Charlottesville Breaking News

Where there's smoke, there's ire: Condo conflict lights up in Hessian Hills

When Eileen Aiken bought a condominium at the Hessian Hills complex in 2005, it was the first time she'd ever owned her own home. Five years later, house pride has turned into a living hell, and she blames it on seeping cigarette smoke.

Aiken, 59, shows a reporter to the closed door of her bathroom. When it's opened, the room smells like a delinquent teen has been sneaking puffs inside. The thing is, Aiken doesn't smoke.

She continues to her bedroom closet, from which wafts a bouquet of tobacco and the Febreze she vainly sprays to mask it. By contrast, her bedroom smells relatively fresh, but she says that's because she sleeps with the windows open at night– and her utility bill is up 70 percent as a result.

"I just want the right to breathe clean air in my own house," declares Aiken.

Aiken's condo is on the second floor of what was an apartment complex built circa 1967. Long popular with students and located at the corner of Barracks and Georgetown Roads, Hessian Hills was converted six years ago during the housing boom.

A company controlled by Charlottesville investor Hunter Craig– recently controversial for convincing the state to buy a flopped housing project called Biscuit Run– scooped up the 184-unit complex, and a...

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Horn Dogs: watch out, the Budos Band's trumpets might bite you

The snarling interlocked horns of The Budos Band are unbelievably nasty, dizzyingly wonderful, and sometimes totally disruptive, in that it's hard to figure out this group until you properly decode them. After starting as a younger, wilder version Staten Island analogue to Antibalas, they linked up in the mid-2000s with the leading Luddites at retro soul and funk label Daptone Records and promptly started filling old-school analog tape tracks with megaton melodies that launched them away from their Afrobeat roots. Baritone sax player Jared Tankel got to watch everything from the inside.

The Hook: Your horn arrangements in particular seem really aggressive, and I know you attribute a lot of that to Black Sabbath. What other metal bands are good for inspiring horn charts?

Jared Tankel: There's Iron Maiden, Slayer to a certain extent, older Metallica. We all went and saw a Pentagram show somewhere recently– old doom metal guys.

The Hook: Would it be overly simplistic to say that it's a matter of mapping guitar riffs in the metal bands to horn riffs in your band?

Jared Tankel: I think our guitar and bass arrangements have become more and more riff-oriented as well. And certainly the [horn] lines themselves are more funk or soul influenced, but they're also...

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Bodily fluids: Pierce abstracts anatomy

Bethany Pierce is one of those people who make the rest of us— okay, I’ll just speak for me— look like talentless slackers. Not only is she the author of two critically acclaimed novels, but she’s also an accomplished painter. That she’s pretty, married to a physician, and so nice you can’t dislike her for any of it only adds insult to injury.

But returning to the second and fourth points, Pierce’s recent painting series, inspired by medical investigations of the human body, is currently on view at Chroma Projects in the exhibition, “milieu intérieur.” The 10 large and 6 small oil-on-panel works initially seem familiar, resembling electrical readouts, x-rays, and slide samples viewed through a microscope, but upon closer examination, they become elusively abstract and filled with mystery.

When I spoke to Pierce at the show’s opening, I asked why she’d omitted two pieces I’d seen in her McGuffey Art Center studio. She said, “Oh, they’re here,” and pointed to two vertical works by the door, noting, “They’ve changed since you saw them last week.” Resembling x-rays of a pelvic bone and a spine, the images had gone from having electric blue backgrounds to floating in a sea of black, an indication of Pierce’s skill at working and re-working color layers to create depth and subtle effects.

Her images may seem photo-realistic at a cursory glance, but a few minutes of study revea...

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History of strangulation? Abshire denied bond after allegations of violent past

Although his court-appointed attorney argued that his client poses neither flight risk nor danger to the community, accused wife-killer Eric Abshire will remain behind bars without bond, a judge ordered Thursday morning. The decision came after the prosecution asserted that Abshire has a history of choking women and may have attempted to intimidate grand jury witnesses.

"Many were reluctant and expressed fear," said Orange County Commonwealth's Attorney Diana Wheeler in the February 10 hearing in Orange County Circuit Court. Wheeler told Judge Daniel Bouton she heard from witnesses fearful of "suspicous fires" and "sabotaged brakes on vehicles."

Wheeler also said that one witness claimed that one of Abshire's relatives approached her prior to her testimony to warn her they would "find out what she said."

Abshire is charged with first degree murder and perjury in the death of his wife, Justine Swartz Abshire, a 27-year-old kindergarten teacher who died November 3, 2006 in an incident that was initially called a hit-and-run.

Justine's parents, Steve and Heidi Swartz, began to doubt their son-in-law's story: that Justine suffered an automobile breakdown after taking a post-midnight drive. Abshire claimed he ventured out on his motorcycle and found his wife's body in the road, where he cradled her for as long as 15 minutes before seeking help from nearby residents. (He claimed he forgot he had his cell phone in his pocket.)

Doubts about his s...

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Motion to run: Top prosecutor Lunsford seeks reelection

In 2007, Democratic newcomer Denise Lunsford upset four-term incumbent Jim Camblos with 53 percent of the vote to take the Albemarle commonwealth's attorney job.

The county's first female top prosecutor wants to hang on to what she calls "the most rewarding job I have ever had." Lunsford announced her reelection bid February 10 in front of the courthouse where she practices, with her family, staff, law-practicing Dems and a phalanx of police in attendance.

During her three years in office, Lunsford has handled several high-profile cases, such as I-64 shooter Slade Woodson, who closed down the interstate in March 2008 during a booze-soaked rampage. She tried a then-20-year-old murder case, charging Alvin "Butch" Morris for the 1988 slaying of Roger Lee Shifflett, whose wife Morris married, a case that ended with a hung jury.

And she decided not to prosecute the seven police officers who blasted cop-car-stealing Colby Eppard, 18, on the first day of 2010, and would not release the number...

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