CHARLESTON — Two trees to be displayed in the West Virginia Capitol during the holidays will display photos recognizing military and first responders.

West Virginians can submit photos to be displayed on the trees, according to a news release from Gov. Jim Justice and first lady Cathy Justice.

The trees will be placed in the west rotunda of the main Capitol building. A 3rd tree will be decorated by Gold Star Mothers and families to honor people who died while serving the country.

Photos will not be returned, and photocopies should be submitted. The military recognition form and the first responder recognition form and tag are available online.

Photos, submission forms and tags must be received by Nov. 29. They can be submitted by email to first.lady(at)wv.gov or regular mail to attention of Katie Morris, West Virginia Governor’s Mansion, 1716 Kanawha Blvd. East, Charleston, WV 25305.


October casino

revenue rebounds,

as record COVID surge fades


CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s casinos experienced a revenue bump in October after the state’s COVID-19 cases dropped last month, officials said.

Lottery Director John Myers told news sources the increased business must have been caused by the drop in cases after a record spike in September. The state’s COVID-19 cases surged to an all-time high in September, with a record number 2,320 of new cases on Sept. 17.

Video lottery machines in the state’s four racetrack casinos took in $41.64 million in October. That topped revenue from Limited Video Lottery in bars and clubs statewide for the first time since the start of the pandemic. It also was up 10% from $37.97 million in September, and up 18% from $35.34 million in October 2020.

Casino table games also pulled in more money, grossing $3.02 million — up 8% from September and up 43% from October 2020.

Limited Video Lottery machines in 1,179 bars, clubs around the state took in $41.23 million, up $1.77 million from September, and up $3.93 million from October 2020.

West Virginia has nearly 8,200 Limited Video Lottery machines in operation, about 1,000 more than in October 2020. The number of machines increased after a decision from state officials to cap lottery licenses at 9,000 instead of 8,000.



128-year-old church collapses in the night


BRAMWELL — A 128-year-old West Virginia church collapsed suddenly in the middle of the night on Thursday, news sources reported.

Bramwell’s historic Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, which has stood since 1893, caved in about midnight, Mayor Louise Stoker said.

The church’s original congregation included many of the town’s first residents, Stoker said. The Independent Bible Church later occupied the building before donating it to the town, which had been planning to conserve the historic structure.

Workers clearing the debris noted things that could be saved such as large wooden beams and the old church bell. Some of the church’s Queen Anne-style stained glass windows were also mostly intact.

Stoker said the town council will discuss what to do next, but it’s possible that a portion of the building that didn’t collapse will have to be taken down. Standing outside the church, she pointed out 6 circular stained glass windows in the remaining structure.


Pharmacist serving fraud sentence now accused of murder


BECKLEY — A West Virginia pharmacist already serving a federal prison sentence in a fraud case has been indicted on a state charge in her husband’s death.

Natalie P. Cochran, 40, of Daniels, was indicted by a grand jury in Raleigh County on a first-degree murder charge last week, according to a news release Friday from county Prosecutor Benjamin Hatfield.

Cochran’s husband, Michael Cochran, 38, died in February 2019. The prosecutor’s statement did not give details about the death but said state police conducted an investigation.

Natalie Cochran was sentenced in March to 11 years for pretending to be a government contractor and defrauding investors out of millions of dollars. Prosecutors said Cochran tricked investors into thinking she owned two successful businesses with government contracts. She never invested the money, instead using some of it to buy a 1965 Shelby Cobra, two properties and jewelry.


Board approves first online charter schools


CHARLESTON — A new state board has approved West Virginia’s first statewide online charter schools.

The West Virginia Professional Charter School Board last week approved the West Virginia Virtual Academy and the Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia, news sources reported. Both will enroll students from kindergarten through 12th grade starting next year.

The West Virginia Virtual Academy will be operated by Stride Inc. The Virtual Preparatory Academy is operated by Accel Schools, which also will run brick-and-mortar charter schools in Nitro and in Jefferson County.

The board approved 3 brick-and-and-mortar schools last week, including 1 in the Cheat Lake area of Morgantown that will be run by West Virginia Academy, whose president, John Treu, is a West Virginia University assistant professor of accounting.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill in 2019 that allows for the creation of charter schools. Legislation approved earlier this year created the new state-level charter board, whose members were appointed by Justice.



rate drops to 4.3%

in October


CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a percentage point to 4.3% in October, the lowest rate for the state on record.

Total employment grew by 1,200 over the month and the number of unemployed state residents dropped by 2,400 to 34,300, WorkForce West Virginia said in a statement.

Employment gains included 1,400 in trade, transportation and utilities, 1,400 in leisure and hospitality, 700 in construction and 200 in manufacturing. Among the job declines were 1,300 in government, 600 in financial activities and 600 in education and health services.

Total nonfarm payroll employment has increased 18,300 since October 2020, the statement said.

The national unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.6% in October.

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