Charlottesville Breaking News

Where are they? Two missing girls, one suspect

Last fall, a seemingly outraged citizen walked into the Hook office portraying himself as the victim of an allegedly overzealous missing person investigation. The man talked of getting pushed out of his job and his home by dubious investigative methods that convinced even a judge he'd been unfairly tracked. Ten months after that interview, the disappearance of another young Central Virginia woman has renewed the specter of horror and brought fresh scrutiny to his claims.

The man is Randy Allen Taylor, a 48-year-old Lovingston resident, and on August 11 he was arrested and charged with the abduction of 17-year-old Alexis Tiara Murphy, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

For the family of Murphy, an attractive rising senior at Nelson County High School, the arrest provides a glimmer of hope, but little in the way of real relief from the unrelenting pain of the girl's unexplained disappearance at the outset of the school year, which began in Nelson on Monday, August 12.

"I drove my son to school, but I didn't have my daughter," said a sobbing Laura Murphy at the press conference at which authorities announced Taylor's arrest. She pleaded for the public to provide any tips on her daughter's whereabouts.

Investigators, however, contend that the man most likely to have that information is Taylor.

A thin man with a Daffy Duck tattoo on his neck, Taylor remains an enigma. Is he a kidnapper, as authorities allege? Or is...

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Bear Witness: Jackson Landers learns first hand that Virginia is bear central— and they taste good

By Jackson Landers

The growl of my truck engine rose an octave as I shifted gears to climb a hill and then began making my way around a bend. The twisty road in the woods of Central Virginia was dappled with late-afternoon sunlight. My mind was on what I would make for dinner— I wondered whether I had any sour cream— until I came around the bend and saw an SUV stopped in the middle of the road. I slammed on my brakes and squealed to a stop.

Moments before I arrived on the scene, the SUV’s driver’s plans for the day had been interrupted by a black bear trotting out in front of her vehicle. She’d hit the bear, wrecking the front end of her SUV in the process. Another vehicle had immediately also clipped the bear, and now all three of us were out of our cars, trying to sort the situation out. The bear and the SUV were the only casualties.

I’m a professional hunting guide, so my first concern was for the bear, which lay dying on its side in the middle of the road. It was struggling to get up with its front paws, but its back legs were clearly paralyzed, and there was no hope for the animal. I put down several wounded deer by the side of the road each year, but I had neglected to stash a spare rifle in my truck that morning. I did, however, have a very large hunting knife. A quick jab in the heart ended the animal’s suffering.

I dragged the bear out of the road so traffic could start moving again, and then I waited for...

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Scary and cute: Local children's book author sinks teeth into success

Clad in pink pajamas and perched on the edge of her seat, children’s book author Anne Marie Pace looked every bit as eager to read her new book aloud as the children seated before her were to hear it. Her voice laced with exaggerated anticipation, Pace read Vampirina Ballerina and its new sequel, Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover, to young audiences July 25 at the Foundations Child Care Center in Charlottesville.

“Do you know what it means to have cold feet?” Pace asks, pausing during her reading to make sure the classroom full of four- and five-year-olds is following along with the story.

“It means when you’re cold,” explains a little girl in the front row, dressed in a ballet leotard and skirt. The kids were invited to wear ballet apparel or pajamas, like Pace, to get into the spirit of the books.

“That would make sense, wouldn’t it?” Pace says. “But in this case, it means you’re nervous. Have any of you ever been nervous?”

Pace has the kids' full attention, but the two professional ballet dancers from Charlottesville Ballet that Pace brought along to demonstrate ballet movements are a big hit as well. When she’s finished reading, Pace invites the kids to stand up, and the professional dancers conduct a miniature ballet class.

The books, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, are a charming mixture of scary and cute that appeal to children of all ages.

“It’s funny because even though there...

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Community rallies: Barrett Early Learning Center stays open

Less than a week after the Barrett Early Learning Center on Ridge Street announced plans to close after 78 years in business, the community rallied and the child care center that serves a diverse clientele will stay open.

"We're just thrilled," says Kim Lauter, a mother of three children who've attended Barrett and a newly minted board member. A meeting held Tuesday, July 30, was attended by between 50 and 60 people, Lauter says, and by show of hands, those in attendance expressed a unanimous desire to find a way to keep Barrett running.

"People were saying they really didn't want this to happen," Lauter recalls, describing people at the meeting in their 80s who had gone to Barrett as children.

"We made the decision: Let's keep it going," says Lauter, who says it's heartening to see volunteers already hard at work making improvements to the building and grounds. Even with such community support, however, it won't be easy. Among a variety of issues, Lauter cites a need to address one particular problem that led to the Center's decision to shut down: a delay in tuition reimbursement by the state.

Back in September 2011, the Virginia Department of Social Services changed the way child care centers receive reimbursement for low income children in their care. Paperwork filled out by the centers and turned in weekly to the local social services office was replaced by swipe cards to be used at pick-up and drop-off— one per family. But with multi...

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Taste of India replaces Henry's, Carmello's re-opens

Sometime during the second week of August, restaurant owner Assok Kunver plans to bring in an entirely new staff during the grand opening of his fourth restaurant of the Taste of India chain, this one below Vita Nova on the Downtown Mall.

“It’s a family run business, and most of the people working there will be from India and Nepal,” says Kamal Khatri, Kunver's nephew and future manager of the new restaurant.

The Indian restaurant chain has several other locations in Virginia and has been in business for the past four years. Given the restaurant’s success and positive customer feedback, Kunver decided to bring his traditional Indian cuisine to the more urbanized Charlottesville area.

His new establishment will be filling the void Henry’s Restaurant left after closing its doors in their 31st year of business this past May. Henry’s Restaurant co-owner and head chef Debbie Hackett says she and her husband, Henry, closed the “country–style” restaurant not because of financial issues, but merely because the two wanted to retire.

The new Taste of India will offer an extensive menu including a wide range of Indian cuisine and a few dishes with Thai and Nepalese influence. Khatri also promises a lunch buffet and an authentic ambience with friendly service.

Khatri said he is currently working on...

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