Five sentenced in SW Va meth distribution ring

Five members of a 15-member methamphetamine distribution ring in southwest Virginia were sentenced in federal court in Abingdon on Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney John Fishwick said three women and two men were sentenced as part of an organization that was initially investigated by the Lee County Sheriff's Office. The investigation led to undercover buys and information that the drugs were coming from Kentucky.

Among those receiving sentences on Tuesday:

  • Billy Ray Marlow, 43, Middlesboro, KY – 18 years
  • Jeremy Reden, 38, Tazewell, VA – 15 years
  • Robert Holman, 35, Winder, GA – 8 years
  • Kaelea Meagan Thomas, 27, Middlesboro, KY – 3 years
  • Rebeca Metcalf, 32, Middlesboro, KY – 2 years

Other members of the group are scheduled to be sentenced later this week, Fishwick said.



Heart disease No. 1 killer in region

A new study has revealed the major causes of death for counties across the country and analyzed death records from the National Center for Health Statistics National Vital Statistics System. The records included data on more than 80 million U.S. deaths that occurred from 1980 through 2014.

The No. 1 killer in Lee, Scott, and Wise counties in Virginia during those years was cardiovascular disease.

In Lee County, 354 people out of 100,000 died from cardiovascular disease, while the rate in Wise County was 342 and in Scott County 314.

Preventative steps to reduce the risk of heart disease include not smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, consuming alcohol only in moderation and receiving sufficient rest.

Those with relatives who have had heart disease should consider receiving a calcium scoring test to evaluate their risk, as high calcium levels may indicate the need to consult a cardiologist.

Other top 10 killers for the area include tumors; neurological disorders; chronic respiratory disease; diabetes, urogential, blood and endocrine disease; diarrhea, lower respiratory, and other common infectious diseases; self-harm and interpersonal violence; cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases; transport injuries; and mental and substance abuse disorders.



McAuliffe to veto bill banning abortion after 20 weeks

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has promised to veto a bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

McAuliffe says he wants to send a message to Republicans in the General Assembly not to waste time with socially devisive bills.Similar legislation was signed into law in Ohio last month.

Republicans in Congress are expected to advance legislation banning most abortions after 20 weeks.

VA prisons participating in reduction of solitary confinement

The Virginia Department of Corrections is one of five prison systems selected to participate in an initiative aimed at safely reducing the use of inmate solitary confinement, also known as segregation.Solitary confinement has been used widely in prisons and jails across the country to protect the inmate in question or other inmates from a dangerous prisoner.

However, it long has been known there can be serious mental and physical effects on people held in solitary for extended periods. It also is a more expensive way to imprison people.

The Virginia Department of Corrections says it has been moving toward curbing the use of solitary confinement.

The U.S. Department of Justice, in a 2016 report on restrictive prison housing across the country, favorably cited Virginia’s effort to reduce inmate segregation at Red Onion State Prison through its “administrative segregation step-down program.”

In 2011, 511 inmates at Red Onion State Prison in Wise were held in maximum-security administrative segregation. As result of the step-down program, as of last March only 84 inmates remained in segregation there. The departments says it now is examining ways to apply the Red Onion results systemwide.

The 21-month initiative on segregation begins in early 2017 and is supported by a $2.2 million grant awarded to Vera by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The states will provide a match up to $50,000.

According to the institute, it will work with Virginia and the other selected states to assess how they use solitary confinement, develop ways to safely reduce that use, and help implement changes.

Virginia has more than 30,000 inmates in its prisons. Red Onion State Prison, which held 800 to 900 inmates last month, opened in 1998 as the state’s first so-called “supermax” prison designed for the most dangerous of Virginia’s criminals.

Under the step-down program, prisoners who once were kept in cells for 23 to 24 hours a day are given a chance to work their way out and join small groups of other prisoners.

Performance expectations rise at each level of the program, and additional privileges can be earned.

All but 84 of the original 511 offenders in segregation at Red Onion have completed the step-down program and transitioned to general population housing. The Department of Corrections said that just 15 of those who completed the program have returned to segregation.

The department said that at Red Onion, from 2011 through 2015, incident reports were down 65 percent; inmate grievances fell 71 percent; and informal complaints were reduced by 76 percent.

A school opened for the first time at Red Onion in 2013. By last year, 260 inmates were enrolled.


Roanoke Times

WCSO Weekly Activity Report


December 29, 2016

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office reports the following activities for the period of 12/19/2016 through 12/25/2016.

Wise Central Dispatch received a total of 1,527 calls for this seven-day period.
Of the total calls received 269 were dispatched to the Sheriff’s Office.
Total number of Domestic calls for this period was 9.
Criminal Process for this period: Served 52 Felony Warrants, 21 Misdemeanor Warrants, 0 DUI Arrests.
Civil Process Served: 300 Civil Papers
Traffic Accidents: 10
1 Additional Criminal Investigations were initiated and 16 Cleared by Arrest.
Sheriff’s Office provided 184 man-hours of Court Room Security.
Unlocked Vehicles: 25
Escorted Funerals: 5

The Sheriff’s Office Total Transport for this period: 8
Total Transport Hours: 48.5

1,369 Visitors to Courthouse.

PGPD using $12,000 grant for bicycle patrol and community watch programs

The Pennington Gap Police Chief Jacob Kilbourne says the 21st Century Policing grant awarded to the department earlier this month amounts to $12,000. Kilbourne says the money will go to a bicycle patrol program, as well as community and business watch programs. With drug crimes on the rise, the department hopes the grant will help reduce crimes related to prescription drug abuse.

Kilbourne kick-started a community advisory committee in October to represent citizens' views on their concerns. He reported that the department takes at least 8 or 9 medication theft reports every week and that businesses are also being targeted for theft. Although the department does business walk-in checks daily, they hope that increasing visibility will reduce drug-related crimes.

Kilbourne said they will receive the bicycles to begin patrols at the beginning of January. The community and business watch programs will meet once a month to address their concerns.



SBA Disaster Loan for farmers affected by drought

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced that federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and private nonprofit organizations in Lee and Scott counties located in Virginia as a result of the drought that began on Oct. 4, 2016.

“These counties are eligible because they are contiguous to one or more primary counties in Tennessee. The Small Business Administration recognizes that disasters do not usually stop at county or state lines. For that reason, counties adjacent to primary counties named in the declaration are included,” said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, or ranchers. Nurseries are eligible to apply for economic injury disaster loans for losses caused by drought conditions.

The loan amount can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations and 4 percent for small businesses, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure
website at

Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to Loan applications can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Completed loan applications must be returned to SBA no later than Aug. 15, 2017.
# # #
For more information about the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program, visit our website at
Contact: Michael Lampton
Phone: (404) 331-0333

USP Lee graduates six shelter dogs in Paws for Cause training program

USP Lee held a graduation ceremony last week for six shelter dogs that have gone through extensive training while living behind bars.

The program is called Paws for Cause, which pairs up to 12 inmates with six shelter dogs for training. This is the second graduating class after the program was started in May. Jessica Miller, re-entry affairs coordinator for the prison said the program collaberated with Paws of Southwest Virginia and Lee Foster Rescue in an effort to decrease recidivism at the institution.

The prison also got the Department of Labor involved so an apprenticeship as a dog trainer could be offered to participating inmates. Once inmates complete 4,000 hours of training, they will become certified dog trainers and could work in that field after they finish serving their time and return to the general population.

Interested inmates have to go through a vigorous application process in order to be selected for the apprenticeship program. The jail staff then sits down and discusses who should participate in the program. The staff also looks at each applicants’ background to make sure there are no issues with animals in the past that would interfere with the proper care of the dogs.

Inmates are also trained in CPR and first aid for dogs in case a medical emergency arises and go through proper hygiene and grooming classes.

The dogs are able to roam freely around the prison and stay inside a large, heated kennel area at night.

Local veterans receive preference when it comes to placing the dogs in forever homes. Each dog receives 480 hours of training during their stay. Miller contacted the  VA Medical Center in Johnson City to place the dogs with veterans needing a companion. Adopters usually come to the graduation and leave with the dogs that day. More than half have been placed.


Coeburn woman charged after deadly crash

A Coeburn woman has been charged after a deadly crash in Wise County over the holiday weekend took the life of a Missouri woman. Virginia State Police is investigating say the crash occurred at 2:48 p.m., Friday (Dec. 23), on Route 58 less than a mile east of Route 72 in the town of Coeburn.

A 2014 Chevrolet Equinox was traveling east on Route 58 when it abruptly stopped in the middle of the highway when it came upon a DUI checkpoint being conducted by the Coeburn Police Department and Wise County Sheriff’s Office. The Chevrolet made an abrupt U-turn and began driving west in the eastbound travel lane. The westbound Chevrolet then struck head-on an eastbound 2007 Dodge Magnum.

The driver of the Chevrolet, Samantha R. Dennis, 36, of Coeburn, Va., was transported by ambulance to Mountain State Hospital where she was treated and released.

The driver of the Dodge, Rebecca W. Starling, 32, of St. Charles, Mo., died at the scene. She was wearing a seatbelt. Two passengers, her 5-year-old daughter was flown by State Police Med-Flight to Bristol Regional Medical Center for treatment of serious, but non-life threatening, injuries; and her 2-year-old daughter was transported by ambulance to Norton Community Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Both girls were secured in child safety seats. They were released from the hospital Sunday night and are now with their father.


Pennington Gap Man Indicted in Fatal Crash in Bell County

A Pennington Gap coal truck operator has been indicted on two counts of murder in a fatal Bell County crash that happened back in March.

A Bell County Grand Jury found that there was enough evidence to indict 42 year old Anthony Brewer of Pennington Gap, Virginia. They say Brewer was operating a coal truck when he crossed the center line of Highway 119 at Varilla Curve and sideswiped a pickup being operated by 47-year-old Tony Hatfield.

The truck overturned in the roadway.

Brewer continued traveling north on Highway 119 and struck a 2013 Nissan Maxima that was being driven by 31-year-old Lavonda Hensley from Coldiron. The coal truck came to a rest on the opposite shoulder of his direction of travel.

Hensley and her passenger, 64-year-old James Miracle of New Tazewell, died at the scene.

Brewer left the scene of the accident and was located at Harlan ARH. He was arrested at the hospital and blood samples were taken.

He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident/failure to render aid, operating on a suspended or revoked commercial driver’s license, and operating a motor vehicle on a suspended driver’s license.

A lawsuit was filed in Bell County Circuit Court requesting compensation for the wrongful death of Lavonda Hensley. Brewer and Vernon Lamar II Trucking are named as the defendants.

Brewer is in the Bell County Detention Center on cash bonds totaling $550,000.