By Todd Richissin
Patch has 31 sites in Virginia and Washington. Here are some of the top stories from around the region this week.
Manassas Dog Beater’s Jail Sentence May Be Overturned: A Manassas man found guilty in September of abducting and beating a former girlfriend's two dogs is appealing his convictions before a Circuit Court judge on Thursday. Khanh Hong was found guilty of two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty in connection with the April abduction of two West Highland Terriers — Ozzy and Piper — and the December beating of one of the dogs witnessed by a passerby. Ozzy was significantly injured during the abduction and Piper died of suffocation after being bound and placed in a plastic bag during the attack, according to testimony during Hong's trial in September.
Centreville-Area Woman Dies in Clifton Moped Crash: A woman from the Centreville area died Tuesday evening after losing control of her moped on Clifton Road. Yumei Wang Barber, 37, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Fairfax County police. It happened around 6 p.m. in the 7200 block of Clifton Road when Barber entered a sharp turn on her 2012 Gabella moped and crossed the center line into the path of a 2010 Ford truck. Barber died at the scene.
Nun-to-Be Charged With Murdering Her Newborn: A 26-year-old woman studying to become a Catholic nun has been charged in the death of her newborn son, who was born in her room at the Little Sisters of the Poor elderly care facility in Washington. Sosefina Amoa gave birth to the boy Oct. 10, police say, and smothered him with a garment because she feared nuns would hear the newborn's cries.
No Increase in Burglaries Over Summer in Franconia District, Police Say: According to Franconia Police District Station Commander Capt. Jim Baumstark, this summer was busy for officers, but they didn't have too many big cases. Police reports also show that there was no increase in burglaries in the Franconia District this summer. Baumstark, along with Master Police Officer Jim Reid and Assistant Commander 1st Lt. William Jacoby, gave residents an update on summer crime in the area at a neighborhood meeting last week.
Searching for Houdini: Community Bands Together to Find Missing Dog: New Jersey resident Kim Gregg is receiving an outpouring of help from communities in Alexandria and along U.S. 1 after her dog, Houdini, went missing three weeks ago. Houdini — an Australian shepherd — was staying with a family in Del Ray during a trial period while the family was considering adopting him. The family owned a dog of the same breed, which they had adopted from Gregg about 10 years ago. After that dog died of cancer in December, the family was interested in adopting a similar dog. They picked up Houdini on Sept. 11, and only hours later, the 3-year-old dog slipped out of their home.
Del. Tom Rust Plans Fight Against Hybrid Car Tax: Virginia Del. Tom Rust, R-Herndon, who is in line to become chairman of the House Transportation Committee if he wins re-election, has announced that his first order of business in 2014 would be to introduce legislation to repeal the $64 annual tax on hybrid cars that went into effect in July. The theory behind the tax — which helps fund road maintenance, the Silver Line and more — is that since hybrid cars use less gas, their drivers are contributing less to those crucial transportation funds. Rust argues that the tax is “unfair and punitive” and that hybrid car drivers pay just as much in gas taxes as drivers of regular cars, and maybe even more since most hybrid cars get fewer miles per gallon.
Fairfax Petland Issued Misdemeanors, Changes Contracts: Petland in the city of Fairfax has been at the center of several controversies recently, including the highly-publicized deaths of two puppies shortly after being purchased. This week, Fairfax City Patch discovered that the store has been cited with two Class 4 misdemeanors recently. The first charge alleges the store does not include a state-mandated provision in its dog purchase contracts that informs customers they are entitled to a refund or exchange if a dog becomes sick or dies within 10 days. The other charge involved not keeping complete animal histories on file for all animals sold from the store for at least one year — information that would likely be valuable to residents who have questioned whether the store gets its puppies from puppy mills.
Ashburn Man Arrested, Leesburg Man Wanted in Alleged Purcellville Home Invasion: Investigators are trying to locate David C. Russell Jr., 21, of Leesburg, regarding a reported armed robbery at an apartment in Purcellville. John C. Barwis, 23, of Ashburn, has been arrested and charged with robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in the case. Officers with the Purcellville Police Department and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office responded to an apartment in the 100 block of North 21st Street around 11:30 p.m. Oct. 14 following reports an armed robbery.
Chefs Top Fire Chiefs 2-1 in Food Pantry Cooking Contest: When the bell sounded Wednesday night in the Clarendon Ballroom, Arlington County Fire Capt. Bo Bennett responded to a different kind of call. He and firefighter David Harrison made up Team Blaze & Glaze, and they were facing off against Bayou Bakery Chef David Guas and Sous Chef Sara Siegel in a timed live-cooking competition to create the best appetizer. It's part of what's becoming an annual event to benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center, which serves more than 3,500 individuals — one-third of them children. Chefs vs. Chiefs 2: Bring the Heat sold about 200 tickets ahead of time plus more at the door.
We, the Pizza Coming to Crystal City in 2014: More Good Stuff is coming to Crystal City. The Mendelsohn family — former "Top Chef" contestant Spike, his sister Micheline and parents Cathy and Harvey — plans to open a new We, the Pizza restaurant at 2100 Crystal Drive. That space formerly housed a Caribou Coffee and is two doors down from the family's Good Stuff Eatery.
Falls Church Approves School Bus Stop Cameras: Drivers who ignore school bus stop signs, beware. Falls Church school bus drivers and student riders are about to get some backup. Beginning Monday, just in time for National School Bus Safety Week, school bus stop arm cameras will be activated to monitor motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses on some Falls Church roads. The city of Falls Church is the first community in Virginia to approve the use of exterior school bus cameras. Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the Video-Monitoring on School Buses bill into law in 2011. Failing to stop for a school bus could result in a $250 fine.
Vienna Author David Baldacci’s Children’s Novel Headed to the Big Screen: One of Vienna's most famous residents, best-selling author David Baldacci, will see one of his upcoming books — a children's fantasy novel — come to life on the big screen. Sony Pictures has optioned the novel, "The Finisher," to be published March 4, 2014 by Scholastic. The story follows 14 year-old Vega Jane, who lives in the village of Wormwood, "beyond which nothing exists except for the Quag, a forest filled with terrifying beasts," a description of the book reads. The film will be produced by Matt Tolmach, who brought "The Amazing Spider-Man" to life.
Purse Snatcher Tackled by Walmart Shoppers: Benjamin Durand got more than he bargained for when he allegedly grabbed a woman's purse and ran Wednesday evening. A Fredericksburg woman told police she was returning her cart to the storage area in the Walmart parking lot on Carl D Silver Parkway., when Durand wrestled her purse out of her hands. The woman yelled for help. "Two men who were passing by chased the suspect across the lot and tackled him to the ground," Fredericksburg police spokesperson Natatia Bledsoe said. A third man helped hold the man until officers arrived. Durand, 19, of Spotsylvania, was charged with strong-arm robbery and multiple counts of larceny.
Police Investigate Lake Ridge Shooting: Police are investigating an incident that left one man with gunshot wounds and another man with multiple cut wounds, Prince William County police spokesperson Jonathan Merriman said. Police are investigating this incident as both a burglary while armed and an aggravated malicious wounding.
Planning Commission Approves Redevelopment of Route 1 Afghan Restaurant: Alexandria’s Planning Commission earlier this month approved plans to redevelop the Afghan Restaurant on Route 1 into a two-building commercial development. The new development will be named Tony’s Corner after the man who ran and owned Steve’s Diner, a restaurant that existed at the site for many years. The small commercial buildings will house between two and seven businesses, depending on how the spaces are leased. The Afghan Restaurant has yet to determine its last day of business. Construction of the new development could begin in the first or second quarter of 2014.
Blackwall Hitch Restaurant Planned for Torpedo Factory Food Pavilion: Plans are in motion to transform the long-vacant Torpedo Factory Food Pavilion at the Alexandria City Marina into a single restaurant. The proposal for the Blackwall Hitch, named after a knot used to tie vessels to shore, is expected to enter the city’s planning approval process in December. Lead partner Larry Ray, a veteran of restaurant and health club ventures in Annapolis, Md., expressed high hopes for the project at a meeting of the city’s Waterfront Commission Tuesday morning. “When I was introduced to Alexandria, I immediately fell in love with city and this project,” Ray said. “It’s an exciting business opportunity and I see this being a hugely successful endeavor.”
Leesburg's Gabriella Miller, 10, Receives Her College Degree: Leesburg’s Gabriella Miller, 10, accomplished an impressive task Oct. 11 as she graduated from Shenandoah University. The ceremony marked the third of three wishes made by the young girl – who was diagnosed about a year ago with a walnut-sized inoperable brain tumor – through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. While this may sound like the beginning of a tear-jerking story of pain and loss, Gabriella’s comments as she earned her bachelor's degree just may make you laugh.
Police: Robbery Reported at United Bank on Leesburg Pike: The Fairfax County Police Department is investigating the robbery of the United Bank at 7787 Leesburg Pike, in the Falls Church-Tysons Corner area of the McLean Police District. Police responded to the bank at about 11 a.m. Tuesday. A man entered the bank, demanded money from the teller and ran away with an undisclosed amount of cash, according to police. No injuries were reported.
Fairfax County Public Schools Teacher Named Virginia Teacher of the Year: Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) elementary school teacher Melissa Porfirio was named Virginia’s 2014 Teacher of the Year during a ceremony in Richmond, Va Friday. Porfirio, 39, is a first-grade teacher at Crestwood Elementary School in Springfield. “This is a group of dynamic and outstanding teachers,” Porfirio said in a statement, according to the Washington Post. “I was so surprised when my name was called. It is such an honor to represent Virginia’s teachers.”
VDOT Comment Period Extended for Proposed Chantilly-Area Road Improvements: Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has extended the public hearing comment period to Oct. 30 on plans to construct a new roundabout at the intersection of Braddock Road (Route 620) and Pleasant Valley Road (Route 609) in Fairfax County. The hearing took place Oct. 9 at Ormond Stone Middle School. VDOT originally announced a date of Oct. 23, but due to high interest in the project, the period is being extended to allow as many citizens as possible to review project information online and submit comments. This project would improve the intersection of Braddock Road (Route 620) and Pleasant Valley Road (Route 609) in the Chantilly area, with the intent of alleviating rush hour traffic.
McDonnell Announces I-95 Express Lanes Construction Reaches Midpoint: Gov. Bob McDonnell recently announced that construction on the I-95 express lanes has reached a midpoint and is scheduled to be completed in late 2014, according to a news release. The express lanes will be ready to open to traffic in early 2015. The project broke ground in August 2012 and since then, progress has been made on constructing new ramps, bridges, and lanes throughout the entire 29-mile Express Lanes corridor, which spans from I-395 near Edsall Road in Fairfax County to I-95 near Route 610/Garrisonville Road in Stafford County.
Mount Vernon Woman Publishes 'Survival Guide' About Breast Cancer: On her 39th birthday, Mount Vernon resident Holly Bertone was diagnosed with breast cancer, and two days later she got engaged. In 48 hours Bertone's life changed dramatically. Through her diagnosis, treatment and wedding day, Bertone started the blog The Coconut Head's Survival Guide to help herself and others fighting breast cancer deal with treatment and the change. Bertone — who was bald on her wedding day — documented her life-changing cancer treatment and wedding experience in her new book "Coconut Head's Cancer Survival Guide: My Journey from Diagnosis to 'I Do.'"
Chinquapin Recreation Center to Reopen in November: Chinquapin Park Recreation Center,closed since June 17 for HVAC repairs, will reopen at 6 a.m. Nov. 1. To celebrate the reopening, Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will open the rec center for free admission from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 2. All ages are welcome.
Police: Man Charged With Reckless Driving in Crash That Killed Pedestrian: Police have charged Woodbridge resident Mohamed-Kareem Mohamed with reckless driving and insufficient tire tread depth after the Oct. 12 single vehicle crash that killed Woodbridge pedestrian Zenaida Jimenez, Prince William County Police spokesperson Jonathan Perok said.
Tractor-Trailer Crash on I-95 in the Dale City Area Snarled Traffic for Hours: A tractor-trailer accident on I-95 in the Dale City area snarled traffic for hours Wednesday. Virginia State Police said that at about 10 a.m., a tractor-trailer carrying caulking and industrial adhesives collided with a crash-cushion truck in the southbound lanes of I-95 near the 156 mile marker in Prince William County. The crash-cushion truck had been protecting a street sweeper on the shoulder, police said. The impact caused the tractor-trailer to overturn.
New Giardino Restaurant Opens in Kings Park Shopping Center: A new Italian restaurant has moved into the Kings Park Shopping Center just outside of Burke. Giardino, located at 8944 Burke Lake Rd. in Springfield, opened on Oct. 1. The restaurant replaces San Vito Ristorante Italiano, which closed earlier this year. The restaurant is owned and managed by the Amato family, the same family that owns restaurants Villa Bella in Burke and Paradiso in Alexandria.
Fairfax Police Searching for Missing Annandale Man: Fairfax County police are searching for an Annandale man who went missing from his home Saturday. Gum Naum Ohe, 55, was last seen leaving his home on Woodland Road around 5 a.m. Saturday, according to police. Ohe was reportedly on his way to church and then to work, but has not been seen or head from since. Police found Ohe's car near Woodland Road and Little River Turnpike. Ohe is described as Asian, 5 feet 7 inches tall with gray hair, brown eyes, weighing around 135 pounds. and around 135 pounds.
Lost Potential: Two Honors Students and 'Best Friends' and One Tragic, Violent Night: By all accounts, Rahul Gupta and Mark Waugh — buddies for years who once attended high school honors class together — had everything going for them: Gupta was studying to become a doctor; Waugh was at Georgetown University Law Center. Last weekend, they gathered to celebrate Gupta's 24th birthday. Early Sunday morning, police found them both covered in blood in a high-rise apartment in Silver Spring, Md.