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MetroNews This Morning 12-8-21

A tragic murder of five kids in Greenbrier County a year ago might have been prevented, state lawmakers are exploring what went wrong. A former Wheeling Police officer is in jail charged with the sexual assault of a child. Charges filed in a boating death from the 4th of July at Stonewall Jackson Lake. Covid fatalities surpass 5,000 as health officials worry about the growing spread of the Delta variant again in the state. In Sports, the Mountaineers take on U-Conn tonight…but it’s been a while since they’ve been on the same floor. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.
Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 12-8-21” on Spreaker.

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Notre Dame handles Parkersburg Catholic in season opener

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Notre Dame boys basketball coach Jarrod West knows his team will see much tougher competition than what it faced in Tuesday’s season opener.

Still, West couldn’t help but smile after watching the Irish have their way with Parkersburg Catholic, 95-31.

Last season, NDHS played only 10 games, finishing 4-6 and failing to qualify for the state tournament when it season ended with a loss to Grafton at the buzzer in sectional play.

“We had good energy and it’s great to being playing high school basketball and have a 22-game schedule,” West said. “We played 10 games last year and two of those games were off of shutdowns. It’s good to see our kids in shape. We’re not a moral victory program. We have high expectations here. Last year, there’s no excuses and we didn’t do what we wanted to do. Everybody is hungry, has a chip on their shoulder and it was good to get out here and get the first one under our belt.”

The opener was never in doubt, as ND held the Crusaders scoreless in the opening quarter and built a 27-0 lead through 8 minutes.

Wade Britton threw down a dunk that made it 6-0, and five different ND players scored over the opening half of the first quarter. A conventional three-point play from Connor Sandreth extended the advantage to 20-0, while the youthful Crusaders struggled to break the Irish’s full-court pressure and had 13 first-quarter turnovers.

“We respected the game and we played the right way,” coach West said. “This group is unselfish. Defensively, we can kind of get after it how I like to get after it. We can press a little more and play a little faster.”

Blake Lewis’ leaner got PCHS on the scoreboard early in the second quarter, but did little to slow the Irish, who got 8 points in the frame from guard Jaidyn West after he scored 10 in the opening period.

West’s 18 first-half points helped ND enter halftime with a commanding 46-7 lead.

“We’ve changed up a lot of things from last year to this year to help alleviate some stress off of Jaidyn,” coach West said. “Connor Sandreth is going to be great for us, because he gives us some speed and penetration and the middle of the floor is spaced.”

West added five more points in the third quarter, while backcourt mate Trey Petitto connected on two of his three triples in the third, helping the Irish take a 76-14 lead into the fourth quarter.

ND emptied its bench for the entirety of the final period, which saw Parkersburg Catholic pour in three more points than it managed over the first three quarters.

“Last year, obviously with covid, it affected everybody,” coach West said. “But we were so out of shape last year and we couldn’t play fast. I looked at [assistant coach Steve Petitto] in the third quarter and was like, ‘we’re moving so much faster than we have in a long time.’”

West led all players with five 3s and 23 points, while adding five rebounds and six assists.

Petitto scored 11, while Britton and Brady Fagan contributed nine apiece. Sandreth and Dre’Mir Hausvater each scored eight in the win.

Dominic Zummo added six points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Irish.

Charley Sumney led Parkersburg Catholic with 12 points and Lewis scored 11 in defeat.

The Crusaders dressed only nine players and one senior.

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WVU fights off stern test from Charlotte to snap two-game skid, 65-54

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Mike Carey watched his WVU women’s basketball team struggle to create separation from Charlotte for the final 29 minutes of their game Tuesday evening at the Coliseum. Although WVU never relinquished the lead over the final three quarters, the visiting 49ers hung tough before falling to the Mountaineers, 65-54.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Mountaineers (5-2).

“We’ve got to get some things corrected. Even though we weren’t playing well, we gutted it out and got the win,” said WVU head coach Mike Carey.

“Good teams, when they get somebody down, they play harder and they execute more. We are just not a good team right now. Do we have the capability of being a good team? Absolutely. But we have a long way to go.”

West Virginia led by two points [15-13] at the end of the first quarter and at halftime [31-29]. The Mountaineers extended their lead to ten points [43-33] midway through the third quarter. However, the 49ers trimmed their deficit to three points [45-42] in the opening minute of the fourth. WVU kept the 49ers (3-4) at a distance the rest of the way.

Guard KK Deans led the Mountaineers with 20 points. She was questionable to play after suffering an ankle injury last week.

“She showed a lot of guts. She had a bad sprained ankle coming out of the Kentucky game. She didn’t practice for two days. She did a bunch of rehab and gutted it out,” Carey said.

“I was just doing treatment every day, three times a day, just trying to get it back. It is about 75 to 80 percent.  I have great teammates. They pushed me and kept me in high spirits,” Deans said.

Madisen Smith was West Virginia’s other double digit scorer. She scored 11 points.

Eleven players entered the game for the Mountaineers. Through the first seven games of the season, Carey has heavily used his bench in an effort to mix the veterans with the newcomers. Carey acknowledged the rotation could be shortened soon.

“It may be coming. I don’t want it to, to be honest with you. My philosophy is that if coach puts you in, go in there and make him want to keep you in there. Do things the right way that coach wants to keep you in there. But when you go in there and you don’t do things the right way, you are probably going to come out. I don’t determine playing time, they do.”

“It is going to take time because we have a lot of new faces,” Smith said. “We also have a lot of returners so we are just going to have to bring them along and teach them how things are run around here.”

“We get timid or we get sped up sometimes,” Deans said. “We are still a young team too. We’re trying to get our veterans to match our younger [players] and all come together, because there is a long season ahead of us.”

The Mountaineers will visit James Madison Sunday afternoon.

(Mike Carey postgame press conference)

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U.S. court halts Biden administration vaccine mandate for federal contractors

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a preliminary injunction on President Joe Biden’s proposed vaccine mandate for federal contractors on Tuesday.

Led by Georgia, several states including West Virginia challenged the mandate that was set to go into effect at the beginning of 2022.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office called it “another important victory for personal freedom,” in a news release.

“I’m pleased that the courts continue to take a stand against unlawful vaccine mandates and side with personal freedoms,” Morrisey said in a release. “All citizens – including federal contractors and their employees – have the right to make their own decisions about whether to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Morrisey then took to Twitter on Tuesday saying, “WV, Six States Block Biden Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors.

“We now have an injunction from a Georgia federal judge against the federal government contractor mandate-this is another win for personal freedom!

“We are now 3-0 against the mandates.”

WV, Six States Block Biden Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors.

We now have an injunction from a Georgia federal judge against the federal government contractor mandate-this is another win for personal freedom!

We are now 3-0 against the mandates.

— Patrick Morrisey (@MorriseyWV) December 7, 2021

NBC News reported that the Biden administration mandate applies to roughly a quarter of the U.S. workforce and affects companies that do business with the federal government, including Lockheed Martin Corp., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.‘s Google, and General Motors Co.

The Attorneys General alleged President Biden and the other federal defendants acted unlawfully in many ways. These allegations include overstepping their constitutional authority, violating the separation of powers as set forth in the Tenth Amendment, and violating the Spending Clause of the United States Constitution, a release said.

Other states involved included Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, and Utah.

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Reynolds Memorial Hospital set to welcome in new boss

WHEELING, W.Va. — Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale will be under new leadership but it is a familiar face to healthcare in the area.

First reported by WTRF-TV in Wheeling, Doug Harrison, the current CEO and president of Wheeling Hospital, is set to become the president and CEO of the Marshall County facility.

Doug Harrison, Wheeling Hospital CEO

The report stated that the move was announced by WVU Medicine CEO and President Albert Wright in a memo to staff.

Current Reynolds Memorial Hospital president and CEO Dr. David Hess is reportedly leaving to become the full-time president and CEO at Uniontown Hospital.

All three hospitals are part of the WVU Medicine Health System.

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Police say former Wheeling police officer arrested for child rape

WHEELING, W.Va. — A former Wheeling Police officer is facing rape charges after admitting to West Virginia State Police to raping a 9-year old girl.

Jonathan Quincy Wiles, 28, is currently being charged with sexual abuse by a guardian, sexual assault in the first degree, and sexual abuse in the first degree.

Jonathan Wiles

A complaint was filed over the weekend where Wiles is accused of touching the girl in a private area on three different occasions.

WTRF-TV in Wheeling stated the complainant also told police that she confronted Wiles and he admitted that the rape happened and that he was ‘in a dark place at the time, and said he would get help and that he was sick.’

Wheeling Police Department told MetroNews that Wiles resigned on Monday and the department was made aware of the case Monday morning by state police. He joined the force on Sept. 2018.

Statement from the Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger to MetroNews:

“The Wheeling Police Department was made aware of serious allegations involving one of its officers by the West Virginia State Police this past weekend. That officer is no longer employed by the department as of Monday morning. I am fully aware of the seriousness of these charges, and although shocked, I am grateful that there was a rapid resolution with the safety of a child in mind. Out of respect for the criminal investigation, we cannot offer further comment.”

Wiles is listed as an inmate at the Northern Regional Jail currently on $90,000 cash bond.

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WVDE honors school districts’ commitment to children of military families

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — To commemorate Pearl Harbor Day on Tuesday, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) hosted members of the West Virginia Common Ground Partnership for its 2021 compact re-signing at the State Capitol Complex.

The Common Ground Partnership is a collaboration of organizations that focuses on increasing the capacity of schools to ensure success among all students including those among military families.

According to WVDE, partnering organizations provide online resources and guest speakers to schools that address a variety of important topics including substance abuse prevention, the importance of staying in school and career exploration. The goal is for the Common Ground Partnership and West Virginia schools to maximize the prospects that students will become well-educated and develop into college- and career-ready citizens.

“We’re going to re-commit to the students to say we are here and have resources for schools and a variety of different initiatives and activities that is part of the common ground partnership to support them and military families,” Robert Mellace, coordinator of the WVDE Office of Educator Development and Support said during an appearance on Tuesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline.’

Additionally, a new program was unveiled during the ceremony by the WVDE — the Purple Star Award. Purple Star Award recipients are schools and districts that have committed to providing dedicated support and services to students of military families.

Mellace noted it started in 2017 in Ohio and has grown to 30 states.

“Each school has a trained point of contact at the school to support military families. Also, they have a link to the website for the Common Ground Partnership for resources for military families. They also submit a unique plan locally for supporting military children and their families,” Mellace said.

130 schools earned this distinction, and Brooke, Kanawha and Pocahontas counties were honored for having 100% participation amongst all their schools. The WVDE is providing all members of the inaugural class with banners to recognize their commitment (Photo below).

In addition to State Superintendent Burch representing the WVDE, the Common Ground compact was signed by representatives from the West Virginia Board of Education, and numerous military and civil service organizations.

Pocahontas County Schools Director of Maintenance/Attendance/Safe Schools Mr. Ron Hall and State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch.

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Trial date set in Stonewall Jackson Lake boating death

WESTON, W.Va. — A family member of a woman killed in a Fourth of July tubing accident at Stonewall Jackson Lake in Lewis County says he wants the boat driver charged with her death to face serious punishment.

Patrick Carr told MetroNews Tuesday his niece, Sarah Hutchinson, died when the tube she was riding on collided with a rock wall. She was 29 years old and a student at Alderson Broaddus University.

“It was a horrific situation,” Carr said.

Tyson Bubnar, a professor at the university, was driving the boat. He was in Lewis County Magistrate Court Tuesday for a pretrial hearing. His trial is scheduled Jan. 12.

State Division of Natural Resources Police previously charged Bubnar with five misdemeanors including negligent homicide and reckless operation of a vessel. The negligent homicide charge carries up to a one year prison and a fine of $100 to $1,000.

DNR Police Officer Seth Rader said Bubnar was charged in October following a lengthy investigation.

“The operator got too close to the bank and when he tried to correct he slung the tube into a rock on the bank,” Rader told MetroNews Tuesday.

Rader said Hutchinson died at the scene.

Carr said Bubnar deserves prison time.

“Incarceration is for people that do things purposefully like this man did in causing the death of another. Probation is not for someone who causes someone else to die,” he said.

Hutchinson, of New Albany, Indiana, was riding on the tub with her two friends. Kayla Sands, of Denver, Colorado and Megan Wade, of St. Louis, Missouri, were injured. None of the women were wearing life jackets at the time.

Rader said Hutchinson died at the scene while Sands and Wade were both hospitalized for several weeks. He said one of them was on life support for a time. Both are now recovering at home.

Carr said Bubnar was driving reckless on purpose.

“You can’t say this was an accident. An accident is when you drop a glass of milk on the kitchen floor. That’s an accident. This is crash. Solely and independently, he caused this crash in the death of another person,” Carr said.

Carr is a law enforcement officer in another state and said he hears of tragic situations like this all the time, but the death of his niece hits close to home.

“Being in a position where I’m leading an agency, I would tell my officers the same thing. This is someone’s family member and someone has died,” he said.

At the time of the accident, Alderson Broaddus University released the following statement:

“The AB campus community is deeply saddened to learn of one of our alumna and student Sarah Hutchinson’s passing. Our entire campus community grieves this loss, and we extend our deepest condolences to the families and hold them in our prayers.”

Bubnar is currently listed as a assistant professor of physician assistant studies, according to the university’s website. He remains free on bond.

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Big 12-Big East Battle sends No. 15 UConn to the Coliseum Wednesday

(Bob Huggins pregame press conference)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — UConn visits the Coliseum for the first time in over a decade Wednesday night when the Mountaineers host the Huskies as part of the annual Big 12-Big East Battle. Through four of the ten matchups, the conference challenge is tied 2-2. The Big 12 has earned wins from Kansas and Iowa State. Games continue in the series through December 18.

No. 15 Connecticut (8-1) has posted five wins by at least 24 points and they own victories over Auburn and VCU at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

“This is definitely going to be our hardest game so far in the season,” said WVU sophomore forward Isaiah Cottrell. “They are really an athletic team. They run every single time down the floor. The conversations we had were to play harder, play faster, play longer than them and we’ll come out victorious.”

“They are really, really good. They’re athletic as can be. They remind me of some of the teams of the past. They just do a great job in transition. They really rebound it — superior athletes,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins.

“I have many concerns. It is hard to sit here and put them in order when they are multiple.”

The Huskies are in their fourth season under former Wagner and Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley. Through Monday’s play, UConn ranks ninth in the country in points per game (85.9) and seventh in scoring margin (+23).

Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley looks on against the Michigan State Spartans (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

“Danny’s got a really good team. They are deep and they are so athletic. They can score multiple ways. They’ve got a lot of guys that can score. They really defend. I wish we were a little better at this time. Hopefully we get better. It would be a better game,” Huggins said.

“They can score so many different ways. I think they are as good of a transition team as I have seen in quite a while. They are really good in transition. They really get out and run. They fill lanes. They finish. They’re a really good rebounding team. That’s the whole team, not just a few guys.”

UConn will take the court Wednesday without two of their top three scorers. Sophomore forward Adama Sanogo (15.6 points per game) is out for three weeks with an abdominal strain and Rhode Island transfer Tyrese Martin (12.9 points per game) will miss up to four weeks with a wrist injury.

R.J. Cole leads the Huskies in scoring at 16.3 points per game and he has also dished out a team-best 40 assists.

“He’s really good. He can get them in offense. He can score. He defends. He is a really good rebounder for a 6-foot-1 guy. To me, from the outside looking in, it looks like he is the guy who runs the show. He’s the guy that makes everything happen. He is the guy that makes sure everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing,” Huggins said.

Huggins says that senior guard Sean McNeil is day-to-day after sitting out the Radford game with a lower-back injury.

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Investigators believe retaliation at center of Johnson memorial vandalism

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  Police have charged two people with vandalizing a memorial dedicated to  the memory slain patrol officer Cassie Johnson.

Michael White

Police on Tuesday arrested Michael White, 26, and Lyndzie Legg, 22, both of Charleston. They are charged with petit larceny after allegedly vandalizing the Johnson memorial on Garrison Avenue not far from where Johnson was shot while on duty last year.

The arrests were first reported by WCHS-TV. 

Charleston Police Chief of Detectives Lt. Hazelett said officers received a tip.

“Members of the Garrison Avenue community had a memorial to our fallen sister Cassie Johnson. They noticed on video surveillance, Mr. White and Ms. Legg took it upon themselves to destroy the memorial and steal the lights,” Hazelett said.

The two were apprehended Tuesday after warrants were issued on Monday. According to Hazelett, evidence shows they stole the lights, but took the bulbs and wreath and threw it across the street. Police believe it was an act of retaliation.

Lyndzie Legg

“We just arrested Mr. White last Wednesday in a lengthy investigation we’d been doing. He then got out and we think it was personal and he took it upon himself to destroy the memorial because he was mad at the Charleston Police Department for his arrest,” Hazelett said.

Legg was also implicated in last week’s investigation. Both are now jailed and may face additional charges.

White was also charged with bond revocation and probation violations.

The one-year anniversary of Johnson’s death was marked in a ceremony last week at the city’s other police memorial near downtown Charleston.

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