Saturday, July 25, 2009



Heroin supplier gets 20-year sentence

A Centreville man involved in a suburban heroin ring was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday for supplying the drugs that resulted in the overdose death of his girlfriend.

Skylar Schnippel, 20, is the last of 16 defendants to be sentenced for involvement in a Northern Virginia drug ring that resulted in four overdose deaths, including the death of his girlfriend, 19-year-old Alicia Lannes, in March 2008.

Most of those charged were former or current students at Westfield High School.

The 20-year sentence was the minimum term the judge could impose.

According to testimony at Schnippel’s trial in U.S. District Court, Miss Lannes had overdosed three previous times but Schnippel continued to give her heroin.


2 killed, 9 injured in rash of wrecks

A rash of wrecks along a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 81 in the northern Shenandoah Valley killed two people, injured nine others and shut down the northbound lanes for hours.

Virginia State Police said the first accident involved a tractor-trailer that ran off the interstate and overturned in Frederick County at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The driver suffered minor injuries.

About three hours later, two people in a passenger vehicle were killed and four tractor-trailer drivers were injured in a fiery chain-reaction crash triggered by one big rig that failed to slow for a traffic backup resulting from the first wreck.

Three tractor-trailer drivers were injured in a second chain-reaction accident.

Another tractor-trailer wrecked as it passed the site. The driver suffered minor injuries.

The northbound lanes were reopened at 10:48 a.m. Friday.


NTSB report mum on crash cause

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report into a July 5 plane crash in Rockbridge County, but investigators do not identify what caused the crash that killed four.

The NTSB said the Pilatus PC-12 took off from a New Jersey airport about 8:25 a.m. and ran into bad weather around 10 a.m. The pilot asked to be redirected, then the plane went crashed on a Virginia Tech farm minutes later.

Virginia State Police identified two of the victims as 23-year-old Stepan Matkovski and 37-year-old Jenny Brown Gajewski, both of Florida.

Police have not identified the other two, but a family spokeswoman said Daniel and Cynthia Dorsch died in the crash. Mr. Dorsch was the former CEO of Checkers Drive-In Restaurants and was a licensed pilot.


1 arrested in Anthem protest

The leader of a social justice group protesting at Anthem’s Richmond office was arrested after entering the building asking to speak to a company executive.

Henrico County police arrested Virginia Organizing Project executive director Joe Szakos on Friday and charged him with trespassing. About 60 other protesters lined the street outside the office.

Lt. Steve Sparagna said Mr. Szakos was later released.

Spokeswoman Julie Blust said the group pays Anthem health insurance $25,000 per month in premiums for its 36 employees and their families, and members were protesting that the money was being used to lobby Congress against health care reform.

An Anthem spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.


City sees increase in black bears

Four bears have been spotted in Staunton in less than a month, authorities say.

The latest wayward bear appeared in the city Thursday night. Police chased the animal for about 15 minutes before it climbed a tree. A representative from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries arrived with a dart gun to drug and capture the bear.

A bear was captured Sunday night; another bear had been captured June 28 inside Gypsy Hill Park.

There also were recent sightings of a bear roaming through Montgomery Hall Park.

Virginia’s bear population has grown by an estimated 37 percent since 2001.


Popular coaster to be closed

After a 25-year ride, the Big Bad Wolf is closing at Busch Gardens.

The theme park announced that the suspended roller coaster will make its last run Sept. 7.

The park’s general manager, John Reilly, said the announcement gives fans one more time to ride what had been a park favorite.

The attraction has had a successful run. Since it opened in 1984, more than 29 million riders have hopped aboard the Big Bad Wolf. It had simply reached the end of its service life.

No replacement has been named.



Eastern Shore adult dies from swine flu

Maryland health officials said Friday a fourth person has died from swine flu.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the Eastern Shore resident didn’t have any apparent illnesses or risk factors, unlike the first three cases.

Officials wouldn’t release more details about the person but said a medical investigation into the cause of death was being conducted.

Department Secretary John Colmers said the death of someone without apparent underlying medical conditions is a reminder of how serious swine flu can be even for healthy, unvaccinated adults.

Department officials said more deaths are expected with swine flu and seasonal flu. They said people should take swine flu seriously until a vaccine is developed.


Dogs attack elderly woman

Maryland State Police said several dogs attacked a 77-year-old Colora woman at her home on Friday.

Trooper First Class Jason Edwards went to the 2100 block of Colora Road Thursday while paramedics were treating the woman about 1 p.m. She had several bite wounds after the dogs attacked and dragged her.

The dogs became aggressive toward Trooper Edwards, so the trooper stood between the dogs and the woman until a dog charged him, and he shot and killed it. Two other dogs also lunged at Trooper Edwards, and he shot and killed those dogs.

More than 20 dogs were taken from her property, and police said they think her daughter owned them.


Person dies in crash with police cruiser

A person died Friday in a crash involving a sheriff’s deputy in the town of Dunkirk.

Lt. Col. Thomas Hejl said Deputy Wayne Wells was responding to a call on another incident Friday morning when he struck a vehicle that had crossed the road in front of him. Col. Hejl said Deputy Wells’ cruiser overturned. and the other vehicle caught fire.

Deputy Wells was trapped in his car for some time, but crews eventually rescued him and transported him to a hospital.

Col. Hejl said the person in the other vehicle died at the scene. That person has not been identified.

The incident occurred at Route 4 and Apple Way in Calvert County.


School reforms praised, criticized

The District’s troubled public school system was both praised and criticized in a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The report, issued Thursday, was requested by the Senate subcommittee that oversees the District’s affairs.

The GAO report praised Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee for closing under-enrolled schools, improving test scores and developing teachers’ skills and ways of monitoring their performance.

But Cornelia Ashby, director of education and work force issues for GAO, told the Senate subcommittee that “some false steps” had interfered with efforts to improve the system, which serves 45,000 students in 128 schools.

The report was based partly on interviews with school system officials, principals and teachers-union leaders. It describes problems with a staffing model that Ms. Rhee implemented last year to make sure that schools had music, art and physical education teachers.

When officials allowed principals to request changes in funding and staffing for individual schools, the report said, the District failed to tell community members about decisions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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