Charlottesville Breaking News

Gag me: Does censuring the censors really work?

 

It's not surprising that in Thomas Jefferson's hometown, the founding father's ideals are so vaunted that a Free Speech Monument stands in front of City Hall for citizens to express...

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Big wrecks: Should interstate detours get traffic cops?

UVA football games, Charlottesville running races, and even the recent Dogwood Festival get the benefit of police officers directing traffic. So why didn't the massive tie-up that snarled Pantops for several hours on Tuesday, April 12?

That's what Tayloe Emery wants to know.

The Virginia man was trying to get to downtown Charlottesville, but his path was blocked by an Interstate 64 wreck that sent a tractor trailer sprawling across both westbound lanes and created a 10-mile-long backup behind mile marker 123.

"There's not a single cop directing traffic," said miffed motorist, reporting two hours spent creeping from the area of Zion Crossroads to the top of Pantops Mountain.

"Don't you think it would be smart," asked Emery, "to have people pushing traffic instead of moving an inch an hour? The cop could be waving people through."

Emery says that as he crept along U.S. 250 east of Free Bridge he called the police departments of both Albemarle and Charlottesville and says he was told that manpower issues prevented officers from supplanting traffic lights.

Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Lou Hatter was asked if VDOT has a game plan to deploy traffic directors in the wake of an interstate-snarling crash.

"We do what we can to minimize the impacts," says Hatter, mentioning media releases, illuminated roadside message boards, and the state's 511.org website which duly noted this incident.

But as for a more...

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Locked doors: Two witnesses contradict Huguely's alibi

A judge certified six felony charges against former UVA lacrosse player George Huguely for the murder of fellow student-athlete and sometime girlfriend Yeardley Love in a nine-hour, packed-courtroom preliminary hearing April 11, nearly a year after Love was found dead in her 14th Street apartment, a crime that attracted national attention.

Around 7pm, after hearing evidence that Love and  Huguely had each other's DNA under their fingernails, the hearing continued another three hours. In all, the prosecution called 18 witnesses, including police officers, a medical examiner, and friends of Love and Huguely from the tight-knit lacrosse world.

The defense brought in three witnesses, including a biomechanical engineer who testified that a piece of wall board taken from Love's bedroom seemed to contradict an admission from Huguely that had famously appeared in a search warrant affidavit that Love's head "repeatedly hit the wall. According to the engineer, the wall showed no sign of impact.

Still, Love died from blunt force trauma, according to medical examiner Bill Gormley, who performed her autopsy and described injuries to her brain, neck, and mouth in detail for two hours.

Three rows in the standing-room-only Charlottesville Circuit courtroom (it's still a General District case) were reserved for Love's family and friends; and Love's mother and sist...

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Trump towers: Kluge vineyards go to The Donald

At times bidding in increments of $10,000, Donald Trump won the parcels containing Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard for $6.21 million, with the remainder of the Kluge holdings going to a developer from Loudoun County in a marathon, 2 1/2-hour auction.

More than 20 people registered to bid at the April 7  absolute auction of Patricia Kluge's foreclosed-upon 901-acre spread, but ultimately it came down to two bidders: Trump through his representatives, and Sal Cangiano.

And the big loser in the bidding war seemed to be Farm Credit, which had loaned Kluge nearly $35 million, bought the vineyards for $19 million in December, and watched it go for $7.3 million today.

"What can you say?" says Farm Credit's attorney Bill Shmidheiser. "The market has spoken."

In the first round of bidding on the five tracts plus a lot that included the Kluge Estate trademarks, Cangiano was the high bidder at $4.225 million

But the bidding wars were only beginning, and anyone could offer a higher price for any or all of the parcels.

And that's when buyers started offering bids on combos of the tracts. For more than an hour, Cangiano and Trump represen...

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Tulip Man(ia): Pick-your-own fest blossoms

When Jeroen Koeman says he's the Tulip Man, the Madison County resident is just stating a fact. He comes from a line of tulip growers in Holland, where six of his father's eight brothers grow the alluring flowers that caused an economic collapse in the 17th century.

"I know everything about tulips," says Koeman. Not that he didn't try to escape his tulip destiny. "My brother said he was going to do tulips. I was going to do something else."

Yet he left Holland to take a job as head grower for a tulip farm in Washington state and later served as a grower in Waynesboro. And when, in Charlottesville, he met Keriann, who would become his wife, plans to return to the Netherlands were dropped. The couple started EcoTulips, which in 2009 began importing organic bulbs to sell as fundraisers for schools and other groups.

"I felt confident I could sell 200,000," says Koeman. "I didn't, and that's why I planted 40,000 bulbs."

The excess inventory became a pick-your-own organic tulip festival last spring, the only such event in the country, and part of a learning curve for the now 29-year-old Jeroen Koeman (pronounced yuh-roon koo-man).

Last fall, he planted another 60,000 organic bulbs and this year's festival visitors can, for $1-$2 a stem, pick Lalibelia, Rambo, and Silver Dollar–- mo...

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