Charlottesville Breaking News

Greene slaying: One victim was attacker turned artist

One of the victims in the May 3 triple-slaying in Greene County was 25-year-old Charlottesville resident Dustin Tyler Knighton, a man who appears to be a self-taught artist who wrote frankly about life and art during a five-year prison stint.

"Sometimes I think to myself, I had to go to prison to find out that I could draw," Knighton wrote on his biography at

The other victims were 26-year-old Brian Robert Lee Daniels of Charlottesville man and 26-year-old Lisa Hwang, no address given. On May 6, suspect Taybronne Altereik White taken into custody charged with various offenses stemming from an allegedly related home invasion.

City court records indicated that Knighton's criminal career began when the then 18-year-old was arrested for an alleged strong-arm robbery of the wallet and watch of a man named Adam Vineyard on June 14, 2003. Then, just five days later, Knighton allegedly stole a 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass from Belen Martinez. He pleaded to reduced charges of grand larcency and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

But then came September 21, 2003, when Knighton allegedly participated in "assault and battery by mob." The highly-publicized battery on two UVA students near the corner of 17th Street and Gordon Avenue caused blo...

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SRO time: The Crossings begins its rise downtown

The Crossings, an apartment complex designed to prevent the phenomenon of "Million Dollar Murray," has begun its rise at the corner of Preston Avenue and Fourth Street.

In a 2006 New Yorker article (recently republished in his collection What the Dog Saw), journalist Malcolm Gladwell relates the tale of a lovable-yet-hopeless Reno, Nevada, drunk named Murray Barr. Over a decade, Barr ran up a million-dollar tab in public services including frequent emergency room visits and repeated arrests and incarcerations for public intoxication.

"It would probably have been cheaper," Gladwell concludes, "to give him a full-time nurse and his own apartment."

Charlottesville's City Council took note and in 2009 approved a controversial zoning law change to enable the so-called Crossings at Fourth and Preston to be developed on the site of a former mini-mall, later owned by the Region Ten Community Services Board.

The single room occupancy, or SRO, complex will consist of 60 studio apartments with half of them reserved for the homeless.

Public land records show that the City purchased the site last year for $1.55 million and then transferred it in March to Crossings at Fourth and Preston LLC, a creation of a nonprofit group called ...

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'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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