Charlottesville Breaking News

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...

310 comments | read more

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...

7 comments | read more

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...

11 comments | read more

Crosswalk case: Taxpayer payout ends cops' black eye

438"Code of Blue" or "Code of Silence" when the lawsuit alleging a police conspiracy went before a jury. But the suit filed by the Charlottesville man struck in a crosswalk by a police cruiser won't reach trial. It has ended not with a bang like the one that began it four years ago but with a secret settlement. Along the way, it pried open several secrets, none of which shed favorable light on the Albemarle or Charlottesville Police departments.

"I've been accused of being a liar; I've been accused of being corrupt," says Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo, whose men made the controversial decision to charge not the Albemarle officer who drove into a citizen in broad daylight– but instead to charge the citizen, a man toppled from his wheelchair as he quietly headed home after buying groceries.

As the dashcam video showed, the overhead traffic light was green when Gerry Mitchell piloted his motorized chair through the crosswalk across West Main Street on the morning of November 5, 2007. As the defendants later pointed out, Mitchell may have ignored a red hand symbol at the Fourth Street intersection.

...

30 comments | read more

Day eight: Abshire defense blames vehicle for neck injury

"This is the kind of injury you get when you've been launched or projected. She's landed on her head."

So testified a forensic pathologist hired by the defense in Eric Abshire's first degree murder trial to offer an alternate theory in the injuries sustained by 27-year-old kindergarten teacher and 1997 Western Albemarle High School grad Justine Swartz Abshire on the  night she died in what initially was reported to be a hit-and-run.

"My opinion is that she was standing at the time she was struck by a vehicle," said that pathologist, Dr. Jonathan L. Arden, a former New York City medical examiner who's been a paid legal consultant since 2003. Arden pointed to the fracture in Justine's femur as evidence of the vehicle involvement in her November 2006 death, and claimed none of her injuries appeared consistent with being run over while already prone.

Instead, he testified, her 113 external injuries and numerous additional internal injuries were likely sustained nearly simultaneously as a car struck her in the pelvis and leg region and sent her hurtling through the air. The broken bones and lacerated organs weren't the cause of her death, he asserted. While he agreed with the prosecution's assertion that a neck injury contributed to her death, he disagreed with the state's assessment of how she might have sustained it.

"I don't believe strangulation played any role in her death," said Arden. "The mechanism of her death is the ce...

19 comments | read more
EDITOR'S NOTE
12 comments
Editor's Note
4BETTER OR WORSE
4Better Or Worse
CORRECTIONS
Corrections
CULTUREVULTURE
2 comments
CultureVulture