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News roundup

November 15, 2018

Ojeda announces 2020 presidential campaign

CHARLESTON — A retired Army paratrooper and West Virginia lawmaker seeking to restore the Democratic Party’s blue-collar roots chose Veterans Day to formalize his campaign for the presidency in 2020.

State Sen. Richard Ojeda filed his campaign committee paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday.

The military veteran known for his tattoos and populist message lost a congressional race to a Republican this month.

Ojeda, who is of Mexican descent, was elected to the West Virginia senate in 2016 and became a champion of teachers during their fight for better pay and benefits.

He sponsored successful legislation to make medical marijuana legal, and has stressed health care and economic issues in a district reeling from lost coal jobs.

Man admits embezzling from WV hospital

HUNTINGTON — A former West Virginia hospital worker has pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from his employer.

Sixty-two-year-old Kevin L. Durst of Point Pleasant pleaded guilty in federal court in Huntington last week to embezzling more than $45,000 from Pleasant Valley Hospital in 2016.

Prosecutors say Durst was a financial analyst at the hospital who admitted using hospital bank accounts to write checks to himself and make federal tax payments for his family’s private cemetery.

Durst faces up to 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced on Feb. 19. He’s also agreed to pay restitution.

Men sentenced for gun thefts at pawn shop

HUNTINGTON — Two West Virginia men have been sentenced for stealing guns from a pawn shop.

Twenty-three-year-old Robert Lee Reid was sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison, while 18-year-old Jonathan Chafin was sentenced to one year and six months. Both are from Branchland.

Both men had pleaded guilty to stealing firearms from a federally licensed dealer.

Reid also admitted possessing stolen firearms.

Prosecutors say Reid and Chafin broke into a pawn shop in Barboursville on three occasions.

After the last heist in December 2017, they were arrested during a traffic stop in West Hamlin.

Dunlevy appointed to board of education

CHARLESTON — Former West Virginia Board of Education member Robert Dunlevy has been appointed to the board again.

Gov. Jim Justice appointed the Wheeling resident to the board late last week. Dunlevy replaces Frank Vitale, whose term expired earlier this month.

Dunlevy previously served on the board from 2005 to 2014.

He is a manufacturing sales manager and is the board chairman for the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley.

Court rejects appeal of woman who gave heroin to girl

HUNTINGTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled against a woman who was convicted of giving heroin to a 16-year-old girl.

The Herald-Dispatch reports 38-year-old Michelle Kitchen was sentenced in 2016 to serve four to 20 years in prison. She received probation and was in a recovery program, but probation was revoked and her original sentence reinstated after she tested positive for morphine.

In her appeal, Kitchen’s attorney argued she should have been given 60 days in jail instead.

The Supreme Court ruled the judge had the right to reinstate her sentence.

The investigation started in 2015, when a 16-year-old girl said Kitchen had given her heroin for a stomachache. The girl also said she was taught to inject the heroin when it was too wet to inhale.

With fur prices down, officials expect few trappers

CHARLESTON — Prices are down for furs, and West Virginia authorities are not expecting many trappers this year.

Rich Rogers is the furbearer project leader for the state Division of Natural Resources. He told the Charleston Gazette-Mail likely only the most die-hard trappers will put in the time and effort to run trap lines and they won’t get much money from it.

Rogers said, “This year, people will be trapping for recreational value.”

Rogers also said the weather will play a role with fewer trappers willing to go out in heavy snowfall.

Rogers said there are several furbearer research studies in progress including an ongoing study of river otters. He said some people want the otter limit increased, but they can’t do that until they have more information on the population.

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