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Marys Shady Lane vehicle arson incident, two arrested and charged

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Photo courtesy of Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services

On Monday, July 20, 2020, at approximately 12:17 am, the Warren County Fire and Rescue Services responded to Mary’s Shady Lane approximately one mile from Happy Creek Road for a reported motor vehicle fire.

Firefighters and Deputy’s from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office arrived on the scene to find a passenger vehicle fully engulfed in flames and a fire spreading to a nearby field. Firefighters were able to quickly contain the blaze and determined that no occupants were in or around the vehicle.

The cause of the fire was investigated by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office. Fire Investigators determined the fire was caused by an act of arson. Fire Investigators were joined by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office in a joint investigation.


Ethan N. Potter (19 years of age), of Front Royal

 

As a result of the investigation, Mr. Ethan N. Potter (19 years of age), of Front Royal, and Mr. Nicholas A. Wright (21 years of age), of Front Royal, were both arrested and charged in connection with the fire incident. Both Potter and Wright have been charged with a single felony count of §18.2-81. Burning or destroying personal property, standing grain, etc. Mr. Wright was also charged with a single misdemeanor count of §18.2-460. Obstructing justice; resisting arrest; fleeing from a law enforcement officer. Both Potter and Wright appeared before a magistrate and were released on a secured bond.

Nicholas A. Wright (21 years of age), of Front Royal

 

Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is asked to contact Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico at 540-636-3830 or Sheriff’s Office Deputy Anthony Stevens 540-635-4128.

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Winchester woman pleads guilty to distributing Acetyl Fentanyl and Fentanyl

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On June 17, 2021, a Winchester woman pleaded guilty to distributing acetyl fentanyl and fentanyl in February 2019.

According to court documents, Jennifer Lynn Heishman, 37, of Winchester, Virginia, contacted an individual on February 23, 2019, to arrange a purchase of heroin. Later that evening, Heishman paid $100 for two foil packets of drugs, using money provided by her boyfriend. Heishman then brought the drugs into the residence, distributed them to her boyfriend, and they ingested the drugs.

The next day, February 24, 2019, a piece of foil containing a grayish-colored power was recovered from Heishman’s residence. The foil packet was one of the two packets of drugs Heishman distributed the previous day, and tested positive for fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl.

Heishman pleaded guilty to knowingly and intentionally distributing a mixture or substance containing acetyl fentanyl and fentanyl. She is scheduled to be sentenced on October 22, 2021, and faces a period of incarceration within the range of 72 to 132 months.


Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel P. Bubar of the Western District of Virginia and Jared Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division, made the announcement.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Winchester Police Department, and Northwest Virginia Drug and Gang Task Force are investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lena Busscher and Randy Ramseyer are prosecuting the case.

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Don’t try to outrun the police – you’ll loose

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ROCKINGHAM CO., VA – A Quicksburg, VA, woman is behind bars on multiple charges after she fled law enforcement Thursday, June 17, 2021. Virginia State Police have charged Rebecca E. Frost, 34, in Rockingham County with one felony count of eluding law enforcement and one misdemeanor count of reckless driving. In the City of Harrisonburg, State Police have charged Frost with two felony counts of eluding law enforcement, two misdemeanor counts of reckless driving, one felony count of assault on law enforcement, and one felony count of hit-and-run and one misdemeanor count of driving on a revoked license. Frost was also charged with several traffic infractions.

State Police initiated the traffic stop at approximately 6:45 p.m. as a 2001 Hyundai Accent was traveling East at 700 block of Port Republic Road in the City of Harrisonburg. The violation was for improper registration.

The driver initially pulled over, but quickly took off and the pursuit was initiated. The pursuit continued through the JMU campus onto Interstate 81 in Rockingham. The Hyundai was eventually contained on Route 340 just north of the Miller Coors Plant. The driver, Frost, was taken into custody and transported to Rockingham Regional Jail and held without bond.

Frost struck a state police cruiser during the pursuit. No troopers were injured during the course of the pursuit.


The pursuit reached speeds of up to 100 mph.

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After barricading himself, suspect found dead of apparent self-inflicted gunshot

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Units from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office responded to Gate Stone Lane on June 13, 2021, for the report of a domestic assault and possible barricaded subject with a firearm.

At approximately 7:23 am, a 9-1-1 hang-up was received in the Frederick County Emergency Communications Center. Dispatchers called the number back and were advised by a male that it was an accidental dial and that everything was fine. The dispatcher could hear a woman in the background crying and yelling for help, as well as children screaming, and immediately sent units to investigate. The female was able to exit the residence with her children, and call back in to 9-1-1. The caller advised that her husband had physically assaulted her the night before and again this morning, to include choking her, and was now in possession of a handgun threatening to kill himself.

Arriving units located the female and her children, ages 10, 8 and 2 in front of the residence and removed them from the area with a perimeter set up to contain the armed suspect. Additional FCSO units responded to the scene and a command post was established where attempts to contact the male inside the home began.

Members of the Sheriff’s Office SWAT, CNT and Drone Teams were activated and began responding to the scene as attempts to communicate continued. The Virginia State Police and Middletown Police Department provided mutual aid and the Winchester Police Department’s SWAT team responded to reinforce FCSO SWAT. Both Frederick County and Winchester Fire and Rescue had personnel standing by to assist as well.


With the perimeter in place and all specialty units set up, the decision was made to attempt to deploy a “throw phone” to communicate with the male, as there was no landline phone in the home and loud speaker announcements had not generated any response. A key to the front door was provided for the deployment of the throw phone. SWAT members could see the foot of a person at the top of the landing to the second floor. Verbal call outs had no response and, out of an abundance of caution, SWAT pulled back and a drone was deployed inside the residence to attempt to assess the situation. The drone showed the lower half of the male laying prone in a doorway but was unable to confirm his condition. A “throw-bot” video device was then deployed which also gave a limited view but confirmed no movement from the suspect. At approximately 10:50 am, SWAT members ascended the stairs and located 46-year-old Stephen Griffitt deceased from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. A medic unit confirmed Griffitt was deceased and the residence was secured for investigators to begin processing the scene at approximately 11:30am at which point the perimeter was released and command terminated.

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Front Royal man facing multiple drug-related charges in fatal car-motorcycle collision

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The Virginia State Police (VSP) are investigating a fatal head-on collision between a car and a motorcycle that occurred late Sunday morning, June 6, on Strasburg Road (Route 55 West). The driver of the car, 30-year-old Front Royal resident Charles J. Corathers, is facing a variety of charges including driving under the influence of drugs, driving on a revoked license, possession with intent to distribute schedule I/II drugs, and possession of paraphernalia. Corathers was transported to the RSW Regional Jail where he is being held without bond.

Killed in the collision VSP investigators determined was caused when the eastbound 2006 Ford Focus Corathers was driving crossed the center line and struck a westbound 2006 Kawasaki motorcycle was 33-year-old John L. Cunningham of Strasburg. Cunningham, who was wearing a helmet, died at the scene. Corathers was uninjured.

Royal Examiner asked VSP Public Information Officer Sgt. Brent Coffey if an additional charge of Vehicular Manslaughter was possible. “Yes, that is an option. We consulted with the Commonwealth’s Attorney, but I don’t have a time table for additional charges,” Sgt. Coffey replied by email. This story will be updated when additional information on other pending charges is acquired from the Warren County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.

Below is the VSP press release in its entirety:


Charles Joshua Corathers, 30, of Front Royal is facing multiple charges in the Sunday traffic death of Strasburg resident John L. Cunningham, 33. Photo/RSW Jail website

“Virginia State Police Trooper A. Pike is investigating a two-vehicle fatal crash in Warren County. The crash occurred Sunday, June 6, 2021, at 11:50 a.m. on Route 55 (Strasburg Road), 1/2 of a mile west of Route 678 (Fort Valley Rd).

“A 2006 Ford Focus was traveling east on Rt. 55 when it crossed the centerline and collided head-on with a westbound 2006 Kawasaki motorcycle.

“The driver of the Ford, Charles J. Corathers, 30, of Front Royal, Va., was not injured in the crash. Corathers was wearing a seatbelt.

“The driver of the Kawasaki, John L. Cunningham, 33, of Strasburg, Va., died at the scene of the crash as a result of his injuries. Cunningham was wearing a helmet.

“Corathers was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, driving on a revoked license, possession with intent to distribute schedule I/II drugs, and possession of paraphernalia. Corathers was transported to the RSW Regional Jail where he is being held without bond.

“VSP’s Culpeper Division Crash Reconstruction Team responded to the scene and is assisting with the ongoing crash investigation.”


This was not Corathers first run in with the law as illustrated in this linked Royal Examiner story:

Child welfare check leads to neglect, drug charges of parents

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Virginia’s annual crime analysis report now available on Virginia State Police website

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Virginia’s official and only comprehensive report on local and statewide crime figures for 2020, is now available online. The Crime in Virginia report continues to provide precise rates and occurrences of crimes committed in towns, cities and counties across the Commonwealth. The report breaks down criminal offenses and arrests by the reporting agency.

Violent crime includes the offenses of murder, forcible sex offenses (rape, sodomy, and sexual assault with an object per the FBI’s updated rape definition), robbery and aggravated assault. Overall, Virginia experienced a 1.9 percent decrease in violent crime offenses compared to 2019. There were 15,713 violent crime offenses reported in 2020 compared to 16,018 violent crime offenses in 2019.

The following 2020 crime figures in Virginia are presented in the report:

  • The number of reported homicides increased from 428 to 528 (23.4%). Victims and offenders tended to be younger males; 45.1% of homicide victims were men between 18 and 34 and 52.7% of offenders were men between 18 and 34. Nearly half (49.2%) of all homicides occurred at a residence/home.
  • Motor vehicle thefts and attempted thefts increased 6% compared to 2019 during which 10,575 motor vehicles were stolen in 10,044 offenses. During 2020, there were 11,209 motor vehicles reported stolen in 10,773 offenses. In 2020, 6,366 motor vehicles were recovered (vehicles may have been stolen prior to 2020). Of all motor vehicles stolen, 40.2% were taken from the residence/home. The reported value of all motor vehicles stolen was $113,993,341.
  • Drug arrests decreased by more than a third (36.7%) with the largest percentage decrease in the under 18 age group (48.6%). The number of reports of drugs seized decreased for nearly all drug types, especially marijuana (31.7%), due in part to decriminalization of possessing less than 1 ounce of the drug effective July 1, 2020.
  • Burglary decreased 18.4%. Of the 11,413 burglaries and attempted burglaries, more than half (52.2%) took place at night between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., a reverse pattern from 2019 during which 54.8% of burglaries occurred during the day. Furthermore, 68% occurred at a residence/home, a decrease of 7.3% over the previous year.
  • Of the known weapons reported for violent crimes, firearms were used in 83% of homicides and 50.4% of robberies. Firearms were used in more than one-third (35.2%) of aggravated assault cases.
  • There were 190 hate crime offenses, involving 193 victims, reported in 2020 representing a 2.7% increase compared to 2019. Two offenses indicated more than one type of bias motivation. Nearly three-fourths (72.8%) were racially or ethnically motivated. Bias toward sexual orientation and religion were next highest (14.4%, 11.8%, respectively). Of all reported bias motivated crime, 77.4% were assault offenses (aggravated assault, simple assault) or destruction/damage/vandalism of property.

The report employs an Incident Based Reporting (IBR) method for calculating offenses, thus allowing for greater accuracy. IBR divides crimes into two categories: Group A for serious offenses including violent crimes (murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault), property crimes and drug offenses, and Group B for what are considered less serious offenses such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, bad checks and liquor law violations where an arrest has occurred.


For both Group A and Group B offenses, there were a total of 206,609 arrests in 2020 compared to 274,636 arrests in 2019, representing an overall decrease in arrests in Virginia of 24.8%.

Per state mandate, the Virginia Department of State Police serves as the primary collector of crime data from participating Virginia state and local police departments and sheriffs’ offices. The data are collected by the Virginia State Police Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. This information is then compiled into Crime in Virginia, an annual report for use by law enforcement, elected officials, media and the general public. These data become the official crime statistics for the Commonwealth and are sent to the FBI for incorporation into their annual report, Crime in the United States.

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Judge will allow amended complaint to be filed against Meza council appointment

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It appeared to be a 3-2 win for Plaintiff Paul Aldrich from Judge William Sharp in a June 4th written decision on oral arguments to reconsider the judge’s original denial of a challenge of the in-house appointment of Jacob Meza to the Front Royal Town Council four days after the term he chose not to run for re-election to expired on January 1.

The bottom line was in the final paragraph of the 3-1/2 page written reaction to the oral arguments the court heard from plaintiff counsel David Downes and defense attorney Heather Bardot 10 days earlier on May 25th.

Another shot – Judge Sharpe has allowed Plaintiff Paul Aldrich, right, and his counsel David Downes to file an amended complaint to the seating of Jacob Meza to the Front Royal Town Council. Royal Examiner File Photos by Roger Bianchini

 

“I will grant the plaintiff, Aldrich, twenty-one days to file an Amended Complaint if he be so inclined. The defendants, Town and Meza, shall then respond within twenty-one days of the Amended Complaint,” Judge Sharpe wrote in concluding his written decision, adding instructions to Aldrich’s attorney – “The plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Downes, should prepare an order reflecting this ruling, to be endorsed by both counsel with an opportunity to note any exceptions.”



The need for an amended complaint was explained in the judge’s previous three-plus pages, ruling on five specific issues in dispute:

1/ Does the court have jurisdiction to make a ruling? – Yes.

2/ Does the plaintiff complaint fail to state that Town Code Section 47 applies to council appointments? – Not yet proven by the defendants.

3/ Has the defense established that Town Code Section 47 is unconstitutional in its stated exception to the appointment of councilmen to the office of Town Treasurer within the one-year prohibition to staff appointments, and hence render it not applicable to the issue at hand? – No.

4/ Does plaintiff Aldrich state sufficient grounds to support the sought preliminary injunction against Meza’s appointment? – No.

5/ Is a Writ of Mandamus the proper remedy for this case? – No, but a “quo warranto” filing asserting the priority of the Town Charter in the challenge could be the venue for such remedy.

To be or not to be? – Jacob Meza’s appointment to fill Chris Holloway, right’s, council seat remains in limbo with latest court ruling.

 

And as stated above, the bottom line is that Judge Sharp will allow the plaintiff to amend his complaint to fit the proper legal reference points the court notes in its ruling. And then allow the defense to respond to that amended complaint before moving toward a hearing for more oral arguments in support of the amended written complaint and defense response.

Click here to view the ruling in its entirety.

 

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Upcoming Events

Jun
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9:00 am Stop Motion Animation @ Code Ninjas
Stop Motion Animation @ Code Ninjas
Jun 21 @ 9:00 am – Jun 25 @ 12:00 pm
Stop Motion Animation @ Code Ninjas
Stop Motion Animation Experiment with video production through a variety of mediums including Claymation, LEGO® Minifigures, pipe cleaner creatures, and much more! Ninjas will capture images frame-by-frame and produce videos in a rapid prototyping style.[...]
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12:00 pm FRWRC Women In Networking @ ONLINE
FRWRC Women In Networking @ ONLINE
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FRWRC Women In Networking @ ONLINE
CLICK HERE for link to attend. Guest: Patty Fadeley, Blue Ridge Hospice *Event will also be Live on Facebook Topic: Blue Ridge Hospice FREE VIRTUAL EVENT “More than just another networking group”. FRWRC WIN is[...]
4:00 pm Messy Makers and Art Adventures ... @ microWave Project
Messy Makers and Art Adventures ... @ microWave Project
Jun 23 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Messy Makers and Art Adventures for Kids @ microWave Project
We are bringing back two of our most popular classes for the month of June, Messy Makers and Art Adventures! Messy Makers returns for the month of June on Wednesdays from 4-5 pm. With the warm weather[...]
7:00 pm Front Royal Cardinals Baseball Game @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Front Royal Cardinals Baseball Game @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Jun 23 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Cardinals Baseball Game @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Front Royal Cardinals Baseball vs. Winchester Royals Wednesday, June 23rd @ 7 PM Bing Crosby Stadium Warren County Night at the Bing
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5:30 pm Daisy Girl Scout Open House @ Living Water Christian Church
Daisy Girl Scout Open House @ Living Water Christian Church
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Daisy Girl Scout Open House @ Living Water Christian Church
The newly formed Daisy Girls Scout troop for Warren County is hosting an Open House on June 24th, 2021, from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM. It is open to girls in Pre-school through 1st grade.[...]
7:00 pm Front Royal Cardinals Baseball Game @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Front Royal Cardinals Baseball Game @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Jun 24 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Cardinals Baseball Game @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Front Royal Cardinals Baseball vs. Purceville Cannons Thursday, June 24th @ 7 PM Bing Crosby Stadium
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all-day Great American Campout @ Sky Meadows State Park
Great American Campout @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Great American Campout @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Don’t miss your chance to camp out in the beautiful historic Mount Bleak backyard. See all that Sky Meadows has to offer through activities beginning at noon on Saturday and running until noon[...]
9:00 am Summer Wild Edible Plants: Earth... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Summer Wild Edible Plants: Earth... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 26 @ 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Summer Wild Edible Plants: Earth Connection Series @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet at the Carriage Barn. Sky Meadows’ summer landscape comes alive with the bounty of nature. Join professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch to learn about the tasty wild edible plants of the Crooked Run Valley.[...]
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5:00 pm Front Royal Cardinals Baseball Game @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Front Royal Cardinals Baseball Game @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Jun 27 @ 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Cardinals Baseball Game @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Front Royal Cardinals Baseball vs. Waynesboro Generals Sunday, June 27th @ 5 PM & 7:30 PM Double Header Game Bing Crosby Stadium
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SCUMC Vacation Bible School @ Stephens City United Methodist Church
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SCUMC Vacation Bible School @ Stephens City United Methodist Church
Dates: June 27 – July 1 Time: 6 pm to 8:15pm each night Place: Stephens City UM Church on Main Street Theme: Wilderness Escape – Moses leads the Israelite’s through the desert Ages: 4 years[...]