In an unexpected development in the murder case of 20-year-old Tristen Brinklow, three charges against one of the men accused of Brinklow’s 2019 murder were nul-prosed by the prosecution Friday afternoon, October 30, in Warren County General District Court.
Those charges dropped against George Lee Good, 28, are First Degree murder, abduction and disposal of Brinklow’s body. However, Assistant Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond made it clear the move was not the end of Good’s involvement in the Brinklow murder case.
She informed Judge W. Dale Houff that new direct indictments to the Grand Jury were on the horizon for Good regarding the Brinklow murder. Good remains incarcerated in Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County Regional Jail (RSW Jail) on other charges.
Brinklow’s mother and two other relatives or friends were present to watch Friday’s hearing. Hammond spoke briefly with them in the courtroom during a recess during which Good and his attorney Aaron Burgin left the courtroom to consult privately. The prosecutor also met with them for a longer period in the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office following adjournment after the nul prosequi announcement. The Brinklow contingent did not seem upset by the prosecution’s strategic turn.
Burgin declined to comment on the prosecution’s move following the hearing, noting the promise of new direct felony indictments against his client regarding the case.
The other man charged in Brinklow’s murder, 35-year-old Richard Matthew Crouch has already been indicted on multiple felony counts, including First Degree Murder, by the Grand Jury. A scheduled October 13 Circuit Court hearing on Crouch’s charges was continued to November 9, on the 9 a.m. docket. In addition to First Degree Murder, felony charges against Crouch include Abduction by Force, Concealment of a Dead Body and Physical Defilement of a Dead Body.
As previously reported, in the criminal complaints against the men in the Brinklow murder case it is stated that after being informed of his Miranda Right not to self-incriminate, Crouch gave law enforcement officials a description of the circumstance of Brinklow’s death.
“Mathew (sic) Crouch stated that he and George Good physically assaulted and bound Tristan (sic) Brinklow in a residence, within Front Royal. He stated this assault led to the death of Brinklow. Crouch stated they placed Brinklow into a refrigerator and attempted to conceal the refrigerator at Digs Landing by placing vegetation on and around the refrigerator,” the criminal complaints state, adding, “Crouch provided information against his penal interests, while under Miranda Advisement, and provided information not known to the general public but was confirmed by evidence at the crime scene.”
In a nod to the previous misspelling of Brinklow’s first name in earlier court documents, Hammond also made a motion to amend the spelling to the correct “Tristen” when Friday’s hearing first reconvened following the recess.
Trial or hearing dates on some of Good’s unrelated cases were set during an earlier portion of Good’s court appearance Friday afternoon handled by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Beyrau. Good will return to General District Court December 21-22 on a misdemeanor firearms charge and a January 20, 2021 date was set related to a jail assault charge against Good involving another inmate. Hearing discussion indicated Good has been involved in “a number of” inmate altercations during his incarceration.
Also as previously reported by Royal Examiner, files in the case date Brinklow’s murder to September 28-29, 2019. His body was discovered in the Rivermont area of southwestern Warren County just over two months later, on December 2. The body was not identified as Tristen Brinklow until December 16. Crouch and Good were charged for murder in the case on December 31. Both men were incarcerated without bond on unrelated violent crimes at the time the Warren County Sheriff’s Office brought the charges in the Brinklow case against them, Crouch at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County (RSW) Regional Jail and Good at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center (NRADC) in Frederick County.
Good was arrested in Frederick County at a DUI check point on December 7 (2019). At the time he was wanted in connection with a non-fatal November 27 shooting on the 200 block of Cloud Street in a residential area adjacent to Front Royal’s Downtown Business District.
Front Royal man arrested for local business robbery
On Saturday morning, October 24, 2020, around 7:00 a.m., Front Royal Police Department responded to a business in the 200 block of S. Royal Avenue for a reported robbery that occurred in the overnight hours. The suspect made entry into the business by breaking the glass in the front door of the business. During the incident, a cash register and a safe were taken containing an undisclosed amount of U.S. currency. Detectives worked diligently, processed the scene, and collected multiple pieces of evidence and submitted them to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science lab for analysis.
On May 10, 2021, the analysis returned from the state lab and police identified the suspect as 57-year-old Front Royal resident, William Roy Foster. Mr. Foster was charged on 05/11/2021 and served the warrant while incarcerated at Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail, where he is serving a sentence for a similar matter. Foster is being held without bond with a scheduled court date of June 8, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. in Warren County General District Court.
Anyone with any further information is asked to contact Front Royal Detective T.A. Smith at (540) 635-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two Winchester, VA residents arrested after investigation by the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force
On April 29, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force concluded a month-long investigation with the arrest of two Winchester, VA residents. Rasheed Riley, 29, and Josie Peacoe, 31, both of Winchester, VA, were arrested by the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force following a search warrant executed at their residence.
In early April, Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force officers received information that Rasheed Riley and Josie Peacoe were distributing large quantities of cocaine in the Winchester and Frederick County, VA area. Through the course of the investigation, Northwest Virginia Drug and Gang Task Force officers learned that Riley and Peacoe would routinely travel outside the Commonwealth to a cocaine source of supply. The pair would then transport the cocaine back to the Commonwealth for distribution and sale. Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force officers completed multiple controlled purchases of cocaine from Riley and Peacoe during the investigation.
On April 29, members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force obtained a search warrant for Riley and Peacoe’s residence located at 2971-116 Valley Avenue in Winchester, VA. During a search of the residence, 266 grams of cocaine with a street value of $12,350.00, 2.5 grams of crack cocaine with a street value of $250.00, $1,570.00 in currency, and 1 firearm was seized. Rasheed Riley and Josie Peacoe were both arrested. Rasheed Riley was charged with possession of a schedule I/II controlled substance, a probation violation, and an active felony warrant for forging and uttering. Josie Peacoe was arrested for distribution of a schedule I/II controlled substance. Additional charges are forthcoming for Riley and Peacoe.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force was assisted by the Winchester Police Department, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, and the District 11 Office of Probation & Parole.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from the Clarke, Frederick, Page, and Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Departments, Front Royal, Luray, Strasburg, and Winchester Police Departments, and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office.
Judge will hear oral arguments in reconsideration of Meza appointment decision
In an April 29th letter to attorneys for the plaintiff and defendants in the legal challenge of the appointment of Jacob Meza to the Front Royal Town Council four days after the term he chose not to run for re-election to in November had expired, Judge William W. Sharp alerted both sides that he will hear oral arguments on the plaintiff motion for reconsideration of the court decision that the appointment was legal.
Citing scheduling and other factors, Sharp noted he was staying his Order of Dismissal of the plaintiff’s case until those oral arguments can be heard. A date has yet to be set as counsel and court availability is still being determined.
In his letter to plaintiff Paul Aldrich’s counsel David Downes and Town and Meza attorney Heather Bardot, Judge Sharp explained: “Not a small part of my decision to enter the stay order and give one last chance for oral argument, is my realization that I gave a very poor articulation of my reasons for my original decision, and I do not want to make that mistake again. It is, therefore, my intention to give a written explanation of my decision, whichever way it goes, in which my words are more carefully expressed.”
As reported in our story on the April 7 hearing and court ruling “Judge rules Town Charter Section 47 does not prohibit council appointments for one year” Judge Sharp seized on the inclusion of the words “appointed or elected” in Town Charter Section 47 upon which the plaintiff case was based, in ruling for the defense stance that Meza’s appointment was not prohibited for one year from the end of his last term on council.
The relevant Section 47 passage reads: “No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter,” continuing to note for an unexplained reason an exception for the position of Town Treasurer.
As previously reported by The Royal Examiner, “In her Demurrer filing for dismissal, Bardot pointed to Section 6D and related wording on filling council vacancies, such as the one created by Councilman Chris Holloway’s November 2020 election to mayor. ‘The council may fill any vacancy that occurs within the membership of council for the unexpired term, provided that such vacancy is taken within 45 days of the office becoming vacant,’ Section 6D states. No reference to a one-year hiatus per appointment is made here, Bardot noted.”
Pointing to the words “or elected” in Section 47 of the Town Charter, Judge Sharp noted that obviously in the 84 years since the Charter was created, it had not been used to prevent council members from running for re-election. Thus, he contended Section 47 was not the applicable section of the charter at issue in internal appointments, siding with Bardot’s conclusion that Sections 6 and 9 of the Charter were the applicable sections on council appointments, rather than Section 47.
However, plaintiff counsel Downes argued that the framers of the 1937 Town Charter were using the words “appointed” or “elected” synonymously referencing achieving a consensus on internal appointments, and not referencing general elections decided by citizen’s votes. The framers’ intent was to avoid the fact or appearance of cronyism by political allies within council, Downes asserted.
Some supporters of the plaintiff case have noted Meza might have faced an uphill battle had he run for re-election in 2020 after alienating a segment of his support base during his last term. That lost base appeared in reaction to Meza’s reversal of initial recusals from discussion of his employer Valley Health’s request for a municipal loan through the EDA to finance the construction of the new Warren Memorial Hospital without a Maternity Unit. When his vote was needed to achieve the necessary council majority to approve the loan, Meza reversed course, claiming no conflict of interest to prevent his voting. He did note the support of that stance by the town attorney.
Meza cited job and family time constraints in explaining his decision not to run for re-election in 2020.
As to delays in finalizing the order to dismiss the plaintiff case due to any lack of clarity in verbally rendering his April 7 ruling, on April 29 Judge Sharp observed, “In a case of this complexity and magnitude, I normally would have taken your arguments under advisement on April 7 and prepared a carefully worded final decision. As I stated in the courtroom, I wanted to give the parties a prompt decision to prevent ongoing uncertainty. It is evident from reviewing your subsequent pleadings that I may have created more problems than I solved, and I do want to clarify a few points so that we do not go chasing down rabbit holes, and miss the core issues.”
And one might guess that among core issues during the oral arguments for reconsideration will be the plaintiff counsel’s observation that a council member’s term has yet to expire when they are running for re-election. Thus, if re-elected, one term flows seamlessly into the next without any real-time out of office.
It might also be relevant to the court’s reconsideration to establish whether, in the intervening 84 years since the Town Charter’s 1937 establishment, any former council members have been reappointed within a year of electing to leave office by choice or having been removed by the will of the people at the general election.
Sheriff’s Office seizes Fentanyl laced drugs, street value $40,000
On April 28, 2021, Warren County Sheriff’s Office Special Problem and Drug Enforcement (S.P.A.D.E.) Units conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle for a speeding violation. During the traffic stop investigation, a Warren County Sheriff’s Office K-9 was utilized for a free air sniff. The K-9 alerted to the presence of narcotics odor and a subsequent search of the vehicle was conducted.
During that search, the passenger was found to possess approximately 1,000 imitation Oxycodone pills containing FENTANYL, with a street value of $40,000. This suspect was arrested and transported to the RSW Regional Jail and charged with VA code 46.2-248 Possession with Intent to Distribute Schedule I/II Narcotics.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the community that FENTANYL is a synthetic opioid 50-100 times more potent than morphine and a lethal dose can be as little as 2 milligrams. Again, medications not obtained from legitimate doctors and pharmacists can be laced with FENTANYL.
Please, if anyone has any information that would lead to the seizure of these or any dangerous drugs, contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and ask to speak with an Investigator assigned to the S.P.A.D.E. Unit.
Armed, barricaded subject incident in Frederick County ends peacefully
On 4/23/21 the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office responded to 2492-46 Martinsburg Pike in regard to a domestic situation involving a firearm. The caller advised that Michael McGhee was intoxicated and that he had taken her vehicle, crashed it, and then returned to the residence where an argument ensued where McGhee stated he wanted to kill himself. Dispatchers were informed that the female caller took the couple’s 6-year-old child and fled the residence after McGhee grabbed a hunting-type rifle and fired a single round inside the house.
Arriving units on the scene set up a perimeter and evacuated neighboring residences out of an abundance of caution for the public’s safety. Once securing the perimeter, loudspeaker announcements were made to instruct McGhee to come out of the house unarmed without success. A command post was established and, after a situational briefing, the FCSO Crisis Negotiations Team (CNT) and SWAT team were both activated and responded to the call.
Once SWAT and CNT were on scene, a portable two-way communications device was deployed into the residence in an attempt to communicate with McGhee. Numerous attempts to contact McGhee via the portable device, his cellphone, and ongoing loudspeaker announcements were all unsuccessful. McGhee’s father, who was now on the scene, also attempted numerous times to talk his son out of the house with negative results. A portable robotic device from the Winchester P.D.’s SWAT team was deployed but was unable to maneuver through all areas inside the dwelling
to verify McGhee’s location and condition.
In a final attempt to avoid a forced entry and possible armed confrontation with McGhee, chemical agents were deployed to get McGhee to exit the residence peacefully. After the first disbursement appeared unsuccessful, a pole camera was deployed through a bedroom window. A heat source was detected and appeared to show a person on the bed hiding under the covers.
SWAT member’s made entry into the house and toward that bedroom door. While moving forward a door that was cracked open was slammed shut. Again, trying to avoid a possible armed conflict, SWAT was pulled out and another deployment of chemical agents was made into that specific room.
A few moments after this deployment, McGhee came to the bedroom window and advised he was coming out and proceeded to exit out of the bedroom window where he was taken into custody without incident. McGhee was checked out by EMS, where he refused medical treatment, before being taken to the adult detention facility.
Warrants for Felony discharge of a firearm in a dwelling and brandishing a firearm were obtained and served with McGhee being held without bond.
Sheriff Lenny Millholland is pleased with the handling of this situation and relieved that everyone involved is safe. “I can’t express my gratitude enough for the professionalism displayed by our people today,” said the Sheriff, noting this is the second such type of incident in the past few weeks. Sheriff Millholland concluded “While we hope for a time when such things no longer take place, the sad truth is it can happen anywhere. That’s why we will continue to acquire necessary equipment and provide the proper training to address any such type of incident.”
Front Royal man charged for sexual solicitation of underage victims
On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, Front Royal Police detectives initiated an investigation regarding the solicitation of minors in the Warren County/Front Royal area. Detectives started a proactive approach to apprehend individuals soliciting underage victims for sexual purposes.
An undercover operation ensued, and an adult male began soliciting one of our detectives who he believed to be an underage female for photographs and sexually explicit material. The adult male suspect sent sexually explicit materials to the detective. The initial conversation was unsolicited and started by the offender in this case.
Police identified the suspect as 20-year-old Front Royal resident, Daniel Currence. Currence was arrested on 04/16/2021 and transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail. Currence was ordered to be held on a $5,000 secured bond with a scheduled court date of May 20, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
The Front Royal Police Department is an active member of the Northern Virginia/DC Metro (NOVA/DC) Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which is coordinated by the Virginia State Police. We request anyone with information regarding the exploitation of a minor to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at email@example.com.