Emails confirm talk of Marple’s ouster in September

CHARLESTON – Emails between the president of the state Board of Education and acting superintendent of schools Jim Phares show the two men were communicating about the possible replacement of then-Superintendent Jorea Marple for two months before her Nov. 15 firing.

Under Freedom of Information Act requests, reporters from The Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail obtained emails dating to September.

Marple’s dismissal came five months after a positive performance review. Her attorneys say she will sue.

The parents of a student have also sued, arguing the board broke West Virginia’s open meeting laws.

BECKLEY

Miner crushed to death: A coal miner has been killed in Raleigh County, crushed under a scoop.

State and federal mining officials say the miner died Thursday night at Pocahontas Coal Co.’s Affinity Mine as he pushed a scoop bucket insert full of trash onto a hoist and the hoist moved unexpectedly.

It’s the second equipment-related death in a week. On Feb. 6, 34-year-old Brandon Townsend of Delbarton died when a hydraulic jack exploded on a belt press at Midland Trail Energy’s Blue Creek preparation plant in Kanawha County. Investigations into both deaths are under way.

MORGANTOWN

Record end-of-life requests: Nearly 89,000 people requested forms for advance health care directives in 2012, setting a record for the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care.

The center, housed at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, was launched in 2002 to help people with medical powers of attorney, living wills and medical orders such as do-not-resuscitate cards.

Dr. Alvin Moss, the center’s director, said 88,704 advance directives and medical orders were requested last year – that’s 4,000 more than 2011 and more than double the number distributed in 2002.

West Virginia has one of the nation’s oldest and least healthy populations, consistently ranking high in categories such as tobacco use and obesity, and reporting high rates of diabetes, chronic lung disease, congestive heart failure and cancer.

FAIRMONT

Arrest in ’74 slayings: Federal agents have arrested a Florida man in the 1974 shooting deaths of three people in a Fairmont park.

The U.S. Marshals Service in Tampa said officers arrested Eddie Jack Washington, 59, Thursday after following him from his home to a grocery store.

The bodies of 20-year-old Guy Lester Phillips, his wife, Wanda Jane Phillips, 19, and Billy Ray Cobb, 27, all of Fairmont, were found next to each other on Aug. 2, 1974. All three had been shot in the head

Fairmont police had been actively investigating the case since September. According to the U.S. Marshal’s office, Washington became a suspect after new information came to light.

INSTITUTE

Partnering to help students: West Virginia State University and Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College are partnering to make it easier for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in the fields of criminal justice, art, history, English and health sciences leadership.

The schools said Thursday that the agreements are part of efforts to meet the changing economic needs of the region.

Under the agreements, students can begin their education at the community college level and then complete their degree at WVSU.

WVSU President Brian Hemphill says the move will help students graduate sooner and begin contributing to the growing economies in West Virginia.

HUNTINGTON

Train ride filling up: Some 1,200 tickets already have been sold for next fall’s train trips along the New River.

Officials with the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society have planned 300-mile trips on Oct. 19, 20, 26 and 27.

Passengers will travel from Huntington through the New River Gorge to Hinton in peak autumn foliage season. The trips date to 1966.

ELKVIEW

Plea in hospital death: A Kanawha County woman has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting her 56-year-old estranged husband in his hospital bed in 2009.

Elkview resident Rhonda K. Stewart on Thursday pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with use of a firearm in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

Stewart had been facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Sammy Stewart. He was killed in Charleston Area Medical Center Memorial Hospital’s intensive-care unit as he was being treated for pancreatitis.

After a jury convicted her in 2010, Stewart was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years. But a year later, the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial, ruling the jury should have heard claims that she had been beaten and abused throughout their 38-year marriage.

Stewart has been on home confinement and will remain on house arrest until her sentencing on March 19. She could face 40 years in prison or be sentenced to home confinement.

DAVIS

Snow (card)boarding: Cardboard sleds will be the means of transport later this month as Blackwater Falls State Park hosts a competition on the park’s 1,500-foot-long sled run.

The Feb. 23 race is open to children and adults who put together sleds made only of corrugated cardboard and duct tape.

Officials at the Tucker County park say awards will be given for fastest time, most visually appealing sled, and for team spirit. Registration for the event costs $1 and forms are available on the park’s website.

PARKERSBURG

Flush with success: Bathroom artifacts dating to 1700s are coming out of the (water) closet and taking center stage thanks to a new exhibit at the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park museum.

The exhibit will be on display all year at the Ohio River island near Parkersburg. State Park historian Ray Swick will give lectures on the history of bathroom starting April 20.

Adults pay $4 admission to the museum; children ages 3 to 12 pay $2.

— Compiled by Christine Miller Ford, with information from The Associated Press

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