Charlottesville Breaking News

Kennedy's not-so-happy Charlottesville anniversary

Although his aptitude for campaigning and policy has since guided him to a long, storied career in Democratic party politics, Edward Kennedy didn't always display such great judgment. Three years before he outran his Republican opponent to become a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, he tried to outrun Albemarle County cops as a 26-year-old UVA law student.

Fifty years ago this month, on the night of March 14, 1958, Deputy Sheriff Thomas "Mac" Whitten spotted Kennedy running a red light in an Oldsmobile convertible. When Whitten gave chase, Kennedy allegedly doused his headlights to avoid detection, but Whitten caught up with the brother of then-Senator John F. Kennedy and issued him a ticket for reckless driving, racing with an officer to avoid arrest, and operating a motor vehicle without an operator's license.

A week later, Whitten was sitting at the same intersection when he spotted Kennedy driving the same Oldsmobile.

"He did exactly the same thing as before," recalled Whitten in Leo Damore's 1988 book, Senatorial Privilege. "He raced through t...

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Hook brings home bacon (16 awards)

Some of the stories that touched the hearts and minds of Charlottesville last year, including the Hook's expose on a police department collision that provoked community outrage helped this paper earn six First Place awards last night from the Virginia Press Association.

The awards, presented at a banquet in the Hotel Roanoke, also included ten second and third place awards for the Hook, 16 awards in all–- plus mention as the finalist in the Association's top prize, the Award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service, an honor the Hook shared last year with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was Courteney Stuart's stories on Charlottesville and Albemarle police departments' treatment of Gerry Mitchell, the wheelchair-bound pedestrian plowed into in a crosswalk and then issued a ticket while recovering from his injuries in a local hospital, that took first place in government/public safety reporting. Stuart also took first for her two-part feature series looking back 25 years after the murders of Katie Worsky and ...

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Closing in? Foul play now cited in Abshire death


Grief over the death of their daughter is compounded by the pain of not knowing how she died, says Steve Swartz, seen here dancing with Justine at her wedding on May 28, 2006– five months before her death.

Sixteen months after Justine Swartz Abshire was found dead on a dark and winding country road in Orange County, the apparent victim of a hit and run, newly released state police information seems to support her parents' long-held belief that her death was no accident.


Although Justine, a 27-year-old kindergarten teacher, had reportedly called her husband to pick her up after her car broke down that night, police now say two independent mechanics found nothing wrong with her 2002 Ford Mustang, which started up at the scene of the accident. Even more significant, however: Justine may not have been hit by a car.

While police haven't yet released the full autopsy report, Special Agent Mike Jones of the Virginia State Police now reveals, in contrast to earlier reports that called her death merely mysterious, that Justine was quite possibly a victim of foul play.

Jones says Justine sustained "massive amounts" of blunt trauma sometime before her death and that he doesn't believe she was hit by a car–...

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Dowdell's wife, daughter, others guilty in ponzi

Already stung nearly six years ago by the jailing of her husband and the auction of her house and jewels, the wife of one of the world's largest con artists has been sentenced to five years in jail. Fifty-year-old Mary Dowdell was one of four conspirators sentenced yesterday in Charlottesville federal court for their roles in one of history's biggest ponzi schemes. Dubbed the Vavasseur scheme and the subject of the Hook's June 26, 2003 cover story, the globe-spanning crime defrauded investors of over $100 million. Yesterday's sentencing also included co-conspirators: 66-year-old Innovative Business Consulting boss Michael Hardesty, and two Dana Point, California, brothers. The court found that 57-year-old Gregory Smyth and his

59-year-year brother, Mark, the elder of whom is a disbarred lawyer, were recruited by the jailed Terry Dowdell to continue siphoning funds his way. "These defendants participated in a scheme in which many victims lost millions of dollars," U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee said in a statement. Following a week-long jury trial in the federal court, f...

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Boxer/Fidelity building demo to commence

A $350,000 demolition of the former Boxer/Central Fidelity Bank building at 200 East Main on the Downtown Mall is scheduled to begin in a "couple of weeks," according to a representative for Minor Family Hotels, the firm building a 9-story "boutique" hotel on the site. See photo right. Given the history of this hotel idea, which was proposed by developer Lee Danielson in 2004, it's hard to believe it's really going to happen, but according Cliff Harrison, an owner's rep for Minor Family Hotels, it's a done deal. "Yes, it's going to happen," says Harrison. "We'll start by putting up barricades around the site, and then the demo should take about two months." Everything but the black granite facade and eight feet of wall down Second Street is scheduled to be demolished. Harrison says

he expects the full arsenal of demo equipment to be on hand, back-hoes,...

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