STAUNTON – Beginning Sunday night, May 15, southbound Interstate 81 motorists should be alert for overnight lane closures at two locations in Rockingham County. Contractors will be milling and paving from mile marker 251.2 to 247.9 near Harrisonburg and from mile marker 240.5 to 238.6 near Mount Crawford.
Both work zones require alternating lane closures on southbound I-81 Sunday through Thursday nights from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. There also will be occasional on- or off-ramp closures at interchanges within the work zones. During these times, digital message signs will advise motorists of detour routes.
VDOT awarded two separate contracts to Adams Construction Co. of Roanoke, Va., with a combined value of about $3.6 million dollars. The Mount Crawford-area paving operations have a contract completion date of June 24, 2022. The Harrisonburg-area paving operations have a contract completion date of November 15, 2022. All work is weather permitting.
Virginia traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511 or visiting http://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 https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. Follow VDOT on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at http://www.VirginiaDOT.org.
The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.
Post Elections for the Giles B. Cook – American Legion Post 53
Election of Post Officers for the Giles B. Cook – Post 53 of the American Legion 2022-23 term will be on Thursday, June 9, 2022. Polls are open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at the Post, located at 22 West 8th Street, Front Royal, VA.
Absentee ballots are available; arrangements must be made with the Post Adjutant to receive an absentee ballot. All Members must have a valid 2022 membership card to vote.
- Commander – Rick Kinsey
- First Vice Commander – Roy Unger
- Second Vice Commander – Jimmy Brinklow
- Adjutant – David Kaplan
- Sergeant at Arms – Lalit “Pip” Piplani
- Chaplain – Charlie Goddard
- Historian – Charles Mills
- Finance Officer – Open – nominations will be accepted at June’s meeting if no nominee is designated beforehand
Executive Committee (4 at-large members needed):
- Jorge Amselle
- Jodi Jones
- Ed Canas
- TBD – the final position is open
Members may vote for the nominees or write in a candidate of their choice.
Hundreds of Elementary students get excited about their community
Last year, Warren County Public Schools created Elementary Gifted Resource Teacher positions to enhance the growth and development of gifted and talented children through education, advocacy, community building, and research. At A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, our publisher Mike McCool met two of these teachers, Faith Falkenstein and Justnye Louk.
WCPS Superintendent Dr. Chris Ballenger asked these teachers to have a year-long project to inspire students to learn about their community. Faith and Justnye got excited about the project and came up with a plan after some brainstorming activities. The overall theme is called Footprints. This project instills an appreciation for the incredible things students can see and do (and protect) in their community.
This project included over 100 third to fifth-grade Enrichment/Gifted students from all five of our elementary schools and included:
- Researching the person each school is named
- Pick a place in the community to research
- Create a Google Slides presentation
- Record the presentation
- Built 3-D representation of what they researched
- Create QR codes that linked the projects to the presentations
- Create a walking tour/scavenger hunt for students and parents that cover Chester and Main Streets in Front Royal
- Create Google Earth Tour which linked top the projects and places researched
On Sunday, May 22, 2022, the students will display their projects and share the information they researched at the Town Commons Pavillion from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
This project was made possible by a grant provided by the Warren County Educational Endowment, which allowed the teachers to purchase a 3-D printer and supplies for each elementary school.
RED Day: Give Where You Live
Every second Thursday of May, Keller Williams agents, leadership members, and associates step away from daily business duties, proudly donning their red KW gear and venturing into the communities they serve with three goals in mind: renew, energize, and donate.
Widely known as RED Day, this annual day of service took shape in May 2009 to celebrate Keller Williams vice-chairman Mo Anderson’s birthday. Thirteen years later, it continues to grow momentum as the Keller Williams family unites under a shared commitment to philanthropy.
This year’s RED Day took place on May 12, and the local Keller Williams staff met at 219 Orchard Street in Front Royal, where the Warren County Habitat for Humanity is working with the Bushrod Family to build their home.
The Bushrods are grandparents raising their school-aged grandchildren and are excited about building a stable and safe place to call home. Building a home that will provide a secure future, knowing that this home will forever change the generations to come, is a dream come true.
You can still help the Warren County Habitat for Humanity and the Bushrod’s with your donation. Click here to download the form.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Northern Rough Greensnake
A species first for us at the Center, a Northern Rough Greensnake, came in for care this week!
This patient was found by a hiker on the Appalachian trail after a mild jaw injury and blood in the mouth was spotted. It was in care for only a few days on cage rest with staff monitoring the injury, and after making a full recovery was released back at its found location!
This small, docile, harmless species is a primarily arboreal (tree climbing) species, residing in deciduous forests, mixed hardwood-pine forests, field and thicket areas, and the border areas of bodies of water.
They are active during the day and spend nights sleeping coiled on tree branches. If you come across a green tree snake (as they are commonly called), allow it to cross your path and be on your way!
This species only eats invertebrates (including grasshoppers, caterpillars, snails, spiders, and wasps) and have had significant decline in the last decade due to pesticide usage and domestic animal attacks.
This spring season brings good reminders to refrain from chemical plant and insect control on your property and to keep your domestic animals secured/monitored when outside.
The snakes and other native species will thank you by providing you with free, natural pest control!
Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
Joint motion to continue Luckey hearing toward what – trial date or plea agreement? RSW fatal overdose hearings also continued
A trio of high-profile criminal cases set for hearings and at least one possible setting of a trial date were continued in Warren County Circuit Court on Monday morning, May 16. Those cases, in the order they were called on the May Grand Jury Term Day docket, were Daniel Edward Shifflett, Brian Thomas Martin, and William Raymond Luckey. Shifflett and Martin’s hearing were continued to July 11, at 9 a.m. Luckey’s hearing was continued to June 3, also on the morning docket.
Based on evidence indicating the in-facility sale and provision of a fatal opioid dose, Shifflett and Martin have been charged with Second-Degree Murder in the RSW Regional Jail inmate overdose death of Jonte Smith last December 12. Luckey, a former Christendom College professor and professor emeritus for 30-plus years, was arrested June 25 of last year on charges of “Indecent Liberties” and “Solicitation” of a minor child under the age of 16.
A hint that negotiations toward a possible plea deal in the 73-year-old Luckey’s case were being pursued was offered by Stafford, Virginia-based defense counsel Thaddeus Furlong in forwarding a joint motion with the Commonwealth for continuing the hearing at which a trial date was expected to be set. “I think we are making progress toward resolving this case,” Furlong told the court in seeking the continuance of the hearing.
Judge William W. Sharp granted the continuance to June 3rd on the 9 a.m. docket. The judge also extended Luckey’s $50,000 bond granted conditionally at the Circuit Court level on July 12, 2021. Luckey had initially been denied bond in a June 30 Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court hearing in front of Judge Nancy Reed. Conditions of Luckey’s bond imposed by Judge Sharp include that he has “no contact with minors without another adult within sight and sound of them” and “No contact directly or indirectly with the victim or the victim’s parents”. Luckey was further ordered “Not to counsel or direct or encourage any effort by anyone else to discourage victim, victim’s parents, or other witnesses from cooperating with the prosecution”.
The order forbidding attempts to influence a dropping of the charges addressed Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Samantha Meadows’ concern about the content of recorded phone calls between Luckey at RSW Jail after his arrest and his wife Julie, indicating a possible effort to influence the victim’s parents into dropping the charges, which Meadows noted during that earlier bond hearing would be witness tampering, a crime in its own right.
A pandemic-masked and frail-looking Luckey made his way into the courtroom shakily late Monday morning, with the aid of a walker. Defense council Furlong told the court his client suffered the consequences of an earlier brain injury. In arguing for bond in the lower court, Furlong’s co-counsel Shannon Johnson cited myriad health issues Luckey suffered from that would be exacerbated by continued incarceration. Those included cardiac problems, high blood pressure, and consequences of a past back injury. Defense counsel Johnson also contended that specifics in the Commonwealth’s case against Luckey indicate a comparatively mild incident compared to some of the verbiage included in the “Solicitation” warrant reflecting the harsher side of sex abuse against minors statutes.
As reported in Royal Examiner’s coverage of the June 30 J&D Court bond hearing, responding to his wife’s taped phone conversation comment, “This isn’t what happened” of specific oral or penetrative sexual acts listed in a general “Solicitation” warrant, Luckey replied, “No, it doesn’t say ‘Show me your hiney’.” At the initial bond hearing the prosecution first presented evidence indicating Luckey had offered the child ten dollars to see their posterior, which was declined. However, the prosecution noted that the ten dollars had been left by Luckey, perhaps indicating additional efforts by the defendant that achieved that initial request.
RSW overdose charges
As to the two scheduled preliminary hearings for Shifflett and Martin, the former who also overdosed the day of the Jonte Smith’s overdose death, both were continued to July 11, on the 9 a.m. docket. Shifflett was represented in the courtroom by defense counsel Lou Nagy. Shifflett, like Martin who was represented by Greg Bowman, appeared by video from RSW Regional Jail where they both were incarcerated at the time of the overdose drug incidents of last December 11-12.
As previously reported by Royal Examiner regarding the “Death in Custody Briefing” of RSW Regional Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison on March 24, the meeting minutes state: “Mr. Gilkison explained that the event took place on the night of December 11 and into the morning of December 12; inmate Daniel Shifflett and inmate Jonte Smith who were both incarcerated; had a medical emergency that was discovered after the fact that it was an overdose. The inmates obtained the heroin (corrected spelling) that inmate Shifflett stated that they were taking; from another inmate inside of the housing unit.”
Brian Martin is believed to be that inmate.
“Staff responded to the medical emergency; performed First-Aid, CPR to include AED, administered Narcan, and EMS was called. Mr. Shifflett was revived about the time EMS arrived on the scene, unfortunately, Mr. Smith was not revived by our staff or EMS and was taken via local transport to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on December 12, at 0120 hours (1:20 a.m.).”
Also as previously reported: “Inmate overdose survivor Daniel Shifflett, 32, and a second inmate, Brian Martin, 34, were indicted by a Warren County Grand Jury on April 11 for Second-Degree Murder in what is believed to have been the 21-year-old Smith’s accidental death from an opioid drug overdose. Other pending charges against Shifflett, who was incarcerated on a Probation Violation charge related to earlier drug offenses when he overdosed inside the jail, include 10 counts of distribution of a Schedule I or II substance for at least a third offense. Martin is charged with eight counts of distribution of a Schedule I or II substance for at least a third offense. At the time of his death Smith was incarcerated on possession of Schedule I, II drugs and a firearms charge.
Rotary Club of Front Royal honors Warren County Public School Teachers of the Year
Eleven “Teachers of the Year” selected by their principals were honored by the Rotary Club of Front Royal at its weekly meeting Friday, May 13. Each received a commemorative plaque from FR Rotary President Katie Tewell.
The principals introduced their nominees, beginning with Lori Layman of A.S. Rhodes Elementary whose top teacher was Debra Curtis. Then came Jane Baker of Blue Ridge Technical Center, whose nominee was Darren McKinney, followed by E.W. Morrison’s Lisa Rudacille who cited Virginia McKinnon as her top teacher in 2021-2022.
Other awardees were Sara Sullivan of Hilda J. Barbour, introduced by principal Nikki Taubenberger; Joy Freemire, Leslie Fox Keyser teacher of the year, nominated by Shamika McDonald; and Ressie Jeffries’ Elementary School’s Michele Wilkerson, nominated by Nina Helmick.
Also, Skyline Middle School’s Pam Waters (Bobby Johnston); Warren County Middle School’s Samantha Morrison (Amy Gubler); Elizabeth “Grace” Bucklen of Skyline High School (Danelle Sperling); Lynn Durso, Warren County High School (Ken Knesh); and last, Lori Tamkin, described as a “non-traditional teacher” by sponsor Randa Vernazza.
The Rotary Club has honored county school teachers at similar ceremonies in past years titled “Rotary Club of Front Royal Awards for Excellence in Educating Youth.”