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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County circuit judge agreed Monday to move a murder trial to late July.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Ballard granted a motion from prosecutors to reschedule the trial of Michael Wayne Smith from this week until July 24.
Smith, 43, allegedly killed Cheyenne Johnson in 2021. Her body was found in a deep water well in the Sissonville area.
A co-defendant in the case, Virginia Smith, 30, no relation to Michael Smith, pleaded guilty to first degree murder on Feb. 23. She’s scheduled to be sentenced on April 10.
Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Debra Rusnak told Ballard during Monday’s hearing that a key witness is currently unavailable.
“The medical examiner that performed the autopsy in this matter is out on medical leave,” Rusnak said.
Michael Smith’s attorney, Lauren Thompson, said given the circumstance she realized the defense couldn’t object but she did indicate July was a long time for her client to wait for trial.
“That seems like a long wait judge,” Thompson said. “I hope that when July comes it won’t be continued again.”
Smith remains in the South Central Regional Jail without bail. He appeared at Monday’s hearing through Microsoft Teams.
MADISON, W.Va. — Prosecutors may rest their case today in what has become a long and complicated murder trial in Boone County.
Kevin Dickens, 53, of Rock Creek, W.Va. is on trial charged with the murder of Jeremy Peters, 41, of Whitesville, W.Va. Peters died in a fight at Terry’s Cafe in Whitesville in December 2021.
Dickens’ trial began in late January, but when members of the jury contracted Covid the proceeding was halted. Judge Stacy Nowicki-Eldrridge declared a mistrial in the case and the trial began a second time last week with an entirely new jury. Since that time, testimony was delayed several more days after a member of the new jury had to attend the funeral of a loved one.
It’s believed Dickens’ may take the witness stand in his own defense when the prosecution finally rests its case.
BIRCH RIVER, W.Va. — State police have released more information in connection with a double fatal motorcycle crash in Nicholas County that happened Thursday afternoon.
According to troopers, a motorcycle being operated by Devon Brantley, 19, of Birch River, was observed by a patrolling trooper going 120 mph on U.S. Route 19 at just before 3 p.m. The trooper attempted to make a traffic stop but Brantley kept going.
Authorities said the pursuit left Route 19 and went onto Youngs Monument Road before returning to Route 19 where the motorcycle struck a log truck.
Troopers said that both Brantley and a juvenile female passenger were ejected from the motorcycle. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
State police are continuing their investigation.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Police pulled over 120 motorists who were exceeding the 55 mph work zone speed limit or disobeying other traffic laws on a five-mile stretch of Interstate 64 in Cabell County on the first day of a 2-day enforcement sting.
The state Division of Highways is working with five police agencies in a targeted enforcement between the 29th Street and Huntington Mall exits. The DOH released the results from Wednesday’s enforcement efforts Thursday evening.
One motorist was clocked at 81 mph, 26 mph over the posted speed limit.
There have been 37 wrecks in the work zone since the beginning of the year.
“Work zone safety is about keeping every worker, every driver, and every passenger safe in every work zone,” said Randy Damron, Work Zone Safety spokesperson for WVDOT. “We each play a role in getting everyone home safe at the end of the day.”
Damron told MetroNews earlier this week that the effort of using multiple police agencies in work zones was going to be used in other parts of the state.
“We’re going to take this concept around the state at various work zones since we have so many going on,” he said.
The DOH said there were 800 crashes in West Virginia work zones 2022, killing eight people and injuring 276. The agency said almost all of the crashes were avoidable.
POWELL MOUNTAIN, W.Va. — Two people were killed when a motorcycle and tractor trailer collided on U.S. Route 19 near Summersville Thursday afternoon.
According to authorities, a man and woman on the motorcycle were killed.
The wreck occurred at just before 3 p.m. near Powell Mountain.
Traffic was initially slowed in the area.
The crash is under investigation.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One of the largest unclaimed property firearms auctions was held Thursday in a secure warehouse in Kanawha City. Hosted by the State Treasurer Riley Moore’s Office, the event helps to raise funds for around fifteen law enforcement agencies across the state.
However, the only people the treasury is mandated to sell them to are licensed firearms dealers, and those dealers came from 11 different states as far as Arizona to participate in Thursday’s auction.
Out of the 600 firearms that were for sale at the auction, some have been in the agencies’ possession for 20 years and have been able to accumulate significant value. Deputy Treasurer over Records and Security for the state treasurer’s office, Mike Comer says these live auction events bring an opportunity for law enforcement officers to apply for net proceeds through the transaction of the guns, adding that it’s extra beneficial to do now since the job comes with a lot more expenses.
“So, those law enforcement agencies applying for those net proceeds can secure funds to buy safety equipment for their officers or training, and we all know, it’s far more expensive to equip a law enforcement officer now than it has ever been,” Comer said.
He also said that the auctions provide the added benefit of allowing the officers to maintain their evidence rooms and clean out the build-up of unclaimed guns.
“They sometimes accumulate items that lose evidentiary value, you don’t have a lawful owner to return them to, or we don’t know who the lawful owner is,” Comer said.
The Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office was one of the agencies selling their guns at Thursday’s auction after conducting an unclaimed property report to the state treasurer. Captain with the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, Michael Webb, said that under West Virginia’s Unclaimed Property Code, they, like all of the other agencies, were simply following the law.
“It’s a requirement for agencies throughout West Virginia report unclaimed property as it no longer becomes evidence, so it’s just being compliant with West Virginia state law,” said Webb.
The firearms, ammunition, and accessories were examined Thursday morning before the auction began. There were about 480 lots up for sell so the auction was expected to take all day.
The treasury holds live gun auctions about once or twice a year. Comer said that they’ve been holding them for nine years now and it’s only growing, with last year’s auction raising nearly $110,000 for the law enforcement agencies.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Ripley High School boys’ basketball team made its first state tournament appearance since 1997 against Elkins High School on Thursday.
Vikings’ mascot Trey Greer said they rallied a large crowd to the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center to cheer on the team.
“It means a lot to us, our players have worked really hard, and it means the world for the whole school to come out and support,” Greer said. “We have a ton of kids here today, over 300, so it’s a big deal for us.”
“Our girls made it here last week, and that was big for us. We were really proud of them, and we’re really proud of our boys to be here too,” Greer added.
Ripley student Gatlin Donohew said he was proud to represent his school.
“I’ve been yelling nonstop, I’m hype, and I just want my friends to win,” Donohew said. “It’s just an awesome feeling; everyone is proud to be Ripley again.
Cheerleader Baylee Keeler said it’s a special feeling for Ripley to make it this far to the tournament.
“I think Ripley has a really amazing community; there’s a lot of people here from Ripley. As a community, we can all come together and support one another,” Keeler said.
Elkins also made its first state tournament appearance in 23 years.
The No. 6 seeded Elkins Tigers defeated No. 3 seeded Ripley Vikings 60-49.
Story by Chayce Matheny
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department said a body found in the Kanawha River earlier this month has been identified.
The man’s body that was recovered near South Charleston on March 5 has been identified as Kevin Erwin.
Deputies said Erwin had been reported as a missing person last November and his information was entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.
The investigation’s been turned over to the South Charleston Police Department.
RAVENSWOOD W.Va. — It’s been three years since the onset of Covid-19 and by mid-March of 2020 the virus had started making its way to West Virginia, leading health departments across the state to start enforcing policies to help contain it.
This was, of course, no exception for the Jackson County Health Department, who were among the many health organizations providing weekly updates and eventually Covid-19 testing. MetroNew’s affiliate WMOV Radio in Ravenswood sat down with Jackson County Health Administrator, Amy Haskins, to discuss the local evolution of the disease that shook the world.
Haskins told WMOV that they did not predict the magnitude of what was in store. She said they thought it would be like any other sickness such as the seasonal flu that would start to curb by summer.
“Back three years ago we probably never would have imagined that we would still be in this three years later, or two and a half years later,” said Haskins.
Haskins said that Covid changed the game for health departments everywhere, as they had to learn how to handle a disease that seemed entirely new from anything they had dealt with before, from varying kinds of symptoms to the numerous ways it seemed to affect everyone differently.
She said it also opened up many other problems apart from a world and statewide health crisis, but that it specifically accentuated the problems that the Jackson Health Department were faced with, such as underfunding and understaffing.
However, she said with the help of volunteers and partner organizations that assisted with testing among other necessary actions, they were able to get through the worst of it, but she added that it was a series of navigating the issue from day to day.
“It certainly kept us on our toes over the last two and a half years, because, you can walk in with an agenda and within 15 minutes that agenda is just blown out the window and you have to figure out how to handle the problem the best you can,” Haskins said.
The Jackson Health Department is now offering Covid-19 vaccines to all students, and Haskins said it doesn’t matter their age.
“Whether you’ve got a preschooler, kindergartner, 7th grader, 12th grader, leaving for college, whatever your situation may be, we’ve got that vaccine for you,” Haskins said.
The students will need a shot record if they have never gotten a vaccine at the health department there before.
They will be administering the vaccines Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. People can call them at (304)-372-2634 with any questions they may have.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Families with children at least 4-years of age are encouraged to start thinking about preschool enrollment to give their kids an early first step in education.
Preschool Enrollment Specialist for Kanawha County Schools, Johnny Ferrara, told 580 Live Tuesday morning that preschool enrollment is now open for families across Kanawha County. He said it’s also free, including free breakfast, lunch, snacks, and transportation if needed. He said children must be 4-years of age by June 30, 2023 to be eligible to register, unless they have special needs or other circumstances where the school system could provide enrollment.
While Ferrara said that the registration process used to be conducted through county-wide application fairs, the Covid-19 pandemic and the significant increase of online applications have changed the process, but he says they are ready to help families applying for preschool whether they choose to do it online or in-person.
“We are here to complete the application from beginning to end with anybody who might need our assistance, and we’re very happy to have you come here or you can do everything online,” Ferrara said.
Ferrara went on to say that, when applying in-person, people will need to bring their child’s state certified birth certificate, which cannot be obtained from the county courthouse, but from Vital Statistics located at 350 Capitol Street. He said they will also need their child’s immunization records, a current physical or the Well-Child check, which must include lead and hemoglobin results, a current dental exam, any type of documentation regarding custody or homelessness, and income verification, including a pay stub, W2, etc.
When asked the importance of preschool, Ferrara said it gives kids a major head start in many areas of their academic and social development.
“Preschool really begins the journey, where children really start building that foundation for social, pre-academic, or basic life skills, learning how to share, learning how to regulate behavior,” said Ferrara.
Ferrara added that kindergarten has become a lot more rigorous than it used to be, and now, preschool provides a unique, hands-on curriculum that will help get them get prepared.
“Our preschool-aged students, they learn by playing, and we have a curriculum called Creative Curriculum that is all hands-on,” Ferrara said. “It is not sitting kids down anymore at a small desk and having them do a color sheet, it is actual exploration.”
He said the easiest way to learn about the enrollment process is through the Kanawha County Schools website.
If families are looking to apply in-person, they can stop by the Kanawha County Board of Education Roxalana Annex at 1004 Lower Midway Drive, Dunbar. The office is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and the phone number is (304)-766-0397.