Crime and Public Safety

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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (AP) – Prosecutors have told jurors that a former Virginia Tech student charged as an accessory in the death of a 13-year-old girl was closely involved in helping a friend plan the killing. But Natalie Keepers’ lawyers told the jury that Keepers believed that talk of killing the girl was just a fantasy. The conflicting portrayals of Keepers came Tuesday during opening statements at her trial. Keepers has pleaded not guilty to being an accessory before the fact in the 2016 fatal stabbing of Nicole Lovell. Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt said Keepers discussed various ways of killing Lovell with her friend, David Eisenhauer. Keepers’ attorney said Keepers only participated in the discussion to maintain her friendship with Eisenhauer. He is now serving a 50-year sentence after pleading no contest to first-degree murder.

A Roanoke man was killed overnight after entering a business and firing gunshots before being fatally shot by an employee there. Police do not name the business, but they say it happened around 3:30 am on the 3600 block of Shenandoah Avenue — and there was a notable police presence this morning outside Suga Ray’s games there. 27-year-old Jeffrey Burnette was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are working with the Commonwealth Attorney’s office to determine whether any charges are warranted.

From Roanoke City Police: On September 18, 2018 at around 3:30 a.m, officers responded to a report of a gunshot victim at a business in the 3600 block of Shenandoah Avenue NW. Upon arrival, officers and Roanoke Fire-EMS located an adult male, identified as Jeffrey Burnette, 27 of Roanoke, inside the business with a gunshot wound. Burnette was pronounced dead at the scene. Through the course of the investigation, it was found that Burnette entered the business with a firearm and fired several rounds. Burnette was fatally shot by an employee of the business, who was also armed. This incident is still under investigation and we are working with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.

Arieanna Day

Andrew Terry (MCSO photo)

UPDATE September 18: A search warrant identifies the man arrested in connection with Arieanna Day’s disappearance as the baby girl’s father. The warrant says Andrew Terry was at the Roanoke home the day Arieanna disappeared and had communications with the baby’s mother. Terry is charged in Montgomery County with illegal disposal of a body, but police say there has been no trace of three-month-old Arieanna since she disappeared one week ago today.

UPDATE Friday from Roanoke Police: At this time, Roanoke Police are still searching for Arieanna Day. Arieanna was last seen wearing a pink onesie and matching pink socks and is approximately 2 feet long and 14 lbs. We are following leads and continuing the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Arieanna’s disappearance. We are continuing to work with other agencies, including the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, Blacksburg Police Department, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad, Norfolk Southern Railway, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Virginia Search and Rescue Council. The incoming severe weather threat could impact our search efforts. We are asking anyone with information about this investigation to please come forward. Someone knows something about Arieanna. If you think you know anything pertaining to this case, please call the Roanoke Police Department at (540)344-8500 and share what you know.

THURSDAY: Roanoke Police say three-month old Arieanna Day is “most likely deceased”. She is the three-month-old girl reported missing from her northwest Roanoke home Tuesday evening. In a related development, 31-year-old Christopher Terry is charged with illegally disposing of a body in Montgomery County, and officials say that arrest is connected to Arieanna’s disappearance.

From Roanoke Police: The Roanoke Police Department continues to actively investigate the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Arieanna Day. Our agency personnel are working with other law enforcement resources to follow up on the information received from several individuals connected to this investigation. The investigative focus has now shifted to the realistic possibility that circumstances related to Arieanna Day indicate that she is most likely deceased. We are continuing our investigation with this in mind, and hope that we can bring closure to this case and family.

PREVIOUS: A Roanoke man is charged with illegally disposing of a body in Montgomery County, and officials now confirm that it is connected to Tuesday night’s disappearance of three-month-old Arieanna Day from her Roanoke home.  Beyond that, officials say only 31-year-old Andrew Christopher Terry was arrested and jailed last night as part of an “active criminal investigation” in Roanoke, and for now, no further details yet being offered.

From the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office: On September 12, Investigators from our office were contacted by Detectives from Roanoke Police Department to assist with an active criminal investigation.  At 9:16 p.m. on September 12, working in conjunction with Roanoke Police Department, Investigators from our office arrested 31 year old Andrew Christopher Terry of Roanoke, VA.  He was charged in connection with the illegal disposal of a body.  He is being held in the Montgomery County Jail with no bond. This is an on-going criminal investigation.  No further information is available at this time.

WEDNESDAY: Roanoke Police are searching for a missing three-month-old girl. Arienna Day was last seen last night at her Hanover Avenue home. Her mother tells police she put the baby girl to bed around 10 pm, and when she checked back an hour or so later, Arienna was not there. Roanoke City Police Chief Tim Jones:

09-12 Chief Jones-Statement-WEB

Police say because there is no sign of forced entry or abduction, and because there is no known vehicle in which Arienna might be riding, this case does not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert. Officials say both the mother and a man stating he is the father have cooperated in the investigation.

LOCAL UPDATE: The latest National Weather Service forecast for the Dan River is not nearly as dire as first predicted. The Dan is still expected to crest at 8 1/2 feet above flood stage Tuesday afternoon, just touching the level considered “major”. But that is well below initial forecasts that suggested the river would approach record flood levels. The Roanoke River appears to be near its expected high point, and it is forecast to recede overnight and into tomorrow. The river is about a foot and a half above flood stage, causing flooding to parts of the greenway but at last report, not impacting any homes or businesses. The National Weather Service has dramatically lowered its forecast for the New River in Radford. The latest projection calls for it to reach its high point early tomorrow about a half foot above flood stage.

Here is the latest regional radar from WDBJ7:

National Update

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The river seethed a quarter-mile away, bulging from its banks, so the patrol cars circled the neighborhood three times.

“Get out now,” a voice boomed from a bullhorn. “This is an emergency.”

Waheeda Reese and her 14-year-old daughter, Anissa, were inside watching news reports about drowned towns all over the state and rain that hadn’t yet stopped.

“All that water is going to come this way,” Anissa said, trying to convince her mother it was time to leave. The city had taped a mandatory evacuation notice to their front door, and a friend in the fire department had called to warn: “I don’t want to have to come pick you up in a boat.”

They still had 22 hours until a deadline to go, and Waheeda wanted to stay. She pointed out the window and said, wishfully, “Look, I think the rain’s letting up.”

As the days drag on, Hurricane Florence has taken this deceptive turn: The violent winds that rattled shingles off houses and tore down trees have subsided, and the pounding rain has eased, lulling many in the storm’s path into believing they’ve already weathered the worst of it — even as rivers quietly churn and continue to rise.

More than 7,000 people were ordered to evacuate by Sunday afternoon. But many, weary of a storm that’s lingered on and on, did their own rough calculus of the odds and decided to stay.

As the Cape Fear River swelled, rescue teams trudged along its banks, pleading with people to get out of its way. Police officers went door to door. The mayor of Fayetteville presented the problem in the starkest of terms: Evacuate or notify your legal next of kin.

Military trucks in rural corners of the county barreled down dirt roads quickly becoming mud pits. “Please go,” soldiers asked stubborn residents along the massive river that curls downstream through small towns, farms and rural mobile home parks and into the city of Fayetteville, where the Reeses live in a subdivision that butts up against the bank.

Anissa’s friend down the street was evacuating with his family and knocked on her door, begging her and her mother to come. The Reeses had packed their things just in case, tucking important documents in a water-tight bag. They stacked chairs on top of tables and moved all the family photos upstairs. Then they waited to see what would happen.

A few miles away, a high-water rescue team comprising two dozen soldiers from Fort Bragg rested on cots in an arena — preparing for water to surge into neighborhoods and send residents climbing out windows and onto rooftops, a familiar scene since Florence made landfall Friday morning.

“I want to make sure those citizens realize the decisions they’re making,” said Lt. John Savage, who commands the team that knocked on doors to talk with those staying behind. “We have thorough conversations with them to let them know the gravity of the situation they’re in.”

Over the weekend, a military truck rolled down the mucky lane to Kevin Blades’ house 20 miles (32 kilometers) upstream from Fayetteville, near where the Cape Fear and Little rivers meet. Savage said there is particular concern about this area. Six horses were drinking from floodwater already pooling on the front lawn. Power had been out for days. The dirt road to the house was so soggy, the truck got stuck in the mud and Blades and a neighbor had to tow it out.

Blades informed the soldiers he planned to stay anyway and not to worry because he had an escape plan in mind. “If I have to,” he said, “I’ll ride the horses out of here.”

The soldiers left, the Blades played cards, the rain poured on, and the river rose.

 

 

The Roanoke River appeared to be near its expected high point late Monday afternoon, and it is forecast to recede overnight and into tomorrow. The river was close to about a foot and a half above flood stage, causing flooding to parts of the greenway but not impacting any homes or businesses. Roanoke City officials continue to monitor the weather forecast and river levels, and as WFIR’s Denise Allen Membreno reports, officials are telling residents to check the city’s website and social media for updates.

09-17 Roanoke City wrap 2-WEB

Check back for running updates

MONDAY: The Roanoke River appears to be near its expected high point, and it is forecast to recede overnight and into tomorrow. The river is about a foot and a half above flood stage, causing flooding to parts of the greenway but at last report, not impacting any homes or businesses.

The Red Cross plans to close the Roanoke emergency shelter at the Berglund Center at noon Tuesday. 16 people were there at last report, and both the Red Cross and Roanoke Rescue Mission are prepared to offer services if needed.

The Roanoke Roanoke River appears to be near its expected high point, and it is forecast to recede overnight and into tomorrow. The river reached about a foot and a half above flood stage, causing flooding to parts of the greenway but at last report, not impacting any homes or businesses.

The National Weather Service has dramatically lowered its forecast for the New River in Radford. The latest projection calls for it to reach its high point early tomorrow about a half foot above flood stage. Earlier projections had called for the possibility of major flooding there.

Roanoke City officials continue to monitor the weather forecast and river levels. Officials say the City Fire Department still has two swift waster rescue teams on standby.  They are telling residents to check the city’s website and social media for the most up to date information.

SUNDAY EVENING: The National Weather Service in Blacksburg has issued a Flash Flood Warning for  Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Salem, Franklin County, northeastern Floyd County, Danville, Pittsylvania County, Martinsville, Henry County, and eastern Patrick County until 8:30 am Monday. A second Flash Flood Warning covers Montgomery County, Floyd County, Pulaski County and Radford until 9:30 am Monday.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: The National Weather Service has issued a River Flood Warning for the Roanoke River at Roanoke until Tuesday afternoon. The weather service predicts minor flooding as the river rises close to one-and-a-half feed above flood stage Monday afternoon before receding below flood stage by early Tuesday morning. The only specifically-mentioned impact in the warning is for flooding along the Roanoke River Greenway.

From the National Weather Service: THE NWS in Blacksburg Va has issued a Flood Warning for the following rivers in Virginia: Roanoke River At Roanoke affecting Roanoke County, City of Roanoke and City of Salem. Rainfall from now Tropical Depression Florence both observed and forecast over the next 24 to 36 hours, will cause minor flooding along the Roanoke River mainly tomorrow and tomorrow night. This forecast is based heavily on additional forecast rainfall of 2 to 4 inches across the basin overnight and into tomorrow. If the rainfall exceeds this amount stages could be still higher or would be lower if the rain fails to reach expectations.

At 04PM Sunday the stage was 3.1 feet.  Flood Stage is 10.0 feet.  Minor flooding is forecast.

Forecast: Rise above flood stage by tomorrow afternoon and continue to rise to near 11.4 feet by tomorrow evening. The river will fall below flood stage by early Tuesday morning.
Impact: At 10.0 feet, Roanoke River Greenway path begins to flood along right bank.

SUNDAY MORNING: Forecasters expect the Roanoke River to reach its high point Monday evening right around the start of flood stage. It means that for now, only minor flooding is expected in the Roanoke Valley.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Berglund Center. Pets are welcome as well, with the exception of exotic pets, wildlife or aggressive dogs. You should bring bedding, clothing, medications, and for children, a favorite comfort item like a stuffed animal.

SATURDAY LATE AFTERNOON: Roanoke County has taken the precautionary step of declaring a state of emergency. That enables the county to request state and local resources should they become needed.

SATURDAY MIDDAY: The latest river forecast shows the Roanoke river is expected to start rising above flood stage some time Monday morning and briefly reach major flood stage in the valley Monday night before quickly receding. The forecast models suggest the river will crest seven feet below its record high levels.

SATURDAY AM: As of mid-morning, Appalachian Power had reported up to 2,600 customers are without power in its Virginia service area, most of those concentrated in Floyd, Bedford and Franklin Counties. The utility says it has outside crews ready to assist its own in coming days as the number of outages is expected to greatly increase.

If you are on the road today, be prepared for periods of heavy rains and gusty winds. VDOT has issued a high wind advisory for I-77 between the North Carolina line up the mountain to Fancy Gap.

The first cancellations are starting to appear on the board at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. If you have flight plans today, make sure to check with your airline.

The Town of Blacksburg is making sand bags available today until four for town residents as long as supplies last. You can pick them up at the Blacksburg Rec Center. The maximum per person is six.

FRIDAY PM: Roanoke College has cancelled all classes and events for Monday over potential flash flooding concerns. The college says essential services like dining and health will continue to be provided.

Roanoke County is urging residents to sign up for its “RoCo Alerts” citizen alert and warning system via the county’s website, where there is also a “RoCo Alert” page with up to date emergency information. If you lose power but the county libraries still have it they will make power strips available where people can charge their phones and digital devices.

Roanoke County Public Libraries will be making available additional power strips and we invite people to bring their digital devices and chargers to any of our locations. In the event of a power outage, the libraries will close. No fines will be assessed on any materials due to the library over the weekend.”

Governor Northam lifted the mandatory evacuation order for low-lying areas of coastal Virginia. It came after the National Weather Service cancelled its tropical storm warning for coastal areas. Emergency Management officials are turning their focus to possible flooding in coming days in southwest Virginia.

The entire Blue Ridge Parkway is closing Friday at 8:00 pm in anticipation of Hurricane Florence’s arrival. One of the few facilities that will remain open along the parkway is Peaks of Otter Lodge, but that will be accessible only by way on state route 43, not the parkway itself. The parkway closure will continue until further notice.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for much of Southside and southwest Virginia that covers three days — starting tomorrow morning and running through Monday evening. The watch area includes Roanoke, Franklin and Montgomery Counties. The weather service says four to eight inches of rain are likely in coming days, and locally higher amounts of 10 inches are possible along the Blue Ridge. The weather service says moderate to perhaps major flooding is possible along rivers that include the New and Roanoke.

 

The National Weather Service predicts the Roanoke River will crest later today before causing major flooding. The forecast calls for a crest this evening about 1 1/2 feet above flood stage, and that is considered in the minor flooding range. But Roanoke City officials aren’t taking any chances, and they say anyone living in low-lying areas shouldn’t either. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:

09-17 Flood Preps Wrap-WEB

 

A Roanoke-area truck driver was killed Friday night when a freight train struck his rig at the Georgia Pacific plant in Big Island. State Police say 39-year-old Alberto Columbie of Daleville had parked his truck across the CSX tracks and gotten out when he heard the train coming. Officials say he tried to get back and move the semi but could not do so in time. Columbie was trapped under the rig and died at the scene.

From State Police: BEDFORD CO, Va. – Virginia State Police Senior Trooper T.C. Fairburn is investigating a motor vehicle crash which resulted in a fatality. The crash occurred Friday (Sept 14) at 7:16 p.m. on Riverside Circle, which is a private drive in Bedford County. A 2012 Freightliner tractor trailer was improperly parked on the railroad tracks on Georgia Pacific plant property when the train approached. The driver, which was not in the tractor trailer as the train approached, entered the vehicle and attempted to move truck out of the path of the approaching train. The driver then determined there was not enough time to complete the task, he then jumped from the vehicle as the train struck the passenger side; trapping the driver under the vehicle. The operator of the Freightliner was identified as Alberto Zaldivar Columbie, 39, of Daleville, Va. Mr. Columbie died at the scene. The crash remains under investigation.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for much of Southside and southwest Virginia that covers three days — starting Sataurday morning and running through Monday evening. The watch area includes Roanoke, Franklin and Montgomery Counties. The weather service says four to eight inches of rain are likely in coming days, and locally higher amounts of 10 inches are possible along the Blue Ridge. The weather service says moderate to perhaps major flooding is possible along rivers that include the New and Roanoke.

From the National Weather Service: Hurricane Florence will slowly track inland this afternoon and into South Carolina tonight into Saturday, before turning northwest across the southern Appalachians Sunday, and heading into the central Appalachians Monday. With soils saturated or becoming saturated, the threat of flash flooding is likely to develop later this weekend into Monday.

FLASH FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT FROM SATURDAY MORNING THROUGH MONDAY EVENING

The National Weather Service in Blacksburg has expanded the

* Flash Flood Watch to include portions of south central Virginia, southwest Virginia, and west central Virginia, including the following areas, in south central Virginia, Halifax, Henry, and Pittsylvania. In southwest Virginia, Montgomery, Pulaski, Smyth, and Wythe. In west central Virginia, Franklin and Roanoke.

* From Saturday morning through Monday evening.

* Heavy rain from Florence will lead to flash flooding across the area, especially by Saturday afternoon and evening into Monday. 4 to 8 inches of rain are expected, with locally higher amounts of 10 inches or more possible along the Blue Ridge.

* Life-threatening flash flooding may develop as heavy rain bands occur this weekend into Monday. Streams and creeks may rise quickly during heavy rain and flood.

* As the excessive rainfall occurs across the headwaters of the larger rivers, moderate to perhaps major flooding could occur especially along the New, Roanoke and Dan Rivers Sunday night into early next week.

* Rainfall of more than five inches in similar storms has been associated with an increased risk of landslides and rock slides. If you live in locations closer to the mountains and foothills…especially near a stream…be ready to leave in advance of the storm or as quickly as possible should rising water…moving earth…or rocks threaten. Consider postponing travel along mountain roads during the period of heavy rainfall.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding. Flash flooding is a VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. Remember…TURN AROUND…DON`T DROWN!

You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should Flash Flood Warnings be issued.

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