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FAIRMONT, W.Va. – A plea deal has been reached for the beating death of a Fairmont child in 2021.
Walter Richardson, 36, was taken into custody in March 2021 when the child was taken to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital with injuries consistent with child abuse. The charges were upgraded to first-degree murder and child abuse, resulting in death days later when the child died.
On Monday, Richardson agreed to enter a “no contest” plea in exchange for charges of child abuse by a parent or guardian resulting in death being dismissed. Richardson still faces the possibility of life without parole for the first-degree murder charge.
Marion County Judge David Janes will consider whether the life sentence will be with or without mercy.
The child’s mother, Ashlee Allen, was sentenced to 5 to 35 years for having knowledge of the abuse and failing to report it.
Also, two former CPS workers who failed to report the abuse, Breeana Bizub and Tabetha Phillips-Friend, pleaded no contest in January 2022 of last year and have agreed to pay restitution.
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – A planned power outage will affect nearly 4,000 Mon Power customers this weekend in Marion, Harrison and Taylor Counties.
Saturday, Dec. 9 from 8 a.m. to noon. It will affect customers in the Bridgeport, Flemington Enterprise, Fairmont, Gypsy, Haywood, and Shinnston and Rosemont.
A second outage for the same area is planned for Wednesday, December 13 from 2 to 6 p.m. to fish repairs.
Customers with questions are asked to contact Mon Power at 800-686-0022.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University Faculty Senate members received an academic transformation and an introduction to the new budget model to be used moving forward.
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said the review of the WVU extension will be delayed until the merger with the Davis College of Agriculture is complete. Work also continues on the merger of the Reed College of Media and the College of Creative Arts. In January, new names and leadership will be made public.
In the next two weeks, Reed said they’ll release details about the transformation of academic support units and libraries.
“We have no intentions of doing a full-scale program review like we did this year,” Reed said. “There might be some additional cuts, but they will be happening in a more targeted way and not through the program review process.”
Associate Provost for Curriculum and Assessment at West Virginia University, Dr. Louis Slimak, has been in ongoing meetings with the leadership on campuses in Beckley and Keyser. Reed explained that the expected reforms will be refinements to improve the student experience.
“The process for the regionals will largely be focused on making program improvements that increase student success and strengthen academic rigor and quality,” Reed said.
Associate provost, Dr. Mark Gavin said the new budget process decentralizes revenue collection and expenses and will be in place next year. Under the new model, tuition revenue is now allocated 80 percent to the student’s college of instruction and 20 percent to the college where the major is. Expenses are also pushed out to each college.
Under the model, the primary revenue-generating units must support the cost of campus operations. It also establishes a “subvention pool” that will be used to maintain operations that lose money or aspects of the university that do not collect revenue.
“There are some things that are not going to operate at a profit all of the time, and we have to have a way to carry the cost even where we’ve used the resources as best as possible,” Gavin said. “That central pool is a way to subvent what needs to be subvented.”
The budget also allows for cost pools from the colleges that will fund the operations of the university as well as provide resources for special projects.
“It would allow leadership to make targeted investments to stand up an initiative for a couple of years while it gets funding to secure sustainability,” Gavin said. “But this is what allows leadership to make directional moves.”
Reed told senate members that performance aspects of the new budget model will be available to staff and faculty. The information will be available to recognize and avert financial difficulties before they become similar to the most recent budget crisis.
“We can make changes in real time in response to trends, so we don’t have to make wholesale changes the way we did this year, which we knew was so disruptive,” Reed said. “The idea is we want to stay on top of trends.”
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — A Barrackville man is facing multiple charges after police allege he kidnapped a woman and her children from a Marion County gas station on Saturday.
Deputies with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department began the investigation with a report of a dispute at the Sheetz in Fairmont on Saturday.
Deputies learned Glen Anderson, 24, forced a woman and children into his truck and drove in the direction of the Fairmont Gateway Connector.
Police observed Anderson’s truck in the area of the High Level Bridge and began to follow.
While following, deputies said Anderson sped up slightly, and a passenger in the vehicle began to wave at police out of the passenger side window.
When deputies attempted to stop Anderson near the entrance to I-79 northbound, Anderson fled. The pursuit ended when Anderson pulled into the Little General off of exit 137.
Deputies ordered Anderson out of the truck and found three children and a woman in distress.
The woman told deputies Anderson placed a gun to her head and struck her in the face.
Deputies did locate an un-holstered firearm under the center console of Anderson’s truck.
The victim told police a verbal altercation with Anderson began when he saw her getting out of a vehicle with another person. Anderson grabbed her before she could get back to her vehicle, according to the deputies.
The victim told investigators that Anderson pulled a gun out and told her he was going to shoot her right there before he hit her in the face.
Deputies noted slight swelling and redness on the right side of the victim’s face. Video surveillance also confirmed the victim was forcefully placed in Anderson’s truck.
Anderson has been charged with kidnapping, wanton endangerment involving a firearm, and three counts of child neglect creating a risk of injury.
He is being held in the North Central Regional Jail on a $100,012 bond.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University will display an important World War II artifact, a life preserver from the USS West Virginia that was docked when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The USS West Virginia was damaged and sunk in the attack, and 108 crew members were lost and many more wounded.
The ship was repaired and returned to duty in the Pacific Ocean through the end of the war.
The gift was made to the West Virginia and Regional History Center at WVU Libraries by Randy and Ken Kendrick and Ken’s brother Rick, who found the artifact in a museum in Washington State and felt it was important to share the piece of history with others, according to Lori Hostuttler, director of the West Virginia and Regional History Center.
“The Kendricks have an established relationship with WVU, and they’re incredible supporters of the university,” Hostutler said. “They’re also very history-minded and community-minded.”
The piece will be formally introduced to the community at an event at the Downtown Library following a ceremony commemorating the 82nd anniversary of the attack on Oglebay Plaza on December 7 at 9:30 a.m.
“We will have the life preserver in the lobby of the Downtown Library from about 10 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. that day, and anyone can come check it out,” Hostutler said.
In addition to the life preserver, other USS West Virginia artifacts on display will be scrapbooks, pins, pictures, and other items.
“We even have a uniform from someone who served on the U.S.S. West Virginia, and we have a lot of materials in our collection too about the mast of the U.S.S. West Virginia, which is on Oglebay Plaza,” Hostutler said.
The artifact was pulled from Pearl Harbor by a witness to the attack a few days later, while the waters still had traces of blood and oil in them.
“The person who was picked was named Charles House Morgan Jr.; he was 16 years old and his father, Charles House Morgan Snr., was a commander in the military,” Hostutler said.
According to Hostutler, the Morgans were walking towards the elder’s duty station when they saw the Japanese planes and then witnessed the attack begin from about 200 feet away. The elder Morgan then ran to the headquarters, and Morgan Jr. fled to an air defense site, both to help with the response to the Japanese attack.
“It meant a lot to him and his family, just as it means a lot to us here at WVU,” Hostutler said. “Anything that has West Virginia on it, we’re proud of and want to connect with.”
WHEELING, W.Va. US Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia Bill Ihlenfeld and his team are sifting through thousands of relief loans issued by the federal government during the pandemic.
“We are doing everything we can to recoup as much as we can,” Ihlenfeld said. “But will some people get away with it, yes?”
At the height of the pandemic, millions of businesses nationwide applied for billions of dollars in available relief money through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to stay afloat through lockdowns. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EDIL) programs were enacted in March of 2020 as part of the CARES Act to rush economic relief to suffering businesses.
Bridgeport resident James Nolte, 52, was recently sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining nearly $650,000 from the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program.
“When the money was flowing out left and right from the federal government, Mr. Nolte took advantage of the fact that no one was really paying attention,” Ihlenfeld said.
Nolte submitted false tax documents, payroll reports, and business records in order to obtain PPP loans on behalf of PGO Veteran Services, PG Health, RJS Catering, and Dental Care Plus, for total fraud in the amount of $645,717.
“He, for example, listed his deceased father as an employee receiving a six-figure salary from one of the businesses,” Ihlenfeld said. “In another, he listed his 10-year-old stepson as an employee also receiving a six-figure salary.”
Ihlenfeld encouraged anyone aware of COVID fraud to report it via email to [email protected], by telephone to 304-234-0100, or via regular mail to the U.S. Attorney, P.O. Box 591, Wheeling, WV 26003.
“Every week we identify new loans that are suspicious; it doesn’t mean they’re criminal; they’re suspicious,” Ihlenfled said. “We run those, and some of those will result in civil actions, and some will result in criminal actions.”
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Monongalia County Board of Education (BOE) and leadership will communicate their legislative priorities to local state representatives Monday night.
BOE President Ron Lytle said they want to introduce state lawmakers to the proposed Renaissance Center. The proposed $72 million facility is a flexible learning space for college prep, technical, and vocational disciplines, with the possibility of branching out to serve students from nearby districts. Lytle also envisions the center as a resource for local companies to customize learning or training opportunities specific to their employment needs.
The Renaissance Center smashes the traditional notion of 25 students in a classroom with a teacher in front of them lecturing.
“No one works like that, so why would you teach like that?” Lytle questioned. “No one sits in that type of environment; besides, the things that can be embedded into these classrooms become a lot less boring and a lot more relevant for the kids.”
Staffing continues to be an issue that BOE members appear to be getting creative with. Members are looking for support for a plan that would put teachers back in the classroom and on the payroll for five years after retirement while still drawing their pension. Lytle said that the sector of educators is often the most qualified with the least incentive to contribute from a financial perspective.
“Some of those same teachers go to private schools, or they go to other schools where they can continue to do what they love to do,” Lytle said. “Continue to earn a paycheck and get the benefits of the retirement they’ve worked for and deserve.”
Absenteeism, truancy, and discipline are also high priorities statewide and in Monongalia County. Lytle hopes to forge a fine line between following federal rules when it comes to education and providing teachers with tools to address issues that spill into the classroom from home and other aspects of the lives of students.
“Teachers love to teach, and it just wears them out to deal with all the issues of society that the school system has become the answer to, and we really shouldn’t be the answer to those issues, but we are at this point,” Lytle said.
Lytle said provisions will have to be made if there are mandates for the amount of time guidance counselors are required to spend with students. While increased face-to-face time is vital, more administrative help will be needed to keep up with the basic requirements of the job.
“If that happens, we’re going to need an earmark for a service person to work with the counselors to make sure they’re getting the day-to-day paperwork complete,” Lytle said. “They won’t be able to complete it if they are 98 percent in front of students.”
Constant unfunded requirements for teacher training initiated by state lawmakers are another issue important to the BOE. Lytle wants direct input from district educators on whether contract days should be added to the calendar or if there’s another remedy for the situation.
“I’m hoping the legislators are reaching out to them,” Lytle said. “I’m going to figure out how we can have that conversation and make sure the voices of the people that are actually dealing with it are the people they’re listening to.”
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Hope Gas, Inc., has closed on the sale of the Southern Public Service Company (Southern Public). The acquisition of Southern Public adds nearly 6400 new customers across six counties.
This is is the third acquisition for Hope in 2023. The company previously acquired approximately 900 miles of pipelines from Equitrans and Peoples Gas WV which included approximately 400 miles of pipelines.
“Hope Gas continues to grow and provide service to more West Virginian families and businesses,” said Morgan O’Brien, CEO of Hope Gas. “Our investors at Ullico have committed over a billion dollars in investment in West Virginia in just about a year’s time. I welcome our new customers and employees to Hope Gas. We are committed to providing you with operational excellence and the highest level of customer service through all 37 West Virginia counties that we now serve.”
In June 2023, Hope unveiled its new headquarters office in Morgantown, West Virginia.
“Over the last year, Hope Gas has been dedicated to helping create family-sustaining jobs throughout the Mountain State,” continued O’Brien. “As the only utility company with its corporate headquarters in West Virginia, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to providing safe and reliable service to all our customers. And, in January 2024, we will be opening our Customer Contact Center in Morgantown. Soon, all Hope Gas customer service and billing inquiries will be handled right here in West Virginia. Our customer service representative positions are new jobs for the state. This dedicated team is already in place and going through extensive training to best serve our customers starting in January.”
Southern Public customers will be served by the new Hope Gas Customer Contact Center in late 2024. Hope Gas and Southern Public are working together for a seamless transition for customers. It is important to note, Southern Public customers should continue to contact Southern Public to report any billing questions and gas emergencies until the transition is complete. The contact numbers for Southern Public are:
Logan – 304-752-2752
Madison – 304-369-1140
Man – 304-583-9871
Mason – 304-773-5715
Milton – 304-743-3501
Montgomery – 304-442-2311
Main Office – 304-743-1700
Since September of 2022, Hope Gas has created more than 250 family-sustaining jobs in West Virginia, established its corporate headquarters in Morgantown with a state-of-art call center and gas control center, invested in improving the state’s pipeline infrastructure, and increased the number of customers for which it provides service by nearly 17%. Additionally, Hope employs 400 West Virginians in family-sustaining jobs through contractor partnerships for ongoing pipeline replacement efforts.
GRANVILLE, W.Va. — The Town of Granville is one step closer to having shovels in the ground for new traffic lights to be installed at the University Town Center.
After months of discussions and conversations with a combination of state and local officials, easements have been approved for two sets of traffic signals that will begin to be installed by summer 2024. The project is a collaboration between Town of Granville, Monongalia County Commission, and developer WestRidge and a contract could be awarded by Granville Town Council in the spring 2024.
“We’re excited to announce that our easement agreements are secured, we’ve seen the preliminary designs, and we expect bid packages to be going out in January,” said Town of Granville Executive Administrator Latina Mayle on the project.
The two traffic signals will be installed on the end of the University Town Center, closer to the I-79 exit located across from the WestRidge Business Park. The first will be installed at the intersection of the Walmart and WVU Medical Center in the town center, with the second one located at the intersection of Sesame Drive and University Town Center Drive, where several fast food restaurants are located, as well as the Hampton Inn, which has become a meeting hub over the past several years. Local engineering firms Potesta & Associates and French Engineering partnered on the design of the traffic lights, and the locations were selected based on conversations with the DOH, local law enforcement officials and business owners.
“Our public safety (officials), police department has been asking for it, so we’ve just seen a need across the board for signals at both of those areas,” said Mayle on the location selection. “And both of those will also include crosswalks,” he said.
Crosswalks will also be added at the two new traffic signal locations.
According to Mayle, the bidding process is expected to take place in January. After bids are reviewed, award will be contingent on a vote by Granville Town Council.
“Our engineers put all of our documents out to bid, it’s usually out to bid for a couple of weeks and then the bid packages will be opened at one of our council meetings, and that’ll be posted on our website,” Mayle said.
Officials hope to have the signals in operation by the time WVU students return for the 2024 Fall Semester.
“We’ve seen the preliminary designs, and hopefully everyone will see stoplights in the ground by summer,” said Mayle.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A naturalized citizen has been arrested in Morgantown after federal officials allege false statements were used to meet citizenship requirements.
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigators learned Nada Radovan Tomanic, 51, is believed to have served in the Zulfikar Special Unit of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. The Serbs targeted Bosnian Muslim and Croatian civilians in areas under their control, in what has become known as “ethnic cleansing.”
DOJ investigators said they believe Tomanic participated in the physical and mental abuse of Bosnian Serb prisoners, on the basis of their ethnicity while serving in the Zulfikar Special Unit.
Tomanic falsely claimed she had not persecuted anyone because of their religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion and had never committed a crime for which she had not been arrested while obtaining her citizenship.
“Nada Tomanic has enjoyed the privileges of U.S. citizenship for more than 10 years – privileges she allegedly obtained by lying to cover up human rights abuses she committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce our nation’s immigration laws to ensure that the United States does not serve as a safe haven for persecutors.”
Tomanic is charged with two counts of unlawful procurement of naturalization. If convicted, the DOJ said Tomanic faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each count and the automatic revocation of her U.S. citizenship.