Charlottesville Breaking News

Trial continued: As Ragged fields erupt in green

The criminal trial has been pushed back, but the burned fields of Ragged Mountain Farm have recently emerged to look greener than the surrounding fields spared from flames during the recent 609-acre wildfire that began on a wind-whipped Saturday in February.

"That's not surprising," says Sam Lindblom, who burns fields across the Commonwealth as the land program manager for the Virginia Nature Conservancy. Lindblom says the combination of ample rainfall during the spring growing season, black ash to heat the land, and an explosion of nutrients unleashed by the recent flames created a "perfect combination" for rejuvenated fields.

"And whammo," says Lindblom, "that's why it's so green."

Meanwhile, accused fire-starter Alex Toomy has won a continuance on the two charges stemming the blaze. The hearing was to have occurred on Monday, March 28, but his lawyer, Michael Derdeyn, confirms that his client will instead appear for trial on May 31.

At issue is whether Toomy broke state fire law by conducting a brush fire before 4pm and whether his burning practices resulted in the blaze that began around 2pm on Fe...

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Upper Bundoran: Manor house under foreclosure

Another grand Albemarle house is headed toward the auction block. Upper Bundoran, the house built by the son of the man who built Scott Stadium, is under foreclosure and will be sold on the courthouse steps April 18.

The 6,500-square-foot Georgian manor on 55 acres is part of the Bundoran Farm "preservation development," but its developer insists the rest of project is not in trouble.

"That's completely separate financing and a separate lot," says Robert H. Baldwin Jr., general manager of Edge Valley Preservation LLC, the company developing Bundoran Farm. "Foreclosures are never good. We take them very seriously."

Royal Bank of Canada is calling its $3.1 million credit line on Upper Bundoran, which has been listed for sale for $2.6 million. "It's underwater," acknowledges Baldwin.

The plan for the 2,300-acre Bundoran Farm is to keep most of its acreage under conservation easement as pasture, forest, and orchards, and to plant 108 residential lots in the middle of that. "Tax credits are not part of our plan," say Baldwin of the popular land preservation perk used by some developers, such as Biscuit Run's, to mitigate investment losses.

Bundoran Farm sales have picked up, with 17 lots recently sold. "We suffered like everybody else," says Baldwin. "For a year and a half, we didn't make a single sale...

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Scream-worthy: Graeter's takes Charlottesville

Buckeyes are already familiar with Graeter's, the fourth generation family-owned Cincinnati ice creamery. Foodies may have heard Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay extol its virtues. Since it's now available at Kroger, the rest of us can give it a taste.

Never ones to turn down offers of free ice cream, the Hook staff savored the Mocha Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Chocolate Chip, and tried unsuccessfully to wrest the Butter Pecan from an unrepentant colleague who ate the whole pint.

The secret to its sumptuousness is something called the French-pot method, in which the ice cream is made in two-gallon batches with, naturally, all-natural rich-as-sin heavy cream and cane sugar.

"I like it because it's custard style and creamy," says Rob Myers, whose father's family is from Ohio. He'd heard of the legendary ice cream, and when it became available at Kroger's, he was there. His favorite? Black raspberry.

Graeter's makes 24 flavors and 13 seasonal flavors, and sells for $4.29 a pint. Umm, where's the vanilla?





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DNA advance: Harrington's parents pleased by familial approval

Four months after the parents of murdered Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington urged the Virginia Crime Commission to allow familial DNA searches to be conducted in unsolved homicides, the state is ready to begin using the tool, Governor Bob McDonnell announced Monday, March 21.

"I think this is going to be very valuable," says Morgan's father, Dan Harrington, "not only in Morgan's case, but in other unsolved crimes throughout the state."

The Harrington case certainly seems tailor-made for the technology. Twenty-year-old Harrington disappeared from outside UVA's John Paul Jones Arena during a Metallica concert on October 17, 2009. Her remains were discovered more than three months later on an Albemarle County farm, and unidentified DNA recovered in the case matches DNA left on the victim of a 2005 rape in Fairfax.

Unlike a traditional DNA search, which looks for an exact match within the state's DNA databank, a familial DNA search looks for matches that suggest an immediate family relationship to help police home in on a suspect. It's how California investigators recently caught two alleged predators. Lonnie David Franklin Jr., known...

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Long gone: How UVA lost Pat Collins

 Barbara Shannon was so nervous about flying overseas that she called her son in Charlottesville, where the 27-year-old had recently moved from California.

"Pat's last words to me were, ‘Don't worry, Mom, everything's going to be all right. Nothing's going to happen to you.’”

And indeed, 25 years later, his mother is still alive— but the same probably can’t be said for Patrick Collins.

After he vanished in 1986, the University of Virginia graduate student was branded a walk-away by the UVA Police Department. Instead of conducting a thorough investigation— especially in light of evidence suggesting foul play— the campus police dismissed any possibility of a crime and resolutely maintained that he must have schemed to abandon his life.

The harder the grieving family pushed for an investigation, the harder the university pushed back, finally asking an FBI agent— who had had only superficial contact with the case— for his assessment. He was happy to comply, and endorsed, on FBI letterhead, the department’s “professionalism” and “quality police work.”

Now, 25 years later, the FBI agent acknowledges that he wrote the...

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