The Associated Press
1WHEELING — Registered Republican voters in West Virginia have increased since Donald Trump won office but still lags behind Democrats entering a presidential election year, according to voter registration figures from the secretary of state’s office.
Overall registration numbers in West Virginia have fallen as residents continue to leave the state and elections officials removed invalid registrations, news sources reported.
There were 488,148 registered Democrats in the state at the end of December, a 14.5% drop since November 2016. Meanwhile, there was a 3.2% increase in registered Republicans to 411,872 since the election of Trump, according to secretary of state figures.
There also were 278,851 registered voters without a party affiliation, a 4.4% jump from the 2016 election.
In 2016, despite registered Democrats far outnumbering Republicans in West Virginia, the state gave Trump his largest margin of victory — 42 percentage points.
But the state has lost 83,119 registered Democrats since then and there are 32,393 fewer Democrats registered in the past year. GOP registrations have increased by 13,325 since Trump’s election and by 5,540 over the past year.
The overall number of registered voters in West Virginia was 1.225 million at the end of December, down 4 percent from 1.277 million in November 2016.
West Virginia’s population has fallen for seven straight years. The state lost more than 12,000 people from 2018 to 2019.
2CHARLESTON — West Virginia has announced its initial slate of events for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The yearlong commemoration will start Wednesday with a reception ahead of the governor’s state of the state address, Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office said. Women will wear early 1900s-style clothing at the event.
Other events throughout the year include a documentary showing, lecture series, a gala, a women’s suffrage march at Marshall University and more. Events are being posted online on Warner’s website and through a social media account.
Warner is leading a coordinating committee to plan events for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
State Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter and state Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore are the honorary co-chairs of the committee.
Congress passed the 19th Amendment in June 1919. West Virginia became the 34th state to ratify it in a March 1920 vote.
Soldiers return home from Middle East
3CHARLESTON — More than 140 West Virginia National Guard soldiers are returning home after a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.
Gov. Jim Justice’s office said in a news release that he greeted dozens of soldiers and their family members during a welcoming home ceremony at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston on Saturday.
Soldiers with the West Virginia Army National Guard’s 821st Horizontal Construction Company, part of the 1092nd Engineer Battalion, completed various missions and assignments in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, Justice’s office said.
“We are so happy for their safe return and so appreciative of the sacrifices they and their families have made for all of us here at home,’’ Justice said.
The 821st last deployed overseas in 2008.
Size of trout stocked in lakes smaller than usual
4CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s Department of Natural Resources says anglers should expect trout stocked in state waterways during the winter months to be smaller than usual.
A long dry spell across the state from late summer through the fall is thought to have impacted the average “catchable’’ size of the fish, Jim Hedrick, the division’s hatchery supervisor, told the news sources.
When the drought broke in October, the hatcheries’ water supplies were replenished and allowed workers to begin feeding trout at the normal rate. But winter weather soon slowed the growth rate again, Hedrick said.
The growth rate is expected to return to normal as the weather gets warmer, he added. The division is also adding feed to try and increase trout size.
Hedrick said each of the 31 streams and 30 lakes designated for January stockings will receive as many pounds of fish as last year. And since the trout are smaller, the streams may actually get more fish than in years past, Hedrick said.
Hatchery trucks were scheduled to begin running late last week.
arrested in fatal
5MARTINSBURG — A suspected drunken driver was arrested in a New Year’s Day highway crash that killed another motorist in West Virginia, police said.
The accident occurred last week along southbound Interstate 81 in Berkeley County, according to news sources.
Cody Wade Braithwaite, 32, of Winchester, Va., was charged with DUI with death, fleeing DUI, and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm and a fugitive from justice, Berkeley County Sheriff Curtis Keller said.
Keller said a deputy investigating calls about a reckless driver attempted to make a traffic stop, but the suspect’s vehicle sped up and hit a car, which then struck a guardrail. The driver of the car was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver’s name was not immediately released.
The suspect’s vehicle also hit a deputy’s cruiser before being stopped, Keller said.
Braithwaite was being held without bond in the Eastern Regional Jail. It wasn’t immediately known whether Braithwaite has an attorney.
video contest on
6WHEELING — A West Virginia high school has won a video contest aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of prescription painkiller abuse.
Wheeling Central Catholic High School was selected as the winner of the public service announcement contest sponsored by Bill Powell, the U.S. attorney for the state’s northern district.
Eight schools participated in the contest that was open to all high schools in the district’s 32 counties. Powell and other law enforcement partners judged the videos, which promoted drug-free high schools, Powell said in a news release
The winning entry will be shared with media outlets across the district.
Large fire destroys building near casino
7WHEELING — A former skating rink in West Virginia was destroyed by fire on New Year’s Eve, police said.
The fire took several hours to bring under control in the building located next to a casino and a high school football stadium on Wheeling Island, Wheeling police spokesman Philip Stahl told news outlets.
No injuries were reported and Stahl said the fire did not threaten any other structures, including nearby homes.
Operations at the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack were unaffected by the fire. Stahl said the building was being used for storage for the casino.
The former skating rink was built in 1924 as a state fairgrounds exposition hall.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Justice appoints new DMV commissioner
8CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice tapped the director of a General Motors dealership to lead the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles.
Everett Frazier, who has worked in the auto industry for more than three decades, will start as DMV commissioner Monday, according to a news release from the Republican governor.
“My goal is to treat everyone who comes through the door of the DMV as a guest,” Frazier said. “I am looking forward to being part of a team that will maximize the use of technology to make the DMV more efficient and customer-friendly.’’
Justice said Frazier’s experience in the auto business includes 25 years of managerial positions, most recently as the director of operations at the Thornhill GM Superstore in Logan County. Frazier has also resigned as a member on the state’s pharmacy board to assume the new DMV role.
Bar closed after 7 shot during New Year’s Day dispute
9HUNTINGTON — A West Virginia bar where seven people were shot on New Year’s Day was shut down as authorities work to identify who carried out the shooting.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said officials have issued a cease and desist order to close Kulture Hookah Bar, citing licensing issues and a failure to pay taxes.
The shooting early Wednesday happened after a dispute between people and was not a targeted attack, police said. Seven people were wounded but are now in stable condition.
An investigation is ongoing but authorities would not provide additional information.
“Any incident of this nature in the downtown or in any of our neighborhoods is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,’’ Williams said in a statement after the shooting.
Inmate lawsuit: Guards stood by or helped facilitate attack
10CHARLESTON — A black West Virginia inmate says in a federal lawsuit that he was attacked by a member of the Aryan Brotherhood while state prison guards either did nothing or helped facilitate the assault.
Lermon Russell, 44, filed suit last week over the attack at the Mount Olive Correctional Center, news sources reported.
Russell says in the suit that Jacob Samples attacked him more than a year ago, stabbing and punching him while he was shackled. Court filings including a statement from Samples that says guards knew about and encouraged the plan to attack Russell.
Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Lawrence Messina said division officials only would comment on the case through court filings.
Defendants in the lawsuit include the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation as well as multiple officials within the agency, correctional officers and nurses.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for pain and suffering and seeks to have the agency adopt policies to prevent similar incidents.
Police chase ends with crash into pizza place
11HUNTINGTON — A driver fleeing police in West Virginia crashed into a pizza place and attempted to flee on foot while his car caught fire, further damaging the restaurant, authorities said.
Tanner Miller, 24, was taken into custody on outstanding felony warrants after the Monday morning crash, news sources reported. Officers attempted to pull over Miller on the outstanding warrants, but he fled, Huntington Interim Police Chief Ray Cornwell said. It’s unclear what additional charges, if any, will be filed against him.
The fleeing driver crashed into Husson’s Pizza, which was closed and empty at the time. The second floor of the building, which is owned by Marshall University, was also empty. The restaurant suffered extensive fire and smoke damage, according to the newspaper.
A person in another car was injured in the crash and treated for minor injuries, Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader said.
It’s unclear if Miller has a lawyer or what charges are detailed in his outstanding felony warrants. It’s also unclear if Miller suffered any injuries in the crash.
Former FBI agent to lead administrative office
12CHARLESTON — A former FBI agent has been appointed to lead the newest agency within the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.
Jennifer Wilson joined the FBI in 1997 after practicing law in Cabell County as both a public defender and prosecutor, according to a news release from the state. She worked for the bureau in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and New York before completing her FBI tenure in Pittsburgh as a special agent task force coordinator. That role brought her back to West Virginia via a multiagency federal investigation targeting drug trafficking in the region. She retired last year, joining the DMAPS legal team soon afterward.
Wilson was appointed director of the DMPAS Division of Administrative Services by DMAPS Secretary Jeff Sandy earlier this month. Administrative Services was created in 2018 to handle an array or services including human resources, payroll, recruiting, contracts and procurement, and vehicle and property management. Wilson had been serving as acting director since late September.
Trial for woman in false abduction case delayed again
14HUNTINGTON — The trial of a West Virginia woman charged with making up a story about an Egyptian man trying to kidnap her daughter in a shopping mall has been delayed again.
Santana Renee Adams’ trial on a charge of falsely reporting an emergency incident was scheduled to start Friday in Cabell County magistrate court. Adams’ lawyer now wants a jury trial, a court clerk said. Adams’ November trial also was delayed.
Adams was initially hailed as a hero after claiming she used a gun to thwart the attempted kidnapping of her 5-year-old at a mall in Barboursville in April. She told authorities that the man tried to drag the girl away by her hair, but her story unraveled when no witnesses were found and surveillance video didn’t support her claims.
The man was released from jail and Adams was charged.