On Easter weekend, an army of supporters gathered to officially kick off Sheriff Mark Butler’s Re-election campaign at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club. The event was covered by the Royal Examiner and drew a diverse crowd from all corners of Warren County.
Sheriff Butler started the evening by reflecting on the accomplishments of his department over the last three years, highlighting the various technical improvements and new personnel he has hired while operating on the same budget as previous administrations. Throughout the night, the Sheriff emphasized the tenets of community policing and the importance of joining together as a community to offset crime.
He shared statistics showcasing the department’s progressive glide path and the many successes relevant to previous years, including the removal of illegal drugs from the streets and a more than 30 percent reduction in response times to calls. He also highlighted the department’s increase in traffic policing and coordination with federal agencies and neighboring county officials. All of this culminated in the most significant accomplishment of Sheriff Butler’s first term in office – Accreditation. In June, the Warren County Sheriff’s Department will drive to Wytheville to be recognized as an Accredited agency.
The Sheriff concluded his remarks by proudly announcing that the Warren County Sheriff’s Department is set to be the sole accredited agency in the county and is ranked 110 out of 340 in the state of Virginia, a notable achievement that they can all take pride in.
Watch Sheriff Butler’s remarks in this exclusive Royal Examiner video.
Shenandoah Rail Trail: An Ambitious Vision On Track
Stitching Towns and Nature Together with a 50-Mile Thread.
A broad coalition of elected officials, economic development leaders, business owners, nonprofit partners, and state legislators gathered last week in Front Royal to discuss progress on the proposed Shenandoah Rail Trail. This ambitious 50-mile multi-use trail would convert an abandoned railroad corridor into a shared-use path connecting nine towns and three counties along the Shenandoah Valley.
The meeting provided an opportunity to update Senator Tim Kaine on the status of the project and emerging funding opportunities. Kaine has been a longtime supporter of the trail, noting during the discussion that he’s an avid cyclist familiar with the region’s trails. “When I first heard about plans for the Shenandoah Rail Trail, I thought it would work great, and it’s exciting to see the progress made,” he said.
Kaine emphasized the value of demonstrating successful trails to gain local buy-in, saying, “The more model trails are up and running, the more small towns can see the benefits and want to get on board.”
The diverse group highlighted how their coordinated efforts are building momentum for the project. Natasha Skelton of The Conservation Fund, which is negotiating the acquisition of the corridor from Norfolk Southern, said: “We have strong localized support up and down the corridor, with all nine towns and three counties in agreement that this is what they want to do with the vacant rail line.”
The newly formed Friends of the Shenandoah Rail Trail will spearhead private fundraising efforts. The trail partnership is also pursuing federal funding through a $25 million RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. At the state level, $35 million has been allocated so far from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Proponents emphasized the potential economic benefits of the trail for tourism and small businesses focused on outdoor recreation. “We see this as an asset that businesses can build off of,” said Joe Petty, Executive Director of the Front Royal/Warren County Economic Development Authority.
Others highlighted community engagement progress, including a series of public meetings that collected input on trail preferences from over 700 residents. Outreach to diverse populations, such as non-English speaking poultry plant workers who could use the trail to commute, is also underway.
The scenic value of trail bridges slated to cross rivers and rail lines was noted as iconic attractions for visitors. Local connections via trails and greenways linking to the main corridor will also help residents access the amenities.
Senator Kaine’s visit gave the partners a high-profile platform to share their vision and progress. With strong local alignments, funding pursuits underway, and engagement efforts to spread awareness, the Shenandoah Rail Trail initiative appears to be building unstoppable momentum.
Behind the Badge: A Day in the Life of a Warren County Sheriff’s Animal Control Officer
Protecting the Animal Kingdom, One Day at a Time.
At first glance, Deputy Greg Long of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office may look like any other law enforcement officer. But, his daily encounters with animals of all kinds, from snakes to stray cats, set him apart.
Deputy Long serves as the county’s primary animal control officer. This role sees him overseeing the annual statistics of received animals, ensuring that the training requirements for the animal control division are up to par, and liaising with the general public about animal-related matters.
Not just limited to domesticated pets, Deputy Long’s responsibilities also extend to inspecting commercial kennels twice a year and managing the dangerous dog registry. These dogs, once identified as ‘dangerous,’ are subjected to yearly checks to guarantee public safety. Even hybrid animals, which surprisingly find their homes in the county, aren’t exempt from these periodic checks.
Despite what some might think, animal control isn’t a one-person job. The department also employs several animal control officers who aid in handling various situations. These situations range from dealing with livestock to answering calls about injured wildlife. Their collaboration with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries ensures that injured wildlife, such as deer or birds of prey, receive the proper care they need.
When asked about the necessity of having deputies handle animal control, Deputy Long explained the intricate legal framework surrounding animal control. Officers go through rigorous training, amassing 120 hours of comprehensive learning. This training educates them on first aid for animals, recognizing different species and breeds, and even discerning potential rabies cases.
One of the many commendable initiatives under the purview of the department is its emergency sheltering plan. Echoing the challenges faced during hurricanes in states like Florida and Louisiana, where animals were left stranded due to inadequate shelter provisions, Warren County’s response involves a fully equipped trailer. This trailer, loaded with essentials like cages and ID tags, aims to ensure that no pet is left behind during natural or man-made disasters.
The vehicle that Deputy Long operates may appear ordinary, but it’s specially adapted for animal transport. Designed with the comfort and safety of the animals in mind, it boasts air-conditioned cages, ensuring animals aren’t exposed to extreme temperatures. From dogs to ducks, this vehicle can transport a variety of animals safely and comfortably.
One challenge that Deputy Long highlighted is the issue of stray cats. While many might think that animal control should handle these felines, the reality is more complex. The shelter’s policies allow them to accept cats only under specific conditions.
At the end of the day, whether it’s assisting a neighbor distressed by a barking dog or untangling a dog that’s gotten itself caught up, Deputy Long and his colleagues are committed to serving both the human and animal residents of Warren County.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic Alert for September 25 – 29, 2023
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile markers 6 to 9, eastbound and westbound – Overnight single right lane closures for inspection of bridge over Norfolk Southern Railway and Shenandoah River, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesday night.
*NEW* Mile marker 9 to 7, westbound – Right shoulder closures for sign work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight lane closures as needed for road and bridge work, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of November 27. Shoulder closures 24/7. Work zone speed limit: 55 miles an hour. Work is related to southbound acceleration ramp extension and bridge widening, with estimated completion in fall 2024.
Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) – Shoulder closures between Route 619 (Rivermont Drive) and Route 607 (Rocky Lane) for tree removal operations, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.
Route 522 (Remount Road) – Flagger traffic control between Route 665 (Chester Gap Road) and Route 604 (Harmony Hollow Road) for tree removal operations, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.
Route 702 (Baugh Drive) – Flag traffic control between Baker Plaza and Route 661 (Fairground Road) for paving operations, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through October 6.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
A Salute to General Daniel Morgan: Virginia’s Revolutionary War Hero
Honoring a Legend: SAR Dedicates Plaque at the Historic Burwell-Morgan Mill.
Millwood, Clarke County, Virginia – General Daniel Morgan, a stalwart of the American Revolution, was honored with a dedication ceremony hosted by the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) on 15th September 2023. The picturesque Burwell-Morgan Mill served as the backdrop for the event, with a bronze plaque celebrating the General’s extraordinary life taking center stage in the meadow.
Daniel Morgan’s journey from a young New Jersey lad to a Virginia legend is one for the books. As a youngster who could hardly read or write, he ventured to Virginia, making the Shenandoah Valley his home. From his humble beginnings as a teamster to playing a crucial role in the War for Independence, his life was nothing short of extraordinary. Morgan’s resilience was evident when, after receiving a near-fatal injury from an ambush outside Fort Edward, he carried the scars and stories proudly. His tactical brilliance shone brightest at the Battle of Saratoga and later, Cowpens, setting the stage for Cornwallis’ eventual defeat.
The event was a grand spectacle, with the Virginia SAR State Color Guard presenting colors and dignitaries from various societies paying their respects. Marc Robinson emceed, while Paul McComb undertook chaplain duties. The guest list was illustrious: Mid-Atlantic District Vice President General James Engler, Sr; Virginia Society SAR President Ernie Coggins; representatives from DAR and C.A.R., among others. Dale Corey painted a vivid picture of Morgan’s life after which numerous SAR Societies and DAR Chapters presented wreaths in the General’s honor.
As James Graham, Morgan’s biographer, once wrote, his “strength and spirit, his frank and manly bearing, his intelligence and good humor” made him beloved by many. This sentiment echoed throughout the ceremony as attendees remembered the General’s influence on the colonial victory.
The event reached its crescendo with Anita Bonner and Jocelynn Wilson leading the attendees in a rendition of “God Bless America,” culminating in a musket salute by the Virginia State Color Guard.
In an era where heroes often emerge from the pages of fiction, General Daniel Morgan’s story stands as a testament to the mettle and spirit of real-life warriors. This dedication serves not only to commemorate his incredible life but also to inspire future generations to value sacrifice, strategy, and resilience.
In From New York State Larry Tuttle Sr. Steps to the Plate, I Mean McDonald Federal Trial Witness Box
With the federal criminal prosecution of Jennifer McDonald again on hold, this time from Tuesday, September 19 through Friday, September 22, if not longer, due to what was described by the prosecution as an “unexpected health issue,” we decided to fill the gap with a recounting of earlier testimony this writer witnessed in the wake of his own testimony of Wednesday, September 13. As previously reported, McDonald is charged on 34 counts related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal,” as it has come to be known. Those charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.
As reported in my lead story on my two days, September 12 and 13, in the 10th Western District of Virginia federal courthouse, among the other witnesses scheduled that day after my testimony was Larry Tuttle Sr. Tuttle identified himself as defendant Jennifer McDonald’s stepfather George Hassenplug’s cousin. He is a resident of Monroe, New York, he told the prosecution during direct examination. He also noted that he was last employed in 1993, before being in “a terrible car accident,” after which he has survived on Social Security disability benefits of about $1700 a month, he said in response to a direct examination question. Spending some time near Tuttle and what I believe was his wife in the courthouse third-floor hallway prior to either of our testimonies, I could see that he had some difficulty moving around, rising, and sitting back down.
As I watched his testimony following my own, the prosecution’s interest in Tuttle soon became apparent. He testified that as a favor to his cousin, George Hassenplug, he had signed some apparently partial real estate documents sent to him at his New York home during the time frame coinciding with some of the Jennifer McDonald real estate transactions that later came under legal scrutiny as allegedly involving misdirected EDA assets. Tuttle testified that while he knew who Jennifer McDonald was due to his cousin’s relationship with her by marriage to McDonald’s mother, that he did not know her personally and had never met her.
Asked if he was close to his cousin George Hassenplug, Tuttle replied that he “had been” from the 1990s to 2017 and that they had talked on the phone three to four times a week regularly during that period. Tuttle also testified that he didn’t own, nor was he invested in any property. As for real estate experience, he noted that he had a mortgage on a home prior to his accident.
Prosecution counsel asked Tuttle if he knew William “Billy” Biggs or had ever discussed business opportunities with him. Biggs was a long-time Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors member and treasurer during and prior to McDonald’s EDA executive directorship, circa 2008 to 2018. Tuttle replied “no” to both questions, the second one on the “business opportunities” query after a defense objection was overruled by Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon.
Tuttle was then asked a series of questions, many about loans apparently attributed to him involving real estate transactions involving the defendant. Had he ever loaned $3 million to facilitate a real estate transaction brought to him by his cousin? Tuttle laughed as he said, “No.”
Had he ever loaned $1.9 million to McDonald’s Da Boys LLC real estate company? This one drew a somewhat nasally laugh accompanying his “No” response, leading to an apology to the court for snort-laughing his answer, which drew some sympathetic laughter from the jury.
Tuttle was also shown a “Death Settlement Agreement” with his name on it — “I’ve never seen this before in my life,” he testified. Another “No” followed a question about a $1.75-million loan on mortgages.
If I heard correctly, Tuttle estimated he currently had $29 in his savings account, leading to his level of amusement at the financial questions being asked of him, particularly his loaning large amounts of money to facilitate real estate transactions.
Tuttle did say, however, that a portion of paperwork regarding a Buck Mountain Road transaction sent to him attracted his attention enough that he asked his cousin George Hassenplug if he should sign it. He said he was told that he shouldn’t worry, that “the deal will fall through in a couple of months.” Asked if he was involved in a $1.95-million loan related to that sale, he again replied, “No.” It might be recalled that the Buck Mountain Road transaction involved another witness that day in court, William Vaught Jr. That transaction saw the sale and repurchase of that property at an approximate $600,000 loss to the buyer in under a month, as the deal apparently did “fall through,” as predicted by George Hassenplug to his cousin.
William Vaught Jr.’s testimony indicated he was told that ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran was initially involved in that projected purchase but had later backed out. It is believed that the Aggravated Identity Theft federal charge against McDonald involves Tran’s assertion his name was forged in documents related to this real estate transaction. This reporter did not see Tran’s testimony due to his status as a pending witness at the time of that testimony.
Back to Tuttle’s direct examination, he was asked if he had ever received money from Jennifer McDonald. “No,” came his now familiar reply. Had he received $560,000 related to a Rileyville Road transaction? Once again, the answer was “No”.
Asked about his signature on a $1.075-million loan, Tuttle replied that he did not believe it was his. He observed that he “wrote a lot neater” than the signature on the document. He added that it was possible it was his signature, but he doubted it and did not recall signing that document.
Near the end of his direct examination, Tuttle was asked if he’d ever received money for his willingness to put his signature on the documents sent to him by his cousin. “No,” he replied. How about “gifts?” came the follow-up question, to which he responded in the positive, citing what he estimated as a $10 T-shirt sent to him. That led to the prosecution’s introduction of Exhibit 534, a photo of that T-shirt which had “That’s Mr. Tuttle” and letters appearing to be “COTB.” Asked the meaning of the T-shirt lettering, Tuttle said he was told it meant “Taking Care Of Business or something to that effect.”
On a brief cross-examination, the defense raised the specter of a Little League baseball game he had attended at which he had been asked to leave by an umpire after questioning ball and strike calls involving a nephew. The “That’s Mr. Tuttle” on the T-shirt was a reference to his responding, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire, defense counsel asserted. Tuttle said he had been asked to leave the game but denied that he had responded, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire.
And with that and a brief re-direct examination to clarify a date on one of the documents shown him, Larry Tuttle Sr.’s turn at the plate, I mean on the witness stand, ended.
Rabies Outbreak Detected in Front Royal’s Feline Population
Warren County Health Department Issues Directives on Containment and Prevention.
A recent incident in the Oregon Hollow Road area of Warren County has sounded the alarm bells for local pet owners and animal enthusiasts. A feline displaying signs of rabies infection was detected, prompting immediate action by the Warren County Animal Control Deputies.
On September 14, 2023, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office attended to an animal control call involving a seemingly ill feline. The on-scene Animal Control Officer found a confined cat among several others on the property. The complainant highlighted a troubling trend: people frequently desert cats in the area.
The caged feline’s behavior raised suspicions of a potential rabies infection. This suspicion was later echoed by a local veterinary clinic, where the cat was taken for a professional opinion. The unfortunate confirmation led to the feline’s humane euthanization, and its samples were sent to the Warren County Health Department for further testing.
By September 20, the grim results were in. The Warren County Animal Control Officer received confirmation that the feline was indeed infected with rabies. Given the severity and potential spread of this disease, the Warren County Health Department acted promptly. They issued a directive that, for public safety reasons, all remaining cats on the property would be trapped and humanely euthanized.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has since amplified its efforts to spread awareness. Residents are urged to update their pets’ rabies vaccinations and to exercise caution, especially around unfamiliar animals that may exhibit erratic or unusual behavior.
Rabies, a potentially fatal disease, poses a severe threat to both animals and humans. The quick response by Warren County Animal Control highlights the significance of early detection and intervention. As the county grapples with this challenge, collaboration and vigilance among residents will be paramount. Warren County’s residents are encouraged to stay informed, taking the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and that of their beloved pets.