Local News

Monday, September 1, 2014
Updated 9/1/14 @ 3:00 pm

Tobacco commission grants go to family connections
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- A review by The Associated Press has found that a Virginia commission that invests money from a national tobacco settlement gave $21 million to an economic development group and a telephone cooperative run by family members of the commission's powerful chairman.
      The grants are not illegal, but they are part of a rocky history of questionable spending of the Virginia Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. The commission controls about $600 million in cash and investments.
     The commission's chairman is Terry Kilgore, a Republican state legislator from a powerful political family. He says his family relationships have not influenced the commission's spending.
      The commission has long been under scrutiny from various state officials and is part of an FBI investigation into the resignation of a Democratic state senator.

Car hits house in north Danville:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville Police have filed charges after a crash Sunday in which a can ran into a house in the 300 block of Terry Avenue. 
     The call came in at around 12:30 in teh afternoon. Police say a 2004 Jeep Cherokee was traveling south on North Davis Drive when the driver came to the intersection with Terry Avenue and continued through a stop sign. The driver lost control of the Jeep and hit the house.  There were six people in the home at the time.
     The driver of the Jeep was taken to Danville Regional Medical Center for treatment of non-life threating injures. One person in the house complained of injuries, but did not seek medical treatment. 
     The Jeep sustained some $5,000 in damages, while damage to the house was estimated at $15,000.
     39-year old Duane Carlos Petty of Danville was charged with driving on a suspended license and failure to maintain control of his vehicle.

Henry Co. man dies during police pursuit:
(Bassett, Va.) -- State Police say a Bassett man was killed in an accident in Henry County Saturday night after he tried speeding away from deputies.
     It happened on Blackberry Road in Bassett. Henry County Sheriff's Deputies tried to stop a vehicle in connection with a drug probe. The driver, 42-year-old Ernest Brian Brodie, drove off. State Police say the deputies chased Brodie, but then backed off.
     Deputies found Brodie's vehicle a short time later on the side of the road, wrecked against a tree. Brodie was taken to Memorial Hospital of Martinsville where he was later pronounced dead. Police say Brodie was wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash
     The State Police accident reconstruction team was called to assist in the investigation.


Smoke pours from an East Thomas St. home on Sunday
(Leonard Harville photo)

Danville home heavily damaged in fire:
(Danville, Va.) -- Unattended cooking sparked a house fire in Danville.  The call came about 3:00 Sunday afternoon from a home in the 300-block of East Thomas Street. Danville fire officials say the home suffered heavy fire and smoke damage. The Red Cross is helping the residents with a place to stay.  No one was hurt in the blaze.

Reidsville death probed:
(Reidsville, N.C.) -- Rockingham County deputies are investigating the death of a man found inside his Reidsville home. Deputies say family members found 44-year-old Michael Wayne Smith's body in his home on state Highway 65 around 10 p.m. Saturday. Authorities say they aren't sure what killed Smith and his body has been sent off for an autopsy.

South Boston man jailed in fatal crash:
(High Point, N.C.) --
A South Boston man who led police on a high-speed chase that ended in a fatal crash in Guilford County is being held in the Guilford County jail.
     47-year-old Ronnie Fichera was charged with second-degree murder in the April 3 crash on Interstate 40, along with a felony charge of fleeing to elude.
     Authorities say Fichera was driving his SUV the wrong way on I-40 when he collided with a Volvo. The other driver, 22-year-old Reagan Hartley of Willow Spring, died on the way to the hospital.
     Fichera was hospitalized a month at Moses Cone, then transferred to Central State Prison hospital in Raleigh after he was formally charged.  He was taken to the Guilford County jail this weekend. No arraignment date has been set.

Pilot never ejected before F-15 crash:
(Deerfield, Va.) -- The Massachusetts Air National Guard confirms that the pilot of an F-15 jet that crashed in a mountainous area near Hot Springs, Va. did not eject and perished in the crash.
     The announcement came from Westfield, Massachusetts, home of the 104th Fighter Wing, where the pilot and plane were based.
     Col. Gene Jackson was the incident commander for the Civil Air Patrol and helped coordinate the search.
      Jackson says the investigation into what caused the crash will be conducted by the military.
     According to Jackson, the CAP provided 14 airplanes, 15 vehicles and 70 people from four Civil Air Patrol wings over the course of the two-day search. The jet went down Wednesday morning while on a routine mission.

     Brig. Gen. Robert Brooks is Commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. He says rescuers found evidence at the crash site Thursday that the pilot did not ejec

Pilot was a decorated combat veteran:
(Boston, Ma.) (AP) -- The pilot killed in the crash of an F-15 jet this week in the remote Virginia mountains was a decorated combat veteran with 17 years of experience flying the planes, military officials in Massachusetts said Friday.
     The pilot, Lt. Col. Morris "Moose" Fontenot Jr., joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard in February and had been serving with the 104th Fighter Wing as the inspector general and an F-15 instructor pilot.
     Col. James Keefe, the fighter wing's commander, said the death was announced "with a sense of profound sadness."
      Fontenot was flying the single-seat plane to New Orleans for a radar system upgrade when he crashed Wednesday in western Virginia. Officials say he reported an in-flight emergency before losing radio contact. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
     Fontenot was a 1996 Air Force Academy graduate. Officials in Massachusetts said his active-duty career included deployments to the Middle East, and he earned honors including the Meritorious Service Medal.
Jurors hear closing arguments in McDonnells' trial:

(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- Prosecutors are asking jurors to focus on two questions at the corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.
     In their closing arguments Friday, prosecutors' asked the panel to think about why a Virginia businessman gave the couple more than $165,000 in gifts and loans, and why the McDonnells accepted.
      Prosecutor David Harbach says there was a "corrupt understanding" and the McDonnells needed money because they were badly in debt. He says they were willing to undertake official acts to help former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams.
      The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment and could face decades in prison if convicted. McDonnell testified in his own defense and said the couple extended courtesies to Williams like any other elected official would. 

Danville Police track down an armed robbery suspect vehicle to Travel Inn on West Main St.
(Leonard Harville photo)

Danville Police search for armed robbers:
(Danville, Va.) --  Danville Police came close to nabbing two armed robbers Thursday morning.  The call came in at around 7:30 from the Subway restaurant in Coleman Marketplace.  The clerk says two armed black males made off with an undetermined amount of cash, then drove away in a Red Jeep Cherokee.  Police spotted the Jeep and chased it.  They found it in the parking lot of the Travel Inn on West Main Street.  The engine was still running, but no one was inside.  Surveillance video shows the two men getting into a light-colored van and speeding off.  Turns out the Jeep had been stolen hours earlier in Greensboro.  Anyone with information can call Danville Crimestoppers at 793-0000.

Averett and DRF announce "game-changing" partnership:
(Danville, Va.) --  Averett University has received a nearly $2 million grant from the Danville Regional Foundation to establish the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness.
      Averett President Dr. Tiffany Franks says the grant will allow Averett, Danville Community College and Piedmont Community College to link more students with business and civic leaders through volunteerism.
     Danville Regional Foundation President Dr. Karl Stauber said the center fulfills the group’s goal of attracting and retaining young professionals in the Dan River region.
     Averett’s Alexis Ehrhardt has been named executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness.
      The grant will be awarded over a five year period.

City to accept bids on W. Townes Lea and Glenwood rehab:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville leaders are looking for ideas on redeveloping two former school properties.
          Earlier this summer, the School Board deeded over the building at grounds at W-Townes Lea (pictured, right) and Glenwood (pictured, left).  That means the city has to now maintain the two properties.  Staffers say other than the Glenwood Recreation Center, they have no need for the extra property.
          The city will ask for bids from local developers on creative re-use of the two former school buildings.  Staffers say they will base their decision on more than just the purchase price---they also want to choose a plan that best fits the respective neighborhoods.
          W-Townes Lea closed several years ago.  Glenwood closed after the 2012-2013 school year.

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