COVER- Stuck in the midterm with you: The best and worst of 2006

Typically, the tide shifts during a two-term presidency, so 2006 was the year of the Republican rebuke. Americans went to the polls in November and showed their displeasure with the war in Iraq that's lasted longer than World War II and has American casualties pushing 3,000.

Democrats took control of Congress for the first time– well, since the last presidential rebuke, when a chastened (but perhaps not quite chaste) Bill Clinton faced a Republican majority.

This year, Virginia went from solid red-state status to purple with a new balancing act between blue NOVA and the red rural rest of the Commonwealth, according to political reporter Bob Gibson.

Blue staters dominated the U.S. Senate race, showing the incumbent Republican senator and former governor George Allen to the door in a 9,329-vote upset by political novice Jim Webb. But red staters returned Republican Virgil Goode to represent the Fifth District in Congress, despite increasingly blue Albemarle County.

And red dominated the state's Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage with 57 percent of the vote, much to the chagrin of the state's gay citizens (and those who think that with a divorce rate around 50 percent, it's going to take more than a state edict to protect the sanctity of marriage).

The election season was like watching a train wreck. Former Earlysville resident Allen couldn't stop shooting himself in the foot, denying former football teammates' accounts that he repeatedly used the N-word, maintaining that he wasn't Jewish– and then admitting he is, but still likes his pork chops. And that all came after "Macaca."

Another political fumbler, former VP Al Gore, took his global warming slide show on the road and begat the movie An Inconvenient Truth.

We've been hearing about global warming for years, but didja notice how unnaturally warm November was, how downright balmy December has been? Or that five years after 9-11, Americans' eyes glaze over as we wonder how the latest terrorist threat will inconvenience us and whether we can cram all our liquids and gels in a one-quart clear plastic bag before boarding a plane?  

Or how we seem no longer to wince when we learn the government spies on us, because that is the price of safety from terrorists? And maybe torture isn't such a bad thing, because isn't terrorism worse? And with Guantanamo prisoners looking at their fourth anniversary in prison without even knowing what they're charged with, maybe habeas corpus is a quaint idea that's outlived its usefulness.

Enjoy the warm weather during those months we should be shivering, because it's symptomatic of the best– and a portent of the worst– of 2006. 

Worst way to start the year: Popular musician Bryan Harvey, his wife, Kathryn, and their two little girls, Stella and Ruby, are murdered in their Richmond home New Year's Day. Ricky Javon Gray is sentenced to death in August, and his nephew Ray Dandridge pleads guilty for a life sentence in the Harvey murders and those of his ex-girlfriend and her parents.

Biggest 12-step stumble: "I harmed you," writes William Beebe to Liz Seccuro, trying to make amends for a night in 1984 when they both were UVA students– and Seccuro was raped at the Phi Kappa Psi house. Beebe is arrested January 4 in Las Vegas and learns there's no statute of limitations on rape. In a surprise agreement, Beebe pleads guilty to aggravated sexual battery November 14 as the prosecution drops a bombshell: other sexual assaults on Seccuro occurred that night.

Biggest/least noticeable change to the Downtown Mall: Overriding the Planning Commission, City Council opens a second Mall crossing at Fourth Street on a trial basis in April, to be revisited again in a year.

Most like Hollywood: Director/UVA alum Tom Shadyac films Evan Almighty in Crozet and environs, and locals line up as extras to spot stars Morgan Freeman, Steve Carell, and John Goodman. A giant ark materializes at Old Trail, and exotic species line up two by two, sending the film from its original $140 million budget into the $160-$175 million range– the most expensive comedy ever made. Look for Charlottesvillians to line up June 22, 2007, Evan's expected release date.

Most controversial ceramics: Artist Rose Hill reclaims Little Black Sambo and uses his image in a Black History Month exhibit at McGuffey in February.

Least like Columbine: Police arrest three students in an alleged plot to blow up Albemarle and Western Albemarle high schools and call a press conference February 3. Two weeks later, an eighth grader is frog-marched out of Jack Jouett Middle School. The boys– two 13-year-olds and a 15- and a 16-year-old– are convicted  of two felony counts in juvenile court in March and held in detention for months. Three appeal: one's acquitted August 16, and pleas could drop charges with good behavior by the former AHS student, and allow mental health treatment for the alleged "ringleader." But the incident (involving some boys who didn't even know each other) appears to some observers as simply a case of a disturbed WAHS student and other kids saying stupid things. The seized evidence included two shotguns, some fireworks, and a smoke bomb taken out of a parent's locked gun safe.

Most disturbing lesson: The evidence in the alleged bomb plot cases stemmed mostly from the teens' alleged confessions. One 13-year-old was repeatedly reassured by police that he wasn't in trouble and he wasn't under arrest. Parents learn that if they give permission to police to interrogate their children, the youths will not be read their Miranda rights because they're there "voluntarily," and what they say can (and will) be used against them.

Most secretive: The Hook goes to court– unsuccessfully– to open the files in the alleged bomb plot case. Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross rebuffs Hook editor Hawes Spencer's contention that the proceedings were akin to Faber College's "double secret probation."

Widest net: The father of the Albemarle High student is charged with contempt of court for writing the School Board on behalf of his son, a charge Peatross dismisses September 19.

Worst false-confession case: Earl Washington Jr. (left), who spent 18 years in jail and came within nine days of execution, is awarded $2.25 million May 5 by a jury in federal court in Charlottesville in a civil suit against the estate of investigating officer Curtis Reese Wilmore.

Worst place to go into cardiac arrest: On the treadmill at the Culpeper location of Gold's Gym, which Susan DeJarnette had repeatedly had asked to provide automated external defibrillators. Henry DeJarnette dies January 22 after collapsing there with a heart attack.

Best places to work out: Gold's Gym opens a new facility beside Kmart in March, and ACAC unveils its new mega-gym November 20 in the old Ivy Industries building. Both of these facilities offer defibrillators.

Worst place to try to get a workout: New Fitness for Ladies folds in late August, leaving irate members scrambling for refunds.

Second most shocking departure: After nine years, beloved NBC29 morning anchor Beth "Take this Job and Love It" Duffy signs off the News at Sunrise March 2 for more normal hours... and turns up a few weeks later working sales for the Newsplex.

Most shocking departure: Controversial UVA dean of African American Affairs Rick Turner abruptly retires in July after federal prosecutors charge him with lying about a drug dealer. Turner takes a deferred plea, must keep his nose clean for a year– and is subject to drug testing.

Most sensational attempted murder: Vampire mask-wearing would-be wife-killer Kurt Kroboth, who tried to off his ex by staging her suicide in 2004, is sentenced to 10 years in jail May 9. 

Rowdiest school: Buford Middle racks up a dozen serious incidents in the spring, including a hallway brawl in which three students are arrested, and teachers complain that violent offenders aren't expelled.

Freshest air forecast for Woolen Mills: The Rivanna Solid Waste Authority promises to close down the human-waste composting facility at Moore's Creek by February 1, 2007. 

Biggest fall: The back wall of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on High Street collapses March 30 during the long-awaited renovation to the courthouse, bringing work to a halt for nine months and counting.

Biggest con-man story: Thomas E. Coghill Jr., who bilked contractors all over town in the 1990s, has his day in court March 15 and is sentenced to 33 months in jail and ordered to repay $2.8 million to Anchor Capital and $170,000 to First Western Investment in Charlottesville.

Next biggest bilking: James Newman is sentenced to 78 months July 25 for swindling nearly $149,000 from 11 people, including $40,000 from a disabled woman.

Noisiest neighborhood squabble: Little High Street complains about the design of a Region 10 40-unit, low-income housing complex, the Mews, for people with disabilities.

Loudest loss of an institution: The 40-year-old Prism Coffeehouse hosts its last show April 22 after plans to move to Orange collapse amid internecine warfare.

Best protest: Seventeen UVA students occupy Madison Hall April 12 in support of a living wage and refuse to leave the building until UVA President John Casteen raises the school's minimum wage from $9.37 to $10.72. 

Most trespassing cases: The "UVA 17" are arrested April 15 and acquitted May 22, with only assistant professor Wende Marshall convicted of trespassing for refusing to leave the administrative building the first day of the protest. Marshall appeals, and her conviction is dropped in June.

Longest-running trespassing case: UVA prof and former House of Delegates candidate Rich Collins is acquitted in October upon appeal of his trespassing conviction for handing out leaflets at Shopper's World in May 2005 during his political campaign. Collins has filed a civil case that may be heard by the Virginia Supreme Court.

First elected School Board: Charlottesville voters pick board members May 2 and elect Juan Diego Wade, Leah Puryear, and former appointee Ned Michie.

Biggest ouster: In May, lone Republican Rob Schilling is dumped from City Council as Dems regain dominance with Julian Taliaferro and Dave Norris.

Best second act: In October, Schilling joins WINA's morning show, taking the host spot held by Dick Mountjoy, who's recovering from tongue cancer.

Most hotly contested Fifth District race: Dems Al Weed and Bern Ewert vie for the nomination to challenge incumbent Virgil Goode, who in November trounces Weed for the second time.

Worst poodle puncturing: "Griffey" is shot with a CO2 pellet February 26 in his Fieldbrook neighborhood off U.S. 29 north. No one is charged in the wounding, and neighbors fear a nascent serial killer.

Newest monopoly in town: Comcast takes the reins from bankrupt Adelphia Cable, shaking up channel assignments effective December 28 most favorably for the new TV kids in town, WCAV CBS19 and WAHU FOX27.

Biggest name change: Sprint becomes Embarq, which inherits the land-line portion of the company following Sprint's 2004 merger with Nextel.

Latest Oliver Kuttner project: The bad-boy developer is back on the Downtown Mall with his May 3 purchase of the Central Fidelity Bank building– a property developer Lee Danielson wanted to turn into "Hotel Charlottesville."

Latest Ludwig Kuttner project: The elder Kuttner is forced from his position as CEO of the Hampshire Group, fired, and faces a shareholder's lawsuit.

Biggest debut: The $130 million John Paul Jones Arena opens August 1 with Cirque de Soleil, and officially is inaugurated September 22 with the first of a two-night Dave Matthews Band stand.

Highest profile cat killing: Auto Import Store owner George Seymour is convicted August 22 and sentenced to serve 10 days in jail for the April 24 shooting his Bentivar neighbors' cat, "Carmen," who was so seriously wounded she had to be euthanized. 

Highest profile vanity plate: Ween fan Tom Rose gets his "WEEN ME" plate back in April after the DMV decides the text is not as dirty as they thought when they confiscated it in September 2005. 

Best example of how time flies: Convicted killer/former UVA student Andrew Alston is released from prison June 21, less than three years after killing local firefighter Walker Sisk, 22, with at least 18 stabs on November 8, 2003.

Worst serial peeper: David Long, 26, who was arrested August 18, 2005, after breaking into a woman's bedroom and who confessed to police he'd peeped on six couples, is found unfit to stand trial May 4 and released.

Worst teen drinking tragedy: Albemarle High student Nolan Jenkins, 17, dies May 19 after leaving a party thrown by the brother of Brittany Hope Bishop, who died in a July 2002 accident involving alcohol. Eleven teens are charged with underage drinking.

Biggest pall on post-prom parties: Police bust a Crozet party at 5:30am May 28, rousting sleeping teens and charging 16 with underage possession of alcohol and threatening to charge the hosting parents, despite their efforts to keep the booze out. In further fallout, less than two weeks before school ends, Western Albemarle High demands athletes sign an oath that they haven't used drugs or alcohol. Thirty teens just say no– and miss out on post-season championship games.

Biggest bagel bombshell: After 20 years of beguiling with bagels, Bodo's owner Brian Fox, 61, announces in June he's selling his three bagelries to the store managers.

Best news for ALS sufferers: A drug called pramipexole that seemed to help those with Lou Gehrig's Disease is once again tested after UVA pulled the plug on the trials early in 2005.

Worst plane crashes: On June 14, a plane carrying Qroe Farm Preservation Development founder Robert Baldwin and regional director David Brown crashes as Brown tries to land in rain at 2,300-acre Bundoran farm (above), which Qroe owns, killing both men. A December 10 crash near CHO kills prominent Richmond doctor-pilot Christopher Desch.

Least likely to house sexual offenders: The General Assembly requires colleges to turn over the personal information of the state's students– 420,000 this year– for cross-checking against the sexual offender registry.

Best Cav cause célèbre: The Cavalier Daily and Virginia Tech's Collegiate Times, represented by the ACLU, sue to sell booze ads, which is forbidden under Virginia's arcane alcohol laws. 

Least popular move by the ABC: The state's Alcoholic Beverage Control decides to take on Charlottesville's hallowed wine-sippin' tradition, First Fridays, in June. An agent hits the gallery scene to inform them they're breaking the law since the state's arcane alcohol laws (see above) are written so that a for-profit gallery can't open its doors to the wine and cheese crowd as in the past. When Delegate David Toscano steps in, the ABC coughs up a possibility for galleries to continue the tradition, but some just go dry for First Fridays.

More wine wars: Most local wineries are not happy that effective July 1, they can no longer deliver their product to local restaurants and stores, but must use a distributor instead. Out-lobbied by wine distributors, winery owners protest the new regs and predict higher wine prices for the consumer and less profit for the winery. New laws also hamstring wine shops from delivering wine.

Bitterest lease dispute: A jury orders the landlord of Meadowbrook Shopping Center– Clara Belle Wheeler– to pay Anderson Carriage Food House $100,000 June 29 for attempting to breach Anderson's 20-year lease.

Least like a diploma mill: Fork Union Military Academy is dismayed to find itself on an NCAA list of 22 schools under review because of allegedly questionable academic practices. Little more than two weeks later, the military school is cleared when the NCAA, clueless about FUMA's "one-subject plan," approves its graduates for college play.

Newest Charlottesville school superintendent: Following the brief but tumultuous tenure of Scottie Griffin, former Caroline County assistant superintendent Rosa Atkins takes the reins July 1.

Largest federal grant to promote abstinence: The Pregnancy Centers of Central Virginia score $645,000 to preach the gospel of "no sex until marriage." 

Biggest case of double secret probation: The governing board for teaching hospitals, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, puts UVA Medical Center on probation in April for medical residency program violations. By late October, UVA is back in good graces and off probation.

Closest brush with ecoterrorists: Lacey Phillabaum, who worked briefly last year as a C-Ville Weekly reporter and Hook freelancer, strikes a plea with federal prosecutors for the 2001 torching of the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture research facility. In July, her boyfriend, Stanislas Meyerhoff, who enrolled at PVCC in fall 2005, pleads guilty to 54 counts of arson and conspiracy, including the 1998 burning of Two Elk, a massive ski resort restaurant at Vail.

Most dramatic rescue: Freckles, a white spaniel mix, goes for help after Charles Hitt, 91, overturns and is trapped under his tractor on his Greenwood farm in late June.

Worst wounding of a UVA alum: CBS reporter Kimberly Dozier is critically injured in a May 29 roadside blast in Baghdad.

Biggest pastoral scandal: Former Peace Lutheran associate pastor Gregory Briehl is arrested July 18 for surreptitiously videotaping female visitors to his home and for 20 counts of possessing child pornography. In September, Briehl, a counselor, is sentenced to 60 days for the videotaping, and is indicted December 4 for the child porn charges. 

Worst rampage: William Morva, 24, goes nuts in Blacksburg August 21 and kills Montgomery County sheriff's corporal Eric Sutphin, who had previously worked on the Albemarle and Charlottesville police forces. Morva, who was homeless and a well-known town fixture, also kills a security guard, and the manhunt for him cancels the first day of classes at Virginia Tech.

Latest Lethal incarnation: The notorious towing company is hit with a $20 million lawsuit after one of its drivers ploughs into Peter Weatherly January 21. Lethal Wrecker, repeatedly cited for overcharging towees, briefly plans a name change to "After Five Towing." 

Latest on Beefy Brown's rap sheet: The alleged feces flinger is arrested at a Briarwood townhouse for the August 12 death of a Colonial Heights police officer during a high-speed chase in which Brown allegedly drives 110 mph in a stolen van. Brown, a frequent flier in the court system, served three-and-a-half years for assaulting an officer with a dismantled chair, feces, and urine in the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail. 

Rarest honor trial: An open one. Stephanie Garrison is acquitted September 10 on charges stemming from an underage drinking case that stretched out for 20 months.

Worst infection: UVA fourth-year Jennifer Leigh Wells, who lived in her parents' Charlottesville home, dies September 10 from bacterial meningitis.

Lesser outbreaks: By early November, 24 UVA undergrads contract mumps.

Most controversial Monticello visitor: Jefferson's home is shut down the morning of September 9– a Saturday!– so former Iranian president Mohammad Khatani can visit.

Worst loss to the local art scene: Biscuit Run sculptor David Breeden dies September 12 at age 68. His soapstone sculptures adorn local sites such as PVCC, Cale Elementary, and Republic Plaza.

Deepest cut: Developer David Turner's Watson Manor project on University Circle grinds to a halt with a three-month stop-work order after he fells a 150-year-old beech tree August 17, evoking the wrath of the Planning Commission, which okayed the project only if the tree remained. Punishment: $200.

Least separation of church and state: Threatened by the Jerry Falwell-linked Liberty Counsel, Albemarle County decides to allow fliers announcing religious events to be sent home with children, rather than banning all notices, including the YMCA or Boy Scouts. Some parents grouse when local Pagans send home a flier announcing a winter solstice event.

Latest airwaves addition: Saga Communications unveils 106.1 FM, WCNR "the Corner," September 15 with an eclectic format.

Biggest Buckingham raid: USDA agents converge SWAT-style on Danny and Cindy Henshaw's hunting preserve September 12 and kill 79 wild boars, including pet pigs "Cupid" and "Valentine," claiming they were infected with pseudorabies.

Worst allegation against Buckingham cops: Tracy Banks files a $700,000 lawsuit against former deputy sheriff Anthony Lewis and Sheriff Danny Williams, alleging Lewis forced her to perform oral sex when he came to serve a warrant on her in March 2005.

Biggest literary discovery: UVA grad student Rob Stilling discovers an unpublished Robert Frost poem, "War Thoughts at Home," inside a copy of Frost's 1918 book, North of Boston, in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Worst encounter with a serial killer: UVA grad student Lizzy Hafter's study visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway tragically ends when she crosses paths with Thomas Ashby, 37, September 29. Hafter's body is found below the Greenstone Overlook two days later, the same day Ashby, driving Hafter's '96 Toyota Corolla, kills himself in a shootout with police in Florida. Ashby was also the suspect in the deaths of two Tennessee liquor store clerks and a fruit stand operator in South Carolina, and the wounding of a convenience store clerk in Georgia.

Longest sentence for a serial groper: Robert Terrell Haskins, who is mentally retarded and has assaulted at least four women in Charlottesville– including the notorious 2002 broad-daylight attack on a young mother in Greenleaf Park– gets four-and-a-half years for a November 2005 break-in and assault on Little High Street.

Most star-studded: Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall (right), and Liev Schreibner lead the pack in sold-out events at this year's "Revelations"-themed Virginia Film Festival in late October.

Saddest loss of a reluctant newsmaker: Evan Kittredge, whose 1996 brutal beating horrified Charlottesville and prompted City Council to pass a resolution asking the General Assembly to add sexual orientation to the list of hate crimes, dies October 14 from complications of heart surgery. 

Biggest pre-election scuffle: Senator George Allen supporters wrestle down UVA law student Mike Stark, 37, following an October 31 campaign event at the Omni Hotel where Stark shouts at Allen, asking him if he'd ever abused or spit on his first wife. None of those involved are charged.

Most cases involving police shootings: Elvis Shifflett, subject of a manhunt involving 60 cops, is shot three times October 18 by two Charlottesville officers. Robert Lee Cooke, who was shot and paralyzed fleeing Albemarle Officer Andy Gluba(above) in January 2005, receives a 10-year-sentence for maliciously wounding Albemarle K-9 Ingo and for possession of a gun. Cooke sues Gluba for $2 million. His cousin, Kerry Von Reese Cook, who was also shot by police in Charlottesville in 2004 for resisting arrest, sues for $10 million. And in November, the family of Frederick Gray, who was shot in 1997 during a response to a domestic dispute, is awarded $4.5 million from Albemarle Sergeant Amos Chiarappa in a suit filed by Gray's father, Abraham Gray.

Best news for wannabe homeowners: The area's pricey real estate market gains housing inventory– 3,000 listings in November compared to 1,100 in May 2005– while rising prices slow. Albemarle's median house in the third quarter costs $309,000 and Charlottesville's median is $249,450.

Most choices for used cars: CarMax opens a lot on Pantops Mountain December 8 and immediately tells its across-the-street competitor, Dennis Enterprises: the Auto Superstore, to lose the "Auto Superstore" because it violates CarMax's trademark.   



Earl Washington (left) with Steve Rosenfield, one of his lawyers.

















Robert Duvall



1 comment

It tookk a while for all your photos to load, but this story was worth it. Good work.