Four Charged in Murder-for-Hire Plot

By Linda Cicoira — Four people were charged last weekend with planning a murder and attempting to carry out the for-hire scheme to kill a witness who testified in a drug trial in Northampton Circuit Court in October.

The charges and arrests were made in Accomack. The victim, Nathaniel Johnson, 31, was wounded in a shooting at a Linhaven Circle home in Painter, on Halloween night. He testified in the cocaine distribution trial of Akeem Rogers, 26, of Benjamin Banneker Street, in Exmore, on Oct. 24. Rogers was convicted. A 19-year-old woman, who has not been identified, was also injured in the shooting. 

Since then, both have been released from the local hospital, Sheriff Todd Godwin said this week. More charges are pending, he added.

One of the suspects, Aaron Jamarcus Bowens, 22, who lives on nearby A.S. Road in Painter, was referred to in open court by Northampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Jones, as the “widely” suspected killer in another case. 

He was speaking of the death of Terrell (Juice) Devone Mason, a 26-year-old father of eight, who was gunned down in 2015. Mason was killed through the window of a shed, where neighborhood family and friends gathered to play cards in Exmore. No arrests have been made in the case.

Bowens was also involved in an incident at the former Sage Restaurant after that. He was hit in the leg by gunfire, which was followed by a high-speed police chase. The unemployed Eastern Shore Community College student is being held without bond in Accomack Jail.He was arrested Nov. 10, and charged with attempting to commit capital murder-for-hire.

Evron Terrell Strand, 43, of Deer Drive in Nelsonia, was also charged in the murder scheme. He is being held in the Eastern Shore Regional Jail in Eastville without bond. Strand’s record includes convictions for forgery, possession with intent to distribute drugs, eluding and protective order violations. He’s been unemployed for four months, according to court records.

Roquan Rogers, 19, of Benjamin Banneker Street in Exmore, is also in the Eastville facility. He, too, is suspected of attempted murder-for-hire and is being held without bond.

Cynthia Harmon, 51, of Dennis Drive in Parksley, was arrested and charged with being an accessory before the fact with premeditation to kill Johnson. The woman was listed as being unemployed and receiving disability. She has no prior convictions and is being held in Accomack Jail.

It was not clear from police reports how DeBrandon Pierre Harmon, 29, of Dennis Drive in Parksley, is connected to Cynthia Harmon or the others. However, his arrest was noted in the statement released by Godwin. Harmon was charged with possession with the intent to manufacture, sell, give or distribute a controlled substance and possession of a firearm while possessing more than a pound of marijuana.

Investigator C.A. McPherson of the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office investigated the murder scheme. Deputy Glen Bailey worked the case involving Debrandon Harmon, who is a poultry plant worker.

According to Godwin, his criminal investigations unit, the Eastern Shore Drug Task Force, the Virginia State Police Drug Enforcement Section and the Drug Enforcement Administration-Norfolk Resident Office worked collaboratively on the case.

“Multiple arrest warrants and search warrants were executed during the course of the investigation” by those agencies with the assistance of the state police Division One and Division Five TAC Teams, Exmore Police Department, Northampton County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police Bureau of Field Operations and General Investigations Section. Eleven ounces of cocaine, three firearms and $1,785 were seized in addition to multiple cell phones and assorted documents.

120 Tons of Trash Cleared from Illegal Dump in Sanford

By Linda Cicoira — In the last couple of months, nearly 120 tons of trash were removed from an illegal dump on property off Shad Landing Road, in Sanford.

“They’ve cleaned up the site,” Russell Deppe, a land protection enforcement manager with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), said Tuesday. Representatives from the agency inspected the property, owned by Lance Godwin Fisher, and found it to be clear of solid waste at both the waterfront and near the sharp turn in the road.

The garbage was taken to the Northern Landfill in Accomack County, where more than $6,000 in fees were paid.

“We are currently negotiating the consent order,” Deppe reported. “Just because they have done the remediation, doesn’t mean they don’t have to sign a consent order.”

In August, the DEQ sent Fisher a notice of violation. “During the site visit there was a large, approximately 100 feet to 250 feet by 5 to 10 feet tall, accumulation of construction demolition debris, waste tires, estimated at over 100, and other material observed to be deposited in piles on the site. Also observed were multiple, 5 to 6 piles, of freshly and previously burned construction demolition debris and tires. Review of DEQ records indicate that Lance G. Fisher … LLC has not been acknowledged by DEQ as operating a solid waste management facility under a permit-by-rule nor has” the corporation “obtained a full permit in accordance with Virginia Solid Waste Management Regulations or Virginia code for the storage, treatment and/or disposal of solid waste” for the parcel in question.

The letter noted four code sections that were allegedly violated. As for enforcement authority, an injunction for any violation of the Waste Management Act, regulations or permits conditions could call “for a civil penalty of up to $32,500 per day of each violation … up to $100,000.”

Fisher was caught in May bringing construction debris into the area with a truck belonging to Fisher’s Environmental of Delmar, Md.

“I’m extremely pleased that the situation has been resolved — that the cleanup is done,” Supervisor Paul Muhly said Tuesday. He noticed the blight when driving to his district to check ditch flow.

He asked around and learned the property had been used for a dumping ground for some time. Disturbed by the behavior, he returned to the dead end road and found ten times the debris had been piled up, and was burning with flames showing.

Muhly called 9-1-1. Deputy Tom Willett was nearby and responded to the scene. Willett, in turn, called for firefighters and the unit from Saxis came to extinguish the blaze. It was May 4, 2017.

“Hopefully it never happens again,” said Muhly. “This is the good part of government and a job well done by the code enforcement officer and the DEQ,” he added.

After the fire, Willett sent photos of the site to DEQ and later visited there with two DEQ officers.

During the visit, according to a DEQ investigation report, Fisher arrived driving a company dump truck. Fisher told the officers, “He had dumped the material because it was his property.” 

The recent inspection of the site was done in the presence of Fisher and one of his sons, who owns the environmental company, Deppe said. It was unclear if any action will be taken against the firm. A reporter’s phone calls to Fisher have not been returned.

Orbital Launches Space Station Re-Supply to Delight of Onlookers

By Connie Morrison — After a scrubbed Saturday launch with just over a minute left on the countdown clock, a cargo delivery to the International Space Station was successfully launched at 7:19 a.m. Sunday. 

A small aircraft strayed into Wallops airspace forcing officials to abort the Saturday send-up, and nearby boats caused officials to push the lift-off to the end of the launch window.

The capsule made its scheduled rendezvous Tuesday, with 7,400 tons of cargo containing supplies to replenish the space station, science experiments, equipment, and computer parts.

The spacecraft will remain attached to the station until early December. After that, it will depart and deploy small satellites before re-entering the earth’s atmosphere in a fireball that will also incinerate trash.

Around 3,700 people were at the Wallops visitors center to view the launch on Saturday. About 1,100 were present the for the slightly earlier Sunday morning launch.