Charlottesville Breaking News

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...

85 comments | read more

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...

11 comments | read more

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...

5 comments | read more

Reefer madness? Copter and SWAT team weeded out 2 plants on their property

Philip Cobbs likes gardening. You can tell from the neat perennial beds, the carefully trimmed yard, and from the fenced vegetable garden on the 39-acre tract in southeastern Albemarle that's been in his family since the 1860s.

In his greenhouse this spring he started the tomato plants, cantaloupes, and watermelons, as well as flowers, including asters and hollyhocks, that he sells at a roadside stand near his home. The harvest helps make ends meet since the 53-year-old quit his job three years ago as an instructional assistant with Charlottesville schools to take care of his 90-year-old mother, who was left blind and deaf following a stroke.

Cobbs says he was out spraying blueberry bushes along his driveway one late-July morning when he noticed a black helicopter hovering in the sky.

"I didn't think much about it," says Cobbs. "I went back to spraying. Then it was above me, circling. I thought maybe it was Donald Trump, so I got binoculars."

His house stands next door to his mother's, where he was born. That morning, in one of his many daily trips back and forth, he stepped out of his door to go help his mother get off the toilet, one of the tasks– along with feeding, washing, and dressing– that he assumed when he became her caretaker.

That's when five sport utility vehicles pulled into his driveway and discharged a squad of nearly a dozen men wearing flak jackets and carrying automatic weapons.

"The thi...

85 comments | read more

'Women and money': Prosecutors suggest motives in Abshire pretrial hearing

If Eric Abshire were a grieving widower, he had a strange way of showing it. According to information presented by prosecutors Thursday, between the death and burial of his wife, the Orange County man had sex with one woman, and he flashed a topless photo of another woman mere hours after the mangled body of Justine Abshire was found on a dark road near Barboursville.

The lurid details emerged during an October 6 pre-trial hearing in Orange Circuit Court, where the 36-year-old widower will stand for trial next week on a first-degree murder charge.

Top motives when a husband murders his wife are "women and money," declared Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Rick Moore. "We have those in this case."

Moore told the court that while dating and married to Justine, Eric Abshire had been involved with as many as eight other women. But it's what Abshire allegedly did in the days surrounding his wife's demise that sent shudders throught the courtroom and brought protests from the defense.

On the day of Justine's death, prosecutor Moore said, Abshire allegedly showed at least one person a "topless or nude photo" of a female acquaintance. Upon flashing the photo, which he carried in his wallet, Moore said, Abshire mentioned Justine's parents, Steve and Heidi Swartz, then traveling to Virginia from their home in Tennessee after getting word of their daughter's death.

"They probably aren't going to want to see this," Abshire allegedly said.


7 comments | read more
Editor's Note
4Better Or Worse
Editor's Note