Charlottesville Breaking News

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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Incremental: Waterhouse rises, raises County ire

Crews erected a construction crane over Water Street on Thursday, January 20, a powerful visual symbol of the long-awaited (and scaled down) Waterhouse project, a now six-story, $20 million mixed-use complex of offices, retail space, and apartments atop a parking garage that will span the gap between West Water and South Streets.

Two weeks later, a retaining wall has been poured, and steel girders have gone up over and around the former Downtown Tire building, which will be incorporated into the design. Originally, there were plans for a kind of pedestrian village with 57 planned residential units, but the bad economy turned that idea on its head. Now, Waterhouse will become more of a business park, with only nine residential units, and nearly 50,000 square feet of retail and office space, a huge chunk of which WorldStrides and its 200-plus employees are planning to occupy.

Oh, and one more thing. You, dear city tax payer, are going to help pay for the private development.

Back in August, Charlottesville City Council approved something called tax increment financing (TIF) for the Waterhouse project, a method for local governments to fund re-development and “community improvement projects” that has been around for decades. Basically, a percentage of future real estate tax revenue in the area around Waterhouse, revenue wh...

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Gas tax: It will stop regulations and wars

A week after reports that SUV – but not small car– sales had rebounded came the word that GM and Chrysler are utilizing tax dollars to fight the latest efforts to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

Claiming that a vehicle could cost $6,435 more if new proposals are enacted, automakers worry about losing the single area where American manufacturers dominate: car bodies on truck chassis. Environmental groups, of course, are attacking automakers for the millions spent lobbying against higher fuel efficiency, leaving lawmakers again caught between allegedly creating American jobs and long-term environmental and societal good.

Yet our history is clear: CAFÉ standards have been a dismal failure.

Not only do Americans drive more once we purchase higher mileage cars, governmental requirements for more efficiency continually squeeze American automakers and push sales to foreign car makers who primarily compete in markets where high gasoline taxes produce overall consumer demand for efficiency.

It’s time the U.S. considers the economic “first best” solution and actually levy reasonable gasoline and diesel “user fees” on consumers. Italy, after all, with the highest gasoline taxes in the world– and no CAFÉ standards– has the highest-mileage vehicle fleet, as well as much more reasonable mass transit. Japan’s 123-million “tes...

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'He's still here.' And other revelations in the Harrington case

It was a Saturday night in October 2009. The air outside was chilly, and a light rain was falling as the visiting father finished dinner with his daughter at a Charlottesville restaurant and the two returned to his car. As the father drove his daughter back to her dormitory around 9:20pm, their path took them past John Paul Jones Arena, where a major event was underway.

Heavy metal group Metallica had taken the stage only minutes before, and fans who'd flocked from all over the East Coast had gathered inside. As the main event roared inside the Arena, the parking lots outside were full and lights were blazing, but Copeley Road was nearly devoid of pedestrians.

As the father and daughter traveled toward Ivy Road and over the railroad bridge, the ordinary ride suddenly took them past an unusual sight. A young woman, dressed all in black with long blond hair, was standing on the bridge with her thumb extended in the classic hitchhiking gesture.

The pair would soon learn that they were among the last to see Morgan Dana Harrington alive.
It's been more than a year since the body of the 20-year-old Virginia Tech education student was discovered. With no suspects named, police have been reaching out to the public in hopes that someone will be able to help take the investigation a step further. How did Morgan's body end up in a cow pasture 10 miles away? Is a killer still stalking the streets of Charlottesville and Albemarle County?


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