Charlottesville Breaking News

Day five: Abshire expressed marriage regret

Speaking in a soft– at times shaking– voice, Eric Abshire's high school sweetheart, Allison Crawford, testified unwillingly today and revealed that on the night of Justine's death, Abshire, with whom Crawford has two daughters, said he still had feelings for her.

"He asked if there was any chance for our relationship," Crawford recalled under oath of a late-night phone conversation she had with Abshire– one of more than 40 phone calls between the two on November 2, 2006, the last day of Justine Swartz Abshire's life. Crawford also testified that former dump truck operator Abshire, whom she first met at age 12 and began dating as a junior in high school in 1991, expressed regret that night that he'd married Justine.

"I may have made a mistake," Abshire allegedly told her less than two hours before he'd report finding Justine's mangled body on Taylorsville Road.

Crawford, who answered in the affirmative when asked by the prosecution if she'd "prefer not to be here," insisted, however, that the majority of her conversations with Abshire that day centered on the health of his mother, who'd been admitted to Martha Jefferson Hospital earlier and was "not doing well."

She also acknowledged that her relationship with Abshire had been continuous for 10 years, until 2001. Previous testimony has revealed Abshire and Justine began dating in 1999. Crawford said today that she'd met Justine only twice and had learned of Abshire's pl...

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Guilty as charged: Cobbs vows appeal in two-plant pot case

In a decision that sends a strong message that drugs must be rooted out at any cost, the Albemarle citizen recently arrested after a SWAT team found a pair of pot plants in his yard, Philip Cobbs, was convicted Tuesday of misdemeanor possession in Albemarle General District Court.

"The court doesn't find it reasonable that anyone other than Mr. Cobbs planted it," said judge William Barkley as he pronounced Cobbs guilty at the close of the October 18 trial.

While authorities have declined to release an estimate, Constitutional scholar John Whitehead pegs the taxpayer cost of the operation at Cobbs' southeastern Albemarle property at at least $25,000. And having recently called for an end to the routine use of SWAT teams and America's so-called War On Drugs as threats to human rights, Whitehead directed his Rutherford Institute to oversee Cobbs' defense.

That came in the form of Charlottesville attorney Ned Michie, who argued Tuesday that Cobbs– allegedly feeling threatened by as many as ten rifle-equipped, flak jacket-wearing officers– couldn't have reasonably consented to the helicopter-assisted search of his land in late July.

As it turned out, the trial's tipping point turned out to be not the Constitutional search-and-seizure arguments– but something more mundane and yet surprising: deer netting.

Two of the five officers testified that th...

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Stonefield stalemate: Is the Trader Joe's design appropriate?

While it has been impossible to miss the massive earth-moving project at the site of the future mega-commercial center known as Stonefield (previously Albemarle Place), the 65-acre village-style development three times the size of the Downtown Mall, you might have missed the battle raging over the design of one of Stonefield's premiere tenants, Trader Joe's.

Back in August, when Charlottesville's version of the popular grocery store was revealed, some County Architectural Review Board members grumbled that the overall site plan seemed "anti-urban" and complained that the planned 14-screen Regal Cinema was oriented in a way that showed its less attractive backside to passing traffic along Hydraulic Road. Stonefield's architects countered the criticism with a reference to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, claiming the theater, like the Pope's church, was "coherently scaled."

Similar disagreements have popped up over the Trader Joe's design, which will be the most highly visible building at the corner of Hydraulic and 29 North, site of the now-demolished 7-Eleven.

"I'm disappointed in the proposed Trader Joe's building," says ARB member Chuck Lebo. "This is a key building for the entire project, and it doesn't reflect any kind of traditional Charlottesville/Albemarle architecture. They are proposing huge amounts of stucco, brick pain...

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Day four: An unwitting accomplice?

On a day when colleagues of slain kindergarten teacher Justine Abshire took the stand to describe a talented, highly respected professional who appeared distraught on the last day of her life, it was another witness who shocked the courtroom, as he testified that, unwittingly, on the night of Justine's death he may have helped her widower, former dump truck driver and Greene County resident Eric Abshire, stage a hit and run.

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'It is war': Harringtons vow at murder's two-year anniversary

The parents of murder victim Morgan Dana Harrington marked the two-year anniversary of their 20-year-old daughter's mysterious abduction with stern words for the killer– and for any sleuths– to hear.

"It is war," says mother Gil Harrington.

Indeed, her husband reminds the public that a $150,000 reward remains in place for the person who cracks the case that began on October 17, 2009 during a Charlottesville rock concert.

"One hundred and fifty thousand dollars can change your life," said Dan Harrington, "and it can also bring the person who did this the justice they deserve."

Authorities, meanwhile, urge anyone to come forward who noticed any suspicious circumstances between the day of Morgan Harrington's disappearance to the moment, 101 days later, when the young woman's remains were discovered in an Albemarle County cow pasture.

Harrington was last seen attempting to hitch a ride on the Copeley Road Bridge after she left the evening's Metallica concert at the nearby John Paul Jones Arena. Officials remain particularly interested in suspects who had knowledge of Anchorage Farm and in anyone who exhibited any unexplained wounds– as might be delivered by a resisting victim– around the time of the abduction.

At the Monday morning event on the bridge, Harrington's parents talked about their recently-announced "Help Save the Next G...

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