Repeat Drug Dealer Sentenced to 47 Years
Posted 12/5/14 5:45pm
Dennis Lee, Tazewell County Commonwealth's Attorney announced that, Joseph Jerome Panagopolous, age 58, of 6677 Falls Mills Road, Bluefield, West Virginia, was sentenced to forty-seven (47) years in prison after being found guilty by a jury of charges of Conspiracy, Distribution of Schedule II Narcotics, 3rd
Offense and Distribution of Drugs on School Property.
Evidence presented at Panagopolous' trial on September 2, 2014, revealed that the defendant and his co-conspirator sold the narcotic, Dilaudid, in the parking lot of a local school to a confidential informant. School was not in session at the time and Panagopolous and his partner chose that location for the exchange. The confidential informant, who was being driven by Panagopolous' co-conspirator and was previously unaware of the location of the exchange, tried to persuade the defendants to go to another site, without success.
At the sentencing hearing held in the Tazewell County Circuit Court on December 4, 2014, it was further revealed that Panagopolous had an extensive criminal record dating back 40 years. Panagopolous had previously been convicted in the United States District Court in Bluefield, West Virginia of Trafficking Cocaine in 1987. In 2002 he was convicted of cocaine trafficking in Guilford County, North Carolina. And in both 2000 and 2011, Panagopolous was convicted of narcotics trafficking in Mercer County, West Virginia. Panagopolous was on probation for the 2011 conviction at the time he committed the offense in Tazewell County.
The Honorable Jack Hurley, who presided over the jury trial and sentencing hearing, accepted the jury's recommendation and imposed the forty seven (47) year active sentence. There is no parole in the Commonwealth of Virginia. "Mr. Panagopolous has been blight on this area for far too many years," said Dennis Lee. "He will no longer have the opportunity to ruin lives."
This case was investigated by the Tazewell County Narcotics Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Tazewell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis H. Lee and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorneys Melanie Menefee and Brandon Goins.
Project Lifesaver Underway
Posted 12/2/14 10:24pm
The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office has officially put their Project Lifesaver Program into action with the first participant of the program. Pictured is Chief Dispatcher Shannon Yost attaching the Lifesaver Bracelet onto Mike, the first participant of the new program. Now that the bracelet has been attached the
Sheriff’s Office will be able to track it in case of an emergency. Each month the Sheriff’s Office will come by and replace the batteries to make sure it is giving out a good signal. The project is designed for children with autism or cognitive disorders and adults with Alzheimer’s and other medical problems that may cause them to wander off. Recently Sheriff Hieatt made a presentation to the
Board of Supervisors and asked for funding to help families who may not be able to afford the bracelets. The Board agreed to help out citizens with $7,000.
For more information please contact the Sheriff’s Office at 276-988-1167.
VSP Reports Record Decline in Holiday Fatalities
Posted 12/2/14 9:56pm
Despite the challenging weather at the start of the 2014 Thanksgiving weekend in Virginia, preliminary numbers indicate a record decline in traffic fatalities over the holiday statistical counting period. From 12:01 a.m., Wednesday (Nov. 26, 2014), through midnight Sunday (Nov. 30, 2014), five fatal crashes have been reported statewide. During the 2013 five-day period, traffic crashes claimed a total of 12 lives. 1992 was the last time Virginia had only five traffic deaths during the Thanksgiving weekend.*
The five traffic deaths occurred in the cities of Radford and Virginia Beach, and the counties of Bedford, Middlesex and Roanoke. Alcohol was a factor in at least two of the five traffic deaths. Three of the drivers who died in the crashes were not wearing seat belts.
In Radford, a 60-year-old male pedestrian was walking in the road when he was struck and killed. The Virginia Beach death occurred after a 25-year-old male refused to stop for police and instead fled from the state trooper at a high rate of speed. The driver lost control, ran off the interstate and struck a tree.
“As encouraging as this significant decline in traffic deaths is for Virginia, drivers still must maintain their commitment to safe driving practices, especially as we head into the holiday season,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “December kicks off National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month, so we ask all motorists to only drive when sober. Even a little bit to drink can earn you a DUI and cause you to be involved in a crash.”
During the Thanksgiving weekend, Virginia State Police participated in the Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.), a state-sponsored, national program that encourages law enforcement agencies to increase visibility and traffic enforcement efforts on major travel holidays. The stepped-up law enforcement operation was part of the new, nationwide Drive to Save Lives (#DrivetoSaveLives) campaign that aims to not only reduce traffic fatalities by 15 percent in 2014, but to also increase officer safety for those on patrol. To achieve a 15 percent reduction in the Commonwealth, there must be 111 fewer traffic deaths on Virginia’s highways this year.
As part of the 2014 Thanksgiving enforcement efforts, Virginia State Police troopers stopped 9,789 speeders and another 2,312 reckless drivers statewide. In addition, troopers arrested and charged 90 drivers for DUI. Troopers also cited 693 safety belt violations and 204 child safety seat violations. State police assisted 3,404 disabled motorists and investigated a total of 1,191 traffic crashes, five of which were fatal.
All funds generated from summonses issued by Virginia State Police go directly to court fees and the state’s Literary Fund, which benefits public school construction, technology funding and teacher retirement. *Virginia Highway Safety Office, DMV
Holiday Gets Off to Rough Start for Travelers
Posted 11/27/14 10:05am
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the busiest travel times of the year, which increases Virginians’ risks of being involved in a serious or deadly traffic crash. As families and friends prepare to gather to give thanks this year, the Virginia State Police reminds motorists to make safety a priority during the holiday weekend. Virginians are reminded to drive to save lives by always buckling up, never driving drunk and avoiding distractions.
During the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, 12 people died in traffic crashes across the Commonwealth of Virginia. In the past five years, a total of 63 men, women and children have lost their lives in a traffic crash on Virginia’s highways over the four-day statistical counting period for the Thanksgiving holiday.*
“In 2014, traffic crashes have claimed 619 lives on Virginia’s highways, which averages to about 56 traffic deaths a month,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “This is the time of year when we talk of giving thanks and committing selfless acts of kindness to help others. What better way to put that into action than by driving to save lives every time you’re on the road?
Share the road, be alert to motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists, and do not drive aggressively, distracted or drunk. Simply drive to save lives because every life counts.”
Virginia State Police will increase patrols and traffic enforcement efforts in order to prevent traffic deaths and injuries as part of the state police’s participation in Operation C.A.R.E., an acronym for the Combined Accident Reduction Effort. Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program designed to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by speeding, impaired driving and failure to use occupant restraints. Motorists can expect to see an increase in troopers throughout the Commonwealth beginning Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, at 12:01 a.m., and continuing through midnight, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014.
During the 2013 Thanksgiving Operation C.A.R.E. initiative, Virginia State Police cited 9,841 speeders and another 2,697 reckless drivers statewide. Troopers arrested 98 impaired drivers and issued 772 seat belt citations. State police also cited 213 child restraint violations. Virginia troopers assisted 3,341 motorists.
In addition, weather-related crashes accounted for 4 percent of fatalities during the Thanksgiving weekend in 2012 nationwide.** With the potential for snow and freezing rain forecasted for the Commonwealth as the holiday approaches, motorists are reminded to plan ahead for possible delays, slow speeds for conditions, always buckle up, and call VDOT’s 511 or go to www.511virginia.org to check road conditions.
With the increase of emergency personnel on the highways, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers to comply with Virginia’s “Move Over” law. A life-saving law intended to protect public safety responders and others who have a responsibility to work the roads. Drivers are required to change to another travel lane or, when unable to, to cautiously pass emergency personnel stopped on the side of the road. The law also includes highway maintenance vehicles and tow trucks equipped with flashing amber lights.
Sadly, the start to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend along Interstate 77 has been a dangerous one. Two significant crashes occurred Wednesday morning in Wythe and Carroll counties due to drivers losing control of their vehicles.
The first one occurred at approximately 8:30 a.m. along I-77 at the 9 mile marker in Carroll County. The area was experiencing heavy snowfall at the time, and a Hillsville Fire Department vehicle had turned into the Emergency Vehicles Crossover while preparing to head north to a crash site on I-77. The fire truck had its red lights activated. As the fire truck was waiting for northbound I-77 traffic to clear, a 2013 Honda Civic lost control and ran into the crossover, striking the fire truck in the side. None of the firefighters in the truck was injured. The driver of the Civic, Christopher Adams of Georgia, suffered a minor injury. Adams was charged with reckless driving. His vehicle was a total loss and the fire truck sustained approximately $75,000 in damage. (See attached photo)
At 11:25 a.m., Virginia State Police were called to a five-vehicle crash in the southbound lanes of I-77 at the 27 mile marker in Wythe County. The chain-reaction crash involved two tractor-trailers and three passenger vehicles. Based on witness accounts, southbound traffic was slowing on I-77 when the vehicles failed to brake in time and sparked the chain reaction crash. Only minor injuries were sustained by those involved in the crash, with a 13-year-old girl being the only one transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.
A Volkswagen Jetta suffered the most damage when it rear-ended one tractor-trailer, spun around and then was struck head-on by a second tractor-trailer. The 13-year-old female passenger (same one as mentioned in the previous paragraph) was transported to Wythe County Community Hospital for treatment of serious, but non-life threatening injuries. The Jetta’s driver and three passengers were all wearing seat belts, which troopers credit for helping save the Pennsylvania family members’ lives – and minimize their injuries. The driver and two other passengers were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
Southbound I-77 was re-opened to through traffic at approximately 1:30 p.m. It was not snowing at the time of the crash.
All motorists are reminded to Drive to Save Lives this holiday weekend. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), weather-related crashes accounted for 4 percent of fatalities during the Thanksgiving weekend in 2012 nationwide.** With the potential for snow and freezing rain forecasted for the Commonwealth as the holiday approaches, motorists are reminded to plan ahead for possible delays, slow speeds for conditions, always buckle up, and call VDOT’s 511 or go to www.511virginia.org to check road conditions.
Lifesavor Program Receives Donation
Posted 11/27/14 9:41am
On Friday November 21st, 2014 the Tazewell Moose Lodge made a $3,000 donation to the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office, Project Lifesaver Program. This has allowed for the purchase of 10 transmitter sets which includes transmitter, bracelets and batteries for a year.
“This gracious donation will make it possible for us to reach out and provide this very necessary service to some local families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford this service”, stated Sheriff Brian Hieatt. The goal of the Project Lifesaver Program is to provide the ability to locate those adults and minors with cognitive disorders who wander. Nationally the recovery time is approximately 30 minutes or less from the time the report is made to locating the missing person if they are wearing one of these tracking devices.
“We hope to have the program fully self sufficient in the very near future,” stated Shannon Yost, Chief Dispatcher.
The donation made today, along with other generous donations made by the County Board of Supervisors and other local businesses, have allowed us to build a cache of transmitters, bracelets and batteries.
“Once all of the materials are in, we will begin contacting those families that have already completed applications and submitted the required proof from their doctors of the family members diagnosed with a cognitive disorder,” Dispatcher Cindy Tomlinson stated.
The Sheriff’s Office obtained a grant earlier this year to purchase the tracking equipment and two transmitter packages and will be conducting fundraisers throughout the year to not only raise awareness about cognitive disorders, but to also raise the needed funds to support this program. A transmitter, bracelets and batteries for a one year period are approximately $300 per person.
If anyone would like additional information regarding the Project Lifesaver Program or would like to make a donation, please contact Chief Dispatcher Yost at (276)988-0914 or Dispatcher Tomlinson at (276)988-1167.
Bluefield Christmas Parade Announced
Posted 11/20/14 10:06am
This is an invitation to all floats, cars, walking units, pageant queens, marching units, bands, VIP’s, clubs, organizations, club presidents, and individuals and antique car owners.
The Bluefield Christmas Parade Committee would like to invite everyone to the Annual Christmas Parade to be held on Saturday, December 13 at 1:00 p.m. The theme for this year’s parade is “Christmas in Bluefield." All entries are asked that everyone incorporate this theme into your float. The parade route will start on the corner of South and Bland Streets, then travel North on Bland Street to Federal Street and right at Princeton Avenue ending at the green space where the former Princeton Avenue parking garage stood.
We invite you to participate by entering your float in any of the above categories. First place will be awarded $250.00, second place $100.00, third place $75.00 and most unusual $50.00. If an entry wishes to be judged for one of the above prizes, an application and entry fee of $25.00 made payable to the Bluefield Christmas Parade Committee, must be sent to 200 Federal Street Bluefield, WV 24701 no later than December 1, 2014.
For questions or forms please call, 276.326.3341 or click here. Forms can be picked up at the Mercer County CVB, Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, and Landmark Antiques.
BC Among the Top Tier
Posted 11/17/14 10:55pm
Bluefield College has been ranked among the top tier colleges in the South in the U.S. News and World Report's "America's Best Colleges: 2015," thanks in large part to its personal attention to students and affordability.
In fact, BC ranked 54th out of the more than 100 colleges in 12 states that make up U.S. News’ South Region, including Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. Only 75 colleges in the 12 states made the distinguished Top Tier.
“While there are a number of approaches in measuring the quality of an educational experience, we are appreciative of this recognition by U.S. News,” said Dr. David Olive, president of Bluefield College. “I think this reflects well on our gifted faculty and staff and our constant pursuit of excellence in our academic and co-curricular programs.”
Nearly 400 regional colleges in four regions of the United States are evaluated in U.S. News’ annual study, including 98 colleges in the South Region, the largest region in the study and where Bluefield College ranked 54th based on its strong scores in the areas of small class sizes, financial aid packages, limited debt of graduates, and graduation rates.
According to the U.S. News survey, Bluefield College boasts among all colleges in the South the 13th best number of classes with fewer than 20 students. Seventy-six percent of Bluefield’s classes have fewer than 20 students, compared to some colleges in the South that have no classes with fewer than 20 students. With that kind of small class size, BC’s personal attention to students is among the best in the South.
“Faculty at Bluefield are not distant figures intoning from the front of a lecture hall,” said BC’s Trent Argo, vice president for enrollment management. “They think of themselves as mentors, taking a personal interest in their students, and helping them to identify and harness the passion that will move them beyond mediocrity to brilliance.”
Another measure of standard that helped Bluefield College land its Top Tier status was the generosity of its financial aid. The average financial aid package for incoming freshman at BC is just more than $18,000. The overall average financial aid package among all students is $14, 942. According to U.S. News, that’s 35th best in the South, compared to the South’s worst at $3,600.
The result of that generous financial aid: less debt for Bluefield College graduates. In fact, students who graduate from Bluefield do so with just $21,553 in debt, and according to U.S. News that’s the 13th best effort among all colleges in the South to limit student indebtedness, compared to colleges on the U.S. News list who are sending students away with more than $40,000 debt.
Similarly, the college fares well in graduating its students, said U.S. News, as evidenced by its six-year graduation rate, which ranked 30th among all colleges in the South. BC is also a military friendlyschool, according to U.S. News, who ranked Bluefield 17th among all colleges in the South in its “Best Colleges for Veterans” category.
The annual U.S. News rankings offer the opportunity for prospective students to judge the relative quality of academic institutions based on widely accepted indicators of excellence. Schools are categorized by mission, derived from the breakdown of the types of higher education developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The categories include National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities, and Regional Colleges with regions divided into North, South, Midwest, and West. Regional colleges, like Bluefield College, focus primarily on undergraduate education.
For a complete listing of the rankings for “America’s Best Colleges: 2015,” visit the U.S. News and World Report web site atwww.usnews.com/colleges.
SWCC PSSA to Hold Christmas Bazaar
The Southwest Virginia Community College Professional Support Staff Association (PSSA) will be hosting the 2014 Christmas Bazaar on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, in King Community Center Gym from 10:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Various vendors from around the area will be available to sell items such as jewelry, purses, fragrances, candles, art, and etc. In addition to the vendors, a bake sale and a silent auction will also be available. Proceeds go toward scholarships. To learn more about the SWCC PSSA Christmas Bazaar, please contact Jacob Richardson at 276-964-7763 or Jacob.Richardson@sw.edu.
Free Gun Safety Program Initiated
Posted 10/24/14 12:18am
The Tazewell County Sheriff's Office has launched a new program for the citizens of Tazewell County. Sheriff Brian Hieatt said his department has just initiated a free Gun Safety Program that will meet the requirements for applying for a Concealed Weapon Permit. "This is a service that we want to provide to the citizens of our county. We have certified Firearms Instructors that put the course together, and we believe that a person has the right to defend themselves and their families. I also believe that it is our right as law abiding citizens to bear arms and I fully support the 2nd Amendment." states Hieatt. In the classroom participants
will be able to ask questions about defending themselves and their families, learn about the various laws that govern the carrying of a concealed weapon and such, they will also be able to view an assortment of weapons carried by Deputy
As part of this free program citizens are given the option to go to a shooting range and practice with their firearm. This is not a requirement to get their Gun Safety Certificate but an option the Sheriff's Office felt was important because many people buy a gun and have rarely if ever used one. They will be taught how to load it, unload it, manipulate the safeties, take it apart to clean and the safe handling of their firearm. Chief of Operations Mike Shawver will be overseeing classes throughout the county. For more information call (276) 988-1151 we are planning on conducting additional classes in the Tazewell and Richlands areas, if your organization would like to sponsor a class please call the number listed above.
Posted 9/26/14 6:47am
On Thursday, September 18th, 2014 Deputy Travis Hayton along with 50 other deputies, troopers and officers from around the region were recognized for their outstanding work in reducing the numbers of drunk drivers on the road by the Bristol Regional MADD organization at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center. Deputy Hayton has been responsible for taking 78 drunk drivers off of the roads of Tazewell County over the past 3 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there are approximately 11,000+ DUI related fatalities nationwide annually,
while in Virginia there are on average 250 such related deaths each year. Annually deputies, troopers and officers from around the region are brought together after being nominated by their respective agencies for the work they have done and are doing in reducing the numbers of drunk drivers on the road in our communities.
“We are very proud of the work that Deputy Hayton has put in over the past year. He continues lead by example and inspire the other deputies that work with him, helping to reduce the number of drunk drivers in our communities,” said Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt.
This annual award is given typically to the deputies,troopers and officers in their respective jurisdictions for arresting the highest number of drunk drivers from July 1st through June 30th. Deputy Hayton arrested 32 drunk drivers during that time frame last year.
Smith Still Missing
As the one year anniversary of the disappearance of a 42-year-old Cedar Bluff, Va., man approaches, the search efforts continue by local and Virginia State Police to find him. It was Nov. 8, 2013, that family members say they last saw Eric G. Smith. Since his disappearance, $20,000 has been established as a reward for any information that leads to Smith’s location and/or recovery.
According to family, Smith headed out early on the morning of Nov. 8, 2013, to go hunting on his property along West Hurt Buggy Road in Cedar Bluff. When he failed to return home that same evening, family members began searching for Smith and eventually called 911. The Cedar Bluff Police Department responded and initiated a search effort and, with the ongoing assistance of the Virginia State Police, a subsequent investigation into his disappearance.
Smith is 6 feet 1 inch in height and weighs approximately 210 pounds. He is a white male with brown hair and brown eyes. He has been a long-time employee of CONSOL
“Even 12 months later not a day goes by that I don’t think about Eric,” said Cedar Bluff Police Chief David Mills. “We refuse to give up hope that we will find Eric, but we truly need the public’s help to bring him home. Anyone who has any information about him is asked to please reach out to us. Anonymous calls are welcome.”
Anyone with information about Smith or his whereabouts is asked to call the Cedar Bluff Police Department at 276-963-3975 or the Virginia State Police at (276)228-3131 or toll-free in Virginia at 1-800-542-8716.
The reward offered for Smith has steadily increased over the past 12 months. Smith’s employer, CONSOL Energy, has been a significant donor with the hopes of generating new leads in the case that will ultimately help law enforcement locate him.
RPD and VSP Respond to Domestic Related Shooting
Posted 11/17/14 11:10pm
On Friday, November 14, 201411/14 at approximately 11:04 pm, Richlands Police Department/ Virginia State Police responded to 209 Rockbridge Ave. in Richlands regarding a domestic related shooting incident. During the course of the investigation it was learned that Kenneth Clarence Jones (age 65) shot Michael Keith Hamm (age 34) while at the residence.
Hamm was transported to Clinch Valley Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased. Hamm was transported to the State Medical Examiners in Roanoke the following day for autopsy.
Jones has not been charged in the incident due to the fact that preliminary findings indicate that the shooting may have been in self defense. This case is still under full active investigation with further determination to be made upon receipt of autopsy result and analysis of collected evidence. Results of
autopsy and evidence analysis will not be returned for several weeks.
Brown Arrested After Standoff With Police
A woman barricaded herself inside her home on Laurel Creek Rd. in Boissevain today after Deputies with the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office were attempting to arrest her after she was identified through DNA evidence linking her to an incident that occurred at the Crazy Horse II. In July a masked unknown person walked into the store located in Boissevain, and took close to $2000.00 and left. Through the course of the investigation, and with assistance from the State Forensic Lab, arrest warrants were obtained on Joann Brown, age 39, for Grand Larcany, Wearing a Mask in commission of a crime, and Breaking & Entering. After Deputies arvived at her home and spoke with Ms. Brown through the storm door, she slammed the inside door locked it and ran through the house, grabbed a shotgun and fired one shot inside the house. Deputies on scene backed off of the house to a safe distance and called for back up, deputies then surrounded the house, along with the department's Emergency Response Team. Throughout several phone calls to Ms. Brown, Hostage Negotiator Sgt. Mike Brown was able to convince Ms. Brown to surrender herself. "We are happy that this situation ended with no injuries, and that we were able to resolve the crimes that happened at the Crazy Horse II" states Sheriff Brian Hieatt. In addition to the original charges the deputies were there on, Ms. Brown now faces three additional charges of Brandishing a Firearm, Obstruction of Justice and Discharging a Firearm in an Occupied Dwelling. Joann Brown is currently being held without bond at the Southwest Regional Jail Authority in Tazewell.