Military pilot in Virginia F-15 crash identified

Morris Fontenot (USAF photo)

Morris Fontenot (USAF photo)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ The pilot who was killed in the crash of an F-15 jet this week in the remote Virginia mountains has been identified as Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr.  Officials with the Massachusetts Air National Guard say Fontenot was the inspector general for the 104th Fighter Wing and had had more than 2,300 flight hours of experience. He was flying the plane to New Orleans for a radar system upgrade when he crashed Wednesday in western Virginia. Officials say he reported an in-flight emergency before losing radio contact. The cause remains under investigation.  Col. James Keefe of the Massachusetts air guard said Friday that the death was announced with “profound sadness.”  Fontenot was a 1996 Air Force Academy graduate. Officials say he was an F-15 instructor pilot with more than 17 years of experience flying the jets.

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Testimony wraps up in McDonnells’ corruption trial

Associated Press photo

Associated Press photo

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Testimony has wrapped up in the public corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. Closing arguments are set for Friday morning. The last witness Thursday was an FBI agent who testified that the McDonnells were together 90 percent of the nights during the 22 months that were the focus of the investigation. The testimony is intended to undercut a defense claim that the McDonnells’ marriage was so fractured they couldn’t have engaged in a conspiracy. The McDonnells are charged with taking more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s dietary supplements.  Williams testified under immunity that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells only to secure their help. McDonnell denied criminal wrongdoing.

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UPDATE: Unknown if pilot ejected from fighter jet that crashed into VA mountainside

Breaking-NewsWESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ A Massachusetts Air National Guard officer says authorities are still searching for the pilot of a fighter jet that crashed in Virginia and do not know whether the pilot may have ejected. The single-seat F-15C crashed in the mountains of western Virginia on Wednesday morning. Col. James Keefe of the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard said at a news conference in Westfield, Massachusetts, that the missing pilot is an experienced flyer. He said the plane was on its way to New Orleans to have a radar installed as part of routine maintenance. Keefe said he had not received confirmation that anyone had reached the crash site. Officials say the pilot reported an inflight emergency, then lost radio contact.

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Bob McDonnell defense rests; Maureen McDonnell defense begins

Associated Press photo

Associated Press photo

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A friend of Maureen McDonnell has suggested that the Virginia former first lady was easily manipulated by the wealthy businessman who showered her and her husband with gifts and loans. April Niamtu testified as a witness for Maureen McDonnell after lawyers for former Gov. Bob McDonnell rested their case Wednesday. The McDonnells are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s dietary supplements.  Niamtu described Maureen McDonnell as “very trusting, very gullible.” She said that on a trip to California, the first lady declined Williams’ request that she say a few words at a company event with researchers. But she says Williams introduced her anyway and called her to the stage for some remarks.

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Mountaintop winery in Roanoke Valley up for sale

WFIR---local-businessROANOKE, Va. (AP) _ A mountaintop winery in the Roanoke Valley has been put up for sale. Valhalla Vineyards is listed for $3.5 million. The winery is located atop Chestnut Mountain in Roanoke County. Real estate agent Zack McCoy tells The Roanoke Times (http://bit.ly/1nBTh8A) that the winery has been on the market since last November. But agents couldn’t publicly advertise the property because of a non-disclosure agreement. McCoy says the sale went public last month. Owners James and Debra Vascik bought the property in 1993 and opened the winery in 1999. James Vascik declined to comment on the sale.

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Former Va. governor wraps up his trial testimony

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

Former Virginia
Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s public corruption trial is winding down in federal court in Richmond. McDonnell testified in his own defense for more than four days. He wrapped up his time on the witness stand Tuesday by acknowledging using bad judgment but firmly denying criminal wrongdoing. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s dietary supplements. The former governor’s lawyer told the judge that he has just one more witness to call Wednesday. Then Maureen McDonnell will present her case. Her attorney said that should take about three hours, leaving only closing arguments and instructions from the judge before the case goes to the jury.

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AAA projects increase in Labor Day travel in Va.

AAA-LogoRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ More Virginians are expected to travel this Labor Day weekend, reaching a new post-recession high for the state. AAA Mid-Atlantic says that the number of people taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home is anticipated to increase slightly this year. That’s more than 964,300 Virginians traveling during the Thursday through Monday holiday weekend. The majority of Virginians are expected to travel by car and gas prices have brought a welcome relief to motorists. Prices in Virginia are down about 4 percent per gallon compared with the same time last year. Motorists are being reminded to buckle up and drive sober and distraction-free while traveling for the upcoming holiday.

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Ex-Christiansburg officer accused of embezzlement

Montgomery CountyCHRISTIANBURG, Va. (AP) _ A former police officer in Montgomery County has been indicted on embezzlement charges. The Roanoke Times reports ex-Christiansburg officer Stephen Kilby was indicted on charges that he stole $34,000 from the Virginia Bloodhound Search and Rescue Association. Court records show Kilby was elected in June 2010 as treasurer of the association, which holds training seminars for law enforcement agencies and search-and-rescue units. According to search warrants, several unauthorized transactions were made between October 2010 and April 2014 with a debit card issued in Kilby’s name on the association’s account. Kilby was a Christiansburg officer from July 2005 until September 2013.

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Former Virginia governor denies corruption charges

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

Former Virginia
Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell ended more than four days on the witness stand by emphatically denying all charges in his public corruption case. McDonnell acknowledged using poor judgment but responded with a firm “no” Tuesday when his lawyer asked if he risked his political future and his family by doing what he’s accused of in a 14-count indictment. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are charged with accepting more than $165,0 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s dietary supplements. Prosecutors vigorously cross-examined McDonnell about those issues.

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Va. diocese discourages donations to ALS group

WFIR-LOGO-1

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) _ The Catholic Diocese of Richmond is discouraging parishes and schools that participate in the ice bucket challenge from sending money to the ALS Association. WDBJ-TV reports that the diocese has sent a letter to 29 Catholic schools advising them to send donations to another organization that combats ALS. The diocese planned to send the letter Tuesday to 146 parishes. In the letter, the diocese says the ALS Association uses embryonic stem cells to conduct research on ALS. The Catholic Church relates the use of embryonic stem cells in research to abortion and says it violates the sanctity of human life. The Richmond diocese says it supports adult stem cell research. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that causes paralysis and almost certain death. It’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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