Breaking Local News
A federal judge won't decide whether to move former coal baron Don Blankenship's criminal trial until after potential jurors are questioned in Beckley. Blankenship has asked for a change of venue, arguing that he cannot get a fair trial in southern West Virginia because of prejudicial news coverage. The former Massey Energy CEO was charged with conspiring to violate safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine after a blast killed 29 men in 2010. It was the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in four decades. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger said in Friday's order that Blankenship's motion will be put on hold until after questioning of potential jurors is completed. That process is set to begin July 9. The trial is scheduled for July 13.
Charleston's 22-story Laidley Tower has been placed into federal receivership. U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston ordered the move earlier this month after Wells Fargo Bank filed a civil lawsuit after the office building's owners defaulted on a $25 million loan taken out in 2007. Tenants were notified Thursday that Johnston appointed property management firm Colliers International to oversee Laidley Tower's finances, tenants and bank accounts. Two dozen separate entities jointly own the building. Wells Fargo said the owners failed to make a January loan payment, and the bank requested the remaining principal balance of $24.2 million be paid in full. Laidley Tower has seen a drop-off in tenants in recent years. Patriot Coal moved about 100 employees from Laidley Tower to Putnam County last year.
Patricia Miller is accused of stabbing her roomate to death in Charleston's East End last October, and pleaded not guilty Thursday. Miller is facing a second-degree murder charge for allegedly stabbing her roommate Victoria Summers to death with a steak knife along Nancy Street. Miller's bond was set at $35,000, and WCHS TV reports her trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. July 20.
The West Virginia Board of Education has voted to allow classroom debate on climate change. Two months after citizens bombarded the board with comments at a public hearing, the board voted 6-2 Thursday to approve the proposal. It is effective for the 2016-17 school year. In January, the board scrapped changes it made to teaching requirements for education science standards. Those changes had been suggested by board member Wade Linger. Linger had said he didn't believe it was a "foregone conclusion" that the climate is in fact changing. The board then placed the proposal with its original language intact for a 30-day public comment period. The students will be allowed to use scientific models to draw their own conclusions about climate change.
Zachary Keith Thomas of Dunbar was arrested in South Charleston this week and charged with kidnapping, robbery, and assault. This comes after an incident in Dunbar on April 6. The Kanawha County Sheriff's Office said Thomas went to his sister's house in Dunbar and demanded money, which led to an argument. During the argument Mr. Thomas bound his sister's hands and feet in the basement of the house, hurt her, brandished a gun, and continued to make demands. He left with her debit card and cell phone. She suffered minor injuries which were treated at an area hospital. Thomas is now in South Central Regional Jail with no bond.
A Charleston woman is accused of accpeting money she wasn't entitled to. Lindsay Marie Meadows said she lived on Keystone Drive and she's accused of taking money from Yeager Airport for housing and temporary relief after the major landslide. The airport made arrangements to help several people who had been displaced by the landslide, and Meadows applied and got a check for $1500 and a room at the Red Roof Inn, according to the criminal complaint. WCHS TV reports police went to the home that Meadows claimed she lived at on Keystone Drive and found that it was boarded up and falling apart, and neighbors said no one has lived in the house for years. She's facing a felony charge.
The state Board of Education has denied a request by counties to waive attendance restrictions so they can meet the mandated 180 instructional days this school year. The board rejected the requests Wednesday at a meeting in Charleston, citing state code that requires 180 separate days of education. School board President Gayle Manchin tells WCHS-TV it's important for students to receive the required amount of instructional time. The board approved a waiver process last month aimed at giving county schools flexibility in making up instructional days canceled because of weather. The policy allows counties to seek waivers to use bank time to meet the 180-day equivalent. Bank time is minutes that counties can accrue each day by exceeding the minimum state-required classroom time.
The Kroger in South Charleston is getting a major remodel, and at this point it's about 85 percent finished. WCHS TV reports the final bill on the upgrade will be about $37 million, and the renovations are long overdue. The store gets new flooring, new fixtures, new paint, new lighting and an overall freshening up. Last year, Ashton Place Kroger got an upgrade. Krogers in Kanawha City and in Russell, Kentucky are also in the middle of renovations.
The University of Charleston is moving its facilities in Beckley to a business park. The university announced this week they've signed a lease for a building at Harper Park. Classroom and office space renovations will take place in April and May. The university is moving out of Beckley facilities formerly used by Mountain State University at the end of this semester. The sale of Mountain State's Beckley campus to West Virginia University was approved earlier this year. Mountain State's accreditation was revoked in June 2012 because of leadership, organizational and integrity issues.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning about a scam in which some West Virginians' income tax returns have already been filed by someone else. Morrisey says the attorney general's consumer protection division has received numerous complaints from residents about the scam. Morrisey says scammers typically use tax-preparation software and stolen Social Security numbers to submit fake returns with the Internal Revenue Service and state tax department. Refunds are then deposited on a prepaid debit card or store gift card that can't be easily traced. He says residents who are told by the IRS or state tax department that their taxes have already been filed should call local law enforcement, the IRS tax fraud hotline at (800) 829-0433 or the consumer protection division at (800) 368-8808.