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Local man arrested and charged with ‘Possession of Child Pornography’

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Marquise Cameron, 19, of Front Royal, was charged and arrested with two counts of §18.2-374.1:1 Possession of Child Pornography. Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.

On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, Marquise Cameron, 19, of Front Royal, was charged and arrested with two counts of §18.2-374.1:1 Possession of Child Pornography. These charges were placed after a probation search was conducted at Cameron’s residence, 1314 Madison Avenue, where detectives took possession of his cellular devices. No further details are available in this case due to the investigation still pending.

Cameron was transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail where he was also charged with a violation of his probation. Marquise Cameron was ordered to be held without bond with a pending court date of March 21, 2019 at 9:00am in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Anyone with any further information in reference to this case is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at mramey@frontroyalva.com.

In Virginia, possession of child pornography violates Virginia Code Section 18.2-374.1:1. That statute provides:

  • A. Any person who knowingly possesses child pornography is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
  • B. Any person who commits a second or subsequent violation of subsection A is guilty of a Class 5 felony.

Attorney James S. Abrenio of the Ben Glass Law Firm in Fairfax, says child pornography charges bring with them some of the most strenuous sanctions that can be imposed.

He says whether someone is in “possession” of child pornography can be a very fact specific analysis, and will need to be analyzed in each case. However, Virginia courts have provided some guidance:

  • In Kromer v. Commonwealth, 613 S.E.2d 871 (2005), the court found that possession requires a finding that the defendant intentionally sought out and viewed child pornography on the Internet, knowing that the images would be saved on his computer. It, however, did not require that the defendant actually originally downloaded the images.
  • To be charged with an enhanced Class 5 Felony of Child Pornography, the Papol v. Commonwealth, 754 S.E.2d 918 (2014) Court found that possessing multiple images during a single download was sufficient for a second or subsequent violations, rather than only a single conviction.

Crime/Court

Deavers found guilty in VFW Post 1860 arson and embezzlement case

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Leslie R. Deavers pictured outside the Warren County Courthouse on March 7, her next-to-last day free on bond prior to her Friday conviction on arson and embezzlement charges against long-time employer VFW Post 1860. Photo/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – After 2-1/2 hours of deliberation Friday afternoon, March 8, a Warren County Circuit Court jury found Leslie Rose Deavers guilty on the two remaining counts against her – arson of an occupied building and embezzlement of funds from the Samuel R. Millar Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1860. A third charge, arson of a public building, was nol prossed (not prosecuted) by the prosecution at the week-long trial’s outset when it was pointed out the VFW Post headquarters building was not open to the general public.

VFW Post 1860 as firefighters work to extinguish the blaze. /Photos FRVFRD

At the time the fire broke out the VFW headquarters building was occupied by long-time VFW Post employee Deavers, her boss Billy Rose (now deceased) and visitor Brendon Squire who had stopped in to inquire about joining the Front Royal VFW Post.

After another 40 minutes of deliberation, the jury then came in with a sentencing recommendation on the low end of the incarceration range on those convictions. The 57-year-old Deavers faced a prison sentence of 5 to 20 years on the arson conviction and from no time to 12 months in jail or 1 to 20 years in prison on the embezzlement conviction.

The jury recommendation was the minimum 5 years in prison for the arson of the VFW Post headquarters on July 11, 2015; and 6 months in jail on an embezzlement scheme the prosecution contended the arson was set to cover up. The eight-woman, four-man jury also recommended the maximum fine of $100,000 on the arson conviction and the maximum fine of $2,500 on the embezzlement conviction.

Testimony from prosecution expert witness, ATF forensic auditor David Clemson indicated Deavers made 98 cash deposits into a joint bank account shared with her boyfriend of 17 years, Ashby Spiker Sr., totaling $105,010 in 2014 and 2015, prior to the July 2015 fire that destroyed the VFW Post headquarters. After the fire those cash deposits dried up, prosecution forensic audit evidence indicated.

Spiker testified that Deavers became so depressed after the VFW fire that she became withdrawn and stopped going out on the gambling junkets the defense asserted provided her with a steady cash flow income.

Deavers took both the verdict and sentencing recommendation without any visible emotional reaction.

Judge Clifford L. “Clay” Athey Jr. set a May 24 hearing date for arguments on a defense motion to strike the jury verdict and on sentencing should the defense motion be denied by the court. A pre-sentence report on the defendant will also be filed prior to the May 24 hearing. The defense must file its written motion to strike the jury verdict by April 8; the prosecution’s response is due by May 8; and the defense reply brief is due by May 19.

Lead defense counsel Jason Ransom promised an appeal should the convictions hold. Following the prosecution’s objection, Athey denied the defense team’s request to reset bond for their client pending the May 24 hearing date. So Deavers, who has been free on a secured $25,000 bond for about two years following her arrest on February 8, 2017, was remanded to the custody of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at about 5:45 p.m. Friday afternoon.

Deavers was arrested after an extensive 18-month investigation involving multiple agencies. Following Deavers’ conviction late Friday afternoon Warren County Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico, who testified extensively about details of the fire investigation as one prosecution expert witness, thanked those involved agencies including the Front Royal Police Department, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and ATF’s Forensic Audit Division, the Fire Marshal’s Offices of Shenandoah, Frederick and Loudoun Counties, and of course Maiatico’s own Warren County Fire & Rescue Department – “It was an intense investigation and it’s great to see our justice system work,” Maiatico said after the trial’s conclusion.

Firefighters worked tirelessly for hours in an attempt to save the building.

In the wake of Deavers’ conviction current VFW Post Commander Jeff Cook said, “It’s bittersweet. No one really wins in this – you’re talking about someone losing their freedom and you’re talking about justice being served. It’s something I’m going to wrestle with. But we fought long and hard over the last three years since the fire; hopefully, now that the verdict is out there the air is cleared of any potential wrongdoing on a post member’s part. Hopefully, we can get the word out to the community and maybe we can get a chance at rebuilding the Post.”

Cook also gave emotional testimony in the sentencing phase of the trial after Friday’s guilty verdict came in.

“Will you rebuild soon?” Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden asked.

“I don’t believe so. It’s been very difficult – we were woefully under-insured at the time of the fire,” Cook replied. Damage assessments estimated the value of the lost headquarters, which had to be demolished following the fire, in the $400,000 range.

Cook noted that existing regulations require that a new VFW Post be built 13 to 15 feet off the ground due to floodplain requirements. “So the cost is about four times the amount originally projected. Short of a donation from someone with deep pockets we’re chipping away slowly at the $400,000, $500,000, $600,000 that will be necessary.”

Asked by Madden about the impact of the loss of the headquarters building and the Post’s thus far unsuccessful effort toward rebuilding, Cook said it had been a difficult three years since the fire.

“We exist as an organization by monthly meetings at the American Legion, who have been gracious enough to allow us to use their headquarters,” Cook said.

Cook appeared emotional as he noted the loss of 13 members who have died in the years since the Post 1860 building was destroyed.
“Most are aged – the greatest generation is passing fast,” Cook said of the few remaining World War II veterans, “Some were POW’s from Vietnam.”

“Is there a sense of betrayal?” Madden inquired.

“Yes, everyone at that Post loved her. No one wins here. We feel stabbed – we fought and were at the point of being able to offer her full-time employment, now we’re not.”

Despite valiant efforts by first responders, the historic VFW post could not be saved.

In the wake of some positive comments by VFW Post members, even prosecution witnesses, about Deavers’ presence at VFW Post 1860 as its bar, events and V-Tab slot gambling machine manager, defense attorney Ransom asked Cook one question on cross-examination.

“What percentage of members think she did it?”

“I’d say 90%,” Cook replied.

“Really, 90% – no further questions.”

Asked about the exchange during a recess, Cook said, “I’m surprised that he asked the question. There were a few who would never believe that she would do it and there are others who said, ‘Look, it just doesn’t make sense – there had to be something there.’ ”

Of the prosecution’s case and jury’s support of it, Cook observed, ”You could pick apart one or two things but those one or two things were all interlinked – and it was just that, the interlinking that told the story.”

Of the jury that reached a unanimous verdict in 2-1/2 hours in a complicated, circumstantial case developed over an 18-month, multi-faceted investigation, Cook said, “I’m proud of them – they’re a part of our community and it’s good to know you can get justice in rural America. It makes me even more proud that I wore that uniform for as long as I did.”

The reaction from the defense side was different.

“I’m stunned; I’m shocked,” Ransom who led the defense with co-counsel Jonathan Silvester, said. “When I heard it I said I do not understand how they reached that verdict. I thought it was clear that she didn’t embezzle any money; I thought it was clear she didn’t burn the building down. I don’t think the commonwealth met their burden of proof. I don’t even think it was close to meeting their burden of proof … I just don’t see how they reached (that verdict) – it just blows my mind.”

In arguing against jail time for his client in the sentencing phase, Ransom noted that Deavers maintains her innocence and emphasized his client’s clean police record and her importance as a stabilizing influence in the lives of her two adult children and seven grandchildren, two of whom aged two and four live with her and long-time boyfriend Ashby Spiker.

“It will be difficult for her grandkids and Ashby Spiker,” Ransom told the jury of Deavers absence from their lives.

And if not totally convinced, as noted above the jury did come in with a sentencing recommendation on the low end of incarceration ranges. Next Ransom will target Judge Athey, first on the defense motion to strike the jury verdict, and if not successful in that endeavor, on a sentence even beneath the low-end incarceration guidelines recommended by the jury.

In his closing in the sentencing phase, Layton asked the jury to listen to the words of Post Commander Cook “and do what you think is appropriate.”

In rebuttal to the defense closing, Layton suggested that rather than impacts on the defendant’s life, the jury consider the impacts on the members of VFW Post 1860 – “What about the impact on those men? That place of community has been ripped away from them … find an appropriate balance,” Layton urged the jury.

Updated March 9, 2019

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VFW arson-embezzlement trial poised for closing arguments, jury deliberation

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FRONT ROYAL – A nine-woman, four-man jury pool is poised to hear closing arguments Friday morning in the commonwealth’s two-pronged case against Leslie Rose Deavers.

Deavers is accused of arson in the July 11, 2015, fire that gutted the Samuel R. Millar Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1860. The prosecution theory is that Deavers, a long-time employee and volunteer, set the fire to cover up evidence of two years of embezzlement of Post 1860 revenues tied primarily to V-Tab non-profit slot, gambling machines.

Leslie Rose Deavers outside the Warren County Courthouse Thursday March 7, 2019. / Photo Roger Bianchini

The prosecution has also attempted to tie Deavers to a break-in and robbery in which four of Post 1860’s V-Tab machines were broken into and cash boxes removed and an estimated $5,000 to $7,000 in post revenue is believed to have gone missing from a safe.

In arguing against a defense motion to dismiss the prosecution case, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Layton pointed to a July 10, 2015, Front Royal Police interview with Deavers with promised follow-up seeking an explanation as to why the Post 1860 alarm system and motion sensors had not activated during a July 3 break-in in which there were no signs of forced entry.

“Officers were breathing down her neck; the vets were coming in that night to be paid for some of the V-Tab winnings – will there be enough money to do it? … It has all the makings of an inside job … The only conclusion is it all ties to together,” Layton told the court in arguing against dismissal.

Prosecution rests; defense begins case in VFW arson-embezzlement case

And on Thursday afternoon Deavers took the stand to tell her side of the story. What resulted from both direct and cross-examination of Deavers and supporting testimony from both sides were contrasting portraits of the 57-year-old defendant.

From the defense perspective, you have a woman so emotionally tied to the VFW Post that consumed a large part of her daily life that after its destruction she became depressed and withdrew from normal activities, including what she and her legal team contends was a highly profitable gambling habit.

From the prosecution side you have a woman with a gambling problem; myriad financial issues and debt on the home front, who was paid little for the amount of work, much of it volunteer, and time she spent at the VFW Post.

Taking the stand as the first witness after a late lunch break ended at 2:30 p.m. Deavers recounted her work at the VFW Post, including a three-year lapse (2010-13) when she wasn’t paid anything due to financial cutbacks at the post, but continued to volunteer out of a love and commitment to the organization.

“You still stayed on – how?” her attorney Jason Ransom asked.

“Yes, I had other side jobs,” Deavers replied.

“Did you love that club?” her attorney asked.

“Yes I did,” his client replied.

“Did you love the people?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Was that club a part of your whole life?”

“Yes, it was.”

Cross-examination took a different tone.

“At the time you and Mr. Spiker had financial problems?” Layton asked of the 2014-15 time period.

“Yes, we were paying a high, high house payment,” Deavers replied launching into an explanation of the couple’s effort to get their home loan modified.

“There was a looming repossession of his Harley Davidson motorcycle,” Layton continued referencing earlier testimony from Ashby Spiker, Deavers’ live-in boyfriend of 17 years.

Deavers attempted to contradict that situation, noting that Spiker had title to the bike when he sold it to April Spiker for $5,500. Spiker’s testimony confirmed a looming repossession that he got out from under through the sale to his sister. He also testified that he sold a restored 1983 Mustang used in his Winchester Speedway racing days for $10,000. The cash sale testimony was utilized by the defense to explain some of the 98 cash deposits totaling over $104,000 made over that two-year, 2014-15 period.

Layton then questioned Deavers about turning down extra income offered by the VFW board during this period – “Yes sir,” Deavers said succinctly of that refusal.

“You gambled at two other places (than the VFW)?” Layton asked.

“Right.”

“But overall you lost more than you won.”

“No.”

“You are testifying you won more than you lost?”

“I did.”

“At Charles Town and the Middletown firehouse you won more than you lost?” Layton asked again.

“Oh yes,” Deavers assured him.

Other VFW members and friends of the defendants also testified that Deavers had a knack at the casino games, winning often. That consistent winning at the gambling tables at the VFW, Charles Town’s Casino and the Middletown Fire & Rescue headquarters, along with her boyfriend Ashby Spiker’s cash sales of vehicles, are crucial to the defense’s counter to prosecution ATF forensic financial auditor David Clemson’s discovery of 98 cash deposits totaling over $104,000 made into Deavers and Spiker’s Wood Forest joint bank account within two years prior to the VFW fire.

Deavers then assured Layton that while she had failed to file those gambling winnings initially that the IRS had caught up with her and the taxes had eventually been paid.

Deavers also minimized the role of earlier prosecution witness Laura Hutchinson, then Elder, who described an encounter with Deavers and Billy Rose the morning of the fire when she paid an unscheduled visit to the VFW property to show her mother where her wedding reception would be held at the VFW pavilion.

On Tuesday Hutchinson testified that when she entered the Post 1960 building to encounter the smell of smoke, haze, Deavers and Rose inside.

Despite valiant efforts of first-responders, the historic post could not be saved.

Hutchinson said she told the two “I think there’s a fire” to which Deavers replied, “I know” without showing much concern. Hutchinson said when Deavers and Rose failed to begin a search for the source of the fire she started looking around at which point Deavers said, “Someone must have put a cigarette out in the trash in the back.”

The trio then discovered a red glow at the base of the women’s bathroom door and discovered a fire in a trash can. “They weren’t doing anything – I asked, ‘Do you have a fire extinguisher?’” Hutchinson testified she accompanied Rose, commenting to him, “You’re going really slow” after which he located the extinguisher. Upon returning to the scene Hutchinson said she advised him to spray around the perimeter of the fire, but he ignored her, spraying directly into the fire “creating a mess”.

But with the fire out, mess or not, Hutchinson said she returned to her mother at the outdoor pavilion.

“Did you call 911?” Layton asked her.

“No, I thought she would – the fire was out but I thought she would call for professional help,” Hutchison replied.

As she drove past the headquarters exiting along North Royal Avenue she said Deavers and Rose “were outside smoking” at a side door. Deavers has described Rose as her boss at VFW. He is since deceased.

On Thursday Deavers said she didn’t believe Hutchinson was present initially and said forcefully, “Billy Rose is the one who found that fire … Miss Elder (Hutchinson’s maiden name) ran to the front, I ran to the back. I told Billy to call 911.”

“Why did you ask him?” Ransom asked his client.

“Because my phone was behind the bar, his was on his hip,” Deavers replied.

Previous testimony offered at trial appeared to indicate that 911 was not called until another man later entered the building to inform Deavers, Rose and a second unexpected visitor, Brendan Squire who was inquiring about membership, that flames were coming out of the building front entrance.

Squire was with Deavers and Rose after Hutchinson’s departure following extinguishment of the first fire. It was that second fire, believed to have originated at the utility closet housing the building’s electrical boxes,  that is credited with destroying the VFW building.

Much dueling expert testimony has disputed whether an electrical short circuit could have been the accidental cause of the fire that destroyed the building.

Both sides will summarize their cases for the jury Friday morning. Then it will be up to the jury to decide if the prosecution’s admittedly circumstantial case against Deavers on both the remaining arson and embezzlement charges against Deavers is strong enough to convict.

Firefighters toiled for hours in an attempt to save the building.

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Prosecution rests; defense begins case in VFW arson-embezzlement case

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Leslie Rose Deavers will be in court today for the fourth day of her arson-embezzlement trial. She was arrested after an 18-month investigation into the blaze that destroyed the historic lodge.

FRONT ROYAL – The third day of the Leslie Rose Deavers VFW Post 1860 arson-embezzlement trial saw the prosecution rest its case after calling 24 witnesses – 26 if you count two recalls; the judge reject a defense motion to dismiss the prosecution case against their client; and the opening of the defense case.

And while Warren County Circuit Court Judge Clifford L. “Clay” Athey rejected the defense attempt to have all the charges against Deavers dismissed, Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden did agree to null pross (drop) one arson charge against Deavers citing her for setting fire to a public building.

Defense Attorney Jason Ransom argued that testimony indicated the VFW Post was a private club, not open to the public, so charging their client with setting fire to the publicly-used building did not apply to the crimes she is accused of. Ultimately Madden agreed. The court noted that punishment for other arson statutes with which Deavers is charged was the same as the public building one, so removing that count did not significantly alter the state’s case.

However, after retiring to chambers to review referenced case materials, Athey said he did not believe it proper to take the remaining charges against Deavers out of the jury’s hands at this point. The judge noted that mid-trial motions to dismiss must be viewed in the best light to the prosecution’s case.

Athey noted that two expert witnesses presented by the prosecution–one on the embezzlement charge, the other on the arson case–had described a two-pronged case with sufficient evidentiary support to carry the case forward toward the defense’s counterpoint to that testimony.

“This is a classic case for the jury to decide,” Athey said in preparing to call the now 13 person jury back to hear the opening of the defense case. At the 9 a.m. outset of Wednesday’s proceedings, the request of one of the 14 jurors to be dismissed from service was granted. It was explained that the female juror’s father had passed away overnight. There were no objections from either side to allow the woman to be with her family at this time, with the condolences of all involved in the proceeding.

The defense began its case at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday with three witnesses: lodge member Stuart Kuser; Deaver’s son’s girlfriend Amanda Clem; and Deaver’s boyfriend of 17 years Ashby Spiker.

Kuser called Deavers “a nice lady”.

Clem and Spiker testified to being with Deavers at the house they shared between 2:45 p.m. and after 9 p.m. on July 3, 2015, when Deavers got the call from Front Royal Police that the VFW Lodge alarm had gone off.

At 6:05 p.m. Wednesday after those witnesses testified, the defense team of Jason Ransom and Jonathan Silvester told the court it might be an opportune time to adjourn till the following morning.

Fire damage to the VFW Post 1860 headquarters /File photo

The prosecution case focused on two unexpected visitors to the lodge the morning of the fire on July 11, 2015, who encountered Deavers and the late Billy Rose as a bathroom fire was breaking out and the lodge smelled of smoke; first responders, fire officials who investigated the scene and two Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) forensic experts brought in to consult on the investigation. Those experts were forensic financial auditor David Clemson and Senior Electrical Engineer Michael Keller. Both were brought in by county and town officials to assist in their investigation of the fire.

That the prosecution considered his Wednesday testimony crucial was indicated by the first 15 minutes of ATF Electrical Engineer Michael Keller’s testimony being spent establishing his credentials to be declared a prosecution expert witness.

Keller countered the defense theory that an uncontrolled electrical short circuit in the old building’s old, perhaps never inspected electrical wiring was the source of the fire. Over nearly 2-1/2 hours of testimony – some of it contentious sparring with defense co-counsel Ransom – Keller testified to his belief that electrical wiring in a utility closet in a section of the building exhibiting the worst fire damage was not the source of the fire.

During direct examination by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton Keller referenced multiple post-fire damage photographs entered as evidence by the prosecution and his own observations based on extensive experience as an electrical engineer for first the Navy, the ATF and other sectors, to say there was “no evidence of electrical failure” as the source of the fire.

“Are you a licensed electrician?” Ransom began his cross-examination.

“No,” Keller replied.

Following a detailed exploration of voltage, amperage, blinking versus surging lights, estimates of arc flash temperatures from 1,500 to 10,000 degrees from sparking caused by a short circuit and the potential that boxed bingo records stored in the utility closet where the VFW Post’s two electrical boxes were located could have set the fire, Ransom and Keller faced off for a final exchange.

“What if an arc flash got to 10,000 degrees?” Ransom asked.

“I doubt it did – how long is the issue. You could have 20,000 degrees for 1/60 of a second, but it’s too brief to catch fire,” Keller responded of a likely scenario.

“It’s still possible?” Ransom pressed.

“Anything’s possible,” Keller admitted.

“You can’t say with 100% certainty that the fire was not caused by an electrical failure,” Ransom pressed his point.

“We found no evidence,” Keller began.

“The question is can you say with 100% certainty – it is a yes or no question,” Ransom interrupted.

“It is not a yes or no question,” Keller insisted.

“I have no further questions,” Ransom countered, ending the cross-examination.

As reported in Royal Examiner’s first trial story, the prosecution’s other ATF forensic expert witness dealt with financial aspects of the prosecution case. ATF forensic auditor David Clemson testified he was brought in as part of the arson investigation to seek out a motive as to why the VFW fire might have been intentionally set. His investigation eventually focused on Deavers for several reasons. Those were discrepancies in the V-Tab gambling takes and payouts Deavers was instrumental in as club manager and the large number of cash deposits with Deavers name on them into the bank account she shared with boyfriend Ashby Spiker.

In testimony Tuesday, Clemson cited 98 cash deposits with Deavers’ name on them totaling over $104,000 made to an account she shared with long-time boyfriend Ashby Spiker.

In arguing for dismissal Wednesday, Ransom noted that VFW official Scott Simmons had reported no suspicions of any financial issues at the lodge or with Deavers and that no one at the lodge had ever seen Deavers steal any money.

But on Wednesday the prosecution recalled FRPD Investigator David Fogle to make several points and introduce new evidence. Fogle testified that upon inspecting the post safe, which previous testimony indicated should have had about $7,000 in V-Tab or Bingo proceeds in it, had only three five-dollar bills in all the money bags in the safe.

Fogle also brought into evidence the melted remains of a red, plastic gas container seen by one lodge visitor just prior to the fire and by first responders near the door to the utility closet where the fire was deemed by investigators to have been the most intense.

Layton told the judge in arguing against dismissal of the prosecution case that Deavers stands accused of “crimes of deceit and stealth – it is rare you will see it happen. This has all the makings of an inside job – no forced entry (on July 3); no alarms went off.”

Layton pointed to a July 10 police interview with Deavers about the July 3 robbery-vandalism with a promised follow up to determine why the post’s alarm system hadn’t gone off – “Officers were breathing down her neck; the vets were coming in that night to be paid for some of the V-Tab winnings – will there be enough money to do it? The only conclusion is it all ties to together,” Layton asserted of the prosecution case.

And on Wednesday, March 6, the court agreed that the case should proceed to a decision by the jury after all the evidence is presented.

And after another day or two of defense testimony and anticipated prosecution rebuttal, it will be up to all but one of the nine-woman, four-man jury pool to come to a conclusion on whether the prosecution’s circumstantial evidence case against Leslie Rose Deavers has enough substance to gain a conviction on all or some of the charges against her.

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Day 2: Prosecution presses circumstantial case against VFW arson suspect

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Lesley Rose Deavers – RSW Jail mug shot

FRONT ROYAL – On the second day of the VFW Post 1860 embezzlement-arson trial of Leslie Rose Deavers, the prosecution and defense sparred around witnesses on both aspects of the largely circumstantial case. Deavers is accused of staging a robbery-vandalism break-in of the headquarters on July 3, 2015, then setting the VFW headquarters on fire just over a week later on July 11, 2015, as part of a plan to cover up two years of embezzling money from the organization.

On Tuesday, March 5, the prosecution presented an ATF (Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms) forensic auditor who detailed a two-year history (2014-15) of 98 cash deposits totaling over $104,000 made into a bank account Deavers shared with a boyfriend; and two witnesses who showed up at the headquarters the morning of the fire describing a nonchalant attitude from Deavers and a male companion, apparently the only occupants of the building at the time, to signs of fire in various locations of the VFW building at 1850 North Royal Avenue extended. The male on site the morning of the fire was identified as Billy Rose, who is now deceased.

One of the two visitors who encountered Deavers and Rose the morning of the fire, Brendan Squire, along with several responding firefighters and police said they saw a red gasoline can near one of the VFW entrance doors.  Squire testified he also saw a gasoline can sitting by a nearby shed. The plastic gas can was destroyed in the fire, though testimony and some visual evidence indicated its presence by the building after the fire broke out full bore.

Other prosecution witnesses included VFW Post 1850 members who described times when Deavers, a part-time employee who volunteered to manage the bar and clubhouse business, would not pay winning tickets on V-tab non-profit gambling machines in the club at times, claiming low available funds at the time.

Discrepancies between V-tab machine gambling money taken in and paid out were cited by the prosecution as a part of Deaver’s extended embezzlement scheme at the club.

ATF forensic auditor David Clemson – “just like the university,” he said of his name – testified he was brought in as part of the arson investigation to seek out a motive as to why the VFW fire might have been intentionally set. His investigation eventually focused on Deavers for several reasons, including discrepancies in the V-Tab gambling takes and payouts Deavers was instrumental in as club manager as well as the large number of cash deposits with Deavers name on them that went into the bank account she shared with boyfriend Ashby Spiker.

Fire damage to the VFW Post 1860 headquarters

The two witnesses who came across Deavers and the now late Billy Rose at the headquarters the morning of the fire described a somewhat cavalier, casual or unconcerned attitude about the presence of smoke in the building, and even the discovery of a fire that melted a plastic trash can in one room.

On cross-examination defense attorneys Jason Ransom and Jonathan Silvester attempted to undermine the credibility of prosecution witnesses due to unclear memories of circumstances surrounding the 3-1/2-year old events; a failure to see Deavers carrying the gas can or lighting a fire anywhere; and in the forensic auditor’s case exactly what the implication of the cash deposits into Deavers shared bank account implied.

Detail will be added to this story as the trial progresses.

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Attorney appointed, October hearing date set in Jackson Street drug case

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Bradley David Light – Courtesy Photo/RSW Jail

A preliminary hearing date of October 2nd has been set in the two-count drug distribution/manufacture case of Bradley David Light. Light was in court Tuesday morning, March 5, for a bond hearing after failing to appear on Friday (March 1).

As previously reported Light refused van transport from Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren (RSW) Regional Jail on Friday, claiming claustrophobia according to jail personnel cited in a Refusal to Appear criminal complaint added as a third charge against Light that day.

On Tuesday Warren County General District Court Judge W. Dale Houff appointed Winchester-based Public Defender Matt Beyrau to represent Light. Houff also made no change in Light’s current bond status – he is being held at RSW Regional Jail without bond – but noted that after discussion with his court-appointed attorney he could apply to have bond set. Light did not speak during the brief hearing.

The 54-year-old Light faces one charge of narcotics distribution related to the purchase of the drug buprenorphine by a confidential informant working with the Virginia State Police Drug Task Force unit and a second charge of manufacture of a controlled substance referenced as methamphetamine during Tuesday’s hearing.

The manufacture charge resulted from a February 27 search warrant executed by the Virginia State Police-led Regional Drug Task Force during Light’s arrest at his 409 East Jackson Street residence.

Front Royal man facing drug charges refuses to leave RSW for court appearance

409 E. Jackson St. with lower level storage area door open and contents in yard – Photos/Roger Bianchini

The criminal complaint resulting from the search warrant references the manufacture of “methamphetamine, its salts, somers”, as well as the seizure of a “Hydrochloric gas generator, one pot, empty Pseudoedrin package, hypophosphite salts, liquefied ammonia gas, and hydrochloric acid.”

Michel Fleming represented the commonwealth during Tuesday’s hearing.

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Horseback rider faces multiple charges after brandishing a firearm near Reliance residence

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Arlington resident Mariah Smith was arrested Saturday for charged with brandishing a firearm, reckless handling of a firearm and possessing a concealed firearm while under the influence after an incident in Reliance. / Royal Examiner file photo

Warren County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the area of 999 Reliance Road late Saturday afternoon (March 2) after receiving a complaint of a woman riding a horse firing a gun towards a residence.

According to a media release from Warren County Sheriff Danny McEathron, deputies responded after a caller advised a dispatcher that two women were riding horses in a cemetery near 999 Reliance Road when one of them fired a shot towards a home after being asked to remove the horses from the cemetery property.

Deputies located the two women on Cauthorn Mill Road, where they were detained and interviewed.

The release states that deputies located a .38 Smith and Wesson handgun on Arlington, Va. resident Mariah Smith. She was arrested and transported to RSW Regional Jail where she was charged with brandishing a firearm, reckless handling of a firearm and possessing a concealed firearm while under the influence.

Smith was given an unsecured bond and released.

The other woman, whom the sheriff did not identify, was not detained and reportedly was not charged with any offenses.

Anyone with further information regarding this incident is asked to contact Captain Josh Seal at 540-635-4128 or cptseal@warrencountysheriff.org.

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