Charlottesville Breaking News

A real drag? 1963 killing of Pat Akins remains the coldest case

One of the town's biggest boys lay dead underneath one of the town's smallest cars. Initially, cops claimed that 19-year-old James Patrick Akins had been dragged from Greenwood to Charlottesville under a Triumph TR3.

"Hit-Run Car Drags Former Rock Hill Star 12 Miles," roared the headline in the Daily Progress on March 19, 1963. The explanation was greeted with immediate incredulity by friends of the muscular athlete and fans of the low-slung British roadster. Disbelief intensified when word spread that the body was found largely intact and devoid of broken bones. The local coroner declared that Akins couldn't have been dragged more than 100 yards.

While another medical examiner would enter the case and embrace the theory of the dozen-mile-dragging, public opinion never did; the rumor mill went into overdrive.

"Charlottesville was certainly buzzing," says longtime resident Bob Lyons, who knew both Akins and his father. "Nobody believed the story that a small car dragged him all those miles."

Fifty years later, last month's reunion for Akins' former Rock Hill Academy schoolmates is still buzzing with questions about his death. The teenagers who lost a friend 50 years ago are now in their in their late 60s, some with teenaged grandchildren of their own. They fear that with each passing year, the chances of resolution— and justice for Akins— diminish.

"I think all of us want to know what happened to him," says one, Helen Hatzenbe...

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'Hidden gem': Could Scottsville be county's new hotspot?

About a year ago, Scottsville Council member Dan Gritsko went for a walk through the woods just outside of town, part of the 63 acres of land that make up the Van Clief Nature Area. Eventually, he encountered another man out on the same walk.

 “Isn’t it so beautiful back here?” the man asked him, “and no one knows about it.”

“Well, I’m trying to change that,” Gritsko replied.

A gift from Daniel and Margaret Van Clief to Scottsville 15 years ago, the nature area encompasses a stretch of woodlands and grassy fields, as well as a five-acre lake.  As of yet, however, the land is just barely accessible. The most recent Scottsville Comprehensive Plan seeks to finally bring this gift to the town.

 “It’s still very under-utilized,” says Gritsko. “We have a $38,000 grant from the Department of Conservation. Now we’re doing the research to make the bridge and the walk that will be part of it.”

He adds, “It’s our little hidden gem of Scottsville. We want to make it accessible.”

That's part of Scottsville’s most recent comprehensive plan, which continues to focus on town expansion after the recent phases 1 and 2 of streetscape and business establishment. 

For example, the development of the nature area could include collaboration with new and developing local businesses, such as connecting the hiking trails to the back patio of the new James River Brewe...

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Clemency petition: Fugetts recant; Davis still in prison

Robert Davis said all along he didn't do it. Now both of the siblings convicted in the horrific 2003 Crozet murders of Nola Annette Charles and her toddler son say he didn't do it either. But Davis, who has had a clemency petition before Governor Bob McDonnell for a year, continues to languish in prison.

Rocky Fugett, then 19, and his 15-year-old sister Jessica lived across the street from the Charles family. On February 19, 2003, neighbors saw smoke coming out of the Charles house on Cling Lane. Inside, firefighters discovered an even worse scene: Ann Charles had been duct-taped to the bed and stabbed, and three-year-old William had died from smoke inhalation in the fire set to cover up the crime....

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Spooked by MOOCs: UVA tip-toes into online education

Online education is a touchy subject at UVA. As the university prepares to offer 11 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) this fall, the "unpleasantness" of last summer looms over the enterprise.

Indeed, when former Rector Helen Dragas and Vice-Rector Mark Kington made the decision last summer to oust UVA President Teresa Sullivan, sending the University community into turmoil and creating one of the worst PR disasters in UVA history, it, in part, was over Sullivan's alleged failure to move ahead fast enough with online education. As emails revealed, Dragas believed the University "couldn't afford to wait" on implementing an online education program, citing Harvard and MIT's $60-million investment in online course platform company edX, and that administrators and academics like Sullivan were dragging their feet.

Ironically, Sullivan had already signed off on a partnership between UVA and a company called Coursera that summer to begin offering online classes. The attempted coup was a failure. Sullivan was reinstated, and the plan to enter into the world of online education moved forward. In January 2013, UVA offered three experimental MOOCs.

Still, the traumatic events of last summer reverberate at the University, and some professors are moving ahead with the new technology with caution.

"The University of Virginia went through a horrific leadership crisis in part because of disagreements about the value and pace of online education," say...

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Name game: Call me "Grandma" or else

Dear Carolyn:
When my grandson was born, I thought it was the greatest thing, and it probably is. However, he is 8 and his parents told him it is OK to call me by my first name. I do not agree. He has, but for a few times, not called me Grandma. Also, they combined their two last names, my son and daughter-in-law, not hyphenated, as his last name.

I am a very warm person but so hurt that I have lost my closeness to my grandson. It is very hard, and I feel myself distancing my feelings toward him. My son does not feel their way is wrong. What is in a name or a title that makes it so important?
– A Lost Grandma

To be sure I'm reading you correctly: You feel distant from your grandson because of these two naming issues, and not because anyone prevents you from seeing this child?

Carolyn: He comes to my home usually on the weekends to visit and spend some time with me. I feel so distant and hurt because of the last-name issue and because he calls me by my first name.
– Lost Grandma again

It's as if someone journeyed barefoot from the corners of the earth to deliver you a sapphire, and you're (peeved) it's not a ruby. If I agree to call you Grandma, will you stop being so blockheaded about one of the most precious things life has to offer? That might be the best deal I have for you, because...

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