04:30pm, 08/20/14
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Updated 8/20/14 @ 4:20pm

High court blocks same-sex unions in Virginia
(Washington, D.C.) (AP) -- The Supreme Court is delaying the start of same-sex marriage in Virginia.
      The court on Wednesday granted a request from a county clerk in northern Virginia to block same-sex marriages across the state while the issue is being appealed to the Supreme Court. The court provided no explanation for its order.
      Without court intervention, same-sex couples would have been allowed to wed as of Thursday.
      In January, the justices issued an order putting same-sex unions on hold in Utah while the federal appeals court in Denver was hearing the case. That court upheld the decision striking down Utah's gay marriage ban, but delayed its decision from taking effect pending appeal to the Supreme Court.
      Most other federal court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage also have been put on hold.

Sen. Ruff credits GOP win to Obama attack on coal:
(Southside) -- Republicans now control the Senate and House in Virginia.
    Republican Ben Chafin won Tuesday’s special election in southwest Virginia, giving the GOP 21 seats in the state Senate. Democrats have 19.
      Republican State Senator Frank Ruff attributes Chafin’s victory to what he describes as “the Obama attack on coal.” He says the 38th Senate District was drawn "as a Democrat district, but it changed very drastically after he started going after the coal industry."
      Ruff believes Republican control of both chambers will make a difference. He believes an evenly divided Senate with a Democratic Lieutenant Gover "jumbled up all those commitees and made it extremely hard to work with the House of Delegates."
     Chafin will represent the 38th Senate District and replaces Phil Puckett, a conservative Democrat who retired in June.

McDonnell takes the stand:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- Taking the stand in his defense in his public corruption trial, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says he got an inkling soon after his election that his wife had reservations about being first lady.
     McDonnell began his much-anticipated testimony Wednesday. He and his wife, Maureen, are accused of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting the dietary supplements-maker's products.
     The former governor's lawyers have suggested that Maureen McDonnell acted largely on her own to promote Anatabloc, a tobacco-based anti-inflammatory.  
     Bob McDonnell said Wednesday that he could tell she was not as happy as he was about his election and that she was upset and concerned about her role as first lady.

Ag. Sec. says former first lady often promoted Va. businesses:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- A defense witness says former first lady Maureen McDonnell often traveled the state promoting Virginia businesses, countering the notion that she gave special treatment to the dietary supplement company at the heart of her corruption trial.
      Former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife are accused in federal court of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for using their office to promote his tobacco-based supplement, Anatabloc.
      On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Todd Haymore testified that he often traveled the state with Maureen McDonnell to promote Virginia's wine industry, sometimes promoting specific companies by name.
      Prosecutors argue that the McDonnells gave special treatment to Williams' company by setting up meetings for him and hosting an event for him at the governor's mansion.

More charges filed in jewelry store theft:
(Wentworth, N.C.) -- A man who police say crashed a stolen car into Eden Jewelry in Reidsville is now charged with another forced entry. 40-year-old Tony Dean Smith of Eden was arrested after police say he slammed a vehicle into the Freeway Drive business Tuesday morning and stole valuables from the jewelry store.
     Detective Ray Joyce has charged Smith with breaking and entering Colonial Funeral Home in Madison, N.C. He’s also charged with possession of stolen goods, the theft of a motor vehicle, and property damage to the stolen car. Colonial Funeral Home was entered during the early morning hours of August 19th.
     Smith was placed under an additional $400,000 secured bond and returned to the Rockingham County Jail. He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 10th.
Council mulls retiree bonus:
(Danville, Va.) -- One more vote from Danville City Council will give city retirees a one-time boost, just before Christmas.
          The panel last night approved a first reading on a proposal to offer a 450-thousand dollar bonus in November, to the approximately 600 city retirees.
          It was earlier in the summer when Council approved changes where retirees could get bonuses, since they are no longer eligible for cost-of-living adjustments.  But Councilman Fred Shanks says the city has already kept it’s promises.  He says it would be ill-advised to take the money out of the General Fund, or the Retirement Fund.  He and Buddy Rawley say they'll vote "no."
          But Vice-Mayor Gary Miller said they’ve already agreed to new criteria for a bonus…and those thresholds have been met.
           Last night was a first reading.  Final approval is set for next month.

Coal Ash Cleanup bill up for vote today:
(Raleigh, N.C.) (AP) -- House and Senate conferees announced a compromise last night that would eliminate all unlined coal ash ponds in North Carolina.
          The bill includes a 15-year time table for the closure of the ponds based on whether they are classified as high-risk, intermediate-risk or low-risk. Four ponds, including the one in Eden where a major spill occurred in February, have already been determined hazardous and would be closed in five years.
          Senate Leader Phil Berger of Eden and House Speaker Thom Tillis, call it the "strictest" coal ash regulations in the country.
          But, environmental groups said the bill treads into murky waters. They are criticizing part of the plan that would allow ponds classified as low-risk to be capped in place.
          There’s no word yet on whether the final version will address the question of Duke Energy ratepayers footing the bill for cleanup costs.
          Tillis expected to hold a vote on the compromise today before the session adjourns.
           A spill from a Duke plant in February coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge.

Change of venue for School Board Work Session:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville School leaders are expecting a big crowd at tomorrow’s work session---big enough to force a change of venue.  They’ve moved the meeting from the Galileo High School cafeteria to the cafeteria at GW.  School Board Chairman Doctor Ed Polhamus says they want public input on what qualifications the next school superintendent should bring.  The board will also begin discussion on who conducts the search.  Former Superintendent Doctor Ed Newsome stepped down this summer after only a year on the job.  Polhamus says more chance for public input will be held at schools all around town over the next several weeks.

Grand jury indicts Ringgold woman in husband’s murder:
(Chatham, Va.) -- A Pittsylvania County woman has been indicted by a grand jury in connection with her husband’s stabbing death.
     36-year old Teu Medley Pointer is charged with second-degree murder in the April tenth stabbing death of her husband, John.
       Police were called to the Pointers’ home in Ringgold on April 10 after receiving a call that someone in the home had been stabbed. The victim was her 35-year-old husband.
       The couple's two small children were at home when police arrived and are now living with their grandmother.
       During her bond hearing in April, defense attorney Glenn Berger said John Pointer hit his wife in the face and held her down. But Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Haskins said Teu Pointer had anger issues and stabbed her husband to death.
      A grand jury indicted Pointer Monday on a charge of second degree murder.
      Mrs. Pointer was a special education/guidance teacher at the Regional Alternative School in Dry Fork. She was an employee of the Pittsylvania County school system for 12 years.
Danville Utilities Dept. under investigation; 3 employees fired:
(Danville, Va.) -- Three employees of the Danville Utilities Department have been fired and criminal charges have been filed against two after an investigation into financial irregularities.
     A news release from City Manager Joe King says the Danville Police Department is investigating “irregularities” involving certain work groups within the department.
     A probe was launched by police after an internal audit last fall brought irregularities to King’s attention.
     The investigation involves “possible” abuse of overtime pay and illegal use of company credit cards. Police are also investigating improper activities involving contracts.
     King said that -- to date -- the investigation has resulted in three terminations, with criminal charges brought against two of the former city employees.
     He said the office is cooperating with police and the commonwealth’s attorney and declined to comment on specifics of the probe, adding that he intends to “provide more detailed information at the appropriate time.”


Grove Park fire started in unattended cooking:
(Danville, Va.) -- A fire in the Grove Park subdivision caused heavy damage to a brick rancher.
     Units from at least four stations responded to the fire, which was reported just after 11:30 Monday morning.
      Fire and smoke were visible from the roof, windows and eaves when the first units arrived.
      The home at 116 Oakwood Place sustained heavy damage.
      The homeowner was out of the house when rescue personnel arrived but was taken to the hospital for treatment of what were described as minor injuries.
     The blaze started in the kitchen in some unattended cooking and spread quickly throughout the residence.
    A ladder truck responded, along with units from stations 1, 3, 4 and 7, the haz-mat team and the Danville Life Saving Crew.
     Firefighters were still on the scene long after the fire was contained, dousing hot spots, venting smoke and conducting clean-up operations.
     The Danville Fire Marshal investigated. (photos: Leonard Harville)

Roman Eagle expansion approved:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville City Council last night cleared the way for Roman Eagle to begin an eight-(m) million-dollar expansion at their nursing home facility.  Council approved a rezoning that will allow the existing north wing to be expanded. The expansion will create a dedicated rehab unit with a total of private rooms.  Plans also call for the lower level to be converted into a wellness center that’ll be used by Roman Eagle employees…and by local seniors.

McDonnel's sister takes the stand:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- A forensic accountant hired as a defense witness will be back on the stand when the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, resumes in federal court in Richmond.
     The accountant testified Tuesday that the McDonnells and the former governor's sister were financially sound. He will answer more questions about his examination of financial records Wednesday.
      The testimony is intended to counter the government's claims that the former first couple and a real estate partnership between Bob McDonnell and his sister were struggling financially. According to prosecutors, that desperation helped drive the McDonnells to accept more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for using their office to promote his company's dietary supplements.


Charges filed in crash that caused explosion:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville Police have charged 36-year-old James T. Barksdale in a Saturday morning wreck that led to an explosion and fire at an apartment building at 677 Arnett Boulevard, the Royal Terrace Apartments. Barksdale is charged with driving while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with a revoked license. He is being held in the Danville jail, without bond. 
      At 1:16 am police, fire, and rescue personnel responded to Arnett Boulevard for a report of a motor vehicle crash. 
      Investigators say a white 2006 Chrysler Pacifica was eastbound on Guilford Street, crossed over the north and south bound lanes of Arnett Boulevard, drove off the road and struck the apartment building. As a result of the crash gas lines were severed at the meters, resulting in a leak that filled the building with a high concentration of gas. The explosion created a structure fire and compromised the 18-unit building by buckling walls and floors.
Firefighters evacuated residents, but at first were not able to enter four of the apartment units due to a high concentration of gas that developed when the gas lines were severed.
     City utilities workers shut off gas and power service to the building. At 2:30 p.m., firefighters were able to search the four units. The units were not occupied at the time of the search.
     The fire marshal’s office and police continue to investigate

       The Chrysler was only occupied by the driver and sustained approximately $2,000 in damages.  The apartment building sustained approximately $500,000 in damages. 
     Warrants were obtained for Barksdale, of Danville, who was arrested and jailed.

(photos: Leonard Harville)

Plan approved for Evans Park:
(Danville, Va.) -- There could be more than a hundred extra acres of park land in the city in the near future.
          Six years ago, the Evans family offered Danville leaders a conservation easement on a one-hundred acre former farm on Eagle Springs Road, not far from the Danville Expressway.  They wanted the city develop a “passive recreation park” at the site.  That would not include sporting venues.  It would focus on nature trails and picnic areas.  The Evans’ also asked the park be named after their family.
          The agreement included the 100-thousand-dollar purchase of a lot containing a cell phone tower.
          Now, planners have come up with a Conceptual Master Plan for Evans Park.  It’ll feature picnic sites, an environmental education center, trails, and an arboretum.  Council approved the idea last night.

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