The Voice of West Virginia
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — Nearly 1,000 first responders and community members from Morgantown and surrounding areas remembered fallen Morgantown police officer Zane Breakiron in services Friday in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
Breakiron, 34, a Morgantown PD K-9 officer, died in an off-duty vehicle crash on June 3 near the Pennsylvania state line. Breakiron lost his life three days before he would have celebrated his seventh year of service in Morgantown.
His final dispatch was aired at Abundant Life Church just as the service was getting underway.
“For the City of Morgantown and the first responder community, we are sad to report that after many years of service, Officer Zane Breakiron has completed his last and final call.,” the dispatch said. “He will be remembered for his dedication, bravery, and his contagious smile. He has returned home to the Lord to fulfill his new duty as an angel to watch over his family, his friends, and fellow men and women in blue. Officer Zane Breakiron will forever be in our hearts. The final call for Morgantown officer Zane Breakiron is complete on June 9 at 1001 hours.”
Breakiron’s father and brother delivered eulogies, and Associate Pastor Mark Scott delivered a message and shared memories with those in attendance.
Zane had been an active member at the Abundant Life Church for more than two decades and has helped in many capacities. Scott explained that Breakiron’s death sent a shock wave through the congregation, which was still reverberating with disbelief.
His brother Zack reflected on a big brother who was always supportive, and yes, they fought. But he said the fights were a result of competitiveness that had boiled over and were never out of animosity.
Breakiron’s father Garett, said the morning Zane was killed, they were to go clay shooting that day. Garret said he called Zane at 7:30 a.m. to confirm the trip, but there was no answer.
The stories that were shared all pointed to Zane’s commitment to his family, work family and church family.
His father shared a memory about a tattoo his son proudly wore and shared on his arm.
“If you ever saw Zane’s arms, don’t look at the tattoos, but he had one that was written in Greek; it was Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me,” Garret Breakiron said. “I asked Zane—why did you put it in Greek? He said, Dad, people ask me what that means, and that’s my “in” to tell them about Jesus Christ. What a man.”
A small portion of the procession for fallen Morgantown police officer Zane Breakiron pic.twitter.com/ulUx3OfYyg
— Michael G Nolting (@YourNewsguy) June 9, 2023
His law enforcement family remembered Zane as a compassionate officer who was always willing to help members of his team. Breakiron was known to share his faith, even with subjects he had taken into custody. In one instance, he sought out a smaller version of the Bible for a prisoner and delivered it, not knowing if the offender would even open it.
“It’s amazing but not surprising to hear the stories about Zane and it just reaffirms something I already knew and I think we all knew,” Morgantown Chief of Police Eric Powell said after the ceremony.
Police officers, EMTs, firefighters, and correctional officers from the region attended and formed a procession following the ceremony that stretched for more than a mile. Also, people attended from as far away as Florida and Texas.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The criminal indictment involving former President Donald Trump was unsealed Friday afternoon and it contains 37 criminal counts.
It’s alleged Trump willfully retained classified documents and obstructed justice in doing so. Some of the documents focused on the military weaknesses of the United States and some of its allies.
Special Counsel Jack Smith gave a brief statement about the indictment Friday afternoon.
“This indictment was voted by a grand jury by the citizens in the Southern District of Florida. I invite everyone to read it in full to understand the scope and the gravity of the charges,” Smith said.
He said no one is above the law.
“We have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone,” Smith said.
He concluded by saying he looks forward to taking the case to trial. He took no questions.
The news about the indictment first broke Thursday night.
Former U.S. Attorney for Southern West Virginia and current state Senator Mike Stuart, R-Kanawha, criticized the fairness of the investigation during an appearance Friday on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“It appears to be just the further targeting of President Trump and it appears to be a ‘get Trump at all cost’ effort by DOJ,” Stuart said before the indictment was unsealed.
Stuart, a former Trump appointee, said the American people are asking why Trump is getting indicted for the same conduct engaged in by other presidents and public officials.
“They see this as a ‘get Trump’ agenda,'” Stuart said.
What are @MikeStuartWV‘s thoughts regarding the indictment of former U.S. President Donald Trump? Senator Stuart was a guest today on MetroNews Talkline with @HoppyKercheval. pic.twitter.com/l3yanp50zs
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) June 9, 2023
Stuart referring to President Joe Biden who also was found to have some classified documents in his possession in connection with his prior positions. The FBI has said the investigation continues.
West Virginia U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito told The Hill newspaper Thursday night that she hoped the Justice Department would be nonpartisan.
“I don’t have full faith in them at this point,” Capito said.
She also told The Hill the DOJ faces a backlash from Republican voters.
“I think they’re going to be upset, it’s a targeted thing,” Capito said.
Recent polls continue to show Trump as being wildly popular in West Virginia.
MORE How West Virginia GOP leaders reacted to initial news
Stuart said “there ought to be equal application of the law across the board for Hillary Clinton, for Hunter Biden, for President Biden and for President Trump. It ought to be the same.”
Stuart said there were alternate ways to go about getting the classified documents.
“We’re indicting a former president of the United States, a candidate for president of the United States, for confidential documents. I don’t think the American people are going to buy it,” Stuart said.
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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — On the last day on the job for 39-year veteran Martinsburg Police Chief George Swartwood, his successor has been named.
Erin Gibbons, who most recently served as deputy chief, will assume the role officially Sunday.
Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin said Gibbons has already served Martinsburg for 17 years.
“Chief Gibbons possesses a thorough understanding of critical issues and priorities currently affecting Martinsburg and our police department. I am confident that Chief Gibbons will implement
programs and initiatives that increase public trust, equity, accountability, constitutional policing and address public safety in our city,” according to Baldwin.
Gibbons has been deputy chief for three years. Prior to that he served as an officer with the department beginning in 2006 and rising through the ranks to corporal beginning in 2019.
“Chief Gibbons is an accomplished officer who possesses administrative, supervisory and instructional experience. He has assisted the Martinsburg Police Department with direct oversight of operations, policies and budget oversight,” Baldwin said.
For his part, the new chief says he is “extremely grateful and honored for the opportunity to lead the employees and sworn officers of the Martinsburg Police Department and serving our community.”
“I am excited to continue and improve our efforts to align the Martinsburg Police Department with 21st century policing, strengthen public trust, improve officer wellness, and demonstrate accountability and transparency all while maintaining a standard of professionalism and respect to members of this community. I have had the privilege of working with the dedicated men and women of the Martinsburg Police Department for almost two decades. I can personally attest to their professionalism, passion and proficiency.”
Before coming to Martinsburg, Gibbons was a correctional officer at the Eastern Regional Jail from 2002-2006. He’s a Navy veteran.
On Thursday night, Chief George Swartwood was lauded by the mayor and other leaders in the city.
Mayor Kevin Knowles said he had known Swartwood for 15 years.
“Everybody on this force and in this city is his family. He grew up here. He believes that this city is the best city in the state, and maybe even the world according to him. George is going to be very well missed.”
It was an emotional day for the outgoing chief, as he reflected.
“All 39 years were with the City of Martinsburg. It’s been an absolute great profession, a great job. I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
“I have the best police department in the entire country ,” Swartwood said. “I’ve got the best officers ever. It’s been a great ride.”
“It doesn’t seem like 39 years ago,” Swartwood said, reflecting that his first day was April 15th, 1984. “If I could, I’d do it all over again.”
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A Huntington institution celebrated a major milestone Friday. Jim’s Restaurant turned 85.
Jim Tweel opened the restaurant in the same location in 1938. It’s still owned by the Tweel family today.
“Being a restaurant and surviving for 85 years in the same family is pretty historical,” said current owner Larry Tweel who still runs the shop with is wife Sally.
“There are some restaurants that have survived that long, but not very many. We are only surviving because of the wealth of talent my dad was able to recruit from 1938 until he died in ’05.” he added.
As part of the Friday anniversary, the menu was scaled back along with the prices for the day. The menu for Friday included a small spaghetti special for $4, which included salad, bread, and cake. The only other menu items for the anniversary were a hamburger for $2, cheeseburger for $3, French fries for $1, and all drinks $1. All meals on Friday came with cake.
Tweel noted one of the key figures in the restaurant’s history was a young African American named C.M. Gray known as “Bunny” who was hired by his father in 1940. According to Tweel, Bunny left the restaurant to join the service where he learned how to cook. When he finished his service he returned to Huntington and wanted to go back to work for Tweel.
However, fearing limits at that time by being African American, he only wanted the job if he would be allowed to advance as far as his talent would take him. Jim Tweel wholeheartedly agreed and for many years, Bunny was a fixture at the restaurant and served as the manager and helped run the operation.
“As a pair they were as good as you could want for restaurant management and Bunny was as vital to this restaurant as anybody has ever been, and I hate to say it but that probably includes my dad,” said Tweel.
Jim’s has always been a fixture in Huntington and hosted some big names through the years. Those included John F. Kennedy who ate there when he campaigned for President during the historic 1960 primary in West Virginia. The restaurant was also part of the set of the movie We Are Marshall in 2006.
–MetroNews Affiliate WRVC Radio and Kindred Communications contributed to this story.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Longtime Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom says he plans to retire from the bench at the end of the month.
Bloom, who was first elected in November 2000, handed in his resignation Friday, effective June 30.
Bloom told MetroNews it’s a good time to retire.
“I had decided I was not going to run for reelection (in 2024) and I thought so long as I was not going to do that I may as well give people the opportunity to run next year and give them as much time as possible,” Bloom said. “It seemed a good time for a transition.”
Bloom was a Kanawha County commissioner from 1986-2000. He decided to seek a seat on circuit court when Kanawha County Circuit Judge Andrew MacQueen decided to retire.
“It seems like yesterday I was the new kid on the block now I’m the most senior judge in Kanawha County,” Bloom said.
Bloom’s retirement completes a cycle of sorts. When his replacement is appointed, it will make five new judges in the seven-judge Kanawha County circuit since 2014.
“I feel good about the decision because we have almost a whole new bench and really a bunch of good qualified people and I feel like I’m leaving the Kanawha County judiciary in very good hands,” Bloom said.
Gov. Jim Justice will eventually appoint a replacement for Bloom. That replacement will serve the remainder of his term which runs to Dec. 31, 2024. The seat will be up for election, a full eight-year term, next May.
Bloom said a lot has changed in circuit court in his nearly two dozen years on the bench.
“My first year on the bench there were 97 abuse and neglect cases filed in Kanawha County, last year there were over 800 cases filed in Kanawha County,” Bloom said. “That’s a wrinkle on top of all the other work a circuit judge has.”
Bloom noted Kanawha County has very busy criminal and civil dockets.
Bloom said he wants to remain active in retirement including taking on senior judge status and doing some mediation work.
“I’m really looking to doing mediations. I’ve obviously done a lot of that in helping resolve cases that were before me over the years. I think that’s a meaningful thing for people to have a say over how their cases are resolved,” Bloom said.
Bloom’s resignation leaves Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey, who took the bench in 2002, as the most veteran Kanawha County circuit judge.
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PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. — While no injuries were reported, a vehicle crash which led to the shut down of a portion of U.S. Route 35 in Putnam County Wednesday night and early Thursday morning called for a lot of clean up.
Photos from the wreck posted by Putnam 911 Office of Emergency Management show a box trailer semi truck that hit a disabled flatbed tractor trailer hauling a 40′ container, knocking the container off the flatbed and littering what looks to be thousands of coffee cups.
Photos from the motor vehicle accident that shut down a portion of US RT 35 late Wedenesday night and early Thursday morning. No injuries were reported. #putnam911oem pic.twitter.com/oNR8DNFPgb
— Putnam County 911 Emergency Management (@Putnam911OEM) June 9, 2023
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WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — The Mingo County grand jury is the next step for criminal charges against the man arrested in the shooting and killing of West Virginia State Police Sgt. Cory Maynard.
Timothy Kennedy, 29, waived his preliminary hearing during an appearance Friday in Mingo County Magistrate Court in Williamson.
The decision to waive sends the first-degree murder charge to a grand jury which will decide if there’s enough evidence to indict Maynard. A special grand jury could be called to consider the case.
Kennedy’s attorney requested discovery information from prosecutors during Friday’s hearing.
State Police have said Maynard, 37, was killed in an ambush attack last Friday in the Beech Creek area.
“They were ambushed. Sgt. Maynard was hit and wounded. Another trooper that was with him did return fire, but did not hit the suspect,” State Police Superintendent Col. Chambers said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Maynard and another trooper responded to the area after getting a call about a shooting. Authorities said Kennedy shot Benjamin Baldwin, 39, of Matewan, with a rifle. Baldwin remains hospitalized. Kennedy has yet to be charged in connection with that shooting.
Kennedy remains in the Southwestern Regional Jail without bail.
Maynard was remembered in funeral services Wednesday.
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WHEELING, W.Va. — Police say charges are pending in a deadly motorcycle crash in Wheeling.
According to Wheeling police, Missy Ann Grubba, 44, of Wheeling, died early Friday morning when the motorcycle she was a passenger on crashed into a concrete barrier at Exit 1B on Interstate 70.
Police said the man operating the motorcycle was injured and taken to Wheeling Hospital.
“Alcohol is believed to be a factor and charges are pending,” police said.
Police said Grubba was ejected from the motorcycle and died at the scene.
The deadly crash took place at around 1:20 a.m. Friday.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A local environmental protection group is opposing West Virginia International Yeager Airport’s proposal to extend a runway.
The Facebook group, Save Coonskin Park! is concerned the proposed project will negatively impact the park, as the runway would extend into its property through mountaintop removal.
“It would end up kind of looking like a mountaintop removal coal mine site that would then be used as fill dirt to fill in the valley to extend the runway into the park,” said Jeremy Severn, a spokesperson with the Save Coonskin Park group.
In an effort to get the word out about the issue, the group plans to host a “Grab and Go” information day this Sunday at the park and will answer community questions about the proposal. They will give directions to the threatened areas the project would affect, such as hiking trails like The Grotto.
The group asserts that the Airfield, Safety, and Terminal Improvement Project — a push by the FAA and the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority — will bulldoze the park’s hilltops and would ultimately lead to a negative impact on the environment.
Severn said in addition to it being similar to a coal mine mountaintop removal project, the plan also includes the placement of a tall retaining wall that would be put near the Elk River, not far from the West Virginia American Water intake.
“Any kind of runoff pollution or retaining wall collapse would affect the Elk River and the water intake for a large portion of the state,” Severn said.
He said the project is not even necessary.
“The biggest argument against it is that the airport does not need this longer runway to continue to service our area, and so they’re going to permanently take a park what was built for the citizens of Charleston,” said Severn.
Airport officials argue that there is a need to extend Runway 5-23 to allow for a Runway Safety Area that meets FAA standards. The FAA claims that both ends of the runway needs to be extended and needs to meet existing and future runway stipulations of 7,000 feet.
However, CRW has not yet made any official plans to institute the project at this time, but they state that anything they do get underway will hold potential environmental impacts in high regard.
“The proposed airfield, safety, and terminal improvements to satisfy immediate and long-term needs at West Virginia International Yeager Airport (CRW) are in the early stages of planning with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As such, it would be premature to comment on specific details as no definitive plans have been made,” read the statement from Yeager Airport.
“The FAA will consider all reasonable alternatives of the project with a full and fair discussion of the significant environmental impacts of the Proposed Action. West Virginia International Yeager Airport (CRW) is committed to operating our facilities in an environmentally responsible manner to conserve the existing resources unique to CRW while also providing a safe and pleasant experience for the public at large, and the Airport’s customers, vendors, and staff. We’re working to prepare the airport for the future of aviation, to ensure CRW can continue to serve as the gateway to West Virginia and the world by retaining and attracting additional air service.”
While the Save Coonskin Park group has not personally tried to reach out to the airport about their concerns yet, they eventually plan to, along with reaching out to FAA officials and possibly any local politicians in support of the project.
Right now their focus is reaching out to the public and spreading awareness about the issue around the community, as they say the park is an amenity which belongs to everyone.
“It is a very well used park and a very well used green space, not only for Charleston but for Kanawha County and the Elk River, and to just blindly destroy it for the sake of a project that is not necessary, and a project that would also negatively impact the environment is something that we need people to help support against,” Severn said.
Severn said their support is growing though, as they already accrued almost 5,600 members to their Facebook group and over 2,600 people have already signed the petition they created for the effort. He said the airport’s plans are not yet a done deal and wants to encourage everyone that there is still time to save the park.
Sunday’s information day about the effort will be held from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. rain or shine at Shelter 7 in Coonskin Park, which is the first shelter on left in the “upper park.”
The petition will be available for everyone to sign and no registration is necessary for the event. Along with information, they will also be giving out free buttons and stickers. Yard signs will also be given out but they require a donation fee to help cover the cost.
They do ask that people do not show up all at once but rather come and go throughout the day.
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Class AAA All-State Softball
As Selected By the WVSWA
P – Madison Pitts, Spring Valley (Jr.)
P – Audrea Watts, Cabell Midlnd (Fr.)
P – Kadence Pettit, John Marshall (Sr.)
P – Rebecca Munslow, Jefferson (Soph.)
IF – Ava Blake, John Marshall (Jr.)
IF – Lauren Huebsch, University (Sr.)
IF – Cassidy Cummings, Ripley (Sr.)
IF – Sydney Turner, Spring Valley (Soph.)
IF – Sydney Young, St. Albans (Jr.)
OF – Maddie Campbell, University (Fr.)
OF – Becca Beatty, Parkersbrug South (Jr.)
C – Josie Bird, Lincoln County (Jr.) (CAPTAIN)
C – Sophia Frye, South Charleston (Soph.)
U – Aubrey Smallwood, Beckley (Soph.)
U – Tayevn Stephenson, St. Albans (Sr.)
U – Ryleigh Shull, Lincoln County (Jr.)
U – Alexis Adkins, George Washington (Sr.)
U – Micah Wilson, Morgantown (Jr.)
P – Maddy Ruffner, Wshignton (Sr.)
P – Josi Ervin, Greenbrier East (Sr.)
P – Hope Sizemore, South Charleston (Sr.)
IF – Haleigh Adkins, Lincoln County (Sr.)
IF – Punkie Harper, St. Albans (Soph.)
IF – Faith Randolph, Wheeling Park (Jr.)
IF – Shelby Harris, Jefferson (Sr.)
IF – Karalyne Wade, George Washington (Jr.)
IF – Taylor Boswell, Greenbrier East (Jr.)
OF – Madison Marks, Parkersburg (Sr.)
OF – Maci Lunsford, Lincoln County (Sr.)
OF – KK Wallis, Cabell Midland (Sr.)
C – Alyssa Abel, Buckhannon Upshur (Soph.)
U – Brooklyn Osburn, Spring Valley (Sr.) (CAPTAIN)
U – Landry Bone, Brooke (Sr.)
U – Kaitlyn Swisher, Ripley (Jr.)
U – Kate Spry, Spring Valley (Soph.)
U – Lindsey Black, Greenbrier East (Sr.)
Caraline Dunn, South Charleston; Liz Alsop, Morgantown; Jayla Bias-Smith, Huntington; Alexi Dellinger, Parkrsburg South; Rachel Mason, Bridgeport; Addison Veigel, Bridgeport; Kileigh Pugh, Bridgeport; Halee Jones, Oak Hill; Krista Durkin, Parkersburg; Makiyah Strothers, Wheeling Park; Alexa Foresha, Brooke; Emily Peterson, Morgantown; Mayci White, Riverside; Sophia Lehosit, University; Passion Holley, George Washington; Lily Carola, Greenbrier East; Abigail Harki, Morgantown; Olivia Masoner, University; Sidney Varney, Ripley; Tylie Barton, George Washington; Gracie Brown, Hedgesville; Alexandria Anderson, Hurricane; Emma Johnson, Princeton; Brenna Collis, Hedgesville; Faith Cooper, Hedgesville; Dalaynie Myers, Preston
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