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McDonald, Poe granted secured bonds on EDA criminal charges

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Jennifer McDonald was reported to be changing into street clothes and preparing to walk out of RSW Jail on bond at 4:25 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Jailed since May 24, the former EDA executive director was granted a $50,000 secured bond Wednesday morning in Warren County Circuit Court. Inmate Photos RSW Jail website

All three people charged criminally related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority financial fraud investigation should be free on bond by the end of the day. Both former EDA Executive Director Jennifer R. McDonald and Earth Right Energy controlling partner Donald F. Poe were granted bond in hearings Wednesday morning, July 31.

Michelle Henry was granted $2500 unsecured bond on July 23 after twice having a bond hearing continued in the wake of her June 24 arrest.

McDonald, whose bond appeal case was first on the Wednesday morning docket convened at 8:35 a.m., was granted a $50,000 secured bond by Judge Bruce D. Albertson.

Poe then received a $20,000 secured bond in the final of three EDA-related hearings on the docket before the Harrisonburg-based judge.

Donald Poe was returned to RSW Jail yesterday evening for his Wednesday bond hearing. Poe was in the process of being bonded out at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, though jail officials could not pinpoint how long from actually walking out the door on his $20,000 secured bond he might be. Poe was arrested July 23.

From discussion of the relative financial affairs of both defendants, it appeared their home properties would be used to secure the bonds. Defense counsel cited a $300,000 value with a $240,000 mortgage on McDonald’s home; and a $900,000 value on Poe’s.

Both McDonald and Poe were transported to RSW Regional Jail in the past day from the jails they had been transferred to for security and personnel concerns due to the high-profile nature of EDA-related cases in this community. In McDonald’s case that is the Fairfax Adult Detention Center and in Poe’s the Prince William-Manassas Adult Detention Center. According to the RSW Jail website Poe was re-booked into RSW at 6:34 p.m., Tuesday, July 30; McDonald at 4:15 a.m. this morning.

Asked about the bonding out process outside the courtroom Poe’s son Jason, a Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputy and candidate for Warren County Sheriff, said he believed the defendants would be processed out at RSW rather than have to return to the jails they have been housed at. RSW Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison later confirmed that scenario.

Among conditions of her bond McDonald was ordered to turn her passport in to be sealed and not secure another one; to maintain full-time residency at the Faith Way home she maintains with her husband in Front Royal; to be at that residence between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. nightly; not to leave the Commonwealth of Virginia; maintain employment but not have any business dealings with anyone involved with EDA business interests; to stay off EDA property; and not have contact with other EDA civil or criminal case defendants.

Poe was also ordered to maintain residence at the Passage Manor home he shares with his wife in Strasburg; not to have contact with EDA co-defendants; and approach the commonwealth with his attorney William Ashwell if any of his business interest would require him to leave the state.

Evidence of flight risk?

In appealing his client’s bond denial by Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr., McDonald attorney Peter Greenspun told the new presiding judge his client was due a presumption of bond without the prosecution showing substantial cause that she be considered a flight risk or danger to the community if released. Danger to the community, other than financial from the alleged embezzlements executed in her former position as EDA executive director, has not been at issue.

“If there’s a million-dollar check cashed and the money’s hidden somewhere – show us the evidence,” Greenspun told the court. He noted that some of her real estate and banking assets had been frozen by Judge Athey before he withdrew from the case, and that access to others had been granted so she could pay for a defense to the charges against her.

“We’ve looked at her bank accounts – there are no substantive assets there. She’s not a jewelry type or an art type,” Greenspun said of possession of expensive items that could be sold for large amounts of cash with which to potentially flee prosecution.

“Frankly we don’t know where all the money went – but it went through this defendant’s hands … I would caution the court about taking Ms. McDonald’s word about her assets,” Layton countered of Greenspun’s claims about his client’s financial status.

And while the initial charges against McDonald related to Afton Inn embezzlements involved a cited $30,000 to $40,000 in credit card and other payments, additional indictments have involved transactions involving as much as $3.5 million, Layton told the court.

Hearing testimony in Warren County Circuit Court has indicated the first set of charges against Jennifer McDonald involved alleged personal credit card and other payments cited as ‘Afton Inn Embezzlements’ of $30,000 to $40,000. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

Greenspun countered that his client remains in “essentially solitary confinement at the Fairfax Jail due to publicity surrounding the case” and that she had been hospitalized for five days in the wake of her arrival at the Fairfax Jail for “seizure-like activity”.

Greenspun said his client’s ability to participate in her own defense was extremely limited in jail; and he bemoaned the slow “drip, drip, drip” pace at which the EDA Special Grand Jury was moving on indictments.

He pointed to her community ties and revealed a surprise to much of that community, that his client has “adult children” and had missed the birth of a grandchild while in custody (maybe he meant step…).  Greenspun also pointed to Commonwealth counsel Layton’s numerous “interviews in local media” (how’d I miss all those, Bryan?) and accused the press “of doing its best to oppress her presumption of innocence” regarding his client.

Greenspun’s reference appears to be of media coverage of the Cherry Bekaert report allegations released into the public record by Judge Athey as the basis of the EDA civil litigation against McDonald and eight co-defendants. It might be noted that “local media” has also reported on defense motions and hearing arguments made in response to those allegations.

Judge Albertson adjourned court for 15 minutes before returning at 9:37 a.m. to render his decision.

In granting bond Judge Albertson cited looming speedy trial issues due to the complexity of the financial cases. He also observed that in many embezzlement cases he’d seen there was little money left at the end of the legal trail.

The judge pointed to the five year prison sentence for failure to appear for court dates when on released on bond.

Albertson noted that felony failure to appear “is much easier to prove than embezzlement” adding, “And when they are caught, and they always are,” they are facing that five years at the top of the sentencing ranges on the other charges they had been attempting to flee from.

“I don’t believe there is probable cause to deny bond,” Albertson said in granting the $50,000 secured bond for McDonald, who has been jailed since her May 24 arrest.

Motions & Hearing Dates

In addition to his bond denial appeal arguments Greenspun argued for greater access to the prosecution’s evidence against his client, including Special Grand Jury testimony.

“We agree to some, but not unfettered access,” Layton told the court.

“I guess I want unfettered access,” Greenspun countered, saying he saw no reason for limitations on defense access. Layton responded that evidence, not only for charges brought, but pending charges could be included in that grand jury material.

Albertson said he would take the evidentiary defense motions under advisement and rule by email by Friday.

Hearings dates were also set to accommodate both attorney and the Harrisonburg judge’s schedules. Those dates are October 15 at 3 p.m. for McDonald; November 7 at 9 a.m. for Henry; and August 30 at 9 a.m. for Poe.

According to RSW Jail staff McDonald was on the verge of being processed out of the facility at 4:25 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Poe was also in line to be bonded out, though how long that might take was unknown at 4:30 p.m.

The EDA criminal case defendants are scheduled to be back in court on Aug. 30 (Poe), Oct. 15 (McDonald) and Nov. 7 (Henry).

More detail on Poe’s bond hearing will be presented in a related Royal Examiner story.

Henry motions

Between McDonald and Poe’s hearings the third EDA criminal case defendant, Michelle “Missy” Henry who as noted above was already out on bond, heard a defense Bill of Particulars Motions request argued on her behalf. Co-counsel Ryan Nuzzo and David Hensley argued that a proper defense required more detail than offered in the two vaguely-worded and vaguely-dated special grand jury indictments against their client.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton countered that the Bill of Particulars request was premature at this stage of the case.

“I think Discovery will eliminate the need for a Bill of Particulars. The subject matter will become clear, and if it doesn’t we’ll come back to this motion,” Layton told the court.

Nuzzo countered that added detail at this point would help Henry’s defense determine if additional motions such as suppression needed to be filed – “Where did evidence come from? Was it acquired with or without search warrants?” Nuzzo said to illustrate his point.

After asking how close Discovery responses were to being filed, Judge Albertson agreed with the Commonwealth that their response to defense Discovery could solve the problem of specificity for the defense. Layton told the court the Discovery process was in the midst of an approximate 30 day timeframe.

If the prosecution response to Discovery doesn’t clear up specificity issues, Albertson said he would reconsider the defense Bill of Particulars Motion at that time.

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Crime/Court

Linden resident strikes pedestrian with vehicle, charged with malicious wounding

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In the evening hours of May 12, 2020, the Front Royal Police Department responded to the intersection of East Stonewall Drive and Bee Street for a report of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle. The victim, 54-year-old male, Dale Potter, was quickly located by first responding officers and transported by Warren County EMS personnel to Warren Memorial Hospital for initial treatment. Potter was then flown to Winchester Medical Center for treatment of serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

From the initial investigation, it was discovered the victim was intentionally struck by a passenger car driven by Avery Bailey because of a physical altercation in the minutes prior. Bailey, a 21-year-old Linden resident, fled the scene and abandoned the vehicle at an alternate location. The vehicle and Bailey were located shortly thereafter by FRPD with the assistance of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

Avery Richard Bailey. Photo courtesy of RSW Regional Jail.

Avery Bailey has been charged with malicious wounding (18.2-51) and was transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where he is currently being held without bond. The court date for this offense is set for June 30, 2020, in Warren County General District Court.

This investigation is on-going and anyone with any further information is asked to contact Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at mramey@frontroyalva.com.

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Town Talk: A conversation with Captain Jeff Holzbauer and Lt. Robbie Seal; watch out for scams, counterfeit money

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In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Captain Jeff Holzbauer and Lt. Robbie Seal from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Seal is the Community Resource Officer and Captain Holzbauer is in charge of the Patrol Division. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division has the primary law enforcement responsibilities of providing a wide range of services and to initiate a proactive approach when assisting the community.


Lt Seal brings us information on COVID-19 scams in our community. Captain Holzbauer ask for help from the community on two individuals wanted in connection with passing counterfeit money in the County.

The Sheriff’s Office is looking for the following individuals:

Cyrus Bartholomew Fiel, a 31 years old, white male, 5’10”, 160 lbs, red hair, green eyes. He has multiple warrants out for his arrest: Probation Violation, Dangerous Drugs, Forgery of US Currency.

  • Wanted out of Strasburg Police Department for Dangerous Drugs
  • Wanted out of Front Royal Police Department for a Probation Violation
  • Wanted out of WCSO for Forgery of United States Currency

Fiel and other accomplices have allegedly been making counterfeit United States currency, $10, $20, $50, $100. Two arrests have been made in this case already and more charges are pending.

Lekeshian Jones

Lekeshian Jones, 33 years old, black female, 5’3″, 180-200 lbs. She is from the Trenton, NJ area. Jones has been identified as one of two females that passed $760 in counterfeit $20 at Walmart in Front Royal on April 11, 2020.

If you have any information, please contact Investigator J. Seabright jseabright@warrencountysheriff.org or call the mail number of the Sheriff’s Office (540) 635-4128

Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com

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One vehicle accident downs power lines to Royal Village Wednesday afternoon

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Town crews work to clear the scene of accident taking down Town power pole near intersection of Kendrick Lane and Massanutten Avenue. Royal Examiner Photos/Mike McCool

The power into Royal Village was interrupted early Wednesday evening as a result of a traffic incident. Town Director of Energy Services David Jenkins responded to Royal Examiner’s request for information on the situation early Thursday morning. Below is the full text of his reply:

“The Energy services department received an online submittal that the power was out in the W 11th St area. a crew was dispatched and upon arrival they found that a vehicle had struck a utility pole that feed’s directly from our Kendrick Lane substation and snapped it off. The crew than began to clear and isolate the primary wire and pole that was on the ground and then proceeded to get the power back on by transferring the loads to another circuit that feeds from our Manassas Avenue substation.

Work on the downed power pole and lines

“The pole that was struck also had underground primary feeder attached to it as well. We called in our Public works department for a backhoe to dig up the damaged wire. A contractor for CenturyLink had to be called in to repair the phone lines.

“Power went off at 6:41 pm

“Power back on at 7:27 pm

“Number of customers affected 931”

The involved vehicle is removed from scene

Information gathered at the scene by Royal Examiner staff indicated the driver of the involved vehicle may have fled the scene on foot.

By late morning Thursday, Front Royal Police Captain Crystal Cline confirmed the arrest of Artavia Michelle Price-Bey for DUI, Property Damage over $1000, and Failure to Maintain Car Insurance, regarding the incident. Price-Bey was transported to RSW Regional Jail and booked into the facility at 9:26 p.m. Wednesday evening. She was released Thursday morning at 11:52 a.m.

Artavia Michelle Price-Bey upon booking into RSW Jail just prior to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night. Courtesy Photo/RSW

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Winchester Police on point of carjacking suspect arrest in Front Royal

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Photos of the Joint Task Force raid at 218 East 6th St., Front Royal, Thursday morning, April 2. Winchester Police led the operation targeting a robbery-carjacking suspect in a city incident of March 28. Royal Examiner Video-Stills/Mark Williams

Prior to 8 a.m., Thursday morning, April 2nd, not far from the Royal Examiner/National Media Services’ Commerce Avenue Front Royal offices, a joint law enforcement operation led by the Winchester City Police Department’s Investigative Unit arrested a suspect on multiple charges in a March 28 incident in the city. Below is the Winchester Police Department’s full press release on its investigation and Thursday morning’s joint-departmental operation:

On April 2, 2020, at approximately 7:15 a.m., the Winchester Police Department (WPD), assisted by other law enforcement agencies, executed a search warrant at 218 East 6th Street in Front Royal, VA following an ongoing investigation into a carjacking in the City of Winchester. As a result of the investigation and search warrant, Diontre Tyrese Bell, 20 years old, of the above address in Front Royal, was arrested and charged with carjacking, robbery, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Diontre Tyrese Bell. Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.


On March 28, 2020, at approximately 12:30 a.m., WPD was alerted to a motor vehicle theft that had just occurred in the 100 blocks of East Pall Mall Street. Upon investigation into the incident, detectives learned that the male victim was standing outside his 1990 Dodge Caravan when he was approached by a group of males. One of the males, later identified as Diontre Bell, grabbed the backpack the victim was wearing and took items including a firearm and keys to the van. Threatening statements were made during the encounter. No injuries were sustained during the incident. The van was later recovered on March 30th, parked and unoccupied, along the roadway in the 1300 block of South Braddock Street.


During the execution of the search warrant, two cell phones were seized and DNA was collected. Bell is being held at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Detention Center without bond. The Winchester Police Department would like to publicly thank the Front Royal Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force for their assistance in the investigation.

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Front Royal man arrested on robbery and weapons charges

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D’Andre Lawrence. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

Early this morning, D’Andre Lawrence was arrested on felony robbery and weapons charges stemming from an early morning incident at the Blue Ridge Motel. Front Royal Police were called at approximately 1:30am to respond to an alleged robbery that had occurred at the local motel. The victim alleged that two individuals assaulted him and took an undisclosed amount of money and ran in the direction of Massanutten Avenue.

Lawrence was arrested on the mentioned charges and transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond. The second individual in this incident was identified as a male juvenile and is wanted for questioning.

Anyone who may have information about this case is asked to please contact Detective Z. King at 540-636-2208 or by email at zking@frontroyalva.com.

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Virginia State Police concludes investigation into inmate death at New River Regional Jail

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The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Wytheville Field Office has concluded its investigation into the September 2019 death of an inmate at the New River Valley Regional Jail. The case is closed and no charges will be placed in accordance with the findings of the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke and at the advisement of the City of Radford Commonwealth’s Attorney and Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney.

The investigation was conducted at the request of the New River Valley Regional Jail. On the evening of September 11, 2019, Radford University Police responded to a call at a campus facility concerning Aris Eduardo Lobo-Perez, 18, of Culpeper, Virginia. Police took him into custody shortly before midnight on a charge of public intoxication. As is standard procedure, Lobo-Perez was transported by the arresting agency to New River Valley Regional Jail in Pulaski County.

At approximately 7:20 a.m. on September 12, 2019, jail personnel approached Lobo-Perez to offer him breakfast, which he declined. It was at 7:50 a.m. that jail personnel found Lobo-Perez unresponsive in his cell. Despite the immediate efforts by jail personnel to resuscitate the inmate, Lobo-Perez was declared deceased at the jail. His remains were transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke for examination and autopsy.

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