2011 headlines in Western Tidewater

Published 11:29 am Friday, December 30, 2011

Casey Kerlin looks over her 16-year-old sister's car after a cinder block garage blew over the from the apparent tornado near Isle of Wight. The car was a Christmas gift. FILE

EDITOR’S NOTE: The year 2011 brought good and bad news to Western Tidewater. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters announced it would create 800 jobs in Windsor, while International Paper announced plans to repurpose its closed paper mill to make fluff pulp, creating 225 jobs. On a negative note, the City of Franklin was ranked the third highest for the number of premature deaths among Virginia’s 132 localities while its residents are fourth from the bottom when it comes to their health. It also was a year with successful fundraisers and community celebrations in addition to tragic deaths and personal loss.


JAN. 2—Against the recommendation of Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to fill the vacant assistant administrator position, which pays a salary in mid-$60,000s. The annual benefits package costs about $20,000.

JAN. 5—A witness to the Dec. 27 beating of a Southampton County couple outside Walmart claimed the assault was the suspect’s reaction to a racial slur made by the victims. Suspect Khalid El-Amin Muhammad, 41, was released from Western Tidewater Regional Jail on $2,500 bond.

JAN. 7—Franklin Police arrested Kevin Hargrave, 34, of Sedley for the Dec. 9 armed robbery at Sears. Police also arrested employee Ryan Michael Johnson, 26, of Franklin.

JAN. 9—Franklin School Board voted unanimously to keep Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle for another three years.

JAN. 9— Country Acres Garden Club continues to celebrate its 50th anniversary. For the milestone year, which was 2010, club members gave back to the community with several projects.

JAN. 9— Enrollment figures have hit the highest in the history of Paul D. Camp Community College since its Franklin campus opened in 1971. The college had 1,656 students in fall 2010, an increase of 10.4 percent over 2009.

JAN. 12—A grand opening dedication of the $10.5 million Young-Laine Courts Building in Isle of Wight drew state and county officials.

JAN. 14—James Baker, an 11-year-old S.P. Morton Elementary School student, was among more than 100 students to receive a new coat thanks to Operation Warm and the partnership between the Franklin Rotary and Lions clubs.

JAN. 16—The Isle of Wight County School Board voted to adjust the school division’s grading scale. A grade of 91 to 100 is an A; 82-90 is a B; 74 to 81 is a C; and 65 to 73 is a D.

JAN. 21—Nottoway, Carrsville and Windsor elementary schools received recognition from Gov. Bob McDonnell and the state Board of Education for academics.

JAN. 23—The average January temperature for Western Tidewater is 41.6 degrees. This January, the average has been 35.3.

JAN. 26—A sixth man has been charged with first-degree murder for the Oct. 7 shooting of Darrin Lee outside his home at Southampton Meadows Park. Southampton County Sheriff’s Office charged Ernest W. Jones, 22, of Portsmouth in connection with the 28-year-old’s murder.

JAN. 28—The Navy announced it has suspended developing an outlying landing field until at least 2014.



FEB. 2— The medical examiner’s office in Norfolk continues to investigate the Jan. 26 death of Southampton County businessman Clyde Pitchford Jr., a former Richmond stockbroker who served six years in prison for stealing $1.1 million from clients and banks. Southampton County Sheriff’s Office said the 56-year-old’s death is an apparent suicide.

FEB. 2—Michael Stoneham, director of Power and Light for the City of Franklin, has resigned to return to retirement.

FEB. 4—Franklin police arrested Edward Brown, 42, of Franklin for allegedly burglarizing Liberty Coins of Franklin.


FEB. 6—Boykins Animal Control Officer Norman Lee will go door to door ensuring residents have their pets’ rabies shots and that licenses are up to date. Tickets will be issued.

FEB. 11—Former Franklin resident LaVerne G. Pickles, 105, dies. His stepson, Doug Boyce, the recently retired president for Paul D. Camp Community College, said Pickles requested that his body be donated to medical research.

FEB. 16—A judge determined Southampton County supervisors illegally rezoned a 55-acre area from agriculture to industrial for an Ivor motorcycle and ATV track.

FEB. 18—A fire destroys a Capron-area home at 24126 Bryant Church Road. Firefighters were called at 1:30 p.m. to a home owned by James Wilson. Wilson’s son, Jamie, and his girlfriend and three children lived at the home.

FEB. 18—A Drewryville woman’s murder case ended in a mistrial when the jury could not reach a verdict after four hours of deliberation in Southampton County Circuit Court. Tiona Tucker, 30, will get a new trial. She is charged with the Feb. 14, 2007, shooting death of Tirail Jackson, 21, of Drewryville.

FEB. 20— The City of Franklin’s black population over the last 10 years grew by 518 people, and now makes up 57 percent of the city’s 8,582 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. At the same time, the white population fell by 436, making up 39 percent of total residents.

FEB. 25—Foresight on the part of the Southampton County Public Schools is enabling the district to save 46 teaching and staff positions despite an expected $1.27 million shortfall for its $26 million, 2010-2011 budget.

FEB. 27—A Southampton Middle School student was suspended for opening an exterior door. A district-wide policy prohibiting students and staff from opening doors to the outside was recently adopted after a $10,800 security system was installed.

FEB. 27—According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 371 vacant housing units in Franklin compared to 459 in 2000. In Southampton County, 754 housing units were unoccupied in 2010 compared to 454 units 10 years earlier. And in Isle of Wight County, there were 915 vacant housing units compared to 328 in 2000.



MARCH 2—Wilbur “Ed” Sullivan, chief animal control officer for Isle of Wight County, will retire on April 30.

MARCH 2—Community Day at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center included a food bank, health fair and step show.

MARCH 2—Isle of Wight County Sheriff C.W. “Charlie” Phelps announced plans to seek a seventh term.

MARCH 4—Southampton County Supervisors rank 69th out of 95 counties when it comes to their annual salaries. Supervisors are paid $5,500. The average salary for the elected position in Virginia is $10,501. Isle of Wight County Supervisors are paid $11,744 a year.

MARCH 4—Isle of Wight County has received a $7.5 million interest-free loan to build a new Windsor Middle School. The amount is half of what the school district hoped to get.

MARCH 9—A 23-year-old woman died after the pickup she was riding in rolled at 1:45 a.m. Sunday outside Carrsville. Hollyann Heinrich died at the hospital.

MARCH 13—Two North Carolina men were arrested for the daylight armed robbery of a 73-year-old Sedley woman outside East Pavilion at Southampton Memorial Hospital on Friday.

MARCH 13—Franklin City Councilman Greg McLemore has paid off his delinquent property tax bill. McLemore as of June 29 owed the city $1,850 for 2006 to 2009.

MARCH 16— A fire destroyed a Boykins-area home to allegedly cover up the theft of a safe with two handguns and personal papers. The cause of the 4:30 p.m. fire at the Burntreed Road home of Leon Bolton is undetermined.


MARCH 20— The Franklin School Board unanimously agreed to save reams of paper and roughly $8,000 a year to publish the bulky agendas in electronic form.

MARCH 23—A Suffolk man died when the boat he and two other Suffolk men were riding in capsized on the Nottoway River Monday. The body of George Beale, 46, was found 50 yards upstream of where the boat capsized near the General Vaughn Bridge boat landing in Southampton County.

MARCH 25—J.P. King Middle School Principal Jeremy Knapp has resigned.

MARCH 25—A man was robbed at gunpoint when the suspect forced his way into the victim’s home in the 1700 block of South Street, Franklin police said.



APRIL 1—Regena Johnson, who will turn 100 on April 2, will be honored at a reception at the Windsor Community Building. A 1932 graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a degree in music, Johnson came to Virginia the year music was introduced into the public schools.

APRIL 3—The loss of 650 inmates due to the 2009 closing of Southampton Correctional Center and a 16 percent population growth in the Ivor area will mean changes to those and other election districts in Southampton County.

APRIL 3—Dominion Virginia Power’s proposal to fuel its Southampton County generating station with waste wood instead of coal will result in an economic boost for the region, officials said.

APRIL 6—An early morning brawl allegedly involving 150 people at American Legion Post No. 73 in Franklin may mean the end of renting the Armory Drive facility for parties.

APRIL 6—A Newsoms man will spend the rest of his life in prison for the March 3, 2009, murder of Brandon Keith Turner.

APRIL 10—Southampton County Sheriff Vernie W. Francis Jr. announces he will not seek re-election this year.

APRIL 10—Southampton County has introduced a $52.3 million draft budget that includes a 3-cent property tax increase and 2 percent cost-of-living pay increases for county and school employees.

APRIL 13—The City of Franklin ranks the third highest for the number of premature deaths among Virginia’s 132 localities while its residents are fourth from the bottom when it comes to their health.

APRIL 15—Dekwate Lankford, 18, of Franklin was arrested for allegedly burglarizing a Thomas Street home.

APRIL 15—After two years of negotiating, Windsor Town Council and the U.S. Postal Service have reached an agreement on a lease for the post office. Town officials originally sought $24,000 a year for the building. The Postal Service wanted to continue paying $18,000 a year.

APRIL 20—Kingdom Life Ministries offered a 25-cent-a-gallon discount on gasoline at the Plaza Sunoco in Franklin. Members from the Franklin church pumped 1,971 gallons of gas into 193 vehicles between noon and 2 p.m.

APRIL 20—Saturday’s tornado that traveled through Isle of Wight County left a 20-mile path of destruction, including nearly 30 homes of which four were destroyed.

APRIL 20—A wood pellet manufacturer is eyeing bringing new life to the International Paper mill, which closed nearly a year ago, eliminating 1,100 jobs.

APRIL 27—Franklin High School senior Conya Postell has been named a Gates Millennium Scholar, which will cover the cost of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies.

APRIL 27—The Franklin City Council voted 5-0 to end negotiations with the Navy for its use of the city’s airport for pilot training.

APRIL 27—Paul D. Camp Community College’s nursing program has been placed on “conditional approval” after fewer than 80 percent of its students passed state boards in 2009 and 2010.



MAY 4—Bear Path Acres has taken in two adult monkeys after one attacked its owner in Surry on April 25.

MAY 11—Paul Phelps, a captain with Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office and the son of IOW Sheriff C.W. “Charlie” Phelps, has been indicted for allegedly knowing a convicted felon illegally possessed a weapon.

May 13—The investigation continues into the death of Clarance Williams, 28, of Boykins. Williams was hit by a train at 2:05 a.m. Sunday between Route 35 and Branchville, said Virginia State Police Sgt. Jeff Singleton.

MAY 15— A Southampton County Sheriff’s deputy had to quiet the party among neighbors in the County Office Center hallway after the Planning Commission voted 7-0 to recommend that Bobby and Amy Pitts keep their three miniature horses.

MAY 22—Franklin School Board voted 6-1 Thursday to give all employees a 1.5 percent bonus in June. The district will use $212,700 in unspent appropriations to cover bonuses.

May 25—International Paper’s decision to repurpose its Isle of Wight County mill could create up to 200 logging and trucking jobs.

MAY 27—A Tuesday afternoon fire destroyed a Barrow Road home in Capron.

MAY 29— International Paper’s plans to repurpose its Isle of Wight County mill will help plug a $1.2 million shortfall in revenue to the City of Franklin beginning in 2012-2013.



JUNE 3— A Courtland man drowned in North Carolina. Samuel Evans Turner, 31, went underwater while swimming with friends at Busco Beach, said Maj. Tom Effler of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.

JUNE 3—Tremaine Freeman, 21, of Franklin will spend 14 years and two months in prison for holding up two teenagers in downtown Franklin after a Sept. 2, 2010, We Be Jammin’ concert.

JUNE 3— Legendary Franklin teacher and coach Peggy Wilkins has passed. As a coach, she had 334 wins and 62 losses, which rank as the best record in Virginia High School Basketball history. Wilkins came to the Franklin schools in 1960 as a physical education teacher having never coached a team. She became the girls’ basketball coach not knowing a thing about the game.

JUNE 8—The City of Franklin saw the arrest of adults increase 11 percent in 2010 from 2009, while juvenile arrests dropped 40 percent, according to Virginia’s Annual Crime Analysis Report.

JUNE 8— State Sen. Fred Quayle will not run for re-election. Sen. Harry Blevins plans to run for re-election in the 14th District. That district now includes Quayle’s home in Suffolk after redistricting.

JUNE 8—Two Suffolk men were sentenced Tuesday for the 2008 armed robbery of a Franklin-area man. Lavert Mitchell was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Deonta Norman was given 11 years.

JUNE 10—In less than two weeks, Southampton County has collected $110,560 in back-taxes with a program that involves placing boots on vehicles owned by delinquent taxpayers.

JUNE 12—New Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Katrise Perera will be paid $130,000 annually for her two-year contract. Perera replaces retiring superintendent Dr. Michael McPherson, who was making $175,000.

JUNE 15—Billy Grizzard, executive director of operations for Southampton County Public Schools, will retire on June 30 after a 38-year career with the district.

JUNE 17—Windsor Town Council adopted a $1.5 million operating budget for fiscal year 2012 that will result in no increase in taxes, no reduction in services and no new programs.

JUNE 22—A Southampton County dive team last week failed to find a safe stolen from a Boykins home, which the suspects then burned to the ground.

JUNE 22—The Southampton County Sheriff’s Office arrested a suspect accused of stealing jewelry valued at $75,000 during a June 4 break-in at a home in the 29000 block of South Main Street in Newsoms.

JUNE 29—In its continuing effort to collect back taxes, the Southampton County Treasurer’s Office will garnish wages from the holders of 343 delinquent real estate and personal property tax accounts.


JULY 3—More than $1 million is expected to be spent in the community during the yearlong construction of the new High Street United Methodist Church.

JULY 13—Former Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ronald Carwile pleaded no contest to having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl between September 2009 and January 2010.

JULY 13—Cornell A. Richardson, 41, of Drewryville was arrested after fleeing from Suffolk Police and crashing his car, killing two. One of the deceased was Keiska Thornhill, 36, of Franklin.

JULY 13—Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle will continue to be paid $98,000 annually under a new three-year contract.

JULY 15—The bank that holds the mortgage for the Pace House Inn was the only bidder for the former Franklin bed and breakfast during an auction. Community Bank got the property for $175,000 and is looking to sell it.

JULY 22—Interim Isle of Wight County Attorney A. Paul Burton is retiring.

JULY 27—The city has proposed increasing residential and business electric rates by 7 percent come Oct. 1.

JULY 29—Country singer Jake Owen, whose title track from Barefoot Blue Jean Night is No. 11 on the Billboard country charts, will perform at the Isle of Wight County Fair Saturday, Sept. 17.

JULY 29—Jennell Riddick, the wife of a Franklin pastor, is a finalist for landing a one-year, $24,000 on-air contract with a Portsmouth television station.

JULY 31—The Franklin Planning Commission agreed unanimously not to recommend rezoning a portion of Bank Street for 34 government-subsidized townhouses.



AUG. 3—An annual scholarship has been established in memory of Karen Phillips Chase, a mother of three who was killed in a car accident on June 14, 2010, in Isle of Wight County.

AUG. 5—Dontaz Latray Wilkerson, 20, of Windsor was sentenced to 63 years in prison for murdering TyQuan Lewis, a rising Lakeland High School senior and standout athlete.

AUG. 7—Chuck Barry Ricks, 50, of Franklin died in an 11:40 p.m. crash after the car he was driving on Route 258 overturned and he was thrown, Virginia State Police said.

AUG. 12—Drug suspects facing a mandatory 10 years in prison and up to life after pleading guilty include Alexander Howard Olds, 22, and Jovar Smith, 22, both of Franklin, and Torrance Jamar Bowers, 23, of Ivor. Facing a mandatory 15 years in prison and up to life for also entering pleas were Dominique Raeshawn Kindred, 20, and Brandon De’Shun Cary, 26, both of Franklin.

AUG. 12—None of Western Tidewater’s three public school districts met federal testing goals, yet four schools within the Isle of Wight County School District did meet what’s known as Adequate Yearly Progress for 2010-11.

AUG. 12—Southampton High School algebra teacher Susan Melbye has been named assistant principal for Southampton Middle School. Melbye replaces Pamela Hartnett, who took a principal’s job in Petersburg.

AUG. 14—Smoke from the Great Dismal Swamp fire created a Code Purple situation, which is the worst of air-quality levels.

AUG. 19—Franklin High School’s 2011 salutatorian Dallas Banks placed fourth in marketing during the recent National Future Business Leaders of America competition in Orlando.

AUG. 19—Police continue to investigate the death of Justin Gromlich, 27, of Windsor, who was working on a fishing boat in Newport, R.I. Gromlich was found on Aug. 7 floating in the water about 100 yards from where his fishing vessel was docked.

AUG. 24—The shaking felt in Western Tidewater at 1:50 p.m. Tuesday was the result of a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that hit 27 miles east of Charlottesville, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

AUG. 31—Beaury and Thelma Raifords of Sedley celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

AUG. 31—Hurricane Irene dumped 12 inches of rain within 24 hours on Western Tidewater, while the highest wind gusts were 59 mph.



SEPT. 2—Despite early projections calling for flooding in downtown Franklin due to Hurricane Irene, the Blackwater River crested at 14.73 feet and is receding quickly.

SEPT. 4—After raising property taxes 25 percent in May, the Isle of Wight County Supervisors may give employees 5 percent raises that will cost $482,000 annually.

SEPT. 9—It’s expected to take another week before repairs are made to 200-foot portion of Cypress Swamp Road washed out by Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27.

SEPT. 11—Paula Horner, 58, of Old Hickory Road, Courtland, drowned after losing control of her sport utility vehicle on a flooded Highway 35 and landing in the Sebrell swamp. Her passenger, Jeff Barnes of Courtland, survived.

SEPT. 14—An undetected heart condition led to the death of Southampton High School senior football player Brian Rushing on Sept. 10.

SEPT. 16—A Suffolk man, who named Rasheed Brown as the triggerman in the Oct. 7 murder of Darrin Lee, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Southampton County Circuit Court.

SEPT 16—Franklin/Southampton Relay For Life met its goal of $128,000 this year.

SEPT. 18—The Franklin City School Board will continue discussing a grading practice that sets a student’s lowest grade at 60 percent after board members voiced concerns over its implementation.

SEPT. 18—The scores for SAT tests taken by students from Western Tidewater’s three public schools this year were lower than state and national averages.

SEPT. 23—Officials seized two alligators and 20 box turtles from a home on Mount Horeb Road between Franklin and Newsoms.

SEPT. 28—BB&T bank announces plans to close branches in Newsoms and Courtland.



Oct. 2—Dr. Paul William Conco was inaugurated as Paul D. Camp Community College’s new president.

OCT. 5—Franklin’s Zack Peak, a senior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, scored in the top five percent among the more than 1.5 million students who took the PSAT college-entrance exam last fall. He is the son of Bill and Cindy Peak.

OCT. 9—A judge dismissed a charge against Boykins Mayor Spier Edwards for illegally driving his golf cart on Highway 35.

OCT. 12—The 2011 drop-out rate at Windsor High School increased by 1 percent to 8.1 percent of its students. Southampton and Franklin high schools saw theirs fall by 7.2 percent to 7.8 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively. The statewide average for 2011 was 7.2 percent.

OCT. 14—A Newsoms woman was in satisfactory condition at a Richmond hospital after a 4:50 a.m. crash on General Thomas Highway. Megan Nicol Banton, 22, lost control of the car she was driving when her 2-year-old daughter attempted to crawl from the back seat to the front seat, said Trooper Sterling Johnson.

OCT. 16—A search at Southampton High School with police dogs turned up a small amount of marijuana, said Dr. Wayne K. Smith, executive director for administration and personnel. Authorities also found three archery bows and arrows, and hunting knives in students’ vehicles.

OCT. 26—Former Franklin resident John Atkinson, 56, has been identified as the victim of a fire that destroyed his family’s 90-year-old log cabin on the Nottoway River.

OCT. 28—Southampton County supervisors voted 7-0 to grant 2 percent raises, which will cost the county $335,605.

OCT. 31—A robber ran off with a cash register drawer during a holdup at the New Dixie BP at 1549 Armory Drive, Franklin police said.



NOV. 6— Republican Richard L. Morris spent nearly $200,000 on television advertising to unseat 64th District state Delegate Bill Barlow.

NOV. 9—Farmer and author Rex Alphin defeated four candidates to win the Carrsville District seat on the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors during Tuesday’s election. Smithfield Police Chief Mark Marshall defeated six-term incumbent Charlie Phelps and challenger Jim Crotts to be elected sheriff.

NOV. 9— The challengers running in four races for Southampton County Supervisor beat the incumbents during Tuesday’s election. Independent Bruce Phillips unseated two-term Democrat Moses Wyche and Independent Barry Porter beat Republican Walter Young. Dr. Alan Edwards unseated two-term Republican Anita Felts, while in the Newsoms District, Independent Glenn Updike defeated two-term Republican Walt Brown. Democrat Jack Stutts received 70 percent of the vote to become the first new sheriff in 28 years.

NOV. 11—Tiona Tucker, 30, of Drewryville will serve 34 years in prison for the February 2007 murder of Tirail Jackson, 21.

NOV. 11—A Norfolk Southern equipment operator clearing a logjam in Courtland found two dead deer whose antlers were hooked together.

NOV. 16—Charles Turner, superintendent of Southampton County Public Schools, announced his retirement.

NOV. 23—After failing to have 80 percent of its students pass the state boards in 2009 and 2010, the Paul D. Camp Community College nursing program is seeing better results this year.

NOV. 25—The clerk to the Franklin School Board and executive assistant to Superintendent Michelle Belle is retiring. Maggie Swain’s position will be filled.

NOV. 27—The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries releases nearly 9,000 hatchery-grown freshwater mussels into the Nottoway River.

NOV. 30— Sixty to 65 new jobs will be created with the construction of Enviva Pellets Courtland.

NOV. 30—Five children ranging from 4 to 10 years old were turned over to their grandparents after Franklin police arrested their mother and her boyfriend for allegedly selling marijuana from their home.

NOV. 23—A 23-year-old Franklin woman was arrested for leaving a 6-month-old and an 8-year-old boy in an unlocked vehicle with the keys in the ignition while at Walmart at 1:16 a.m. on Black Friday, Franklin police said.



DEC. 2—Tonch Bynum, 76, of Franklin won $150,000 on a Virginia Lottery scratch ticket.

DEC. 2—Despite the promise of a $20 million investment, the Franklin Planning Commission voted 3-1 to deny a zoning change for 108 apartments and 82 townhouses on North College Drive.

DEC. 4—Isle of Wight County Supervisors voted 5-0 to reduce the tax it levies on manufacturers for their machinery and tools by 26 percent.

DEC. 4—Dr. Patsy Joyner, vice president for Institutional Advancement at Paul D. Camp Community College, is retiring in January after 31 years with the college.

DEC. 7—More than 5,000 turned out for the Franklin Community Christmas Parade.

DEC. 14—The first service is held at the new High Street United Methodist Church.

on Camp Parkway.

DEC. 14— Paul Phelps, a captain with Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office and the son of outgoing Sheriff C.W. “Charlie” Phelps, pleaded guilty to reduced charges in a case that involved allowing a felon to illegally possess a stun gun.

DEC. 18— Newly elected Southampton County Sheriff Jack Stutts has named Gene Drewery his chief deputy.

DEC. 28—A former Franklin’s man’s best-seller — “House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer’s Journey Home” — has been named as one of this year’s top 10 non-fiction books by The Wall Street Journal. In addition, the magazine, Entertainment Weekly, named Mark Richard’s book No. 1 in non-fiction for 2011.