Alta Belle Carpenter Cogar
91, of Hacker Valley

Ricky Lee Kincaid
55, of Erbacon

Ruth Mildred McClung
74, of Nettie

Jerry Russell Metz
74, of Camden-on-Gauley

Larry Richard Sandy
79, of Bolair

Krystal Lynn Cogar Steiding
43, of Webster Springs

Paul G. Vickers Sr.
76, of Ohio

Lena Mae Fazenbaker Windo
77, of Virginia Beach, Va.







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Callaghan suspended for two years, fined $15,000

By Pat Hanna
The Nicholas Chronicle

The West Virginia Supreme Court has suspended Nicholas County Circuit Judge Steve Callaghan for two years without pay over a controversial flier he mailed to voters in the final days of last spring's judicial campaign.

The court, in a decision handed down on Thursday, Feb. 9, also fined Callaghan $15,000 and ordered him to pay all costs associated with the investigation, prosecution and appeal of the violations proven in the proceedings. He was also reprimanded as a lawyer.

The case was heard by Senior Status Justice Thomas McHugh and Circuit Judges Robert Waters of Wood County, James Matish of Harrison County, Charles Carl III of Hampshire County and Joanna Tabit of Kanawha County.

The court's five elected justices recused themselves after former Nicholas County Circuit Judge Gary Johnson, Callaghan's opponent in last May's election, was named the court's interim administrative director in early January.

The court concurred with the findings of the state Judicial Hearing Board, which concluded Callaghan committed three violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and one violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Code of Judicial Conduct contains rules that judges and judicial candidates are required to abide by. The Rules of Professional Conduct govern the behavior of lawyers.

The Judicial Hearing Board said it found there was clear and convincing evidence that Callaghan made materially false and misleading statements relating to a trip Johnson took to Washington in June 2015.

At the heart of the case was a flier that was mailed to county voters in the final days of the campaign.

One side of the flier showed a Photoshopped, altered image of Johnson and President Obama side-by-side. The president appeared to be holding a glass of beer with party streamers in the background.

The top of the flier read, "Barack Obama and Gary Johnson party at the White House ..." The opposite side of the flier read, "... While Nicholas County loses hundreds of jobs."

Below that was a section titled "Layoff Notice." It read, "While Nicholas County lost hundreds of jobs to Barack Obama's coal policies, Judge Gary Johnson accepted an invitation from Obama to come to the White House to support Obama's legislative agenda. That same month, news outlets reported a 76 percent drop in coal mining employment. Can we trust Gary Johnson to defend Nicholas County against job-killer Barack Obama?"

Johnson had gone to Washington as chairman of the state Court Improvement Program Board. While there, he attended a child trafficking seminar at the Executive Office Building, next to the White House.

According to testimony in the case, Johnson and Obama never met each other and Obama was not at the seminar. Testimony also showed that Johnson never publicly talked about coal.

The court, in its decision, said Callaghan's conduct "violated fundamental and solemn principles regarding the integrity of the judiciary. His egregious behavior warrants substantial discipline."

A full report on the decision will be provided in the Feb. 16 issue of The Nicholas Chronicle.




Commission mulls possible lawsuits

against pharmaceutical firms

The Nicholas County Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 1, discussed possibly filing a lawsuit against five large pharmaceutical firms for their role in the opioid addiction problem in the county.

The Commission heard an operational update from the Nicholas County Community Corrections Day Reporting Center, heard a county financial status update, heard a proposal for a maintenance contract for the Courthouse heating and cooling system, heard a request to oppose the proposed school consolidation in the county, heard a request from a wrecker service, heard an update on the availability of a backup generator for the county and reappointed individuals to two entities.

Present for the meeting were Commission President Ken Altizer, Commissioner Lyle Neal and Commissioner Dr. Lloyd Adkins.

Lawsuits against pharmaceutical firms
Attorney Harley E. Stollings and Attorney Greg Tucker came before the Commission to recommend that they file a lawsuit against several large pharmaceutical firms for causing the opioid addiction problem in the county by dumping millions of pills to pharmacies in the county.

They noted that the state attorney general’s office had reached a settlement agreement of $47 million with five large drug distribution companies. A few counties and municipalities have since decided to file lawsuits, and they recommended that the Commission do the same.

Attorney Stollings said the county would be seeking damages caused by the opioid addiction problem and recoup costs incurred from extra law enforcement expenses, drug related crimes and the costs of drug therapy.




Tiny Home, Big Smiles

Colleen Clevenger, third from left, explores the inside of her new tiny home, accompanied by friend, Linda Carroll (left), case manager Grace Msisha, and Buck Edwards (right) of the West Virginia Methodist Conference. Colleen lost her home in Richwood during the June 2016 flood and was selected to receive this tiny home, which was built by vocational students in Mingo County. The home was delivered to a lot near Craigsville by West Virginia Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher Hamrick, and the installation of the home was funded by the WV Methodist Conference. Colleen had been living with friends since the flood and was very grateful to receive the new home.




Richwood loses services of part-time

police officers from Summersville

By Pat Hanna
The Nicholas Chronicle

Richwood has lost the services of three Summersville police officers who had been working part-time in the city during their off-duty hours.

That was the word from Police Chief Allen Cogar during a Richwood Common Council meeting last Thursday night, Feb. 2.

Cogar said Summersville had lost three officers over the last few months and that the three who had been working part-time in Richwood had been called back to work exclusively in Summersville.

Cogar said he had spoken with Summersville Police Chief Jay Nowak and that the move could be temporary.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Patrick Coumbes was still planning to travel to San Antonio for two weeks of training with a tracking dog that he will bring back to Richwood.

“The timing’s not good, but we can’t pass up that opportunity,” Mayor Bob Henry Baber said.

Cogar said he had set up other arrangements with the Nicholas County Sheriff’s Department and State Police for coverage in Richwood.

Cogar also provided an update on the possible annexation of the Route 55/20 roadway to Rhododendron Park, about 6 miles from Richwood.

It was reported at the Jan. 19 council meeting that the city owned the park, but it was clarified last week that Richwood was leasing the site from Weyerhaeuser and that the lease had expired.




RHS auditorium and social media

addressed by School Board

The Nicholas County Board of Education on Monday evening, Feb. 6, outlined the costs involved in saving the flooded Richwood High School Auditorium from being demolished.

The Board also held off on developing an employee social media policy, adopted a Federal Procurement Policy, approved loaning a wheelchair accessible bus to Fayette County, heard Local School Improvement Council reports from four schools in the county and heard public input regarding proposed school consolidation in the county.

Present for the meeting held in the Nicholas County High School auditorium were Board President Dr. Gus Penix, Vice-President Fred Amick and members A.J. Rogers, Darrell White and Phil Berry.

RHS Auditorium
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick advised the Board that she had met earlier in the day with a member of the Richwood City Council and a couple of other Richwood residents regarding interest in keeping the auditorium of flood damaged Richwood High School from being demolished so it could be used by the community for various activities.

She said it would cost those interested in saving the auditorium $40,000, which is the amount of the additional demolition costs for leaving the structure standing while demolishing the rest of the high school.

There would be an additional $5,000 involved in putting in doors, plumbing and heating and air conditioning, which would mean $45,000 up front to keep the auditorium from being demolished. There would also be additional ongoing costs such as utilities and maintenance costs.

Another cost is $68,000 that would have to be guaranteed to the Board after five years because of a reverter clause if those interested want or have to give the structure back to the Board.

The Board agreed to give those interested in keeping the auditorium two weeks to come up with $45,000 in up-front costs.




County man arrested for enticing a minor girl for sex

A 44-year-old Nicholas County man was accused last week of attempting to engage in sexual activity with a fictitious 13-year-old girl.

John Marshall Underwood Jr. was arrested on Thursday, Feb. 2, and charged with the “attempted use of facility of interstate commerce to entice a minor to engage in commercial sex or criminal sexual activity.”

The investigation began in December when police received a tip about a man named John soliciting prostitutes to arrange for him to engage in sexual activity with minors, Charleston Police Detective Brandon Burton wrote in a criminal complaint. The informant reportedly later identified Underwood from a photo.

On Dec. 14, a police officer called Underwood and pretended to be a 32-year-old prostitute named Jenn, according to the criminal complaint. She said she had custody of her two nieces, 16-year-old Emma and 13-year-old Abby.

The charge against him states that Underwood and the undercover officer started out talking about his interest in younger girls. Underwood allegedly asked about the 13-year-old’s sexual history.

According to Burton, Underwood continued for about a week talking on the phone and texting the undercover officer. Several times during their conversations, Underwood asked for photographs of the girl, according to the criminal complaint.

On Dec. 23, the undercover officer sent Underwood a photo and told him it was her 13-year-old niece. The photo was actually of an undercover officer who was dressed to look like a teenager.

During several phone calls, Underwood allegedly asked if Jenn had talked with her youngest niece about meeting him. Police say Underwood implied he would provide money or other items to Jenn and Abby in exchange for engaging in sexual activity with the 13-year-old.

Underwood also allegedly asked the officer if she could find more girls in case he wanted to have sex with more than one girl. He allegedly also sent a picture of his penis to the undercover officer.

A preliminary hearing was held Tuesday, Feb. 7, in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley. Underwood is being held in the custody of U.S. Marshals in the South Central Regional Jail.




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