The Voice of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Several bills affecting child welfare in West Virginia have been progressing through the state Legislature, receiving praise.
And another cuts the waiting period for the adjudication of adoption cases while allowing more flexibility for where hearings may be.
Marissa Sanders, representing the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive & Kinship Parents Network, said she is particularly optimistic about the bill enumerating rights for foster families.
She spoke outside the House Health and Human Resources Committee last week after delegates amended and passed out the bill. It will also be reviewed by the Judiciary Committee before being considered by the full House of Delegates.
“Giving foster parents rights, giving foster children rights is a huge step in the right direction,” Sanders said.
“Certainly we never want to take rights away from birth parents, but we do want to make sure that in this process people have a legally protected right to express concerns, to advocate for people in their home, to travel when they need to with minimal extra bureaucracy.”
That bill also contemplates raising the per diem for foster care families but delegates, along with the Department of Health and Human Resources, are reviewing what the overall cost might be.
And it spells out more clearly what guardians ad litem, the people who officially speak on behalf of children, are required to do prior to the adjudication of the process.
That aspect is meant to provide more assurance to foster families that guardians ad litem are truly speaking with children and hearing them out.
“That’s one of the things we heard most loudly was that foster parents were getting out of foster parenting because of problems in the legal system that they were encountering, said Delegate Jeffrey Pack, the vice chairman of the Health committee.
Pack said the bundle of child welfare bills is recognition of a great need in West Virginia, where there are now 7,000 children in foster care. Yet another bill, still to be considered, is aimed at increasing compensation for child protective services workers and reducing constant turnover.
Pack, R-Raleigh, said conversations with people in his community helped him realize the urgent desire for improvements to the foster care system.
“I expected to hear people being concerned about jobs and the economy and healthcare – and the one thing that comes up over and over is foster care,” he said. “So I started to dive into the problem and realized the depth and breadth. This is our best attempt at taking a big swing at clearing that up.”
Lawmakers worked over the course of the summer and fall, during interim meetings, on the legislation.
“If we could do this, it would likely be the best thing I could hope to achieve in the Legislature,” Pack said during an interview in the House chamber.
“The issue is so prevalent and hasn’t been addressed in years and years and years. This, to my knowledge, is the biggest improvement to foster care in recent memory.”
Delegate Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, also said the bills will help West Virginia’s foster care system that has grown along with the state’s ongoing drug addiction crisis. Robinson has been reviewing the bills as a member both of the Health committee and Judiciary.
“I think we’ve found it’s a dire crisis in the state, and we have to focus on it,” Robinson said Friday in the Capitol corridors. “We’re taking it bill by bill. Hopefully our focus over the last year on this legislation is going to result in moving forward to get some of our foster and kinship families and the children taken care of in a better way.”
The foster care ombudsman position was created last year during consideration of a broad bill that also set up managed care for the healthcare needs of foster children. The position is meant to consider conflicts in the foster care system and determine ways of dealing with them.
The bill dealing with the ombudsman this year further defines the role, giving greater specificity to its powers. When the House Judiciary Committee reviewed the bill on Friday morning, ombudsman Pamela Woodman-Kaehler said her role is already busy.
She told delegates that she has examined similar roles in other states. She envisions associate or assistant ombudsmen who could help her fill the role.
“This is far more than nay one person, however motivated could do,” she said.
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, asked if she has received assurance that staff may be hired to handle complaints.
Although Woodman-Kaehler acknowledged that she is the only employee so far, “I have been assured that we will work very hard to make sure this is adequately staffed.”
She said calls are coming in already and are likely to increase with the rollout of managed care for the health care of foster children.
“I can tell you I am already receiving complaints in my office and as we all know I have not yet quite gone public.”
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Martinsburg’s 72-36 win over Spring Mills.
(Photos courtesy of Christopher C. Davis/@EP_BigCameraGuy)
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POCA, W.Va. — Photos from Chapmanville’s 45-40 win at Poca.
For a complete game recap, check out Greg Carey’s story: Click here
(Photos courtesy of Chuck Roberts)
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When Huntington’s LaTahia Jackson finished off a conventional three-point play with 5:26 left in Saturday’s game at University, the Highlanders had cut their deficit in half to 35-32.
But much like they did throughout the afternoon, the Hawks relied on their defense down the stretch. University limited Huntington to one field goal and five points the rest of the way, outscoring the Highlanders 10-5 down the stretch to claim a 45-37 victory.
“We’ve been really anchoring down on the defensive end,” UHS head coach David Price said, “and I think the offense will come as the year wears on.”
A technical foul assessed to the Highlanders’ bench — the second of the contest — allowed the Hawks’ Ashten Boggs to make two free throws with 4:51 remaining.
Leading by five, University (8-4) then put together perhaps the most important possession of the game. The Hawks worked the ball around the perimeter to use clock, before Abbie Coen worked herself free for an uncontested layup with 2:55 left.
“We wanted to work the ball on the offensive end and make sure we got good looks,” Price said. “I thought down the stretch we got a little better looks when we were doing that.”
The Hawks led by at least six the rest of the way, with Kaitlyn Swann’s jump shot that made it 43-36 proving to be the lone Huntington (8-4) field goal over the final five-plus minutes.
“I thought their girls played well,” Huntington head coach Lonnie Lucas said of UHS. “We didn’t step up to the challenge.”
The Highlanders got 3-pointers from Ravyn Goodson and Swann in the late stages of the opening quarter to hold a 12-11 lead.
Boggs scored four points early in the second period to help the Hawks take a 17-14 lead, and her two free throws capped the first-half scoring to send UHS into the break with a 23-20 advantage.
Coen scored from close range twice early in the third quarter to give the Hawks a 27-21 lead, before Huntington reeled off five straight points to get to within one.
However, Mallory Napolillo answered with a critical 3 late in the third that helped UHS take a 31-27 lead into the fourth.
“We were forcing stuff and trying to shoot over (Huntington’s Madison Slash) and that wasn’t working out very well,” Price said. “Mallory did a great job sending her somewhere and then stepping through, so you have to give her a lot of credit for that. That helped us.”
Boggs and Napolillo did the bulk of the scoring for the Hawks. Boggs led all players with 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Napolillo was 6-of-10 shooting with 14 points.
Swann’s 11 points were a team-high in the loss, while Jackson scored 10. The Highlanders’ Madison Slash led all players with 13 rebounds, helping Huntington outrebound UHS, 32-27. The Hawks helped offset that by forcing 16 turnovers and committing 10.
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This was bound to happen at some point, and Kansas State was the perfect foil to exploit a weakness that has been evident to anyone who has followed West Virginia closely this season.
The Mountaineers are lacking in the backcourt, and if a solution is not found soon, this team’s aspirations of a Big 12 title and a long postseason run are in jeopardy.
The unpleasant truth that no one wants to bring up in polite company is now becoming unavoidable: sophomore Jordan McCabe is not good enough to be a starting point guard in the Big 12.
Miles McBride still has a lot of very freshman flaws to his game — picking up his fourth foul 90 feet from the basket at Kansas State demonstrated that well enough. But it’s time to cut the pretense and hand him the keys. McBride needs to be West Virginia’s starting point guard, beginning Monday night when Texas visits WVU Coliseum with its frenetic defense.
If nothing else, maybe a change in scenery is what McCabe needs to unlock his potential, because this team still needs him to contribute in a positive manner. That’s not happening at the moment. In 10 minutes against the Wildcats, he had three points, three turnovers and two assists.
McCabe had one of the worst of West Virginia’s 18 turnovers, a baffling crosscourt pass to a cornered Chase Harler that flew out of bounds. At that moment, Kansas State had a 5-on-4 advantage in the half-court, so whatever he was attempting to create did not exist.
McCabe had two feasible options: slow down and set up WVU’s half-court offense, or toss it eight feet away to Taz Sherman, who was wide-open for a three from the wing. Instead, he chose the first row of Bramlage Coliseum.
McCabe’s poor performance was not a case of small-sample bias.
In five Big 12 games, McCabe is averaging 3.2 points, 1.2 assists and two turnovers per game. He’s been bad, plain and simple.
But he does work hard, much in the manner of sixth-man supreme Gabe Osabuohien. In a game where the Mountaineers came out flat like they did on Saturday, McCabe would have been a lot more valuable to his team as a spark plug off the bench.
In additional fairness to McCabe, his turnover-to-assist ratio would be better if teammates were actually doing something upon catching one of his passes.
In particular, Emmitt Matthews is careening dangerously towards lost-cause status for the Mountaineers offense.
Matthews hasn’t reached double figures since scoring 10 points against Nicholls State on Dec. 14. In the eight games since, Matthews is 5 of 22 from the field (22.7 percent), including 0-for-9 from three-point range.
It’s not just a shooting issue. Matthews inexcusably had his pocket picked from behind while dribbling carelessly in the backcourt in the latter stages of the first half, allowing the Wildcats a free bucket to extend their lead to 17 right before halftime.
The problem is if Matthews can’t get it done from the wing, then some amalgamation of Jermaine Haley, Taz Sherman or Sean McNeil has to do it. Those guys combined for 10 points against the Wildcats — six for McNeil and four for Haley — while Haley had his worst defensive showing of the season in 16 lackluster minutes.
Sherman, the junior college transfer, does not look capable of carrying the load. The most telling sign of his confidence level came in the first half when he thought better of taking a wide-open jumper, then threw a pass directly to a Kansas State player. The Wildcats turned that fast break into three points on the other end.
It’s a credit to Bob Huggins and West Virginia’s many strengths that thus far only three teams have been capable of beating the Mountaineers despite their obvious cracks. This is still a talented team, and Saturday’s loss is no reason to panic.
It is, however, reason to make a change in the starting lineup before the cracks begin to widen.
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NUTTER FORT, W.Va. — Robert C. Byrd scored a season-best 80 points as they held off a late push from Tug Valley, defeating the Panthers 80-62 at One Eagle Way.
After dropping their first two games of the season, the Flying Eagles have won seven in a row.
“They were tough to guard,” said RCB head coach Bill Bennett. “Ideally, we do want to hold people in the 40’s. That’s the way it has been for eighteen years now. But this was just a little bit of a different game. We got in the situation where we were up and down but our kids are okay with that. We have so many guys that can score the basketball.”
RCB junior Gavin Kennedy led all scorers with 26 points. Sophomore Jeremiah King netted 19.
“Jeremiah has been coming along offensively, it is just a matter of confidence. Now he believes he can score and get to the foul line. He gets in there and plays against guys that are four or five inches taller than him and that doesn’t bother him.”
Bryson Lucas added 13 points for RCB and Thomas Hawkins chipped in with 11. The Flying Eagles played without senior starter Khori Miles, who was on a college visit.
“It was an opportunity for everyone. Rather than look at it as an adverse thing, we were looking at it as an opportunity. Everybody needed to step up and do a little bit more.”
Caleb May and Ethan Colegrove led Tug Valley (5-7) with 14 points each and Easton Davis added 10.
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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A Georgia man faces spending the rest of his life in prison after his conviction Friday in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg following a nine-day trial.
The federal criminal jury found Terrick Robinson, 35, of Cartersville, Georgia, guilty of numerous drug and gun crimes along with causing the drug death of a Fairmont woman.
Carter trafficked and sold 4.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, as well as cocaine hydrochloride and fentanyl, in Marion County and surrounding areas during a four-month period in the spring and summer of 2018. He would bring the drugs from Georgia once a week, set-up in hotel rooms and sell it.
Courtney Dubois of Fairmont was part of one of those transactions in a Jane Lew hotel on August 9, 2018. The fentanyl she purchased claimed her life. Robinson took Dubois’ body back to Georgia where he dismembered it and disposed of it in a landfill.
The jury found Robinson guilty of all eight charges against him. The combined sentences could send him to federal prison for the rest of his life.
“This was a horrific crime, involving drugs, guns and death,” U.S. Attorney Bill Powell said. Though the verdict will not bring back Ms. Dubois, we hope her family gets some closure by the result of this trial and prior guilty pleas in this investigation. The verdict is the result of many hours of excellent work by the prosecution and law enforcement teams. I also want to thank the Georgia authorities who assisted in bringing this defendant to justice.”
It only took the jury about three hours to convict Robinson.
Two co-defendants in the case previously pleaded guilty to associated charges. A third, Seddrick Damond Banks, age 27, of Cartersville, Georgia, is scheduled to go on trial beginning March 23.
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Maybe it was destiny.
West Virginia’s previous two losses this season came on trips to Manhattan (St. John’s) and Kansas (Kansas).
Combining the two? A recipe for doom when visiting “The Octagon of Doom” in Manhattan, Kan.
The No. 12 Mountaineers (14-3, 3-2 Big 12) were blown out for the first time this year, getting outclassed in every element of the game in an 84-68 loss to Kansas State at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats (8-9, 1-4) snapped a four-game losing streak to open conference play.
“We weren’t ready,” Bob Huggins said on his postgame radio interview. “They were ready, and they were desperate. Our guys weren’t desperate. They took it to us.”
K-State crossed the 80-point barrier for only the second time this season. The other instance was an 86-41 win over Alabama State, which is ranked 341st of the nation’s 345 teams by kenpom.com.
Kansas State’s defense forced 18 West Virginia turnovers and turned them into 28 points.
Jordan McCabe, Jermaine Haley and Emmitt Matthews were particularly vulnerable against the Wildcats, each committing three turnovers while doing little to compensate for it. That trio matched its turnover total with just nine combined points.
Huggins didn’t have many better options.
Taz Sherman played five minutes off the bench in the first half. His lone shot bounced off the side of the backboard, and he committed two turnovers — including one that essentially served as an assist for a DaJuan Gordon three-pointer — and he was glued to the bench for the entirety of the second half.
The Wildcats feasted from three-point range against a West Virginia defense that came into the game ranked second nationally against long-distance shooting. Kansas State shot 9-for-18 from beyond the arc, well above its season average of 32.3 percent. The Wildcats shot 59 percent (29 of 49) from the field overall.
“We’ve got to run ’em off the line, and run ’em to help,” Huggins said. “We didn’t run ’em off the line. We just let guys stand there and make shots.”
Scott Sewell/USA TODAY Sports
Cartier Diarra proved impossible to stop, scoring a game-high 25 points while hitting 4 of his 6 threes. Gordon nailed a trio of threes on his way to 15 points, and forward Xavier Sneed added another 16 points for the Wildcats.
Though he did not name the culprit, Huggins called out one of his players in his postgame interview.
“I had a guy who came out because he said he was tired from yesterday’s practice,” Huggins said. “He shouldn’t have came.”
West Virginia’s leading scorers were far from the usual suspects. Miles McBride had 11 points, but only shot 4 of 10 from the field. He was joined by Chase Harler, who also had 11. Gabe Osabuohien, averaging 1.8 points per game, scored a West Virginia career-high with 10 points.
Rebounding, which should have been West Virginia’s biggest advantage in the game, was nearly a draw. The Mountaineers only out-rebounded Kansas State by a slim 29-28 edge.
West Virginia nearly shaved off a 24-point deficit in the second half, trimming the margin down to 60-54 with 7:44 left in the game. But the Mountaineers appeared to expend the balance of their energy in that rally. Kansas State responded with a 9-0 spurt of its own to put the game back out of reach with just under five minutes remaining.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — More than 100 vacant properties in Morgantown are creating challenges for city workers, police and neighborhoods.
Mike Stone, the director of code enforcement said officials do their best to limit risks and keep neighborhoods safe, but the problem is not going away.
“People that find out they are vacant and take up residence in these buildings,” Stone said. “I think that’s the biggest concern.”
Stone said officials learn about vacant properties from people in neighborhoods, regular code enforcement patrols and information developed by police. Stone added from that information, officials have found vacant properties that require extensive repairs; one case includes a structure falling off of the foundation.
Property owners are expected to keep vacant properties secure or board them up, but Stone said it doesn’t always work that way.
“We went over within 15 minutes of getting the call the building was cleared and started boarding a structure back up,” Stone said. “As my guys were putting the last screw in the plywood, they heard someone inside yelling, ‘Let me outta here, let me outta here.'”
Stone called it a continuing problem.
“We have boarded up several ourselves, my guys will go out and find one that’s vacant with vagrants in it. The police will clear the building and we take over plywood, screw guns and screws to secure the building,” Stone said. “But tomorrow, we get a complaint that the building is open and occupied again.”
Stone said the problem is also a health safety issue for workers in the code enforcement division.
“The needle problem is a big problem, a very big problem,” Stone said. “Some of these places they take squatters rights and they have no utilities, so they build a little fire to keep warm and there’s another hazard.”
Stone stressed most landlords are good people that follow the rules and provide safe housing for residents and students. However, some property owners use the appeal process and other loopholes to avoid or stall when work on properties is ordered because of safety concerns or code violations.
SPENCER, W.Va. — A week after a Roane County volunteer lost his life in a fire truck wreck he was remembered by fellow firefighters from dozens of departments.
Funeral services were held Saturday for Mark Horwich, who died last Saturday when the Clover VFD truck he was driving left the highway and plunged into Little Sandy Creek near Newton. He was responding to a fire.
Horwich was also a member of the Spencer-Roane VFD.
Roane County Emergency Manager Melissa Gilbert told MetroNews earlier this week the death had struck a deep blow in her tight knit community.
“Mark was a fireman for two of our local fire departments so he had a lot of extended family because of that. Anytime a fireman is injured or dies in the line of duty, it touches every fireman across the state no matter which department you are with,” she said.
Horwich, who moved to West Virginia a few years ago from Nebraska. was buried in Looneyville.