2006 – The stories that were news

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 29, 2006

During the next three days, the News-Herald will recap some of the top stories, the newsmakers, of 2006. Today, we look back at the second quarter, April through June.

The date is the day the story appeared in the newspaper.


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1 n An unidentified man is rescued from the Nansemond River by the U.S. Coast Guard after he reportedly slipped and injured himself in his fishing boat.

4 n Officials, after signing paperwork finalizing the merger between Obici Hospital and Sentara, called the event “A great day in the life of this hospital, community.”

7 n Suffolk Sheriff Raleigh H. Isaacs Sr., filed an amended campaign finance document with the city’s electoral board detailing contributions made through his past three annual basketball tournament fundraisers. He filed the new papers after published reports that state most of the tournament proceeds were going to his campaign coffers. In a statement to the News-Herald, Isaacs said the money does go into his campaign account, but he then uses it to fund events such as the annual senior forum. The sheriff said the problem was “an accounting oversight.”

By a vote of 5-2, City Council adopted the city’s comprehensive plan, which included some changes, such as allowing 1,600 acres of rural farmland to one day be developed into homes, office and retail space.

8 n The city agreed to pay local businessman Frank Sheffer $235,500 for property it condemned in the downtown area more than one year ago. The property was located in the 100 block of South Main street, adjacent to the recently opened jazz club.

9 n Maj. Katrina Pillow, a Suffolk native, was named commander of the 297th Support Battalion of the Alaska Army National Guard.

Courtney Kinnan, of New Mexico, walked away when the twin-engine Comanche he was piloting crashed near the Hampton Roads Executive Airport.

11 n Firefighters battled a 535-acre wildfire in the Great Dismal Swamp that they believed was started by lightning.

13 n The Industrial Development Authority agreed to write-off $23,000 owed by Suffolk Festivals Inc., the organizers of the Peanut Festival. The amount was what was left on a $50,000 note the IDA had previously extended to SFI.

15 n Suffolk Health Department officials reported the discovery of a rabid raccoon off Kings Highway in Chuckatuck. It was the first reported case of a rabid animal during 2006.

20 n City Council sent the city manager “back to the drawing board” to revise the city budget. The city manager was directed earlier in the year to prepare two proposals, one reflecting a $.15 cut in the tax rate. The one presented to council that week reflected only $.07.

23 n City lawmakers made a last-ditch-effort to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep planned (new) headquarters for the Great Dismal Swamp in Suffolk. The federal officials seemed to be leaning toward Chesapeake for that facility.

Despite the mayor’s not signing a proclamation designating April as Confederate History Month in the city, the annual Confederate Days went forward. One group noticeably absent from the festivities was the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.

26 n One member of a condemned man’s family was hopeful that the governor would issue a stay of execution in his case. Dexter Lee Vinson was scheduled to die for the 1997 murder of his ex-girlfriend in Portsmouth.

27 n Steven Daniel Diaz, 15 at the time, was charged with first-degree murder, and other charges, in the death of Dwayne Langston, shot and killed at his South Main Street home in 2005.

29 n Gov. Tim Kaine declined to sign a stay of execution for Dexter Lee Vinson, scheduled to die for a 1997 murder.

30 n Two people died in a shooting in the city. It occurred in the 4000 block of Belleharbour Circle when a man reportedly approached several people in a car and opened fire. Brandon Whittington, of Virginia Beach, and Dynia Ebony Branch, of Chesapeake, both died.


3 n Two members of City Council, Mayor Bobby Ralph and Councilman Calvin Jones, were ousted by Charles Parr and Jeff Gardy, respectively. On the school board, Michael Debranski and Enoch Copeland won their races.

4 n Vernon Albright Williams, a member of the Suffolk Industrial Development Board, the Suffolk Educational Foundation, the Nansemond River High School PTA, and other groups, died.

5 n A rabid raccoon was discovered off Lake Prince Road. It was the second reported case in 2006.

9 n A general district court judge dismissed the case against Tammy Skinner, the 22-year-old woman charged with shooting herself in February, killing her unborn baby. The judge, agreeing with the defense attorney, said the Commonwealth’s statute did not apply in that case.

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More than 80 animals were confiscated from a Carolina Road home and the case was turned over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

11 n City Manager R. Steven Herbert survived

“no-confidence” vote by members of the City Council. The vote was sought by Councilman Curtis Milteer and seconded by Councilman Linda T. Johnson. Following a closed-door meeting, the council reconvened and Mayor Bobby Ralph stated, “The issue on the agenda was discussed and there’s nothing to report.”

City Council directed the city manager to prepare a budget reflecting a $.12 tax cut.

16 n The parents of Jonathan Martin, the 2-year-old mauled to death by one or both of the family dogs in October 2005, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. The plea came about as part of a negotiated plea agreement with the prosecution.

19 n Antonio E. Riddick, Deon L. Drewery and a 14-year-old were charged with the shooting deaths of Brandon Whittington and Dynia Branch earlier in the month. The only charges were robbery and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. All were in jail without bond.

To accomplish the task of cutting the tax rate by $.12, the city manager presented a budget showing a number of cuts, including reduced funding to the North Suffolk library and the planned opening of satellite government office in the northern part of the city.

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Francine Cochoran was charged with 10 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and neglect after more than 80 animals were taken from her home on Carolina Road.

27 n The first person to be convicted in Suffolk Circuit Court under the state’s beefed up anti-gang legislation was Antonio Ryshawn Chapman, 15. Chapman pleaded guilty to malicious wounding and entered an Alford Plea to using force or threats to recruit members into a street gang. Under the Alford Plea, a person doesn’t admit guilt, but they do acknowledge there is sufficient evidence with which the prosecution could convict them.

30 n U.S. Army Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin is the keynote speaker at the annual Memorial Day ceremony held at Cedar Hill Cemetery.


1 n Officials with the YMCA of South Hampton Roads announced that a larger facility than was first planned for North Suffolk is in the works, but that it would be in Chesapeake and not Suffolk.

The family of a local judge, who died in office in 2005, filed suit against Sentara Obici Hospital seeking $1.75 million. The family members allege a surgical team’s negligence may have shortened G. Blair Harry’s life.

2 n In the wake of several homicides in recent month involving teens, the city launced a youth crime and violence initiative. The final plan was expected in August.

3 n Robert Baker was presented with the Suffolk Rotary Club’s Cliff Dochterman Award by District Gov. Bob Preston. The award is given to Rotarians by the International Fellowship of Scouting Rotarians. Baker has been involved in Scouting for more than five decades.

6 n A Suffolk man related his experience having survived the crash of a corporate jet near the Groton-New London Airport, outside of Groton, Conn., in which another Suffolk man died. Michael Wayne Kiser was killed when the Learjet 35A crashed into the Long Island Sound. Kent Fortner, of Suffolk, and two Chesapeake men survived.

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By a 4-3 vote, City Council killed a proposal that would have increased the city’s meals tax from 5.5 to 6.5 percent and the lodging tax from 6 to 7 percent.

10 n City Council unanimously approved the sale of the former Obici Hospital property to Norfolk-based Robinson Development Corp., for $4.5 million.

11 n Members of the Bridge Club, a group formed to save the Kings Highway Bridge, presented a petition to City Council with 4,200 signatures supporting saving the span.

13 n The Suffolk Law Library, located on the third floor of the Mills E. Godwin Jr. Courthouse, opened for business.

15 n Tropical Storm Alberto passed through the area, but was more of a nuisance than a concern. The area received about 3 inches of rain and there was localized flooding.

23 n City Council approved the annual budget. The document, $371.1 million worth, received approval on a 5-2 vote. The dissenting votes were cast by Charles Brown and Calvin Jones.

24 n The city announced the creation of a new tax district that is expected to generate $240,000 annually. Business and homeowners in the downtown district will have an extra $.12 per $100 of assessed value added to their real estate tax bill.

25 n A preliminary report on the crash of a corporate jet in Connecticut, which claimed the life of a Suffolk man, did not indicate any mechanical problems prior to the aircraft going down.

28 n One of the first city residents to graduate from the Suffolk Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy, William J. Herbert Jr., died. The retired corrections officer was a regular volunteer at the police department.

30 n Virginia Department of Transportation workers were busy changing signs on parts of U.S. 58 raising the speed limit from 55 mph to 60 mph.