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VFW arson-embezzlement trial poised for closing arguments, jury deliberation

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FRONT ROYAL – A nine-woman, four-man jury pool is poised to hear closing arguments Friday morning in the commonwealth’s two-pronged case against Leslie Rose Deavers.

Deavers is accused of arson in the July 11, 2015, fire that gutted the Samuel R. Millar Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1860. The prosecution theory is that Deavers, a long-time employee and volunteer, set the fire to cover up evidence of two years of embezzlement of Post 1860 revenues tied primarily to V-Tab non-profit slot, gambling machines.

Leslie Rose Deavers outside the Warren County Courthouse Thursday March 7, 2019. / Photo Roger Bianchini

The prosecution has also attempted to tie Deavers to a break-in and robbery in which four of Post 1860’s V-Tab machines were broken into and cash boxes removed and an estimated $5,000 to $7,000 in post revenue is believed to have gone missing from a safe.

In arguing against a defense motion to dismiss the prosecution case, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Layton pointed to a July 10, 2015, Front Royal Police interview with Deavers with promised follow-up seeking an explanation as to why the Post 1860 alarm system and motion sensors had not activated during a July 3 break-in in which there were no signs of forced entry.

“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? … It has all the makings of an inside job … The only conclusion is it all ties to together,” Layton told the court in arguing against dismissal.

Prosecution rests; defense begins case in VFW arson-embezzlement case

And on Thursday afternoon Deavers took the stand to tell her side of the story. What resulted from both direct and cross-examination of Deavers and supporting testimony from both sides were contrasting portraits of the 57-year-old defendant.

From the defense perspective, you have a woman so emotionally tied to the VFW Post that consumed a large part of her daily life that after its destruction she became depressed and withdrew from normal activities, including what she and her legal team contends was a highly profitable gambling habit.

From the prosecution side you have a woman with a gambling problem; myriad financial issues and debt on the home front, who was paid little for the amount of work, much of it volunteer, and time she spent at the VFW Post.

Taking the stand as the first witness after a late lunch break ended at 2:30 p.m. Deavers recounted her work at the VFW Post, including a three-year lapse (2010-13) when she wasn’t paid anything due to financial cutbacks at the post, but continued to volunteer out of a love and commitment to the organization.

“You still stayed on – how?” her attorney Jason Ransom asked.

“Yes, I had other side jobs,” Deavers replied.

“Did you love that club?” her attorney asked.

“Yes I did,” his client replied.

“Did you love the people?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Was that club a part of your whole life?”

“Yes, it was.”

Cross-examination took a different tone.

“At the time you and Mr. Spiker had financial problems?” Layton asked of the 2014-15 time period.

“Yes, we were paying a high, high house payment,” Deavers replied launching into an explanation of the couple’s effort to get their home loan modified.

“There was a looming repossession of his Harley Davidson motorcycle,” Layton continued referencing earlier testimony from Ashby Spiker, Deavers’ live-in boyfriend of 17 years.

Deavers attempted to contradict that situation, noting that Spiker had title to the bike when he sold it to April Spiker for $5,500. Spiker’s testimony confirmed a looming repossession that he got out from under through the sale to his sister. He also testified that he sold a restored 1983 Mustang used in his Winchester Speedway racing days for $10,000. The cash sale testimony was utilized by the defense to explain some of the 98 cash deposits totaling over $104,000 made over that two-year, 2014-15 period.

Layton then questioned Deavers about turning down extra income offered by the VFW board during this period – “Yes sir,” Deavers said succinctly of that refusal.

“You gambled at two other places (than the VFW)?” Layton asked.

“Right.”

“But overall you lost more than you won.”

“No.”

“You are testifying you won more than you lost?”

“I did.”

“At Charles Town and the Middletown firehouse you won more than you lost?” Layton asked again.

“Oh yes,” Deavers assured him.

Other VFW members and friends of the defendants also testified that Deavers had a knack at the casino games, winning often. That consistent winning at the gambling tables at the VFW, Charles Town’s Casino and the Middletown Fire & Rescue headquarters, along with her boyfriend Ashby Spiker’s cash sales of vehicles, are crucial to the defense’s counter to prosecution ATF forensic financial auditor David Clemson’s discovery of 98 cash deposits totaling over $104,000 made into Deavers and Spiker’s Wood Forest joint bank account within two years prior to the VFW fire.

Deavers then assured Layton that while she had failed to file those gambling winnings initially that the IRS had caught up with her and the taxes had eventually been paid.

Deavers also minimized the role of earlier prosecution witness Laura Hutchinson, then Elder, who described an encounter with Deavers and Billy Rose the morning of the fire when she paid an unscheduled visit to the VFW property to show her mother where her wedding reception would be held at the VFW pavilion.

On Tuesday Hutchinson testified that when she entered the Post 1960 building to encounter the smell of smoke, haze, Deavers and Rose inside.

Despite valiant efforts of first-responders, the historic post could not be saved.

Hutchinson said she told the two “I think there’s a fire” to which Deavers replied, “I know” without showing much concern. Hutchinson said when Deavers and Rose failed to begin a search for the source of the fire she started looking around at which point Deavers said, “Someone must have put a cigarette out in the trash in the back.”

The trio then discovered a red glow at the base of the women’s bathroom door and discovered a fire in a trash can. “They weren’t doing anything – I asked, ‘Do you have a fire extinguisher?’” Hutchinson testified she accompanied Rose, commenting to him, “You’re going really slow” after which he located the extinguisher. Upon returning to the scene Hutchinson said she advised him to spray around the perimeter of the fire, but he ignored her, spraying directly into the fire “creating a mess”.

But with the fire out, mess or not, Hutchinson said she returned to her mother at the outdoor pavilion.

“Did you call 911?” Layton asked her.

“No, I thought she would – the fire was out but I thought she would call for professional help,” Hutchison replied.

As she drove past the headquarters exiting along North Royal Avenue she said Deavers and Rose “were outside smoking” at a side door. Deavers has described Rose as her boss at VFW. He is since deceased.

On Thursday Deavers said she didn’t believe Hutchinson was present initially and said forcefully, “Billy Rose is the one who found that fire … Miss Elder (Hutchinson’s maiden name) ran to the front, I ran to the back. I told Billy to call 911.”

“Why did you ask him?” Ransom asked his client.

“Because my phone was behind the bar, his was on his hip,” Deavers replied.

Previous testimony offered at trial appeared to indicate that 911 was not called until another man later entered the building to inform Deavers, Rose and a second unexpected visitor, Brendan Squire who was inquiring about membership, that flames were coming out of the building front entrance.

Squire was with Deavers and Rose after Hutchinson’s departure following extinguishment of the first fire. It was that second fire, believed to have originated at the utility closet housing the building’s electrical boxes,  that is credited with destroying the VFW building.

Much dueling expert testimony has disputed whether an electrical short circuit could have been the accidental cause of the fire that destroyed the building.

Both sides will summarize their cases for the jury Friday morning. Then it will be up to the jury to decide if the prosecution’s admittedly circumstantial case against Deavers on both the remaining arson and embezzlement charges against Deavers is strong enough to convict.

Firefighters toiled for hours in an attempt to save the building.

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Crime/Court

Front Royal man pleads guilty to dealing two fatal doses of fentanyl-laced heroin

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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.

Glenn Eugene Sovereign Jr. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

“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.

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Sheriff’s Office seeks info on road rage shooting

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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.

Vehicle shown in photo is similar to suspect vehicle. Photo courtesy of Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

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Delaware man facing multiple charges after I-81 pursuit

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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.

Marquez D. Adams. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

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

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Vehicle pursuit through Warren County results in multiple struck vehicles before ending on 6th Street in Front Royal

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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.


Delaware man facing multiple charges after I-81 pursuit

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Accused 2008 murderer of Buddhist monk in Fauquier denied bond

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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.

Accused murderer Won Yong Jung. Courtesy Photo Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office

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.

Du Chil Park, also known as Monk Mogu – Courtesy Photo

Fauquier authorities make arrest in 2008 murder of Marshall-based Buddhist Monk

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Local man and woman arrested for vehicle theft

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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, 33. Photo is courtesy of RSW Regional Jail. There is no photo available for Shawnte Mullins.

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.

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Save a Life: Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education January 29th The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and Northwestern Community Services Board will offer a free virtual REVIVE! Training on January 29th from 12:30 pm to[...]
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Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
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Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
We will paint these beautiful camellias on Saturday, January 30th at 2 pm at The Studio. This will be the first in a series of floral paintings we will do over the course of 2021.[...]
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
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Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
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Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
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Known in medieval Celtic culture as a storyteller, verse maker, and composer, the word ‘Bard’ has become synonymous with the world’s greatest poets. However, few are as celebrated as Scotland’s own ‘National Bard’, Robert Burns,[...]
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10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
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The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
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6:30 pm Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
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Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
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10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
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The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
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9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
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Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]