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Guard members begin training for jail help Monday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the second time since 2018, the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation is calling on the West Virginia National Guard to help it give a break to some overworked correctional officers.

Gov. Jim Justice signed an executive order Thursday calling on the Guard to help during the next year.

Jeff Sandy

State Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy said the DCR needed similar help four years ago.

“Bless the governor for doing this, that’s what the National Guard will be doing for us, giving these people some time to take off work,” Sandy said during a Friday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Sandy said it’s not uncommon for some correctional officers to work in excess of 60 hours a week.

State Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Bill Crane said the Guard proudly supports other state agencies in time of need.

“Our personnel have accomplished this mission in the past with success and we have a great group of volunteers who are ready to step up and alleviate the staffing shortages for our state’s correctional officers,” Crane said in a Friday news release. “The most important thing we can do is ensure that there are appropriate levels of safety and security in facilities across the state to help ensure our citizens and the men and women of corrections are safe.”

There are currently 1,006 worker vacancies across the entire DCR with the most in the correctional officer entry level position.

“That’s 277 (vacancies),” Sandy said.

State Adjutant General Bill Crane

A lot of those are in Eastern Panhandle facilities where the vacancy rate tops 60%.

Sandy said anywhere from 80 to 125 members of the Guard could help fill shifts. He said the Guard helped for about 6 months in 2018.

Guard members volunteering for the duty will begin training in Charleston on Monday. They’ll report to facilities throughout the state on Aug. 22. The service will be considered State Active Duty status.

The work of the Guard will be in a support role. Members will not have direct contact with inmates. They’ll perform duties having to do with “administrative functions, control center management, camera operations or other duties that are not in direct contact with inmates.”

There were 109 service members who helped in the state’s jails and prisons in 2018.

Sandy said they’ll continue to work to fill the many vacancies. He said Corrections had its vacancies down to 500 in January 2020 following three years of raises supported by Gov. Justice but then COVID hit and that changed everything when it comes to recruiting and retaining workers.

“It’s competition with everyone now in our world,” Sandy said.

Entry level correctional officers are paid $33,000 annually.

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Five hurt and one arrested in accident on Mason County fairground

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Five people are recovering after they were struck by a vehicle Friday evening near the Mason County fairgrounds.

According to Mason County Sheriff Corey Miller, The incident happened around 6 p.m. Friday on the Fair Ground Road just a few hundred feed from the fair entrance.

Deputies arrested an adult male at the scene, but the nature of the charges against him were not revealed.

Four of the victims were transported to nearby Pleasant Valley Hospital for their injuries. A fifth victim, a teenager, was flown to Cabell-Huntington Hospital by HealthNet.

Sheriff Miller said a criminal investigation is underway into the incident which also resulted in several parked cars being damaged.

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Young group of Yellow Jackets stepping in at Moorefield

MOOREFIELD, W.Va. — In their fourth season under head coach Matt Altobello, Moorefield qualified for the playoffs for the third time with a 7-3 record last fall. Their only loss to a Class A team came in the playoff opener at Wheeling Central Catholic.

“They did a great job. They set a goal to win and that was the only goal that they set,” Altobello said. “They just wanted to win. They did a good job at it. We had a couple of games there that were tight and close. One really got away from us. And then we played a really good Wheeling Central team in the playoffs. That’s tough. Those guys did a good job of having resiliency and showing some perseverance throughout the season.”

A large senior class has left the program and the Yellow Jackets will field a much younger group this fall. Moorefield lost their starting quarterback, top two rushers and their leading receiver. Altobello says several underclassmen are eager to earn starting spots.

“We need a lot of reps. We are going to be awfully young. I think I counted up the other day 22 sophomores on the roster and 3 seniors.

“They all want to compete. They all want to play. They all want to be in the weight room lifting and they all want to do the right things. That’s the good thing about it, they have been in the program now for a year or a year and a half from eighth grade on lifting with us.”

Two of the top returners are junior linebackers Alex Miller and Adam Landes. The duo combined for 79 tackles and 6 takeaways in 2021.

“They are doing a good job of stepping up and being leaders. Those guys are going to be inside linebackers. One of going to be a fullback/tailback. We look forward to great things out of them this season.”

While many position groups were hit hard by graduation, the offensive and defensive lines lost several multi-year starters.

“When you lose a Malachi Hinger, a Zaden Stonestreet, a Matthew Delawder, those guys had been staples on the line for a long time. It is hard to replace them. But those young guys are going to step in and I think we are going to be five out of our six including the tight end, are sophomores. But it is okay. As hard as they work, they are going to be just fine.”

Despite fielding a young team, Altobello is keeping expectations high against a challenging schedule.

“If we change expectations then they are going to fall short and it will be on us as coaches and as a program. We are going to keep expectations high and they are going to work to hold up to them.”

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Suspect in Charleston murder in custody
Kerry Wiley

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Police say a man wanted for a Friday evening murder in the city is now in custody.

Police arrested Kerry Wiley, 64, of Belle around midnight Friday in the Charleston city limits. He was being sought for the murder of Ty Hall, 55, of Charleston earlier in the evening.

Police say Wiley had come to Hall’s home in Kanawha City Friday evening about 7:30 p.m. to confront him about an employment dispute. Hall had fired Wiley from a construction job earlier in the day.

According to police the confrontation escalated in Hall’s garage and Wiley pulled a pistol and shot Hall in the head. He died instantly and Wiley fled.

Wiley is lodged in the South Central Regional Jail charged with first degree murder.

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Delaware company acquiring South Charleston-based Clearon

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Delaware-based chemical company announced Friday its plans to acquire Clearon Corp. and its South Charleston plant.

Solenis wants to finalize its acquisition before the end of the year. The companies will continue to act independently from the other until the transaction is complete.

Clearon produces trichlor and dichlor at its South Charleston site. Solenis officials said the acquisition allows the company to enter the residential and commercial markets of pool water and spa treatments.

“Clearon is an important accelerator in our strategic growth road map and will be a step change in our ability to delight customers and consumers,” said Robert Baird, Solenis’ president of pool solution. “We’re excited to add Clearon’s impressive portfolio of consumer solutions and remain vigilant in our quest to build the world’s leading company in pool and water care solutions.”

The companies did not disclose financial terms related to the agreement.

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US House passes Inflation Reduction Act; West Virginia’s delegates oppose package

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s U.S. House of Representatives members joined their Republican colleagues in opposing a domestic policy package as the chamber passed the measure.

The House approved the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday in a 220-207 party-line vote; the chamber returned to Washington, D.C. during its district work period to consider the proposal. Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., voted in person, while Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., designated Mooney the authority to cast her vote under the House’s proxy voting guidelines. Around 38% of House members submitted letters about remote voting before the Friday afternoon action.

President Joe Biden announced Friday evening that he will sign the legislation next week.

“Today, the American people won. Special interests lost,” Biden tweeted.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes provisions granting Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug costs, limiting out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries to $2,000 annually, and setting the price of insulin to $35 for Medicare patients. The plan also extends subsidies for Affordable Care Act health insurance plans for three years. Around 23,000 West Virginians would see premiums increase if the bill does not take effect.

The measure would additionally dedicate funding for consumer energy rebates, investments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and clean energy technology. Energy manufacturers would be eligible for tax credits for utilizing sites in communities impacted by coal’s decline, and there would be a tax credit for creating a hydrogen energy hub.

Language in the bill also permanently extends the black lung disability trust fund. Around $300 billion would go toward deficit reduction. Revenue would be generated through a 15% corporate minimum tax, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and the IRS enforcing existing tax law.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (File)

The legislative package was the byproduct of discussions between Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Democrats struggled to get Manchin’s support for a sweeping package until late last month when the West Virginia moderate announced the deal with Schumer. The Inflation Reduction Act leaves out multiple items from last year’s Build Back Better framework, including universal preschool and the child tax credit.

The 50-50 Senate passed the measure on Sunday, in which Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the tie-breaking vote. Manchin and Democrats approved the measure, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito joined Republicans in voting against passage.

Republicans have criticized the legislation, citing the nation’s inflation rate and doubts about the bill’s effectiveness in addressing the matter in their arguments. The Penn Wharton Business Model stated Friday the bill would reduce deficits by $264 billion over 10 years, but it would not have “any measurable impact on inflation.”

“The so-called ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ is merely their reckless ‘Build Back Better’ plan in sheep’s clothing,” McKinley stated.

Miller said the bill’s provisions were “a laundry list of tax hikes and spending increases” that will hurt households struggling amid current financial conditions.

“As families grapple with record high gas prices and costs of living, the Schumer-Manchin tax increase and spending package will kick them when they’re down,” she said.

Democrats contend the legislation will not result in higher taxes for Americans making less than $400,000 a year.

Additional Republican concerns come from the inclusion of tax enforcement; lawmakers — including McKinley and Mooney — have shared claims the IRS will hire 87,000 additional agents to conduct audits.

“Rather than hiring more border patrol agents to stop the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants over the border, they want to hire more IRS agents,” McKinley stated Friday.

Following the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate — in which agents recovered sensitive recordsMooney said Monday such action was “exactly why the IRS shouldn’t get an army of 87,000 more agents.”

The Treasury Department issued a report in May 2021 noting that increased funding for the IRS would allow the agency to hire 87,000 employees by 2031. According to TIME, the hires would involve various fields and workers replacing employees who depart from the agency.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told senators in an Aug. 3 letter the agency has fewer employees than “any time since the 1970s.”

“For too long, the agency has not had the resources that it needs to ensure the tax laws are enforced fairly and that Americans receive the level and quality of service they deserve,” Retting said. “We are the greatest country in the world, yet the agency that touches more Americans than any other continually struggles to receive sufficient resources to fulfill its important mission.”

Rettig also noted the IRS would utilize the allocation for improving technology and services.

“Enhanced IT systems and taxpayer service will actually mean that honest taxpayers will be better able to comply with the tax laws, resulting in a lower likelihood of being audited and a reduced burden on them,” he added.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has instructed Rettig to not use funds for auditing households and small businesses making below $400,000 annually.

“Instead, enforcement resources will focus on high-end noncompliance,” Yellen stated Aug. 10 in a letter. “There, sustained, multi-year funding is so critical to the agency’s ability to make the investments needed to pursue a robust attack on the tax gap by targeting crucial challenges, like large corporations, high-net-worth individuals and complex pass-throughs, where today the IRS has resources to initiate just 7,500 audits annually out of more than 4 million returns received.”

Mooney, who defeated McKinley in May’s primary for the new 2nd Congressional District, has denounced Manchin for the bill. The Mooney campaign released an advertisement claiming the Inflation Reduction Act would “devastate West Virginia communities.”

“Joe Manchin stands with Joe Biden, not with West Virginia,” the advertisement’s announcer states.

Manchin is not up for re-election until 2024 when Mooney could challenge him for the seat. The senator did not address the congressman’s argument during Thursday’s “MetroNews Talkline.”

“I’ve always said, ‘If I can’t come home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’ I can explain every part of this bill here,” he said.

His office pointed to the senator’s appearance when MetroNews asked about Mooney ahead of the House vote.

“This bill is the result of months of negotiations, and I’m proud of our work to get it across the finish line,” the senator said Friday in a press release.

The Inflation Reduction Act is tied to Congress’ planned consideration of permitting changes once legislators return to Capitol Hill in September. The proposal includes language speeding up projects and the completion of the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, a system capable of transporting natural gas from West Virginia to southern Virginia.

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3 Fayette County adults going to prison for roles in little girl’s death

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — A Fayette County father and two women are going to prison for 3 to 15 years for mistreating the man’s young daughter and then ignoring her when she got sick before she died.

Eight-year-old Raylee Browning’s father, his girlfriend at the time and her sister were sentenced Friday in Fayette County Circuit Court after previous convictions on charges of child neglect causing death.

Marty Browning (WVRJA)

Fayette County Circuit Judge Paul Blake, who sentenced all three defendants separately Friday, told Raylee’s father Marty Browning “any decent father would have scooped her up and took her to get help.”

Raylee Browning was underweight when she died the day after Christmas in 2018. The cause of death was sepsis caused by a bacterial pneumonia infection.

Blake chided Marty Browning for going to sleep on Christmas night while his little girl was dying.

“You went to sleep that night while your child was dying and you didn’t care enough to do anything,” Blake said.

Julie Browning during Friday’s sentencing. (Photo courtesy Rick Barbero/Register-Herald)

The jury hearing the June trial agreed with the prosecution that the defendants should have sought medical care for Raylee when she became ill. The defense argued their clients had to make a quick decision and made the wrong decision but it wasn’t criminal. Prosecutors said the three didn’t want to take Raylee for treatment because they knew there would be more questions.

The week-long trial included testimony about CPS referrals that did not result in action. Defense attorneys said it was proof there was no abuse in the home. The jury found the defendants not guilty on the more serious felony charge of child abuse resulting in death.

Earlier Friday, Blake sentenced Julie Titchenell Browning, who Marty Browning was dating at the time of Raylee’s death.

“Where is your decency? You stood by and watched this child die,” Blake said.

Sherie Titchenell Photo/WVRJA

Browning told Blake she wished she would have done more to help Raylee.

Sherie Titchenell, Julie Browning’s sister, told Blake during her sentencing that she loved Raylee.

“I wish I would have seen more signs and symptoms,” she said.

Blake said told Titchenell, “I don’t think you cared what happened to her. The person who showed the most emotion was the EMS person you handed Raylee’s body to. If you had taken the steps of any caring, humane individual she would be alive today.”

There was other emotional testimony during the sentencing hearing.

Raylee’s biological mother, Janice Wriston, told Marty Browning he can’t ignore their daughter is dead.

“You failed her horribly. You had to notice her losing weight,” Wriston said. “You can’t pretend that our daughter isn’t gone and I blame you.”

Brian Parsons

Special Prosecutor Brian Parsons said justice was served even though it may not feel like it.

“This is what justice looks like at the end of a case like this,” Parsons said. “It doesn’t feel that way because it’s hard to imagine the loss of an 8-year-old child.”

Parsons predicted the three defendants would spend more than 3 years behind bars.

“My thought is they will serve more than three years. The parole board will look at both their conduct that led them to be in prison and their conduct while they are in prison,” Parsons said.

Judge Blake denied a number of defense motions and place all three defendants in the custody of the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

WJLS reporter Keith Thompson contributed to this story. 

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K-9 officer retires, 2 recruits added in Monongalia County

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department K-9 officer Azim has retired from duty.

Since 2014, Azim has patrolled the county with his handler Sgt. Tim Hunn. In recognition of his service, county commissioners voted to allow Azim to retire into the care of Hunn.

“A lot of laying on the couch, which he does anyway, but he’ll do a lot more of it,” Hunn said. “He’ll run around with my kid- that’s about it.”

While on duty, Sheriff Perry Palmer said K-9 officers live with the family of the handler. So in retirement the routine will change for Azim, but he’ll still have familiar faces and surroundings.

“The rest of his life will be with the people he grew up with, Tim’s family,” Palmer said. “So, it’s a win, win for everybody.”

Another K-9 officer, retired last November, so the department has welcomed two new K-9 officers to the force.

One is a German Shepard named Rocky paired with Deputy Carnell King. Rocky specializes in drug detection, subject or article search and apprehension. Deputy Tim Hall is now paired with Jagger, a Belgian Malinois with similar training.

“We can do article searches for narcotics, weapons or anything that could lead us to solving a crime or pinpointing a suspect,” Hall said.

The dogs are purchased and trained with proceeds from forfeitures in drug cases. The dogs are trained for specific disciplines like explosive or drug detection, tracking or apprehension at Shallow Creek Kennels.

“He’s trained the odor of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine,” Hall said about Jagger. “He also does tracking for missing persona or wanted suspects.”

Palmer said K-9 officers contribute to day-to-day operations, but also participate in special enforcement activities. Palmer said the K-9 also give the deputy handler a partner that most deputies don’t have.

“Interdiction on the interstates and major roadways,” Palmer said. “They’ll work overtime to try to slow down the drug trade.”

Both, Hall and King are grateful for the opportunity and look forward to serving the citizens of Monongalia County.

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Lee hopes to see South Charleston show growth in first season as head coach

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As Carl Lee prepares for his first season as head coach of South Charleston’s football program, he does so with a reshaped roster that will be forced to navigate one of the state’s more challenging schedules.

Yet Lee, a Marshall Hall of Famer who went on to play a decade-plus in the National Football League, says wins and losses aren’t necessarily the top priority in his initial season guiding his alma mater.

“Anybody can look at our schedule and know it’s tough. It doesn’t matter to me,” Lee said. “We’ll play you as hard as we can. We will shake your hand at the end of the game and wish you luck afterwards, because we’re happy to compete and we will give you everything we have. However the score ends up, that’ll be South Charleston. I’ll be responsible and take credit and blame.”

The Black Eagles list only six seniors to go with 11 juniors on what’ll be a new-look team.

In addition to former head coach Donnie Mays moving on to Hurricane after a nine-year tenure that included one state championship and runner-up finish at SCHS, the Black Eagles lost several all-state caliber players in experienced quarterback Trey Dunn, who moved to Myrtle Beach, wide receiver/defensive back Wayne Harris and linebacker/running back Mondrell Dean. The latter two are now at Huntington and Hurricane, respectively — a pair of six Class AAA playoff teams from 2021 on South Charleston’s schedule, which includs five straight to start the season.

“Everybody’s role is different,” Lee said. “We have to find a way to take everybody’s goals and best and bring it together for every game. Then everybody’s success will be found after that. I buy into that. I don’t know anything else.”

The first test for Lee and company comes Thursday, August 25 against Morgantown when high school football season starts with the Kickoff Classic presented by The Health Plan. The matchup will start at 7 p.m., and be carried live by the MetroNews channel at and AT&T SportsNet.

Lee will have a much better idea of where his team stands after the contest against the Mohigans, one of five teams the Black Eagles beat last season during a 5-1 start, before dropping each of their final five contests.

Yet that team will hardly look like this one, taking on a new identity with Lee and featuring a different cast of characters largely looking to make a name for themselves. Lee hopes the team prides itself on its work ethic.

“In most cases, we don’t know how hard we can work until we find a reason to push ourselves or to allow somebody to push you that far,” Lee said. “I had a 17-week workout program for four weeks of camp in the pros and 16 weeks of a season. I spent more time working out than I did playing the game. These kids have to understand success is found in that ratio. If you want to win a championship or be a doctor, take the love of both of those and put them in trying to be the best that you can be.”

Outside of defensive lineman Mari Lawton and two-way lineman Jayden Barnett, the Black Eagles are largely inexperienced and out to prove they belong.

Lawton, the younger brother of former SC standout and current West Virginia defensive lineman Zeiqui Lawton, wreaks havoc defensively and will certainly be a focal point of the opposition’s offensive game plan. He has several Division I offers, including one from Cincinnati, where his older brother redshirted in 2021 before transferring. He also holds a Coastal Carolina offer.

“As I walked in, we had players walking out. Trying to figure out who would actually be there August 1st was a challenge,” Lee said. “When I went to look for a staff, I wanted coaches that had played the game, coaches who had potentially played college ball, because the ultimate goal for most high school players is to play in college. So I wanted them to hear from coaches who had coached in college or played in college.

“We have a host of young players, and that’s not saying freshmen — it’s just young players that have not played. What I have found in those young players is the excitement that most of us who have played or coached football find in ourselves.”

Lee himself has a wealth of coaching experience, including a decade-long stint as the head coach at West Virginia State two years after his playing career ended.

A 1979 graduate of South Charleston who garnered three Pro Bowl selections as defensive back on the the Minnesota Vikings, Lee says he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lead the Black Eagles.

“Taking the South Charleston job was nowhere on my radar. When coach Mays decided to leave, I started getting calls about coming,” Lee recalled. “I got a few calls that made me think, ‘Well OK, I owe the city of South Charleston, because it’s been good to me.’ There were enough people in the city who wanted me there and people who matter that wanted me there. I could not pass that up.”

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New information released in connection with deadly plane crash in Marion County

METZ, W.Va. — An investigative team with the National Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to arrive in Marion County Friday afternoon to begin an investigation into what caused a single-engine plane to crash claiming three lives.

The crash occurred near Metz.

New information released by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department late Friday morning said that at around 7 p.m. Thursday the Mannington Volunteer Fire Department and several units received a report of an aircraft down and began searching the area.

At 7:50 p.m., first responders located a wing in the Campbells Run area. At 8:20 p.m. the other wing and fuselage were found on a steep, heavily wooded embankment.

First responders confirmed the pilot and two passengers died in the crash. No names have been released.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department secured the scene awaiting federal investigators.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane that crashed was a single-engine Piper PA-32 aircraft owned by Skyhawk Associates of Myerstown, Pennsylvania.

The plane was flying from Shawnee Field Airport in Bloomfield, Indiana to Deck Airport in Myerstown.

Registration information from the FAA said the plane was manufactured in 1980. It had a valid certificate set to expire on July 31, 2023.

The crash marks the second fatal aviation crash in West Virginia in less than two months.

A Huey helicopter crashed in Logan County on June 22 claiming six lives. The cause of that crash is also under investigation by the NTSB.

Reporter Mike Nolting of WAJR News also contributed to this story.

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