Charlottesville Breaking News

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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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...

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'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.


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Steve's magic: The irony behind Apple's success

By Andrew Potter

The internet chatterbots still weren't finished complaining about the underwhelming iPhone 4S Apple's first major product launch under new CEO Tim Cook when it was announced that his predecessor, Steve Jobs, had died on October 5.

It wasn't a surprise. Jobs had been fighting pancreatic cancer since 2004, and he stepped down as CEO of Apple on August 24 for health reasons, just weeks after his company surpassed Exxon Mobil to become the most valuable corporation in the world. Yet for all his success as a business executive, Jobs' most enduring legacy is not as a corporate mogul, but as a cultural visionary.

From the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, Apple products have installed themselves in the battle gear of the contemporary creative class, serving as a virtual synonym for networked independence and stylish non-conformity. Steve Jobs is perhaps the most successful brand manager in history. However, he did it, paradoxically, by embracing the precise corporate values to which the Apple brand identity is ostensibly opposed....

Think back to the famous "1984" commercial that trumpet-blasted the arrival of the Macintosh computer. Before legions of drone-like workers arranged in orderly rows, Big Brother appears on a giant viewscreen, addressing the crowd:
Today, we celebrate the glori
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Thanks a million: Students raise seven figures to honor Mead

When Greg McLean, University of Virginia Class of '95, had chemotherapy over the summer he was an undergrad and then insisted he was returning to school, a professor said, "Why don't you live with me?" What's extraordinary to McLean even today is that the professor didn't seem to see anything unusual about opening his home for several months to an immune system-compromised student. 

And that's just one example of the profound influence UVA Professor Ernest "Boots" Mead has had on his students, so much so that more than 100 of them got together and created an endowment in his name.

That sort of grassroots homage is pretty rare, but the students upon whom Mead cast a spell during his decades-long career have raised $1 million to fund "Dream Idea" grants for faculty and pass the torch of the Mead model they so cherished during their time at the University.

The Mead Endowment celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, and the September 17 Alumni Hall bash brought together this year's 11 Dream Idea faculty recipients, many of the 90 previous recipients, and many of the 150 or so former students who have contributed from $100 to more than $50,000 in his honor.

And of course there was the 93-year-old Mead, professor emeritus of music, still enjoying a glass of wine, still enjoying his former students.

"He dramatically enhanced my experience at the U...

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