Charlottesville Breaking News

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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Packed houses: Scenes from a film festival

It was standing room only at this year's Virginia Film Festival. Now in its 24th year, the November 3-6 homage to cinema is more popular than ever, at least judging by the unprecedented 27 sell-outs on the 84-event program. And it wasn't just the headliners like Oliver Stone and Sissy Spacek. Even foreign films like La Rafle or documentaries like Growing Up Cason pulled in hefty crowds.

Last year, the film festival broke attendance records. This year, with the emphasis on not-yet-released flicks and foreign films, it seems poised to do so again if the crowds lined up to get into theaters are any indication.

Once again, the Hook got caught up in filmatic frenzy. Ten movies later, here's our report of the festival's highs– and lows.

But first, a word from our sponsors: Acura provided cars to ferry about the celebs– and a lengthy commercial that ran before each film.

We laughed, we cried: The new George Clooney movie, The Descendants, by Sideways director Alexander Payne, sold out almost as soon as tickets went on sale. It opens November 16, but we saw it here first.

Don't cry for me Argentina: "What Argentinians do with corpses is fantastic," we learn from Evita: The Documentary's director and recent Charlottesville arrival Eduardo Montes-Bradley. Nearly 60 years after Eva Du...

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More mugshots: Can 'Gotcha!' survive with 'Crime Times'?

What is it about mugshots that's so darn compelling? Some may call it schadenfreude, that hidden pleasure the misfortune of others, but for the publisher of the second mugshot mag to hit Central Virginia newsstands in less than six months, the money can't hurt.

In October, Media General, publisher of the Daily Progress and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, introduced Charlottesville and surrounding counties to Gotcha!, a weekly tabloid featuring recent arrestees and the crimes for which they're charged.

Like the competing  Crime Times, which first hit stands in June and has been doing brisk business (with circulation ballooning from 6,000 a week in June to 25,000 a week this month), Gotcha! retails for $1. It's apparently a small price for the pleasure of seeing the smiling, frowning, grimacing– and even bloodied– visages of recent arrestees.

In its first week at the store, says Kim Brown, co-owner of Brown's convenience store on Avon Street, sales have been brisk. Of the 25 delivered, 12 had sold in the first 48 hours. And once people see what's inside, she notes, sales may increase.

"I swore I wasn't going to read it," she laughs, "but then I heard they had restaurant violations."


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Editor's Note
4Better Or Worse