Charlottesville Breaking News

The week in review

Most accommodating: City officials agree to extend the permit for Occupy Charlottesville in Lee Park until October 27, and waive the $25 fee. Previously, camping had not been allowed in the city park.

Worst casualty of the sex offender registry: Edgar Lee Coker, 20, is arrested at an Orange County High School football game for being on school property. Coker was arrested for a 2007 sexual offense involving a 14-year-old girl, who has recanted her story, WINA reports. Coker served time and later graduated from Orange High as a star athlete, apparently unaware his permission to be there had been revoked. The girl and her mother, as well as UVA's Innocence Project, are working to get Coker off the registry.

Youngest alleged sex offender: Jonathan Shifflett, 18, of Crozet, is charged October 18 with having carnal knowledge of a child between 13 and 15, according to the Newsplex.

More sex crimes with a minor: Jennifer N. Heatwole, 24, of Waynesboro is sentenced October 19 to 12 months in jail on two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor by having sex with a 16-year-old Verona boy, the News Leader reports...

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Sperry Marine prepares to cut local jobs, again

It appears that employees at Charlottesville-based Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine will be facing another round of layoffs. According to company officials, employees were notified on October 19 of plans to eliminate a total of up to 800 positions at the company's Electronic Systems sector facilities in Maryland and elsewhere across the U.S. by the end of January. The majority of the job eliminations are expected to occur at the company's Maryland locations.

Back in May, 60 local Sperry Marine employees were let go, and another 26 lost their jobs in June. Prior to each wave of layoffs, employees were offered a "voluntary separation" option, i.e. buyouts, ahead of "involuntary separations" by a set deadline. Indeed, the same option is being offered to Sperry employees as part of the October 19 announcement. 

"Eligible employees will receive details of the voluntary separation program in the next few days with the voluntary separation program to be completed by the end of the year," says Alleace M. Gibbs spokesperson at the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems sector headquarters. “Should these voluntary efforts not fully address the staffing situation, we will initiate an involuntary reduction to ensure our headcount is consistent with...

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Love's medical records: Should hearing be closed?

In a rare agreement with the defense, Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman said he'd like a November 7 hearing on motions concerning the medical records of slain UVA student Yeardley Love closed. Attorneys for alleged killer George Huguely have filed motions seeking Love's medical records and were in Charlotesville Circuit Court October 26 for a brief hearing.

"In light of the sensitivity of the issue, the hearing on the merit of the motions should be in camera," said Chapman. 'We need to do anything to minimize the information out there in order to have an impartial jury from this community."

"We want everyone on the same page to avoid multiple hearings," said defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana, in anticipation that the prosecution will file motions to quash subpoenas for Love's medical records and prescriptions from health-care providers.

In a hearing in December, Judge Robert Downer agreed Huguely's attorneys could see records relating to her use of Adderall, which was found in her blood, but would not allow "a fishing expedition."

Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire said the November 7 hearing will determine what is being sought and why, and whether the hearing should be closed or in open court.

The former CourtTV network, now called In Session, has filed a request to put three cameras in the courtroom. Huguely's attorneys ask that moti...

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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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Editor's Note
4Better Or Worse