Charlottesville Breaking News

New view: Photog captures tornado-smashed 'Sylvania' from sky

The tornado that roared through the Green Springs Historic District of triple-punched Louisa County gave Hook contributing photographer Skip Degan an opportunity to pilot a fixed-wing aircraft over the scene two days later.

Flying on Saturday morning, October 15, Degan captured an image of the wreckage after what the National Weather Service describes as an F-1 tornado tore past "Sylvania," a circa 1746 plantation house.

The image shows that formerly Mount Vernonesque Sylvania lost its roof, its portico, and a tree as well as sustaining other damage to the property.

The tornado roared through the 6700 block of U.S. 15, also known as James Madison Highway, nearly two months after a one-two punch of 5.8 earthquake and Hurricane Irene struck within days of each other.

Ironically, Louisa officials learned just a day before the tornada that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had denied funding to individual property owners who suffered uninsured losses in the quake.

Compounding the irony, as the Daily Progress' Bryan McKenzie reported, was that the 41st measured aftershock struck at magnitude of 3.0 during the bad news meeting with FEMA. And just when you thought the insults h...

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Day three: Prosecution suggests strangulation

In addition to dozens of abrasions, bruises, and broken bones, Justine Elizabeth Abshire suffered another type of injury before her death, a medical examiner testified today.

"These findings are what you find in manual strangulation," said Dr. Todd Luckasevik, a former Fairfax County medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on the 1997 Western Albemarle High School graduate, and who detailed deep-tissue bruising in her neck muscles coupled with hemorrhages in one eye and lips– hallmarks of strangling.

Further, Luckasevik...

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Dang money: Protests on the Mall, UVA, Lee Park

Taking a page from the "Occupy Wall Street" movement that has been sweeping the nation, a small group of protesters occupied Central Place on the Downtown Mall Friday, October 14, encouraging passersby to withdraw their money from nearby Wells Fargo Bank and deposit it in local institutions. As one bike cop watched, and the wind swirled, about 20 protesters with signs chanted things like "Shame on Wells Fargo," and "Stop payday lending."

Meanwhile, a big confrontation between police and Occupy Wall Street protesters was expected in lower Manhattan as Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the closure of Zuccotti Park, the base of operations for the movement. And although that decision was postponed early in the day, police nevertheless arrested 14 people. Over 700 people have been arrested so far. 

The next day about 40 protesters affiliated with Occupy Charlottesville gathered outside Carr's Hill as UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan hosted a luncheon for the University's corporate sponsors, displaying signs that read  “Goldman Sachs eats UVA Brains” and "People not Profit," a scenario that has been playing itself out on campuses across the country. (Amid protests by students at Barnard recently, Lloy...

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Day two: Trial opens with gruesome details, timeline emphasis

A shoe, two gold earrings, and a cell phone were among the items found along Taylorsville Road near the lifeless body of kindergarten teacher and 1997 Western Albemarle High School graduate Justine Elizabeth Abshire, but while investigators measured fabric "drag marks" stretching a dozen feet along the road leading to her body, several other things were missing.

"I've never seen a hit and run where the body was dragged so far with no brake or skid marks," testified former Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Joseph S. Hogsten, who was among the first investigators on the scene and also noted the absence of vehicle debris.

"In any vehicle crash," Hogsten testified of the more than 100 crashes he's investigated involving cars...

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Day one: Domestic violence a focus during Abshire jury selection

A young woman allegedly raped in June won't be part of the jury deciding the fate of accused wife-killer Eric Abshire. She was one of several women dismissed as potential jurors on the first day of the highly anticipated trial in Orange County Circuit Court due to their experiences with domestic violence.

"I am very biased [against] men," said the young blond woman dressed in medical scrubs, recounting the alleged rape to explain why she couldn't be fair to Abshire. His first-degree murder trial promises to focus on his actions not only as an alleged killer but as an alleged domestic abuser.

Other citizens in this small farming community dismissed Wednesday, October 12, included a man soon scheduled to receive a heart pacemaker and a woman with Type I diabetes. However, a second-grade school teacher's mention of an impending field trip didn't win her an immediate dismissal, nor did one prospective juror's mention of foreclosure proceedings on her house.

Dozens of would-be jurors endured a nearly seven-hour wait to be summoned inside the compact third-floor courtroom, although more than 50 of the 94 called for duty never made it to the interrogation.

"I can't remember a panel that large," says Hook legal analyst David Heilberg, who stopped in to observe the proceedings during a break from another matter in the Orange County Courthouse.

"In a notorious case like this," Heilberg says, "you have to check to see whether...

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