Evan Jones

State Police say a 44-year-old Moneta woman is dead after her car ran into a vehicle and flatbed trailer that were turning into a parking lot. It happened last night on US 220 between Boones Mill and Rocky Mount in Franklin County. Laurie Chitwood died at the scene.

NEWS RELEASE: FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Virginia State Police Senior Trooper D.H. Cepelnick is investigating a two vehicle crash which resulted in a fatality.  The crash occurred Tuesday (Nov 26) at 9:09 p.m. on Route 220, one mile south of Route 635 in Franklin County. A 2010 Mini Cooper was traveling south on Route 220, when the Mini Cooper struck a 2004 Volvo, pulling a flat bed trailer, in the rear; which was making a right turn into a parking lot. The driver of the Mini Cooper was identified as Laurie Pickeral Chitwood, 44, of Moneta, Va.  Ms. Chitwood was wearing her seatbelt and died at the scene. The driver of the Volvo was not injured.

The crash remains under investigation.

State Police say a Bedford County man died yesterday when his pickup truck left a roadway and struck a tree. Troopers say it happened along Walker Road in the Coleman Falls area. 66-year-old Woodrow Gibson of Big Island died at the scene.

NEWS RELEASE: Virginia State Police Trooper G.L. Goad is investigating a single vehicle crash which resulted in a fatality.  The crash occurred Tuesday (Nov 26) at 5:40 p.m. on Route 652, one mile east of Route 752 in Bedford County. A 1992 Chevrolet S-10 was traveling east on Route 652 when the vehicle ran off the right side of the roadway and struck a tree. The driver of the Chevrolet was identified as Woodrow Franklin Gibson, 66, of Big Island, Va.  Mr. Gibson was wearing his seatbelt and died at the scene. The crash remains under investigation.


If you are hitting the highways any time this long holiday weekend, you will find average national gas prices at their highest Thanksgiving levels in five years — but not all that much higher than last year at this time. Virginia continues to have among the lowest average prices in the country, and much lower than states to our north like Pennsylvania and New York. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

11-27 Thanksgiving Travel Wrap1-WEB


The National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Watch for the Roanoke Valley and surrounding counties. Forecasters say strong winds will move in tomorrow afternoon and continue into Thanksgiving. The weather service says winds could blow down trees and power lines, and widespread power outages are possible.  Driving may also be difficult in places, especially for high-profile vehicles.


Areas Affected: Alleghany; Amherst; Bath; Bedford; Botetourt; Carroll; Craig; Floyd; Franklin; Grayson; Montgomery; Patrick; Pulaski; Roanoke; Rockbridge; Wythe

NWS Blacksburg (Southwest Virginia)


* WHAT…West winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 65 mph possible.

* WHERE…Portions of central, south central, southwest and west central Virginia, north central and northwest North Carolina and southeast West Virginia.

* WHEN…From Wednesday afternoon through Thursday afternoon.

* IMPACTS…Damaging winds could blow down trees and power lines. Widespread power outages are possible. Travel could be difficult, especially for high profile vehicles.

Monitor the latest forecasts and warnings for updates on this situation. Fasten loose objects or shelter objects in a safe location prior to the onset of winds.

A Virginia Tech researcher and archivist says the Old Dominion may have reason to lay claim as home to America’s first Thanksgiving — not Massachusetts — but there is evidence to support either point of view. Kira Dietz says there are both the religious and feast aspects which varied by time and colony, but there are records documenting early Thanksgiving observances in Virginia before the Pilgrims stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock. She spoke with WFIR’s Evan Jones:

11-26 Virginia Thanksgiving Wrap1-WEB

Jens Soering (AP photo)

Convicted killers Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom were granted parole today.  Both were convicted for the 1985 slayings of Haysom’s parents in their Bedford County home in a case that received international attention at the time — and to some extent, still does. Soering was the son of a German diplomat; the murders were gruesome by almost any definition, with both victims stabbed multiple times and their throats slashed. Haysom pleaded guilty as an accessory to the killings and testified in Soering’s trial.

Both were convicted before parole was abolished in Virginia, and both have made multiple earlier requests to be released; today was the first time those requests were granted.

Soering will be released to immigration officials for deportation to Germany; Haysom will return to her home country of Canada.

Soering has maintained for decades that he was innocent despite signing a confession early in the investigation. TheVirginia State Parole Board, which looks into such requests, turned that down, but a spokesperson tells the Times-Dispatch that parole and deportation are appropriate given “their youth at the time of the offenses, their institutional adjustment and the length of their incarceration.”

Soering was 18 years old at the time of the murders, and Haysom was 20.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — Virginia granted parole on Monday to a German diplomat’s son who was serving a life sentence for the 1985 killings of his girlfriend’s parents.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said the state parole board granted Jens Soering parole for the murders of Nancy and Derek Haysom. The board had rejected his 14 previous parole requests.

Soering’s lawyer, Steven Rosenfield, said he had not received notice of the parole board’s decision and declined further comment. In previous parole applications, Rosenfield said his client had been a model prisoner and planned to live in Germany if paroled.

Soering initially confessed to the killings but later recanted, saying he was covering for girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom. She also was granted parole Monday.

German officials have sought Soering’s release. Multiple governors, including Northam, rejected his bids for pardons or clemency.

Northam’s office says both Soering and Haysom will be deported and unable to return to the U.S.

Northam “respects the Parole Board’s expertise and appreciates their work on this and all other cases,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Virginia abolished parole in 1995, but those who were convicted before then are still eligible to seek parole.

In his pardon applications, Soering and his lawyers said DNA evidence unavailable at the time of his conviction pointed to his innocence. The DNA analyses showed that some of the Type O blood found at the scene did not belong to Soering. Nor could it have belonged to Elizabeth Haysom, who has Type B blood.

In 2010, as he was leaving office, then-Gov. Tim Kaine submitted a plan to the Justice department that would have allowed Soering to serve the remainder of his sentence in Germany. Under the plan, Soering would have been eligible for release in Germany after two years there.

But Kaine’s successor, Bob McDonnell, revoked the request.

The parole board most recently denied Soering’s parole request in January. At the time, it cited the seriousness of his crime and said “Release at this time would diminish seriousness of crime,” according to board documents.

Photo: RCPS

This is an exciting time at Fallon Park Elementary School in southeast Roanoke — and December should be even more exciting when students and staff move into Phase 2 of their new building. These facilities include more classrooms, a computer lab and a new cafeteria. WFIR’s Evan Jones has the story:

11-25 Fallon park Wrap-WEB

Click here for Roanoke Public Schools’ web page on Fallon Park Elementary School construction.

Photo: Roanoke PD

Photo: Roanoke PD

UPDATE Nov. 24: Roanoke Police said tonight that suspect David Stafford has been arrested without incident

Previously:  Roanoke Police have released the name of the man suspected of robbing the Pinnacle Bank last week in Grandin Village. They say 41-year-old David Stafford of Roanoke has not been located. Police ask anyone with information to contact them.

NEWS RELEASE: The Roanoke Police Department has identified the male suspect involved in this incident. David Stafford, 41 of Roanoke, has been charged with robbery. He has not been located at this time. Anyone with information about his location is asked to call (540)344-8500 and share what you know. You can also text us at 274637; please begin the text with “RoanokePD” to ensure it’s properly sent. Please reference case 19-123194. Both calls and texts can remain anonymous.

PREVIOUS: Through the course of the investigation, Roanoke Police working with the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office learned that the male suspect involved in the bank robbery had a female accomplice. Roanoke Police identified, located and arrested Jessica Huffmyer, 35 of Roanoke. She is charged with robbery. We are still searching for the male suspect involved in this incident. Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call (540)344-8500 and share what you know. You can also text us at 274637; please begin the text with “RoanokePD” to ensure it’s properly sent. Please reference case 19-123194. Both calls and texts can remain anonymous.

PREVIOUS: Roanoke Police are looking for an armed man who held up a Grandin Village bank today. Police say he walked into the Pinnacle Bank on Grandin Road, displayed a firearm and demanded money before taking off with the cash. The holdup led to a temporary tightening of security at four nearby Roanoke City schools.

NEWS RELEASE: On November 18, 2019 at around 1:15 pm, Roanoke Police responded to a reported bank robbery in the 1300 block of Grandin Rd SW. Officers did not locate a suspect on scene. Witnesses stated an adult male came into the bank, displayed a firearm and demanded money. He stole an undisclosed amount of currency. No one was injured regarding this incident. At this time, no one has been arrested regarding this incident. This is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call (540)344-8500 and share what you know. You can also text us at 274637; please begin the text with “RoanokePD” to ensure it’s properly sent. Please reference case number 19-123194. Both calls and texts can remain anonymous.

PREVIOUS: Four Roanoke City schools went into “hold and secure” measures in the immediate aftermath of a bank robbery today in the heart of Grandin Village. The holdup was reported around 1:15 at the Pinnacle Bank near the Roanoke Coop market on Grandin Road. In response, Virginia Heights Elementary, Wasena Elementary, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, and Patrick Henry High School took precautionary procedures to keep anyone from entering or leaving those schools. The”hold and secure” has since been released, and students are now able to head home.


Once again, the turkeys receiving ceremonial pardons at the White House will live out their lives at Virginia Tech. They are expected to arrive at Gobbler’s Rest by Wednesday morning of next week. A public open house is set for the Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving.

VT photo of 2018’s pardoned turkeys at Gobbler’s Rest

NEWS RELEASE: Thanksgiving is nothing if not a trove of traditions: family gatherings, massive meals, and appreciative reflections.Now, there is another item to add to the list of holiday customs: the Presidential Turkeys coming home to roost at Virginia Tech.For the fourth consecutive year, the birds will flock from the White House to spend the rest of their years at Gobblers Rest.

“Virginia Tech has a long tradition of supporting the turkey industry through research and outreach, so it’s fitting that the Presidential Turkeys becoming part of the Hokie Nation is a new tradition,” said Rami Dalloul, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a world-renowned poultry immunologist who a few years ago sequenced the turkey genome. This opened the door to new levels of understanding of the bird’s biology and genetics.

The two birds — one selected as the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate — will join Peas and Carrots, the stars of last year’s event, at Gobblers Rest. The previous lucky birds — Wishbone and Drumstick, and Tater and Tot — have died due to natural causes, which is to be expected.

The public can meet the newest Hokies on Dec. 1 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Livestock Judging Pavilion, 445 Plantation Road, Blacksburg, Virginia. You can follow the progression of the birds’ journey from the White House to Blacksburg on the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages and post your own photos of the birds using the hashtag #PresidentialTurkey. You can also follow along on the Virginia Tech Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels.

Their arrival in Blacksburg follows a long migration for the turkeys.

The 2019 National Thanksgiving Turkeys are being raised under the supervision of 2019 the National Turkey Federation Chairman Kerry Doughty, former president and CEO of Butterball LLC, and Butterball contract grower Wellie Jackson of North Carolina.

“We are extremely grateful for Virginia Tech’s continued hospitality in welcoming the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate to Blacksburg,” Doughty said. “With a mascot like the HokieBird and the excellent care of the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, we know these lucky birds will feel right at home at Gobblers Rest.”

After two birds are chosen based on appearance and temperament, they head to Washington, D.C., where they stay at a hotel near the White House as part of a series of media events leading up to the presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey. One is chosen to take part in the Rose Garden ceremony and the other is its “wingman.”

The event not only serves as the opening of the holiday season, but also reminds America of the history and role of agriculture, from feeding the world to growing the economy.

The Presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey started in 1947. The National Turkey Federation’s first chairman, Virginian Charlie Wampler Sr., was among the first to present a live turkey to President Harry S. Truman.

Years before, in 1922, Wampler was a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent who sought advice from the head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Poultry Science, A.L. Dean, on how to raise turkeys. In the following years, Wampler went on to create a growing business while Dean advised Wampler on turkey-raising techniques. Wampler is regarded as the father of the modern turkey industry and founded the National Turkey Federation in 1940.

Today, poultry makes up the largest sector of Virginia’s agricultural portfolio with more $1.1 billion in annual cash receipts. The industry contributes more than $13 billion in economic activity in the commonwealth, according to the Virginia Poultry Federation.

The Virginia Tech Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine help grow the state’s economy by conducting innovative research to benefit industry and educating the next generation of poultry scientists and veterinarians.