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Police locate pickup truck in Charleston homicide case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Police have located a vehicle they were seeking in connection with the death of Capital High School student K-J Taylor.

The grey and white, two-toned, late 2000’s model Ford F150 was located in Kanawha County Monday evening. Police have not indicated any other information about the investigation or if the pickup truck helped develop a suspect in the 18-year old’s murder.

Taylor was shot down on Charleston’s Central Avenue last week while walking with friends. The shooter sped away from the scene. Police were able to develop the truck as a vehicle of interest in the investigation using various surveillance video cameras along Central Avenue and continue to look for other video which might help with the investigation.

Police are also still looking for any information on the shooting of Taylor who would have graduated next month from Capital High School. He was a well known and popular athlete for the Cougar football and basketball programs.

Anyone with information regarding the homicide is urged to contact the Charleston Police Department Criminal Investigation Division, 304-348-6480.

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West Virginia sandwich shop operator pleads not guilty to U.S. Capitol insurrection accusations

George Tanios, the Morgantown sandwich shop operator who is accused in the Jan. 6 assault of three U.S. Capitol police officers, including one who later died, entered a not guilty plea this morning.

Tanios also asked for a jury trial and continues to pursue bond that could allow him to stay out of jail as he awaits trial.

He appeared remotely this morning before Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

George Tanios (Central Regional Jail)

Tanios is accused of cooperating with his childhood friend Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania to use the extremely strong pepper spray against officers while other rioters at the Capitol tried to push past  a bicycle rack barrier.

Tanios and Khater are charged with nine counts including assaulting three officers with a deadly weapon. The charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The hearing this morning in the District of Columbia was a fairly routine status hearing under extraordinary circumstances.

The mob storming the U.S. Capitol disrupted the constitutional duty of counting Electoral College votes and prompted the evacuations of representatives, senators and Vice President Mike Pence. One woman was fatally shot while trying to climb into the chambers, three others died from “medical emergencies” and more than 100 police officers were injured.

Hundreds of people now face charges from the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. They are being processed in a court system still operating under coronavirus protocols.

Judge Hogan alluded to those challenges this morning in the Tanios case, saying he hopes to proceed in a timely manner.

“The speedy trial problems we have because of the pandemic are extensive,” Hogan said.

The judge asked Tanios several basic questions to lay the groundwork for the next steps.

“Do you understand the charges against you?” Hogan asked.

“Yes, sir I do,” replied Tanios.

“How do you wish to plead to these charges today?” the judge asked.

“Not guilty, judge,” responded Elizabeth Gross, one of the attorneys for Tanios.

“He wants a jury trial?” asked the judge.

“Yes,” Gross responded.

“Is that right, sir?” Hogan asked, making sure Tanios agreed.

“Yes, sir. Yes, your honor,” Tanios replied.

Tanios is the president of Morgantown’s Sandwich University, which advertises over-the-top foods. The photos that investigators used to identify him at the U.S. Capitol showed him wearing clothing with the logo for Sandwich University.”

He was arrested March 15. A federal agent wrote in an affidavit that he observed surveillance footage that showed Tanios and Khater “working together to assault law enforcement officers with an unknown chemical substance by spraying officers directly in the face and eyes.”

The agent said the two men appeared to time their spraying to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to remove bike rack barriers meant to prevent the crowd from moving closer to the Capitol.

The federal affidavit describes video showing men identified as Khater, wearing a beanie and dark jacket, and Tanios, wearing a red hat, black backpack and dark hooded sweatshirt walking from a south grassy area toward the Lower West Entrance shortly after 2 p.m. that day.

Khater instructs Tanios to give him the bear spray and reaches into the backpack worn by Tanios. “Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet…  it’s still early,” Tanios replies.

The affidavit concludes, “This verbal exchange between Khater and Tanios, together with Khater’s retrieval of the spray can from Tanios, reveals that the two were working in concert and had a plan to use the toxic spray against law enforcement.”

Body camera video from Capitol Police officers shows Khater walking through the crowd within a few steps of the bike rack barrier and directly across from a line of law enforcement officers including three identfied as Sicknick, Edwards and Chapman.

As rioters begin pulling on the bike rack barrier, Khater can be seen holding his right arm up, apparently holding the canister and aiming it in the officers’ direction while moving his arm from side to side.

The surveillance footage shows the three officers reacting one by one to something striking them in the face, according to the affidavit. “The officers immediately retreat from the line, bring their hands to their faces and rush to find water to wash out their eyes,” the affidavit states.

The affidavit indicates all three officers were temporarily blinded, temporarily disabled from performing their duties and needed medical attention. Khater continued spraying in their direction, according to the affidavit, until another officer approached and started pepper spraying him back.

Officer Brian Sicknick collapsed later on and died at a hospital on Jan. 7. The cause of his death still has not been released.

Judge Hogan today made reference to the challenging review of evidence in the case, including the review of video from a variety of sources.

“The background in this case has tremendous amounts of discovery,” Hogan said.

Federal prosecutor Anthony Scarpelli said the government is steadily working through the evidence.

“We’re in the process of keeping that moving,” Scarpelli said, alluding to some video clips that were shown in an earlier hearing for Tanios in Clarksburg. “We’ll endeavor to get the discovery together as quickly as possible.”

In that earlier hearing in West Virginia, a U.S. magistrate judge denied bond for Tanios, citing the serious and historic circumstances surrounding the allegations. That decision meant Tanios would remain jailed until trial.

This morning, Hogan said he is still willing to consider bond for Tanios and Khater.

Gross, speaking for Tanios, said an appeal is planned on the earlier bond ruling. “We are prepared to file something fairly quickly, depending on when the court would like to see that filed,” Gross said.

Hogan asked that motions for bond be filed for Tanios and Khater within a week, by April 20. He then asked for response by prosecutors by April 26.

A bond hearing was set for 9:30 a.m. April 27.

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Charges filed in Hampshire County animal cruelty case

CAPON BRIDGE, W.Va. — The owner of an animal rescue in Hampshire County faces more than 100 counts of animal cruelty.

According to the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office, deputies executed a search warrant on April 5 at the Love Shack Rescue located off of Timber Mountain Road near Capon Bridge following a several months long investigation.

Authorities said the owner of the rescue, Sabrina Droescher, was previously given guidelines to follow in order to comply with state law and county ordinances pertaining to operating a rescue but failed to comply and conditions at the rescue worsened to the point where the living conditions were not suitable for the dogs.

Droescher has been charged with 103 counts of animal cruelty.

Members of the sheriff’s office and Hampshire County Animal shelter spent April 5-6 identifying and tagging 102 dogs. A veterinarian was also on-site.

Several volunteers from various rescues took possession of some of the dogs. There were at least three decomposed dog carcasses located on the property. The rescue consisted of multiple makeshift kennels set up outside in a wooded area, dogs being kept in cages inside outbuildings, in two separate houses, and some in vehicles.

Tuesday, members of the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office continue to work with animal adoption agencies to disperse most of the animals.

Police said search of the property led to the discovery of a total of 21 dead dogs in various stages of decay, most dumped on the property in trash bags. Droescher told deputies she was burying dogs under concrete on the property and there were makeshift concrete pads located on the property. On-scene operations are expected to wrap-up Tuesday.

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State releases new COVID-19 case numbers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia continues to see fewer COVID-19 related deaths.

In numbers released from the state Department of Health and Human Resources Tuesday morning, two new deaths were reported including a 73-year old female from Ohio County and a 77-year old female from Wyoming County. There were no deaths reported Monday. Overall deaths since the pandemic began are at 2,747.

Hospitalizations dropped to 252. Active cases are at 7,347. There were 328 new cases reported Tuesday.

The number of fully vaccinated residents is moving toward 466,000.

DHHR reports as of April 13, 2021, there have been 2,560,842 total confirmatory laboratory results received for #COVID19, with 146,790 total cases and 2,747 total deaths.

— WV Department of Health & Human Resources • 😷 (@WV_DHHR) April 13, 2021

Overall confirmed cases per county include: Barbour (1,335), Berkeley (11,331), Boone (1,847), Braxton (857), Brooke (2,095), Cabell (8,562), Calhoun (267), Clay (441), Doddridge (534), Fayette (3,199), Gilmer (733), Grant (1,232), Greenbrier (2,574), Hampshire (1,677), Hancock (2,678), Hardy (1,423), Harrison (5,318), Jackson (1,877), Jefferson (4,262), Kanawha (13,787), Lewis (1,123), Lincoln (1,386), Logan (2,986), Marion (4,076), Marshall (3,244), Mason (1,920), McDowell (1,454), Mercer (4,512), Mineral (2,728), Mingo (2,382), Monongalia (8,880), Monroe (1,057), Morgan (1,059), Nicholas (1,461), Ohio (3,985), Pendleton (677), Pleasants (828), Pocahontas (631), Preston (2,785), Putnam (4,735), Raleigh (5,992), Randolph (2,479), Ritchie (653), Roane (572), Summers (742), Taylor (1,187), Tucker (526), Tyler (668), Upshur (1,810), Wayne (2,796), Webster (453), Wetzel (1,176), Wirt (375), Wood (7,543), Wyoming (1,880).

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Logan’s Scotty Browning beats the clock twice in memorable week

(Story by Taylor Kennedy)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Young athletes grow up practicing game-winning shots. Whether it comes in the gym or the driveway the dream is alive.

Logan sophomore guard Scotty Browning was able to turn that dream into a reality not once but twice last week. Browning nailed two big-time shots in four days. Browning was a guest on the Monday edition of the MetroNews Citynet Statewide Sportsline.

“It is surreal,” said Browning. “I shot those shots a million times as every kid does in their grandparents’ driveway. I was fortunate that the ball was in my hands, and I was able to convert and help the team win two big games.”

Browning’s first game-winner came Wednesday evening against sectional opponent Scott. He nailed a corner three with one second left in the game.

Tonight’s @boonememorial player of the game is Logan’s @sc0ttybr0wning who led the Wildcats knocking down 5 3’s and totaling 21 points! Browning hit the most important of the 21 with 1.9 seconds in overtime to lift the Wildcats 72-69 over the Scott Skyhawks #GoWildcats #WVPrepbb

— Video Productions (@videostreamWV) April 7, 2021

.@sc0ttybr0wning, @Logan_WildcatBB Sophomore Guard, joins @TonyCaridi, @BradHowe07, and @HunterWVU88bgn to discuss his two game-winning baskets in a span of four days last week. #wvprepbb

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 12, 2021

“We did not have a specific play call there,” noted Browning. “We were holding the ball for at least 15 seconds left. With about 8 seconds left, we were rushing to get one off. I got wide open in the corner, and I guess they lost me. Cameron Hensley, one of my teammates, hit me in the corner and I converted.

“We were supposed to run one-on-one with the point guard, but he got double-teamed. He got trapped up top and kicked it out.”

Logan welcomed in Herbert Hoover Saturday evening, and the Wildcats found themselves down one with 10 seconds left. They found their hero once again for the big shot.

@Logan_WildcatBB defeats @HerbertHooverHS in an INSTANT CLASSIC! @sc0ttybr0wning does it again! @ChrisKidd8989 @wvssac @WVOWradio #wvprepbb #thecardiaccats

— Video Productions (@videostreamWV) April 11, 2021

“Jarron Glick probably ran down the floor in two seconds. He got down to the block and got triple-teamed. He kicked it out and I was wide open and hit the shot.

“I was five feet behind the three-point line at the top of the key.”

Boys basketball will officially begin sectional play next week. According to the latest Associated Press (AP) boys basketball Class AAA poll, the Logan Wildcats sit at number six with a 12-4 record.

“We have a tough section,” said Browning. “Scott and Lincoln County gave us two tough games. We want to make it out of sectionals and host a regional game. We want to bring a state tournament back to Logan fans.” 

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Pittsburgh man arrested for alleged terrorist threats in Wheeling

UPDATE: PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The Pennsylvania man wanted by Wheeling Police for allegedly making numerous terrorist threats has been arrested.

Wheeling Police said that Ryan Charles Cornforth, 30, formerly of Wheeling, was arrested early Tuesday morning by Pittsburgh Police.

The Wheeling Police Department obtained an arrest warrant for Cornforth Monday after he allegedly made a number of threats over the phone to schools, local businesses and individuals in the city.

Cornforth is in Pittsburgh Police custody. The Wheeling Police Department is handling the initial threat investigation.

Arrest Made in Threat Investigation
April 13, 2021

— Wheeling, WV Police (@WheelingPolice) April 13, 2021

PREVIOUS STORY: WHEELING, W.Va. — A Pittsburgh, Pa. man is wanted by Wheeling Police for allegedly making numerous threats to local schools, businesses and individuals on Monday morning.

Wheeling PD has an arrest warrant issued for Ryan Charles Cornforth, 30, formerly of Wheeling. Cornforth is being charged with terrorist threats.

Cornforth allegedly made several threatening phone calls various in nature, including a bomb threat and the use of lethal force.

Should the public have any information on his whereabouts; they are strongly urged to call Wheeling Police at 304-234-3664, or the Crime Stoppers Upper Ohio Valley tip line at 877-TIPS-4-US.

Cornforth’s photo and description below:

Man Wanted for Making Terroristic Threats
April 12; 2021

— Wheeling, WV Police (@WheelingPolice) April 12, 2021

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Justice: Use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine paused until further notice

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has announced that all use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in West Virginia will be paused immediately until further notice, following the recommendation released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

Clinics that are scheduled to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will substitute with another COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer as supplies allow, a release said.

“The safety of West Virginians is always our first and foremost priority,” Gov. Justice said. “This pause will not impact our ability to continue vaccinating West Virginians, and is exactly the reason why we stood up our Joint Interagency Task Force led by our West Virginia National Guard. They were absolutely ready for this scenario.”

CDC and FDA reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare type of blood clot in individuals after receiving Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. See full statement:

— CDC (@CDCgov) April 13, 2021

The two federal agencies made the recommendation six reported U.S. case of what’s described as “a rare type of blood clot in individuals.”

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement, “The safety and well-being of our people who use our products is our number one priority. At present, no clear casual relationship has been established between these rare events and the vaccine.”

The WV DHHR, through the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), has not received any reports of these extremely rare blood-clotting events in West Virginia residents who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Justice’s office said. The DHHR will continue to monitor for instances going forward.

Marshall University announced its on-campus vaccination clinic on Tuesday will use the Moderna vaccine, which requires a second dose. Everyone who receives their first dose on Tuesday will be notified when it’s time for their second dose. The clinic had been set to give out Johnson & Johnson shots.

Due to this morning’s pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the CDC and FDA, today’s on-campus vaccination clinic will use the Moderna vaccine, which requires a second dose. Everyone who receives their first dose today will be notified when it’s time for their second dose.

— Marshall University (@marshallu) April 13, 2021

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MetroNews This Morning 4-13-21

A pair of CPS workers are fired after being charged in connection with a child’s murder. Covid Variants in West Virginia are spreading fastest among young people. Governor Jim Justice urges everybody to get vaccinated and indicates an end to the mask mandate anytime soon is out of the question. A West Virginia man charged in the January 6th riot at the Capitol is set to appear in DC federal court today. A new program aims to draw more people to West Virginia with the lure of cash, outdoor activities, and a less hectic lifestyle–all while continuing in their same job remotely. In Sports, a new horizon for Morgantown baseball hero Jedd Gyroko as he’s named manager of the WV Black Bears. Those stories an more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 4-13-21” on Spreaker.

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DHHR: Child Welfare Service workers terminated in connection with child’s death

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Two Child Welfare Services workers have been fired and are also charged in connection of the abuse-related death of a 4-year-old child on March 4 in Marion County.

Breeana Bizub, 25, and Tabetha Phillips-Friend, 44, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and failure to report child abuse to law enforcement. Both turned themselves into police on Friday.

The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) released the following statement Monday:

“The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is devastated by the tragic death of this 4-year-old Marion County child. The two CPS workers involved in the case are no longer employed by DHHR. Further details cannot be provided as the investigation continues.”

When the toddler was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital he was placed on life support and doctors identified more than 50 injuries to his body, including missing teeth, bruises on his arms, and a shoe print-shaped bruise on his right shoulder. By March 8, the toddler’s brain function had ceased.

Guardian of the boy, Walter Richardson, 33, was charged with first-degree murder. Ashlee Allen, mother of the child, was charged with death of a child by abuse because police day she had knowledge of previous abuse events.

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Buckhannon-Upshur outlasts Grafton, 93-88

GRAFTON, W.Va. — With both teams scoring at a rapid rate, Buckhannon-Upshur coach Travis Foster wanted to see his team find a way to get a few stops down the stretch of Monday’s game at Grafton.

Foster ultimately got the result he desired as the Buccaneers scored 62 second-half points and closed on a 16-8 spurt over the final 2:25 to claim a 93-88 win over the Bearcats.

“The great thing about it is we found a way to win and in previous years, we probably wouldn’t have been in that situation,” Foster said. “But I don’t think either team could guard a parked car tonight. They couldn’t defend and we couldn’t defend, so it almost came down to who’s going to step up and get a couple stops at the end. We were able to do that with the time in our favor.”

Ryan Hurst, who led all players with 32 points, drained a deep three-pointer to erase Grafton’s 81-78 lead. After Zach Moore’s stickback put the Buccaneers (11-4) up two, Kaden Delany scored on a drive to tie the game at 83.

Harrison Walker responded with a jumper to put B-U back in front and Hurst followed with a steal and layup that doubled his team’s lead.

After another defensive stop, Hurst missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but immediately made up for it with a steal. Hurst then made 4-of-4 free throws over the final 23 seconds and Walker iced the game with a pair of foul shots with 6 seconds remaining.

“Ryan’s the guy you want at the free throw line,” Foster said. “He’s our quarterback and the oil in our machine. If he makes a mistake, he’s going to make up for it twice.”

After falling behind by five points early, Grafton (11-4) outscored Buckhannon 16-4 over the remainder of the first quarter to hold a 19-12 lead.

The Bearcats continued to excel in the second period, with guard Justin Spiker making three triples in the quarter to score 11 of his 18 first-half points. Spiker’s final three of the half gave the Bearcats a 41-29 lead to match their largest advantage of the half, before Hurst connected on a fallaway that beat the buzzer to make it a 10-point game at halftime.

While the Bucs outrebounded the Bearcats 19-9 in the opening half, they trailed by double digits in large part because of their 10 turnovers with only one forced and Grafton’s nearly 57 percent (17-of-30) shooting from the field.

“The pace was great. That’s what we want the pace of the game to be — up and down,” Grafton coach Michael Johnson said. “Even when they went zone in the first half to kind of slow us down, I thought we did a good job of moving the basketball, finding the open guy and knocking down some shots. But second-chance points was the reason we got beat tonight.”

Grafton’s Kaden Delaney drives against Buckhannon-Upshur’s Harrison Walker. Photo by Greg Carey/

Buckhannon was able to cut its deficit to six on a Lamar Hurst three early in the third quarter and pulled to within 49-47 on Moore’s stickback moments later. When William McCauley scored in the paint with 1:34 left in the quarter, it gave the Bucs a 57-55 advantage — their first lead since 8-7.

B-U settled for a 61-60 lead entering the fourth, and neither team led by more than three throughout the quarter until Hurst’s layup made it 87-83 with inside of 1 minute to play.

The Bucs made 23-of-36 field-goal attempts after halftime to shoot better than 61 percent for the game. Hurst made 11-of-16 shots and 8-of-9 free throws in his game-high scoring effort. White scored 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting off the bench, while Josh Loudin had 16 players and 12 rebounds.

“Zach White is a monster. He’s a machine,” Foster said. “One thing you know with Zach is he’s always going to give you rim-to-rim hustle.”

The Bucs finished with a 37-19 rebounding edge.

“We just weren’t able to get a body on them,” Johnson said. “They have lots of size and lots of length and that gave us some trouble at times.”

Spiker finished with 25 points, Tanner Moats scored 20 and J.T. Veltri added 19 in the loss. Blake Moore scored 13 to give GHS four in double figures.

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