The Hook in review: 12 years of covering Charlottesville
The first issue of the Hook hit the streets February 7, 2002, in an America still reeling in post-9/11 shock— not quite sure how our world would change, but with an uneasy feeling that it would not be for the better.
In Charlottesville, the Downtown Mall had not yet had its Pavilion or Transit Center built on the east end. The Meadow Creek Parkway was still under debate, and the U.S. 29 Western Bypass was believed dead and buried. The old Woolen Mills dam still stood, the Jefferson Theater was a second-run movie house, and the Paramount Theater was in the throes of a lengthy restoration.
And a handful of writers, graphic designers, ad reps, and photographers followed editor Hawes Spencer to start a new weekly in a small town that already had a weekly on what would become Mr. Hook's wild ride.
Charlottesville's Democratic rule was rocked with the election of Rob Schilling, the first Republican city councilor in 16 years, and the words "single-shot" voting entered the local lexicon. Environmentally, the region was parched by a drought. By September, restaurants were serving on plastic, car washes were ordered to close and reservoirs were half full, with predictions they'd be empty by December. Fortunately it rained, but this stark, water-less reality had a lot to do with the subsequent water wars of the aughts and the construction of the Ragged Mountain reservoir mega-dam.
First issue, February 7, 2002. Chris Conklin is the guy who created the Hook's distinctive red-"the" logo and its crisp, clean look, aided by photographer (and later his wife) Jen Fariello shooting many of the early covers. For the first Hook, Conklin used a double cover, wrapping the issue in a cover that shouted the new paper's arrival— an idea we've glommed for the paper's final issue. Susan Tyler Hitchcock wrote the first cover story about homegrown pot smuggler Allen Long, who claimed to have brought the first Columbian Gold to America. It was a promising start.
Trouble on Walton's Mountain: Jim Bob's thrown out, John Boy pulls out, June 27, 2002. Once upon a time, everyone knew the beloved television series of the late 1960s, The Waltons, created by beloved Nelsonite writer Earl Hamner. When the real-life Walton's Museum in Schuyler decided to throw Hamner's brother Jim off the board and a scandal the likes of which was never seen on the TV show erupted, Hamner pulled the memorabilia he'd donated, and that in turn led to the creation of the current Nelson county rural history museum Oakland. This was also the famous "limn" issue, in which we dropped the pretentious word into every story.
Trail nix: Rivanna neighbor just says no to hikers, July 4, 2002. When the Rivanna Trails Foundation created paths along the river, there was one little oops: They didn't ask permission from property owner Shirley Presley, who barricaded the path to thwart trespassers and became known as "the razor-wire widow." The case pitted property rights against public access, and Presley sued both Charlottesville and the Rivanna Trails Foundation for $1.5 million, a case ultimately settled in 2008. But not before a hiker and his dog were slashed and became another Hook cover in 2004, and the city realized it had no way to prevent property owners from stringing up razor wire to protect their property. Also notable: This cover was drawn by longtime Hook cartoonist Don Berard, who illustrated lead news stories until around 2010.
Heritage or hate, October 10, 2002. For the owner of Quality Welding on Harris Street, the Southern battle flag represented his family's history. Across the street, his African-American neighbor saw a symbol of racism and slavery. This was one of the first stories the Hook did exploring slavery's painful legacy, and how it reverberates today. In this same issue, former Dukes of Hazzard star Ben Jones, a.k.a. "Cooter," campaigned for Congress using the Dodge Charger from the show dubbed the General Lee with the Southern Cross painted on the roof, and was soundly whupped by Eric Cantor. And some fair-goers at the county fair bluntly objected to the Confederate paraphernalia then for sale.
Imagine a world in which there was no Target, when the high-density, mixed-use model was just getting going with Albemarle Place— today known as Stonefield— as a shining example, and a road called the Hillsdale Connector was being touted as the solution to traffic on U.S. 29. Guess which one of those still hasn't happened?
On guard: Women brace against serial rapist, January 16, 2003. His M.O. was the blitz attack— punching women in the face and then sexually assaulting them. For 10 years, Nathan Antonio Washington stalked and preyed on his victims with increasingly violent attacks and was linked to at least seven attacks. It was one of those victims who recognized the man who worked as a butcher at Harris Teeter, and police surreptitiously obtained his DNA after he'd lunched at Burger King. Washington was sentenced to four life sentences in December 2007.
Eight years for a "minor" offense, February 20, 2003. That parents hosted parties for their underage kids— with the justification that they were going to drink anyway and it was better for them to be safe at home— was no surprise. That the parents who hosted an August 16, 2002, birthday party for their Albemarle High son were sentenced to eight years in jail was a total shocker. After five years of appeals, now-retired Judge Dwight Johnson's sentence was reduced to 27 months, and in 2007, George and Lisa Robinson, by then divorced, went to jail and served about five months. America's conflicting attitudes about alcohol, how old one should be to drink it, and how harshly laws should be enforced continue to be a recurring theme.
Land use: Farmers' friend or tax break for the rich, April 10, 2003. To protect its rural character and prevent Albemarle from becoming a Northern Virginia of sprawl, the county offers property tax breaks to residents who pursue agriculture on their acreage. Many of those who benefit from land use, however, are the county's richest citizens. In Crozet, 141 acres valued at $1.54 million was taxed at a value of $9,300— and it still became the subdivision and golf course known as Old Trail. Since this story, Albemarle tightened its land use requirements— and the Hook did another story on how Virginia's generous tax credits for conservation easements benefit the wealthy as well as the family farm.
Tragedy at Clifton Inn, November 20, 2003. News of the November 14 predawn fire at one of the country's most elegant and historic inns that killed two women was distressing enough. The news got worse when lawsuits filed on behalf of the New York law firm recruiters killed in the blaze, Billie Kelly and Trish Langlade, alleged that when power went out that evening, unattended candles and fireplaces were left burning with no staff on premises, the fire alarm system was malfunctioning, the smoke alarms in the two women's rooms were missing batteries, and the windows were painted shut. The inn reopened in February 2005, and the Washington Post reported in its review of the new Clifton never seeing "a more fire-conscious hotel."
Fundamental changes to the Charlottesville landscape broke ground this year: the Pavilion and Hollymead Town Center. And while TV watchers now take for granted the Newsplex's three network stations, before this year, NBC29 had been the only broadcast game in town.
This boy's lawsuit: Alan Newsom's $150,000 t-shirt, January 29, 2004. Before Columbine in 1999, school massacres weren't a routine part of American life. In the wake of that first horror, school systems enacted "zero tolerance" policies, and when sixth-grader Alan Newsom wore his NRA Shooting Sports Camp t-shirt with images of rifles to Jack Jouett Middle School in April 2002, a school administrator told him to take it off. Backed by the NRA, Newsom filed suit, and Albemarle dug in its heels. By December 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Jouett's dress code was "unconstitutionally overbroad" and the case was settled in early 2004 for an undisclosed amount.
Prism Schism: Folk venue feels mighty wind of discord, April 1, 2004. For nearly four decades, the Prism Coffeehouse was the folk community's go-to spot, until curse-laden voicemails and screeching fiddles disrupted the peace-loving community, which had to dislodge board-member Fred Boyce, who turned up in 2012 in a video that aired nationally of him wrangling an alligator in North Carolina. And at the Prism, despite an attempted rebirth, it's now sounds of silence.
Dave, fame, and Haines: Celebrity, suicide, and the etiquette of envy, September 16, 2004. The first piece penned by Dave McNair in the Hook is set during a boozy evening with Dave Matthews as the two try to make sense of the loss of Charlottesville musician Haines Fullerton, who was a mentor to Matthews and who committed suicide in 1996.
How UVA turns its back on rape, November 11, 2004. Courteney Stuart's now seminal investigation into rape at Mr. Jefferson's U revealed that Honor Code violators faced harsher punishment than rapists, who got barely a slap on the wrist. Then 21-year-old Annie Hylton, who was unable to have her attacker prosecuted, went before the Sexual Assault Board of the Judiciary Committee, which found him guilty, but allowed him to remain at school and gagged Hylton from speaking about the incident. She filed a nearly $2 million civil suit in December 2003. And outraged mother Susan Russell started uvavictimsofrape.com after her own daughter was urged to try mediation with her attacker and the Sexual Assault Board returned a not guilty verdict. Days after this article came out, hundreds of UVA students protested the school's "code of silence" in handling rape cases by wearing symbolic gags.
The Verdict: Sisk's family speaks out, November 18, 2004. The 2003 death of Free Union firefighter Walker Sisk, 22, stabbed 18 times by UVA third-year Andrew Alston on the Corner, was a town-and-gown tragedy. Alston was charged with second-degree murder–– and defended by DC attorney Jon Zwerling, who'd handled high-profile cases like Lorena Bobbitt–– and the jury returned with a voluntary manslaughter conviction and a three-year sentence. A year later, juror Liz Kutchai wrote in her alumni magazine that the jury found no malice in Alston's knifing of a stranger, and that binge drinking by both was a key factor in the fatal encounter.
George Bush won a second term, the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq dragged on, and Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. Locally, the area was reaching the peak of the real estate bubble, with Albemarle tax assessments soaring 27 percent and a local developer named Hunter Craig paying $46.2 million for a 1,365-acre tract called Forest Lodge, better known today as Biscuit Run, the highest sum paid for property yet in a decade that saw increasingly unreal real estate prices.
She's dying: His drug could save her, February 24, 2005. Mary Jane Gentry knew her diagnosis of ALS— Lou Gehrig's Disease— was a death sentence. Taking part in an experimental drug trial conducted by UVA neurologist James Bennett, she noticed some improvement. And then UVA pulled the plug on the trial. Within weeks of this story, UVA Health Sciences Center okayed conditional study of the drug; Gentry died in May 2005. The drug, known as Dexpramipexole, is now in late stage clinical development.
This Mold House: Family devastated by spore war, March 31, 2005. A horrific tale of a homeowner's worst fears, Larry Butler and Judit Szaloki struggled to save up a down payment (at the peak of the bubble, remember), only to find the house at 2207 Wayne Avenue for which they'd paid $256,000 was infested with mold and made their family sick. Worse, they learned they had no legal recourse. Even when the community pitched in to help (including contractor/City Council candidate Bob Fenwick), the family was devastated and the house sold in foreclosure two years later.
Runner Down: The life and death of Kelly Watt, August 11, 2005. This story was personal for the Hook. Watt, a 2005 Albemarle High grad and track team member, had interned here, wrote a weekly sports column, and was getting ready to head to William & Mary. The 18-year-old athlete went for a run on Ridge Road July 26 on a 94-degree afternoon that, with humidity, could have felt like 115 degrees. And that's when we learned that even young, fit runners can fall victim to exertional heat stroke, caused by exercise that overwhelms the body's natural ability to cool itself. R.I.P. Kelly.
Bigger Bang: The Rolling Stones, September 29, 2005. Despite a bomb threat that interrupted the concert, all we can say about the Stones' October 6 concert at Scott Stadium is that it was the greatest show ever, and left Charlottesville basking in the afterglow for days.
Fourth and binge: The fourth-year fifth—tradition or insanity?, December 1, 2005. After UVA student Leslie Balz died in 1997 with a blood-alcohol content of 0.429 (the legal level for drunk driving is 0.08), the relatively recent tradition of fourth years consuming a fifth before kickoff of the UVA-Virginia Tech game drew attention to the culture of binge drinking and university efforts to stem the practice. A Hook reporter provided a fly-on-the wall account of one man's consumption of Jim Beam before the game.
One of the bigger local stories of the year was the so-called smoke-bomb plot, in which four county high school and middle school students were convicted of two felony counts for plotting to blow up Western and Albemarle highs based mainly on confessions made when trusting parents allowed their kids to talk to cops without an attorney present. As more information was revealed and the evidence grew thinner, it became less a plot than one disturbed 16-year-old and some teen boys talking smack. The case riled a lot of people in the community— and not because they thought there was a serious threat. Other big stories: The area was starstruck as UVA alum Tom Shadyac filmed Evan Almighty and built an ark in Old Trail in Crozet. And the "UVA 17" were arrested for occupying Madison Hall in support of a living wage for workers.
'I harmed you': 21 years, 12 steps later, rape apology backfires, January 12, 2006. William Beebe's apology to a woman he'd allegedly raped in a UVA fraternity in 1984 became a national story, and netted him an arrest. Liz Securro said she'd been inspired by Annie Hylton's story— and the realization that women were still being assaulted at UVA with no consequence to their attackers. In Charlottesville Circuit Court, Beebe was found guilty of felony sexual battery and sentenced to 18 months in jail, and served about six months.
Heartbreak: Could a simple device have saved a life? February 9, 2006. An automated external defibrillator— known as an AED— has been credited with increasing the survival rate of a cardiac arrest victim by as much as 85 percent. That's why Susan DeJarnette couldn't understand why Gold's Gym, where she and her husband worked out, didn't have one, especially after her husband went into cardiac arrest on a treadmill and died. This story brought attention to this lifesaving device— and AEDs to Gold's and other public places. In 2008, the city bought 55 to put in public buildings.
Horror in the hallway: Masked assailant faces sentencing, February 16, 2006. When well-heeled financial adviser Kurt Kroboth donned a vampire mask Halloween night 2004 and broke into his soon-to-be ex-wife's house to kill her and make it appear a suicide, Charlottesville was riveted by the lurid details of the case. Fortunately, his wife was able to fight him off and Kroboth was convicted of two felony counts and sentenced to 10 years in prison. That was not the last we'd hear of him, however. Earlier this year, he was charged with a probation violation when he tried to see his son in Oregon, and currently he's serving six months in Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail for a second probation violation stemming from his refusal to sign off on the terms of his Arizona probation.
Lethal Wreckage: Embattled towing company files for a name change after $20 million suit, August 31, 2006. Tales of towing horrors are legion, and perhaps no company in Charlottesville was more notorious than Lethal Wreckage. This story wasn't about a bad tow, but how one of the company's wreckers smashed into teacher Peter Weatherly's Honda Accord and left him critically injured. Weatherly sued, and learned that Lethal's owner, George Morris, changed the name of the company.
Riddled: What happens after police shootings? November 30, 2006. Fugitive Elvis Shifflett had been on the run for a week when Charlottesville Police spotted and shot him October 20, and his family claimed he was not a danger and that they weren't allowed to see him in the hospital. Around the same time, the Hook conducted a jailhour interview with Robert Lee Cooke, who had just been convicted for the 2004 shooting of Albemarle K-9 cop Ingo and sentenced to seven years. Paralyzed, Cooke claimed he was running away when he was shot, and that it was not his bullet that killed Ingo.
By 2007, the recession was in full swing. The collapse of bubble-era real estate prices left many homeowners so underwater they're still recovering today and several local builders closed shop. But the worst story of the year happened April 16, when Blacksburg joined the mass murder hall of infamy after a student gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech.
Justice for Justine: Investigation 'very active' in hit and run, June 7, 2007. A beautiful, newlywed school teacher was found dead in the middle of the night November 3, 2006, on a remote Orange County road, the victim of an apparent hit and run, and questions surrounding the mysterious circumstances arose immediately. It took four years before Justine Swartz's husband, Eric Abshire, was arrested in 2010, and convicted of her death on 2011, another Hook story that became national news.
Little girl lost: Remembering Katie Worsky after 25 years, July 12, 2007. Well before the disappearance of Alexis Murphy and Morgan Harrington, the story of 12-year-old Katie Worsky, who went on a sleepover July 12, 1982, and never returned home, shattered Charlottesville's image as a safe place. Her body was never found, but Glenn Haslam Barker was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 18 years. That was in the days before Virginia abolished parole and prevented juries from hearing about a defendant's past record. And indeed, Barker, who was eligible for parole after nine years, had previously been charged with kidnapping a young woman. In a two-part series, Courteney Stuart followed the cases of missing women in which Barker was suspected, but never convicted.
Unapologetic: Prosecutor defends record while critics take aim, September 20, 2007. Perhaps it's impossible to be a prosecutor for 16 years without generating controversy. Jim Camblos sought a fifth term in 2007 as Albemarle commonwealth's attorney, and his campaign was fresh on the heels of the "smoke bomb" plot. The parents of two of the boys denounced his handling of the case, and local blogger Waldo Jaquith blasted Camblos for charging four movie-making UVA students with brandishing a firearm. The Hook took a look at some of Camblos' more high-profile cases and talked to both critics and supporters. Camblos lost the race to Denise Lunsford.
Fatal roll: 1982 fraternity crash still affecting lives, October 4, 2007. In another 25-year-old story, the Hook recounted the evening of October 6, 1982, in which 64 Sigma Chi brothers from UVA were in the back of a U-Haul truck on the road to party with women at Randolph-Macon in Lynchburg, a not uncommon method of transport at the time. In a curve, the weight of the men in the back caused the truck to tip over, and two died. The tragic crash came at the end of an era. Shortly after, UVA banned its notorious debauched weekend, Easters, the Reagan administration tied highway funds to a 21-year-old drinking age, and a group called Mothers Against Drunk Driving took aim at drinking and driving.
Questions: Despite Tuesday's arrests, in-home murder has town reeling, November 15, 2007. Twenty-six-year-old Jayne McGowan was well-liked with many friends. The UVA grad had returned to Charlottesville to work for a nonprofit, and lived in a house on St. Clair Avenue. Two cousins— William Douglas Gentry Jr., 22, and Michael Stuart Pritchett, 18— with no known connection to her came to her door November 9, and killed her while stealing a laptop. The home invasion in a desirable neighborhood off Locust Avenue sent security system sales spiking, and left many horrified at the random, senseless crime.
This man: was hit by a police cruiser in this crosswalk– then given a ticket, December 6, 2007. Even today, the Gerry Mitchell story defies belief. Friends say the well-known local artist, who suffered from AIDS, never really recovered from being knocked out of his wheelchair by a texting Albemarle County cop, the video of which became a YouTube sensation. Two months after settling his lawsuit, Mitchell died December 3, 2011.
Nationally, the United States elected its first black president in the midst of a financial collapse. Dem Tom Perriello upset six-term congressman Virgil Goode in the conservative 5th District. Halsey Minor broke ground in March on the Landmark Hotel on the Downtown Mall, and by November had fired developer Lee Danielson, the man who brought us the ice park and downtown Regal theater. Montpelier reopened the home of President James Madison after a five-year renovation, and Charlottesville noted the 50th anniversary of massive resistance, which closed Venable Elementary and Lane High to prevent black children from studying there.
The perfect storm: Family tragedy plays out in court, January 31, 2008. Raelyn Balfour had already suffered the worst day of her life on March 30, 2007, when she forgot that her nine-month old son Bryce was still strapped in her car when she went to work at the JAG School on UVA's North Grounds and discovered hours later he had died of heat stroke. But there was more to come for the grief-stricken family, and she went to court January 23 charged with involuntary manslaughter. A jury acquitted her, and the painful incident brought home how a stressed-out, sleep-deprived, loving parent can unwittingly cause the death of a child, and raised questions about the prosecution of such tragic losses.
Reservoir dogged: A $142 million boondoggle? February 28, 2008. Even we've lost count of how many stories the Hook penned on the controversial Ragged Mountain dam, but this first story covered a group of prominent citizens who questioned the need and wondered why a seemingly more cost-effective plan to dredge the Rivanna Reservoir was abandoned in favor of a 9.5-mile mile pipeline from the still silting-up Rivanna to fill Ragged Mountain.
Alarming: Most smoke detectors don't detect deadly smoke, July 10, 2008. During her reporting on a deadly 2007 fire on Lewis Mountain Road, Courteney Stuart learned that not all smoke detectors are created equal, and by the time the ionization detector in that fire went off, flames were already in the bedroom and Brett Quarterman, 25, died two days later of smoke inhalation. More alarming? That ionization detectors are in an overwhelming number of homes. With the help of Albemarle Fire and Rescue, the Hook put them to the test against the more smoke-sensitive photoelectric detector. A sofa was set to smolder, and it was more than an hour after the photoelectric detector went off that the ionization detector sounded its alarm. Imagine that if you're asleep in your home. This cover with Stuart and Hawes Spencer suited up in firefighter gear remains one of our favorites.
Obscene! (sort of)- Staunton porn trial bizarre from start to finish, August 21, 2008. We're pretty sure that former Hook reporter Lindsay Barnes, now a Philadelphia-based attorney, is going to end up on the Supreme Court— or in the White House. He's also a helluva writer, and his coverage of the obscenity trial of a video store owner and clerk for selling Sugar Britches and City Girls Extreme Gangbangs is an LOL classic.
Missing billion: How UVA's investment strategy worked... until it didn't, November 20, 2008. Everyone's portfolio took a hit during the economic collapse, but when UVA lost $1 billion of its $5 billion endowment, the university's ability to meet its commitments was threatened. Should riskier investments like private equity be used for the endowment, or are those instruments a necessary fact of life to get higher returns in a state where support for its flagship university is increasingly miserly?
The local economy continued to tank, with empty storefronts dotting the Downtown Mall. This year saw the birth of the tea party, and a demanding crowd filled the Pavilion on Tax Day. Although Obama had just been elected, Virginia went red the following year, electing Bob McDonnell governor and Republicans Duane Snow and Rodney Thomas to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. The 50-year water plan continued to be debated, the Downtown Mall got a $7.5 million rebricking, and its most distinctive landmark, the skeletal Landmark Hotel, celebrated its first anniversary. Remember when you could smoke in restaurants? This is the year that became history.
Getting away with murder? Former cop has serious questions about why Staunton's most infamous killer almost got away, January 8, 2009. The High's Ice Cream murders— two sisters-in-law, "Connie" Hevener, 19, and Carolyn Perry, 20— were shot as they closed up the shop in April 1967, remained Staunton's most notorious unsolved murders. After the unlikely deathbed arrest of 60-year-old former High's employee Sharron Diane Crawford Smith in November 2008, revelations emerged that a police cover-up may have helped her get away with homicide for 41 years.
What a Waste: Is the trash Authority going obsolete? April 2, 2009. Water wasn't the only battle being waged. Peter Van der Linde opened his state-of-the-art recycling facility at Zion's Crossroads, and amid declining tipping fees, Rivanna Solid Waste Authority responded— with a RICO awsuit. Today the city has a contract with Van der Linde, but four years ago, the appointed authority in charge of city and county trash seemed decidedly threatened by his operation. This story would continue with a May 2011 attack on Van der Linde's trucks and an Allied Waste ad campaign in 2012 suggesting that separated recycling was still the way to go.
No option? Possible death pact tied to financial losses, June 4, 2009. Even the well-heeled were not immune from the economy, but certainly the last thing a friend expected when he went to check on Don and Valerie Slater at their Stony Point estate on a bitter January night was to find them dead in their Jeep Cherokee with a tank of helium and plastic bags in the car.
JADE junkie: the unlikeliest First Amendment warrior, September 17, 2009. When we first met Elisha Strom in 2007, she was a witness in the enticement-of-a-minor trial of her estranged husband, Kevin Strom, the founder of the white separatist org National Vanguard. When she popped up again two years later, she'd been in jail for a month for publishing the address of one of the officers in the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement Task Force on her blog, I HeArTE JADE. Strom's activities unnerved JADE and drew the support of the ACLU, which contended ridicule of police is protected speech. She was found not guilty of stalking an ATF agent in 2010, and Delegate Rob Bell's bill that allowed law enforcement officers who feel threatened to remove their property records from government websites passed the General Assembly that same year.
Alone on a mountain: the true story of Flight 349, October 8, 2009. Former Hook editor Hawes Spencer penned this definitive account on the 50th anniversary of the October 30, 1959, crash into Bucks Elbow Mountain of a Piedmont flight that killed 26 of the 27 people on board. One man— Phil Bradley— survived and spent two nights on the mountain before the missing plane was found. Bradley, who died in August, is responsible for the memorial in Mint Springs Valley Park to those who perished in Piedmont Airlines' first fatal crash. The cover package won "Best in Show" from the Virginia Press Association in 2009.
'Off the face of the earth': the hunt for Morgan Harrington, October 29, 2009. A young woman goes to a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena, and is never seen again until her body turns up three months later in a field south of Charlottesville. Her killer is still at large.
Halsey Minor is misunderstood... Everything you've heard is wrong, November 5, 2009. The tale of the CNET founder's rise and fall was documented in a number of Hook stories, beginning with the groundbreaking of the Landmark Hotel in 2008. This story covered some of the many lawsuits in which Minor was a party before the former multi-millionaire filed for bankruptcy this year, leaving Charlottesville with an unsightly monument.
Unfortunately, this was a grim year, kicked off by one hell of a snow storm, then followed by multiple real estate foreclosures, the death of Yeardley Love, the suicide of Kevin Morrissey, and young Colby Eppard losing his life in a hail of bullets. We're just glad we survived.
Snowpocalypse: Storm of the new century and what went wrong, January 7, 2010. The storm couldn't have hit at a worse time, 5pm on December 18, 2009, at rush hour in the Christmas season. Hours later every major artery in town was closed or impassable, and stuck or abandoned vehicles were everywhere. The Hook took a hard look at why the storm took the region by surprise.
Wasteworks Lawsuit for Dumb Dumbs, January 14, 2010. The Hook continued to document the "waste war" as the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority struggled to save itself and sued the man who was offering the community a new way to recycle. That man, Peter van der Linde, now contracts with the city and has transformed the local recycling business.
60 Shots: Authorities duck as Colby Eppard's parents seek answers, February 25, 2010. When police killed 18-year-old Greene County resident Colby Eppard after a high-speed chase in a stolen cop car, the community wanted answers. So did a grieving mother, who wondered why it took so many cops and so many bullets to stop her son. For many, this story raised the question, what if it were your son?
The Chang Effect: Wooing palates, breaking hearts— and why he left, March 25, 2010. You would have thought Brad Pitt had moved here. After rock star chef Peter Chang was "discovered" working at Taste of China in Albemarle Square and featured in the New Yorker, Charlottesvillians went nuts for the authentic Szechuan fare, and the Hook's Dave McNair got the first interview with the man who'd go on to found Peter Chang's China Grill in the North Wing of the Barracks Road Shopping Center, as well as eateries in Richmond, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg.
Devastated: UVA rocked by lacrosse death, arrest, May 6, 2010. the death of UVA women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love at the hands of UVA men's lacrosse player George Huguely shook tthe town and the University to its core. So many national news outlets came to town two years later that the court had to open an overflow media area with video feed for the February 2012 trial. Huguely was eventually convicted of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 23 years. He is currently appealing his conviction.
Tale of Woe: The death of the VQR's Kevin Morrissey, August 19, 2010. On John Casteen’s last official day in office as the president of the University of Virginia, a tragic story, one fit for the pages of the award-winning literary journal that he nurtured, began to unfold. Soon after news that Virginia Quarterly Review's managing editor, Kevin Morrissey, had committed suicide, allegations of workplace bullying emerged and the Hook penned a series of stories exploring the circumstances around Morrissey's death.
Kuttner conquers: Oliver's Edison2 car wins $5 million X Prize, September 23, 2010. Local visionary Oliver Kuttner captured the $5 million Progressive Automotive X Prize for building a car that got 102 miles per gallon. It was quite a year for the ex-developer, who turned his sights on re-imagining the automobile for a new century, in this case a very light car, literally called the Very Light Car, which wowed the judges.
Nothing like a 5.8 magnitude earthquake Central Virginia to shake things up followed by a hurricane and a tornado. What the heck was going on? The Arab Spring and Occupy Somewhere movements suggested there was an awakening happening and a desire for change. Plus, the long war in Iraq came to an end.
Bad men? New numbers show spiraling cost of Biscuit Run, January 6, 2011. This story took aim at the developers of Biscuit Run, the failed 1,200-acre development on the south side of Charlottesville, who hoped to cover their losses through a tax-credit bailout courtesy of then governor Tim Kaine and the taxpayers of Virginia. In April 2013, the man behind the deal, Hunter Craig, won a court ruling that the property was worth more than $86 million, thereby securing a windfall for the original investors.
Reversal of fortune: Albemarle House goes on the block, January 20, 2011. Once the wife of the wealthiest man in the world, Patricia Kluge was long considered a socialite who, during the life of the Hook, became a high profile winemaker. Ultimately, however, she lost everything and her pal Donald Trump got a great deal on a winery that now bears his name, along with the Albemarle House mansion.
Double recantation: Is an innocent man in jail for the Crozet murders? June 9, 2011. Can there be a worse travesty of the justice system than to have an innocent man in prison? Robert Davis had been in jail for nine years for a murder conviction when the man who implicated him changed his story. Two years later, a second convicted perpetrator in the crime changed her story, expressing remorse for implicating Davis, who remains behind bars with a clemency petition before the governor.
FLAWS–– Tripled rates, spun numbers, and Conservancy conflicts: Why the war on dredging slogs on, July 28, 2011. The battle over a new reservoir continued as opponents claimed it would benefit a bottled-water company at the expense of local households while destroying 180 acres of mature hardwood forest. A hardhitting story by Hawes Spencer was capped in one of the Hook staff's favorite— and most controversial— covers.
Glitchy system: Inside the student software debacle, September 15, 2011. Why did the Albemarle County School systems spend $2 million on a faulty software system? That's what we wondered, and when we tried to find out, the school system sent a $2,000 bill for our Freedom of Information Act request and withheld more than 300 emails. Eventually, they scrapped that software system.
Reefer madness? Copter and SWAT team weeded out 2 plants on their property, October 13, 2011. Why would a SWAT-like team using helicopters descend upon a farm where a 53-year-old man was caring for his 90-year-old mother? To bust him for growing two pot plants! The case raised questions over use of police resources and the wisdom of the war on drugs.
In 2012, you'd have thought Charlottesville was the center of the universe. Within walking distance of the Hook's offices, we covered visits from President Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen, and even the Dalai Lama. UVA athletes were bringing home Olympic Gold, George Huguely's murder trial was on national TV, and of course the attempted ouster of UVA President Teresa Sullivan put Charlottesville in the red hot spotlight.
Broken beauty: The lofty life and tragic death of Linda Doig, January 5, 2012. When Lee Park filled with Occupy Charlottesvillians, one woman stood out. A week after she gave a brief interview with a Hook reporter sharing pictures of her life as a high fashion model, Linda Doig was dead under circumstances her family considered questionable, but no arrests were ever made.
Huguely trial: 'How the f*** is she dead?", February 16, 2012. The trial of George Huguely brought media from around the country to Charlottesville, and in three separate cover stories, the Hook covered the courtroom drama that included allegations of alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, and the privileged world of UVA athletes. Huguely, who would eventually be convicted of murdering his girlfriend Yeardley Love, is currently serving his sentence at Keen Mountain Correctional Center in Buchanan County, Virginia.
Dragas Shrugged: Sully-frenzy crushed by BOV, June 21, 2012. What started as a quiet Sunday announcement that UVA president Teresa Sullivan was resigning ballooned into a national frenzy and remains known as the "June debacle" at UVA. Sullivan, of course, was reinstated, but conversations about the direction of higher education and online learning in particular continue.
Jury nullification: The elephant in the room, July 26, 2012. Have you ever sat on a jury? Even you have, chances are you've never heard the term "jury nullification," a little-known part of our legal system that allows a jury to acquit someone if they believe the law that was used to charge them is unjust. In the coverage of the Phillip Cobbs trial for two pot plants, a judge acknowledged increasing difficulty finding jurors willing to convict for pot.
Living in the shadow: As Samantha Clarke's family mourns, a suspect claims police harassment, October 25, 2012. Randy Allen Taylor came to the Hook office in October 2012 to tell his story about police harassment. By the time he left, he'd revealed he was considered a suspect in the disappearance of Orange County teen Samantha Clarke. Less than a year later, Taylor was back in the news with his arrest for the abduction of Nelson County teen Alexis Murphy. Could one man be so unlucky to have been the last person to see two missing young women? The investigation into both cases continues.
The big story gaining national attention that's not about a missing girl thus far is the notorious ABC sting at Harris Teeter, where plainclothes armed agents were poised to stop underage beer drinking at any cost— terrorizing sparkling-water-buying young women in a darkened parking lot and charging one of them with three felonies. We leave 2013 with a Trader Joe's and a stadium theater complex, and join Vinegar Hill Theater in the annals of Charlottesville past.
Missing: Inside the Dashad Smith investigation, January 10, 2013. We've noticed a disturbing trend— too many people go missing. Dashad "Sage" Smith, 19, who often dressed as a woman, was last seen November 20 and still has not been found.
County in crisis: Dumler digs in as outrage mounts, March 7, 2013. Christopher Dumler was the Democrats' rising star when he was elected at age 26 to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors in 2011. That star was tarnished with his arrest for forcible sodomy last October. Earlier this year, Dumler pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery, and spent weekends in jail— but did not resign the BOS, igniting protests and a petition to remove him from office. Days after a judge ruled there was not sufficient evidence that he was not doing his job, he resigned from the board and has disappeared from public view. Currently there's a warrant for him failing to show up in court.
Under fire: Is the Elks Lodge getting a bad rap? April 18, 2013. Hook reporter Dave McNair was walking on 2nd Street below the Hook office shortly after midnight March 16 when he heard shots ring out. Two men were shot, one of them by a Charlottesville police officer. The incident drew attention to the historic African-American lodge off the Downtown Mall, problems from the club in the past, and the paucity of places for black residents to hang on a Friday night.
Shock and awe: Inside the Rugby Road raid, May 16, 2013. The Rutherford Institute's John Whitehead has been warning about the militarization of American police for years, but the show of force and closing of a street with million-dollar houses near the university by SWAT-attired Virginia State Police and Homeland Security to bust a fake ID ring sent shivers through those who fear the wars on drugs and terror have become the war on American citizens.
Code of silence: County clams up when cops open fire, June 13, 2013. The spate of shootings by police continued after the Elks Lodge. Josue Salinas Valdez was shot at his Birdwood Court residence when two Albemarle County cops— William Underwood and James Herring— came into the city to investigate, and Greg Rosson, 21, was killed when Albemarle Officer Jim Larkin responded to a report of a woman being assaulted. All of these shootings were ultimately determined justified, but unlike Charlottesville police, Albemarle refused to identify Larkin until more than two months after the shooting, raising the question, does the public have the right to know who a police officer is who wounds or kills someone?
The 67-cent felony: A veteran winemaker runs afoul of the ABC, September 5, 2013. This hasn't been a good year for the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control, but it wasn't a good year for Mike Bowles either. He'd filed for a license to make grappa and still got charged with a felony for untaxed liquor when ABC agents saw a small test bottle on his desk.
Correction: The first issue of the Hook came out, of course, on February 7, 2002.