Friday, April 22, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...4-23-'11
- Earlier this week, families of the miners who died at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine received letters from the FBI informing them that they may be eligible for certain government services provided to crime victims under federal law. The two-page letter was signed by Joseph I. Ciccarelli, supervisory special agent for the FBI's Charleston field office and also carried the name of Michael A. Rodriguez, special agent in charge of the agency's Pittsburgh office. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin in Charleston has filed two criminal cases related to the Upper Big Branch mine and continues an investigation of the April 5, 2010, disaster. Documents previously made public indicate federal criminal investigators are looking not only at the Upper Big Branch explosion, but also examining potential criminal activity related to hundreds of safety and health violations cited at the Massey mine as far back as 2006.
- The state Supreme Court has put a hold on a decision by Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury to have three workers with the state Regional Jail Authority arrested. The High Court voted 3-2 Friday in favor of a "show cause" ruling. Thornsbury had Southwestern Regional Jail correctional officers Anthony Elkins and Zachary Bassham arrested Thursday for getting jail inmates to his courtroom late for their scheduled hearings. Their supervisor, Sgt. Richard Powers, later showed up in Thornsbury's courtroom and he had him arrested. The Regional Jail Authority says it had several inmate transports to make from the Holden-based jail, but the judge says the jail workers are consistently late with inmates. Judge Thornsbury has until May 6th to file a formal response, and the Regional Jail Authority can answer by May 13th. The case will be submitted for decision May 25th, without oral argument. The Supreme Court says the three arrests are stayed until it makes its final ruling. Justices Menis Ketchum and Thomas McHugh voted against the "show cause" ruling.
- Terry Donaghey applied online a few weeks ago and received an e-mail saying he was chosen as one of the top ten finalists, out of more than 12,000 other hopeful voices, to be the next Aflac Duck. Terry is originally from New York but has lived in West Virginia for 6 years. He is retired now but was a member of the Pinch Volunteer Fire Department until last year. Gilbert Gottfried was making six figures as the voice of the duck but was fired after tweeting inappropriate comments regarding the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March. Aflac plans to notify the winner Monday. Aflac is the No. 1 insurance company in Japan in terms of individual policies in force, according to Fox Business News. One in four homes in Japan buys health insurance from Aflac, according to the Associated Press. About 70 to 75 percent of Aflac’s earnings come from Japan, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
- Developers with TransGas Development Systems say they're ready for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Mingo County site of a proposed coal-to-gasoline plant. TransGas has scheduled the event for May 9th in Wharncliffe. The $4 billion Adams Fork Energy plant will produce 756,000 gallons of gasoline from coal each day. It would be the first of its type in the country. Construction is expected to take four years and create 3,000 construction jobs. TransGas has a state air quality permit and authority to issue bonds from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority.
- West Virginia appears to be getting very close to $4.00 a gallon gasoline prices. Motorists say they are already there with $3.99 popping up at stations in several counties including Putnam, Mason and Kanawha. AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report Thursday listed the average price for regular unleaded at $3.84. It was $3.54 a month ago and $2.85 last year at this time.
- The Kanawha County Commission is going ahead with plans to dispute a claim made by Sandra Shaffer who wants the county's insurance to pay for damages after the Sheriff's Department and Charleston City Police did some digging on her Sissonville property in connection with the ongoing 2003 sniper investigation. County Commission President Kent Carper says the commission rejected a request Friday made by Shaffer's attorney Mike Clifford concerning the attorney representing the county's insurance carrier. Clifford thought the attorney should be excused because of a conflict of interest. Carper says the commission is not terminating the lawyer who actually was retained by the insurance company. Carper says the insurance carrier is now checking out the claim, but he doesn't think Shaffer should receive any money because the property was in terrible shape to begin with and had several meth labs on it. Carper says he does not intend to support any payment whatsoever, but he admitted the controversy is likely headed to court.
- The Wyoming County Sheriff's Department is leading an investigation following the discovery of a body over a hillside off Crumpler Road in the community of Herndon in Wyoming County Friday.
- Two men and a woman are charged with hiding two female teenage runaways in an attic crawl space of a home on Monroe Avenue. The Huntington Police Department arrested Edgar and Terri L. Henderson, along with Timothy Allen Smith. Each was charged with two counts of concealment or removal of a minor child from custodian. They were jailed on individual $200,000 bonds.
- The Boone County Sheriff’s Office arrested eight people Friday and have charged 11 people in total with 46 different charges as part of a drug sting. The arrests have come after drug investigations and purchases from sheriff’s deputies and members of the U.S. 119 Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.
* David “Yogi” White, 60, of Jeffrey, was charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance and two counts of conspiracy.
* Matthew Scott Cook, 23, of Madison, was charged with grand larceny.
* Robert L. Bias, 24, of Danville, was charged with grand larceny.
* Scotty Dwayne Wheatley, 31, of Danville, was charged with grand larceny.
* Tommy Ray Berry, 55, of Danville, was charged with delivery of a controlled substance, conspiracy, transferring stolen property and fraudulent schemes.
* Gary Wayne Cooper, 53, of Danville, was charged with delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy.
* Eric Dale Aleshire, 41, of Jeffrey, was charged with delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy.
* Jo Ann Jarrell, 51, Madison, was charged with delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy.
* Robert L. Bias, 24, Danville, was charged with grand larceny.
- The search for a missing Mason County man ended around 11:00 A.M. Friday when the body of 75 year old Bill Mayes was found in a creek about 75 yards from his home on Ashton-Upland Road in Apple Grove. He was last seen April 12th near his home. Family, friends and emergency crews had been searching for Mayes for 10 days in the same area.
- Authorities have identified the body found floating in the Ohio River near Schooner's Waterfront Grille in Huntington Wednesday as 42 year old Charles Russell Cantrell of Charleston. Huntington Police are working to determine what lead to the Charleston man's death.
- Special Agent Steven Jackson, of the FBI, says 56 year old Randall Kyser of Barboursville, was arrested Thursday after responding to an online job posting with an Akron area construction development company in March while posing himself as Major General R. Thomas Keyser with the United States Army and a commanding officer of the Department of Defense's Joint Construction Command. Kyser sent the company a seven-page resume with what appeared to be the seal of the United States Department of Defense and said he answered directly to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his present command. The company requested an interview with Kyser, for which he was paid around $200.00 as reimbursement for his overnight meals and lodging for the interview. A federal investigation revealed there is no record of Randall Thomas Kyser or anyone using the multiple social security numbers associated with his name in the U.S. Army -- current or retired. If Kyser had been hired, his salary would have been $175,000.00, plus benefits.
- The federal sentencing hearing for Charleston wallpaper business owner Clark Deihl has been postponed until August 8th. Deihl was scheduled to be sentenced Monday after pleading guilty in January to bypassing the official bidding process when he redecorated the Capitol office of then Governor Joe Manchin for $300,000 in 2006. Federal prosecutors asked for a postponement a couple months ago saying a federal investigation was still ongoing. Diehl has been cooperating with federal prosecutors for some time. Judge John Copenhaver reminded U.S. Assistant Attorney Hunter Smith he has granted many sentencing continuance requests in the past.
- West Virginia is seeking a federal Medicaid waiver to offer a program that would help people with traumatic brain injuries remain in their homes. In 2009, a Kanawha County Circuit Court judge ordered the agency to apply for the waiver and secure funding for the program. The state Supreme Court denied the agency's appeal of the order earlier this month, saying the waiver application was submitted while state officials awaited a decision on the appeal. The Legislature has appropriated $800,000 for the program.
- The Health Statistics Center at the state Department of Health and Human Resources released a study Thursday detailing how much the average West Virginia smoker could spend on cigarettes over a lifetime. It found that, between 1980 and 2009, the average smoker, who consumes one and a half packs per day, spent about $31,000 on cigarettes. In 2009 alone, that smoker spent $2,121. Over the next 30 years, the average smoker will spend about $119,000 on cigarettes - roughly equivalent to the cost of buying a small house.
- Emergency crews were kept busy after a tractor trailer rolled over in the northbound lanes of the interstate, near the Sharon exit, just after 12:30 P.M. Friday, spilling about 40,000 pounds of steel coil onto the West Virginia Turnpike.
- Work has begun to remodel a 13-story building which will become the new headquarters for the West Virginia Lottery. The Lottery Commission bought the City Center West building along Pennsylvania Avenue in Charleston last year. Lottery officials say they have to replace elevator shafts, make the bathrooms handicap accessible, update the building's electrical system and create a claims office in the lobby, but they hope to be in the building by the end of the year.
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