1POINT PLEASANT — The site of a West Virginia bridge that collapsed 52 years ago and killed dozens of people has been recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ recognition for Silver Bridge was announced Sunday during a ceremony where the suspension bridge once stood, news outlets report. The bridge named for the color of its aluminum paint crossed the Ohio River, connecting Point Pleasant and Gallipolis, Ohio, and first opened to traffic in 1928.

It collapsed on Dec. 15, 1967. Eyewitnesses reported it took seconds for the bridge to fold like a deck of cards, sending dozens of cars and people into the water below. The National Transportation Safety Board later determined the collapse was caused by an eyebar that fractured due to stress corrosion and corrosion fatigue.

The act establishing the first national bridge safety inspection program passed in 1968. Two years later, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1970 was passed, establishing national standards for bridge inspections and safety. It also designated funding for bridge replacement and repair.


Estate of prominent federal judge leaves $100,000 to school

2INSTITUTE — The estate of prominent Judge Damon J. Keith, who was the grandson of slaves and a figure in the civil rights movement, made a $100,000 bequest to a scholarship fund in his name, West Virginia State University announced last week.

Keith, who was sued by President Richard Nixon over a ruling against warrantless wiretaps, died in April in Detroit at 96. He spent more than 50 years on the federal bench. Before his death, he still heard cases about four times a year at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

In the 1971 wiretapping case against Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell, Keith said they couldn’t engage in the warrantless wiretapping of three people suspected of conspiring to destroy government property. The decision was affirmed by the appellate court, and the Nixon administration appealed and sued Keith personally. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the judge prevailed in what became known as “the Keith case.’’

He was a 1943 graduate of what was then West Virginia State College and went on to graduate from Howard University Law School in 1949 and Wayne State University Law School in 1956.

“Our father, Judge Damon J. Keith, would frequently say, ‘I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t gone to West Virginia State,’” Keith’s daughter, Cecile Keith Brown, said in a news release from the school.


Caperton endorses Salango for governor in 2020

3CHARLESTON — Former West Virginia governor Gaston Caperton has endorsed 2020 gubernatorial hopeful Ben Salango, according to a news release from the candidate’s campaign.

Caperton, who led the state for two terms from 1989 to 1997, said he looks forward to hitting the campaign trail to help Salango, a fellow Democrat.

“Now more than ever, West Virginia needs a governor who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves, work hard, and move our great state forward,” he said. “Ben Salango is the guy we’ve been looking for.”

Salango is an attorney and a Kanawha County commissioner. He announced his candidacy in October and used his opening statements to lob criticisms at current Republican Gov. Jim Justice, saying the state needs a chief executive who isn’t “buried in controversy, lawsuits and ethical scandals.”

“I am honored to have the support of Governor Gaston Caperton,” said Salango. “His work and commitment to public education as governor is and should be an inspiration for all other West Virginia governors and public officials.”

Salango is set to face off for the Democratic nomination against a slate of candidates that includes state Sen. Ron Stollings, progressive Stephen Smith and others.

Justice is running for reelection on the Republican ticket.

50-year sentences

reaffirmed for

convicted purse snatchers

4BECKLEY — A West Virginia judge denied requests for lighter sentences by two men convicted of repeatedly targeting women in purse-snatching robberies, and instead reaffirmed their 50-year sentences.

Raleigh County Circuit Judge Andrew Dimlich dismissed the requests last week, and noted that the sentences were 10 years less than what prosecutors requested for the crimes, the Register-Herald reported on Monday.

In March, Zachery Alexander Cernuto pleaded guilty to dozens of charges, including 41 counts of fraud with an access device, three counts of first-degree robbery and malicious assault. Cernuto admitted he and a co-defendant, James Gavin Lowe Jr., would drive beside older female victims and grab their purses. Lowe pleaded guilty to similar charges.

In one such instance the driver accelerated and dragged an 86-year-old woman across a parking lot, sending her to the hospital.

Cernuto’s attorney had asked the judge to reconsider the sentence handed down this spring, saying the defendant had a drug addiction problem. Lowe’s attorney requested the same, and argued Lowe’s roles in the crimes weren’t as large as Cernuto’s.

Ex-Miss Kentucky admits to trading sexual photos with teen

5CHARLESTON — A former Miss Kentucky who worked as a teacher in West Virginia has admitted to exchanging sexual photos with a 15-year-old student.

Ramsey BethAnn Bearse, 29, pleaded guilty last week to one count of possessing material depicting minors in sexually explicit conduct, news outlets report. She told the court that she made a mistake when talking with the teen on Snapchat last year. Authorities say she and the student exchanged photos between August and October 2018.

One of the student’s parents then found lewd photos of Bearse on the student’s phone, according to a criminal complaint. She was arrested in December 2018.

Bearse, who was crowned Miss Kentucky in 2014 under her maiden name of Carpenter, meant to send a risque photo to her husband, but accidentally sent it to the teen, she told the court. She claimed the student asked for additional photos and so she continued to send them because “I was afraid to not appease him.’’

“Since I am the adult, and he was just a teenager, it is my fault, and I accept full blame for the situation,’’ Bearse said. “So that’s how I’m guilty of this crime. I messed up big-time.’’

Bearse faces up to two years in prison when sentenced in January, in addition to the possibility of being ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life and being on probation for up to 50 years after her release. She’s currently out of custody on bond.


changes parties over feud with state GOP chair

6CHARLESTON — West Virginia Del. S. Marshall Wilson changed his party affiliation from Republican to independent on Tuesday, citing a prolonged dispute with the state GOP chairwoman.

Wilson said West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter has overstepped her authority by interfering in county executive committees and refusing to consult with other GOP members.

“She has demonstrated time and time again that she’s not willing to take any input from the field and she has basically built for herself a little kingdom,” he said.

The delegate has previously called for Potter to resign in an open letter that cited, among many other things, the chairwoman’s controversial removal of an elected county committee leader.

“This is not an appropriate way to run an organization, and it is certainly not an effective way to run a representative organization,” said Wilson, who represents Berkeley County.

Potter released a statement criticizing Wilson shortly after he made his announcement.

“Delegate Wilson’s actions today are the latest in a long string of erratic and foolish behavior that he’s exhibited over the years,” she wrote. “His actions bring dishonor and discredit to his service in the House and betray the voters who thought they were electing a Republican when they voted for him.”

Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw said he is saddened by Wilson’s move but looks forward to continuing to work with him.

Former WVU

rifle star gets

NCAA award

7MORGANTOWN — Former West Virginia University rifle star Ginny Thrasher won an NCAA award naming her as one of the top athletes in the country.

Thrasher was selected as one of the organization’s Today’s Top 10 Award recipients, a national honor recognizing former student-athletes for achievements in sports, the classroom and the community. An award ceremony is set for January in Anaheim, California.

Thrasher shot for the Mountaineers from 2015 to 2019, winning numerous awards and championships, including a gold medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering last May.

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