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Two men in Nicholas County recovering after gunfire exchange, one facing attempted murder

NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. — West Virginia State Police have provided an update on a Thursday shooting in Nicholas County centered around a two-year family dispute.

Two men in Nicholas County began shooting back and forth at each other, Paul Vencil “PJ” Morris Jr., 75, of Kesslers Cross Lanes, and James William “Billy” Stone.

According to a news release from State Police, Morris has been charged with attempted murder after he entered a garage on Summersville Lake Road to confront Stone and then shot at him. Stone pulled out his handgun and returned fire.

Stone was shot multiple times and was flown to CAMC General Hospital to receive medical attention.

Investigators said Morris was shot in the left arm. He’s currently being held at Central Regional Jail on a $20,000 cash only bail.

State Police said additional charges may be filed against Morris once Stone is released from the hospital.

The investigation is still on-going.

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Fayetteville woman succumbs to injuries from shooting weeks prior

OAK HILL, W.Va. — A woman from Fayetteville passed away a month and a half after she sustained gun shot wounds from an Indiana couple.

On Friday, at 9:51 a.m., State Police said the victim, Michelle Dawn Smith, 41, of Fayetteville, WV, died due to her injuries. An autopsy will be performed.

The suspects responsible for the incident were identified as Andres Torres, 27, and Amanda Soultz, 30, of Goshen, Indiana.

An officer of the Oak Hill Police Department conducted a traffic stop on vehicle in the Plateau Medical Center parking lot back on February, 16. The officer noticed a woman handcuffed in the vehicle with a gunshot wound to her head. The victim was transported to CAMC General Hospital in critical condition.

A further investigation later on revealed the suspects were in possession of Smith’s credit cards along with three pistols.

The following day on Friday, February 17, both suspects were spotted by an off-duty Deputy U.S. Marshal at the intersection of South Fayette Street and U.S. Rt. 19. Troopers were notified and took the suspects into custody, the State Police said.

Torres and Soultz were incarcerated on charges stemming from a probation violation in Indiana, kidnapping, robbery in the first degree, attempted first degree murder, and conspiracy. Charges against the two suspects will likely elevate to first-degree murder.

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Fazio’s, well-known Charleston restaurant, up for sale

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One of Charleston’s best-known restaurants is for sale.

According to a real estate listing, the asking price for Fazio’s Italian Restaurant is $1.7 million which includes the property, restaurant building, “recipes, equipment, furnishings and well-known name.”

“It’s a package deal,” Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Central Realtor Sierra Hess told MetroNews Friday evening.

Hess said the longtime owners aren’t yet ready to share a lot about the decision to sell the business but may in the future.

The restaurant is currently owned by Danny and Marsha Fazio.

Fazio’s has been in existence for more than 50 years, founded by Joe Fazio. It’s located at 1008 Bullitt Street, not far from downtown Charleston.

Hess said the listing created quite a stir at the restaurant Thursday evening. Many calls came in from residents who wanted to know if the restaurant was closing. Hess said it is not closing. The Fazios are however taking their annual spring break off for the next week.

A posting on Facebook Friday by the restaurant said “Addressing a rumor—Fazio’s has been listed nationally for sale but FAZIOS is not closing.”

The restaurant building is just more than 8,000 square feet.

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Hurricane cuts ribbon on new $6 million fire station

HURRICANE, W.Va. — Fire Chief Mike Hoffman says he’s relieved to have a new 20,000 square foot fire station.

“I’m glad it’s here and I’m glad we’re transitioning into a new facility. This has been a long time coming for the City of Hurricane and its citizens,” Hoffman said following a Friday afternoon ribbon cutting at the new station which is located just past Hurricane Bridge Park on Route 34 between Hurricane Middle School and U.S. Route 60.

Hoffman said the new building is four times larger than the current 5,000 square foot station and it features the latest in equipment and technology.

“It has the exhaust system that pulls all of the exhaust out of the building. We have a state-of-the-art training building and we have room out back for a future training facility,” Hoffman said.

Hurricane Mayor Scott Edwards said the new station is good use of CARES Act and other monies the city had. The project cost $6 million.

“It was the time to spend it so that that money will show for a hundred years,” Edwards said. “That money just didn’t get wasted away to nothing, people can see it.”

Edwards said the old station on Main Street will be demolished in the months to come and initially used for parking.

“We have some other ideas that are in the thoughts—I’m never satisfied. I’m always thinking on what’s going to be next,” Edwards said.

A community open house at the new station is set for later in April.

MetroNews reporter Chris Lawrence contributed to this story. 

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As emotional week winds down, Stephens recalls fond memories, expresses excitement for new challenge

Kim Stephens knew it wouldn’t be easy saying goodbye to her alma mater at Glenville State, a place she compiled a record of 191-24 at over seven seasons as women’s basketball head coach.

“I was sick to my stomach about it. I just didn’t want to tell them. I thought I was going to break down in tears and not be able to get the words out,” Stephens said Thursday as a guest on CityNet Statewide Sportsline just three days after she was named head women’s basketball coach at Marshall. 

Stephens informed the Pioneers of her departure for Huntington just days after they wrapped up a 33-3 campaign, a season in which Glenville State won Mountain East Conference regular season and tournament championships and advanced to a national semifinal. That came despite the Pioneers having to replace more than 90 percent of their scoring production from a 35-1 team that won the National Championship the season before.

Yet when Stephens got the words out in front of her team, the response was one she wouldn’t have predicted.

“I think God was with me when I went in there and I broke the news to them. They cried. There was some tears, but it was the most remarkable thing,” Stephens recalled. “One of our best players, Breanna Campbell, looked around the room and said, ’What are you guys crying for? Where’s the champagne? Our coach made it.’ Everyone jumped up and gave me a hug. That’s when I started crying. 

“They should’ve walked out on me and they didn’t. They were genuinely happy for me and that says so much about them and who they are as people that they didn’t take it personally. That’s rare for young people to not just think about themselves. They’re great people.”

Stephens’ first week on the job at Marshall has been nothing short of a whirlwind. She was introduced Monday at the Cam Henderson Center and is now at the Final Four in Dallas. Stephens is working to assemble a staff around her in the near future.

“It’s been emotional. It’s been chaotic. It’s been exciting,” she said. “It’s felt normal. It’s felt right. It’s been about every emotion you could possibly put on there.”

Having experienced unprecedented success with the Pioneers at the Division II level, Stephens’ quest is to see if that can translate to the Division I level with the Herd.

Her Glenville teams were predicated on pressing, wholesale substitutions, playing uptempo and utilizing depth to wear out the opposition.

“I’m already planning on adjusting some. Do I want to play fast? Yes. Do I want to press? Yes. But you also have to take into account the players on your roster and what they can do,” Stephens said. “It’s whatever is going to be successful. Especially year one, you have to do that. 

“I am married to a specific style of play and basketball philosophy when it comes to winning the possession battle and playing fast, downhill and in open space. I do believe in that brand of basketball wholeheartedly.”

Whether or not Stephens can accomplish that at MU remains to be seen. Marshall has qualified for the NCAA Tournament only once, and that came 26 years ago. Previous head coach Tony Kemper left to assume the same position at Central Arkansas after finishing 79-90 and never winning more than 17 games in any of his six seasons. 

Still, Stephens, a Parkersburg native, sees no reason why the Herd can’t compete at the highest level in the Sun Belt Conference, which it won half of its 18 regular season games in during its inaugural season in the league.

“Marshall is doing phenomenal things. They’re making improvements to facilities and putting money in the right places and becoming very competitive in the Sun Belt,” Stephens said. “They are committed to winning and that’s important to me. The talent is there that you can be successful and continue to build there. It was kind of all the right things.”

There was another major advantage Marshall had in its pursuit of Stephens — geography. She played at Parkersburg South High School and won a state championship under her father, head coach Scott Stephens. He later went on to serve as an assistant on his daughter’s staff at Glenville before passing away from a severe brain tumor in 2020.

“My dad had a legacy in this state and it’s really important to me to maintain that,” Stephens said.” It’s something I take pride in and it’s something he and I worked toward together to be a basketball name in this state. It’s something I want to continue. I don’t want to go to a different state and maybe be a nobody.”

Of the many adjustments Stephens will face in her transition to Marshall is a major difference in recruiting, particularly as it pertains to the calendar.

“In Division 2, we do all of our recruiting right now. If we’re recruiting for next season, we’re doing it now,” Stephens said. “We’re doing It portal, JUCO and whoever is left out of high school. In Division 1, you do it years in advance, so that’ll be a learning curve for me. It’ll be nice not having to be stressed March until August trying to be track people down and get people to commit, but it will be a major adjustment for me personally.”

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CAMC, among other transplant centers are raising flags for organ donation awareness

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A flag is being raised at Charleston Area Medical Center to bring awareness to April’s National Donate Life Month.

It’s an annual campaign to not only spread awareness of organ donation, but encourage people to become an organ donor, honor the deceased and living donors, and to celebrate the many lives that have been saved through receiving an organ transplant.

CAMC, a registered organ transplant center, will be joining other hospitals across the state and raising flags for the cause. On Friday, representatives from the CAMC Kidney Transplant Center, CAMC Donor Advisory Group, and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) met in the rain to raise the Donate Life flag on the grounds outside the main hospital entrance.

West Virginia Community Outreach Coordinator with CORE, Cheryl King said only 36% of West Virginians are registered to be organ donors, while simultaneously, there are nearly 500 people in the state currently waiting to receive a transplant. King added that such a status needs to change.

“We need to get those numbers a little closer together so that we can have more people receiving the life-saving organs that they need,” said King.

King went on to say that there are many misconceptions behind what it takes to become an organ donor, as some people believe they might be too old to undergo the process, however, she said that is simply not the case. She recalled a man named Cecil Walker, who was 95-years-old when he gave his liver at CAMC to a woman who is now still alive because of it.

King said that all it takes is one organ donor to save several lives.   

“One person can save up to 8 people, because you have 8 organs that you can donate,” she said.

King encourages everyone to consider becoming a donor, adding that it’s not only organs that can be of use.

“Everyone should sign up to be an organ donor, because, it’s not just organs, it’s also tissue and corneas, as well,” said King.

The month of April was chosen for the nationwide campaign in 2003, this year making its 20th anniversary. The Donate Life flag will stay up until the end of the month. King hopes that it will bring much awareness to support the cause.

“Hopefully people are seeing all of the different ads and things we have going on, and when they see that at this hospital or other hospitals then they know that, ‘Oh yeah, that’s about organ donation and transplantation, and I could sign up to be an organ donor,” King said.

While CAMC hopes to bring the numbers of organ dominations up, King said they had received over 900 organ transplants in 2022 alone.

People can sign up to become a donor by filling out a brief registration form.

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Jose Perez will remain at WVU for 2023-2024 season

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As Bob Huggins and the WVU men’s basketball coaching staff craft their roster for the 2023-2024 season, a recent addition to the team will indeed make his debut next season. 6-foot-5 guard Jose Perez announced on Twitter Friday afternoon that he will play for the Mountaineers next winter.

Jose Perez looks on as WVU visits Kansas State.

Perez enrolled at WVU on November 17, 2022 with hopes to be cleared to play by the NCAA. After a lengthy appeals process, the NCAA denied Perez immediate eligibility but allowed him to play in the 2023-2024 season. Perez was able to practice with his WVU teammates during the spring semester.

Perez transferred from Manhattan following the removal of previous head coach Steve Masiello less than two weeks out from this year’s season opener.

Perez was the 2021-2022 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the year at Manhattan after he averaged 18.9 points, 4.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds last season.

A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Perez previously played his first two seasons at Gardner-Webb and then one at Marquette.

Fellow former Manhattan guard Omar Silverio announced his verbal commitment to play for the Mountaineers on March 2.

With Perez’s decision to remain in Morgantown, WVU has two scholarship openings remaining if all players with eligibility opt to return. Kedrian Johnson, Erik Stevenson and Emmitt Matthews Jr. exhausted their eligibility this season. Guards Jamel King and Josiah Davis have announced their plans to transfer from the program.

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Preparations underway in northern West Virginia for possible severe weather

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Weekend weather across northern West Virginia is expected to bring rain, high winds and possibly hail.

Hannah Catlett

Power crews are bracing for the possibility of an another high-wind event just days after restoring power from the last Saturday’s destructive storm.

First Energy spokesperson Hannah Catlett said their crews have just completed restoration efforts from the weather event from last weekend. She said they are confirming crew availability and preparing equipment and bucket trucks for a quick response if needed.

“A lot of our crews just got back in from restoring power that was taken out in last weekend’s storm,” Catlett said. “They worked hard to get that work done.”

First Energy’s in-house meteorologists have been tracking this weather event since the beginning of the week and are concerned about the amount of precipitation in the forecast prior to the arrival of forecast high winds.

“The ground is wet and saturated, so when these winds come, the ground is soft and the trees are more likely to fall over,” Catlett said. “That’s what’s on the minds of our crews.”

Catlett said customers should make sure their electronic devices are charged in order to quickly report outages. If powerlines are on the ground, Catlett reminds residents that all powerlines should be treated as if they are live.

If power is lost, never use a generator in or near your home due to the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Joe Lundberg

MetroNews AccuWeather Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said the rain moves in Friday with a break during the evening. The rain returns Saturday morning, and temperatures could rise to the 70-degree mark before another cold front pushes into the area Saturday afternoon.

“There could be a squall line that comes through,” Lundberg said. “So with that, there could be some brief downpours, a possibility of hail, and certainly the strong winds we’ve been advertising.”

Lundberg said those wind gusts could reach 60 mph with sustained gusts of 25 to 30 mph.

The cold front takes over Saturday afternoon and rain exits in the evening to make way for a sunny Sunday with a forecast high temperature of 52, Lundberg said.

“It’s going to mean an abrupt drop in temperatures from the 60s and 70s right down to the 50s and maybe the 40s by sunset.”

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Georgia man found guilty of I-81 Berkeley County murder

MARTINSBURG, W. Va. — A Georgia man has been found guilty in the 2021 death of a man on I-81 near Falling Waters.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Catie Wilkes Delligatti says Harold Dexter Rue, 67, of Snellville, Georgia, was found guilty Wednesday of First-Degree Murder and Use of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony after a two-day trial. A day later, Rue was sentenced to life in prison without mercy.

The Dec. 7, 2021 shooting claimed the life of Reynaldo Gonzalez Mediavilla.

During the sentencing phase, prosecutors detailed that Rue was previously convicted in California of Second-Degree Murder, sentenced to prison and released, subsequently convicted of kidnapping and robbery, and later released again. Rue was reportedly also the primary suspect in an armed robbery that occurred in Chesterfield, Virginia, on Dec. 5, 2021.

Prosecutors “urged the jury to consider Rue’s violent criminal history, the callousness of the murder of Mr. Mediavilla and the lasting impact his death will have on his family, as well as the jury’s opportunity to ensure that Rue never has the opportunity to hurt anyone else.”

“After a short deliberation, the jury returned a verdict recommending that Rue be sentenced to life without mercy, meaning that Rue will never be eligible for parole. Prior to the commencement of trial, Rue also pleaded guilty to one count of the felony offense of Prohibited Person in Possession of a Firearm.”

Sentencing is set for June 5.

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Overlooked out of high school, Tyson Bagent now center of attention as NFL Draft nears

(This is the second part of a two-part story). Check out the first report from Tyson Bagent’s Shepherd University Pro Day workout here.

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — A common refrain from under-recruited high school student-athletes is that they are being “slept on” by college programs. It may be an overused expression but it certainly applies in the case of Martinsburg High School graduate Tyson Bagent. He led the Bulldogs to state titles in 2016 and 2017.

Mar 4, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Shepherd quarterback Tyson Bagent (QB01) participates in the 40-yard dash at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports).

With minimal interest from programs like West Virginia and Maryland under previous coaching staffs, Bagent opted to play at Division II Shepherd. 53 games and 171 touchdowns later, Bagent is on the doorstep of a spot in the NFL.

“I just knew that my path was going to be a little different,” Bagent said. “I wasn’t necessarily a roadblock, it was just a different pathway, so to speak. That’s kind of how I viewed it. I don’t really have any chip on my shoulder. I don’t understand why they didn’t recruit me. But that’s not for me to understand. I am just trying to put my best foot forward.”

Tyson’s younger brother Ezra served as his snapper for Pro Day drills on Tuesday and Ezra is set to join the Rams this fall. Both quarterbacks grew up in the highly-successful Martinsburg program.

“There were a lot of similarities offensively and in the weight room aspect. I feel like the amount I cared about football in general I think kind of propelled me to be ready for the next level here at Shepherd.”

In his junior season of 2021, Bagent passed for an even 5,000 yards with 53 touchdown passes. He was named the Division II National Player of the Year and at that moment, he sensed dreams of a career in professional football could soon be realized.

“It was a little bit more realistic maybe after I won the Harlon Hill [Award]. Anytime before that, people say a lot of crazy stuff. But being able to win that award against people that are also pursuing this dream made me feel good. It gave me a lot of confidence that I needed and it kind of got my name out there.”

It is difficult to project where Bagent may slot in as a potential draft pick. But gaining invitations to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine with a heavily-attended Pro Day are all indications that interest from teams is strong.

The three-day NFL Draft is set for the final weekend in April. Bagent is planning a relaxed weekend as he waits to find out where his NFL future will take him.

“Laid back and low-key. I will celebrate after. That’s a little bit of a ‘hot take’ having a celebration during because then you might be there twiddling your thumbs and everybody is wondering.”

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