Monday, March 07, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...3-8-'11
- Samantha Sue Evans has pleaded guilty to child neglect resulting in death after her 16-month-old toddler drowned in a bathtub. According to Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks, Evans was incapacitated from a prescription drug binge when the toddler drowned in a bathtub and suffered severe burns from the water. Evans admitted she snorted Xanax and Oxycodone pills. Sparks says he wanted to indict Evans for murder, but West Virginia does not have a "depraved indifference" category of murder like some states do, and child neglect resulting in death is the maximum charge under West Virginia law.
- Three more lawsuits were filed Monday against Massey Energy and subsidiaries Massey Coal Services and Performance Coal Co. over the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Suits were filed on behalf of the families of Joe Marcum and Adam Morgan, miners who died in the disaster. A third case was filed on behalf of Stanley Stewart, a miner who narrowly escaped being killed. Charleston lawyer Tim Bailey, who filed the three suits, alleges Massey operated the Upper Big Branch mine in a "willful, wonton and recklessly unsafe manner."
- Tabitha Alvarez and Crystal Callahan, of Virginia and North Carolina respectively, the sisters of Daniel Earl Callahan, an inmate who died in custody, has sued the state Regional Jail Authority. The suit says its health-care providers failed to provide Callahan with proper treatment for six months after he began having seizures in September 2008. The sisters allege he never saw a physician, let alone a specialist, but that a nurse saw Callahan on September 23, 2008, and he was admitted to the jail's medical unit five days later for "seizure like activity." The suit states, from that point on, the jail's medical staff was aware of his medical condition and that if it went untreated and unchecked it could kill him.
- Neil Hasen, 31, of Alkol in Lincoln County, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to falsifying federal Mine Safety and Health documents while employed by Big River Mining, LLC, at the Broad Run Mine in Mason County through February 2009. Hasen was an assistant foreman when he signed pre-shift and on-shift mine examination forms with another foreman's number to certify the examinations had been completed even though he was not qualified to perform the examinations. Hasen faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced June 13th.
- The House of Delegates passed a Senate bill Monday supporters say will help the state's gambling industry. The House Judiciary Committee fully discussed but did not change a bill that would give the four racetracks in West Virginia and the Greenbrier Resort a funding stream to purchase new video lottery machines. The bill also changes betting amounts on those machines.
- Monday evening, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the pseudoephedrine prescription bill which would require a doctor's prescription to purchase certain cold medications. Marshall Fisher, a former federal drug agent who is now the director of the bureau of narcotics in the state of Mississippi, told committee members making products with pseudoephedrine more difficult to get will cut down on the number of meth labs. He testified that, since Mississippi began requiring prescriptions for the products last month, the state has seen a reduction in meth lab busts by 68 percent and the number of children taken from meth lab homes has gone down by 92 percent.
- Byfield Adolph Blake, 41, of Philadelphia, was sentenced to 37 months in prison Monday after he pleaded guilty in November 2010 to possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He was arrested in July 2006 after a search at his apartment in St. Albans resulted in 13 pounds of marijuana, more than $11,000 in cash and three firearms being found.
- Donna and Randall Fizer of Hurricane were each sentenced Monday to three months of home confinement and five years of probation for the theft of government money. An investigation revealed that Donna Fizer had a relative who was receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and after the relative's death, the couple continued to receive and cash the benefit checks from May 2008 until January 2010. The Fizers were ordered to pay back $30,540.
- Twenty-two year old James A. Thompson of Culloden was sentenced to 30 months in prison Monday for aiding and abetting in the theft of firearms from Johnny's Gun and Pawn. In October 2010, Thompson pleaded guilty to waiting outside Johnny's Gun and Pawn on May 24, 2009, while two men he knew broke into the business and stole 9 firearms. Thompson then put six of the firearms in a pillowcase and took them to a Culloden home. All the stolen firearms have been recovered.
- Twenty-six year old Jasper Wemh of Charleston pleaded guilty Monday to possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. On December 29, 2010, Wemh was approached by law enforcement officers while on his way to a Cross Lanes storage facility. Officers found more than $5,000 cash, 17 grams of crack cocaine and digital scales in his vehicle. Wemh faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine when sentenced June 13th.
- By a vote of 27-6, the West Virginia Senate approved a bill Monday to raise teacher base pay by $1,000 and salaries for or other school employees would increase by $500 while all other state workers would see increases of 2 percent or $500, which ever is larger. Senator Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, said it was inappropriate to approve the raise at a time when more than 10 percent of the state population is unemployed.
- The House Finance Committee approved a bill Monday allowing Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to take up to $20 million from a fund set up to pay for a new state revenue building and use it to prevent the unemployment fund from running dry. Tomblin had suggested, during his State of the State Address in January, taking the money out of the state’s rainy day fund, which is revenue set aside by the state to help cover budget holes in lean times. Instead of using the rainy day fund, the committee amended the bill to take the money from $30 million in a fund set up to build a new revenue center on Capitol, which has been scrapped. Instead, the West Virginia Lottery is moving into the City Center West office building in Charleston. The money in the building fund comes from lottery revenue and must be paid back to the original fund within 180 days without interest. The state’s unemployment rate currently hovers above 10 percent, but state officials are worried the jobless fund could run out this year if the economy doesn’t improve.
- Premier Financial Bancorp., a Huntington-based, $1.2 billion bank holding company with eight bank subsidiaries, has received required approvals from all federal and state banking regulatory authorities to merge its three wholly owned West Virginia banks and two other subsidiary banks to form Premier Bank. Premier Bank will be a nearly $825 million West Virginia chartered bank with 23 locations in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Boone County Bank, of Madison, First Central Bank, of Philippi, Traders Bank, of Ravenswood, Adams National Bank, of Washington, D.C. and Consolidated Bank and Trust, of Richmond, Virginia, will be merged into the new Premier Bank, which will be headquartered in Huntington and will have total assets of $822.9 million and total deposits of $689.7 million.
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