Charlottesville Breaking News

'Still a fighter': Why this woman is suing UVA for $50 million

Five years ago, Barb Tocci was working as a real estate agent in downtown Scottsville, riding horses and motorcycles on the weekends. Today, the 54-year-old woman relies on a cane to walk. She's missing two toes and a finger, and she's lost the use of her right arm.

In the Charlottesville area, widely recognized for outstanding health care– with cutting edge medical research and some of the country's leading physicians– how did this happen?

Tocci says the bulk of her injuries are the direct result of a series of medical mistakes, and the now disabled mother finds that she's been billed over $200,000 for the very treatment that she says maimed her.

Happy times
The spring of 2006 was a happy and prosperous time for Barb and Michael Tocci. James River Real Estate Associates, the firm they'd started two years earlier in downtown Scottsville, boasted numerous listings, and Barb had made five sales in three months.

"I was at the top of my game," she says.

When she wasn't meeting with clients, she was a busy mother of six children and took care of 15 goats and five horses the family kept on their 20-acre farmette just outside town. She played soccer on a coed pick-up team, taught kickboxing at the Scottsville Community Center, and was homeschooling the youngest three of her six boys, who now range in age from 10 to 27. Her active lifestyle– and income– was about to end.

Tocci says her heal...

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Obama kills Osama: Mixed reactions to bin Laden slaying

Some Americans responded to news about the death of Osama bin Laden much like the Munchkins did when Dorothy vanquished the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz: with jubilant cheers and official proclamations.

Local television cameras captured frenzied UVA students at Boylan Heights chanting "USA, USA," with raised beer bottles after the news was released late May 1 that America's number one enemy had been killed.

Congressman Robert Hurt called bin Laden's death "a great victory in the War on Terror," and the first-term Republican was moved enough to commend Democratic President Barack Obama along with President George W. Bush and their teams "for their resolve in seeing this mission through to its success.”

The assassination of the man who launched the deadly decade-ago attacks on New York and the Pentagon prompted politicians to issue statements that included the words "justice served" and "closure."

But for some like Burley Middle School teacher Barb Pemberton, who suffered personal loss on September 11, 2001, it's just a little too soon for her to share any talk about closure.

"It brings it all back," says an emotional Pemberton.

On that crisp fall morning nearly 10 years ago, Pemberton's sister, Susan Sauer, ...

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Shenandoah unburned: Rain, humidity cancel planned Park fire

 A planned burn of 500 acres in the Jarman's Gap area of Shenandoah National Park that was to commence Sunday was canceled due to weather, says Park spokesperson Barb Stewart, who had announced the planned May 1 burn a few days earlier.

Park officials had hoped to set fires that would slowly burn downhill along Waynesboro-side mountain slopes– in order to reduce the buildup of potentially hazardous fuel on the forest floor and make way for native flora accustomed to occasional fires.

However, Sunday's combination of light rain and high humidity convinced Park officials that the resulting smoke would not disperse.

"They key phrase was 'weather permitting,'" says Stewart, "and, alas, the weather did not permit."

Stewart says officials hope to reschedule the burn this fall or next spring.


Original story posted April 29 at 11:41am:

500 acres: National Park begins prescribed burn Sunday

Shenandoah National Park officials want to alert the public that they plan to burn 500 acres near Jarman's Gap in the Park's south district on Sunday and Monday. The May 1 and 2 fires on the Waynesboro side of the Gap are designed to boost forest health and reduce the chance of wildfire, according to a Park release.

"The fire will mimic natural processes as much as possible," according to the release. "It will be lit in such a way that...

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Homeless? Kluge house under foreclosure-- again

The first foreclosure in Patricia Kluge's life is now also her latest. And this time it's personal: the house in which she and her husband live.

A year ago, the 6,600-square-foot abode on 2.9 acres, dubbed "Glen Love," came under foreclosure when Kluge's development partners went bankrupt. She and her husband, Bill Moses, reclaimed the house at auction in front of the Albemarle Courthouse, and the couple moved in late last spring.

The one and only residence in their planned high-end agri-subdivision, Vineyard Estates, the house may be sold by Sonabank, which claims default on a $3.675 million loan. Located at 2621 Coopers Lane, the place is currently assessed at $2,496,500.

Since Glen Love first went up for auction in March 2010, the beleaguered couple have endured several foreclosure auctions that have taken their vineyards, winery, and equipment, as well as Kluge's Albemarle House mansion and the 511-acre Vineyard Estates subdivision, most of which Sonabank took back in late January.

In 2006, tracts in the first phase of Vineyard Estates were priced from $300,000 to $2.75 million. It's unclear from the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors website whether any of the other 24 lots in Vineya...

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Appeal play: McIntire plan still calls for nixing softball

As Yogi Berra liked to say, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

While softball enthusiasts at McIntire Park may think the fields are safe, the City's master plan for the park still calls for their demolition.

In 2008, softballers were shocked to learn that the City's approved plan for the renovation of the park called for the elimination of the two lighted softball fields in favor of an all-purpose rectangular synthetic turf field. So they raised a ruckus. In response, Mayor Dave Norris proposed saving the fields, but some Councilors wanted more information. The decision was deferred and a joint City/County field allocation study was ordered.

Today, Norris admits there wasn't enough input from the softball community before the master plan with the field switcheroo was adopted, and he remains an advocate of preserving the iconic fields.

There's just one problem. The study hasn't been completed yet, Norris isn't sure Council will support the amendment, and the decision to ditch the softball fields has already been made.

"Unless someone does something," says City Council candidate Bob Fenwick, a long-time advocate for saving the fields, "those softball fields will be eliminated."

Fenwick suspects the issue has become a political hot potato ahead of the coming elections, as no candidate wants to be seen as the...

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Editor's Note