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U.S. court halts Biden administration vaccine mandate for federal contractors

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a preliminary injunction on President Joe Biden’s proposed vaccine mandate for federal contractors on Tuesday.

Led by Georgia, several states including West Virginia challenged the mandate that was set to go into effect at the beginning of 2022.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office called it “another important victory for personal freedom,” in a news release.

“I’m pleased that the courts continue to take a stand against unlawful vaccine mandates and side with personal freedoms,” Morrisey said in a release. “All citizens – including federal contractors and their employees – have the right to make their own decisions about whether to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Morrisey then took to Twitter on Tuesday saying, “WV, Six States Block Biden Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors.

“We now have an injunction from a Georgia federal judge against the federal government contractor mandate-this is another win for personal freedom!

“We are now 3-0 against the mandates.”

WV, Six States Block Biden Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors.

We now have an injunction from a Georgia federal judge against the federal government contractor mandate-this is another win for personal freedom!

We are now 3-0 against the mandates.

— Patrick Morrisey (@MorriseyWV) December 7, 2021

NBC News reported that the Biden administration mandate applies to roughly a quarter of the U.S. workforce and affects companies that do business with the federal government, including Lockheed Martin Corp., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.‘s Google, and General Motors Co.

The Attorneys General alleged President Biden and the other federal defendants acted unlawfully in many ways. These allegations include overstepping their constitutional authority, violating the separation of powers as set forth in the Tenth Amendment, and violating the Spending Clause of the United States Constitution, a release said.

Other states involved included Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, and Utah.

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Reynolds Memorial Hospital set to welcome in new boss

WHEELING, W.Va. — Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale will be under new leadership but it is a familiar face to healthcare in the area.

First reported by WTRF-TV in Wheeling, Doug Harrison, the current CEO and president of Wheeling Hospital, is set to become the president and CEO of the Marshall County facility.

Doug Harrison, Wheeling Hospital CEO

The report stated that the move was announced by WVU Medicine CEO and President Albert Wright in a memo to staff.

Current Reynolds Memorial Hospital president and CEO Dr. David Hess is reportedly leaving to become the full-time president and CEO at Uniontown Hospital.

All three hospitals are part of the WVU Medicine Health System.

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Police say former Wheeling police officer arrested for child rape

WHEELING, W.Va. — A former Wheeling Police officer is facing rape charges after admitting to West Virginia State Police to raping a 9-year old girl.

Jonathan Quincy Wiles, 28, is currently being charged with sexual abuse by a guardian, sexual assault in the first degree, and sexual abuse in the first degree.

Jonathan Wiles

A complaint was filed over the weekend where Wiles is accused of touching the girl in a private area on three different occasions.

WTRF-TV in Wheeling stated the complainant also told police that she confronted Wiles and he admitted that the rape happened and that he was ‘in a dark place at the time, and said he would get help and that he was sick.’

Wheeling Police Department told MetroNews that Wiles resigned on Monday and the department was made aware of the case Monday morning by state police. He joined the force on Sept. 2018.

Statement from the Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger to MetroNews:

“The Wheeling Police Department was made aware of serious allegations involving one of its officers by the West Virginia State Police this past weekend. That officer is no longer employed by the department as of Monday morning. I am fully aware of the seriousness of these charges, and although shocked, I am grateful that there was a rapid resolution with the safety of a child in mind. Out of respect for the criminal investigation, we cannot offer further comment.”

Wiles is listed as an inmate at the Northern Regional Jail currently on $90,000 cash bond.

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WVDE honors school districts’ commitment to children of military families

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — To commemorate Pearl Harbor Day on Tuesday, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) hosted members of the West Virginia Common Ground Partnership for its 2021 compact re-signing at the State Capitol Complex.

The Common Ground Partnership is a collaboration of organizations that focuses on increasing the capacity of schools to ensure success among all students including those among military families.

According to WVDE, partnering organizations provide online resources and guest speakers to schools that address a variety of important topics including substance abuse prevention, the importance of staying in school and career exploration. The goal is for the Common Ground Partnership and West Virginia schools to maximize the prospects that students will become well-educated and develop into college- and career-ready citizens.

“We’re going to re-commit to the students to say we are here and have resources for schools and a variety of different initiatives and activities that is part of the common ground partnership to support them and military families,” Robert Mellace, coordinator of the WVDE Office of Educator Development and Support said during an appearance on Tuesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline.’

Additionally, a new program was unveiled during the ceremony by the WVDE — the Purple Star Award. Purple Star Award recipients are schools and districts that have committed to providing dedicated support and services to students of military families.

Mellace noted it started in 2017 in Ohio and has grown to 30 states.

“Each school has a trained point of contact at the school to support military families. Also, they have a link to the website for the Common Ground Partnership for resources for military families. They also submit a unique plan locally for supporting military children and their families,” Mellace said.

130 schools earned this distinction, and Brooke, Kanawha and Pocahontas counties were honored for having 100% participation amongst all their schools. The WVDE is providing all members of the inaugural class with banners to recognize their commitment (Photo below).

In addition to State Superintendent Burch representing the WVDE, the Common Ground compact was signed by representatives from the West Virginia Board of Education, and numerous military and civil service organizations.

Pocahontas County Schools Director of Maintenance/Attendance/Safe Schools Mr. Ron Hall and State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch.

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Trial date set in Stonewall Jackson Lake boating death

WESTON, W.Va. — A family member of a woman killed in a Fourth of July tubing accident at Stonewall Jackson Lake in Lewis County says he wants the boat driver charged with her death to face serious punishment.

Patrick Carr told MetroNews Tuesday his niece, Sarah Hutchinson, died when the tube she was riding on collided with a rock wall. She was 29 years old and a student at Alderson Broaddus University.

“It was a horrific situation,” Carr said.

Tyson Bubnar, a professor at the university, was driving the boat. He was in Lewis County Magistrate Court Tuesday for a pretrial hearing. His trial is scheduled Jan. 12.

State Division of Natural Resources Police previously charged Bubnar with five misdemeanors including negligent homicide and reckless operation of a vessel. The negligent homicide charge carries up to a one year prison and a fine of $100 to $1,000.

DNR Police Officer Seth Rader said Bubnar was charged in October following a lengthy investigation.

“The operator got too close to the bank and when he tried to correct he slung the tube into a rock on the bank,” Rader told MetroNews Tuesday.

Rader said Hutchinson died at the scene.

Carr said Bubnar deserves prison time.

“Incarceration is for people that do things purposefully like this man did in causing the death of another. Probation is not for someone who causes someone else to die,” he said.

Hutchinson, of New Albany, Indiana, was riding on the tub with her two friends. Kayla Sands, of Denver, Colorado and Megan Wade, of St. Louis, Missouri, were injured. None of the women were wearing life jackets at the time.

Rader said Hutchinson died at the scene while Sands and Wade were both hospitalized for several weeks. He said one of them was on life support for a time. Both are now recovering at home.

Carr said Bubnar was driving reckless on purpose.

“You can’t say this was an accident. An accident is when you drop a glass of milk on the kitchen floor. That’s an accident. This is crash. Solely and independently, he caused this crash in the death of another person,” Carr said.

Carr is a law enforcement officer in another state and said he hears of tragic situations like this all the time, but the death of his niece hits close to home.

“Being in a position where I’m leading an agency, I would tell my officers the same thing. This is someone’s family member and someone has died,” he said.

At the time of the accident, Alderson Broaddus University released the following statement:

“The AB campus community is deeply saddened to learn of one of our alumna and student Sarah Hutchinson’s passing. Our entire campus community grieves this loss, and we extend our deepest condolences to the families and hold them in our prayers.”

Bubnar is currently listed as a assistant professor of physician assistant studies, according to the university’s website. He remains free on bond.

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Big 12-Big East Battle sends No. 15 UConn to the Coliseum Wednesday

(Bob Huggins pregame press conference)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — UConn visits the Coliseum for the first time in over a decade Wednesday night when the Mountaineers host the Huskies as part of the annual Big 12-Big East Battle. Through four of the ten matchups, the conference challenge is tied 2-2. The Big 12 has earned wins from Kansas and Iowa State. Games continue in the series through December 18.

No. 15 Connecticut (8-1) has posted five wins by at least 24 points and they own victories over Auburn and VCU at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

“This is definitely going to be our hardest game so far in the season,” said WVU sophomore forward Isaiah Cottrell. “They are really an athletic team. They run every single time down the floor. The conversations we had were to play harder, play faster, play longer than them and we’ll come out victorious.”

“They are really, really good. They’re athletic as can be. They remind me of some of the teams of the past. They just do a great job in transition. They really rebound it — superior athletes,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins.

“I have many concerns. It is hard to sit here and put them in order when they are multiple.”

The Huskies are in their fourth season under former Wagner and Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley. Through Monday’s play, UConn ranks ninth in the country in points per game (85.9) and seventh in scoring margin (+23).

Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley looks on against the Michigan State Spartans (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

“Danny’s got a really good team. They are deep and they are so athletic. They can score multiple ways. They’ve got a lot of guys that can score. They really defend. I wish we were a little better at this time. Hopefully we get better. It would be a better game,” Huggins said.

“They can score so many different ways. I think they are as good of a transition team as I have seen in quite a while. They are really good in transition. They really get out and run. They fill lanes. They finish. They’re a really good rebounding team. That’s the whole team, not just a few guys.”

UConn will take the court Wednesday without two of their top three scorers. Sophomore forward Adama Sanogo (15.6 points per game) is out for three weeks with an abdominal strain and Rhode Island transfer Tyrese Martin (12.9 points per game) will miss up to four weeks with a wrist injury.

R.J. Cole leads the Huskies in scoring at 16.3 points per game and he has also dished out a team-best 40 assists.

“He’s really good. He can get them in offense. He can score. He defends. He is a really good rebounder for a 6-foot-1 guy. To me, from the outside looking in, it looks like he is the guy who runs the show. He’s the guy that makes everything happen. He is the guy that makes sure everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing,” Huggins said.

Huggins says that senior guard Sean McNeil is day-to-day after sitting out the Radford game with a lower-back injury.

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Investigators believe retaliation at center of Johnson memorial vandalism

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  Police have charged two people with vandalizing a memorial dedicated to  the memory slain patrol officer Cassie Johnson.

Michael White

Police on Tuesday arrested Michael White, 26, and Lyndzie Legg, 22, both of Charleston. They are charged with petit larceny after allegedly vandalizing the Johnson memorial on Garrison Avenue not far from where Johnson was shot while on duty last year.

The arrests were first reported by WCHS-TV. 

Charleston Police Chief of Detectives Lt. Hazelett said officers received a tip.

“Members of the Garrison Avenue community had a memorial to our fallen sister Cassie Johnson. They noticed on video surveillance, Mr. White and Ms. Legg took it upon themselves to destroy the memorial and steal the lights,” Hazelett said.

The two were apprehended Tuesday after warrants were issued on Monday. According to Hazelett, evidence shows they stole the lights, but took the bulbs and wreath and threw it across the street. Police believe it was an act of retaliation.

Lyndzie Legg

“We just arrested Mr. White last Wednesday in a lengthy investigation we’d been doing. He then got out and we think it was personal and he took it upon himself to destroy the memorial because he was mad at the Charleston Police Department for his arrest,” Hazelett said.

Legg was also implicated in last week’s investigation. Both are now jailed and may face additional charges.

White was also charged with bond revocation and probation violations.

The one-year anniversary of Johnson’s death was marked in a ceremony last week at the city’s other police memorial near downtown Charleston.

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At anniversary of children’s deaths, lawmakers examine whether ball was dropped

One year ago this week, a Greenbrier County woman killed five young boys, set the family’s house on fire and then killed herself.

The tragedy shook the community. Today, West Virginia lawmakers explored what steps could have been taken to prevent it.

Patricia Rucker

“It’s really, really important to find out what we can do to protect kids,” said Senator Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Children and Families.

In the end, there were no satisfying answers. There was more information about the awful events of a year ago — but also lingering questions.

The committee discussed what could have been done to save the lives of 7-year-old Shaun Dawson Bumgarner; 6-year-old Riley James Bumgarner; 4-year-old Kian Myers, 3-year-old Arikyle Nova Myers, and 1-year-old Haiken Jirachi Myers.

“Dec. 8 of last year, that county was rocked to its core,” said resident Mike Spradlin, a retired West Virginia State Police trooper who choked up as he spoke.

That day, 25-year-old Oreanna Myers killed all five children with shotgun blasts. She then set the two-story house on fire, went outside and shot herself. Her body was found near a picnic table. The shotgun was beside her.

In several notes left behind, Myers said she was suffering from mental illness. “This is no one’s fault but my own. My demons won over me. Sorry, I wasn’t strong enough,” she wrote, according to investigators.

She also wrote, “I had shot all of the boys in the head. I had set house on fire. I had shot myself in the head. I’m sorry. Mental health is serious. I hope one day someone will help others like me.”

Three of the children were hers. Two were from her husband’s first marriage.

The situation must have been building long before Myers snapped, Spradlin suggested.

“I knew that woman didn’t wake up that day thinking she was going to kill those kids,” said Spradlin, who took an interest in trying to understand what happened.

He described rumors that began circulating that a referral about the children’s living conditions had been made to Child Protective Services. “We had some pretty good information it was true,” Spradlin told lawmakers today.

That referral had been made by Sarah Peters, a dental hygienist with Greenbrier Valley Pediatric Dentistry. She, too, spoke to lawmakers today.

She described treating a patient, later identified as 4-year-old Kian, when she noticed a large bruise on his arm. Peters called a CPS hotline to report it: “She asked me a few questions about why I was calling. The child seemed super scared of his dad.”

At the same time, another employee of the dental practice described the father in the parking lot being verbally abusive with an even younger child.

But Peters said the call ended on a note that left her with little confidence.

“She never asked for the photograph. She just said I think I have all the information I need, and the call ended. Tragically, a few months later, there were five children that passed away, including the one I made the referral for.”

Peters said she was not interviewed after the call by law enforcement or social workers.

Should that referral have been enough to prompt a deeper look at the children’s living conditions? Could better followup have prevented their deaths?

Spradlin urged a deeper look.

I’m not here throwing rocks at CPS. But we’ve got to know what probable cause is. What is probable cause?” he said. “We just want answers.”

Rebecah Carson, the director of DHHR’s central intake unit, didn’t describe specifics involving that call. But she did describe what happens when calls come in.

Those who answer, she said, are licensed social workers. They follow a script but might have to diverge from that, depending on the circumstances. The social workers may notify a supervisor during the call if they assess an emergency. They enter a referral even as they take down the relevant information and then submit that to supervisor inboxes for review and approval.

Carson described safeguards meant to assure appropriate actions are taken.

Lt. Col. Dave Nelson, a deputy superintendent with the State Police, urged a continued examination of whether those steps are adequate.

“We have started conversations about ways to navigate to a better place for the betterment of the kids in need.” Nelson told lawmakers. “The main purpose and goal is to keep any kids from getting hurt.”

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Early into offseason, several quality prep football programs have head coach openings

— By Taylor Kennedy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — We are only a few days into the offseason, but there are notable high school football head coaching openings after the resignation of several head coaches. Among them:

Jeremy Taylor, Hurricane

The Redskins’ head football coach, announced in Novemeber he was resigning.

pic.twitter.com/Zf9yQV4Scc

— Coach Taylor (@HHSRedskinsFB) November 21, 2021

Taylor started coaching the Redskins in 2012  and held that position for 10 seasons. He went 57-49 in his tenure at Hurricane, including seven state playoff appearances.

Taylor is leaving the door open for a return to football, but says he is “closing the book” for now.

Frank Isaacs, Midland Trail

One of the most successful Midland Trail head coaches of all time announced his resignation. Isaacs steps aside as the third-winningest coach in Patriots’ history.

Isaacs is the only coach in MTHS history to have multiple 10-win seasons. Isaacs and the Patriots accomplished that feat in 2017 and 2018.

Isaacs led Midland Trail to five state playoff appearances. The Patriots made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since 2008. They would reach the quarterfinal round that season.

Ted Arneault, Oak Glen

Arneault, who just finished his sixth season at Oak Glen, announced he would resign from his position as head coach of the Golden Bears.

A statement to the community: pic.twitter.com/ha8Tzu0HOX

— Ted Arneault (@CoachTed_OG) November 18, 2021

Arneault went 31-29 as the head coach of Oak Glen. Arneault is the only Oak Glen head coach to post multiple one-loss seasons.

Under Arneault, the Golden Bears recorded the most wins in a single season in school history with 12 in 2019. During his tenure, Oak Glen recorded several notable firsts: The first undefeated regular season, the first state semifinal appearance and the first Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship since 1965,

He also became the second head coach to lead Oak Glen to multiple state playoff trips. Arneault is the only Oak Glen coach to lead his team to back-to-back state playoff berths, having done so in 2019 and 2020.

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Winfield football coach Craig Snyder steps down

— By Taylor Kennedy

Winfield head football coach Craig Snyder announced Monday that he will step away as coach of the Generals and will not return to coaching.

Snyder had been on the sidelines for 28 seasons, including the last 10 seasons as Winfield’s head coach. Snyder went 45-55 in his tenure with the Generals, including state playoff appearances in three of the last six seasons.

“A couple of years ago I was close to maybe calling it a career,” Snyder said. “I was not quite sure. I figured if I was not sure, that meant I was not ready. I hung on. I would have never ended my career last year, and it is not because we went 0-6. It is because last year sucked with COVID. I hate the way it ended for that group of seniors.”

Winfield held its annual football banquet Sunday afternoon, and Snyder wanted to focus on properly sending off his seniors and reflecting on this season.

“I talked to them Monday at lunch, and it was not easy,” Snyder noted. “I might have been the one that got emotional. They understood. The bottom line is they get it. We had a little snack and talked. Food makes everything go down a little better.”

Snyder released his official announcement on his Facebook and received a consistent flow of messages from a variety of people throughout the day.

“I knew I had to put something out,” Snyder stated. “Since then, it has been a steady stream of texts of people being respectful towards me, and I appreciate that. I wanted my intentions to be known rather quickly.”

Snyder began his coaching career at Morgantown High School as a volunteer assistant while student teaching in 1994. He credits his early stops as a time of growth.

“That first few years of my coaching career were a lot of listening and learning,” Snyder said. “My coaching time in the ‘90s was a big learning time.”

Bruce McGrew, a former Winfield high school football coach and principal, brought Snyder on to his staff in the early 2000s. McGrew saw something in Snyder that ultimately led to Snyder becoming the head coach in 2012.

McGrew was the first person Snyder notified about stepping away from coaching.

“I cannot say enough about Coach McGrew,” Snyder noted. “Outside of my family, he was the first person I told I was stepping away. The only reason I was a head coach is that he gave me the opportunity. He is my number one influence by far.”

Snyder spent 26 years of his coaching career at Winfield high and middle school, and it is where he got his first and only head coaching gig.

“It became my home,” stated Snyder of the Winfield community. “In the 25 to 26 years, I think it is enough time to be considered a Winfield guy. People in Winfield have been kind and welcoming to me. There is no place I’d rather be.”

Snyder could not pinpoint a specific game that sticks out most, but he recalls the most powerful moment he has ever encountered on the field fondly.

“In 2012, which was our last home game against Spring Valley, Jeremy Huff, who was diagnosed with brain cancer the year prior, was a miracle he was alive the next year,” Snyder recalled. “His only goal his senior year, my first year as the head coach, was to get in on senior night. I told Brad Dingess, Spring Valley head coach, that we were going to take a knee on the first play and carry Jeremy off the field.

“That moment was the most powerful moment I will ever experience as a football coach or as a human being. It was the best play I ever called. The only thing they did wrong was taking him off the field too fast. That was a powerful moment.”

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