Charlottesville Breaking News

Family tragedy: Mother charged in crash that kills daughter, ex-husband

Twenty-year-old Amber Leigh Johnson is known for her friendliness and her smile. Her photograph captures that, and it seems jarring to be on the obituary page.

The smile is the first thing her boss, Mark Hurley at Cheeseburger in Paradise, mentions, along with her energy. He was particularly impressed she was going to Piedmont Virginia Community College while working full time.

On November 10, after having dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise with her mother and father, Amber Johnson's dreams of working with children in medicine abruptly came to an end.

Her mother, Jessica Lewis, is still hospitalized from the accident that killed her daughter and her ex-husband, Michael Wayne Johnson, 40, on Half Branch Road in Crozet. Police say Lewis, 36, of Crimora, was driving too fast and had been drinking when she slammed into a tree on the narrow country road just south of King Family Vineyards.

Lewis has been charged with driving under the influence. Police are awaiting the results of a blood alcohol test, and say additional charges are pending. When driving and drinking result in death, manslaughter charges are typical, says Sergeant Darrell Byers with Albemarle police.

The Kia Optima Lewis was driving was crushed and the engine was on fire when father and son Warren and Robert Wood arrived....

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The 20-year-old transaction and the extra daughter

In the November 10 list of real estate transactions, aka "$old," we inadvertently published one that was 20 years old as if it were new: the transfer of 534 Park Street, which actually occurred September 24, 1991– not September 24, 2011.

In the November 3 story of the acquittal of the former Bronfman farm manager, a sentence referred to sobs from "his daughters." There is just one daughter.

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Fatal crashes: Three deaths in 14 hours

Two separate crashes have claimed three lives in Albemarle County since Thursday night, and two others are in serious condition. According to police, none of the victims were wearing seatbelts.

A Kia Optima burst into flames on Half Mile Branch Road in Crozet at 7:50pm November 10, an incident that appears to be the result of alcohol and excessive speed, say police. The car driven by Jessica Lewis, 36, of Crimora, struck a large tree south of King Family Vineyards, according to Sergeant Darrell Byers with Albemarle police.

Lewis was partially ejected from the car. Passengers Amber Leigh Johnson, 20, a graduate of Western Albemarle High School, and Michael Wayne Johnson, 40, of Crozet, were not in the car when it caught fire.

"I don't know how they got out," says Byers. They were flown to UVA Medical Center, where both died of their injuries. Lewis remains in serious condition and has been charged with driving under the influence. Additional charges may be pending.

Speed may have been a factor in the collision on eastbound Interstate 64 at exit 120 Friday at 10:25am. A 1997 Honda Civic and a 1985 Ford Ranger collided in the far left lane, causing the pickup to roll over at least three times, according to the Virgina State Police.

Larry L. Taylor, 59, of Louisa, the driver of the truck, was partially ejected and died at the scene. His cousin, D.J. Taylor, a passenger, was completely ejected from the truck and taken to UVA Medical Center wit...

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Bypass referendum? Election 2011's expected-- and unexpected-- results

In the end, it all came down to the Western 29 Bypass, at least in the Rivanna District, where incumbent Ken Boyd handily held onto his seat on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors for a third term, in what was– with at least $150,000 in money raised– one of the most expensive races yet.

And it wasn't even close. Boyd got 57 percent of the vote, while his Democratic opponent, Cynthia Neff, only mustered up 43 percent.

"My team was stunned by the margin," says Neff. "We thought it would be closer."

Boyd was surprised too. "It's always been narrower margins in the past," says Boyd, who doesn't see his reelection as necessarily a referendum on the Bypass. "I like to think there were other issues involved," says Boyd. "I concentrated on jobs, keeping taxes low, and fiscal responsibility."

"It's obvious it's about the Bypass," counters Neff. "It makes me a bit crazy. You won't find anyone going: 'this is a great road, it's the right road.' But it's a road." 

She sees a perception among voters that projects are studied for years but don't get built in Charlottesville and Albemarle, and lists the Meadowcreek Parkway and water plan as examples. "No one's saying the Bypass is a great road, but it's funded, let's build it," Neff interprets the populace as thinking.

"The Bypass was the biggest issue in thi...

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The flip that flopped: Biscuit Run men want $20 million more from taxpayers

Biscuit Run is the gift that keeps on… taking. Initially sold to the public as a $10 million state park, the nearly 1,200-acre tract has actually extracted more than $21 million from state taxpayers in what has been called one of Virginia's biggest corporate bail-outs. Now, nearly two years after the sale, the former owners are seeking nearly $20 million more, and, in the latest chapter of this saga, they have filed suit to collect.

"That sounds outrageous," says Creigh Deeds, the state senator who inadvertently allowed situations like this to happen.

The background
As avid Hook readers already know, Biscuit Run is both the priciest and most controversial land deal in Albemarle history– and that was before the lawsuit, filed without fanfare October 12 in Albemarle Circuit Court.

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