BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ Virginia Tech is seeking state approval of two new degree programs. The university’s Board of Visitors approved the programs earlier this month. One is a bachelor of science degree program in systems biology. The other is a master of arts degree in women’s and gender studies. Virginia Tech says in a news release that the new programs would begin in the fall of 2015, if they are approved by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia. The state council recently approved a new bachelor of science in neuroscience degree program at Virginia Tech.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ Laughs mixed with tears as students, friends, and family gathered to remember University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, whose disappearance two months ago prompted a massive monthlong search that ended in tragedy and criminal charges. Nearly 1,000 members of the community attended a celebration of life ceremony Saturday at West Potomac High School, Graham’s alma mater. Friends shared stories of Graham’s sharp, dry wit. Her parents thanked the community for its support. She was reported missing in mid-September, and her disappearance drew national attention and prompted an intense search effort. Last month, her remains were found in Albemarle County, a few miles from where she had last been seen in downtown Charlottesville. Thirty-two-year-old Jesse Matthew has been charged with her abduction. Authorities have also linked him to other crimes.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The latest Virginia crop report forecasts gains in soybean, cotton and peanut production. But corn production is expected to be down compared to 2013. The report says 49.7 million bushels of corn are expected to be produced this year. That’s down 10 percent from 2013. Corn producers are expected to harvest 350,000 acres, a decline of 10,000 acres from last year. Peanut production is expected to be 76 million pounds, up 20 percent from 2013. Cotton and soybean production also is up. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says the forecasts are based on conditions as of Nov. 1. The source is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The national average price of gas has dropped for 50 days in a row (through Friday), a cumulative decline of 44 cents, which is the longest consecutive decline since 2008. Friday’s national average for regular unleaded gasoline is $2.91 per gallon, which is the lowest price since Dec. 3, 2010. Motorists are paying four cents less than one week ago, 28 cents less than one month ago and 28 cents less than one year ago. The price at the pump has dropped 79 cents from the 2014 peak of $3.70 (April 28), which represents an estimated savings of more than $250 million each day for American motorists.
LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) _ A day care operator in Lynchburg faces a misdemeanor charge stemming from the investigation of a fatal fire. Doris Lee Thompson is charged with one count of unlawfully operating a day care facility. Media outlets report that a Lynchburg grand jury indicted Thompson on Friday. Authorities say Thompson didn’t have a license to operate a day care center, and didn’t have a business license for the facility.Two children died following a fire at the day care on Sept. 19. Police have said the victims were among seven children in the home at the time of the fire.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ State records show one of Virginia’s richest state lawmakers and his politically connected father made a Civil War-themed movie last year that received $1 million in tax credits and grants. Henrico County Republican Del. Peter Farrell was an investor, co-producer and played a Union Army officer in “Field of Lost Shoes,” an independent movie that focuses on the role of cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in a Civil War battle in the Shenandoah Valley. The movie was the brainchild and labor of love of Farrell’s father, Thomas Farrell II, who is president and CEO of energy giant Dominion Resources Inc. Peter Farrell says the actor’s union required he be paid nearly $2,000 because he had a speaking role in the film.
Investigators continued their search for Alexis Murphy and Samantha Clark yesterday afternoon. More than 150 volunteers and law enforcement officials searched a 200 acre piece of private land used for hunting in western Orange County. Police said the area they searched was an area that they’ve searched before but, the change in the weather and foliage made it a good time to search. A jury convicted Randy Taylor of Alexis Murphy’s murder, and police say he’s a suspect in Samantha Clarke’s disappearance. Officials say Taylor would have been familiar with the area crews searched yesterday. No word on if searchers found any clues yesterday.
Orange County officials are preparing to answer question regarding the search for missing teens Alexis Murphy and Samantha Clarke. Alexis Murphy went missing from Nelson County in August 2013. Randy Taylor was convicted of her murder in May 2014, and sentenced to two life terms. Murphy’s body has never been found but sources say a new search will likely begin for her in Orange County where Samantha Clarke went missing in 2010. It is also believed Randy Taylor had contact with her before she disappeared. A press conference will be held at the Barboursville Volunteer Fire Department on Sunday morning at 8:00 o’clock.
A panel of speakers appeared in Lynchburg yesterday to kick-off a new protection campaign from the James River Association. The initiative, “Our River at Risk,” was launched by the nonprofit advocacy group to address the hundreds of sources of industrial toxins that surround the James River; while seeking new standards for chemical storage facilities and coal ash ponds.. The community meeting on Thursday night was part of a series of sessions JRA is holding across the state to raise awareness and initiate a public discussion. To learn more about the James River Association’s campaign, visit www.riveratrisk.org.