After adjustments, judge accepts Legal resolution to UTV accident that left 7-year-old dead
After an initial rejection of a plea agreement compromise satisfactory to all concerned parties present for a December 30th pre-trial suppression motion hearing, including the victims’ father, Jonathan Clatterbuck representing both parents, Judge Clark A. Ritchie accepted a re-worked agreement that would see all-terrain utility vehicle (UTV) operator Jerrell Stanton Leadman Jr. accept 3 months of incarceration with 4-years-and-9-months of a 5-year sentence suspended in the wake of a guilty plea to a Felony Involuntary Manslaughter charge. Leadman, 62, originally faced lesser Felony Reckless Child Endangerment and Abuse charges in the death of seven-year-old Olivia Grace Clatterbuck on August 10, 2021. Her four-year-old brother Roman suffered non-fatal injuries in the UTV accident, which occurred when Leadman lost control of the UTV on wet ground, which rolled over, striking Olivia’s head. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
As noted in a recent Royal Examiner story by Norma Jean Shaw, neither child was wearing a helmet or other safety gear at the time of the accident; and other potential evidence indicated Leadman admitted to state police investigators at the scene to having consumed some alcohol over the course of the day prior to the accident. However, a sobriety test was not administered until about 12 hours after the accident. That test showed Leadman slightly (.05%) below the legal blood/alcohol limit of .08%.
An earlier plea agreement offered by the Commonwealth under the stewardship of former Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nick Manthos was rejected by Judge Daryl Funk. In a victim impact statement to the court at that time, Olivia’s father, Jonathan Clatterbuck, argued against that plea deal being accepted after not being consulted by the prosecution on its content, which included no time served on the lesser charges of reckless child endangerment and abuse. During Friday’s hearing, Ilona White handled the case for the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. In presenting the agreement to the court, she told the judge that Olivia’s father was present representing both his and Olivia’s mother’s interest.
Olivia’s parents, Jonathan Clatterbuck and Amber Cooke, are separated, and Olivia was in her mother’s custody at the time of the fatal accident. According to Olivia’s dad, Leadman is Amber Cooke’s ex-step-father rather than the children’s grandfather, as had been reported. A still-grieving Cooke was not present for Friday’s hearing, apparently unable to face the legal discussion surrounding the circumstance of her daughter’s death. The family being able to “move on” from legal aspects of Olivia’s death was cited as one supporting factor for the revisited plea offer.
Again called to offer a victim impact perspective, Jonathan Clatterbuck first read a statement from Olivia’s mother. That statement noted the “severe consequences” from “mistakes that were made” leading up to the accident. Before giving his own perspective, Clatterbuck observed, “She’s more polite than me.” Clatterbuck was sometimes scathing in his assessment of Leadman’s role in his children’s lives when they were with their mother, berating him for saying he played a “grandfather’s” role in their lives. It was noted during the hearing that Olivia’s brother Roman, 4 at the time of the accident, is receiving counseling for the emotional consequences of experiencing and witnessing his big sister’s death.
“Don’t say you loved those kids, that’s obviously not the case,” a father still struggling with the premature loss of his 7-year-old child told Leadman from the witness box. However, asked by the judge following his victim impact testimony if he was “okay with” the offered agreement, Clatterbuck responded, “Yes, sir,” adding he did not believe jail time was necessary in the wake of what all involved or impacted agree was a “tragic accident.” Clatterbuck told the court that “jailhouse justice” could potentially result in a death sentence for Clatterbuck were he to be incarcerated, and word got out that he had been responsible for the death of a child without details of the accidental circumstance of that death, perhaps coming to light behind bars.
But in rejecting the initially offered agreement, Judge Ritchie in from Rockingham County, in the wake of Judge Funk’s initial plea agreement rejection disqualifying him from the case, said he believed: “The community deserves the right to decide if this was a crime or not” and whether guideline terms of incarceration from none with lengthy probation to six months in jail, should be applied.
Judge Ritchie’s initial rejection of the agreement led to a flurry of negotiations between prosecutor White and defense counsel Beau Bassler and between Bassler and his client before the amended plea agreement was presented to the judge in his chambers. Originally, the entire 5-year sentence would have been suspended.
During the recess, when these negotiations between the prosecution and defense counsels were taking place, we asked Jonathan Clatterbuck if he was, in fact, satisfied with a no-incarceration outcome for the man who accidentally killed his child.
“Yes, that’s all we ever wanted – for him to take responsibility – and he is there in that agreement that’s up there,” Olivia’s dad replied of Leadman’s guilty plea to the higher Felony Involuntary Manslaughter charge and its threat of 5 years of incarceration hanging over the defendant’s head should be make another bad judgment call that might endanger others.
When the judge returned to the bench with the newly amended plea agreement containing the three months of incarceration, with 4-years-and-9-months of suspended time, and two years of supervised probation followed by another two years of unsupervised probation, he observed: “These are tragic facts and circumstances … and I will note the defendant shows accountability,” before adding that he would accept the amended agreement.
Near the end of a long list of circumstances and the defendant’s understanding of those circumstances and potential consequences of his guilty plea to Involuntary Manslaughter with the balance of a 5-year sentence hanging over his head upon his release after 3 months in jail, Judge Ritchie asked Leadman if he was pleading guilty because he was, in fact, guilty.
“Yes sir,” Leadman replied solemnly. Asked if he had anything to add prior to the judge’s ruling on acceptance of his plea, Leadman said, “I’m so sorry we’re here in court … no one knows how bad I feel – I deal with this every day … I understand how Mr. Clatterbuck feels …” after which Judge Ritchie accepted Leadman’s guilty plea and the above-stated terms. In addition to the 3 months incarceration at RSW Jail and the balance of the suspended sentence looming should he violate any terms of his four years of probation and other limits on his lifestyle, including no gun possession or alcohol consumption, Leadman was also prohibited from further contact with Roman Clatterbuck as Olivia’s younger brother struggles to cope with what he experienced on August 10, 2021, in witnessing the violent, if accidental, death of his big sister.
At the request of the defense, the judge allowed Leadman to report for his incarceration on January 24, when a jury trial on the case was scheduled to begin. His attorney Beau Bassler also assisted his client following the adjournment of the 2 p.m. hearing at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon in reporting to the parole office to set up those circumstances beginning immediately as his 3-month incarceration looms less than a month away.
Tragedy strikes Shenandoah County: Motorcycle rider dead, car driver charged with DUI, involuntary manslaughter
In a tragic turn of events, a two-vehicle crash in Shenandoah County resulted in the death of a motorcyclist and left another driver seriously injured. The Virginia State Police are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident.
The collision, which occurred on Sunday, May 28, took place around noon on Route 11, also known as Old Valley Pike, just north of Mooreland Gap Road. According to reports, a 2013 Ford Edge, traveling southbound on Route 11, veered across the centerline, resulting in a head-on collision with a 2008 Harley-Davidson motorcycle traveling in the opposite direction.
The motorcyclist, identified as Bradley L. Painter, 57, of Mount Jackson, VA, was declared dead at the scene, succumbing to injuries sustained in the crash. Authorities confirmed that Painter was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
The driver of the Ford, 28-year-old Jony Salazar Ortiz from New Market, VA, sustained serious injuries in the crash. Emergency responders transported Ortiz to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital for treatment. Police confirmed that he was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the incident.
In a subsequent development, Ortiz was taken into custody and is facing severe charges related to the crash. Authorities have charged him with one felony count of driving under the influence leading to involuntary manslaughter and one misdemeanor count of driving without a valid operator’s license.
Ortiz is currently being held without bond at RSW Regional Jail.
The Virginia State Police are actively investigating the crash. More information will be released as the investigation continues, and anyone with further information is urged to contact the local authorities. The incident serves as a sobering reminder of the critical importance of responsible driving and the tragic consequences that can result from negligence on the road.
Joint Task Force Apprehends Child Pornography Suspect in Linden, Virginia
In a successful multi-jurisdictional operation, a Linden man was arrested on May 25th following an extensive child pornography investigation. John P. Farley Jr., 70, of the 900 block of Northern Spy Drive, Linden, was arrested and charged with 16 counts of child pornography-related offenses.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division (CID), upon receiving information from the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) Police, conducted a search warrant at Farley’s residence in March 2023. During this operation, several electronic devices from Farley’s home office were seized and handed over to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Digital Forensics Unit for detailed examination.
Upon scrutiny, it was revealed that out of a total of 68 flagged items, 16 met the strict definitions of child pornography under Virginia state law. These items were carefully assessed by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Hajduk, leading to the formal charges under Virginia Code § 18.2-374.1:1 against Farley.
This collaborative effort showcases the crucial role of cross-jurisdictional operations in combating internet crimes against children. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office is a dedicated member of the NOVA/DC Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, an initiative coordinated by the Virginia State Police.
This case underscores the effectiveness of collective efforts across multiple law enforcement bodies, with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office acknowledging the pivotal assistance from the MWAA Police and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
As the fight against child exploitation continues, the public is urged to contribute any relevant information. For any details related to this case or the potential exploitation of minors, please contact Investigator Hajduk at the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at (540) 635-7100 ext. 2223 or via email at email@example.com.
Law enforcement agencies stress the importance of community engagement in identifying and detaining child predators, maintaining that collective vigilance plays a critical role in preserving the safety and welfare of our children.
Blue Ridge Task Force strikes major blow to local drug trade
A resident of Rappahannock County, Eric L. Butler, 45, has been arrested following a six-month-long investigation led by the Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force.
The Task Force executed a search warrant on Butler’s Brinkley Lane residence on Thursday, May 25. The operation led to the seizure of substantial amounts of illicit drugs, including 100 grams of cocaine, 20 grams of heroin, and 100 grams of marijuana. The drugs seized have an estimated street value of around $18,000.
Law enforcement officers also confiscated $21,792 in currency, a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe, and seven firearms during the raid.
Butler is now facing multiple felony charges related to drug trafficking and illegal firearm possession. Specifically, he has been charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute a schedule I/II drug, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, one count of possession of a firearm while in possession of a schedule I/II drug, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Following his arrest, Butler was transported to the RSW Regional Jail, where he is currently being held on a secured bond.
The Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force, which led the investigation and subsequent arrest, is a coalition of law enforcement personnel from several local Sheriff’s Offices, Police Departments, and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The Task Force includes members from the Rappahannock, Fauquier, Orange, Madison, and Culpeper Sheriff’s Offices; the Culpeper, Warrenton, and Orange Police Departments; and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office.
This operation underscores the ongoing efforts by local and state law enforcement agencies to tackle drug trafficking and associated crimes in Virginia. The successful arrest and charges brought against Butler represent a significant victory in these efforts. Residents are encouraged to report any suspicious activities to their local law enforcement agencies, as community involvement plays a crucial role in maintaining a safe and drug-free community.
Landlord-Tenant dispute escalates into gunfire at Shenandoah Farms residence
A long-standing dispute took a dangerous turn early this morning as shots were fired at a Shenandoah Farms residence. Local authorities were summoned to 100 block Mountain Laurel Lane following reports of a heated altercation involving a firearm. The address was previously known to the deputies due to an ongoing conflict between the landlord and the tenants.
Upon arriving at the scene, deputies gathered evidence, including eyewitness accounts and a cell phone video captured by a bystander. The investigation revealed that 68-year-old Alan Wayne Forney allegedly fired a 12-gauge shotgun into the air and above the head of another individual, Jessie Lake, during the heat of the argument.
Forney was promptly arrested on charges of brandishing and recklessly handling a firearm and subsequently transported to the Rappahannock/Warren/Shenandoah Jail. A 12-gauge shotgun believed to be used in the incident was collected from the scene as evidence.
As the investigation continues, officials are encouraging anyone with additional information to come forward. Contact Deputy Doffermire at 540-635-4128 with any relevant details that could aid in the investigation.
This incident serves as a chilling reminder of the potential escalation of ongoing disputes and the role of the community in ensuring safety.
Reckless firearm discharge leads to serious injury, 19-year-old in custody
A young woman was treated at Warren Memorial Hospital after a reckless firearm discharge resulted in a gunshot wound. Authorities report that the incident occurred outside town limits and is currently under investigation by Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
The Front Royal Police Department initially responded to a report from hospital staff regarding a gunshot wound victim who sought treatment at the facility. Quickly ascertaining that the shooting incident occurred outside their jurisdiction, they handed over the investigation to Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigation findings suggest that the female victim sustained her injury due to the reckless handling of a 9mm Glock handgun by 19-year-old Nathaniel Liam Duncan. The incident took place on May 19, 2023, around 22:15 hrs on Rt 55/Strasburg Rd, as the victim was driving from Shenandoah County. The occupants of the vehicle, including the suspect, had recently left a gathering where alcohol was consumed.
Witnesses report that Duncan started to show off the Glock firearm in the moving vehicle, to the surprise of many who were unaware of the weapon’s existence. Despite the urging of a female passenger to stow the firearm safely, Duncan negligently discharged it, with the bullet passing through the driver’s seat and into the driver’s body. Remarkably, the injured driver managed to drop off all passengers at a residence before seeking hospital treatment.
Authorities later apprehended Duncan at a Warren County residence without any incident. The Glock firearm suspected to have been used in the incident was recovered from a shed at the same property.
Duncan has since been charged under Code of Virginia 18.2-56.1 for Felony Reckless handling of a firearm causing serious bodily injury to another resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has expressed its gratitude to the Front Royal Police Department for their prompt involvement and assistance, which contributed significantly to the swift handling of the investigation.
This investigation is ongoing, and the authorities are appealing to anyone with information regarding the case to contact Lieutenant M. Glavis at (540) 635-7100 ext. 1. The incident serves as a grim reminder of the potential consequences of irresponsible firearm handling, particularly when alcohol is involved.
WCPS staff members at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary on leave following complaint; Joint investigation by Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Social Services underway
Warren County Public School’s administration was made aware of a complaint involving staff members at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School. The staff members were placed on leave pending an investigation. WCPS employees immediately contacted the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Social Services to conduct a joint investigation into the complaint.
Parents with children in the affected classroom were contacted and were asked to speak to their child and to contact WCPS personnel if they had additional questions or information.
Staffing has been shifted to provide continued educational services and supports in the classroom.
This is an ongoing investigation, and no additional comments will be made at this time.
Press Release from Warren County Public Schools.
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