Contractors for the Virginia Department of Transportation have begun ramp improvements at four interchanges along Interstate 81 in Shenandoah and Frederick counties. The upgrades include an extension of acceleration and deceleration lanes (on- and off-ramps) at the following exits on I-81:
• Exit 269 (Shenandoah Caverns) – Deceleration lane from northbound I-81 onto Route 730 (Caverns Road).
• Exit 279 (Edinburg) – Acceleration lane from Route 185 (Stoney Creek Road) onto southbound I-81.
• Exit 283 (Woodstock) – Acceleration lane from Route 42 (Reservoir Road) onto southbound I-81.
• Exit 302 (Middletown) – Acceleration lane from Route 627 (Reliance Road) onto northbound I-81, and deceleration lane from northbound I-81 onto Route 627
This week contractors began placing concrete barriers along the right shoulders of I-81 at exits 269, 279, and 283. Barrier installation requires overnight right lane closures. The barriers will remain in place 24/7 to protect the work zones during the construction of the ramp extensions. Motorists can expect occasional on- or off-ramp closures during overnight hours at these interchanges through early August 2020.
When work at the first three interchanges is complete, contractors will begin work on the acceleration and deceleration lanes for northbound I-81 at exit 302. At all locations, variable message boards will alert drivers to specific ramp closures and detour routes.
The I-81 interchange upgrades will improve safety and traffic operations by allowing vehicles to more effectively accelerate with interstate traffic, or slow to exit at the interchange. The upgrades are part of the I-81 Corridor Improvement Program approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in December 2019. The $2 billion packages of targeted improvements were funded by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam in spring 2019.
On March 30, 2020, VDOT awarded a $2,153,924 contract to General Excavation Inc. of Warrenton, Virginia, for the I-81 ramp extensions. The project has a contract completion date of November 20, 2020. All work is weather permitting.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at 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. VDOT can be followed 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.
Accused Brinklow murderer gets 30-years-9-months on plea agreement and probation violation charges
Following emotional testimony from Jennifer Brinklow, the mother of 20-year-old Tristen Brinklow on the devastating impact on her life of her son’s 2019 murder, and a perhaps surprisingly emotional series of apologies from his accused killer for his role in that murder, the Commonwealth and defense counsels debated at which end of sentencing guidelines 38-year-old Richard Matthew Crouch should be incarcerated on Second Degree Murder and related and unrelated charges he submitted guilty pleas to as part of a plea agreement.
By plea agreement already accepted by Warren County Circuit Court Judge William Sharp, the sentencing range was between 8-years-and-7-months and 28 years-and-9-months. The other involved suspect, George Good, received a 10-year prison sentence with 25 years suspended on August 13, on a similar plea agreement involving two charges of helping Crouch dispose of Brinklow’s body and a variety of unrelated charges. Good was 29 at the time of his sentencing three months ago.
After hearing about an hour and a half of testimony, questions, and arguments Judge Sharp adjourned to chambers at noon, Monday, November 29th to consider his sentencing decision. After 17 minutes Judge Sharp returned to deliver his ruling. That ruling was the high-end 28-years-and-9-months according to sentencing parameters of the plea agreement, after imposing two, 5-year sentences on concealing and defiling (allowing to decompose) a dead body; and 30 years on the Second Degree Murder charge. Crouch will also get credit for time served, about two years. It was said that currently it is estimated that inmates will serve about 85% of their sentence with good behavior time taken off. Crouch also had four, 5-year sentences related to an earlier attack on an ex-girlfriend and his drug possession with intent to distribute charges imposed with all 20 years suspended. He will be on supervised probation for five years after his release.
While getting credit for his time served, two years was later tacked on to the 28-year-9-month sentence, on a probation violation charge argued outside the plea agreement. Arguing that aspect of the cases, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Nick Manthos countered defense co-counsel Eric Wiseley’s call to waive the two additional years of active incarceration after his client received nearly three times the sentence George Good did for their respective roles in Brinklow’s murder.
Manthos, as Commonwealth Attorney John Bell had earlier, noted that while Crouch held to his story that it was Good who actually beat Brinklow to death, the physical evidence matched Good’s story that it was Crouch who attacked and strangled Brinklow to death in a methamphetamine-induced paranoid delusional state. Crouch did admit to being up for at least five days straight, perhaps as many as 10 days, doing an extraordinary amount of methamphetamine – he estimated at 3.5 grams (an 8-ball) to twice that amount per day – while trying to finance being on the run from police from an incident several days earlier in which he non-fatally had strangled an ex-girlfriend.
The Commonwealth noted that in his earlier attack on the ex-girlfriend, Crouch had not only choked her but cut off a large portion of her hair. When Good led authorities to Brinklow’s decomposed body, a bone in the neck was discovered broken at autopsy indicative of strangulation, and a large portion of Brinklow’s hair was discovered cut off. Those aspects of the earlier Crouch attack on the ex-girlfriend were not known to Good, the prosecution told the court.
The fact that all the crimes he enter guilty pleas to, including the assault on his ex, the methamphetamine use, and dealing, as well as Brinklow’s murder, occurred while Crouch was on probation led Judge Sharp to side with the prosecution on the necessity of imposing the two probation violation years hanging over Crouch – “There has to be a consequence, otherwise probation means nothing,” Judge Sharp said in rendering his decision on that second part of the day’s hearing on Crouch’s fate behind bars.
While admitting to the drug use and paranoid state leading him to believe that he was going to be robbed of his meth stash worth several thousand dollars, Crouch insisted that Brinklow coming at him with a knife and Good’s response of pulling him off Crouch and beating him to death was not a part of his drug-induced delusions. However, it seemed Crouch and his attorney in the plea sentencing, Howard Manheimer, may have been the only two in court buying into that scenario. It appeared seven relatives and friends accompanied Jennifer Brinklow to court Monday.
Several times asked by the court if he had anything to say before decisions were rendered, Crouch in a low, emotional voice expressed remorse, saying, “I am so sorry, I am so sorry with all my heart.” Crouch told the court and Brinklow’s mother that he had become involved in a jailhouse ministry conducted at RSW and related drug abuse counseling to try and steer inmates away from drug addiction upon their release.
He also looked at Tristen’s mother testifying from the witness box directly in front of him as she recounted the multiple impacts, including being told she now suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Shock Disorder) in the wake of her son’s murder. “I didn’t know a person could live without a heart and soul,” Mrs. Brinklow told the courtroom of her life since December 13, 2019, when she was informed it was her missing son’s body discovered in an abandoned freezer near the river. The murder occurred in September 2019.
She said tears came often, stimulated by “a smell, food, a cloud – ANYTHING. I never had anxiety, now there are places I can’t go without breaking down … It’s beyond obvious those two did not know Trey – a few minutes with him and he’d give you anything he had … Four days after he turned 20 you took his life – he was just a kid.”
Following the rendering of his plea agreement sentence of 28-years-9-months, Judge Sharp told Crouch he hoped he made the best out of the portion of his life that will now be spent in prison; that he was truly remorseful for letting a dangerous, illegal drug get a grip on his life that led to this point; and that he would continue to work to counsel others away from a similar fate, and turn his life in a positive direction.
“I wish you luck,” the judge told Crouch.
“Thank you,” Crouch replied.
Celebrating three DECA alumni during “DECA Month”
November is “DECA Month” and to cap several activities that WCHS DECA has conducted this month, the chapter would like to promote the accomplishments of three DECA alumni.
Alexandra “Lexi” Davis (2019) is currently a senior at James Madison University. Lexi not only is a WCHS DECA alumna, but a past Chapter Historian officer as well. When asked how her past experiences in DECA have impacted her personal life, she replied, “DECA has taught me how to present formally, talk to people, and knowing how to sell myself to clients and employers”. As to what advice she would give to a 1st year DECA member, Lexi stated, “put yourself out there as in getting involved in the community, compete in as many DECA events as you can, and try new things.” Her favorite memory of DECA? Going to Orlando Florida to compete in the DECA International Career Development Conference, being around her friends throughout all her years in DECA, and managing the school store, Wildcats Corner. Lexi was instrumental in having Wildcats Corner receive its initial Gold Level Certification as a school-based enterprise. Although she is an engineering major at JMU, Lexi attributes her ability to present engineering project ideas to potential clients due to her involvement and success with DECA projects.
Dr. Leonard F. “Len” Maiden (1950) was the 1st Chapter President of the Warren County High School DECA chapter. In 1949, Len was elected as the 1st High School President of National DECA. After graduating from WCHS, he earned degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, and the University of South Carolina. He was a veteran of the United States Army. In 1965 he joined the University of South Carolina faculty where he retired as Professor Emeritus of the College of Education. Before joining the faculty at USC, he served as a Virginia State Supervisor for Marketing (Distributive) Education where he mentored marketing teachers and DECA chapter advisors in the Front Royal/Winchester/Northern Virginia region. Throughout his career, Dr. Maiden never lost his love for DECA. He volunteered for many years as a judge in DECA state conferences in both Virginia and South Carolina. He mentored students learning to become teachers and teachers learning to improve their craft for many years. In 2021, the WCHS DECA Chapter established an annual scholarship to be awarded to a graduating WCHS DECA senior in his honor.
Sarah Gardner is a 2016 high school graduate and alumna of James Madison University (2020). She is also a professional member of the WCHS DECA chapter. While in high school, Sarah was a member of her high school DECA chapter and served as the chapter’s president her senior year. She was also a district winner, 3-time state winner, and competed in DECA’s International Career Development Conference three times. She has served Virginia DECA as a State Leadership Conference judge for three years. Currently, Sarah is a Senior Marketing Coordinator with Carahsoft Technology Corp. in Reston, VA. When asked how her high school DECA experiences helped to prepare her for life after high school, she responded, “DECA taught me how to present myself in a professional setting.” “DECA also taught me time management skills – mentoring other people, planning and executing projects, and writing research papers – and how to apply constructive criticism in order to improve as a marketing professional”, she added. When asked what advice she would offer a first-year DECA member, Sarah stated, “Don’t be afraid to fall short or fail. Just put forth your best effort and learn from the results!”
The Wildlife Center of Virginia to provide Thanksgiving meals for 100+ wild animals
Staff at The Wildlife Center of Virginia are getting ready for a Thanksgiving feast for over 100 “guests”. Species on the “guest list” include Red-tailed Hawks, Eastern Screech-Owls, Bald Eagles, Black Bears, Deer Mice, and reptiles including Eastern Box Turtles, Eastern Ratsnakes, and a Snapping Turtle.
On November 25, the Center anticipates to be caring for approximately 90 patients and 20 resident education animals. Wildlife rehabilitators will be preparing and delivering meals, cleaning enclosures, and updating patient records.
Turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce aren’t on the Wildlife Center menus – instead of a traditional family-style Thanksgiving meal, the Wildlife Center crew will make dozens of species-specific diets, which cater to each species’ needs and each patient’s particular preferences based on observations during their time as patients at the Center.
“The animals that we will be caring for this year include over 30 reptiles, over 20 birds of prey, and almost 20 squirrels” said Wildlife Rehabilitation Supervisor Kelsey Pleasants. “Most of these patients have been admitted after being hit by cars or caught by domestic pets. Many of them require weeks of intensive care and rehabilitation.”
While the rehabilitation staff are busy in the kitchen, Center veterinarians will provide medical care for patients in need – distributing and administering medications, cleaning wounds and changing bandages, completing daily checks, and other medical procedures – and remain ready for any new patients that might arrive. New patient admissions are always a possibility, any day of the year. By the time the staff go home to their Thanksgiving dinners, all 110 animals will be fed, watered, and cared for.
The Wildlife Center of Virginia is a non-profit hospital that is able to provide quality healthcare to wild animals in need through the generosity and support of caring individuals. “We’re so appreciative of the support of our donors that helps us to feed and care for each bird, mammal, and reptile,” said Pleasants.
To find out more about ways to support the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s work, the public can visit www.wildlifecenter.org.
Front Royal-Warren County Airport receives $790,000 in funding from infrastructure deal signed into law last week
On the busiest air travel day of the year, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that airports in Virginia are expected to receive $399,740,660 in federal funds over the next five years as a result of the bipartisan infrastructure deal signed into law last week.
The funding will be distributed to Virginia airports over five years as follows:
• Washington Dulles International: $120,399,725
• Ronald Reagan Washington National: $116,734,485
• Richmond International: $35,608,215
• Norfolk International: $33,098,390
• Charlottesville-Albemarle: $15,444,835
• Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional: $14,977,645
• Newport News/Williamsburg International: $10,194,005
• Lynchburg Regional/Preston Glenn Field: $6,497,230
• Shenandoah Valley Regional: $5,066,130
• Manassas Regional/Harry P. Davis Field: $3,735,000
• Leesburg Executive: $3,735,000
• Virginia Highlands: $1,480,000
• Virginia Tech/Montgomery Executive: $1,480,000
• Culpeper Regional: $1,480,000
• Danville Regional: $1,480,000
• New River Valley: $1,480,000
• Blue Ridge: $1,480,000
• Chesapeake Regional: $1,480,000
• Hampton Roads Executive: $1,480,000
• Richmond Executive-Chesterfield County: $1,480,000
• Hanover County Municipal: $1,480,000
• Warrenton-Fauquier: $1,480,000
• Winchester Regional: $1,480,000
• Franklin Regional: $790,000
• Front Royal-Warren County: $790,000
• Twin County: $790,000
• Louisa County/Freeman Field: $790,000
• Luray Caverns: $790,000
• Mountain Empire: $790,000
• Accomack County: $790,000
• Orange County: $790,000
• Dinwiddie County: $790,000
• New Kent County: $790,000
• William M. Tuck: $790,000
• Mecklenburg-Brunswick Regional: $790,000
• Stafford Regional: $790,000
• Suffolk Executive: $790,000
• Tappahannock-Essex County: $790,000
• Middle Peninsula Regional: $790,000
• Emporia-Greensville Regional: $550,000
• Farmville Regional: $550,000
• Ingalls Field: $550,000
• Lee County: $550,000
• Tazewell County: $550,000
• Tangier Island: $550,000
• Lonesome Pine: $550,000
• Brookneal/Campbell County: $550,000
The funding represents Virginia’s share of $15 billion in direct grants to airports expected around the country as a result of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a bipartisan, once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness that was negotiated by Sen. Warner and strongly supported by Sen. Kaine.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Gray Treefrog
Your outdoor plants may be full of surprises!
It’s that time of year where many people bring potted plants indoors for the winter, but that means it’s also the time of year when people realize they may have brought in more than just their plants!
This Gray Treefrog experienced just that, as the plant he was hiding on was brought into a warm room for the winter.
Because of the warmer temperatures, this frog stopped preparing for winter and became much more active, finally being discovered by the homeowner.
Because the frog had become acclimated to warmer temperatures, and the lows have been below freezing, it was decided it would not be safe for the frog to be placed back outside. Instead, the frog was brought to us for us to overwinter until next spring.
Check your plants before bringing them inside! If you find an amphibious stowaway, give us or your local rehabilitator a call before taking further action, so we can best assess the health of the animal and give you the best advice, keeping weather and natural behavior in mind.
If you want to avoid potentially disturbing wildlife, bring in your plants early before temperatures drop too low. That way, if you find any stowaways, you can simply place them back outside with plenty of time for them to find a new winter home.
This Gray Treefrog is our 3,171 patient in 2021!
We are fortunate to be able to provide a safe environment for amphibians to overwinter – but it comes at a price.
Our patients can’t pay for their care, and we don’t receive state or Federal funding for what we do. We rely on your donations to help wild animals and return them to their wild homes.
Giving Tuesday is in one week! In addition to a match provided by Facebook, our generous board of directors will match Giving Tuesday donations up to $15,000!
Please, donate to BRWC on Tuesday, November 30th, to make a big impact for wildlife!
Samuels Public Library offers free at-home COVID-19 tests
Samuels Public Library joins 18 other libraries and library systems state-wide offering free at-home COVID-19 tests through a partnership with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). The pilot program runs through Friday, December 31.
Individuals may pick up a virtually-guided Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 Antigen Card Home Test at Samuels Public Library, use it in the privacy of their own home and receive digital test results in 15 minutes. A library card is not required to receive a test. The program is designed to increase access to COVID-19 testing, especially among rural and remote communities.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with VDH to provide this simple, accessible avenue for testing in Warren County,” says Michelle Ross, Executive Director of Samuels Public Library. “Libraries play an important role in public health by offering free access to information, this service strengthens and extends that role.”
The at-home test kit uses the eMed digital platform. Users will need an internet-connected device enabled with a camera and microphone (smartphone or laptop) to join a virtual testing session with an eMed assistant. The eMed assistant will guide users through the testing process. Once the test is complete, the user will receive results within 15 minutes and eMed will report the results to VDH.
Individuals may request a test through curbside pick-up or at the Samuels Public Library circulation desk. If you are demonstrating symptoms, please use curbside pick-up and do not enter the library. For safety reasons, tests may not be taken inside the library. The library’s public wireless internet is accessible in the parking lot. VDH recommends tests be used within two weeks to avoid expiration.
About Samuels Public Library
Samuels Public Library brings people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. A 501(c)(3) organization, the library annually serves 200,000 visitors, checks out nearly 400,000 books, electronic and digital services, and provides essential computer access, wireless service and public meeting spaces for the community. To learn more, visit www.samuelslibrary.net or call (540) 635-3153.