March 2009

Jan. 20-Feb. 20, 2009

Invista and United Workers Inc. union reached a tentative agreement that will result in fewer than expected being laid off at the Waynesboro plant. Hershey’s in Stuarts Draft announced temporary layoffs a week after it held a job fair to hire 120 people. A company spokesman said Hershey still plans to make those hires later in the year. Unemployment in Waynesboro reached a 15-year high.

Nicole Nicholson, 17, died in a fire at her boyfriend’s home in Bridgewater. He made it out but suffered serious burns. Authorities said the fire was accidental and not suspicious and that drug paraphernalia was found in the room where Nicholson died, but they believe it belonged to a resident of the home. Nicholson was a junior at Turner Ashby High School and an employee of Taco Bell.

A jury convicted Donna Hockman, 35, of the July 25 murder of her boyfriend, Dustin Stanley, 23, in Lacey Spring. Hockman claimed self-defense. She shot Stanley five times in the back.  During trial, it came out that Stanley was a confidential informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Residential property assessments averaged a 27.7 percent increase over 2005 figures in Augusta County. Residents were outraged. Churchville attorney Francis Chester threatened to sue, petitions flew and Supervisor Tracy Pyles said the county needed to reassess the assessments. Land, not buildings, grabbed the bigger boost, and January sales figures reflected that the assessments were about on target. Waynesboro residents saw an average 3.7 percent increase. Staunton’s assessments jumped an average of 4.3 percent.

Parent companies of both The News Leader in Staunton and The News Virginian in Waynesboro announced furloughs. If the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg had furloughs, most in the know doubt that paper’s publisher would be open about it.

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank had to throw away 4,000 pounds of food because of the salmonella outbreak in peanut products.

Waynesboro police named Chris Hilliard, 28, Officer of the Year. He led the department in DUI arrests in 2008, despite not being on the streets since April. He has a rare form of cancer and has been on desk duty.

Michael J. Ozyjowski, 75, of Waynesboro died nine days after a Hermitage car crash caused by another driver who was talking on her cell phone. Ozyjowksi drove himself home but was admitted to the hospital the next day. The state police are looking for a female driver of a white SUV, who may not realize she caused an accident.

Emmylou Dayle Chute, a senior at Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton, was the sixth congressional district winner of the 15th annual Harry F. Byrd Jr. Leadership award. She received $10,000.

Ridge Huffman, 18, of Stuarts Draft was arrested for the Buckhannon, W.Va., murder of Rebekah Jane Gibson, 20, of Waynesboro. The two were romantically involved, he said. He also told police he has schizophrenia and multiple personalities.

The Daily News Record reported that three calves in Linville tested positive for rabies, as did a raccoon found on the same property. The farmer involved had thought the calves just had a stubborn pneumonia.

The Staunton City School Board decided to cut more than 38 jobs next year to make up for budget shortfalls. Teachers, aides, cafeteria monitors, reading and behavior specialists, bus drivers and clerical staff saw positions cut.

Lorena Orellana, 39, of Harrisonburg was convicted of felony child abuse after burning her two children on the face and neck with a spoon on May 4. The former Pleasant Valley Elementary School teacher’s assistant was sentenced to six months in jail.

The Greenville BB&T bank was robbed of an undisclosed amount of money by a masked white man wearing a gray hoodie.

The Artisans Center of Virginia announced the temporary closing of its gallery in Waynesboro. Rumors are that the center will eventually relocate to property being developed next to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton.

Walter Curt, a wealthy East Rockingham businessman, stepped down after six months as the Republican Party of Virginia’s voluntary finance chairman. In his resignation letter, he called  the party’s organizational structure “dysfunctional” and said he didn’t see that changing anytime soon.

Robert E. Lee High School quarterback Dae’ Quan Scott decided to play ball at James Madison University next year. He had originally told University of Richmond coaches he would attend that school.

Dr. Lee Weisman, 45, of Blue Ridge Family Medicine turned himself into police after being charged with two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery in his Staunton office, one in January and one in February. In December, the state Board of Medicine began investigating 2007 sexual incidents between Weisman and a patient and allegations that he prescribed narcotics for that patient, though he knew she was a illegal drug user.

Thanks to stronger-than-normal ticket sales and enthusiastic donor response, the American Shakespeare Center reached its $250,000 financial goal for January, enough to keep it operational for now. ASC says it needs to raise $400,000 more by May 1.

Elkton’s notorious drug dealer Vern O’Dell Crawford, 64, was sentenced to 30 years in jail. His wife, Joyce Crawford, 66, was sentenced to time served. His sons, Darrell and Kenneth, also received prison time. U.S. District Court Judge Samuel G. Wilson said he believed Vern was the master and the rest of his family puppets in their years of crime.

WHSV-TV went digital for a few days and then went back to its analog signal after some Bergton and Fulks Run customers had trouble getting the digital signal. All television signals in the United States are going digital for real June 12.

Staunton native Lloyd Sullenberger, 68, died. He was the Circuit Court judge who stayed the execution of Earl Washington in 1985. Washington, a mentally retarded man, was famously found guilty of a 1982 murder in Culpeper after police walked him through a confession. DNA results later cleared him, and he was released from prison.

Douglas E. Thomas, 48, of Waynesboro was killed in a car accident on a wintry slick Route 340, south of Crimora.

Beloved Waynesboro physician Dr. Paul Woods, 90, died. Dr. Mark Miller, 54, died. He was a physician at Western State Hospital from 1996 until retiring due to illness in 2007.

Mildred “Bee” Hite May, 90, died. Valedictorian of Timberville High School’s class of 1935, she helped establish the Village Library in Broadway and the Plains Memorial Museum.

Marvin Cochran, 64, died. He was famous in Waynesboro for riding around town on his electric wheelchair. His unit at Springdale Apartments was adorned with 75 clocks. He was a collector.

Gracie Crickenberger, 100, died. She’d played the organ at Fishersville Baptist and worked in doctor’s offices, including that of the late Dr. Thomas Gorsuch in Waynesboro.

G.M. Hutchinson, 56, died. The Mount Sidney man had emceed horse shows throughout the area. His signature announcement was describing a victory lap as “going only where the champions get to go.”

Once known as Fort Run, Williamsport, Thompson’s Store and Riddle’s Tavern, the town of Timberville celebrated 125 years of official incorporation.

According to the Daily News-Record, The Lincoln Day Ceremony, held six miles north of Harrisonburg at Lincoln Cemetery, attracted about 200 people on Abe’s 200th birthday. The president’s father was born in Rockingham County.