Charlottesville Breaking News

Jury: He did it. Abshire murder trial

As the jury weighed its decision in the first-degree murder trial of the Greene County dump truck driver accused of killing his wife for a $1.5 million in insurance payout in a crime so shabbily staged that veteran investigators suspected his involvement within hours of her death, the parents of the victim wondered what their daughter, a kindergarten teacher known as a homebody and animal lover, ever saw in Eric Dee Abshire, a man with a history of violence.

Getting to know him
Just arranging a first meeting with their daughter's new boyfriend was difficult back in 1999, soon after Justine and Eric first met. Both were working in the Lowe's home improvement store on U.S. 29, she as a cashier, he as a manager. Justine's parents Steve and Heidi Swartz say their repeated invitations for 1997 Western Albemarle High School graduate daughter to bring Abshire along for a family dinner went unanswered for months. In fact, the invitation was never accepted, and the Swartzes relocated to New York before meeting him.

It was only a visit back to Virginia in January of the next year that they finally met Abshire when he joined Justine for dinner at a restaurant in Harrisonburg, home of James Madison University, where Justine had transferred and was working toward her teaching degree. The Swartzes weren't impressed with the then 26-year-old Abshire, describing him as "not very open, not outgoing," but claim they kept an open mind– even a...

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UVA wins: But 10 injured, 3 hospitalized in stampede

UVA's recent 24-21 upset win over previously unbeaten, 12th-ranked Georgia Tech sent Cavalier fans rushing the field. But in the October 15 stampede of spectators, something bad happened that hasn't been revealed until now. Ten people were injured, three of them seriously enough to be hospitalized.

Of the 10 fans who received emergency care at Scott Stadium, four were moderately injured but walked away, two had minor injuries, one refused care, but three were taken to the hospital, according to UVA Medical Center spokesman Peter Jump.

He was unable to provide further details on those injured, other than to say– contrary to one rumor roiling the town– that there were no reports of anyone requiring resuscitation either at the stadium or at the hospital.

If this scenario sounds painfully familiar, there was a similar incident six years ago following an upset over Florida State. In the field-swarming jubilation of that 2005 event, dozens of Cavalier fans we...

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Why she filed: Morgan Harrington's mom explains suit

The news that the mother of slain concert-goer Morgan Dana Harrington filed a lawsuit against the security company nearly got lost amid the tributes to the 20-year-old on the two-year anniversary of her disappearance. The $3.5 million suit against Regional Marketing Concepts Inc., doing business as RMC Events, was filed October 11 in Roanoke. While the president of RMC Events has declined to return our phone calls, the Hook caught up with Morgan's mom, Gil Harrington.

Why the lawsuit?
Gil: Questions remain about what happened that night, and this is about retaining our ability to ask those questions.

Why now?
Gil:
We really had been considering it, and the statute of limitations was beginning to run out.

Do you really blame the security firm?
Gil: It's more than just casting about for somebody to blame.

What about Morgan's friends [Amy Melvin and Sarah Snead] who left her to fend for herself?
Gil: It's always been about a murderer. I'm not going to throw Morgan's friends under a bus. I know that those girls loved Morgan, and Morgan loved them.

You've also refrained from criticizing the State Police for thus far failing to solve this.
Gil: Like it or not, we remain a famil...

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9 1/2 Lounge: Downtown's new speakeasy

Walking up the stairs to the second floor of Fellini's #9 restaurant (where former owner Chief Gordon warned his customers never to go), one starts to get a sense of what it must have been like to step out for a drink during the Prohibition era. Standing at the top of the stairs, one feels that sense which is heightened by a barred door with a speakeasy-style slot. When we knock, the slot slides open to reveal the smiling face of bartender Joan Dunkle.

"What's the password?" she says.

Password?

"It's on the door," Dunkle instructs.

Indeed, unlike the real days of Prohibition, the password, which changes from night to night, is posted on a sign on the door.

The brainchild of Joan and her mother, Fellini's #9 owner Jackie Dunkle, the 9 1/2 Lounge quietly opened several weeks ago. The duo got the idea when they visited the "speakeasy" at the Patterson House in Nashville. Then they visited other "speakeasys" that have popped up over the last few years to cash in on the aura of Prohibition-era nightlife that has been brought into vogue recently by Ken Burns' new documentary on the nationwide crack-down on alcohol leading into the Great Depression.

They visited The Gibson and Last Exit in DC, and the Vio...

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Balance of power part 2: What's at stake in the 2011 elections

When the Hook started gathering lists of candidates who would appear on Albemarle and Charlottesville ballots, we came up with an eye-popping 38 names of people who want to govern on the local and state level.

These are the folks who will determine the Big 3 perennial issues– the Western Bypass, the Meadowcreek Parkway, and the water plan– but they're also going to be deciding when schools start, what cases are prosecuted, and how federal funding is spent on conservation in this area.

Last week's issue carried the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and General Assembly contenders. Here are the rest of the candidates on the November 8 ballots.

School matters– Albemarle County

Albemarle's School Board meetings frequently attract irate parents, and in the past few years the Board has garnered a lot of criticism for decisions seen as "top down," such as the 4X4 block scheduling implemented last fall to save money. This year's biggest controversy was the purchase of "glitchy" Schoolnet software, a student information system that created errors in student transcripts and which one teacher described as "like trying to text with...

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