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.
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.
Front Royal man pleads guilty to dealing two fatal doses of fentanyl-laced heroin
A Front Royal, Virginia man, who in the fall of 2017 distributed two fatal, fentanyl-laced doses of heroin, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to a drug charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the possibility of a life sentence, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar, Special Agent in Charge Jarod A. Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division, and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, announced.
Glenn Eugene Sovereign Jr., 43, of Front Royal, pleaded guilty today to two counts of distributing fentanyl. Because the recipient of the distribution died from overdose by ingesting the fentanyl within, Sovereign faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum possible statutory penalty of life at sentencing.
“When Sovereign trafficked fentanyl-laced heroin to an already-vulnerable group of people, he perpetuated their addiction and despair, and ultimately caused their death,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar stated today. “Because of the hard work and persistence of our federal and state partners, Sovereign has been brought to justice and will spend the better part of his life in federal prison.”
“The threat fentanyl brings to our Virginia neighborhoods and families cannot be overstated. With overdoses across the area spiking in the past year, DEA Washington Division has been working hard to investigate and arrest egregious criminals such as this, who are blatantly distributing poisonous drugs and spreading death and violence across our communities.”
Sovereign admitted today that in the fall of 2017 he made regular trips from Front Royal, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland in order to purchase heroin.
On October 24, 2017, Sovereign met with victim E.R. in Front Royal. E.R. purchased a small packet of heroin from Sovereign which contained fentanyl. Later that night, E.R. ingested the contents of the packet, and as a result died.
On or about October 25, 2017, Sovereign traveled to Baltimore to meet his source of supply, where he purchased one gram of heroin. When Sovereign returned to Front Royal, he met with victim N.C. at Sovereign’s residence where he and N.C. ingested 4-5 Ritalin pills together. Later, before Sovereign left for work, he provided N.C. with a small packet of heroin, which contained fentanyl. On or about October 26, 2017, N.C. ingested the contents of the packet, and she died.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh is prosecuting the case for the United States.
Sheriff’s Office seeks info on road rage shooting
On Sunday, January 17, 2021, at approximately 7:15 PM, an alleged road rage incident involving two passenger vehicles was reported eastbound on John Marshall Highway in the area of Ashland Court. Witnesses described hearing a single gunshot, and when inspecting the trunk of their car, observed what appeared to be a bullet hole. The suspect vehicle was described as black 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer with dark tinted windows, last seen travelling eastbound onto Interstate 66. Thankfully, no one was injured during the incident.
Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to contact WCSO Deputy John Gregory at (540) 635-4128.
Delaware man facing multiple charges after I-81 pursuit
A New Castle, DE, man is behind bars on multiple charges after he fled law enforcement Sunday, January 10, 2021. Virginia State Police have charged Marquez D. Adams, 27, in Shenandoah County with one felony count of eluding law enforcement, one count of reckless driving by speed, one count of reckless driving failure to maintain control, one count of driving with a revoked license, and one count of driving with a phone in hand.
State Police initiated the traffic stop at approximately 7:50 p.m. as a 2002 BMW 330CI was traveling South on Interstate 81 at the 286 mile-marker in Shenandoah County. The violation was for speeding, as the BMW was driving 100 mph in a posted 70 mph zone.
The pursuit continued onto Rt. 42 in Woodstock, Rt. 11 in Edinburg, and in Mount Jackson before ending back on I-81 South. The BMW eventually ran off the left side of the roadway causing it to collide with a State Police patrol car before being contained on the right shoulder on I-81 at the 263-mile-marker. The driver, Adams, was taken into custody and transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond.
No troopers were injured during the course of the pursuit.
The pursuit reached speeds of up to 130 mph.
Vehicle pursuit through Warren County results in multiple struck vehicles before ending on 6th Street in Front Royal
On Monday, January 11, 2021, at approximately 4:32 PM, a Warren County Sheriff’s Office deputy observed a Mercedes travelling at a high rate of speed in the area of Riverton. The WCSO deputy attempted to stop the Mercedes for a traffic violation in the area of 522 Park and Ride, and the driver of the Mercedes refused to obey and yield for the deputy. The driver of the Mercedes then crossed a concrete traffic barrier, driving into the opposite lane of travel where the Mercedes struck an occupied vehicle, failed to stop and then continued eastbound onto Interstate 66.
The driver of the Mercedes continued to accelerate at a high rate of speed and the deputy lost sight of the vehicle and terminated the pursuit. Within a short time after the termination of the pursuit, local citizens began calling the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications 9-1-1 Center to report a Mercedes driving recklessly, forcing other motorists off the road and passing dangerously across the double yellow lined roadway of John Marshall Highway travelling into the Town of Front Royal. WCSO deputies responded to that area and located the aforementioned Mercedes. As WCSO deputies attempted to stop the vehicle, the driver of the Mercedes continued to refuse to yield and took flight at a high rate of speed onto Leach Run Parkway.
The pursuit ended on 6th Street in the area of Manassas Avenue, in Front Royal, when it struck several parked vehicles and one occupied vehicle. Charges against the driver of the Mercedes, whose name was not released because they were determined to be a juvenile, are pending the Virginia State Police investigation of the collision. Warren County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by Warren County Fire and Rescue, Front Royal Police Department and Virginia State Police. Any questions pertaining to the crash investigation should be directed to the Virginia State Police.
Accused 2008 murderer of Buddhist monk in Fauquier denied bond
The 62-year-old Korean man arrested November 30 in Georgia for the 2008 murder of Du Chil Park, also known as Buddhist Monk Mogu, was denied bail in his first court appearance since being extradited to Fauquier County on December 15.
Won Yong Jung was in Fauquier County General District Court on December 23 seeking release on a cash bond. As initially reported by “Fauquier Now”, that bond was denied following a 20-minute hearing during which the prosecution described the knife attack on the 56-year-old Park as “brutal” and contended Jung remains a threat, not only to flee due to the gravity of the Second-Degree Murder charge and the top end 40-year sentence it carries, but to the community at large.
As noted by Fauquier Now, in denying the bond request Judge Allison Coppage ruled for Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey Cooke’s arguments that the defendant, who utilized an English to Korean translator during the hearing, had not effectively countered the prosecution’s case against bond. Jung’s next scheduled court date is April 8 for a preliminary hearing on the evidence at the root of the Commonwealth’s Second-Degree Murder case against Jung.
As Royal Examiner initially reported following Jung’s arrest in his home area of Duluth, in Gwinnett County, Georgia, over 12 years earlier Park’s body was discovered several days after his death from multiple stab wounds at his Free State Road property in Marshall. Information released by Fauquier authorities in the wake of his 2008 murder indicated Park came to America in 1998 and established the Jungtosa Zen Buddhist Temple in the Springfield area of Fairfax County, moving the temple to Marshall in March of 2004 and continuing his healing work in acupuncture and moxibustion, the latter also “an oriental medicine therapy”.
Born in Kyong Ju, South Korea around 1951-52, Fauquier authorities also noted that “in the 1970’s/80’s Park was an activist against former Korean military governments. He was imprisoned in 1974 for hiding an activist on the run and then became a Monk in 1978” and “operated a small temple in Chung Noung, a part of Seoul, where he treated poor people with acupuncture and moxibustion.”
A Warren County resident with connections to Park and his healing work as Monk Mogu, noted he often travelled to the Front Royal area to treat children and adults, some with serious physical disabilities. “His Mantra was always ‘to help alleviate pain for all sentient beings’,” that area friend told this reporter.
It will be interesting to hear the prosecution address motive in Jung’s alleged murder of Du Chil Park, or Monk Mogu as he was known to patients and friends of his temple.
Local man and woman arrested for vehicle theft
On Monday, November 30, 2020, the Front Royal Police Department received two reports regarding thefts from vehicles. Incidents occurred at Front Royal Christian School, located at 80 N. Lake Ave. and the other at Commonwealth Assisted Living, located at 600 Mount View St. Security video footage was reviewed at Front Royal Christian School, which showed a dark-colored Escalade entering the parking lot. A female driver and male passenger were both seen entering vehicles without consent, where money was reported missing. The victim from Commonwealth Assisted Living reported her purse and wallet missing.
The suspects were identified as James Warren, 33, and Shawnte Mullins, 22, both of Front Royal. Warren and Mullins were contacted and interviewed. Both suspects admitted to their involvement in these incidents. The suspects also admitted to committing similar crimes in Frederick County, VA. James Warren was charged with 3 counts § 18.2-147 Climb into Vehicle/Boat to Commit Crime and 2 counts § 18.2-96 Petit Larceny. Shawnte Mullins was charged with § 18.2-147 Climb into Vehicle/Boat to Commit Crime and § 18.2-96 Petit Larceny.
James Warren and Shawnte Mullins were arrested on December 21, 2020, without incident and transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where they went before the magistrate and released on a $5000 secured bond. Their first court appearance will be December 29, 2020, at 10:00 am in Warren County General District Court.