Charlottesville Breaking News

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...

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Nevermind: UVA editor's charge dropped at trial

A University Judiciary Committee ruled it did not have jurisdiction over the Cavalier Daily October 18 after it heard the alleged breach of Honor Code confidentiality trial against editor-in-chief Jason Ally.

The case stemmed from a September 12 editorial in which the managing board of the newspaper advised readers that an unidentified columnist had plagiarized material and been turned over to the Honor Committee.

Honor chair Ann Marie McKenzie filed charges against Ally and four other members of the Cav Daily managing board, alleging they'd breached Honor confidentiality in the editorial. She later dropped charges against four of the Cav Daily 5, leaving Ally to face the panel alone.

A Judiciary executive committee ruled September 22 that the case could go forward, despite the newspaper pointing out the UJC's constitution states it “shall not have jurisdiction over the exercise of journalistic and editorial functions by student groups.”

"It's kind of odd to be sure, since that's the same argument we made to the UJC Executive Committee last month, yet they declined to dismiss the case at that time," writes Ally in an email after the three-and-a-half hour trial.

"I'm happy the system worked," says Ho...

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Anger management: Former mayor Caravati will get counseling

Former mayor Blake Caravati appeared in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court October 21 to face an assault and battery charge on a family member.

Greene Commonwealth's Attorney Ron Morris was brought in as special prosecutor for the brief hearing. Caravati and his wife, Paula, both clad in dark suits, stood before Judge Dwight Johnson, who agreed to a deferred disposition of nine months of counseling and a condition of good behavior because it was the first time Caravati had been charged with domestic assault. After that, the charge may be dismissed.

Morris told the judge that the defense stipulated there was enough evidence to find Caravati guilty. He said Caravati had been attending counseling since September and was addressing personal and anger-management issues.

The prosecutor recommended that Caravati continue with the counseling, including battery intervention counseling, and said he'd discussed it with Mrs. Caravati. "She doesn't want to testify," said Morris.

The action stems from September 9, when Paula Caravati called police to say that as she and her husband had an argument he'd grabbed her arm. The officer who responded to their Little High Street home observed a bruise on her arm, Morris told Judge Johnson.

Blake Caravati told the officer they'd had an argument and pushed each other, said Morris.

Caravati, who was mayor...

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Day 7: What the jury won't hear

Following early morning testimony from a handwriting expert who concluded that Eric Abshire forged his then-fiancée's signature on a million-dollar vehicle insurance policy, day seven of the first-degree murder trial was more about testimony the jury won't be allowed to hear.

"Did you ever have sexual relations with Mr. Abshire?" Orange County Commonwealth's Attorney Diana Wheeler asked witness Amanda Morris. The query prompted Abshire's attorney, Charles Weber, to immediately object, and, without delay, Judge Daniel Bouton sent jurors from the courtroom. Then he allowed prosecutors to elicit Morris' testimony, which included her account of having sex with the 36-year-old  dump truck driver in the month before his May 28, 2006, wedding and again just three days after Justine Swartz Abshire's mysterious death, even before her funeral.

"He called and came over," explained Morris of the pre-funeral sexual encounter. A tall brunette, she once worked at Wet Seal, a boutique offering "cute teen clothing" in Fashion Square Mall and was then known as Amanda Leathers. She testified she was dating Abshire's close friend and dump-truck business partner, and that the tryst with Abshire was a factor in the end of her relationship.

"He was a little upset," Morris said of Abshire, testifying that while she could tell he had been drinking when he arrived at her house, "he wasn't drunk." Morris also recalled being present when Abshire revealed...

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$100K to burn: Donation stokes $3.7 million Lawn fireplaces

On a chilly fall day when the temperature barely cracked the 60-degree mark, University of Virginia officials announced that there's hope for the 106 chimneys of the hallowed Lawn and Range rooms, unceremoniously removed from service after an inspection revealed cracks in the nearly 200-year-old brick structures.

With a $100,000 gift from an alumnus, a fundraising campaign called "Keep the Fires Burning" kicked off October 19 in hopes of raising the estimated $3.7 million cost of repairing all the chimneys and installing something heretofore not seen in these historic chambers: a sprinkler system.

On Halloween, the smell of wood fires would ordinarily mix with the scents of glucose and artificial flavorings as hordes of children and parents enjoy trick-or-treating on the Lawn. However, a reporter's recent visit found not a single stick of firewood, something that would usually be stacked high along the colonnades of the so-called Academical Village this time of year.

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Editor's Note
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