Carole Elizabeth Billotte
76, of Summersville

Verna B. Brown
85, of Keslers Cross Lanes

Charlotte Mae Hudson
76, of Cross Lanes

John “JP” Little
61, of Ashland, Ohio

Lee Roy Neal
70, of Mt. Nebo

Ellis Lee Seabolt
94, of Craigsville

Velma Leone Smalley
96, of Craigsville

Robert “Bob” Stephenson
81, of Summersville

Edward Stull
53, of Knoxville, Tenn.

John David Ward Jr.
72, of Craigsville









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Hung jury leads to mistrial in Bennett trial

A hung jury led the court to declare a mistrial on Wednesday, Aug. 17, in the Tim Bennett sexual abuse trial in Nicholas County Circuit Court.

After deliberating about three-and-a-half hours over two days, the nine-woman, three-man jury informed the court it was hopelessly deadlocked on reaching a verdict. In criminal trials, all 12 jurors must agree on a verdict.

The jurors shook their heads no when Circuit Judge Gary Johnson asked them if they thought further deliberations would be beneficial.

At that point, Judge Johnson declared a mistrial and excused the jury.

Bennett remains under indictment on 34 counts of first-degree sexual abuse. The court continued his $20,000 bond, which he posted after being indicted in January.

Assistant Prosecutor Jonathan Calhoun said the state would decide in a couple of weeks whether to retry Bennett on the charges. He said he wanted to confer with the alleged victims, and added the prosecutor’s office was preparing for two other trials in the next few weeks, including one set for Aug. 31.

In response to a question from defense attorney William Winfrey, Judge Johnson said the next term of court would start the second week of September, and that criminal trials for that term would be in late November or early December.

Bennett was suspended without pay from his job as principal of Cherry River ElementarySchool in Richwood after initial charges were filed against him in April 2015.

The indictment charges him with sexually abusing six adult female employees at the school from December 2014 to April 2015.

The trial began Tuesday, Aug. 16, and testimony wrapped up later in the day when the defense rested without calling any witnesses.

Jurors deliberated about an hour on Tuesday before going home for the evening.

A full report on the trial will appear in next week’s Nicholas Chronicle.




Man arrested in local motel sentenced

for methamphetamine trafficking

A Georgia man who was caught with methamphetamine and a stolen pistol in a Summersville motel was sentenced Monday, Aug. 15, to two years and eight months in federal prison, announced United States Attorney Carol Casto.

Daniel Branden O’Dell, 34, previously pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

On October 30, 2015, a Nicholas County Deputy Sheriff responded to a disabled vehicle call on U.S. Route 19. The vehicle, a 2015 BMW, had been reported stolen from Atlanta and was unoccupied when the officer arrived. After a brief investigation, officers learned that O’Dell had wrecked the vehicle and gotten a ride to a motel in Summersville. When police arrested O’Dell at his motel room, they found methamphetamine and a loaded .45 caliber pistol that had been stolen in Cobb County, Ga. O’Dell admitted to transporting the methamphetamine from Georgia to sell in Pennsylvania. He also admitted to being a felon and told police he had purchased the stolen firearm in Georgia. O’Dell has a lengthy criminal history that includes numerous theft and drug-related felony convictions.

This case was investigated by the Nicholas County Sheriff’s Department and the Summersville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Hanks is in charge of the prosecution. United States District Judge Thomas E. Johnston imposed the sentence.




Celebrating our lake

Preparing to climb aboard her sailboat at the Summersville Lake is this unidentified helmsman. Hundreds of boaters like her will be taking part in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Summersville Dam this weekend, August 19 – 21. Lyndon Baines Johnson, President of the United States, dedicated the Summersville Dam on September 3, 1966. Considered the largest lake in West Virginia at 2,790 acres, the lake is actually essential to flood control and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Many lives below the Gauley and New Rivers have been spared as a result of the dam. A partial view of the dam can be seen in the background.




Richwood Council votes to seek advice on structure issues

By Pat Hanna
The Nicholas Chronicle

After lengthy discussion, Richwood Common Council approved a motion to reach out to municipalities in Greenbrier County to see if a building inspector was available to advise the city on how to proceed with homes and other structures damaged or destroyed in the June 23 flood.

Council took the action during a meeting on Aug. 11 after Mayor Bob Henry Baber asked members if they wanted to bring in a building inspector who has dealt with floodplain issues and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As part of the motion, Council agreed that any such building inspector be independently bonded and insured.

The vote came after Councilwoman Robin Brown asked, “Are we condemning homes or will we?”

Baber replied, “I don’t have an answer.”

Brown then said, “There are so many unanswered questions. We don’t know who’s going to do what. The building permit process did not make sense to me and did not make sense to FEMA.”

Brown said four flood victims on Dyer Avenue received “four different answers from four different people about what can be done to their homes. Forty-eight days after the fact, people have no more information than they did on day two. We need to go forward in the right manner.”

Baber said West Virginia University was interested in helping the city move forward with a building code.




Nicholas County Teacher and Service

Personnel of the Year announced

The 2016 Nicholas County Teacher of the Year and the 2016 Nicholas County Service Personnel of the Year were announced during the Nicholas County Schools welcome back session for employees on Monday morning, Aug. 15, in the Nicholas County High School Auditorium.

The welcome back session was part of the first of three days of professional employee and personnel employee-mandated professional development prior to the school opening preparation day on Thursday and the return of students to school on Friday.

Nicholas County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick opened the session with welcoming remarks. She also outlined several goals for the county school system for the upcoming school year.

Nick Belmont, West Virginia History teacher at Summersville Middle School, was chosen the 2016 Nicholas County Teacher of the Year. Belmont has been teaching at SMS since 2007. He previously taught in Fayette County from 1993 to 2007.

Belmont will now be in the running to become West Virginia Teacher of the Year, which will be chosen from among winners from each of the state’s 55 counties.

Chosen as the 2016 Nicholas County Service Personnel of the Year was Ginger McQueen, secretary at Gauley River Elementary School.




School Board hears requests from

ROTC and Community Action

The Nicholas County Board of Education on Monday evening, Aug. 15, heard requests from the Nicholas County Junior ROTC Program and the Nicholas Community Action Partnership.

The Board also heard updates on student attendance and enrollment, heard a food update, discussed the former Dixie Elementary School property and creating a walkway between the Beaver Elementary School emergency site and the adjacent former White Funeral Home building in Craigsville.

Present for the meeting were Board President Dr. Gus Penix,Vice-President Fred Amick and members Darrell White, Phil Berry and A.J. Rogers.

ROTC Request
Sgt. Randy Long and Sgt. Randy Phillips, instructors for the Wilderness Battalion of the Junior ROTC at the Nicholas County Career and Technical Center in Craigsville, came before the Board regarding the program.

Sgt. Phillips said he had recently spoken with officials at the U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade, which oversees JROTC programs in several states, and was advised that the Wilderness Battalion would have to be eliminated unless the program increases its enrollment. He said the military is doing this for financial reasons.

Sgt. Long said the program currently has 39 cadets enrolled with all but seven of them from Nicholas County High School.

Sgt. Long said enrollment in the JROTC program has steadily decreased since being moved to the career and technical center 10 years ago from the two high schools.

Long requested that the JROTC program be moved back to Nicholas County High School in order to increase the enrollment. RHS students in the program would be bused to NCHS from the career center.

“Some students at the high school need a class and they may decide to take JROTC,” said Sgt. Long. He added that having the cadets at the high school helps increase interest in the program because they are more visible.

Board members expressed whether there was adequate space at the high school to move the program back there.

Long said he had spoken with NCHS principal Kandy Rapp about the matter and it was determined that there would be enough, but it would be tight quarters. He added that the requirements for the JROTC program are a classroom, office and storage space.

Board members spoke in support of the JROTC program and its importance in teaching leadership skills.

No action was taken by the Board and Long and Phillips were advised that their request would be taken under consideration.




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