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Thursday, March 5, 2015
Updated 3/5/15 @ 7:20 am

Dean guilty in ambulance assault:
(Chatham, Va.) -- A Pittsylvania County jury yesterday convicted Keith Edward Dean on two sexual assault charges. They then recommended life-plus-20-years in prison.
     The verdicts were handed down at the conclusion of a two-day trial in Pittsylvania County Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon.

    The 60-year old former paramedic with Regional One EMS was accused of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old woman while she was being taken to Lynchburg General Hospital last June.
     The victim was found unresponsive in her home in Gretna. Dean and another man strapped her to a gurney and loaded her into the ambulance. Dean was in the back and the other man drove. The assault occurred en route to the hospital.

Martinsville mother sentenced in daughter's death:
(Martinsville Va.) -- A Martinsville mother is headed to jail in connection with her five year old daughter’s death.
Investigators say five-year old AahLayah Martin died after consuming methadone, cocaine, painkillers and other prescription drugs. 
It happened in late 2013.  Martinsville Police got a report of two unresponsive children at a house on Dunlap Street.  Martin died about an hour after officers arrived on the scene.  A second child --- a 2-year-old girl, was airlifted to a Roanoke hospital.  She has since recovered.
            Prosecutors originally charged 22-year old Dominique Martin with murder.  She later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.  Yesterday, she was sentenced to five years in prison.

City leaders approves first reading of Tobacco Commission repayments:
(Danville, Va.) -- The city has moved a step closer to repaying the Tobacco Commission for some grants that didn’t pan out.
     Danville City Council this week approved a first reading of a plan to reimburse the Virginia Tobacco Commission $1.5 million to make the latest repayments on four failed ventures. The final vote will come March 17.
     The money includes $600,000 to fully repay the grant given two years ago to Macerata Wheels.
     Since Danville started participating in the Tobacco Commission program, six of 47 companies recruited by the city have failed to meet the commission’s performance agreements. The other companies are: Hybrid Vehicles of Danville, U.S. Green Energy, Web Parts, GOK Furniture and EcomNets.
      Danville has sued two companies and their top executives. US Green Energy is working to reimburse the city.

Council begins budget process:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville City Council is starting next year’s budget process with no tax increases — and no cuts in programs or services.  City Manager Joe King presented his budget this week---a budget with few major changes overall.  The general fund budget is $2.7 million higher than last year---eclipsing the 100- (m) million dollar mark for the first time ever.  Most of that will pay for scheduled raises for city employees. Three new positions are included in the budget. Two new Circuit Court clerks and a fire code inspector to work on the blight eradication program.

Former supervisor sentenced for theft:
(Danville, Va.) -- A former supervisor with the Danville Utilities Department entered guilty pleas to a pair of felony charges in January.  Yesterday, 41-year old Benjamin Hairfield of Martinsville got a month in prison.
     Hairfield was a superintendent of electric substations when the crimes occurred. He admitted to taking and selling scrap copper and steel beams that belonged to the city from the Pinnacles Hydroelectric Plant in Patrick County.
     The first incident happened in April of 2013 when Hairfield had two city workers assist him in loading some scrap copper, which he later sold for $3,300. Then, the following April, Hairfield took some steel beams the city had purchased for more than $10,000 and scrapped them for $1,500. He admitted to pocketing the money instead of returning it to the city.
            A grand jury last year indicted Hairfield and two others. The charges stemmed from a division-side police investigation launched last August.
            Police launched the probe after an internal audit last year showed irregularities. The investigation focused on abuse of overtime pay and illegal use of company credit cards within certain work groups in the Utilities Division.

City Council tells Duke Energy to "Hurry Up!":
(Danville, Va.) – Danville leaders are holding Duke Energy’s feet to the fire, trying to get the utility to make amends for last year’s coal ash spill into the Dan River. 
     During last night’s Council meeting, several members addressed Duke Representative Davis Montgomery, who’s been given them periodic updates on Duke’s efforts to clear up the river and repair OTHER damage from the spill.
     Mayor Sherman Saunders says there are companies that stopped looking at moving to Danville after the spill…and others who have held off expansion plans.   So far, he says we’ve seen no movement from Duke...and no money.
            Councilman Lee Vogler says Danville has suffered more than any other communities in the wake of the spill.  Fred Shanks says the spill has thrown a monkey-wrench into the city's efforts to develop the Riverfront.  Vice-Mayor Dr. Gary Miller points out some people are drinking bottled water because they still don’t trust the tap water---even though tests have shown it’s safe to drink.

Danville man charged with murder in child’s death:
(Danville, Va.) -- A Danville man has been indicted for murder in the death last November of a 20-month-old child.
     A grand jury issued indictments Monday against 28-year-old Michael James Gill, Jr.,  of Danville. Gill was indicted for murder and felony child neglect in the death of Aleigha Grace Sadler. The cause of death is listed as homicide by blunt force trauma. Gill was served with the indictments in the Danville City Jail, where he was being held for probation violation. He continues to be held without bond.
      On the night of November 20, Danville fire and EMS personnel responded to a home in the 100 block of West Woodlawn Dr. for a report of an unresponsive child. The toddler was transported to Danville Regional Medical Center and subsequently flown to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital for treatment, where she died shortly thereafter.

Charges certified in Pitt. Co. assault:
(Chatham, Va.) – The case of a Gretna man, charged with malicious wounding after the death of a Chatham woman last year, is headed to a grand jury.
            A Pittsylvania County General District Court judge yesterday certified the charge against 29-year old Henry Daniel Doss.  He’s charged with beating 44-year old Mary Adkins Hooker December second at a home on Daniel Road. Hooker died nine days later in the ICU at Danville Regional Medical Center.
            According to the court records, Doss allegedly grabbed Hooker “by her hair and banged her head on the floor six times. He then started punching Hooker with his fist multiple times.”  She suffered three broken ribs and possible nose fractures, along with a black eye and a bad contusion on her chest.
            Pittsylvania County prosecutors haven’t decided whether to upgrade the charges.  They are waiting on an autopsy report.
            After his arrest in early December, Doss married his girlfriend in a jailhouse ceremony.

Rep. Hurt votes no on DHS bill:
(Washington, D.C.) – Fifth District Congressman Robert Hurt was one of the “no” votes yesterday as the House passed a so-called clean bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security.  The final measure did NOT include language designed to trump the President’s Executive Orders on Immigration.
     Hurt says he’s disappointed that Senate Democrats used procedural tactics to stifle debate on the fundamental issue - the Administration’s attack on the separation of powers established by the Constitution.
            Hurt says democrats are using the filibuster rule in the Senate to essentially maintain control of the chamber.  He says years of broken immigration policy have left us with insecure borders and innumerable costs on taxpayers.

Sweet Briar College to close:
(Amherst, Co., Va.)  Sweet Briar College will shut down this summer because of financial issues.
     The private women's college in Sweet Briar announced the Aug. 25 closure Tuesday in a news release. The college says its board of directors approved the closure on Saturday.
      Sweet Briar attributed the decision to what it calls "insurmountable financial challenges."
      President James F. Jones says in the release that he, the board and several alumnae have searched for solutions. But they concluded they couldn't change two realities.
      Jones says one reality is a decline in the number of students who choose to attend small, rural, private liberal arts colleges. The other is the unsustainability of an increase in the college's tuition discount rate.
Nyholm named an Influential Virginia:
(Alton, Va.) -- VIR majority owner and CEO Connie Nyholm has been named as one of the 50 most influential Virginians by VirginiaBusiness.com.
      The publication notes that last year, VIR welcomed 400,000 visitors, and with new events added to the roster this year, the total could reach 500,000.
      When away from the track, Nyholm serves on the boards of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, The Launch Place, VirginiaFIRST and the Roadracing Industry Council.
Virginia International Raceway, which initially operated from 1957 to 1974, had turned into a cow pasture before Nyholm and a business partner reopened the track in 2000.The 1,370-acre resort now draws thousands of visitors each year. It boasts five racetrack configurations, a kart track, skeet and rifle ranges, a spa and a restaurant.

Analysis blames foul water taste on algae blooms:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville has received confirmation that the taste and odor issues in the city’s drinking water are caused by algal blooms in the Dan River. City officials say the blooms now have passed.
      City water treatment plant operators say they have not noticed abnormal odor in the raw water for nearly a week but are still adding carbon as a precautionary measure.
      Interim Director of Utilities Jason Grey says it still may take a few more days for the taste and odor to be purged because of the length of time the water is in the storage tanks and the distribution system.  He says customers may notice odor in their hot water a bit longer because of the trapped gases in the hot water heater.
     The city is still testing the treated water leaving the plant for regulated contaminants. Those tests continue to show the water is safe to drink.

Pitt. Co. open to poultry complex:

(Chatham, Va.) --
A full-fledged poultry complex could bring up to 12-hundred jobs to Pittsylvania County, with an economic impact of up to $476 million.
     The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to draw up a resolution to support the idea.  An integrated poultry complex would include a hatchery, feed mill and a processing plant.  In addition to the jobs, it could also mean $1.8 million in estimated tax revenue for the County. 
     A consultant’s report says the closest processing plant is in Dobson, North Carolina, 75 miles from Chatham. That report listed several possible sites…including the former Burlington Textile plant site in Hurt, the Ringgold East Industrial site, the Cherrystone Industrial Park and the Berry Hill Mega Park.

Halifax Co. Supervisors to add tie-breaking member:
(Halifax, Va.) – The Halifax County Board of Supervisors is still without a leader…but the panel voted this week to make sure they’re never tied again.
      For the third month in a row, the panel deadlocked last night, four-to-four, on selecting a new Chair and Vice-Chair.
     The panel then approved the addition of a tiebreaking member.  That will be on  the ballot this November.  Residents of the entire county at large will elect the tiebreaker.  Their term will begin in January.  
     This person will not be a regular voting member of the board.  If the board has a split vote, the tiebreaker will cast the deciding vote.

Danville Utilities warns of bill payment scam:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville Utilities is warning its customers about a scam involving a demand for immediate payment of their utility bill. A commercial business was the target.
      In this scam, the business received a phone call requesting the purchase of a pre-paid card for a “power reload,” to avoid a loss of service.
       The department does not contact customers by phone and demand immediate payment, and never asks or requires customers who have delinquent accounts to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid electric service disconnection. This is a scam.
      Customers who have delinquent accounts receive multiple notifications by letter from Danville Utilities over the course of several weeks prior to electric service disconnection -- never just a single notification one hour before disconnection.

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