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Dynamics of second Brinklow murder plea deal explained

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A second plea deal has been reached in the Tristen Brinklow murder case. On Friday, July 23, in Warren County Circuit Court Richard Matthew Crouch, 38, pled guilty to Second Degree Murder, among other related and unrelated charges, in the September 2019 death of the 20-year-old Brinklow. From the evidence gathered, including from co-suspect George Lee Good, now 29, and another jail inmate to whom Crouch talked extensively, some of those conversations of which were recorded, about the circumstance of Brinklow’s death, Crouch alone is believed by the prosecutor’s office to have been Brinklow’s murderer.

Richard Matthew Crouch – 2021 Photo RSW Jail; below, Tristen Brinklow from his Facebook page

Good’s plea arrangement, which will be before the court on the 9 a.m. morning docket, August 13, indicates a possible total of 35 years, with all but 10 years suspended. Good’s recommended active incarceration of 10 years involves 5 years for his involvement in concealing Brinklow’s body; and one year each to serve on 5-year sentences for guilty pleas to obstruction of justice, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine; distribution of methamphetamine; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; and malicious wounding, the latter related to another incident.

George Lee Good – Photo RSW Jail


The plea agreement for Crouch indicates a possible total of 60 years incarceration, with 20 years recommended suspended, leaving 40 years facing the 38-year-old. Bell added that if the Crouch plea agreement is accepted by the court, with sentencing guidelines applied, it was likely Crouch would serve 29 to 31 years of the recommended 40. With no parole currently in Virginia, Bell noted the defendant would be in his late 60s at the time of his projected release.

In charges related to Brinklow’s death, Crouch pled guilty to second-degree murder (30 years incarceration recommended), concealing a dead body (5 years), and defiling a dead body (5 years). He also pled guilty to several charges he was already incarcerated on prior to being charged in the Brinklow murder. Those were unlawful wounding and two counts of strangulation related to a domestic case with an ex-girlfriend that occurred on September 24, 2019, two days prior to Brinklow’s murder, established to have occurred on September 26, 2019; and one charge of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Five-year sentences on all those charges were recommended suspended.

In an extended phone conversation Wednesday afternoon, Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell explained the dynamics and reasoning for the Crouch plea agreement. Among those was a condition indicating Crouch “has accepted responsibility for the crimes for which he is pleading guilty” and another noting that if the plea is accepted by the court, “the Defendant has no grounds to appeal …” his conviction.

Bell said that with a coming legislative change authorizing Circuit Court level appeals “by right”, a change expected to greatly increase the number of appeals in the future, assuring no appeal upon an agreed-upon conviction seemed a good course to take. In fact, Bell indicated that the State was planning the appointment of seven additional appeals court judges to deal with the anticipated increase in appeals of circuit court convictions.

Bell also noted that while Crouch, and Good for that matter, were charged with First Degree Murder in the case, subsequent evidence indicated a lack of a normal prerequisite, premeditation. The first-degree aspect was hung on an allegation that Brinklow was restrained from leaving the hotel room where the three were gathered when the murder occurred, resulting technically in an “abduction” aspect, which can qualify as a First Degree Murder.

Bell elaborated that prosecution evidence indicated that Crouch had become a daily methamphetamine user, leading to the two violent incidents of September 24 and 26, the latter Brinklow’s murder. The first, two days earlier, was an assault involving the strangulation of an ex-girlfriend, Inez Driss. Evidence, including a broken “hyoid” bone in Brinklow’s throat, is consistent with strangulation, Bell said.

The commonwealth attorney said that while on the run from arrest in the assault on his ex-girlfriend, which involved Crouch’s mother as a driver in transporting Crouch’s ex, he, Good, and Brinklow gathered at the motel room where methamphetamine was used. Crouch’s already aggravated and drug-fueled paranoid state apparently worsened, leading him, in addition to concerns about his mother’s whereabouts, to think Brinklow was wearing or had stolen some of his clothes. This led to the physical assault resulting in the 20-year-old Brinklow’s death on September 26, 2019.

His body was later put in a refrigerator by Crouch, with Good’s assistance, and the body was moved by a friend’s pickup truck to a remote location where it was discovered still in the refrigerator by two teens in a severely decomposed state on December 2nd at Digs Landing in the Rivermont area of Warren County. However, the body was not publicly identified until December 16th following state forensic work, and a DNA match to Brinklow, previously only known as missing, was made.

Crouch and Good were charged for murder in the case on December 31, 2019. 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 was then housed 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 checkpoint 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.

And so this chapter of the Front Royal and Warren County illegal drug culture is playing out in the courts in the wake of violence and murder on the streets.

 

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Royal Tint & Detailing opens in Front Royal

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Nike Foster Cales of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, along with fellow Chamber members, welcomed Greg Bell of Royal Tint & Detailing to our community. Royal Tint & Detailing is located at 507 N. Royal Avenue (at the Liberty).

Royal Tint & Detailing in protecting customers’ investments such as homes or vehicles by keeping them in good condition. The company’s professional technicians offer auto detailing, window tinting, and residential power-washing services with a guarantee. The trained and dedicated staff gives each car and house the attention it deserves while providing great customer service.

  • Auto Detailing: Vehicles of all sizes get a thorough hand wash, cleaning, and waxing to help preserve their value.
  • Auto Window Tinting: This service aims to block heat and upholstery-fading UV rays, reduce dangerous glare, and give a sense of privacy.
  • Power Washing: Professionals give dirty decks, patios, driveways, and home exteriors a deep cleaning.

Find out more about Royal Tint & Detailing on their Facebook page.

 

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VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for September 20 – 24, 2021

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The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.

*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.

INTERSTATE 66
*NEW* Mile marker 7 to 8, eastbound and westbound – Alternating lane closures for inspection of bridge over the railway and Shenandoah River, Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Mile marker 7 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for paving operations, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. through September 19.

INTERSTATE 81
No lane closures were reported.


PRIMARY ROADS
Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Overnight mobile lane closures for line-painting operations between Shenandoah County line and Front Royal town limits, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. through September 23.

SECONDARY ROADS
Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) – Flagger traffic control between Front Royal eastern town limits and Route 647 (Dismal Hollow Road) for the safety improvement project, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Estimated project completion December 10.

Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Meteor latest explanation for BOOM and earth shaking in Shenandoah County Friday morning

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A meteor strike has been proposed, if not yet confirmed late Friday afternoon, to explain a loud BOOM and consequent reports of earth-shaking in Shenandoah County on Friday morning, September 17. Initial reports, including social media sites, of an explosion or earthquake, were found to be unsubstantiated. No explosion was found to have occurred in the area and the USGS (U.S. Geological Service) reported no earthquake in the region.

So, eyes have turned toward the sky for a possible explanation. It was noted that meteors coming into the earth’s atmosphere often make sonic boom sounds, particularly if they are traveling at supersonic (speed of sound) speeds, which they do many times over.

But then so, one might imagine, do UFO’s or UAP’s (Unidentified Flying Objects or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) popular in, not only science fiction circles, but military funding ones these days as well.

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Steve Foreman announces write-in campaign For Warren County Board of Supervisors-Fork District

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Area resident Steve Foreman is announcing his write-in candidacy for the Warren County Board of Supervisors, representing the Fork District.

Steve Foreman. write-in candidate for Board of Supervisors, Fork District

Foreman, who has a background in communication tech and a B.A. in Business Administration from National-Louis University, feels he is well-suited to help the board with ongoing plans to expand broadband in the area. A former project manager for Sprint who supervised multi-state engineering projects, Foreman says that getting broadband expansion right will depend on asking the right questions as providers and county officials move forward.

“Our decisions need to be based on facts, not opinions. I bring a fresh viewpoint into county leadership and can build on the progress started by the last additions to the board.”


Earlier in his career, Foreman was a lineman in Northern Indiana and plans to work with the school board to make sure they have all the resources needed for vocational training to help educate students looking for careers in new technologies like high-speed internet and solar power.

“We have a lot of great teachers and people in our schools, but ask anyone in education, and they’ll tell you they need more. I consider myself a fiscal conservative, but as a father, I know the best investment we can make is in our kids’ education.”

“Coming off the farm in Indiana where I was raised, I was grateful to receive good job training to become a telephone lineman. That work meant a lot to me, even when it was hard because it meant I was earning a good living and doing something useful, keeping my community connected.”

“Today’s technology and jobs are different, but the need for training is just as important, which is why I want to be sure when we approve budgets, they include programs for all kinds of students, the ones with college in their sights, but also the ones who want training to fast-track a more hands-on career.”

Foreman feels that a well-trained job force is a part of what it takes to draw business to the area. “I want Warren County to be the place where our kids can grow up and decide to raise their own kids right here if they want to. Too often, they feel they need to move away or lose time to a long commute to make a living wage, but if we get this right, we’ll have the jobs, education, and infrastructure to make it possible for them to build their futures right here.”

In matters of infrastructure, Foreman says he feels that Warren County is on a good path, but he wants to lend his experience and perspective to move plans forward.

“In the aftermath of the EDA scandal, a large turnover in county management has actually had a positive effect. Once the dust settled, the EDA put a lot of good measures in place to make their work more transparent. A lot of progress has been made with respect to both the town and county in terms of relations and cooperation. Let’s add to that and keep the progress going.”

Area residents who want to learn more about Foreman’s plans or volunteer to help the campaign can visit www.foremanforfork.com/connect or reach out to campaign spokesperson Paul Miller at info@foremanforfork.com.

For updates, you can follow the campaign at ForemanForFork.com and on Facebook at Steve Foreman for Fork District Supervisor.

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VDH lifts harmful algae bloom advisory for North Fork of the Shenandoah River from Chapman’s Landing to Riverton

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Effective immediately, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has lifted the recreational advisory due to a harmful algae bloom (HAB) on the North Fork (NF) of the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah and Warren Counties from Chapman’s Landing to Riverton. This river segment (approximately 52.5 miles) was placed under a recreational advisory on August 10 due to widespread algal mats, which contained both cyanobacteria cells and toxins at elevated levels.

Weekly observations at numerous sites along the river where algal mats were previously widespread which resulted in the recreational advisory being issued indicate these mats are no longer visible. Confirmatory water samples collected September 14 indicate no cyanobacteria cells were present and toxins at or below detection limits, well below those that pose a human health risk. The HAB status report for the NF Shenandoah River has been updated along with the Algan Bloom Map for reference of the prior advisory areas, samples, and observation sites.

VDH would like the public to be aware that while the bloom appears to have dissipated based on recent observations and testing, it is possible for algal blooms to reappear when there is adequate sunlight, nutrients, and warmer temperatures to make conditions favorable for algal growth. Most algae are harmless, however, some may produce irritating compounds or toxins if ingested. Because it is difficult to tell the difference, VDH advises everyone to avoid discolored water, scums, or mat material that are green or bluish-green because they are more likely to contain toxins. The algae bloom, which occurred in this area, may produce mats along the river bottom that may then detach, float on the water surface, or accumulate along downstream shorelines.

The North Fork of the Shenandoah River serves as the drinking water source for the Towns of Strasburg and Woodstock, and the City of Winchester. All three localities took every precaution to prevent impacts to drinking water, including routine testing for cyanotoxins and optimization of treatment processes for cyanotoxin removal. Anatoxin-a, the main toxin present in this HAB, has not been detected in the Town of Strasburg’s raw (untreated) or finished drinking water since August 12, and toxin levels remained below VDH and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory levels at all times during this event. Anatoxin-a was below detectable levels in the Town of Woodstock and the City of Winchester’s raw and finished drinking water for the duration of the HAB. Drinking water remains safe to drink and use in all three localities.


Harmful algae can cause skin rash and gastrointestinal illnesses, such as upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some toxins in algae blooms can be fatal to dogs and other animals when ingested. If you or your animals experience any negative health effects after swimming in or near an algal bloom, seek medical or veterinary care promptly.

Whenever recreating in natural water bodies, follow these healthy water habits:

  • Avoid contact with any area of the river if you observe algae or algal mats to be present.
  • Humans and pets should never consume water or material from a natural water body because this water is not treated water and is not suitable for consumption.
  • Notify VDH of an algae bloom or fish kill, use the online HAB report form.
  • If you suspect you or your animal experienced health-related effects following contact with a bloom, contact the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at (888) 238-6154.

The Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force (VDH, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Old Dominion University Phytoplankton lab, and Virginia Institute of Marine Science) respond to bloom events to protect public health during the recreational season of May through October. The majority of algal blooms will dissipate when temperatures and sunlight are reduced in the fall and winter months.

For more information about harmful algae blooms and the HAB Task Force, visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

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Governor Northam announces Virginia’s unemployment rate drops for 15 straight months, to 4.0 percent in August

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On September 17, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.0 percent in August, 3.0 percentage points below the rate from one year ago.

The labor force increased by 5,550 to 4,247,321, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 7,678 to 168,515. The number of employed residents rose by 13,228 to 4,078,806. In August 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 2.2 percent. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.2 percent.

“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation,” said Governor Northam. “Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months. More people are working and businesses are continuing to flock to our Commonwealth—even with the ongoing threat of COVID-19. I’m proud of our roaring economic growth, and I look forward to seeing these trends continue.”

“This month’s declining unemployment rate is made possible through the hard work and determination of Virginia’s workers and employers, who are the true champions of economic recovery in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “While we have more work to do, we can all be proud of how far we’ve come.”


“The overall trend in the unemployment rate we see is very encouraging, as the number of jobs being added to payrolls across Virginia continues to increase,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The trends are clear—businesses are hiring and folks are getting back to work.”

In August, private sector employment increased by 1,500 jobs to 3,208,700, and employment in the public sector gained 9,000 jobs to 704,500. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 10,500 jobs in August. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 37,100 jobs or 12 percent. The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, up 20,600 jobs or 2.7 percent. Trade and transportation experienced the third-largest over-the-year job gain of 16,600 jobs or 2.6 percent.

For a greater statistical breakdown, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website.

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Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Sep
19
Sun
8:00 am 2021 Gnarled Orchard Hard Cider ... @ Valley View Farm
2021 Gnarled Orchard Hard Cider ... @ Valley View Farm
Sep 19 @ 8:00 am – Sep 20 @ 12:30 pm
2021 Gnarled Orchard Hard Cider Challenge @ Valley View Farm
Come enjoy the challenging routes at Sky Meadows State Park and Valley View Farm, home of the Gnarled Orchard. These courses are knotty, knot nice at the farm as they are a mix of cross[...]
1:00 pm Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sep 19 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. What’s that buzzing? Meet with local apiarists of the Beekeepers of Northern Shenandoah (BONS) and discover the art of Apiculture (a.k.a. Beekeeping). This monthly program series examines all aspects of beekeeping from hive[...]
Sep
20
Mon
2:00 pm Trauma-Informed Training @ ONLINE
Trauma-Informed Training @ ONLINE
Sep 20 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Trauma-Informed Training @ ONLINE
WARREN COALITION OFFERS FREE TRAUMA-INFORMED TRAINING IN SEPTEMBER Have you ever felt alone? Do you wonder why you react the way you do? Do you work with children? If you answered yes to any of[...]
Sep
23
Thu
6:00 pm Monument to Mosby’s Men Ceremony @ Prospect Hill Cemetery
Monument to Mosby’s Men Ceremony @ Prospect Hill Cemetery
Sep 23 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Monument to Mosby’s Men Ceremony @ Prospect Hill Cemetery
The Col. John S. Mosby Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, will lead the annual “Monument to Mosby’s Men Ceremony” commemorating the fallen of Mosby’s command at 6 pm on Thursday, September 23rd, at Front Royal’s[...]
Sep
25
Sat
10:00 am 3rd Annual French & Indian War W... @ Abram's Delight
3rd Annual French & Indian War W... @ Abram's Delight
Sep 25 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
3rd Annual French & Indian War Weekend @ Abram's Delight
Saturday, September 25, and Sunday, September 26, from 10 am to 5 pm. 18th Century Colonial encampments with historical interpretation of British, French and Native Americans on the Western frontier of the Virginia Colony during[...]
10:00 am National Public Lands Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
National Public Lands Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sep 25 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
National Public Lands Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. A blight decimated American Chestnut trees in North America in the 1920s. One hundred years later, Sky Meadows State Park has teamed up with the Virginia Chapter of the[...]
11:00 am Friends of Sky Meadows Farm Market @ Sky Meadows State Park
Friends of Sky Meadows Farm Market @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sep 25 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Friends of Sky Meadows Farm Market @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Stop by the Friends of Sky Meadows Farmer’s Market for tasty preserved products, heirloom vegetables, eggs and more. Pick from seasonal vegetables grown in Sky Meadows’ authentic Kitchen Garden, July through September. Grab[...]
Sep
26
Sun
10:00 am 3rd Annual French & Indian War W... @ Abram's Delight
3rd Annual French & Indian War W... @ Abram's Delight
Sep 26 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
3rd Annual French & Indian War Weekend @ Abram's Delight
Saturday, September 25, and Sunday, September 26, from 10 am to 5 pm. 18th Century Colonial encampments with historical interpretation of British, French and Native Americans on the Western frontier of the Virginia Colony during[...]
Sep
27
Mon
2:00 pm Trauma-Informed Training @ ONLINE
Trauma-Informed Training @ ONLINE
Sep 27 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Trauma-Informed Training @ ONLINE
WARREN COALITION OFFERS FREE TRAUMA-INFORMED TRAINING IN SEPTEMBER Have you ever felt alone? Do you wonder why you react the way you do? Do you work with children? If you answered yes to any of[...]
Sep
28
Tue
7:00 pm Community Parent Night @ Dominion Ridge Academy
Community Parent Night @ Dominion Ridge Academy
Sep 28 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Community Parent Night @ Dominion Ridge Academy
Dominion Ridge Academy is proud to host this free community event for parents featuring international speaker, author, and comedian Christopher O’Shaughnessy. Come enjoy an evening of laughter and inspiration as Chris addresses the themes of[...]