News for September 23, 1999

City officials to discuss safety measures during Klan rally

by Paul Leakan
Staff Writer
Clarksburg officials plan to meet with area residents at 10 a.m. today in the Municipal Building to discuss possible plans and measures that may be taken to ensure safety at a Ku Klux Klan rally planned for November.
In early September, a local chapter of the KKK sent a letter to city council members and county commissioners saying it will gather from noon to 2 p.m. on Nov. 6 at the Harrison County Courthouse.
Since then, the city has been contacting several area cities, gathering information about what safety measures may be necessary.
During todayís meeting, Clarksburg Police Lt. John Walker and Det. Robert Matheny plan to explain the types of situations that can happen during a KKK rally.
City Manager Percy Ashcraft said the rally could create plenty of complications depending on what the city will do to address it. The city likely would have to coordinate its fire, police and public works departments along with county law enforcement agencies, he said.
In some cases, cities have built special fences to keep the situation under control.
"Itís far more complicated than when we prepared for the president, if you can believe that," Ashcraft said.
Area church groups, school officials and law agencies were all invited to todayís meeting.
"Itís just a good opportunity for everyone to understand the nature of this KKK rally -- how severe it can be and how out of control it can be," Ashcraft said.
Aside from preparing for the KKKís rally, city council members will also discuss plans today for a possible unity rally proposed by Clarksburg Mayor David Kates.
The "Letís Get Real" rally, as Kates has called it, seeks to bring the people of the city together while showing that there are more people who "desire diversity than there are who desire hatred."
Erroneous reports have set a date and time for the unity rally, even though neither have been officially approved or set.
Several council members have said they support the idea of a separate rally but are still concerned about when and where to hold it.
Councilwoman Margaret Bailey said that several people have voiced their concerns over holding a unity rally on either the same day or the day after. Bailey wondered on Wednesday whether the alternate rally may even be necessary.
"Clarksburg has always had a great degree of unity among its people. I believe itís a given," she said. "I would be hesitant for us to make decisions that could more create problems than we have to, given our unity."

Attorneys say Cox shot mom by accident

by James Fisher
Staff Writer
When Linda Cox told her co-workers she had to go home shortly before noon on Jan. 19, none of them realized she was never coming back.
Cox and Cheryl Honce, another nurse at the hospital, were having a conversation that day when Cox received a telephone call. Cox took the call in another room, and announced she would be back later that day.
Cox never showed up at the hospital for a scheduled appointment, and about 12 hours later, she was found dead in her home.
Her son, Kristopher Cox, has been held without bond since January, charged with first-degree murder. His trial started Wednesday and was expected to conclude by the end of the week.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that her son, Kristopher Cox, shot her in the face with a 9mm handgun, and then tried to conceal the crime by hiding her body and cleaning the scene.
Kris Coxís defense attorneys paint a different picture of what happened that crisp, cold day earlier this year.
They say Kris and his mother were arguing about whether he was going back to college at a prestigious black university in Virginia. Kris, his mother and his father, Raymond Cox, had been discussing Krisí future plans since he returned to Clarksburg for Christmas break in December.
When Linda Cox came home from the hospital, attorney James Zimarowski said, Kris had announced his intention to return to school. Linda wanted him to stay and get a job, Zimarowski said.
The two fought, and Kris went to his room. When he came out, Linda was waving the 9mm gun and taunting Kris, Zimarowski said. She had the gun to protect herself from threats that had been made to VA hospital staff during a restructuring project. Because she was living alone, she believed she needed it, defense attorneys said.
Kris tried to push his motherís arm out of the way to get the gun away from his face, and the gun fired, hitting Linda next to her right eye from a distance of six inches.
Prosecutor Eric Kitzmiller called the incident a "deliberate, premeditated intentional killing of a mother by her son."
Zimarowski said it was an accident.
After the shooting, prosecutors said Kris Cox called his best friend in Maryland and told him he had killed her. The friend suggested calling 911 for help, but no such call was made, Kitzmiller said.
According to Kitzmiller, neighbors saw Kris several times that day at his motherís house, and his friend came to Clarksburg, looking for him.
About 8 p.m., Kris called his friend again, and said he was coming to Maryland. He arrived in Maryland with a blood-soaked towel, his motherís gold sweater, a pair of his own blood stained basketball sneakers and the gun.
Kris came back to Clarksburg about 12:30 a.m. Jan. 20, and went straight to his fatherís home on Monticello Ave., Kitzmiller said.
"He made statements to his father that gave Raymond Cox some concerns about Lindaís safety," Kitzmiller said.
About 1:30 a.m., Kris and Raymond were seen by a Clarksburg officer, arguing behind Krisí car. Raymond approached the officer and said he was concerned for Linda. They went to her house.
What greeted Raymond and Clarksburg Lt. Gary Keith when they entered the house chilled them both, they said.
Lindaís body was lying in the living room, partially in a cardboard box, with her shirt off and a plastic garbage bag on her head.
"There was also a carpet shampooer, vacuum cleaner, some rubber gloves and other items in the house," Kitzmiller said. "These items were being used to conceal the evidence of a murder."
Defense attorneys say Kris was not acting to conceal a crime. He was distraught about his motherís death, panicked and blacked out.
"There is absolutely no motive whatsoever for Kris to commit this crime. The stateís case is built on a circumstantial house of cards," Zimarowski said. "There was no motive, no criminal intent. So simply, there was no crime."
The trial continues today in Harrison County Circuit Court.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Kristopher Cox faces life in prison.

Developer strikes deal with state

by Julie R. Cryser
Assistant Managing Editor
The developer of a proposed $129 million horse-related theme park in Lewis County has made a gentlemanís agreement with the state Securities Division, agreeing not to sell any of the $500 memberships to his equine club.
"He has an agreement with this division that he will not sell memberships until he seeks proper legal counsel," said Chester Thompson, deputy commission of the state Securities Division. "It was a mutual agreement because he didnít want to put himself in a position where he might violate state law."
Thompson said that Steven J. Garvin, the sole proprietor of Mountainbred Equine Group, met with attorneys that specialize in securities last week, but because the attorneys had a conflict, they could not represent him.
"He is being very aggressive in trying to find proper representation," Thompson said.
Garvin did not return a telephone call to his Moutainbred Equine Group office on Wednesday.
Thompson said any sale of the $500 memberships would be considered a violation of the agreement. He said it is best for Garvin to wait until an attorney can examine the membership sales, which Garvin offered to the public during a press conference held earlier this month.
"We just simply want to know what the facts are," Thompson said Wednesday.
Garvin had proposed selling $500 lifetime memberships in his equine club up to $500,000. The money would be used to help secure land, hire an architect, secure permits and licenses and convert MEG into a publicly traded corporation called MegaWorld.
Once Moutainbred incorporated MegaWorld, Garvin would offer the sale of 10 million shares of stock at $20 per share to help pay for the project. Garvin said in early September that he had issued seven memberships so far, but as much as $100,000 has been tentatively committed to the $129 million project.
Garvin has refused to name any existing or potential members of his club, which will eventually make up the board of MegaWorld. The project, which he plans to break ground on in April or May 2000 and have completed by June 2001, will include a 300-unit upscale hotel, an enclosed facility for stables and specialty shops, a theme park, a veterinary center, a 1 1/2-mile horse race track and a 60,000 square-foot convention center.
The theme, horse and water park would be built on 820 acres of land along Hackers Creek in Lewis County. The land is known as the J.C. Baker farm or the Jane Lew Farm.
However, according to federal court documents, the deed for the land is being disputed.
A lawsuit filed in July in Clarksburg alleges that the land was illegally sold by the former president of J.C. Baker & Son to himself, his grandson and two of his great-grandchildren.
The suit alleges that in November 1987, John Calvin Baker executed a deed which gave the land to himself, his grandson John Chris Baker, and two of his great-grandsons, John Chris Baker Jr. and Philip Baker.
The suit was filed by the executor of John Calvin Bakerís will, Michael Baker. John Calvin Baker died Aug. 22, 1998.
The suit alleges that the land was sold for $10, but no money was ever paid to the company. Additionally, the sale of the land was not authorized by the company, either by a resolution of the board of directors or the shareholders, according to the suit.
Although the deed transfer was recorded in the Lewis County Clerkís office on Sept. 27, 1988, the transfer taxes and recording fees were paid by the corporation. From 1987 to 1997, all real property taxes annually assessed against the property were paid by the corporation and from 1987 to present, all expenses for operation of the land were paid by the corporation, according to the suit.
Michael Baker is requesting that the deed be declared void and the land be transferred back to ownership of the corporation free and clear of any rights of the defendants.
However, if the court determines that the land does belong to the defendants, Michael Baker is asking the court to order the defendants to pay all federal, state and generation skipping taxes, as well as state estate taxes.
Michael Chaney, a Charleston attorney representing Michael Baker in the suit, said he doesnít think the lawsuit would hold up any potential sale of the property.
"I would anticipate that the parties involved in the lawsuit would work together to convey the property to anybody who comes up with a reasonable offer," Chaney said Wednesday evening.
Rick Wright, a Weston real estate agent handling the sale of the property, also said he doesnít think the suit will stop the sale of the land to MegaWorld, which plans to arrange a lease-purchase agreement.
"At this time, we have no indication that it will," Wright said.
Staff writer James Fisher contributed to this article.

Appointment may signal tougher smoking rules

by Julie R. Cryser
Assistant Managing Editor
When Joyce Rabanal takes the oath today and is sworn in as the newest member of the Harrison County Board of Health, it will mark an important moment for those who believe Harrison Countyís local tobacco policy is weak.
Appointed by the Harrison County Commission, Rabanal replaces Dr. Herman Fisher, a Republican whose term expired in July and who did not want to continue serving.
Commission President Thomas Keeley said Rabanal will help the county in its desire to appoint more women and minorities to boards. And sheís a Republican. State law says that the board has to have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats serving.
Rabanalís resume is extensive. She has a nursing degree from Salem College and is a masterís candidate, has been active in the West Virginia Nurses Association, the West Virginia State Medical Society Alliance, has written four grants and has been active in other community and professional organizations.
Sheís received the most publicity, however, from her activities in the Marion/Harrison Bi-County Tobacco Coalition. And she is a critic of the countyís tobacco policy, adopted in 1997, because the local health department cannot enforce the regulation.
"If (businesses) choose not to abide by the rules, they can smoke all over the place," Rabanal said Wednesday.
And although she said she personally would like to see a ban on smoking in businesses throughout the county, she canít say what she will do once she takes her seat on the board. Itís too early, she said.
"I donít know anything about how the board functions," she said.
Delia Naranjo, with the Marion/Harrison Bi-County Tobacco Coalition, said Rabanalís appointment is a positive step for those who support more stringent smoking regulations in Harrison County.
"Hopefully, it will improve and strengthen our tobacco coalition issue," she said. "Hopefully, we will be able to make some changes so the whole community can benefit from it."
Harrison Countyís tobacco policy is one of the weakest in the state, according to officials with the state Bureau of Healthís state Tobacco Prevention Program. Although it calls for only 25 percent seating in restaurants for smokers, enforcement is basically voluntary.
"The language in the regulation looks very similar to other counties around the state, but the thing that varies is the enforcement section," said Mike Harman, field director for the state Tobacco Prevention Program. "Some people feel that it makes it a voluntary policy."
The Harrison County policy leaves enforcement up to the owner or operator of the establishment.
Forty-one of the stateís 55 counties have adopted tobacco policies. Most policies throughout the state allow for penalties enforceable by a county magistrate. Some call for all restaurants to have separate ventilation systems for non-smoking areas, while others ban smoking in any business altogether.
Harman said only a few cases have ever made it to the magistrate court level in any West Virginia county, but he said the threat is enough to force businesses to comply. Health departments usually make sure restaurants are meeting the guidelines as a part of their annual health inspection. And if someone complains that the regulations are being broken, local health department officials visit the business and ask owners to voluntarily comply.
Harrison Countyís policy, however, "leaves the health department out of the enforcement picture," Harman said.
It will be a while before Rabanal is able to take an active role in the Harrison County Board of Healthís decision-making process. The board meets Oct. 4, but Rabanal will be unable to attend the first meeting because of a prior engagement.
But Rabanal said sheís ready to take on her newest role.
"In todayís times, changes in medicine and health care occur every day and become challenges that we must address so that informed decisions that will benefit the health of the people of Harrison County can be made," she said in a written statement. "This is the challenge to which I am committed."

CNG, Hope Gas employees getting the scoop on Y2K

by Shawn Gainer
Staff Writer
Consolidated Natural Gas Transmission Corp. and Hope Gas employees are getting a chance to find out how Y2K complications might affect their lives at the companyís "What You Need to Know" exposition.
Personnel from CNGís Communications Planning and Information Technology groups set up information stations at the companyís West Main Street office building Wednesday and today so employees could get advice about personal preparation and how the turnover to year 2000 might affect items they use at home.
Much information that might interest the general public was available concerning home computers. Tim McSwain worked a table where people named the manufacturer and model of their home computers. He would either tell them what they could do to make their PCs compliant or refer them to an information source.
"As a general rule, if it was manufactured after 1997, it will probably be compliant," McSwain said. "Anything that contains a Pentium processor or above should be all right. With some brands it depends on the model, so you should check the manufacturerís website. It doesnít cost anything."
McSwain added that there are several ways people can solve the problem of a non-compliant computer.
"Some companies provide patches you can download and you can buy programs that will take over your computerís operations during the roll over to 2000 and make it compliant," he said. "In some computers, you can set the date after 2000 and it will stick --they just donít know how to make the transition."
Testing templates were also available for employees who wished to test individual programs and applications for possible complications by simulating the turnover to 2000.
"As far as programs, ones that use dates for calculations are the most likely to have problems," he said.
Cindy Welch, who headed the exposition project, said patches to make the Windows 95 and Windows 98 operating systems Y2K compliant can be found through Microsoft Corporationís website,
Company officials scheduled the exposition 100 days before the transition to year 2000 in order to reassure the public that CNG will remain in business and continue transmitting gas on Jan 1., said Sandy Stalnaker, lead information technology analyst.
"Anything that is critical, like process control equipment for pipeline valves, has been tested," Stalnaker said. "Weíve looked into relationships with suppliers, too. Weíll have generators for back-up power at critical facilities."
Scott Young said after visiting the information stations that he believes the greatest Y2K problem could be panic among the general public.
"I think we will endure some inconveniences because of the hype but weíll have gas and electric," Young said. "I can see problems at the gas pump and in grocery stores if people decide to hoard."

GSC president says teacher training needs to be improved

by Shawn Gainer
Staff Writer
Glenville State College President Thomas Powell said Wednesday that colleges and universities must work harder to train good teachers for public school systems.
"I feel it is inappropriate to continue to criticize K-12 public schools for the quality of students we get when the only guarantee for a good education is a quality teacher," Powell said. "Colleges have a moral responsibility to make teacher education a priority."
Powell added teacher training has become a priority for the federal government. He was one of 75 college presidents from across the nation to meet with Richard Riley, secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, about the issue.
He added that he believes college administrators have access to plenty of research which points to ways to improve teacher training. Specific measures Powell said he wants to see include having more education colleges nationally accredited, as well as greater cooperation with public schools in internships and higher passing rates on licensing examinations.
"Only 40 percent of teacher education programs in America are accredited by NCATE (the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education). Itís shameful," he said. "I feel that is important because the NCATE standards are very rigorous."
"Colleges need to work more closely with school systems in areas like student teaching, rather than using a 'place and prayí method," he added.
West Virginia is ahead of many other states in accreditation, as state regulations require all public college and university teacher education programs to be accredited by NCATE, said Bruce Flagg of the University System of West Virginia.
Powell said he feels the main obstacle to improving teacher education might be expense because of the costs involved in gaining accreditation and providing the kind of salaries that will keep good people in the field.
"Last year we had 32 teacher education graduates. We used to have graduating classes of more than 100," he said. "If weíre going to require more qualifications on top of the heavy responsibility they already have, there has to be a corresponding increase in compensation. Otherwise good people will continue to be lured into other professions."

FBI officials honor local man for his service to the community

Stephen Bakerís efforts for 'FBI Nightí gain recognition

by Paul Leakan
Staff Writer
Officials at the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg honored a local man Wednesday for his efforts to help the agency emerge from its workplace and reach out to the community.
Stephen Baker, co-owner of the Interstate 79 Speedway near Shinnston, received the FBI Directorís Award for "exceptional service in the public interest."
For the last three years, Baker and the local FBI centerís Community Outreach Program have teamed up for "FBI Night."
FBI employees hand out coloring books and alcohol-free, anti-violence and anti-drug literature during the event.
Employees fingerprinted around 140 children and young adults at the event this year.
The event is one of many ways for the local FBI to move away from the notion of being "stuffed shirts" tucked away in their workplace behind the hills, said Bill Holley, manager of the community outreach program.
"Weíre really sincere about what we do in the community," Holley said.
"We live in this community. Our children go to school here. Weíre really just regular people."
All of the efforts wouldnít be possible without people like Baker to help support them, said Maria Fazalari, community outreach specialist.
"Community support is what makes our programs so successful. Without that our programs would be meaningless," she said.
"We wouldnít have any audience and there would be no one to take advantage of them."
Even so, Baker was just humbled by the award. He believes it should go to all of his co-workers at the speedway.
"Iím just part of the puzzle," he said. "It takes all of us to make this thing go."
Local FBI officials also plan to award two members of its police force this Friday for meritorious achievement.
FBI police officers Robert C. Mason and Jeffrey L. Owens helped to save a womanís life while on routine safety patrol in February 1998.
Mason and Owens helped to extinguish a fire, direct traffic and provided comfort for a woman who was trapped inside her car.
The womanís car was crushed beneath a tractor trailer that had skidded off Interstate 79 and caught fire.

Anniversary of playground construction to be marked

by Gail Marsh
Staff Writer
It was just about one year ago that more than 300 volunteers came together in Grafton to build the Castle Creek Playground at Fetterman Park.
And the Friends of Castle Creek are planning a celebration to mark the anniversary of the construction of one of the most elaborate, hand-crafted, wooden playgrounds in the area.
"This was really a grassroots effort that had amazing results. Not only did we get a wonderful playground, but the project showed people what they could accomplish when they worked toward a common goal," said Thea Porter, chair of the Friends of Castle Creek.
The friends will celebrate with a community picnic on Oct. 10 at the park. Everyone who worked on the project or who would like to see the finished product is invited to attend.
"It was incredible to see so many people come out and volunteer, and everyone had such a good time. Itís something the community can be really proud of," she said.
Porter said the project actually began in 1997 when she was serving as an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer for the North Central West Virginia Community Action Association in Taylor County.
"My first project there was to plant some trees at Fetterman Park, and while there I met Mary Tucker," Porter said.
Tucker, the family and consumer science teacher at the Taylor County Technical Center, was on site with some of her students to try to make improvements to the existing playground.
It took more than a year to raise funds, hire an architectural firm to design the playground, round up volunteers and garner material donations before work began.
"We had people who were in charge of shuttle parking and others who were in charge of day care services or getting lunch and dinner for the 300 workers. It turned into a community wide effort," Porter said.
Actual construction started on Sept. 30, 1998 and lasted five days. More than 300 people showed up to help on the first day.
"Once the tools and materials arrived, we needed 24-hour security at the site. We got help from the boy scouts, the sheriffís department and others who helped us out," Porter said.
The end result produced Castle Creek, a playground fashioned around a castle, complete with dragon and dinosaur designs. There are swings, slides, a trolley, a maze and a wiggle walk among the half-acre of equipment.
Porter said the Friends of Castle Creek continue to work at the park, with plans to put in more picnic tables and benches. Members also work with the city to help make general improvements to the whole park.
For more information on the anniversary celebration, people can contact Porter at 265-5542.

Local and area news in brief

Drought deepens in central, western portions of state

CHARLESTON (AP) -- Storms that helped the Eastern Panhandle have done little for the rest of the state as the drought of 1999 grows worse in central and western West Virginia counties.
The National Weather Service reported Wednesday that rainfall deficits in the state ranged from 3 inches to 15 inches. Wells are running dry, streams are mere trickles and farmers in 27 counties are hauling water to give their livestock a drink.
Thirty counties are following voluntary water conservation measures and 14 public service districts have invoked mandatory measures.
The continued lack of rain has hurt hay production, cutting the average annual production of 1 million tons by 54 percent. To get livestock through the winter, farmers will need another 450,000 tons, said Bill Bissett, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture.

School investigates allegations that teacher bit student

WELCH (AP) -- State and local officials are investigating an allegation that a second grade teacher bit one of her pupils earlier this week.
The teacher has been taken out of the classroom and will not return until the investigation is complete, Larry Lane, McDowell Countyís assistant superintendent, said Wednesday.
The incident allegedly occurred Monday at Welch Elementary School, he said.
Tina Bowen claims the teacher bit her 7-year-old daughterís shoulder -- breaking the skin and causing it to bleed. Lane said he didnít know the extent of the injury.

Distillerís legal moonshine hits the shelves

MORGANTOWN (AP) -- The bottle looks like it was meant to hold maple syrup, but the crystal clear liquid inside is intoxicating.
The first 72 cases of Mountain Moonshine, made in a Granville garage by West Virginia Distilling Co., have been shipped to the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commissionís bonded warehouse, distiller Payton Fireman said Monday.
"It took a month and a half ... to make enough whiskey to make these cases," he said. "Itís going to take another month or so to make another supply."
The Morgantown lawyer expects the first bottling to be gone by the time the next is ready for sale. Every bottle is guaranteed to be less than 30 days old.

State looks for contamination in state fish

CHARLESTON (AP) -- West Virginia is following the lead of other states in trying to determine if the stateís waterways are contaminated by methyl mercury.
The research, being conducted by a West Virginia University graduate student. The information will be used for future fish consumption advisories, Pat Campbell, a watershed manager for the state Division of Environmental Protection, said Wednesday.
Fish samples are being collected on the Monongahela River this week. Other rivers targeted for sampling include the Kanawha, New, Cranberry and Shenandoah.
West Virginia routinely samples waterways for contaminates such as dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlordanes, cadmium and lead. Fish consumption advisories are than issued warning the public about the risks associated with eating contaminated fish.
"Neighboring states have mercury advisories," Campbell said. "We knew nationally that folks were going to a risk-based advisory. Those numbers are more conservative and protective and itís the wave of the future."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists mercury as a pollutant of concern due to its persistence in the environment, its potential to accumulate in the body over long periods of time, and its toxicity to humans. Studies show mercury attacks the central nervous system and can lead to birth defects.
Emissions from coal-burning boilers and power plants are considered the leading cause of methyl mercury deposition in rivers and streams, Campbell said.
The sampling also is giving officials a better look at water quality in the Monongahela River. Fisheries biologists are finding the river is rebounding from earlier pollution.
"Back in the 1960s and early í70s, it was predominantly bullhead catfish because it was an acid river at that time, and it was one of the few species which could tolerate the low pH levels," said Frank Jernejcic, a fisheries biologist with the state Division of Natural Resources.
No bullhead catfish were found Tuesday during the first of three fish counts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineersí Morgantown Lock and Dam on the Monongahela River.
Since the water quality has improved, other fish species are now found in the river. Fish sampled Tuesday included drum, channel catfish, flathead catfish, white bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass.

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