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Puffenburger pleads to attempted murder

ROMNEY — The Green Spring man who shot his girlfriend and then refused to call 911 until she agreed to lie for him has pled guilty to attempted murder.

Paul David Puffenburger II entered his plea Thursday in Circuit Court, He also pled guilty to a count of wanton endangerment.

Sentencing will be Oct. 10. He faces 3 to 15 years in prison for the attempted murder charge and another 1 to 5 for the endangerment charge.

In May the grand jury charged Puffenburger with 15 counts stemming from the Feb. 13 shooting —attempted murder, 6 counts of wanton endangerment, 6 counts of malicious assault and 2 more of using a firearm during a felony.

In exchange for the 2 guilty pleas the remaining 13 charges were dropped.

A 911 call shortly before 8 p.m. Feb. 13 led sheriff’s deputies, West Virginia State Police and even Romney City Police to Puffenburger’s residence, which is accessed from Donaldson School Road west of Green Spring Valley Road.

Diana Hovatter, his girlfriend, was transported by Hampshire County EMS to Springfield, then flown by helicopter to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia. 

Hovatter initially told first responders the gunshot wounds were self-inflicted.

However, Chief Deputy Nathan Sions said, evidence at the scene did not support her claim.

A cellphone recording captured Puffenburger threatening to shoot Hovatter, followed by the sound of multiple shots.

Then, the recording revealed, Hovatter pled for Puffenburger to call for help, but he refused until she agreed to claim the wounds were self-inflicted.

Puffenburger was taken into custody the next day when deputies executed a warrant on his home at 1717 Green Ridge Drive and found more than 15 grams of marijuana. He was charged with a felony count of possession of a controlled substance.

Then, 5 days later, he was arrested on the shooting charges.


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$50K pledge to turf plan

The Hampshire Trojan Challenge keeps growing.

A trio of connected businesses has pledged $50,000 to the massive campaign that is trying to fund a new artificial turf field and rubberized track at Rannells Field.

“We are very fortunate for donors to step up and help our kids experience the many benefits that come from this type of facility,” Hampshire High Athletic Director Trey Stewart said Tuesday. “It is our turn to set the bar.”

The gift came from Holtzman Oil, Holtzman Protein and Valley Ice.

The announcement of the $50,000 gift comes just a week after Koolwink Motel owner Robert Lee gave $30,000 to the campaign in honor of his high school coaches, Paul Clovis and Jim Alkire.

The donations are the 2 largest since The Bank of Romney announced in June a pledge and plan to raise more than $1.5 million over 15 years for the overhaul.

The bank has said it will give $841,000 over 15 years, about 52 percent of the total needed. The rest is to come from community donations.

“This donation along with the many others helps confirm the value our community sees in this project,” Stewart said.

The core of the fundraising plan is the creation of a fund at The Bank of Romney that individuals can pledge automatic contributions to. Each contribution of $5 a month is considered a unit and the goal is to have 1,000 units in place.

With the Holtzman-Valley gift, units have topped 700 and are nearing the milestone that the Board of Education has set for the plan’s organizers to meet before the board makes a decision on letting the project break ground. That threshold is 750.


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Fungi-files to set up farm in Capon Bridge

CAPON BRIDGE — Rooster Dirt Farm is a mushroom growing operation run by husband-wife duo Logan and Jess Peck who are currently based out of Cross Junction, Va. The two are planning to move their current operation to a 25-acre plot they recently purchased on Raging River Road near Capon Bridge. 

“I wish I could say the transition would be in the next year but it will probably take 2,” said Logan Peck.

Jess and Logan, both 28, grow their mushrooms while tending to 3 pigs (1 of which is currently pregnant), 2 milk cows, chickens for meat and 350 pasture hens who output 120 doz. eggs a week or 17 doz. eggs a day. 

“We sell out of our eggs every week. My wife is an egg washing machine,” joked Logan, 28, who grew up and met Jess in Pennsylvania. 

Rooster Dirt Farm sells their mushrooms in 5 regional farmer’s markets and can be found weekly at the Winchester, Berryvile, Leesburg, Cascades and Shepherdstown venues. Farmer’s Daughter in Capon Bridge also gets some “but they go fast,” said Logan.

The farm’s fungal output is a whopping 150 lbs per week. Mushrooms are currently grown in 25 ft. by 15  ft. space now, “But it’s tight,” explained Logan who added, “it all started from a 10 by 10 space in our basement.” ‘

The farm grows 7 types of mushrooms; blue, yellow, pink and king oysters, lion’s mane, shiitake and tropical pioppino. “We had our first success 6 to 8 months after we started, then it just snowballed from there,” said Logan a former software engineer who quit his job last year to focus on the business fulltime.

Logan caught the mushroom bug early foraging for them as a young man. Five years ago after hearing drastically contrasting information about what’s in our food he and his wife said to themselves “let’s find a homestead and start farming ourselves. We were just tired of all the food lies.”

And so it followed that the 2 added more and more around the farm.

“It just gripped us from the start, screamed at me. I got up early and was doing my farm chores and felt like I was being dragging away to my desk job.” Today the pair does everything around their 5-acre homestead themselves. The farm plans to hire next year. “We can’t go another year and do everything ourselves.”

The Peck’s say they practice regenerative farming, “we try to have as little impact on the environment around us as we possibly can. Our goal for the Capon Bridge spot is to bring people together and educate folks more how they can do the same thing.”

The two say they are “extremely excited,” about the move to Capon Bridge. “The climate is close to parts of France and Spain, where they grow great food.” This year Logan says that the farm is focusing on building up the business infrastructure.

“Right now we’re reading the land. We want to grow truffles which take about 5-6 years to get going so we’re trying to start that as soon as we can,” explained Logan. 

The Pecks also brew medical tinctures with their mushrooms. “Lion’s mane remediates the nervous system,” said Peck who shared that he had also heard anecdotal tales from customers about the mushrooms reducing the need for diabetes medicine in a patient. 

While it may be a few years before the Pecks go load up a truck and move to their new farm in Capon Bridge, the young pair’s passion for what they do is undeniable, “we couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” Logan concluded.


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Kittens rescued from place with 80 cats

AUGUSTA  — Hampshire County Animal Control helped a private group rescue 6 kittens from a home with upwards of 80 cats Monday.

Now Shirley’s Angels Animal Rescue is asking for public help to care for the felines and the others that the group plans to take from the site.

“We’re really going to need our community of animal lovers help on this one,” Shirley’s Angels posted on its Facebook page Monday evening.

Animal Control Officer David Gee said his office was notified of the situation on Friday. Gee said he warned the owners Saturday that the extreme number of cats was both a road hazard and a health hazard.

Volunteers and animal control officers found what Shirley’s Angels called “a very sad situation.” The occupants of the dilapidated trailers would not let the rescuers in, but agreed to hand over kittens to be taken away.

Gee said many of the cats are feral and would be euthanized “because all they’re doing is reproducing.”

Shirley’s Angels said the group took “the most vulnerable ones we saw outside that we knew needed help immediately.” They had fleas and some had upper respiratory infections and were developing anemia.

Placing the 6 kittens and rescuing more will take a collaboration with animal control and other local rescue groups, such as Furry Friends Needing Homes and Dakota’s Dream Animal Rescue, Shirley’s Angels said.

“This is no small task and it is going to take all of our groups working together to save these cats,” they posted.

The group said any funds received will be used to care for the kittens already rescued and purchasing flea treatment and deworming for all the rest.

The list of needs is extensive.

Supplies that can be donated include old towels, cat carriers, cat beds, litter boxes and litter, Clorox wipes, bleach and laundry detergent.

Donated items can be dropped off at the Fast and the Furriest Grooming in Winchester or Pawsitively Heaven in Stephen City.

Monetary donations can be made via PayPal to shirleysangelsboxerrescue@yahoo.com. The group has a Facebook page and a website, www.shirleysboxers.org.

Shirley’s Angels Boxer Rescue organized after the mother of 1 of the 4 founders passed away in 2009.

The group describes itself as “4 strong, committed dog-lover ladies.” They include Michell Burroughs Taylor, Christie McLaughlin, Charleen Dardinski and Kris Saville. They are based out of Winchester, Va., but have foster homes in Capon Bridge and Romney.