Comp Plan Hearing Highlights Conflict Between Northampton Factions

By Stefanie Jackson — A public hearing on Northampton’s comprehensive plan held by the county planning commission Aug. 7 in the Northampton Middle School auditorium appeared to accomplish little more than highlight the conflict between the commissioners rewriting the plan and the citizens whose interests the plan is intended to protect.
The first sign of conflict appeared at the beginning of the meeting. A complaint about the comprehensive plan often repeated by Northampton citizens is the lack of public input in its rewrite. After the meeting began nearly 20 minutes late due to difficulty unlocking the building, Chairman Mark Freeze spent another five minutes reading the list of names of individuals and organizations who provided input on the plan.
“Can I say something?” Sandra Beerends interrupted. “We know how to read and we have a copy of it.”
“I’m reading it into the record,” Freeze responded.
Later, Andrew Barbour said, “You’re trying to justify that you have citizen input. … My name was on there, and I don’t really feel like I had a huge amount of input.”
He called the planning commission’s consideration of public comments from its monthly meetings as part of the “input package” for the comprehensive plan “nonsense” and said, “That is not how you generate focused feedback.”
He also questioned the validity of the phone survey conducted six years ago by American Strategies Inc. “ASI is not a survey company,” but “a lobbying group” whose role “is not to sample public opinion, it’s to shape it on behalf of its clients,” Barbour said.
Furthermore, the survey was paid for by the National Association of Realtors at the request of the Eastern Shore Association of Realtors, he added.
There are parts of the plan Barbour agrees with and parts he strongly disagrees with, “but none of that matters because this rewrite should be dead on arrival” because “we have no idea if it accurately reflects the wishes of the citizens of Northampton County.”
The citizen input used from meetings in 2009 is “useless, if not deliberately misleading” and came just one year after the Great Recession, Barbour said. “That’s why everyone talks about how ugly and depressing” the comprehensive plan is. “This is not the same county.”
Andrew Follmer called Freeze’s reading of the list of contributors to the comprehensive plan a “disgraceful and disingenuous display” and said, “The only reason to use data that is more than five years old for an exercise that is legally required to be completed every five years is cherry-picking.”
Martina Coker disagreed with the plan’s statement that “entrepreneurial activity may indicate underlying economic problems” and pointed out that New Ravenna and Moonrise Jewelry, which the plan calls successful manufacturing companies, both were started by entrepreneurs. She also found the de-emphasis of entrepreneurship in the plan “ironic” considering Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent visit to the Eastern Shore to celebrate the opening of 14 new businesses in Cape Charles, all begun by local entrepreneurs.
David Boyd added that when jobs are counted in the comprehensive plan, any kind of self-employment is excluded, discounting nearly all aquaculture, ecotourism, and local artisans. “No wonder they think we’re hurting for jobs,” he said.
Other concerns about the comprehensive plan were the apparent exclusion of the visions of the working waterfront villages of Willis Wharf and Oyster, and the reclassification of 36 hamlets as villages, which would double housing density in many flood-prone areas.
There was also conflict between the planning commission and its own staff. Commissioner Kay Downing blamed Senior Planner Kelley Lewis Parks for not having a PowerPoint presentation on the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan ready for public view.
When Parks asked when the request was made, Downing answered, “At our work sessions. That’s it, I’m not hearing anymore.”

NASA Denies Study Will Be Used To Downsize Workforce

By Linda Cicoira — A NASA review team that is working on a 20-year facilities master plan has been falsely accused of eliminating jobs at Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) and other centers, according to an email that was sent Tuesday to all area NASA employees.
Christopher J. Scolese, director of the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), addressed his colleagues by writing, “Recent media reports, based on statements of individuals from outside NASA, have misstated the activities of the Greenbelt-Wallops Review Team, incorrectly stating that the team is considering cost-cutting or downsizing measures. The team is doing nothing of the sort.”
“As NASA has increased the emphasis on partnerships and commercial activities, and as the agency as a whole works towards implementation of the new operating model, Goddard management must adapt,” Scolese continued. “The team has not been asked to look at potential cuts to GSFC, Greenbelt, Wallops, IV&V, GISS, White Sands, or any other component and will not make any recommendations in that area.”
“As an entirely separate activity, pursuant to Office of Management and Budget direction, NASA Headquarters has directed Goddard, as well as all other NASA Centers, to identify strategies to reduce the cost of NASA facilities for purposes of developing an agency 20-year facilities master plan. The master plan will contain no directions for the workforce and is unrelated to the Greenbelt-Wallops Review Team’s work. Any potential facilities impact at Greenbelt, Wallops, and other Goddard components is only a concept at this time. However, the current Goddard master plan concept confirms the importance of all Goddard components, including specifically the importance of the Wallops Flight Facility as a mission critical operational facility.”
Wallops Island Regional Alliance is a nonprofit with membership including a long list of NASA contractors and boasts its ability to receive up-to-date developments in the surrounding local and global industries, broadening professional networks, and raising professional profiles.
The group’s chairman, Peter Bale, reportedly told reporters last week that Goddard is exploring cost-cutting measures throughout its agency. He voiced concern about the potential infrastructure reduction and what that would mean to the local economy.
“The bottom line is that if this were to occur and if these reductions took place at either part of the facility, we have a workforce of about two and a half thousand people,” Bale told WBOC TV in Salisbury, Md. “I would see within twelve months a reduction of about 1,000 to 1,500 people and also see the loss of revenue on Delmarva.”
Goddard is about 6.5 miles from Washington, D.C. in Greenbelt, Md.
Last Friday, WFF issued a statement to dispel rumors. “Wallops is not closing nor is there an effort to look at reducing the workforce.”
The press release also quoted Ken Human, who is leading the review team. “The importance of a synergistic relationship between the two campuses is vital to the future of each campus and Goddard Space Flight Center as a whole,” he said.

Mistrial a Possibility in Murder-for-Hire Trial Underway in Accomac

By Linda Cicoira
The possibility of a mistrial loomed at press time Thursday as testimony continued for a third day in Accomack Circuit Court in the murder-for-hire trial of Roquan T. Rogers, the young man suspected of shooting and attempting to kill a police informant last Halloween in the Boston area of Painter.
Defense lawyer Curtis Brown of Norfolk motioned Wednesday for Judge W. Revell Lewis III to rule the trial as invalid because it was disclosed to the jury that Rogers, who also goes by Kake, Cake, Young Sam, or Little Sam, 19, of Benjamin Banneker Road in Exmore, and his two brothers were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
The three were indicted on those charges in Northampton in May. Usually, a jury isn’t privy to hearing about suspicions that are not part of the charges being decided. In this case, there was a possibility those charges could be linked to the ones being tried.
Police and court records have concluded the murder scheme was fueled by cocaine distribution, revenge, money, and informant Nathaniel “Nate” Johnson, 31, who was shot three times while walking in Linhaven Circle with his girlfriend at the time, Desiree Smith, 19. She was hit in the foot by gunfire.
Johnson was the informant used by the Eastern Shore Drug Task Force to collect evidence against the defendant’s brother and another man, who was the mastermind of the murder scheme.
Both Johnson and Smith testified that Roquan Rogers was the shooter. Johnson was shot in the back and buttocks. He said he recognized the defendant that night by the unusual shape of his mouth, his dreads, and his body style. Smith said she saw his face when she turned to look and the flash of the gunfire illuminated him. Both said they knew him.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan and former Northampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Jones were working together to prosecute Roquan Rogers. Morgan was doing the talking. He said the motive was revenge because Johnson testified against his brother, Akeem Rogers, earlier in October, and because he wanted the money that was offered for Johnson’s death.
Roquan Rogers pleaded not guilty to attempted murder of Johnson; using a firearm in the attempted murder; conspiracy to commit capital murder between August and November 2017; conspiracy to murder by a prisoner; attempting to intimidate or impede a witness; making threats against a witness; maliciously wounding Johnson and Smith; attempted murder for hire; murder for hire of another from a prisoner; and use of a firearm to maliciously wound Johnson and Smith.
Judge Lewis took the motion regarding the mistrial under advisement and said he would rule after the prosecution finished presenting its evidence. The debate about the possibility of a mistrial was not discussed in front of the jury or Steve Lewis, the Eastern Shore Drug Task Force officer who spilled the beans when he was asked by Morgan about his knowledge of the Rogers brothers.
Judge Lewis had the court reporter read that portion of the testimony back to the jury and told them to disregard it. He also struck it from the record. Steve Lewis said the conspiracy charges were brought against the Rogers brothers because of DNA and fingerprint evidence.
Brown argued that reading the testimony to the jury made it even more prejudicial. The defense lawyer said he didn’t blame Morgan for the answer Steve Lewis had given. Steve Lewis also was not present when the jury got the instruction and was brought back into the courtroom to finish testifying.
Thursday, Brown motioned again for the mistrial after a phone call between the defendant and Akeem Rogers (recorded because Akeem Rogers was in jail) was played for the jury. Brown contended that all the cursing in the conversation could prejudice jurors against him. Judge Lewis denied that motion.
Brown continuously talked over others and at one point was so disrespectful to the judge that it appeared he was scolded for it during a sidebar with the lawyers and judge. Brown was keeping true the promise he made at a bond hearing:
“I would tell the court this, we are going to fight this case nail and teeth.
“He’s never been in trouble before,” he said referring to Roquan Rogers. “That’s got to count for something. Attempted to go to school (at the Eastern Shore Community College), that has to count for something.”
On Wednesday the day ended in the middle of Cynthia Harmon’s testimony. Harmon, 52, of Parksley, now an inmate at Accomack Jail, was also charged in the scheme. She testified that she helped carry out plans for Johnson’s murder in conversations and text messages with her boyfriend and drug business associate, Evron Terrell Strand, 43. Strand was an inmate in Accomack Jail when the shooting occurred. Harmon and Strand are also accused of asking Aaron Jamarcus Bowens, also known as Easy and BOBO, 22, of Big Pine Road in Painter, to commit murder. Bowens was charged with being a part of the scheme.
Ironically, Johnson said he called Bowens before he was shot and asked for help because he was being followed. When Jones was still Northampton’s prosecutor he publicly accused Bowens of killing Terrell Devone Mason, also known as Juice, a 26-year-old father of eight who was gunned down several years ago through the window of an Exmore shed where neighborhood family and friends gathered to play cards.
That neighborhood in the New Roads area is where the Rogers brothers lived and where Smith’s father and grandmother live.
Court records also state that Keenan Jibrel Berry, 26, of Jermaine Lane in Parksley, and Harmon’s son, DeBrandon Pierre Harmon, 29, of Dennis Drive in Parksley, were also asked to kill Johnson for $3,000.
Cocaine, handguns, cash, and a digital scale were among the items seized from the house where the Harmons lived. Cynthia Harmon said she was testifying “because it is the right thing to do.” She said the prosecution did not make any promises in exchange for her testimony.
It was also disclosed that Johnson was paid for being an informant and was being supported by the police who are constantly protecting him. Smith testified that when she and Johnson were visiting a home in Boston the night of the shooting, Johnson kept asking a man who was only identified as Dewey for “mollies,” a drug that Steve Lewis said was like ecstasy. Smith could not remember if she had taken a pill the night the shooting occurred. She also initially said she didn’t know who the shooter was because she feared for her life.
Danny Lashawn Campbell Jr., 32, formerly of Wilson Court in Cape Charles, testified Thursday that he was in jail with Roquan Rogers and that Rogers confided in him details about the conspiracy for murder. Campbell was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but four years suspended for distribution of cocaine and a third offense of assault and battery of a family member. The offenses occurred in September 2016 and June 2017. He also said no promises were made in exchange for his testimony.
Thursday, Cynthia Harmon was not brought back in to finish testifying. But there were plans for her to do so later in the day.

Tourism Director Ruffles Some Feathers at Economic Development Workshop

By Linda Cicoira — When Chairman Robert Crockett of the Accomack Board of Supervisors attended an invitation-only economic workshop recently in Onancock, he said he became “alarmed” by the large note posted on the wall behind the session’s speakers, which included Gov. Ralph Northam.

“Outlaw Industrial Chicken Farming,” Accomack’s biggest industry, was the message staring at Crockett on a 5-inch by 7-inch, or larger, yellow paper. “Comments were posted on the wall and everyone was facing that wall,” Crockett said Tuesday. “It was clear from where I was sitting what it said. When you got closer you could see that her name was affixed on that comment.” 

Crockett was speaking of Kerry Allison, executive director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission.

“I believe the tourism commission, they need to address the comment that was made,” Crockett continued. “The position that their executive director took to the governor, I can’t, I don’t, understand why she would make a comment like that. Because I can’t see how it (chicken farming) is going to harm tourism at all. The stronger our economy is, the better all parts of our economy are,” Crockett said.

Allison is on a two-week vacation to Ireland, a phone call to her office confirmed. An email to her was immediately returned and stated, “I am out of the office until Monday, Aug. 13.” 

Crockett said since Allison attended the session and was there representing the commission, he figured she was conveying the feelings of the tourism board. The poultry industry in Accomack involves more than 4,000 jobs.

“I see it as a very serious issue with a person with her position. … Is that their position?” he said of the commission. “If not, they need to come out and say it’s not their position.” 

Crockett would not say if the board of supervisors would publicly discuss or take action on the issue.

“I think it’s a mountain out of a molehill,” said Steve Potts, chairman of the tourism commission. “We are the fastest growing industry,” he said of tourism. “I don’t know if that’s newsworthy. I’d have to talk to the powers that be who were there. If someone sent me a survey, would I tell them what they wanted to hear? … Seems kind of crazy that someone from the A-NPDC (Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission) would want to damage someone. I don’t know what’s going on.”

Potts said he was going to investigate the situation. He didn’t get back to the Eastern Shore Post by press time. Supervisor Laura Belle Gordy, who serves on the tourism commission, said the panel has never discussed the poultry industry.

A-NPDC Planning Director Curt Smith said when comments were solicited, “It was made clear that all ideas would be shared with others.” He said a summary report that will go to state agencies would be ready in about seven to 10 days. “We gave everybody a chance to submit a project idea.” They got five words that were printed and posted with their names attached to them. There were 50 to 60 ideas. “I treated it like every other comment that came in. It was posted like every other idea.”

Smith said Allison’s comment did not come up during the meeting. 

The Virginia Housing Development Authority, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation were among the state agencies that attended. Smith was asked to facilitate the session. “I set it up to put the state agencies to task,” he said.

Supervisor Grayson Chesser was not pleased with Allison’s comment. “It is pretty disturbing when the rep of one industry here attacks another industry here. We’re all supposed to be working for the better of the two counties. Whether you like poultry or not, it is by far the largest industry here, for Northampton too, as one in 10 from there works in the plants … She could have said lessen impacts or friction between industrial poultry and the tourist industry. I wouldn’t agree with that. I think we’ve already done it. You have to remember not everybody likes tourism … Not everybody is in love with tourism but it is part of our economy. Agriculture and the poultry industry dwarfs tourism and that’s not to put down tourism either.”

“She has a perfect right to her own opinion,” Chesser continued. “But you don’t have a right to your own opinion when you are representing an agency … These are my friends and neighbors. She’s saying their jobs should be outlawed.”

“The ball’s in the tourism commission’s court,” the supervisor said. “I’m pretty sure all of them know about it.” So what does he want to happen? “That’s not for me to say, we don’t have any say over who they hire, I don’t think. If that is the official possession of the tourism commission, I will not look too favorably on the tourism commission. I certainly hope it’s not and I don’t think it is. This is people’s lives you’re dealing with, their livelihood. You don’t do that flippantly.”

“This is the one industry where people can raise a family, get food health insurance, retirement, have a car, put kids through college, and move up” in the company, Chesser said.

Accomack included $86,500 in its budget for the tourism commission this year. Northampton gave $144,000.

Guilty Pleas From Woman Who Neglected, Caged Her Children

By Linda Cicoira — Malista Ann Ness-Hopkins pleaded guilty Thursday in Accomack Circuit Court to neglecting five of her children “in a manner so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.” 

She could be sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison and fined $12,500.

After a complaint was filed with the county’s department of social services last summer, a worker went to the defendant’s Mearsville home and found the residence was filthy, it smelled of urine and feces, the children had lice and flea bites, and two of them were held in makeshift crib cages, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elizabeth Wolff told the court. 

Three of the children were under three years old. All were younger than 18. One growled and hissed “like a caged animal,” Wolff said.

Judge W. Revell Lewis III allowed Ness-Hopkins, 39, formerly of Gladding Road, who is now living in Accomac with a friend, to remain free on $10,000 bond until sentencing, which is scheduled for December. 

The children are in the custody of their grandmother and foster care. 

In late 2016, Wolff said, another of the defendant’s nine children was living with her. The daughter stated Ness-Hopkins would punish the children by locking them in their room or crib and withholding food. The defendant’s mother was also aware of her locking them in their cribs. Wolff said Ness-Hopkins had promised not to do that again.

It was later realized the youngest child was seven months behind in getting vaccinations. Another child was diagnosed with reactive detachment disorder caused by severe neglect. A third child was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and another unspecified disorder. All visitation with Ness-Hopkins “was ceased” for the third child, the prosecutor said. 

“The defendant found herself overwhelmed in the situation she was in,” defense lawyer Tucker Watson said. “She was residing in a home that was dilapidated” and she had no income. She planned to move to Whitestone, Va. “When social services entered the house, they did observe boxes.”

Watson said Ness-Hopkins’ boyfriend died in May 2016. “It was a devastating point in her life. Depression and grief and the overwhelming nature of taking care of five small children triggered the neglect. She was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from her own childhood … she is heartbroken for many reasons. It saddens her that she and her children had to live in that situation … the two young boys had experienced climbing out of the cribs … and it is a well-documented risk.” 

Watson said there are numerous gadgets on the market that keep children from climbing out of their cribs. “The defendant obviously didn’t have the money to buy those.” He said his client locked them in the cribs when they were sleeping and she was doing the same. 

“She would deny that she ever disciplined the children in a dangerous manner.” There was “no evidence of abuse, no injuries. Only neglect. She had been attending doctors visits for all her children and there are records of that.” 

Lewis said he would consider a detention and retention program as requested by Watson.

Parksley: The Shore’s Little Town That Could

By Linda Cicoira — Parksley, the little town that could, has been gaining momentum in its quest to return to its former life as a thriving metropolis.
With bragging rights of being the future home of Eastern Shore Public Library and Heritage Center, having the best bridal boutique in Virginia, combining art into the scene, erecting a war memorial, revitalizing its look, opening a DMV office, housing the county’s public works department, and planning a fall festival to commemorate its 30-year-old railroad museum, things are moving and shaking there. It’s all part of the plan to bring more people to Parksley to visit, shop, and live.
The town’s history goes back to the mid-1880s and the beginnings of the railroad on the Eastern Shore. Parksley was the second planned town, coming after Cape Charles, and was laid out in 1885 under the management of the Parksley Land Improvement Company.
In 1898, there was an attempt to relocate the county seat from Accomac to Parksley. That feat was not successful, but in modern days the push to move the library from the aging building in Accomac to a renovated structure in Parksley made the cut. A former grocery store will be used as a shell and made larger for a new facility that will also include a meeting hall and more computer access for the public. The fruition is more than a year away.
Parksley was incorporated in 1904. At one point it was a significant shipping point for seafood and produce harvested in the area. These days, a seafood store is among the newer shops and a farmers market is in the center of town.
During World War II, Parksley was the site of the Shore National Guard Armory and its airfield was used by the Civil Air Patrol. It was also home to the Parksley Spuds, a team that played in the Eastern Shore Baseball League.
Parksley was flourishing 35 years ago. “We had two grocery markets, two banks, the shirt factory was open, and the Lunch Box (restaurant) was open,” said Deborah Russell, who owns Russell’s Formal
& Bridal with her family.
The bridal shop was named among of “Best of 2018” in the state by Virginia Living magazine. “Elegant dresses line the walls of this 34-year-old shop, including gowns from Justin Alexander, known for classic silhouettes and clean lines, the Beloved collection by Casablanca, with its airy and bohemian feel, and the Rebecca Ingram collection by Maggie Sottero, with its trademark lace and timeless romantic aesthetic,” the publication stated.
Russell talked about the decline of the town with optimism for what it can be again.
“It all started to crumble when the shirt factory closed, then Parksley Drug sold to CVS, then Shore Bank and PNC closed branches, and finally the grocery stores went,” she said. “We managed to survive all the closings and worked very hard to keep Parksley alive.”
Russell’s husband Frank also owns an auto repair business in Parksley with his brother, Fred. Frank Russell serves on the town council and is fondly known as “Mr. Parksley.”
“Our plan for the future is to keep on doing business as usual,” Deborah Russell said. “Frank and I have seen a lot of small businesses come and go, but we have high hopes for the future.”
Richard Lewis lives outside of Parksley now, but he’s from the town and is a big supporter. “I’ve always been a Parksley boy and I love Parksley,” he said. His business, Associated Grain, is just outside the limits. “We are putting in additional grain space and a new grain bin,” he said. Lewis is “starting up a small trucking company and hiring a couple more workers.”
“The big thing is the improvements to the residential areas. Landlords and homeowners are putting back Victorian homes,” Lewis said. “The Lunch Box is open” again. He mentioned how wonderful the veterans memorial is. “The railway museum went through renovation last year. It is infectious when one person” makes improvements. He said the town is “enforcing ordinances and getting things cleaned up. The biggest thing is the library and the Heritage Center. That is going to be a game changer for Parksley.”
The town is the only place on the Eastern Shore where residents can go and still have their gas pumped for them, choose between undertakers, use playground equipment, view a vast array of architecture, and climb aboard a rail car. County Supervisor Paul Muhly of Parksley is hoping to get the now-defunct Eastern Shore Railroad in Cape Charles to donate a locomotive to the railway museum.
Another new-to-the-scene-go-getter is Councilwoman Julie Nash. Described by Lewis as “a firecracker,” Nash is a professor of psychology at the Eastern Shore Community College and a painter. She is opening an art gallery in the former drugstore/bank just in time for the town festival she is organizing, which is set for Saturday, Oct. 6. See story on Page 7.
Nash also formed a new art organization and wants to promote those who are talented but relatively unknown. She is looking for unique works that would not be like those found in other local towns. The idea is for a tourist to be able to make his or her way through the Shore, seeing different things on each stop. Eastern Shore Art Association will be located in the blue building between the seafood market and the Russell’s on Dunne Avenue.
Art classes are already being held in the gallery. Nash’s Facebook page states a mural is being created on the gallery’s back door. Other murals are being planned for around town.
Tim Valentine, the owner of the Club Car Cafe, purchased the former liquor store that is now a Caribbean Market. He hired two local artists to refresh the old Coca-Cola sign that was painted on the brick side of the structure. There is talk that another mural may go on the side of Jaxon’s variety store, and Deborah Russell spoke of one on her building.
“The mural will be a wait and see deal for me. But I am thinking a Victorian bride when it happens,” she said.
“All of this work on the village’s appearance and attractions will make Parksley an even better place to live,” Muhly said.

Pony Penning Photos

Check out the all our Pony Penning photos in this week’s Eastern Shore Post and Hitching Post. Watch for a story and more photos of the Pony Auction next week.

18-Year-Old Gets 48 Years in Prison

By Linda Cicoira —Referred to as “a remorseless killer” by the prosecutor and certified as an adult by the court although he was 17 years old when he committed murder, robbery and related gun offenses over a $20 drug deal gone wrong, 18-year-old Zachary Isaiah Townsend was sentenced Thursday in Accomack Circuit Court to nearly five decades in prison

Judge W. Revell Lewis gave Townsend, formerly of Greta Road in Atlantic, 40 years with 10 suspended for second-degree murder of Nathanial (Nate) Adam Ayres, 19, Deer Drive in Nelsonia, 20 years with 10 suspended for robbery, three years for one count of using a firearm in a felony and five years for the second firearm charge.

The jury that convicted Townsend was not tasked with recommending sentences for him because of his age.

Townsend did not make a statement when he was asked by Lewis if he had anything to say about the crimes. He never gave a statement to police either.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan said Townsend has shown no remorse. “Cold-blooded acts from a remorseless killer and I ask the judge to sentence accordingly.”

Morgan had three reasons for asking for the stiff sentence – Townsend’s previous record of shoplifting and burglary, “The impact this horrible act had on his (Ayres’) family and friends,” and that the crimes were “for nothing more than $20.”

Defense lawyer Paul Watson had his three reasons for asking for a leaner term. He suggested about 20 years for the crimes because Townsend was a juvenile; he was intoxicated on pills, marijuana and alcohol; and he had a difficult upbringing filled with physical and substance abuse.

Testimony showed Ayres was shot, in front of two other youths, six times at close range with a revolver that was never recovered. One bullet entered the Ayres’ right temple and went through his scalp and face, lodging in his sinus, a medical examiner told the court. Another hit behind the right ear passing to the carotid artery and voice box. Ayres was also struck with gunfire in the back of the head and neck. Another bullet entered the front of his left shoulder and down into the ribs and back. A blunt force laceration, found on the side of the victim’s head, was not consistent with a fall. Townsend died of gun shot wounds to the head, neck and torso.

Lewis said after Townsend was caught committing the previous crimes, treatment was recommended. “Unfortunately his father was not involved in his life. His mother opposed treatment. That is incredible that a mother would oppose treatment calculated to help her son … when negative things happened that aren’t properly dealt with unhealthy ideas” develop. “In this case, Townsend had absolutely no respect for human life.”

His grandmother wrote to the court about the defendant, “You did not just take his life. You took mine (and) the innocence of those who witnessed.”

Family and Friends Want Murderer to Stay In Prison

By Linda Cicoira — It’s been 25 years since Robert “Bobby” Lewis, a native of Parksley, was murdered, shot in the back of the head and buried in a shallow grave by his assailant, who later called and left messages of concern for the family in his attempt to hide the crime.

Lewis’ family and friends still miss him. They want David Scott Moltedo, 49, who lived in Horsey, to serve life in prison, as he was sentenced to do for the capital crime in 1994. Moltedo also was given three years for use of a firearm in a felony and five years for credit card theft. The crimes occurred a year before parole was abolished in Virginia so he is still eligible for early release. Moltedo is in Augusta Correctional Center, near Craigsville, Va.

“His file with the parole board must be a foot thick,” said Donald Lewis, the victim’s only sibling and older brother, who lives between Fredericksburg and Richmond. “They say it is important” to let the panel know people are still hurting so letters continue to be written every year to keep Moltedo in prison, he continued.

“It was pretty devastating to the family,” Donald Lewis said. It’s not something that my parent’s ever got over. In talking to Frank (Russell), Bobby’s friends have never forgotten him or what happened.” The family still imagines what he would have done with his life and all that could have been.

In the past, Donald Lewis was told by board members that Moltedo’s case was the kind that would never lead to parole. “Whether that holds true with changing the people on the board (over the years), I don’t know. I don’t get a sense from them that he has been rehabilitated or taken responsibility for his action … Bobby was shot from behind from an angle above, in the head.”

He remembered his brother telling him “he had a sports car that needed work and this guy was supposed to paint his car in exchange for work on his house (Bobby Lewis was a contractor) and it just went downhill from there,” the brother said. “He actually left a note on Mom’s and Dad’s car and called looking for Bobby and said he had more work for him. And all the time he was dead.”

Bobby Lewis was killed July 6, 1993. The last time he was seen by his parents was that night when he came by for dinner, which was a common occurrence. A couple of days later, when he didn’t show up again, his father became concerned. No one had seen his pickup truck and they couldn’t reach him by telephone. The father and Russell checked his apartment and he wasn’t home.

A 14-year-old-girl, who spent time with the defendant’s brother, told police Lewis’ body was under a truck at Moltedo’s house. “The deputies dig and find Lewis face down, laying on top of a sewer line covered with freshly turned dirt,” according to testimony at the trial.
Moltedo said the two argued after Bobby Lewis learned that the defendant used Lewis’ credit card to buy appliances and a VCR. He said there was a scuffle and the gun went off.

“I knew the second that gun went off my life was over,” Moltedo told authorities back in the 1990s. “I understand that. I should never have tried to hide the crime. I just made one stupid mistake after another but I’m not a criminal. I’ve never harmed anyone in my lie. When Bobby and I got into that fight I never had any intentions of hurting him. Things just happened so fast and in the end, something terrible and unexpected happened. I know I did something wrong but I was convicted for a crime I didn’t do. Now I have to spend the rest of my life in prison for one mistake. I never planned or wanted to hurt that man. There’s not a day … that I don’t cry about all of this. So much has happened to me. I’ve been beaten up. I’ve been raped. I’ve been stabbed. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days living like this.”

Thursday, July 26, Moltedo has an interview with the parole board. The last effort to keep Moltedo in prison can be made by online readers by faxing letters to the board at 804-674-3284.

Tasley Crash Claims Two Lives, Sends Two to Hospital

By Linda Cicoira — A Parksley area couple was killed in a traffic crash at the intersection of Accomac Road and Lankford Highway in Accomac late Monday afternoon, said Sgt. Michelle Anaya of the state police. 

Their two daughters, both juveniles riding in the backseat of the car, were taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to be treated for serious injuries. They were not identified.

Juan Enriquez Martinez, 39, of Greenbush Road, was driving a 2003 Pontiac Rendezvous east on Accomac Road, according to a preliminary investigation. He failed to stop for a red light and pulled into the path of a 2014 Peterbilt tractor-trailer that was southbound in the left lane of the highway. The truck then struck the car.

Martinez and his wife, Christina Martinez Lopez, 41, who was in the front passenger seat, died at the scene.

The crash occurred at about 5:20 p.m. Juan Carlos Melgarejo Borrego, of Hialeah Gardens, Fla., was driving the truck. Anaya’s report did not mention if Borrego had injuries.

Tasley, Onancock, and Parksley fire companies responded, according to a 911 dispatcher. Parksley and Onancock ambulances also went to the scene.

Members of the Martinez family said Tuesday they had witnesses who saw the tractor-trailer driver go through a red light and that Martinez had a green light. They were seeking legal help to prove that and to get custody of the two girls.