Friend says slain Blacksburg teen talked of running away with alleged killer

nicole-lovell-435BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ A friend of the 13-year-old Virginia girl who was killed after climbing out of her bedroom window says the seventh-grader talked of running away and starting a family with the man now charged in her slaying. Natasha Bryant told The Washington Post that Nicole Lovell said 18-year-old Virginia Tech student David Eisenhauer was her boyfriend. She says Nicole described Eisenhauer as “funny and really nice” shortly before her Jan. 27 disappearance in Blacksburg. Eisenhauer is charged with abduction and first-degree murder. Another Virginia Tech student, 19-year-old Natalie Keepers, is charged with accessory before and after the fact and with illegally dumping Nicole’s body just across the state line in North Carolina.

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House OKs bill that would allow students to switch schools

WLNI-GENERAL-ASSEMBLYRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia’s House of Delegates has approved a bill that would allow students in underperforming schools to switch to a different one within the same district. The bill was approved by the Republican-controlled House with a 57-42 vote on Tuesday. Under Republican Del. James LeMunyon’s bill, the state would identify 12 underperforming public schools and give students there the choice to transfer to another school in the district.  The bill heads to the Republican-controlled Senate. Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber says it hasn’t formally taken a position on the bill but has practical concerns about it. She said she questions what would happen if a lot of students wanted to switch a school that’s already overcrowded.

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Former McAuliffe ally turns against him on gun compromise

WLNI-gun-lawsRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ One of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s biggest donors and political allies has turned against him with an advertisement campaign condemning a deal he struck with GOP leaders on gun policy. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group Everytown for Gun Safety took out a full-page advertisement in a Richmond newspaper on Tuesday declaring that “Terry McAuliffe is wrong” and urging residents to pressure him into scrapping the deal. Everytown has also been running online ads comparing McAuliffe to the head of the National Rifle Association. McAuliffe’s administration is standing by the deal, which it says as a whole will make residents safer. Bloomberg has been one of McAuliffe’s biggest political patrons. His political action committee was McAuliffe’s single largest non-party donor during his successful 2013 gubernatorial bid.

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Virginia Senate OKs bill nixing party’s ‘loyalty oaths’

wlni-defaultRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A bill that’s making its way through Virginia’s General Assembly would prevent political parties from requiring voters to sign a party affiliation statement in a presidential primary. The Republican-led Senate voted 34-5 to approve the bill Monday. It heads to the House.  The state Republican Party had planned to require voters in the party’s March 1 primary to sign a statement affirming they’re Republicans before casting a ballot. But it later changed its mind amid criticism from Donald Trump supporters. A judge rejected Trump supporters’ attempt to block the loyalty oath, but the party rescinded its decision to use it anyway, calling it “bad publicity.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the bill applies only to state-sponsored primaries and that parties could still hold their own nominating contests with an oath.

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People gather in Blacksburg to remember slain 13-year-old at vigil

Nicole Lovell

Nicole Lovell

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ Organizers held a vigil in Blacksburg to remember the life of a 13-year-old girl who was fatally stabbed last month. The Roanoke Times reports that more than 100 people gathered in downtown Blacksburg on Monday night to honor Nicole Madison Lovell. Light poles in the area were strung with blue Christmas lights and members of the community held candles throughout the night. Lovell’s mother, Tammy Weeks, addressed the crowd, thanking the community for their thoughts and prayers. Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam also spoke at the event, saying the community is strong and standing together. The event was sponsored by Womanspace at Virginia Tech and Take Back the Night, two organizations dedicated to student and citizen safety. Two Virginia Tech students have been charged in connection with Nicole’s death.

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Trial begins for mother of 5-year-old found dead in septic tank

ashleywhite-jpgPULASKI, Va. (AP) _ The mother of a Virginia boy who died in a septic tank is in court for trial on abuse and neglect charges. The Pulaski County Circuit Court Clerk’s office says 31-year-old Ashley White’s trial started Monday. The jury trial is scheduled to take up to five days. White and 32-year-old Paul Thomas are accused of leaving their 5-year-old son, Noah Thomas, and infant daughter, Abigail, home alone on March 22 of last year. The boy’s body was found in a septic tank near the family’s home in Dublin four days later. The medical examiner determined that the boy drowned and that hypothermia contributed to his death.

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Volvo scales back layoffs at Dublin truck plant

volvo logoDUBLIN, Va. (AP) _ Volvo Trucks says it will lay off fewer workers at its Pulaski County plant than previously announced. The Roanoke Times reports that the truck maker confirmed last week that about 600 workers are losing their jobs this month. The company announced in December that it would lay off 734 workers at the New River Valley Assembly Plant in Dublin over a three-week period in February. Volvo attributed the cuts to a decrease in demand. John Miles, a spokesman for Volvo Trucks North America, said company officials have determined they can manage the market adjustment without cutting as many jobs as initially anticipated. The 1.6-million-square-foot plant employs 2,800 workers and is the largest Volvo truck manufacturing facility in the world.

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Today is deadline to register to vote in Virginia primaries

Election CheckRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginians who aren’t registered to vote but want to cast ballots in the March 1 presidential primary need to act fast. Monday is the deadline to register. In Virginia, voters don’t register by party. Any registered voter may choose to cast a ballot in either the Democratic or Republican primary. For weeks, it looked like voters in the GOP primary would have to sign a statement affirming their Republican affiliation. The plan drew criticism, and the State Board of Elections has rescinded that requirement at the request of the state GOP’s governing body.

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Prosecutor: Pair plotted to kill Nicole Lovell

Nicole Lovell

Nicole Lovell

David Eisenhauer

David Eisenhauer

Natalie Keepers

Natalie Keepers

Christiansburg (AP) — A prosecutor says two Virginia Tech students plotted to kill a 13-year-old girl and hide her body. Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt revealed details about the accusations against 18-year-old David Eisenhauer and 19-year-old Natalie Keepers at a Thursday hearing. Until then, details about 13-year-old Nicole Lovell’s death had been scarce. Pettit says Eisenhauer and Keepers met at a fast-food restaurant to plan how they’d kill Nicole, and drove past her home. Pettit says they bought cleaning supplies at one Wal-Mart and a shovel at another. Pettitt says Eisenhauer planned to cut Nicole’s throat at a remote location. Pettit says the pair put the body in the back of a Lexus. Pettit says authorities found a weapon, but she didn’t describe it. Pettitt didn’t give a possible motive or describe how the killing was carried  out; instead she detailed only the pair’s plans.  She says Eisenhauer first denied involvement in killing Nicole but admitted to driving to her home. Pettit says he also admitted that he saw her climb out of her window, and she says he greeted her with a side hug and then brought her to Keepers.

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First confirmed Zika patient in Virginia speaks

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) _ A Harrisonburg mother of three has been diagnosed with the first known case of the Zika virus in the state. Heather Baker tells media outlets that she received a letter dated Feb. 1 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirming that she has Zika virus. Baker thinks she contracted the virus in November while on a mission trip in Guatemala. She says the first symptom was a swollen lymph node on the side of her head. She then began experiencing joint pain, a rash and body aches. Zika is transmitted from infected mosquitoes to people, from infected pregnant mothers to babies and possibly through sexual activity. Babies born to mothers with the virus can have birth defects. Baker says she is managing her symptoms and trying to be cautious.

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