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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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Prostitution and “Bawdy Place” on Biggs Drive: Four arrested

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On May 15, 2019, the Front Royal Police Department responded to the 300 block of Biggs Drive in continuance of an active investigation. Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police also assisted. Felony and misdemeanor charges were obtained on Cynthia Atkinson Bailey, Brandy Nicole Atkinson, Jesse Thomas Atkinson and Joshua Allan Stamper related to an investigation involving prostitution and maintaining a bawdy place.

Cynthia Bailey was charged and arrested for maintaining a bawdy place, receiving money from earnings of prostitution, prostitution and cruelty to children. Brandy Atkinson was charged and arrested with maintaining a bawdy place, prostitution and cruelty to children.

Both Cynthia Bailey and Brandy Atkinson were released from RSW on a secured bond. While Jesse Atkinson is currently being held on a Probation Violation. Court dates for this incident are set for June 18, 2019, at 10:00am in General District Court and June 20, 2019, at 9:00am in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Jesse Atkinson was arrested and charged with maintaining a bawdy place and is being held at RSW Regional Jail for probation violation. Joshua Stamper was charged with maintaining a bawdy place and is currently being held at Rappahannock Regional Jail located in Stafford County on unrelated charges.

Anyone who has any further information about this investigation is asked to contact Detective D. Fogle at the Front Royal Police Department, Criminal Investigations Division at 540-636-2208 or dfogle@frontroyalva.com.

What’s a “bawdy place”?

In Virginia, all forms of prostitution are against the law. Here’s the state code on the above charges:

§ 18.2-347. Keeping, residing in or frequenting a bawdy place; “bawdy place” defined.
It shall be unlawful for any person to keep any bawdy place, or to reside in or at or visit, for immoral purposes, any such bawdy place. Each and every day such bawdy place shall be kept, resided in or visited, shall constitute a separate offense. In a prosecution under this section the general reputation of the place may be proved.

As used in this Code, “bawdy place” shall mean any place within or without any building or structure which is used or is to be used for lewdness, assignation or prostitution.

§ 18.2-346. Prostitution; commercial sexual conduct; commercial exploitation of a minor; penalties.
A. Any person who, for money or its equivalent, (i) commits adultery, fornication, or any act in violation of § 18.2-361, performs cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus upon or by another person, or engages in anal intercourse or (ii) offers to commit adultery, fornication, or any act in violation of § 18.2-361, perform cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus upon or by another person, or engage in anal intercourse and thereafter does any substantial act in furtherance thereof is guilty of prostitution, which is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. Any person who offers money or its equivalent to another for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts as enumerated in subsection A and thereafter does any substantial act in furtherance thereof is guilty of solicitation of prostitution, which is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, any person who solicits prostitution from a minor (i) 16 years of age or older is guilty of a Class 6 felony or (ii) younger than 16 years of age is guilty of a Class 5 felony.

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Hoyle sentencing underscores gap between legal and psychological ‘sanity’

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Following a four-hour pre-sentencing hearing Friday, May 10, Warren County Circuit Court Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. sentenced 34-year-old David Glynn Hoyle Jr. to 13 years of active incarceration for Second Degree Murder in the March 27, 2017 shooting death of 58-year-old Warren Ramsey. Hoyle was living with his mother, Wanda Horton, and Ramsey, her live-in boyfriend of eight years at the time of the shooting on Grand Avenue in Front Royal.

Initially charged with First Degree Murder, Hoyle faced 20 years to life in prison. However as part of a plea agreement with the commonwealth, Hoyle entered a guilty plea to Second Degree Murder. Second Degree Murder carries a sentencing range of five to 40 years. Suggested guidelines from the plea agreement carried an active incarceration range cap of 17 years on the high end to five years on the low. A second charge of use of a firearm in commission of a felony carrying a mandatory-minimum three year sentence was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Athey prefaced his decision to sentence Hoyle to 30 years with 17 years suspended, followed by 10 years of supervised probation by citing mitigating circumstances presented by the defense team of Timothy Coyne and Ryan Nuzzo, particularly testimony from expert psychological witness Dr. William Stejskal, a clinical psychologist and forensic psychologist at the University of Virginia, School of Law; as well as earlier corroborating expert testimony from a Dr. Rawls.

That mitigating circumstance was a paranoid delusional state mimicking schizophrenia or bipolar disorder brought on by a misdiagnosis of Hoyle as bipolar from a psychiatrist whom testimony indicated has since lost her license to practice. That psychiatrist identified as Dr. Kumarappan of Falls Church at the time, prescribed extremely high doses of the drug Xanax to treat Hoyle as bipolar. More normal, lower doses of the drug are much less likely to cause the type of severe impacts Hoyle experienced, Stejskal testified. Of those severe impacts, Stejskal elaborated that they “duplicate psychotic symptoms”.

David Glynn Hoyle Jr. at the time of his March 27, 2016 arrest for Warren Ramsey’s murder; Hoyle was sporting the type of strap-on protective vest indicative of inmates believed to be a potential threat to themselves. Photos Courtesy of RSW Jail

Dr. Stejskal described the psychological problems David Hoyle has battled since childhood as a borderline personality disorder characterized by panic attacks, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. However, they are problems far short of the delusional characteristics of bipolar disorder, Stejskal testified.

On the stand Hoyle told the court he had dropped out of school in the ninth grade because he found high school “too overwhelming”. There were indications he had been bullied at earlier school levels. Other testimony indicated he had become addicted to opioids after having them prescribed following a car accident that resulted in a back injury. Hoyle also described an incident in which he was jumped and hit in the face resulting in the fracture of 97% of the orbital bone around one eye.

Hoyle expressed profound sorrow for Ramsey’s death both during his testimony and in a prepared statement to the court before sentencing. During direct examination Tim Coyne asked his client how he felt about what he had done – “I hate myself for what happened; I feel terrible. I just want to say to Warren’s family, I’m sorry, God I’m so sorry.”

In his prepared statement he told the court, “I am so sorry for the heartache and pain I have caused to my mother and Warren’s family … I am not that type of person, I still have terrible nightmares … I understand I cannot go unpunished. But I hope I can use the rest of my life to help people dealing with mental illness – I know some of these are high hopes but I will not give up on them.

“Please forgive me … Warren was a good man. He helped me at the worst time of my life. He never gave up on me … Give me more time to try to correct the wrongs I did – I can never make up for what I did. I just ask you to give me the opportunity to try …”

Defense counsel asked the court for the minimum five years of actual time served. It appears that Hoyle could be credited for the two years of time served though that was not directly addressed during sentencing. When Athey rendered his 13-years of active incarceration in prison decision, Hoyle’s mother who had quietly sobbed through much of the hearing bolted from the courtroom and surrounding family members in tears.

Earlier Hoyle’s mother Wanda, Hoyle’s older sister Candace Ramirez, younger sister Faith Horton, older brother Jason Hoyle and longtime friend Quentin Cancey all described David as a caring, respectful, helpful person who was not by nature violent at all.

However, those same family members and friend all testified to a profoundly negative change in Hoyle’s psychological state from late 2015 when he began see Dr. Kumarappan to the time of Ramsey’s death on March 27, 2017. That state was an increasingly profound paranoia that those around him, particularly Ramsey, were plotting against him; torturing him and perhaps planning to kill him.

Hoyle’s older brother Jason, who lives in New Jersey, gave 43 recorded phone messages to the defense submitted as evidence in the hearing from his brother describing in detail his delusion of being plotted against by family members in the household.

Hoyle’s older sister by two years, Ramirez, said by late 2016 she could no longer let her brother David around her children – “I didn’t recognize my brother” she testified of behavior that included banging a sledgehammer and scratching his face until it bled while looking for his prescription medication from the psychiatrist. She said she told her brother Jason she believed it was time to commit their younger brother.

Hoyle grapples with his situation and what he has done while still under influence of high doses of miss-prescribed medication that produced symptoms of psychosis, including paranoia, delusions and hallucinations.

Dr. Stejskal described Hoyle’s condition resulting from the overmedication with Xanax for a condition he did not have, including at the time he shot Ramsey, as a “medication-induced delirium” which he further defined as “an altered state of consciousness that impaired thinking, perceptions and induced hallucinations and paranoia.”

Coyne asked his client if he remembered shooting Warren Ramsey. Hoyle replied “flashes of it” including hearing his mother screaming and getting in a police car.

However, in arguing for the maximum 17 years of incarceration Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond pointed out that Hoyle did not meet the legal standard of insanity – “He knows what he did was wrong … He immediately knew what he did; he said he was sorry,” Hammond pointed out of Hoyle’s statements to police who responded to the scene and in an interview with Detective Landin Waller a short time after his arrest.

Asked by Waller what caused him to shoot Ramsey, Hoyle replied, “I was scared.”

“Why did you do it?” Waller pressed.

“He tortures me,” Hoyle said, adding that Ramsey abused him and his dog – “He’s only eight pounds,” Hoyle said of the dog. During her testimony, Hoyle’s mother said every time her son heard
the dog bark in another part of the house or yard he thought he was being tortured.

“Did he say something to you tonight or make you scared so you did this? What was the tipping point,” Waller asked of the shooting.

“I don’t know,” Hoyle whimpered in reply, adding, “He didn’t deserve to be shot. I didn’t want to shoot him.”

“He shot Mr. Ramsey a minimum of 10 times,” Hammond noted of Hoyle’s emptying the 9-mm semi-automatic pistol clip at Ramsey as he sat on a couch in a family room with his mother and what police described as “other family members” present.

Hammond also pointed to Hoyle’s history of illegal drug abuse and failed attempts at therapy at Northwestern Community Center. Could his admitted use of marijuana while on the high-doses of Xanax accentuated the negative impact of the drug on him, Hammond asked the court.

The assistant commonwealth’s attorney also presented Hoyle’s record at RSW Jail since his arrest on March 27, 2017, which included 43 behavioral incidents including fights with other inmates, failing to follow guard orders and making “hooch” which RSW Records Supervisor Sarah Fields testified is a homemade alcohol made by inmates out of leftover food.

Defense counsel Coyne countered that the 43 citations covered a period of 770 days in jail; that 10 complaints were written up by one guard and that in at least one of the two fights Hoyle was involved in, it was he who was struck first. During his testimony Hoyle said the fight in which he threw the first punch was with an inmate he had seen get into four previous fights leading him to believe his action was essentially a pre-emptive act of self defense.

Not a summer camp or a therapeutic center – RSW Regional Jail has been Hoyle’s residence for two years. He will now move into the state correctional system to serve the balance of a 13-year sentence. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

“Did you ever threaten an officer?” Coyne asked his client during direct examination.

“No,” Hoyle replied, elaborating, “I did call an officer an asshole – I did do that. He was being cruel,” Hoyle added by way of explanation.

“This is a tragic, tragic case in many ways – he’s admitted it. But it must be viewed in the context of how it happened. There is so much pain that will not be taken away by time served. Clearly he does accept responsibility,” Coyne said in closing arguments.

Of the commonwealth’s argument that Hoyle had not followed up on therapy suggestions in the past, Coyne said, “No, he didn’t follow through on therapy – that is the behavior of an addict.
Hoyle’s family members all said they would be there for their son and brother to help him stay on the path of recovery outside prison walls, including staying away from non-prescribed drugs and accessing and maintaining the therapeutic help Dr. Stejskal recommended for Hoyle.

Younger sister Faith Horton, 23, said she had lived with David most of her life. She called him “the best big brother in the world” and said she would be his “biggest supporter” when he was released to see he got and maintained the psychological help Dr. Stejskal said would be of most benefit to Hoyle gaining and maintaining psychological stability. Such therapeutic help will not be available to Hoyle in Department of Corrections facilities, Dr. Stejskal pointed out.

Of Hammond’s pointing to Hoyle’s testimony that he was reluctant to be given new prescriptive medication, Coyne said, “He didn’t say he won’t take prescriptions in the future, he expressed a heartfelt fear because of what happened … proper treatment cannot be achieved in DOC (Department of Corrections), not at RSW,” defense counsel said of what is available to inmates in criminal detention facilities.

However, all of Hoyle’s family and friends who have maintained contact with him since his arrest pointed to a relative return to normal from being off the wrong medication and on properly prescribed medicine while at RSW Regional Jail.

So if not therapy, at least Hoyle’s drug intake will be carefully monitored while he is in prison. If given credit for his two years of time served, when released he will have 13 years of controlled medication behind him at age 45. Athey said he would leave an order on therapy during the 10 years of supervised probation up to the probation officer at the time of Hoyle’s release.

In prefacing his decision the judge said he took state sentencing guidelines very seriously as a means of assuring citizens across the commonwealth are treated equally for the commission of similar crimes.

“This was a tragedy getting ready to happen,” Athey said of the shooting death of Warren Ramsey at the hands of a young man he had been like a second father to. In particular the judge was referencing law enforcement and family testimony about a November 29, 2016 incident four months before the shooting leading to a police response to the home.

Hoyle had placed a 911 call that he was being held against his will at the family’s Grand Avenue residence. It took police seven to eight hours to talk Hoyle out of his room where he had barricaded himself against the imagined threats outside his door.

The Grand Avenue murder scene.

That incident led to a trip to Warren Memorial Hospital and the issuing of an Emergency Custody Order (ECO) to keep Hoyle under observation. He was shortly released to the custody of his father, David Glynn Hoyle Sr. who has since passed away, with a “safety plan”. However, testimony indicated he soon returned to Grand Avenue to live. And as the law apparently required under ECO parameters, his three pistols were returned to him.

And while two of those guns had been sold as requested by his family, and a third one was planned for sale, it was still in the home the evening of March 27, 2017, as was David Glynn Hoyle Jr.’s delusional paranoid state brought on by over-medication and misdiagnosis by a since-decertified psychiatric professional.

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Martinsville-based doctor, was found guilty today of 861 federal drug charges

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Abingdon, VA – Joel Smithers, a Martinsville-based doctor, was found guilty today of 861 federal drug charges at the conclusion of a nine-day jury trial in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced.

The jury convicted Smithers, 36, after seven hours of deliberation, on one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of illegally distributing controlled substances, one count of possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances, and 859 counts of illegally prescribing Schedule II controlled substances. The jury also found that the oxycodone and oxymorphone Smithers prescribed to a woman from West Virginia caused her death.

“This defendant not only violated his Hippocratic Oath to his patients, but he perpetuated, on a massive scale, the vicious cycle of addiction, despair, and destruction,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “We have no higher priority than investigating drug-dealing physicians and other corrupt health-care practitioners and putting them in federal prison.”

Evidence presented at trial showed Smithers opened an office in Martinsville in August 2015, and prescribed controlled substances to every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed. The drugs involved included oxymorphone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl. A majority of those receiving prescriptions from Smithers traveled hundreds of miles, one-way, to receive the drugs. Smithers did not accept insurance and took in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments prior to a search warrant being executed at his office on March 7, 2017.

United States District Court Judge James P. Jones ordered Smithers taken into custody pending sentencing. Sentencing is scheduled for August 16 at 10:00 a.m. in Abingdon. Smithers faces a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for a term of twenty years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. He also faces a maximum fine of more than $200 million dollars.

The case was investigated by the Roanoke offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad and the Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General. Task force officers with the police departments of Bristol, Martinsville, Buena Vista, Roanoke, and Roanoke County; the Sheriff’s Offices of Henry County and Pittsylvania County; and the Virginia State Police assisted in the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Cagle Juhan, Randy Ramseyer and Zachary T. Lee prosecuted the case for the United States.

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Arrest Made in Deadly Appalachian Trail Stabbing

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Abingdon, VA – United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and David W. Archey, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division, announced on May 12th, an arrest in a deadly stabbing incident that occurred along the Appalachian Trail in Wythe County, Virginia that left one person dead and another severely injured.

James L. Jordan 30, of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was arrested in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 11, 2019 on a federal criminal complaint. Jordan is charged with one count of murder within the special maritime territorial jurisdiction of the United States and one count of assault with the intent to murder within the special maritime territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

“I commend local law enforcement in Wythe and Smyth Counties for mobilizing successful rescue and tactical operations in this remote region,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated. “Thanks to their efforts, the suspect was safely apprehended and a seriously wounded victim received critical medical care. We will continue to work with our state and local partners to bring the perpetrator of this senseless and brutal attack to justice.”

This investigation is ongoing. The federal charges against Jordan will be officially filed in U.S. District Court in Abingdon Monday morning. The defendant will have an initial court appearance in federal court in Abingdon on Monday, May 13, 2019.

A criminal complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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‘Loose Change’ vehicle thief arrested

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Michael Terrell Campbell. Photo courtesy of Front Royal Police Department

On May 7, 2019, the Front Royal Police Department received over twenty reports regarding thefts from motor vehicles. Video surveillance was reviewed from two of the reported incidents and Michael Terrell Campbell was quickly identified as a suspect. Subsequently, two counts of vehicle tampering were obtained against Campbell and he was arrested shortly afterward without incident.

Campbell was interviewed by detectives and admitted to tampering with multiple vehicles and stealing an undisclosed amount of loose change. A search of a residence where Campbell was located yielded a seizure of controlled substances, an undisclosed amount of cash and loose change. Campbell has since been charged with one felony possession of controlled substance, one misdemeanor possession of controlled substance and a felony petit larceny. Two other suspects involved in this incident have not yet been charged and are being sought by police.

Investigation into these incidents is currently ongoing and anyone with any information is asked to please contact the Front Royal Criminal Investigations Division at 540-636-2208 or you may contact Det. L. Waller at lwaller@frontroyalva.com directly.

Front Royal Police are again reminding residents to lock vehicle doors and remove valuables when possible. This is the best way to avoid being a victim of a car burglary or theft.

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Fort Bragg Special Ops man arrested on firearms charges after authorities called to investigate death

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Nicholas Ranstad/ RSW Regional Jail

WARREN COUNTY – A Fayetteville, North Carolina man arrested Saturday by Warren County Sheriff’s Office deputies who were investigating a death at a Linden home posted a $10,000 secured bond and was released from the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Tuesday afternoon, according to jail records.

Nicholas Ranstad, 40, of Fayetteville, North Carolina has not been charged with killing the occupant of the home. He was, however, charged with reckless handling of a firearm and discharging a firearm inside a building.

According to Warren County General District Court records, WCSO deputies responded to a call in the 200-block of Doom Peak Road in Linden regarding a man with a gunshot wound to the head.

A complaint states that arriving deputies encountered Ranstad at the scene, then advised him of his Miranda rights, after which he admitted that he entered the house by picking a window lock. He told authorities he wanted to “check on the welfare” of the home’s occupant.

When Ranstad saw the man dead from a gunshot wound to the head, he told deputies that he “became upset” and used one of the firearms he carried on his person to shoot  four rounds inside the residence, the complaint stated.

The man who sustained the fatal gunshot wound has not been identified by officials, nor have the results of an autopsy been made public.

Officials say the case remains active and the investigation continues; it is not known if more charges will be filed.

According to a bail determination checklist completed by the Sheriff’s Office, Ranstad is employed by the special operations command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, though it is unclear whether Ranstad is on active military duty. Photographs and information on the website Team Ranstad.org suggest the man arrested in Warren County Saturday appears to be the same man holding a United States record for the longest kill with a sniper rifle, set in Afghanistan in January 2008, though inquiries to the website remained unanswered at the time this story was published.

Photos taken from TeamRanstad.org depict Nicholas Ranstad posing with his Barret M107 rifle and (below) with the rifle’s designer, Ronnie Barrett.

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Wine and craft lovers unite!  The 33rd Annual Virginia Wine & Craft Festival, presented by Jack Evans Chevrolet, will be held on Saturday, May 18th in historic downtown Front Royal, Virginia from 10 am –[...]
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Tue
1:30 pm Watercolor Landscapes: In and Ou... @ Art in the Valley
Watercolor Landscapes: In and Ou... @ Art in the Valley
May 21 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Watercolor Landscapes: In and Out of the Studio @ Art in the Valley
This four week course will focus on learning basic skills to create watercolor landscape paintings: basic composition and use of color and value to create a sense of depth and distance. During the first class[...]
May
22
Wed
6:30 pm Rose Wine Class @ Element
Rose Wine Class @ Element
May 22 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Rose Wine Class @ Element
Join us for Rose’ Wine Class & Tasting at Element on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at 6:30pm led by our own Caitlin Love! APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY ROSE! Come join us as we celebrate the[...]
May
23
Thu
9:30 am Painting: Composition and Color @ Art in the Valley
Painting: Composition and Color @ Art in the Valley
May 23 @ 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Painting: Composition and Color @ Art in the Valley
Explore your painting potential by creating unique compositions. We’ll find out what motivates you to paint and how to express your point-of-view on canvas. Learn methods of developing a composition and how to best use[...]
1:30 pm Portraits for Beginners: People ... @ Art in the Valley
Portraits for Beginners: People ... @ Art in the Valley
May 23 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Portraits for Beginners: People and Pets @ Art in the Valley
Learn to create realistic portraits of people and pets. Students will practice drawing and painting techniques used in portraiture. Class meets once a week for five weeks. Students are required to bring their own reference[...]
3:00 pm The Employer Expo @ War Memorial Building @ Jim Barnett Park
The Employer Expo @ War Memorial Building @ Jim Barnett Park
May 23 @ 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm
The Employer Expo @ War Memorial Building @ Jim Barnett Park
Have you been thinking about a career change? Are you nearing graduation and not quite sure what you want to do, or what your next step should be? Are you a parent of a student[...]
6:00 pm Painting the Landscape with Oils... @ Art in the Valley
Painting the Landscape with Oils... @ Art in the Valley
May 23 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Painting the Landscape with Oils: Late Spring @ Art in the Valley
This class provides a hands-on experience for painting with oils. Students will focus on techniques for painting landscapes. Class meets once a week for five weeks. Students are recommended to bring their own reference photos[...]