and patient with Mr. Hoyle.  There was no kind of coercive environment, absolutely no police misconduct,” she told the court.

Perhaps oddly, Nuzzo agreed in principal with Hammond’s rebuttal description – “Officer Waller showed a lot of humanity … I’m not saying otherwise – it is just the ability of Mr. Hoyle to understand,” the defense attorney told the court.

In arguing for suppression Nuzzo said, “I ask the court to err on the side of the defendant.”  He said he feared a ruling for the prosecution retention of the evidence could “open the door to future officers – not Detective Waller,” Nuzzo elaborated, to ignore or improperly apply Miranda rights.

However, the court did not agree that the specific circumstances of this post-crime questioning could lay the groundwork for future abuses by law enforcement.

During questioning of other officers who initially responded to the scene it was testified that Hoyle had nodded affirmatively when asked if he had shot Ramsey.

“I couldn’t take it anymore – but I didn’t want to do that,” Officer Tyler Smith testified Hoyle told him.  “He seemed upset, in a state of shock,” Smith testified of Hoyle’s demeanor at the scene.

During an April hearing the defense requested and was granted a mental competency hearing for their client.

A hearing date was set for the 9 a.m. docket on January 3 to set a trial date.

Local News
Blue Ridge Technical School: Project Lead The Way
December 20, 2017
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Megan Mills, Dylan Miller & Nicholas Herring – Blue Ridge Technical School

Recently Royal Examiner cameras were at an open house at the Blue Ridge Technical School, where two courses at the school, Engineering Design and Development and Biomedical Innovation, were highlighted.  Watch as these student showcase their work:

The open house was an opportunity for current and Spring Semester 2018 students and their parents to visit and see examples of students’ work..The Career Center offers 15 different courses with most being offered in two-year sequences of beginning and advanced coursework.

Students from both high schools are invited to attend classes; selections include: Programming, Nursing Assistant, 3-D Animation, Automotive, Welding, Culinary, and Electricity.

Engineering students work to identify a real-world challenge and then research, design and test a solution, ultimately presenting their unique solutions to a panel of engineers. Biomedical students select a health challenge and work on independent projects with a mentor from a medical facility or university to design an innovative solution. The complete sequence in each area has four or more offerings, but courses may be taken individually as well.

The open house event also celebrated CTE programs by opening the doors for parents to come into the classrooms and share time with the teachers about their programs.

 

 

Crime/Court Local News
Powell receives 16 years in plea agreement in Leah Adams murder
December 20, 2017
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Leah Adams, a life cut tragically short – social media photo

At an emotionally charged Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 19) plea agreement hearing in Warren County Circuit Court, Bailey Powell plead guilty and received a 16-year sentence for the March 25, drug-fueled murder of his 19-year-old girlfriend Leah Adams.

Powell, 17 at the time of the murder, was charged with Second Degree Murder.  The sentencing range for Felony Second Degree Murder for adults is 5 to 40 years.  According to court discussion, sentencing guidelines in cases with the age and other variables cited in this case ranged from 12-years, 11-months to 21-years, 7-months.  Judge Clifford L. Athey sentenced Powell to the maximum 40 years, with all but 16 suspended.  With good behavior, Powell could be released having served 85-percent of that 16-year sentence, or 13.6 years.  He would be just shy of 32 years old at that point, or 34 if he serves the full 16 years.

Having accepted the plea agreement and rendered the sentence, Athey told Powell that unlike his victim, he would get a second chance at life. – “And I hope you take full advantage of it – if not, I guarantee you will serve the full balance of the sentence.”

Approximately 30 people, divided equally between Adams’ and Powell’s families and friends, witnessed the plea agreement hearing.  However, only one of those 30 people, as well as the defendant, addressed the court Tuesday afternoon – both fighting tears throughout their testimony.

First, Leah Adams father was called to testify to his and his family’s acceptance of the plea agreement.  And once that agreement was accepted by the court, Bailey Powell rose to address the court and Adams’ family.

A social media post of Leah Adams and Bailey Powell during happier times – social media photo

“Leah Adams was a beautiful person … and she was the love of my life,” the 18-year-old Powell began.

Of the night of Leah Adams death, Powell added, “I think about it every day; I try to remember the circumstance.”  He said his attorneys had showed him video of his being interviewed by authorities in the wake of Adams death.  “I appeared to be a monster … but I took the drugs that made me that monster … I want her family to know I am very sorry,” Powell concluded in tears.

Testimony offered to proffer the plea agreement verified that Powell and Adams both had ingested the hallucinogenic drug LSD the night of Adams death (see additional detail in “Background” subsection below).

Prior to Powell’s statement to the court, Adams father was asked about the agreed-upon 16-year sentence.  At the conclusion of his testimony he was asked if he was “comfortable” with the disposition of the case. – “Yes,” he replied.

However, getting to that point didn’t come easy for Leah Adams father.

“It’s tough sitting here knowing I’m never going to see my daughter again – and Christmas is in one week and she’s not going to be there … I want Bailey to understand what he’s taken from us.  Every day is a hard day – watching my wife cry; watching my kids cry,” Adams said against tears.  “She’s not going to get to do the things she wanted to do – it’s hard.”

Asked by defense counsel Beau Bassler if his faith had bolstered him in his acceptance of the plea agreement, lay minister Adams said, “Without my faith I might feel different.  My faith has laid a lot on me.”

However, that tested faith retained forgiveness, as reported above when Adams told the court “yes” to the plea agreed-upon 16 year sentence for the second-degree murder of his daughter.

In accepting the plea agreement as a family holiday season approaches, Judge Clifford L. Athey addressed the tragic nature of the case and the loss of two families – one forever and one for the next 14 to 16 years of a son’s life:  “Have the best Christmas you can have,” Athey told those two families.

Background

Family and friends console each other after praying outside the Warren County Courthouse following the plea agreement resolution of the Leah Adams-Bailey Powell murder case. Photo/Roger Bianchini

As Royal Examiner reported earlier in this case, according to social media posts of both the victim and her accused murderer, Powell and Adams had been in a relationship for about 10 weeks at the time of Adams’ death.

According to testimony at an emotional May 25 hearing open to the public in Warren County Juvenile Court, Powell had ingested LSD, a psychotropic drug the day of Adams murder.  Witnesses painted a picture of a suspect thrown into acute paranoia by his drug intake, then deciding to flee Adams’ Cherrydale Avenue home, where several friends were gathered, in her vehicle.  Adams attempt to regain control of her car around 10:30 p.m. on a Friday evening ended about 3 blocks.

Law enforcement witnesses said Powell told them Adams threw the car into park from the passenger seat on the 100 block of Kerfoot Avenue, across the street from the Warren County skatepark and Skyline soccerplex.  At Tuesday’s plea agreement hearing, additional testimony was proffered by the prosecution indicating Powell told investigators that Adams abrupt stopping of the car had “pissed him off”.

Neighborhood witnesses said the car began to move as Adams was attempting to enter through the open driver’s side door.  As the car swerved to the right, northbound, eventually knocking two mailboxes over, Adams fell into the street.  Witnesses said she rose screaming for help, falling at a driveway where she was initially assisted by residents, including a nurse and off-duty Front Royal policeman.

She was pronounced dead on arrival at Warren Memorial Hospital a short time later.

Powell was taken into custody after creating a disturbance about two blocks away, after abandoning Adams’ vehicle around the corner from where Adams fell fatally wounded from two stab wounds to the chest.

Witnesses who encountered Powell described him alternately asking people if they had a pistol and yelling for someone to kill him.  Law enforcement officers, who questioned Powell the night of the murder, testified on May 25 that the suspect stated at various times that he didn’t stab Adams; didn’t remember stabbing her; or that it was an accident.

The officer who stayed with Powell throughout the night in a room where he was held at Warren Memorial Hospital, said he repeatedly asked, “Is she dead?” or “Is she really dead?

Seasonal
Don’t stay home alone during the holidays
December 20, 2017
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Make the holidays a special occasion this year by getting out to the local senior center, volunteering, or just enjoying activities in your area.

According to the AARP, the number of Americans who say they’re lonely has doubled since 1980 from 20 percent to 40. What’s more, about one-third of citizens over the age of 65 are living alone while half of those over 85 do so.

Social isolation has been linked to immune system issues, depression, disrupted sleep, higher levels of inflammation and stress hormones, and even increased risk of heart disease and stroke. All of these issues are serious on their own and some of them, such as depression, can lead to other problems like cognitive decline and dementia which contribute further to a cycle of poor health and isolation. All told, according to a recent study at Brigham Young University involving 3.4 million people, isolation and loneliness showed about a 30 percent increased likelihood of dying from any cause over the next seven years. This effect was most pronounced in middle-aged people and carried over into the aging population.

Health issues can affect whether a person gets out and about. So can changing friendships and social status.

Participating in activities is important. Even if you can’t participate for a long period, do what you can. Vow to take advantage of the activities offered at church and senior centers.

You’ll feel better for it!