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WVU places four on All-Big 12 preseason team

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Four Mountaineers and three West Virginia natives are featured on the All-Big 12 Preseason team, which was released Wednesday afternoon. The team was chosen by media representatives who cover the league. The media preseason poll will be released on Thursday.

WVU C Zach Frazier shakes hands with strength & conditioning coach Mike Joseph at the Gold-Blue Game (Photo by Ben Queen/www.BenQueenPhotography.com)

Fairmont Senior’s Dante Stills and Zach Frazier and Cross Lanes Christian’s Casey Legg are in-state Mountaineers to make the list. Stills is back for his fifth season with the Mountaineers. He earned All-Big 12 First Team recognition last fall. Stills has played in 47 games and is the team leader in career sacks (19) and tackles for loss (43.5). He stands third in program history in TFLs.

Frazier was listed on the All-Big 12 Second Team in 2021. The former Polar Bear started all thirteen games at center last fall and he earned All-America Second Team honors from the AFCA and the Walter Camp Foundation.

Legg was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention pick last season. The Charleston native was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. He connected on 19-of-23 field goals in 2021.

Defensive back Charles Woods rounds out West Virginia’s contingent on the roster. The Dallas native played in eleven games last season in his first year with the Mountaineers. Woods made 31 stops and intercepted a pair of passes.

Texas running back Bijan Robinson is the Offensive Player of the Year. Kansas State defensive lineman Felix Anudike-Uzomah is the Defensive Player of the Year. New Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel is the Newcomer of the Year.

The entire All-Big 12 Preseason team can be viewed at the link below:

2022_Big_12_Preseason_Team

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Multiple institutions investigate bomb threats

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Several bomb threat investigations are ongoing on at least four college campuses in the area.

On WAJR’s “Talk of the Town Wednesday, WVU Police Chief Sherry St. Clair said her officers were in active shooter training when the threat was phoned in. She said the threat referenced the Eberly College of Arts and Science and police immediately reacted.

Sherry St. Clair (West Virginia University)

“At the same time we were able to get a hold of the Harrison County bomb dog and Homeland Security’s bomb dog out of Marion County and they were able to come up and help us,” St. Clair said.

Police combed the area and communicated the threat via the campus emergency notification system.

“We walked through the buildings looking for anything suspicious or out of place- anything along those lines,” St. Clair said. “It took us a couple hours to get through that and then we were able to open then buildings back up.”

St. Clair said multiple agencies, including the FBI are investigating the incident and the person responsible will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. .

“Pierpont out of Marion County got it, there was Shenandoah University out of Virginia, BridgeValley, New River,” St. Clair said. “There were several other little schools that were getting the same calls.”

St. Clair said they are comparing and analyzing evidence from other calls in hopes of developing a suspect.

“I think it was one person. We have listened to the Marion County one and it sounds exactly like the one we have- the phrasing and wording,” St. Clair said. “I think it was someone just trying to cause havoc.”

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WVRC Media production of PONY League World Series championship nominated for regional Emmy Award

The WVRC Media production of the 2021 Dick’s Sporting Goods PONY League World Series championship broadcast is up for nomination for an Ohio Valley Regional Emmy Award.

In competing for the award, the World Series broadcast will be up against productions of professional sports organizations such as the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, Columbus Blue Jackets and Columbus Crew.

The championship contest featured Brownsville, Texas topping Youngstown, Ohio, 11-10 in an eight-inning affair that aired on AT&T SportsNet’s regional stations across the United States. It was also livestreamed on MLB.com for an international audience.

“It’s a tremendous honor for the PONY World Series broadcast to be nominated along with such highly-regarded professional sports franchises,” said Dan Lohmann, executive producer of WVRC Media. “Every person on the broadcast takes great pride in being part of this event, and the credit for this nomination goes to all of our team members who are as talented as anyone in the sports broadcasting business. We’re also thrilled that this event in general is being recognized on such a large scale, as there are countless volunteers of all ages surrounding this event who make this tournament what it is.”

In 2019, WVRC Media, formerly known as Pikewood Sports, won a Mid-Atlantic Regional Emmy for excellence in television and emerging media production for its broadcast of the 2018 World Series championship.

“WVRC Media has been not only an amazing partner, but they have also been instrumental in bringing the World Series to a global audience due to their excellence in television production and streaming,” said Nathan Voytek, president of Tournaments, Inc. “Our continued growth in the event’s television exposure has helped us reach new local, regional, and global audiences.”

WVRC Media has been involved in the development and production of media/marketing rights for the PONY League World Series, Mountain East Conference, NCAA Division II Football Championships, West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (high school sports), Cancer Research Classic and other national and regional events.

The 2022 Dick’s Sporting Goods PONY League World Series runs from August 12-17 at Lew Hays PONY Field in Washington, PA. WVRC Media’s production will be available on MLB.com and AT&T SportsNet. For more information, visit plws.org.

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West Virginia National Guard member pleads guilty to Jan. 6 misdemeanor

A West Virginia National Guard member accused of surging into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor federal charge today.

Jamie Ferguson

Jamie Lynn Ferguson acknowledged guilt in a count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, a common charge for defendants in Jan.. 6 cases. As part of the deal, three other misdemeanors were dropped.

Ferguson answered a series of questions today before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta of the District of Columbia.

“On Jan. 6, 2021, did you enter the Capitol building around 2:42 p.m. and remain in the Capitol building until 3:33 p.m., ma’am,” the judge asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Ferguson replied.

The judge set a sentencing hearing for 3 p.m. Nov. 18.

Ferguson came under scrutiny by Jan. 14, 2021, when the Department of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations provided an investigative analysis report to the FBI indicating that Ferguson was suspected of unlawfully entering the U.S. Capitol with hundreds of others while members of Congress fulfilled their constitutional duty of certifying the presidential election.

A review of Ferguson’s leave requests confirmed that she was on leave from Jan. 5 to 7 that year, listing her destination as Washington, D.C. Agents reviewed her social media posts leading up to Jan. 6 and took note of an image of a crowd in front of the Capitol with a storm cloud above. She captioned the post, “I pray this is exactly what D.C. will look like on Jan. 6th. #HoldTheLine.”

Video footage showed a woman matching Ferguson’s description entering the east front Rotunda doors of the U.S. Capitol at 2:42 p.m. while wearing a dark blue hooded sweatshirt with the phrase “Yes, I’m a Trump Girl” in white block lettering and carrying an olive green backpack.

Footage shows her remaining in the Rotunda and its adjacent entryway until exiting at 3:33 p.m.

Hundreds of people face charges from the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

A mob storming the U.S. Capitol that day disrupted the constitutional duty of counting Electoral College votes and prompted the evacuations of representatives, senators and Vice President Mike Pence. One woman was fatally shot while trying to climb into the chambers, three others died from “medical emergencies” and more than 100 police officers were injured.

Of the thousands of protesters in Washington, D.C., that day, about 800 went into the Capitol, police have said.

Several more West Virginians were charged in that day’s events.

They include George Tanios, a Morgantown sandwich shop operator accused in the assault of three Capitol police officers with pepperspray; former state Delegate Derrick Evans of Wayne County, who resigned after being charged; former Parkersburg councilman Eric Barber; Jeffery Finley of Martinsburg, the leader of West Virginia’s chapter of the Proud Boy right-wing militant group, and college senior Gracyn Courtright of Hurricane.

Evans, Barber, Finley and Courtright all pleaded guilty. Tanios has a trial set for October, although lawyers in the case have acknowledged ongoing plea discussions.

Ferguson has been released on personal recognizance with a few restrictions. Ferguson, who has been living in Collinsville, Va., earlier received permission to travel for her work to North Carolina and West Virginia.

Ferguson’s LinkedIn social media profile identifies her as an aerospace medical technician for the West Virginia National Guard.

The West Virginia National Guard, in a statement, confirmed that “Technical Sgt. Jamie L. Ferguson is a part time, drill status guardsman assigned to the West Virginia Air National Guard.  As a matter of policy, the 130th Airlift Wing and the West Virginia National Guard do not comment on pending criminal charges.”

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State police say now former trooper was DUI while on duty

ELKINS, W.Va. — A now former state police trooper is charged with aggravated DUI after an on-duty crash last Friday in Randolph County.

A news release from state police Wednesday said Kaja Tenney, 26, was driving drunk while on duty. She was charged Saturday and also separated from employment on Saturday.

According to a criminal complaint, Tenney registered .377 on a breathalyzer test.

Drunk driving in West Virginia is .08 with aggravated DUI at anything above .15 blood alcohol content.

The criminal complaint said damage to Tenney’s vehicle matched the description of damage from a wreck on U.S. Route 219. Tenney was found in the Ford Explorer on South Kerns Ave.

Tenney later posted $5,000 bond and was released.

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Man shot by police on Robert C. Byrd Drive in Beckley as motorists record on cellphones

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Police shot and killed an armed man near U.S. Route 19 near the Crossroads Mall in Beckley Wednesday morning. The shooting was caught on video by stopped motorists.

The shooting came at the end of a pursuit that began in the 10 o’clock hour, The details on what started the pursuit have not yet been released.

The video shows the man running through the grass near the northbound entrance ramp not far from the Sheetz convenience store. He was holding a gun. The video shows him pointing the gun at his head several times as armed police officers pursued on foot. When the man reached Robert C. Byrd Drive near the Route 19 overpass he turned toward motorists and appeared to wave goodbye. He then turned toward police which was followed by multiple shots from police. The man died in the highway.

The man was white with long hair and a beard. He was wearing a hooded pullover.

Authorities said Route 19 north in that area will likely be closed for several hours. There is one southbound lane open.

There were many stopped motorists in the area when the shooting occurred with some using their cell phones to record what happened.

This story will be updated. 

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Jefferson’s John Lowery elected to ABCA Hall of Fame

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Veteran Jefferson head baseball coach John Lowery is one of six inductees in this year’s class for the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Lowery will be enshrined at a ceremony in Nashville, Tenn. on January 6, 2023 as part of the ABCA National Convention.

Lowery has led the Cougars to 45 consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories. He has amassed a record of 1392-361-2 in 52 years as a head coach, the last 50 seasons have come at Jefferson. Lowery is the state’s winningest all-time head coach and he has led the Cougars to a dozen state championships and four runner-up finishes. The Cougars have made 26 state tournament appearances, winning 33 sectional and 26 regional titles along the way.

Lowery is a past President of the West Virginia Baseball Coaches Association (WVBCA) and is a member of the WVBCA and National High School Baseball Coaches Association Halls of Fame.

Remaining inductees in the ABCA Hall of Fame class are:

Jerry Dawson, Chaparral (Ariz.) High School
Dave Demarest, La Quinta (Calif.) High School
Eric Kibler, Horizon (Ariz.) High School
Jeff Messer, Slippery Rock University (Pa.)
Tim Saunders, Dublin Coffman (Ohio) High School

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Speaker says abortion policy will be deliberative, questions steps taken by AG

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, in an email to members of the Republican caucus, described a careful legislative approach to revising West Virginia’s abortion policies while also questioning how the state’s Attorney General handled a legal review of the state’s abortion laws.

Hanshaw sent the message on Friday, a week after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling sent abortion policy to the states, after a suit was filed to challenge a revived state law making abortion a felony, after the state Attorney General’s review advised a comprehensive legislative revision of abortion laws and after the governor described a special session “very, very soon.”

Hanshaw’s remarks came in an email titled, “Clarification on Special Session Issue Raised by the Governor.”

“This is a pro-life House. That position transcends whatever partisan divisions we have. Declaring the public policy of the State of West Virginia and making law is our job, not the job of others,” Hanshaw, R-Clay, told colleagues in the email obtained by MetroNews.

“We will put in the time and the work we need to do to make sure we arrive at the proper place. We must have a legally-sound, fully-defensible law. We are already working to craft legislation that reflects the pro-life position of this House and is consistent with the Dobbs opinion. If action on our part is required, we will take it, and we will take it in the time and manner of our choosing, not of others.”

Attention has been focused on West Virginia’s Legislature since a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices overturned the Roe vs. Wade conclusions that established a federally-guaranteed right to abortion for the past 50 years.

That decision did not outlaw abortion across the country but instead left the matter to states. West Virginia’s criminal abortion law dating back to the 1800s was inactive during the years Roe was in effect, but was not repealed. The West Virginia law makes performing an abortion a felony punishable by three to 10 years imprisonment.

Besides that, West Virginia legislators have passed a range of laws in the years since Roe to regulate and restrict abortion.

Gov. Jim Justice

Governor Justice last week said he would move swiftly toward a special session to clarify West Virginia’s laws on abortion, although he didn’t specify timing or describe preferred aspects of policy.

“I agree wholeheartedly that we need to move faster and we need to move for further and more detailed clarification,” Justice said during a wide-ranging briefing.

The review by the Attorney General concluded that each of West Virginia’s laws is viable and defensible — but that it would be better if the Legislature would move toward a comprehensive policy.

“The Attorney General stands ready to defend these statutes to their fullest extent. But courts may apply them in unexpected ways,” the office wrote in its legal review.

“For that reason, the Legislature is advised to re-enact a comprehensive framework governing abortions to avoid any potential variances among prohibitions, definitions, scope, exceptions, or otherwise.”

A coalition of groups filed suit over West Virginia’s felony abortion law last week, saying its years of inactivity and the newer policies layered on top of it have made it invalid.

Just hours after that, the Attorney General’s Office released its review of state abortion laws.

Hanshaw’s email objected to the sequence of events, saying legislative leaders had not gotten an opportunity to review the Attorney General’s opinion before its public release.

He wrote that “the Attorney General issued an unsigned opinion addressed to no one in response to questions we did not ask. I was not afforded the opportunity to review that document prior to its public distribution, nor did I speak with the Attorney General, even though we had a meeting scheduled for the following day to discuss the issue.

“It is unfortunate that our legal counsel felt drive to issue his opinion and advice for us to the press prior to giving it to us, his client. Nevertheless, his actions have shaped our current situation and cast a shadow of doubt over the years of pro-life work we have secured for West Virginia.”

Hanshaw’s email went on to express concern that the conclusions in the Attorney General’s review might well be used as supporting material for the lawsuit challenging the state’s abortion policies.

“What I find most concerning or all of us is that the opinion publicly issued by the Attorney General effectively supports the case made by the plaintiff suing the Attorney General,” Hanshaw wrote.

“It is now nearly impossible for me to imagine how the Attorney General can respond to the lawsuit in any way that effectively advocates for the position of the House, his client.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

The Attorney General review outlined several big decisions legislators will have to make:

— whether to enforce the state’s abortion law through criminal statutes or whether to weigh more civil enforcement measures that might involve medical licensing rather than imprisonment;

— whether to impose penalties on the provider, the pregnant woman or both;

— whether to maintain a decentralized criminal enforcement system like county prosecutors as opposed to central, statewide enforcement;

— the nature of any exceptions , which might include instances of rape or incest or the early months of pregnancy;

— how to treat abortion drugs that may be available by mail. Should the ability of West Virginia doctors to prescribe these drugs be restricted?

In addition to those considerations, the Attorney General concluded that the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs ruling indicates any state law would need to reflect consideration of the life of the mother.

Hanshaw wrote to fellow delegates that the situation is developing and that more information will be available soon.

“There will be much more to come on this,” he wrote. “As of now, there has been no call from the Governor for an extraordinary session. We will communicate with you at every juncture while we continue to work on this.”

The speaker added, “Our staff has been professional and has performed admirably. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for others who have involved themselves in this process.”

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Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholarship recipient looking forward to staying in West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —  Twenty-seven high school seniors who graduated this year have been selected for Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholarship.

The scholarship program is designed to help the state in it’s teacher shortages. The students will receive up to $10,000 per year for their college education as they pursue careers as teachers in West Virginia.

University High School senior Bailey Olinger said on MetroNews ‘Talkline’ the scholarship is going to help her tremendously.

Bailey Olinger

“It’s really big because I’m actually putting myself through college. It’s going to help me so much to have this scholarship,” Olinger said.

After graduation from college, recipients must commit to teaching in the fields of math, science, special education, and elementary education for at least five years.

Olinger says she plans on staying in West Virginia.

“The 5-year commitment didn’t affect me because I plan to stay here in West Virginia anyway. I moved her when I was a baby and lived here ever since and I love it, so why leave,” Olinger said. “I do love it here and I want to do see improvement. I want to do good for the state.”

Olinger plans on entering special education.

The 2022 Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars beginning their studies in West Virginia this fall are:

  • Morgan Billings from Summers County High School is attending Concord University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Mickala Brill from Petersburg High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Sophia Cava from Bridgeport High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Sydni Cawley from Nitro High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Stephanie Collins from Grafton High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Alexis Cook from Westside High School is attending Concord University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Bailey Deweese from Buffalo Putnam High School is attending Marshall University to pursue a degree in science.
  • Autumn Dickerson from Princeton Senior High School is attending Bluefield State University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Hannah Felton from Keyser High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Claire Flanagan from Parkersburg High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Morgan Keaton from Woodrow Wilson High School is attending Concord University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Isabella Klee from South Park High School in Pennsylvania is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Stephen Loftis from Sissonville High School is attending West Virginia State University to pursue a degree in special education.
  • Rayegan Loss from Lincoln High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Keirstin Lyons from Spring Valley High School is attending Marshall University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Natalie Malone from St. Marys High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Baylee Muncy from Man High School is attending the University of Charleston to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Bailey Olinger from University High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Rebecca Pruett from Princeton Senior High School is attending Marshall University to pursue a degree in math.
  • Janie Prunty from Bridgeport High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Keirsten Reich from South Harrison High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Hazel Riley from Pocahontas County High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in math.
  • Kylea Robinson from Nitro High School is attending West Virginia University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Audrey Simpson from Clay-Battelle High School is attending Fairmont State University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Morgan Snyder from Point Pleasant High School is attending Marshall University to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Zoey Steele from Sherman High School is attending Glenville State University to pursue a degree in math.
  • Kelsi Wilson Hott from Petersburg High School is attending Davis & Elkins College to pursue a degree in elementary education.

“I’m incredibly proud of these young scholars, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish over the next four years and beyond,” said Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor of Higher Education in a release.

“We worked with the Legislature and Governor Justice three years ago to create a preeminent scholarship that would produce new generations of strong, committed teachers for years to come in the Mountain State. With three cohorts of scholars now pursuing their teaching careers right here at home, we are well on our way to reaching that goal.”

Story by Chayce Matheny

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Cabell EMS director says ‘FEMA didn’t see it the way we did’ after May flood

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The leader of emergency medical services in Cabell County says he’s “disappointed” residents in his county won’t receive funding from the federal government in response to the May 6 flood.

Gordon Merry

“We’re really trying hard to help them and it bothers us that we can’t get the help for these people,” Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry told MetroNews Wednesday.

Gov. Jim Justice announced Tuesday a presidential disaster declaration has been denied for Cabell, Putnam and Roane counties. The request was submitted to President Joe Biden and FEMA. Justice also expressed disappointment, but said the state plans to fight back and appeal the decision.

Merry agrees with the governor’s move.

“We need to do everything humanly possible to try to get these people help. I’ve lived here all my life and we’ve never had flooding like this,” he said. “Unfortunately, FEMA didn’t see it the way we did.”

More than 100 homes were damaged during the flash flooding event. The damage was widespread, but was concentrated in the Enslow Park neighborhood of Huntington.

A man died after being swept away by flood waters in Milton. The storm also knocked power off to thousands of residents and resulted in water rescues.

MetroNews previously toured the damage and spoke to residents who lost everything inside their homes after receiving several feet of water.

“Basically, if you get 18 inches of water or so in your home, or if you get any water in your home, it’s devastating,” Merry said.

Flooded residents are now in the process of working to rebuild, but Merry said it’s a case-by-case situation where they’ll have to work with the county and other organizations rather than FEMA.

The state has 30 days to appeal the decision.

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