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Charleston man charged in shooting death of brother

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. — A Charleston man is in jail after allegedly shooting and killing his brother Monday night in the Sissonville area.

The Kanawha County Sheriff’s office said Holdon Michael Burdette, 23, of Charleston is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Joshua Burdette, 31 of Charleston.

According to a criminal complaint from Kanawha County Magistrate Court, Kanawha County deputies responded to the incident just before 10 p.m. in the 200 block of Whitetail Lane.

Deputies say Joshua’s father found him with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene with what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds.

The father further told Metro 911 that Joshua and Holdon had been fighting before the shooting happened. The criminal complaint stated that the father informed officers Holdon had recently been treated for mental health concerns.

According to the complaint, deputies found no evidence of anyone else besides Holdon and Joshua being at the home at the time of the incident.

Holdon is currently being held at South Central Regional Jail without bond.

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Black ice blamed for fatal wrecks in Putnam County

WINFIELD, W.Va. — Black ice is blamed for a number of accidents Tuesday morning in Putnam County, the worst a double-fatality on U.S. Route 35 near the Putnam/Mason County line.

“It appears they hit black ice, spun sideways, and hit a car that was in the ditch,” said Putnam County Sheriff Bobby Eggleton.

The crash happened in the 8:00 hour and was one of many wrecks across the county as black ice caught many motorists off guard on the morning commute.

“I came out at 6:30 and all of the deputies were tied up immediately with black ice accidents. Route 62 had a wreck in the Poca area, I-64 at the St. Albans exit had a black ice pile up. It was really just havoc for about the first three hours of the morning,” he said.

The worst however was the crash on Route 35 which left the highway closed for an extended period of time as State Police worked on accident reconstruction. The identifies of the victims have not been released pending notification of relatives. Sheriff Eggleton confirmed they two victims were Putnam County residents.

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MetroNews This Morning 3-2-21

The rain is over and across the state waters are starting to recede and reveal damages from the weekend flooding. Governor Justice to talk more today about his plan to eliminate the income tax–but still no bill. He’s also agreed to “reside” in Charleston to settle a long standing lawsuit over his residency. U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito says count her OUT on the stimulus package. In Sports, it’s gameday for the Mountaineers with a big one tonight in Morgantown. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 3-2-21” on Spreaker.

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WV Lawmakers Want to Clarify—Impeachment is THEIR Job

The West Virginia Legislature is considering a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would clarify its sole authority to handle impeachment cases.

House Joint Resolution Two states: “No court of this state has any authority or jurisdiction, by writ or otherwise, to intercede or intervene in, or interfere with, any impeachment proceedings of the House of Delegates or the Senate.”

The resolution requires approval from two-thirds of the members of both the House and Senate before it can be put to the voters.

The proposal has its roots in the excessive spending and maladministration by the West Virginia Supreme Court.  The controversy erupted in 2017 with reports of lavish spending on Supreme Court office furnishings.  Remember the $32,000 couch?

The excessive spending and subsequent revelations of fiscal malfeasance led to the resignation of one justice, the retirement of another, the criminal conviction of a third and the House of Delegates’ impeachment of four justices.

One of those impeached justices, Margaret Workman, challenged the proceedings in the West Virginia Supreme Court, charging she was denied due process.  Temporarily appointed justices ruled in her favor, which stopped her trial in the Senate.

House and Senate leaders appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to take up the case.

At the time, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw said, “We still firmly believe last year’s (2018) decision was deeply flawed, went far beyond the scope of what the Court was asked to consider, and establishes a precedent that could have significant unintended effects on the legislative branch for years to come.”

And that brings us to today, and the legislative effort to include a provision in the state Constitution that states unequivocally that the courts have no role in impeachment.

Article 4, Section 9 reads, “The House of Delegates shall have sole power of impeachment.  The Senate shall have sole power to try impeachment.” The only role for the judiciary is that the Chief Justice, or a judge appointed by that court, presides over the trial, but that has been thrown into doubt by the decision in the Workman case.

Impeachment is not a criminal or civil matter, it is not a judicial matter, it is a responsibility assigned to the legislature to be carried out by elected members of the House of Delegates and the State Senate.

To suggest that the actions or decisions of impeachment can be appealed to the judiciary upsets the balance of power established in the state Constitution.  That would appear obvious based on the current language in the state Constitution.

However, given the ruling in the Workman case, it is necessary to add even more specific language to the document.

 

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Justice: State to pay for one ACT test per high school senior applying for Promise

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state is going to pay for one on-campus ACT test for high school seniors who are applying for the Promise Scholarship.

headshot
Governor Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday that $341,000 in CARES Act funding would be used to pay for the tests.

“West Virginia is the first state in the nation to cover these testing costs for our seniors,” Justice said. “I’m really proud to do that.”

The opportunities for high school students to take an ACT have been limited during the past year because of the pandemic. The state Higher Education Policy Commission is working with the state’s colleges and universities to come up with an on-campus schedule that will be announced in the near future.

ACT exams usually cost $52.50 per exam. The state will pay for one test per high school senior, Justice said.

“If we can step up and help out just a little bit, we want to do that,” Justice said.

Justice also announced that the HEPC would be extending the filing deadline for the merit-based Promise Scholarship program. The deadline wad Monday. Applications are still down by 30% percent when compared to last year’s numbers. Successful applicants need a qualifying ACT score to get the Promise.

Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker

A Promise Scholarship covers up to $4,750 a year to help with tuition and fees.

State Higher Education Chancellor Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker said Justice’s announcements Monday were encouraging.

“Students have faced so much in the past year, and they simply haven’t had the chance to earn the test scores needed to qualify for Promise,” Tucker said. “We encourage seniors to take full advantage of these free testing dates as they are announced – and to stay focused on continuing their education after high school.”

The on-campus testing dates will be announced on the Higher Education Policy Commission’s website.

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Stephens hopeful Pioneers can hit their stride in Wheeling

After going 18 days between games in February due to a COVID-19 related pause, the Glenville State women’s basketball team wrapped up its regular season last week by going 2-1 over a four-day span.

A two-point win at Charleston was followed by a lopsided victory at Frostburg State, before the Pioneers fell for the second time this season in their regular season finale, 97-86 at Concord.

GSC (10-2) now prepares for Thursday’s matchup with West Liberty in a Mountain East Conference Tournament quarterfinal at WesBanco Arena. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. in the first of four games that day.

“We came out on the other side of it with two of three wins, which I was pleased with,” Pioneers’ coach Kim Stephens said on Citynet Statewide Sportsline. “I was really hoping we’d win vs. Concord and finish it out, but we were gassed by the end of it. It was a tough final three games for our kids after being cooped up for some time. Hopefully we can have a couple more days of good practice going into Wheeling and start to look like ourselves again.”

As the No. 2 seed in the MEC’s South Division, the Pioneers play the Hilltoppers (8-8), who finished third in the North Division.

The teams met back on Jan. 23 in Wheeling, with GSC prevailing 101-98.

“It’s been the longest, shortest season of all time,” Stephens said. “It’s been a rough road, especially for our program, but we’re happy there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re on the other side of the rough patch. Going into the final week, we still have some work to do, but we’re excited about it. It’s good to be back to normal a little bit now, so it’ll be interesting to see how things shake out for us this week.”

Stephens believes a key for her team going into the conference tournament is to regain their legs, with the Pioneers’ conditioning suffering during their February pause. For a team that prides itself on going deep into its bench (12 players average at least 9 minutes per game), an uptempo pace is preferred.

“We were playing really well before we got paused and we were kind of hitting our stride,” Stephens said. “When you’re an 18-to-21-year-old female and you’re stuck in your room for 10 to 14 days, you lose all of your fitness.” 

The Pioneers, as well as Charleston (14-2) and Notre Dame College (13-3), are MEC teams that could earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament based on their body of work. Come Sunday, one MEC team will automatically earn a berth in the the Atlantic Regional by winning the conference tournament — something the Pioneers have done each of the last three years in addition to four straight regular season league crowns.

“If we go in and drop our first game, that’s the hardest part as a coach and that’s one of the hardest situations I’ve been in as a coach,” Stephens said. “‘OK, I think we may make the national tournament, our season ended early.’ What do I go tell my kids in the locker room? Do we go back and practice? Those are kind of awkward moments. Our kids are very aware that they have a chance to continue playing after this week, but we need to take care of business early.”

All games at WesBanco Arena for both the men’s and women’s tournaments will allow up to 750 spectators. Thursday’s contests will mark the first time in 362 days that fans are permitted to attend a MEC sporting event.

“When we first started playing without fans, it was a little weird and less exciting for them,” Stephens said. “All of the kids will embrace having fans. They’ll play a little bit harder. It’ll be the first time in a year that they’ve been able to play in front of other people and the first time in a year that their parents can stand up and clap for them. I think that the kids will love that. I know my kids will.”

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House Finance sends ‘Hope Scholarship’ back to consideration by all delegates

A bill allowing families to use public money for private education costs is headed back to the full House of Delegates.

The House Finance Committee passed House Bill 2013 on Monday afternoon after examining some financial concerns about the bill.

The “Hope Scholarship” would be established through funds from the state Department of Education to pay for expenses like tuition, tutoring, fees for standardized tests or educational therapies. Students would be eligible if they’re leaving public school to pursue private or homeschool education.

The bill already passed the full House once, but the bill was pulled back and sent to the Finance Committee over questions about the possible financial effects.

As originally conceived, the education savings accounts could be used by students who are transferring out of public schools to attend private schools, religious schools or being homeschooled. Also eligible would be students who are just old enough to enroll. The initial cost was estimated to be a little more than $22 million.

A fiscal note filed by the state Department of Education estimated the cost could be $126,557,939 if all students in private or homeschool are made eligible by 2027.

“The actual cost to the State will depend on the applicable student enrollment count, number of applicants, and net state aid per pupil amounts at the time of implementation and eligibility expansion,” according to the fiscal note.

An amended bill considered by the committee includes a trigger allowing eligibility for all current private and homeschool students if fewer than 5 percent of public school students have enrolled by 2024.

Delegates Jeff Pack and Marty Gearheart, both Republicans, proposed an amendment capping the amount allowed per student at $3,000. The prior amount under consideration was $4,600. The committee voted in favor of the amendment, which would lower the overall cost.

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Indictment handed up in Morgantown murder case

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A man charged in the death of his grandson’s mother has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge.

Gary Smith

A Monongalia County grand jury handed up an indictment Monday against Gary Smith, 60, of Morgantown.

Prosecutors allege Smith killed Alexa Randolph in late January.

Randolph, 32, of Morgantown, was reported missing on Jan. 28 when she failed to pick up her son. One day later her body was found in the cargo area of her Ford Escape parked in the parking lot of the Hornbeck Road Walmart.

Alexa Randolph

Smith is the paternal grandfather of Randolph’s son.

Monongalia County detectives arrested Smith Feb. 10 after they said he made suspicious statements during a police interview.

Smith is being held without bond in the North Central Regional Jail. He’ll be arraigned by a Monongalia County circuit judge in the near future.

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James Long and W.Va. Tech seek revenge against Rio Grande

— Story by Taylor Kennedy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Tech Golden Bears will face off against the Rio Grande Red Storm Tuesday evening in the River States Conference championship. 

It will be the second meeting this season between the two schools. Rio Grande took the first game 69-68 back on February 3. The Red Storm won with a game-winning putback dunk at the buzzer.

“Rio beat us, and they took it to us there,” said WVU-Tech second-year head coach James Long. “They competed and played really hard. We are in a good state of mind right now. We are in a good state of understanding of what we need to do, and how we prepare. These guys have used that loss to propel themselves forward with the season.”

West Virginia Tech has now won four of its last five following the loss to the Red Storm. The Golden Bears won those four games by an average of 20 points.

“I cannot compliment our guys enough,” said Long. “We are getting better right now at the end of the year, which is what every coach hopes for. It says everything about who they are from how they have handled everything this year to going to class, working out, lifting weights, and whether or not they will play. They have taken everything in stride. They are a resilient group.”

West Virginia Tech had nine games cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, and one was cancelled due to the ice storm a few weeks ago. 

“The way they handled it was admirable for sure,” said Long of the numerous pauses. “They were upset at times, which they should have been and that is how you want it to be. You want it to hurt. They are competitors and they care about it. It sucked and it was hard, but it was the reason we care so much right now. We are competing so much right now because we have used all of this to become resilient and that is all them.”

Rio Grande goes into Tuesday’s game riding a six-game winning streak. The Red Storm has held four of its last six opponents to under 65 points.

“You want to talk about a team that has a great understanding of who they are, it is Rio,” said Long of what he is seeing from the Red Storm. “They do a great job with who they are. They play tough and hard. They make the games physical, and they know who they are. When you watch a Rio game you are going to see the same team every time. They have dealt with injuries and other things, but they have figured out a way to get it done at the end of the year.”

Long will be finishing his second full-year in Beckley. He has produced a 34-14 record, including a 11-6 record this season. Long is still learning, despite his early success.

“I think sometimes as coaches we do a bunch of crazy things and adjustments,” said Long. “I think the beauty of the details over and over. I think this year has validated how we do things and what we believe in. Just putting in the work on a daily basis. This year has shown me how meaningful everyday is, and how meaningful monotonous work is. I am glad that we are getting back to normal. I look forward to that everyday grind, and that we are getting back to.”

Tuesday’s game will be a matchup between two West Virginia natives James Long and Ryan Arrowood. Long is from the Charleston area. Arrowood is originally from Mason County.

“I know Ryan a little bit,” said Long of the West Virginia connection. “We are not incredibly close, but we do have a relationship through being in the River States. I definitely have great respect for what they are doing there and what they have done there. What they have done there is incredible. They play hard and they have great energy. They have an understanding of who they are.”

Coaches typically prepare a pregame speech for a big game, like a championship. Other times coaches will simply speak from the heart. 

“I am not the hype-in for either pre or post game,” said Long. “It has never really been me. I am definitely not the type of guy to be rehearsed. It gets me in trouble sometimes. It makes for bad interviews sometimes because I rant and ramble because I am generally talking from the heart. When I go into the pregame it is usually from the heart. It is collected and I give a clear understanding of what needs done.”

Both West Virginia Tech and Rio Grande have received an automatic bid into the NAIA national tournament. Tipoff between the Golden Bears and Red Storm is set for 7:30pm at the Armory in Beckley.

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Hardy says state’s revenues “remarkably stable” after another solid collections month

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following a better than expected February, the state is heading into the last four months of the budget year $208 million above revenue estimates.

Dave Hardy

The state collected $321.6 million in taxes last month which was $32.4 ahead of estimates, according to state Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy.

“People are working in West Virginia and people are spending money,” Hardy said.

That’s evident from Personal Income Tax collections coming in $36.7 million above estimates while the Consumer Sales Tax topped estimates by $5.1 million.

Hardy said severance tax collections remained “sluggish.” The state collected $19.4 million for the month which was below estimates by $8.9 million. Hardy said he’s hoping for better numbers from coal and natural gas in the coming months.

“The price for natural gas is very low. Our severance tax is based on a percentage of the sales price,” Hardy said. “The volume might be there but the price of natural gas is very low now.”

Gov. Jim Justice said Monday he’s “really proud” with how his administration has handled the state’s finances during the pandemic.

“My job is always to look out for the health and safety of our people, but it is also my job to ‘mind the store’ and take care of the economics of our state,” Justice said.

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Governor Jim Justice

Hardy said the state has been “remarkably stable” financially since late May and early June of last year.

Meanwhile, Hardy said April would be the most important month in the four months left in the fiscal year.

“April is just a huge month for us. The fact that taxpayers settle up with the state in April and the first estimates are made in April and it’s just a month that really, really can determine how we’re going to finish out the fiscal year,” Hardy said.

He said if Congress passes a new stimulus bill, as anticipated, new individual stimulus checks will help the state’s collections.

“Where you’ll see the impact is on the Consumer Sales Tax because people go out and buy things like large appliances, things they need and you’ll see that on the Consumer Sales Tax line,” Hardy said.

The Justice administration reported a revenue surplus of $44 million in July 2020 fueled by Justice’s move to push back the due date for state taxes from April 15 to July 15 because of the pandemic. The state’s financial status has also benefited from the $1.25 billion it’s received in federal CARES Act funding.

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