Charlottesville Breaking News

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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Elks launch farmer's market

While the Charlottesville City Market continues to search for new and better location, the folks at Elks Lodge 389, located off Stony Point Road near Darden Towe Park, may have beat them to it.

According to Lodge member Kathy Hicks, 11 vendors, many of whom also set up at the City Market, have already reserved spaces for a Tuesday (3-7pm) and Saturday (8am-1pm) Farmer's Market that will open in May, providing an alternative to the cramped locations on Water Street and Meade Avenue.

"The Meade Park location is just horrible," says Hicks. "Someone is going to get hurt down there."

As Hicks points out, there's plenty of parking for vendors and market-goers in the Lodge parking lot, and there's easy access to the large grassy area along Stony Point Road, which also provides great exposure. Hicks hopes to operate on roughly the same scale as the City Market.

Hicks says she has nine more spaces available. Payment follows an honor system, with vendors handing over 6 percent of their sales or $5, whichever is higher. For $25, vendors will also get a parking space. If you're interested in reserving a space, give Hicks a call at 434-974-1950

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JPA bridge: Closed until September... 2012

The nearly 80-year-old bridge carrying Jefferson Park Avenue over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks closed down Monday, April 4 for the first phase of the bridge's replacement. While walkers, who were out in force during the April 4 closure, can continue to use the Depression-era structure during the early phases of the project, vehicles have already been banned.

Ironically, the closest train tracks-crossing street has a mobility problem of its own. Shamrock Road, a Cherry Avenue feeder, is in the midst of a road-ripping utility project that has squeezed access to just one flagman-enabled lane, which could snarl traffic in the area even more than expected. Indeed, as a major entrance corridor to the University, particularly Scott Stadium, the loss of JPA Extended will be sorely felt, especially during football season.

"It was kind of unfortunate that they had to happen at the same time," says City spokesperson Ric Barrick, explaining that the one or two weeks of utility work would have created bottlenecks whenever it occurred along the course of the the year-and-half bridge replacement. "But we feel like we better rip the band-aid now."

The walkers are slated to get the benefit of a temporary bike-pedestrian bridge at the end of July, and then when the bridge is completed– by September 24, 2012– there will be dedi...

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