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One injured in Charleston fire

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One person was injured in a fire that occurred early Saturday morning in Charleston.

The blaze was reported in a one-story residence in the 1500 block of Bridge Road.

Crews with the Charleston Fire Department said the house was engulfed in flames when they arrived on the scene at shortly after midnight.

Authorities said one person inside the house suffered burn injuries and is hospitalized.

Further details were not immediately available.

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Judge’s order gives Justice company 72 hours to turn over helicopter for sale

A judge entered an order Friday directing a company owned by Gov. Jim Justice to turn over a helicopter for sale within 72 hours.

The judge’s order represented the climax of a dispute between Justice’s Bluestone Resources and Caroleng Investments, parent company to the Russian mining company Mechel that bought and sold properties with Justice. Caroleng is seeking the seizure over a debt now amounting to about $13 million already recognized and awarded in the federal court system.

U.S. District Judge Robert Ballou of the Western District of Virginia had already ruled that a 2009 Bell helicopter should be sold to pay down debt. The most recent order lays out the path to set that in motion with a sale through Helicopter Exchange, Ltd, known as Heli-X.

“Bluestone shall surrender the Helicopter to Heli-X or its named agent in an orderly manner, together with all logs and records, all accessories, attachments, parts, repairs, additions, accessions, substitutions, and exchanges relating to the helicopter, within 72
hours of entry of this Initial Sale Order,” Ballou wrote.

The entry also specified, “Bluestone shall take immediate steps to reprogram the Helicopter’s transponder to allow for inflight tracking.”

The judge also laid out a backup plan.

“Should Bluestone fail to surrender the Helicopter in the manner described, Caroleng shall be authorized to proceed with enforcement,” the judge wrote, “seizing the Helicopter with the aid of the U.S. Marshals Service, and delivering it to the custody of Heli-X.”

Gov. Jim Justice

Justice, a two-term Republican governor running for U.S. Senate, has faced a series of major financial pressures over his sprawling family-owned businesses. Most notably, the family company’s longtime lender, Carter Bank & Trust, is trying to collect on $300 million in personally-guaranteed debt.

This case all started when Caroleng sought the helicopter’s seizure over a multi-million dollar debt.

Justice sold the family’s coal assets to Mechel in May 2009 for $436 million in cash and 83.3 million preferred shares of Mechel stock. Justice then bought Bluestone back in 2015 for $5 million.

The mines had closed under Mechel, but Justice reopened them.

The deal to buy back the Bluestone properties included a provision to pay Caroleng $3 a ton in royalty payments for mined coal, along with defined portions of future sales. In court filings, Caroleng claimed Bluestone withheld the royalty payments.

Mechel first made its debt case to a three-person panel for the International Chamber of Commerce, which arbitrated the dispute in Paris, France, in October 2019, two years into Justice’s first term as governor.  The panel awarded $8.4 million plus pre-award interest of $1.7 million. Representatives of Mechel says the debt has continued to grow.

Caroleng, on behalf of Mechel, has been acting on a 2021 federal court order to enforce the arbitration award but it hasn’t been able to collect on its judgment. Liquidating the helicopter, conceivably, could satisfy a portion of the debt.

Bluestone Resources has objected to the helicopter seizure by a company “controlled by a Russian oligarch.” Bluestone’s lawyers said that if the helicopter is seized and liquidated then the money should instead go to different lenders higher up the debt priority list.

One of those lenders, 1st Source Bank of Indiana, jumped in to identify itself as a lender with a perfected, first-priority security interest on the helicopter. The bank said Bluestone still owed millions of dollars for the helicopter and other loans on additional property.

Bluestone and the bank estimate the helicopter’s value at $1.2 million.

After the judge’s ruling in January that the helicopter should be sold, representatives of Caroleng and 1st Source have been cooperating on a plan to move forward. Bluestone, according to filings in the case, has not participated.

Separately, 1st Source launched its own lawsuit in February against Bluestone over $4.5 million in debt and described intentions of seizing property like construction equipment.

In the helicopter case, once the sale has gone through, the proceeds will be held in escrow with arrangements for Caroleng and 1st Source to figure out.


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2024 WVSSAC Boys H.S. Basketball Regional matchups

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Following the final day of sectional competition on Friday, March 1, regional matchups in the WVSSAC Boys Basketball playoffs are set. Regional winners advance to the state tournament at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, which will be played March 12-16.

Class AAAA (All games Thursday, March 7)

Region I

Wheeling Park (15-8) at Bridgeport (20-4)

University (10-14) at Morgantown (22-1)

Region II

Musselman (14-10) at Spring Mills (22-1)

Hedgesville (14-9) at Jefferson (16-7)

Region III

Princeton (11-12) at South Charleston (17-7)

George Washington (14-9) at Woodrow Wilson (14-9)

Region IV

Parkersburg (7-17) at Spring Valley (18-6)

Huntington (15-8) at Parkersburg South (10-13)


Class AAA (All games Wednesday, March 6)

Region I

Keyser (7-17) at North Marion (10-11)

Weir (10-14) at Hampshire (9-14)

Region II

East Fairmont (17-7) at Lincoln (14-9)

Robert C. Byrd (10-13) at Fairmont Senior (23-1)

Region III

PikeView (8-16) at Sissonville (14-10)

Lewis County (14-10) at Shady Spring (19-4)

Region IV

Ripley (11-13) at Logan (15-9)

Wayne (10-12) at Nitro (22-2)


Class AA (All games Wednesday, March 6)

Region I

Ritchie County (9-14) at Wheeling Central Catholic (18-5)

St. Marys (10-14) at Williamstown (20-3)

Region II

Trinity (11-10) at Moorefield (8-16)

Frankfort (15-7) at Braxton County (10-13)

Region III

Mingo Central (7-17) at Bluefield (18-5)

Wyoming East (16-7) at Chapmanville (17-6)

Region IV

Wirt County (11-13) at Charleston Catholic (20-4)

Buffalo (11-13) at Ravenswood (18-5)


Class A (All games Thursday, March 5)

Region I

Madonna (11-13) at Doddridge County (17-7)

Clay-Battelle (18-6) at Cameron (19-5)

Region II

East Hardy (18-3) at Pendleton County/Tygarts Valley winner

Tygarts Valley/Pendleton County loser at Tucker County (20-3)

Region III

Greater Beckley Christian (14-10) at Webster County (20-4)

Greenbrier West (13-11) at James Monroe (19-4)

Region IV

Wahama (17-7) at Tug Valley (18-6)

Tolsia (15-9) vs. Huntington St. Joseph’s (16-7)

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Team titles still up for grabs as University, Point Pleasant and Wheeling Central enter final day with lead

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The standings tightened up Friday night after the fourth round in the WVSSAC State High School Wrestling Tournament at Marshall Health Network Arena.

University moved into the lead in Class AAA with 159.5 points and defending champion Parkersburg South second with 148. Beckley is third with 132.

“Still a lot of wrestling to do,” University coach Ken Maisel said. “We had a better night.”

Eleven of the Hawks’ 12 wrestlers will score. Three are in the finals. They are Pepper Martin at 106, Luca Felix at 165 and unbeaten Brock Kehler at 285.

Maisel knows Parkersburg South and Beckley will be in hot pursuit Saturday. The finals start at 6 p.m. Consolation matches begin at 10:30 a.m.

Girls also take the mat for the first time in this setting Saturday morning. They’ll do all rounds to determine finalists. Starting weights at 106 for boys and 100 for girls.

“Beckley’s got a great team,” Maisel said. “We’ve got to go out and do it.”

Parkersburg South has three in the finals and Beckley has four. Patriots going for titles are Nathan Murphy at 144, Gage Wright at 175 and Ayden Morris at 215. Eagles in the running are Garrett Johnson at 113, Tyler Roark at 132, Jimmie Bailes at 138 and Vance Neal at 157.

Point Pleasant leads Class AA with 166 points and defending champion Fairmont Senior follows closely with 158. The Big Blacks have nine wrestlers who’ll score and five in the finals. They are Carter Price at 113, Nathan Wood at 126, Gunner Andrick at 138, Josh Woyan at 165 and Kolton Weaver at 285. Fairmont Senior has six wrestlers going for titles. They are Bryce Nichols at 106, Jason Walker at 126, Maximus Fortier at 144, Hunter Spurlock at 150 and Gavin Michael at 175.

“One more day,” Point Pleasant coach John Bonecutter said.

In Class A, Wheeling Central moved to the top with 84.5 points. Ravenswood is second with 53. Wheeling Central has four finalists. They are Braxton Burch at 120, Eli Tedrow at 157, Wyatt Brady at 165 and Isaac Martin at 215.

Saturday morning features consolation matches and the girls stepping onto the mats for the first time in this setting. They will wrestle all their matches during the day to set up the finals that night. Action will start at 106 for boys and 100 for girls.

Three Class AAA finalists have personal connections to the finals.

Huntington High’s Joe Riggs won twice at 144 to get his first shot at a state title.

Riggs, a senior, beat Collin Schaffner of Martinsburg in the morning quarterfinals, then ousted Troy Harris of Beckley in the semifinal round at Marshall Health Network Arena. He beat Harris, 5-0.

“Stayed in control and rode him out good,” Riggs said.

Riggs got beat in overtime in the semifinal round a year ago.

“No way we’re going to overtime again,” Highlanders coach John Dempsey said. “He came out shooting and got it done.”

Riggs will see a familiar face in the championship round in Murphy He beat Murphy in the Region 4 Tournament.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Riggs said. “You don’t overlook anyone. I’ve done all the work to prepare. Just got to go out and do it.”

Another feel good story belongs to George Washington’s Benjamin McComas at 126. He defeated Huntington’s Ben Barrett in the semifinals.

What makes his story moving is McComas won his semifinal match last year, passed out after it and had to default in the finals.

“I was nervous,” McComas said. “It means a lot to get to the finals and be able to compete.  I got off to a good start, he chipped away and I was able to get a takedown at the end.”

“He’s motivated,” GW coach Alex Neal said. “He’s put in all the work. You don’t forget what happened last year.”

Moses Eads of St. Albans is back in the finals at 150. He’ll face Landon Herndon of Spring Mills. He’s going for another state title. He won his freshman year, but came up short the next two.

“Two solid matches,” Eads said. “I’m motivated. Got to leave in a good way.”

The Red Dragons saw Matt McAfee get beat by Jacob Perry of Spring Mills, 3-1.

Cabell Midland’s finalist is Robert Shockey at 190. He beat Wheeling Park’s Malaki Washington in the semifinals to get a fourth chance at a state title.

“Not a clean match for sure,” said Shockey, a transfer from Parkersburg South. “Not proud of how I wrestled especially now. But I won and that’s what matters.”

Shockey got some motivation when he got pinned by a Staunton River (Va.) wrestler in the finals at the WSAZ Invitational.

“I knew he was good,” Shockey said. “That Monday I had the worst practice of my life.”

Until this year, Shockey had been part of championship teams at Parkersburg South. The Patriots are in the hunt again to repeat. He lost in the finals the past three years.

“That would’ve been a dream scenario,” Shockey said. “This is my last chance.”

Hurricane’s Saige Walls at 157 and Owen Duffy at 285 lost in the semifinals.

In Class AA-A, Nichols beat Sissonville’s Devin Fowler at 106. Fowler’s teammate, Austin High, lost to Hunter Spitznogle of Fairmont Senior at 150. And Woyan defeated Herbert Hoover’s Jake Eden at 165.

Huntington’s Garrett Arthur bowed out at 138.

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Sissonville holds off Lewis County, claims sectional championship

WESTON, W.Va. — For 6 minutes during the fourth quarter, Sissonville led Lewis County 36-34 in the Class AAA Region III, Section 2 title game.

While the Indians struggled to extend the lead during that stretch, the Minutemen failed to get even or go in front despite having numerous chances to do just that.

As the game went inside 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the next basket — assuming there would be one — felt like it would be imperative in deciding the outcome.

Fortunately for the Indians, they got it in the form of a Dylan Casto layup off a feed from teammate Ethan Taylor, allowing the visitors to double their advantage with 1:12 remaining. The score went a long way in dictating play over the final minute and helped Sissonville hold off the Minutemen, 43-36.

“Ethan did a good job of getting to the rim and trying to finish or dishing it off. The high ball screens worked well and that’s what we went to in that last situation,” Sissonville head coach Derek Godwin said. “We trust him as a ball-handler to either get to the basket or make a smart decision, which he did.”

The result allows the Indians (14-10) to stay home Wednesday and welcome PikeView for a Region III co-final, while LCHS (14-10) will play at Shady Spring the same night.

“It’s much harder to go on the road,” Godwin said. “We respect PikeView and they’ll give us a really tough time at home, but you want to avoid going to Shady to play Shady.“

Sissonville entered the final frame with a 34-30 lead, though a layup from Pason Kelley allowed the Minutemen to cut their deficit in half within seconds.

Following Taylor’s driving basket in response, the Minutemen again pulled to within two on a pair of Ben Putnam free throws with 7:14 to play.

The score stayed that way until Casio’s basket from close range with 72 seconds remaining. In between, Putnam, who led Lewis County with 13 points, was whistled for his fourth personal foul on a charging call with 5:29 remaining, while Indians’ top rebounder Luke Michael suffered the same fate 28 seconds later.

After Casto scored to give the Indians a 38-34 advantage, the Minutemen committed a costly and untimely turnover out of a timeout and Taylor helped wrap up the result by making two foul shots with 37 seconds left. 

Two free throws from Tanner Griffith with 13 seconds left marked Lewis County’s only offensive production over the final 7 minutes.

“We had our chances,” Minutemen head coach Charles Simms said. “We had four straight possessions at 36-34 where we’re within 4 feet of the basket and can’t put it in the hole.” 

Sissonville got off to the exact start it desired and built a 13-2 lead in less than 6 minutes. During that stretch, the Indians ran off 13 consecutive points, six of which Taylor scored and five of which Casto provided.

“We watched some film on Lewis and noticed that in many games they’ve won, they got out to an early lead,” Godwin said. “So we emphasized that we had to get an early lead and by doing that, we can hang around and win the game.”

The Minutemen scored the final four points of the opening frame to trail by seven, though their deficit was 18-8 a few minutes into the second quarter following a triple from Tanner Griffith (one on each team).

That’s when Putnam went on a personal 9-0 run to get his team squarely back into the game. It began with a conventional three-point play 4:20 before halftime and also featured a pair of jump shots and two free throws, before Kelley converted a transition layup 1:10 before halftime to give the Minutemen their first lead at 19-18.

The teams went to the break knotted at 19, and the Minutemen went in front early in the third courtesy of their only triple from Bryant Zielinski.

However, a conventional three-point play from Jake Wiseman along with a Casto triple allowed the visitors to score the next six points. 

Sissonville would never trail again and built a 34-26 advantage late in the third after Casto scored in the paint, though LCHS got Isaac Smith’s layup and a Zielinski jump shot in the final seconds of the third to cut its deficit in half.

Taylor made 6-of-9 shots and led all players with 14 points, while Casto was 5 for 8 and scored 12. Michael had a game-high 11 rebounds.

Putnam was the only double-figure scorer for the Minutemen, who made only 12-of-41 shots, including 4 of 20 after halftime.

“Our study and what we said all week long was to keep their guards in front of you and not to allow penetration, because that’s when they’ll get in the lane, kick it and get a wide open three,” Godwin said. “We stayed in front and did a good job with hard close-outs.”

Kelley totaled 10 rebounds in the loss.

“They’ve been knocked down,” Simms said. “How they get back up defines their character.”

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Higgins’ hoop in final seconds secures sectional title for North Marion, 66-65 over Weir

RACHEL, W.Va. — Highlights and photo gallery from North Marions’ 66-65 win over Weir in the Class AAA Region I, Section I championship game.

(Highlights and photo gallery by Teran Malone)

North Marion (10-11):

  • Caden Morris – 22 points
  • Landon Cowger – 16 points
  • Landon Frey – 10 points

Weir (10-14):

  • G Cross – 24 points
  • Malachi Stromile – 17 points

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12-0 second-half run lifts Doddridge County to sectional title with 71-65 win at Clay-Battelle

BLACKSVILLE, W.Va. — For the first time since the regional rounds were expanded to four teams, Doddridge County has earned the right to host a winner-take-all game for a state tournament berth.

The Bulldogs defeated Clay-Battelle, 71-65 to avenge a 58-54 loss to the Cee-Bees on February 8.

“It was another tight game like today. I told our guys just to come in and play with confidence. It was back-and-forth. Coach [Josh] Kisner has a great program. Our guys just battled all the way to the end,” said Doddridge County head coach Paul Burnside.

“I believe it was because we got more stops. I know that sounds cliche but that was an emphasis at halftime to get more stops.”

Trailing by ten points midway through the first quarter, the Cee-Bees took their first lead of the game early in the second quarter with a 10-0 run. In a seesaw second stanza, Doddridge took a five-point lead [26-21] before the Cee-Bees closed the half with a 35-33 advantage.

Clay-Battelle built a six-point lead early in the third before a 12-0 run from the Bulldogs gave them a lead they would not relinquish.

Sophomore Jerod Trent led the Bulldogs with 24 points.

“He had a great game in the first round sectional win against Tyler and it just rolled over. It was huge. With our guys, we have different leading scorers it seems like every night.”

Jacob DeHaven added 13 points for Doddridge. Brandon Hileman scored a dozen and Landon Thomas chipped in with 10.

The Cee-Bees (18-6) will visit Cameron in the regional round Tuesday while the Bulldogs will welcome Madonna to West Union.

“We’re 17-7 right now. If you would have told me that at the beginning of the year, I would have looked at you cross-eyed,” Burnside said.

“Even when we made it to regionals in 2016, we were [sectional] runner-up and had to go on the road. Understand that it is big for our community. It is big for our program. I am proud of our guys for battling. That was a goal at the beginning of the year. We’re there and I thank the good Lord above for his many blessings.”

Colby Barr led Clay-Battelle with 25 points. Preston Luzader scored 13 points and JC Spears added 11.

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Marshall opens Jack Cook Field in style, blanks Manhattan

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — So what does a team do on the day it opens a new, long-awaited baseball facility?

Well Marshall starter Drew Harlow struck out the first Manhattan batter he faced Friday and got a rousing ovation from the sellout crowd at Jack Cook Field … the Thundering Herd’s new, permanent home.

In the bottom of the first, leadoff batter Tre Hondras belted the first pitch from Justin Somlimine over the fence in left for the first home run and first run in stadium history. Begs for a “Top Ten” plays moment on ESPN. And that was just one inning.

Marshall notched its second run in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Colin Smith. In the sixth, Owen Ayers lofted a solo homer to right center and those runs proved enough as the Herd blanked the Jaspers, 3-0, to send home teams happy thinking of what be on the horizon. On the mound, Harlow went six innings to get the win and Nicholas Weyrich the last three to notch the first save at the new stadium.

”So happy for us to be rewarded for what we started,” Porter said. “So happy to be a part of this. You’ll remember it forever. Couldn’t believe Tre’s homer. What a way to get the run started.”

The Jaspers saw a scoring chance in the fifth denied stopped when J.D. Sternhagen hit into an inning-ending double play.

Marshall threatened in the sixth with runners on second and third and one out. However, Hondras grounded out and Caiden Kaiser grounded out to second when Daniel Perez fielded the ball in shallow right and fired to first for the out.

A light rain started to fall in the fifth and some fans headed for cover. The rain stuck around and so did the fans.

“An amazing moment,” Hondras said. “Can’t put it into words. A blessing from the man above. We want to make it exciting and we did today.”

Marshall (2-7) changed pitchers in the seventh. Weyrich came on and sidearmed his way out of trouble. The Jaspers had runners at first and second and then Weyrich got Andreaus Lewis on a swinging third strike and Sternhagen looking.

The Herd then struck in its at-bat in the seventh when Owen Ayers slammed a homer to right center for the final run. He allowed one hit.

“A lot of work went into this to get ready for March 1,” Marshall coach Greg Beals said. “We pitched, played defense and that home run lit the crowd. We were ready for it from the first pitch. A new era for Marshall baseball and what this means. We took advantage of the moment.”

Harlow said it was mostly of throwing strikes and pitching from ahead in the count. He allowed three hits and struck out three.

“First game, we were already up,” Harlow said.”Proud of the effort we gave. At the start, it was get back to the dugout as fast as possible. We’re somewhere now as a place we never had.”

Beals agreed.

“Drew threw strikes,” Beals said. “Pound the zone. We made plays, the hits and defense. Didn’t take advantage of a couple of chances.”

The two teams continue the series Saturday and Sunday. Cook’s daughter, Kim, will do the first pitch Saturday.

Manhattan is 3-4. The home stand continues Tuesday against Bellarmine and Southeast Missouri State for a weekend series.

Prior to the game, an honorary starting team was named and went that position on the field. Jeff Montgomery, former Herd pitcher and standout relief pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, went to the mound. Rick Reed, former Herd player and player in the Major League, threw out the first pitch. The bullpen in left field is named after Reed and wife Dee. Reed played for Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Texas, Cincinnati and New York Mets.

One promotion saw the Herd switch bases after each inning. That meant 27 would be in use. They will be auctioned off later.

Price tag for the complex was more than $25 million and financed through public and private money.

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Marshall basketball roundup: Herd suffer seventh straight loss

Marshall’s men’s basketball team pulled to within one point late Friday in its matchup with Georgia State when Kevon Voyles threw in a three-pointer with 35 seconds remaining.

The Panthers’ Lucas Taylor answered with a jump shot with 10 seconds left, and out of a timeout, Cameron Crawford’s attempt at a tying three was well off the mark, allowing Georgia State to prevail 82-79 at the GSU Convocation Center.

It marked the seventh straight setback for Marshall (12-19, 7-11), and sets up a rematch with Georgia State (8-10, 14-16) in the upcoming Sun Belt Championship at Pensacola Bay Center. The Panthers are the No. 7 seed and Marshall is No. 10, with the winner of Thursday’s 8:30 p.m. matchup slated to face No. 2 James Madison at the same time Saturday in a quarterfinal.

Voyles led the Herd with 23 points Friday, while Obinna Anochilli-Killen and Note Martin scored 16 apiece and Crawford contributed 13.

Georgia State, which made 19-of-31 field goals and 6-of-9 threes in the opening half en route to shooting nearly 56 percent (34 for 61) for the game.

Taylor made 10-of-16 shots and scored 26 points, while Dwon Odom scored 13 and had 10 of his team’s 15 assists.

Toneari Lane made 7-of-13 shots and 16 scored points in a reserve role for GSU, which earned a regular season split with the Herd.

— — — — —

The Marshall women’s basketball team continued its winning ways Saturday with a resounding 90-43 victory over Georgia Southern at the Cam Henderson Center.

The Herd (23-6, 17-1) are No. 1 seed in the upcoming Sun Belt Championship at Pensacola Bay Center. Marshall will play Friday against the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between No. 8 Georgia State-No. 9 Appalachian State.

All five Marshall starters scored between nine and 13 points Saturday, with Abby Beeman and Aislynn Hayes leading the way with 13 apiece. Meredith Maier scored 11 and Breanna Campbell 10, while Sydni Scott tied Beeman and Hayes for team-high scoring honors with 13.

Marshall forced 32 turnovers.

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Charleston woman dies following dispute with accused boyfriend in Ohio

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A man is in custody after reporting to police that his girlfriend from Charleston, W.Va. was not breathing following a fight at a home in Ohio.

Lamarie Smith, 24, is expected to be arraigned Friday. He was arrested after he called police to tell them his girlfriend, Deeanna Summers, 29, of Charleston, was unconscious. Summers later died at St. Elizabeth Health Center.

Smith admitted to investigators that he and Summers got into a fight at a home in the 1500 block of Victor Avenue in Youngstown before he called 911. He’s been charged with felonious assault and was taken to the Mahoning County jail Friday.

Detectives said the victim’s body has been taken to the state Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. The autopsy could determine if Summers died because of the fight and if Smith is charged with murder.

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