A Wise County Man Has Been Sentenced In U.S. District Court In Abingdon. 22 Year Old Aaron Stidham Pleaded Guilty In August Of 2022 To Conspiring To Distribute And Possession With The Intent To Distribute 40 Grams Or More Of Fentanyl. Prosecutors Said Stidham Used Social Media Platforms To Order Pills Containing Fentanyl Every Few Weeks Between February 2021 And February 2022. Stidham Will Spend Five Years In Federal Prison.
The Annual Christmas Tradition Happens For The 81st Time This November. The Train Will Start In Kentucky And Will Make 13 Stops Along Its 110-Mile Journey, Through Southwest Virginia And Ending In Kingsport. The Santa Train Is Known For Delivering Over 15 Tons Of Toys, Gifts, And Winter Accessories To Hundreds Of Families. It All Happens Saturday, November 18th. You Can Follow “Team Santa Train” On Social Media For More Information.
Wise, VA – Joshua Blake Smith, age 34, of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, pled guilty today in the Wise County Circuit Court before the Honorable Judge Ronald Elkins to one count of first degree murder, one count of abduction, and one count of strangulation. Smith was indicted in November 2020 after he violently attacked and killed his 72-year old grandmother and attempted to dispose of her body.
Smith was sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder charge, 10 years with 10 years suspended for the abduction charge, and 5 years with 5 years suspended for the strangulation charge. Therefore, Smith will serve an active life sentence in prison and waived any right he has to an appeal of this sentence in today's court.
On August 27, 2020, Joshua Smith forced his grandmother into her bedroom against her will while she was resisting. He stabbed her multiple times in the neck with a knife. Smith also suffocated and strangled her, and he told police it took her several hours to die. When law enforcement arrived on the scene, there was a blue tarp and shovel found in front of the residence. The investigation revealed that he attempted to recruit others to help him dispose of his grandmother's body.
Commonwealth's Attorney, Brett Hall, would like to thank Sergeant William Hollinger and the Big Stone Gap Police Department along with Sergeant Charles Curry and the Wise County Sheriff's Office for their collaborative efforts in the investigation and successful prosecution of this case. Hall would also like to thank Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Sara Ohanessian for her extensive work on this heinous case.
The lead prosecutor on this case was Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ken Lammers, along with fellow prosecutor Corey Salyers. Lammers says, "Today we convicted Joshua Smith of killing his grandmother. The violence and abuse in this case was highly disturbing, and this man needed to be held responsible for his actions as well as removed from the community so he could do no further harm. He will spend the rest of his life in a penitentiary. He deserves no less."
Smith is currently being held at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield, Virginia, as he awaits placement and transfer to the Virginia Department of Corrections.
WISE, VA. - Tony Curtis Osborne, age 39, of Pound, Virginia, pleaded guilty today in the Wise County Circuit Court for a crime he committed in February 2019 involving the death of a woman traveling northbound on US-23. Judge Ron Elkins accepted Osborne's guilty plea today to involuntary manslaughter as agreed upon by the Commonwealth and defense council.
On February 2, 2019, Iris Walker was driving north on US-23 when a 30-foot high tree that Osborne cut from a hill overlooking the road smashed into her car flattening the front of the cab. The car continued on for about 500 feet before coming to a stop in a ditch beside the road. Ms. Walker was deceased before anyone could render medical assistance.
Osborne's recklessness killed a woman who was doing nothing more than driving down the highway. He cut a 30-foot high tree located 50 feet from a busy highway causing it to fall into traffic. The tree was not on his property, and he did not have permission to fall the tree. He was not working for VDOT. He did not set warnings for traffic. He did not close off the closest lane of traffic. He did not attempt to anchor the tree so it could not fall toward the road. He did not cut the tree so it would fall uphill. Upon arrest, he informed the magistrate he sold firewood at $60 a load, and he had been doing this for two years.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, Ken Lammers, was the lead prosecutor on this case. Lammers says, "Tony Osborne engaged in a highly dangerous activity with the obvious potential to harm or kill people driving down a busy highway. It did exactly that. Osborne is the sole reason that Iris Walker is dead, and for that killing he is now convicted of manslaughter. He deserves this conviction. This man was engaged in the illegal harvesting of a tree from someone else's land at a location where the risk to the lives of anyone who happened to be on the highway below was blatantly obvious. Iris Walker didn't deserve to be killed, and Osborne deserves to be held responsible for taking her life."
Commonwealth's Attorney, Brett Hall, would like to thank all the agencies and individuals involved in bringing this matter to a close, including those people who stopped to help, the emergency crews who responded to the scene, and the Virginia State Police who investigated this matter. In particular, he would like to commend Sergeant Marshall of the VSP for the work he put into investigating this matter. "These are difficult cases for everyone involved, and Sergeant Marshall's continuing efforts have helped to ensure this case was resolved appropriately."
A sentencing hearing on this manslaughter plea has been scheduled for July 21, 2023.
VDH Issues Recreational Water Advisory for South Fork of the Powell RiverNear East Stone Gap Due to Sewage Release
Public Advised to Avoid Contact with Contaminated Water
(Wise, VA) -- The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is issuing a recreational water advisory for the South Fork of the Powell River near East Stone Gap to the Powell River at Big Stone Gap. For the safety of people and pets, VDH is advising that recreational water activities, such as swimming, wading, tubing, and whitewater kayaking (where submersion in the water is likely), should be avoided. The advisory is issued out of an abundance of caution due to a sewage release from a Big Stone Gap Department of Public Utilities sewer force main on February 21, 2023, into the Powell River.
As of 10 am on February 21, 2023, VDH was informed by Big Stone Gap Public Utilities that approximately 50 gallons of sewage per minute from the force main was being released into the South Fork to the Powell River, following the main failure on February 21, 2023. Activities to repair the force main were expected to continue today, weather permitting.
VDH has observed no evidence of impacts to drinking water at this time.
Activities on the waterbodies, which are not likely to result in water submersion (boating, fishing, canoeing), may continue with proper caution to avoid contact with the water.
Swallowing contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, with vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fever. Contact with contaminated water also can cause infections of the ears, nose, throat and skin.
To prevent recreational water illnesses due to exposure to sewage release events, people should:
Avoid contact with the waterbodies noted above and observe advisory signage posted at waterbody access points.
Avoid any area of the waterbody where there is water with a foul odor, dead or dying fish, or discolored water.
Promptly wash skin with soap and water if you cannot avoid contact with water in the vicinity.
Seek medical care and notify your practitioner of the waterbody exposure if you experience adverse health effects after contact with the waterbody.
For more information on recreational water safety, see "Safely Enjoy Virginia's Natural Waters" and other materials at www.SwimHealthyVA.com.
Abingdon, Virginia – On January 24, 2023, a Washington County Grand Jury returned a true bill of indictment against Troy Hinchey for the misdemeanor offense of Sexual Battery. The indictment involves an incident that took place on July 23, 2022, while Hinchey was on duty with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. After allegations were reported the to the Sheriff’s Office, the Virginia State Police began an investigation. Hinchey is no longer employed with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. The Washington County Circuit Court appointed Zack Stoots, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Russell County, to prosecute any charges arising out of the investigation. Zack Stoots stated, “The Rules of Professional Conduct prevents any lawyer participating in the prosecution of a criminal matter that may be tried to a jury from making any extrajudicial statements that the lawyer knows or should know will have a likelihood of interfering with the fairness of a trial by jury.” Stoots said, “Based on the Rules of Professional Conduct, my office will not be making any further statements on the pending matters.” The investigation was conducted by the Virginia State Police with cooperation from the Washington County Sheriff's Office. The defendant was released on a $5,000 secured bond and his next court is set February 6, 2023
"Gathering in the Gap" Music Festival Announces Star-Studded Main Stage Lineup Rhonda Vincent, Dave Eggar and Stillhouse Junkies
Big Stone Gap, VA. The "Gathering in the Gap" Music Festival at the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park offers a one-of-a-kind evening of performances by Grammy award winning artist Rhonda Vincent, who was crowned the New Queen of Bluegrass by the Wallstreet Journal and who recently won IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year. Also featured on the main stage, well known cellist, pianist and composer Dave Eggar as well as IBMA Momentum Band of the Year — the Stillhouse Junkies! This year's festival, which coincides with the park's 75th anniversary, will be held on Saturday, May 27 on the park's grounds. "Gathering in the Gap" is a celebration of the rich tradition of old-time, Americana and bluegrass music found in Southwest Virginia. Tickets can be purchased online at www.gatheringinthegap.org, by calling the park at 276-523-1322 or be stopping by the park during regular operating hours.
MECC Foundation to Host 47th Annual John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival Featuring NY Times Best Selling Author Silas House
Entries Sought for Lonesome Pine Short-Story and Poetry Contests
Big Stone Gap, VA -- The MECC Foundation is pleased to announce the 47th annual John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival, featuring New York Times bestselling author Silas House, Wednesday, March 15 from 10 a.m. to noon. The festival is free and open to the public.
In coordination with the festival event, the MECC Foundation will host the 36th Annual Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest and the 19th Annual Lonesome Pine Poetry Contest. The deadline for submitting entries is Tuesday, February 28 at 4:30 p.m. Entry categories include adult, high school (grades 9 through 12), and middle school (grades 5 through 8) categories. Contest rules and information about the festival is available on the MECC Foundation website at https://www.mecc.edu/jffestival/. Winners of the contest will be announced during the Literary Festival Event. All winners will receive a cash prize.
The 47th Annual John Fox, Jr. festival will return to a live format in 2023, with a featured discussion on House’s latest novel, Lark Ascending. Following House’s presentation, the MECC Foundation will feature a special luncheon with House at the John Fox Jr. home in Big Stone Gap beginning at 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the luncheon are $30 and can be ordered by calling the MECC Foundation office at 276-523-7466. Tickets are limited, so please reserve early for this event.
Silas House is the New York Times bestselling author of eight books whose work frequently appears in The Atlantic and The New York Times. He is a former commentator for NPR and his work has been widely published in journals and magazines such as Time, The Advocate, Oxford American, Garden & Gun, and many others. He has lectured internationally and is widely regarded as one of the major writers of the American South.
House was born and grew up in Southeastern Kentucky. House’s first novel, Clay’s Quilt (2001), is now known as a foundational text for Appalachian Literature. Its two companion novels, A Parchment of Leaves (2003) and The Coal Tattoo (2005), were recently re-issued in new editions and are now known as The Appalachian Trilogy. House wrote Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal (2009) with Jason Howard. House’s fourth novel, Eli the Good (2009) emerged as a number one bestseller on the Southern lists and received the first annual Storylines Prize from the New York Public Library system, an award given to a book for use in the ESL and literacy programs of New York City. Same Sun Here (2012), co-written with Neela Vaswani, has received more than a dozen awards including the Nautilus, the Parents Choice, the E.B. White Honor Book Award, and many others. In 2018 his novel Southernmost appeared on Best of the Year lists of many magazines and was given the Weatherford Award and long listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. House has also written three plays that have been produced throughout the country.
In 2020 House received the highest honor for an artist in the Commonwealth of Kentucky when he was given the Governor’s Award for the Arts. He has also won the Appalachian Book of the Year, the Judy Gaines Young Award, the Intellectual Freedom Prize, the Caritas Medal, three honorary doctorates, and many other honors. In 2021 he was chosen as the Appalachian of the Year by a poll conducted by the podcast Appodlachia.
House served as a writer-in-residence at Eastern Kentucky University in 2004 and 2005 and at Lincoln Memorial University from 2005 to 2010. At LMU he also directed the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. In 2010 House became the NEH Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College. He has served on the fiction faculty at the Naslund Mann Graduate School of Writing since 2005. House is also an editor at the University Press of Kentucky’s Fireside Industries imprint.
His latest work, Lark Ascending, has received critical praise. As fires devastate most of the United States, Lark and his family secure a place on a refugee boat headed to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees. But Lark is the only one to survive the trip, and once ashore, he doesn’t find the safe haven he’d hoped for. As he runs for his life, Lark finds an abandoned dog who becomes his closest companion, and then a woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek?
For readers of novels such as Station Eleven, The Dog Stars, and Migrations, Lark Ascending is a moving and unforgettable story of friendship, family, and healing.
For more information on the MECC Foundation, please visit our website at www.meccfoundation.org.
Bristol, Tenn./Va. (Jan. 26, 2023) - Nickel Creek and Margo Price are among the top tier of what's shaping up to be an eclectic Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion lineup in 2023. The award-winning festival returns to Historic Downtown Bristol, Tenn.-Va. for its 23rd annual event September, 8-10.
Other acts included in the initial lineup announcement include Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, Watchhouse, The Mavericks, 49 Winchester, Larkin Poe, Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah, and Walderado, with more artists to be announced in the spring.