One person is dead and one person has been charged after a car crash in Wise County on Wednesday night. Virginia State Police report that a Ford Explorer, driven by 60-year-old Laya Belcher, of Wise, was traveling on the wrong side of the road on Route 23 near Norton Wednesday evening and crashed into a Hyundai SUV, driven by Sharon Dorton. Dorton was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. Belcher admitted to drinking before the crash and an open bottle of vodka was found in the vehicle. She was taken to a hospital for her injuries and has been charged with DUI, felony manslaughter, and reckless driving.
The Virginia Department of Health reports 136,448 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. The VDH also reports 2,907 confirmed deaths and 10,684 confirmed hospitalizations across the state. There are 2,819 cases in Southwest Virginia:
Washington County has 550 cases with 54 hospitalizations and 17 deaths
Smyth County has 454 cases with 42 hospitalizations and 9 deaths
Wise County has 398 cases with 32 hospitalizations and 9 deaths
Tazewell County has 283 cases with 15 hospitalizations and 2 deaths
Lee County has 263 cases with 24 hospitalizations and 7 deaths
Russell County has 246 cases with 24 hospitalizations and 5 deaths
Scott County has 181 cases with 16 hospitalizations and 4 deaths
City of Bristol has 178 cases with 10 hospitalizations and 4 deaths
Buchanan County has 136 cases with 8 hospitalizations and 2 deaths
Dickenson County has 97 cases with 7 hospitalizations and 1 death
City of Norton has 33 cases with 3 hospitalizations
There are 72 active cases of COVID-19 in Ballad Health facilities. Ballad Health reports that 12 of those patients are in the Intensive Care Unit, 7 are on a ventilator, and 6 patients are under investigation. Over the last seven days, there have been a total of 31 COVID-19 deaths and the positive test rate was 7.4% over the same time period. Since March 1, Ballad Health reports 14,346 total positive cases and 260 total deaths. There are 34 designated COVID-19 beds available in Ballad facilities.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that there are 23,805 new unemployment claims filed in Tennessee and Virginia last week. There were 12,492 new claims filed in Virginia, a small increase from the 10,100 claims filed the week prior. There were 11,313 claims filed in Tennessee during the week ending on September 19, 542 more claims than the week before. There were 677 new claims filed in Northeast Tennessee last week. According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, there has been 851,939 unemployment claims filed in Tennessee since March 15.
A Hawkins County, Tennessee car chase ends in a crash and South Carolina man arrested. The Hawkins County Sheriff's Office reports that the chase began on Monday at 10:14 p.m. on Highway 31 going towards Highway 11W. A 2003 Volvo was traveling at 57 mph in a 45 mph zone, prompting a deputy to turn on the blue lights and siren, which is when the Volvo sped up even more. It continued to increase up to around 120 miles per hour and was reportedly all over the road and driving in the opposite lane, almost entering the ditch. The pursuit was terminated at Highway 31 and Beauty Salon Road. Later, multiple people reported hearing a loud explosion and then the power went out in that location where the vehicle was found on McNally Lane, where it had crashed into a utility pole. The driver, 40-year-old Joseph Matthew Lewis, of Spartanburg, South Carolina, fled on foot and the plates was registered to a 2007 Isuzu and there was no insurance on the vehicle. A deputy found Lewis, covered in cuts, riding a golf cart on Slate Hill Road. He gave a false name to investigators and didn't know the last four digits of his social security number. Lewis was found to have a suspended license in South Carolina and was charged with speeding, evading arrest by motor vehicle, failure to stop for blue lights, obedience to traffic control device, due care, leaving the scene of an accident, evading arrest by foot, criminal impersonation, driving on a suspended license, violation of financial responsibility, misuse of registration, and theft over $1,000. He was transported to the Hawkins County Jail.
Two people have pleaded guilty in the Wise County cemetery shooting case. 40-year-old Jarrod Hash pleaded guilty in Wise County Circuit Court to aggravated malicious wounding and reckless handling of a firearm resulting in serious injury. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 16 years suspended with a suspended sentence of five years for reckless handling of a firearm, for a total of 25 years with 21 suspended, with 20 years of probation. 20-year-old Marshea Absher also pleaded no contest to abduction, conspiracy to abduct and conspiracy to commit aggravated malicious wounding. She was sentenced to 20 years with 16 suspended and will also serve another year in prison for a separate drug charge. The third person charged in the shooting, William Mills, is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday. The charges stem from a shooting on February 2 in the Stephens section of Wise County at a cemetery on Limestone Road behind the Stephens Chapel Freewill Baptist Church. Absher was found shot in the back and 39-year-old Christopher Dale Stevens was found dead near Absher's car with multiple gunshot wounds. Hash and Absher are in custody in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield.
Bark Camp recreation area is set to reopen in 2021 following repairs. Bark Camp, in Coeburn, has been closed for almost two years due to water system failure but work is now underway to get the area back up and running. The new system is being installed and visitors can expect intermittent closures to day-use area, but the actual campsite is expected to re-open early next year once work is complete. The cost to replace the system is just over $215,000 and was all made possible through park fees from visitors to the Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Trails are being maintained and bridges are being repaired at this time as well, so that the campsite will return better than before.
An investigation is pending after a crash involving a Johnson City Police officer. Tennessee Highway Patrol reports that a JCPD cruiser was heading south on North Roan Street at around 7:53 p.m. A Jeep Wrangler was heading north on Roan Street when the police cruiser turned left onto Broyles Drive and the Jeep hit it on the right side. The JCPD officer, identified to be 24-year-old Zachary Isaiah Harris, had been responding to a domestic disturbance when it was hit. Harris was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center for treatment of his non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the Jeep was a 17-year-old from Mount Carmel who was not injured. Both drivers were wearing their seatbelts.
A Bristol, Virginia man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison on child porn charges. The Department of Justice reports that 33-year-old Jonathan Neal Sexton was charged after he sent lewd pictures to a member of the FBI, who he believed was a 14-year-old girl. Sexton had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography in June after he had reportedly used the app, KIK, to chat with the FBI employee between February and March 2020. The investigation was conducted by the FBI, Virginia State Police, U.S. Marshal's Service, and the Bristol Police Department.
The Virginia Department of Health reports that there are 129,963 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. The VDH also reports that there have been 2,771 confirmed deaths and 10,318 confirmed hospitalizations across the state. There are 2,559 cases in Southwest Virginia:
Washington County has 492 cases with 45 hospitalizations and 14 deaths
Smyth County has 404 cases with 37 hospitalizations and 7 deaths
Wise County has 383 cases with 32 hospitalizations and 7 deaths
Lee County has 251 cases with 21 hospitalizations and 6 deaths
Tazewell County has 232 cases with 15 hospitalizations and 2 deaths
Russell County has 227 cases with 22 hospitalizations and 4 deaths
Scott County has 176 cases with 15 hospitalizations and 4 deaths
City of Bristol has 169 cases with 9 hospitalizations and 2 deaths
Buchanan County has 113 cases with 7 hospitalizations and 2 deaths
Dickenson County has 79 cases with 7 hospitalizations and 1 death
City of Norton has 33 cases with 3 hospitalizations