Man accused of setting fire, beating man enters pleas

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ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — A Virginia man accused of beating a 71-year-old man, tying him up and setting an apartment ablaze has pleaded no contest to arson and unlawful wounding.

The Roanoke Times reports 21-year-old Omarr Romance Martin entered pleas in the case Tuesday. Prosecutors say he suffers from intellectual and emotional challenges.

Roanoke Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Betty Jo Anthony says Martin was visiting Clarence Arthur Kakert when they got into a violent disagreement in 2017. She says Martin beat Kakert, bounded his wrists and ankles, put him into a bathtub and used rubbing alcohol to set a bed ablaze.

Anthony says Kakert got out of the apartment and recovered. She says the fire caused $35,000 in damage and displaced other tenants.

A judge is expected to sentence Martin in March.

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Information from: The Roanoke Times, http://www.roanoke.com

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Va. governor proposes pay boost for teachers

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is proposing to give teachers a 5 percent pay boost next year.

The governor outlined parts of his upcoming state budget proposal Tuesday that would increase funding for K-12 education and shore up the state’s rainy day fund.

Northam wants to spend $88 million to boost a 3 percent pay raise for teachers scheduled to take effect July 1, kicking it up to 5 percent. The governor said pay in Virginia is lagging the national average and making it harder to recruit and retain quality teachers. He’s also proposing additional spending increases for at-risk students and school construction.

The governor’s proposals will have to pass the Republican-controlled General Assembly next year to take effect. Northam, a Democrat, will introduce his full detailed budget plan next week.

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After rash of dryer fires in Md., officials offer safety tips

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WASHINGTON — A rash of dryer fires in Prince George’s County has sparked a warning from fire department officials in Maryland and Virginia and tips to residents for keeping their dryers working properly and safely.

In Prince George’s County in just the last 11 days, firefighters have responded to 20 residential and commercial dyer fires, fire officials say.

Keeping your dryer lint-free is a crucial step when it comes to preventing a fire. Lt. Mike Buffum, with the Prince George’s County Fire Department, said his department typically sees an increase in dryer fires in the winter.

“A lot of times that’s contributed to people not cleaning out the lint or the vents for the outside (are) blocked and that heat is building up,” he said. That’s when lint and build up can ignite.

Meanwhile, in Fairfax County, Virginia, Battalion Chief Will Bailey says so far this year, fire officials have responded to six dryer fires. “Numerous times we’ve found the cause of a dryer fire to be there was no lint filter in the dryer,” Bailey said.

You can prevent lint from building up by limiting how many items you place in the dryer at once. If your clothes are taking longer than normal to dry, clean the lint out of the vent pipe behind the dryer.

“One of the biggest safety tips we like to let folks know is turn the dryer off if you leave home or go to bed,” Bailey.

Lt. Buffum also suggested pulling your washer and dryer away from the wall and giving the area a good clean. Checking the exhaust vent outside and making sure the pipe connected to your dryer is cleaned out are also crucial steps to preventing a fire.

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After rash of dryer fires in Md., officials offer safety tips

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WASHINGTON — A rash of dryer fires in Prince George’s County has sparked a warning from fire department officials in Maryland and Virginia and tips to residents for keeping their dryers working properly and safely.

In Prince George’s County in just the last 11 days, firefighters have responded to 20 residential and commercial dyer fires, fire officials say.

Keeping your dryer lint-free is a crucial step when it comes to preventing a fire. Lt. Mike Buffum, with the Prince George’s County Fire Department, said his department typically sees an increase in dryer fires in the winter.

“A lot of times that’s contributed to people not cleaning out the lint or the vents for the outside (are) blocked and that heat is building up,” he said. That’s when lint and build up can ignite.

Meanwhile, in Fairfax County, Virginia, Battalion Chief Will Bailey says so far this year, fire officials have responded to six dryer fires. “Numerous times we’ve found the cause of a dryer fire to be there was no lint filter in the dryer,” Bailey said.

You can prevent lint from building up by limiting how many items you place in the dryer at once. If your clothes are taking longer than normal to dry, clean the lint out of the vent pipe behind the dryer.

“One of the biggest safety tips we like to let folks know is turn the dryer off if you leave home or go to bed,” Bailey.

Lt. Buffum also suggested pulling your washer and dryer away from the wall and giving the area a good clean. Checking the exhaust vent outside and making sure the pipe connected to your dryer is cleaned out are also crucial steps to preventing a fire.

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Jury recommends life in prison for James Alex Fields for murder of Heather Heyer

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Charlottesville Circuit Court is seen Dec. 11, 2018. A jury found James Alex Fields Jr., who drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters during a white nationalist rally in 2017, guilty of first-degre murder. Fields now faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. The jury will deliberate and make a recommendation on his sentencing. (WTOP/Max Smith)

The statue of Stonewall Jackson in Charlottesville is seen Dec. 11, 2018. The white belltower of Charlottesville Circuit Court, where a jury is deliberating the sentence of James Alex Fields Jr., is seen in the background. (WTOP/Max Smith)

Charlottesville Circuit Court is seen Dec. 11, 2018. A jury found James Alex Fields Jr., who drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters during a white nationalist rally in 2017, guilty of first-degre murder. The jury is now considering Fields’ punishment. (WTOP/Max Smith)

Susan Bro, center, mother of Heather Heyer, is escorted down the steps of the courthouse after a guilty verdict was reached in the trial of James Alex Fields Jr., Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, at Charlottesville General district court in Charlottesville, Va. Fields was convicted of first degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer as well as nine other counts during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville . (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Local activists raise their fists outside Charlottesville General District Court after a guilty verdict was reached in the trial of James Alex Fields Jr., in Charlottesville, Va., Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Fields was convicted of first degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer as well as nine other counts during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville . (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. /The Daily Progress via AP)

A vehicle reverses after driving into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A jury recommended life in prison Tuesday for James Alex Fields for murdering Heather Heyer when he drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters the day of a 2017 white nationalist rally tied to Confederate statues.

Fields, 21, was convicted of first-degree murder and nine other charges on Friday, including the wounding of others in the crash and fleeing the scene. Jurors had the option of 20 years to life on the first degree murder charge, plus additional time on the other counts.

The jury also recommended a sentence of 70 years each on five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, 20 years each on three counts of malicious wounding and 9 years for hit and run, as well as a $100,000 fine.

During the initial phase of the trial, Jurors were shown evidence including video of Fields marching and chanting with white nationalists, a meme Fields had posted months earlier of a car plowing into a crowd and a text message he sent his mother the day before the car attack that included a photo of Adolf Hitler.

During the sentencing phase, jurors heard from several of the people injured in the Aug. 12, 2017 crash, and Heyer’s mother.

Jeanne “Star” Peterson told the jury her life has been “a living nightmare” since she was hit by Fields’ car. Her right leg was shattered, and she’s had five surgeries to try to repair it. She also suffered a broken spine and still hasn’t been able to return to work.

Bowie on Wednesday said Fields tried to destroy a community that day. She told the jury “the world is not a safe place” with Fields in it.

Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, said in emotional testimony Monday that her daughter’s death was like an “explosion” in her family.

Heather Heyer was a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist. Bro said Fields tried to “silence” her daughter with his car, and said: “I refuse to allow that.

Fields’ defense called a psychologist Monday who testified Fields had a long history of mental health issues.

Daniel Murrie said Fields went off his psychiatric medication at age 18 and built an isolated “lifestyle centered around being alone.”

People who attended the white nationalist rally with Fields testified earlier in the trial that Fields seemed exactly like everyone else at the “Unite the Right” event.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Students push for university to provide free tampons

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Students at a university in Virginia are pushing the school’s leaders to provide free tampons and other menstrual products.

The Virginian-Pilot reported Monday that the efforts by students at Christopher Newport University in Newport News are part of a larger movement around the country. The efforts include removing obstacles to getting menstrual products on campus.

Christopher Newport University has a local chapter of the organization called PERIOD. It’s a national nonprofit that advocates for women on menstrual issues.

It has started a petition that asks the school to provide what they say are basic necessities and to “end period poverty.”

The push is part of a national campaign called United for Access. The force behind it is PERIOD and THINX, which makes “period-proof underwear.”

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Va. jogger suffers memory loss after apparent hit and run

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WASHINGTON — A search was launched for an 18-year-old jogger in Manassas, Virginia, Friday evening after his parents received a phone call from him stating he was hurt and couldn’t remember what had happened.

His parents reported the phone call to police at approximately 5:35 p.m., who launched an extensive search for the jogger. He was eventually located over the side of a bridge embankment on Lake Jackson Drive, near Dumfries Road in Manassas.

The victim was flown to an area hospital with serious, but nonlife threatening injuries.

An initial investigation revealed that the jogger was running on the east side of Lake Jackson Drive when he was struck by a vehicle sometime between 4:45 p.m. and 5:24 p.m. on Friday. The jogger fell off the bridge and landed on a rocky embankment below. The vehicle fled the scene.

The investigation is ongoing. Police do not know the make or model of the vehicle, but say it may have sustained damage to the front right side of the hood, headlight or front bumper.

Below is a map of where the jogger was found:

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