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Police look for suspect in South Charleston bank robbery

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Police are looking for a suspect in the robbery of the Chase Bank in downtown South Charleston.

According to police, a man walked into the bank on D Street at just before 5 p.m. Wednesday and demanded money. Investigators said the robber got away with thousands of dollars.

The suspect had a green medical mask over their face, was wearing jeans and a black and white checkered shirt.

South Charleston police were checking surveillance video in the area.

There were no injuries.

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MetroNews This Morning 11-30-23

Today on MetroNews This Morning:

–Frontier Communications says West Virginia is the worst state of the 25 where they operate for copper theft

–West Virginia Corrections officials say the vacancy issues in the state’s jails and prisons are starting to show improvement

–Senator Joe Manchin out with a strongly worded statement against any plans to close or downsize a Charleston mail handling faciliyt

–In Sports: Post season honors for members of the WVU football team

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 11-30-23” on Spreaker.

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PAC attacks Jim Justice

The Club for Growth political action committee has kicked off its effort to try to help Representative Alex Mooney catch up to Governor Jim Justice in the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

The conservative, pro-business PAC is spending $1.2 million to air an advertisement on TV and digital media called “Proof.”  The female announcer asks, “Whose side is Jim Justice on?” The commercial then features a clip from Justice where he says, “I’m not here to please the Republicans. I’m not here to please the Democrats.”

The ad then cites information from the OpenSecrets website and the Federal Election Commission documenting Justice’s political contributions to Democratic candidates, while showing images of former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It concludes with text that reads, “Jim Justice for Democrats. Not for us.”

The Justice campaign was quick to respond with a press release saying the Club for Growth and affiliated PACs are working against the re-nomination of former President Donald Trump. “The Club for Growth has spent millions in a failed effort to defeat President Donald Trump. Unsurprisingly, they are now attacking Governor Justice, whom President Trump has strongly endorsed,” said Justice campaign manager Roman Stauffer.

All the polls so far have Justice with a significant lead over Mooney.  The MetroNews West Virginia Poll from back in August had Justice up 58-26 with 16 percent unsure. More recent polls also show Justice ahead by at least 30 points.

Justice does not have many vulnerabilities, but the most significant one is that he used to be a Democrat and has donated to Democratic candidates. The Club for Growth ad is an attempt to exploit or at least magnify that point with Republican Primary Election voters.

Of course, the other team gets to play, too. Justice has the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. That means the Senate Leadership Fund PAC, which is closely associated with McConnell, can help Justice. It is worth watching to see if that PAC responds with its own ads critical of Mooney.

An ad buy of over $1 million is substantial in a small state, and I would expect the Club for Growth PAC to poll after the ads run to determine if they were able to move the needle.  If so, then the Club for Growth may be more reassured in its commitment to spend up to $10 million in the race in support of Mooney.

If not, well, there are lots of other races in the country that are closer than Justice and Mooney where the PAC’s money could make a bigger difference.


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Frontier Communications dealing with rise in stolen copper

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Copper theft is becoming more of a common occurrence in West Virginia.

In fact, Jason Fields, Senior Vice President of Operations with Frontier Communications, said the state of West Virginia is now the worst state that Frontier operates in regarding stolen copper from their equipment. Frontier serves 25 different states.

“We’ve seen a 70% increase in West Virginia in the number of times our cables were stolen,” Fields said.

Those numbers are for 2021-2022. From last year into 2023, there’s been a 13% jump on top of the 70%, according to Fields.

Frontier officials met with the state Public Service Commission on Wednesday in Charleston for a general service update. Frontier told the PSC about their fiber network installation that’s happening across the entire state, but also about the rise in copper being stolen.

“It’s almost to the point where every day there is at least one cable in the state that’s been stolen,” said Fields.

Frontier Communications is currently working to install fiber all across the state of West Virginia to completely cover the state with faster, more reliable fiber broadband to more homes and businesses. The company is investing $100 million this year to replace the old system with a new fiber optic technology. The money and work invested is a part of their partnership with the West Virginia Economic Development’s Office of Broadband to deploy fiber to the more underserved and unserved areas in West Virginia.

Just a few weeks ago, Frontier was made aware of a complaint from customers that they were without service for over a week. It was discovered that a large amount of cable was stolen from the area. When Frontier returned the next day after replacing the stolen cable, the new cable was also taken.

Cell coverage is tough in some areas of the state already and with Frontier cables being stolen at a greater rate this year than in years prior, Fields said a lot of customers are affected by the theft.

“The biggest impact to a customer is the inability to call 911,” said Fields.

Of course, it affects Frontier too. The theft is taking a hit on company’s timing and costs with installing the new cables.

“We’re building fiber across the state and as we do that, we have to pause in that area and take the same crews that are building the new network, to go and fix the stolen cable.”

To combat this, Fields said they have hired security to patrol areas where they have seen repeat occurrences. They have also placed AirTags on their cables to track the location of them if and when they are stolen.

The company is also offering a $5,000 reward to those who bring forth information about stolen cables, which then leads to an arrest being made. Fields said they know a lot of their cables have been taken across state lines.

Frontier is also backing legislation that addresses the rising copper theft. HB 3006, is expected to come up again before lawmakers that will strengthen the penalties for those who steal Frontier cables. Fields is hoping the legislation will “cross the finish line” during the next regular session in 2024.

Since 2020, during the time of covid, Fields said they started to see the uptick in the cables and other Frontier equipment that was being taken. Ever since then, the cases have grown, much to his surprise.

“I thought it would slow down but it has not slowed down,” said Fields. “I’m hopeful that the legislation will have some impact.”

Anyone who sees someone stealing copper is asked to call 1-800-590-6605 or local law enforcement.

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Kanawha County Circuit Court judges now permitted to carry inside Judicial Annex

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Circuit Court judges can now carry a firearm inside the Kanawha County Judicial Annex.

Chief Circuit Court Judge Tera Salango entered the order Wednesday.

“Upon the agreement of the sitting Kanawha County Circuit Court judges, and in order to improve the security of the Kanawha County Judicial Annex, the March 26, 2001 , Order, and any other Order construed as limiting possession of a firearm within the Kanawha County Judicial Annex, is amended to allow any sitting Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge to carry a firearm in the Kanawha County Judicial Annex,” Salango wrote.

Possession of firearms and other weapons within the Annex were limited to law enforcement officers before the order was entered.

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A Beacon of Hope and Inspiration in West Virginia

In the heart of West Virginia, there exists a profound force that goes beyond the realms of sports, transcending limitations and fostering a sense of belonging. West Virginia Special Olympics, a remarkable initiative showcased in the latest episode of West Virginia Enriched, stands as a testament to the power of determination, unity, and unwavering support.

West Virginia Special Olympics embodies the true spirit of sportsmanship. It’s not merely about winning medals; it’s about being part of a team, practicing, and competing together. The joy and fulfillment derived from these experiences are immeasurable, as athletes find their confidence and self-worth through the shared pursuit of victory.

In the words of Peggie Molnar, a courageous individual diagnosed with Down syndrome, West Virginia Special Olympics has been a transformative journey. Peggy’s story reflects the essence of inclusivity and self-belief, empowering her to lobby on Capitol Hill and pursue higher education. Through programs like West Virginia Country Roses, supported by Huntington, individuals with disabilities find opportunities that enable them to live independently and chase their dreams, just like everyone else.

The impact of West Virginia Special Olympics extends far beyond the athletes themselves. Volunteers and supporters, touched by the unwavering determination of these extraordinary individuals, find immeasurable fulfillment in their involvement. The inclusive approach embraced by Special Olympics fosters an environment where everyone plays a vital role.

West Virginia Enriched, in collaboration with Huntington, invites you to witness the transformative power of West Virginia Special Olympics. Take a few minutes to be inspired and join the collective effort in making a difference. It’s not just a story; it’s a movement of hope, inclusivity, and triumph, reminding us all that every individual deserves a chance to shine. In West Virginia, and beyond, Huntington is truly making a difference, right here at home.

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Three-point defense at the forefront of West Virginia’s strengths through six games

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia returned home from the San Juan Shootout with three wins on top of the three it had before the event, allowing the Mountaineers to carry a 6-0 record into Saturday’s noon matchup with St. Bonaventure at the WVU Coliseum.

While the trip have come at somewhat of a cost as a result of an injury sustained by 5-foot-10 junior Kyah Watson early on in West Virginia’s most recent victory over Southern Illinois, it reinforced thoughts for first-year head coach Mark Kellogg, who continues to discover more about his team during non-conference play.

“We battled and competed on the defensive end. We’re defending the thee pretty well right now even though we’re mixing defenses and playing some zone, which typically people think you’re going to give up threes when you play zone, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way,” Kellogg said. “We’ve done a good job there. 

“The offense is still too inconsistent for me. At times we’re good and at times not so good. We’re turning people over, which is sometimes leading to offense, but we’re missing layups at a pretty high rate and in transition, which is a little bit of a struggle for me right now. If we have the ability to turn people over, we need to convert those more than what we’re doing.”

That’ll be a focus for West Virginia before it welcomes the Bonnies and Penn State, with the Mountaineers slated to play two home games in a span of 54 hours starting Saturday afternoon.

Yet as it prepares to start a five-game home stand, West Virginia does so with a firm understanding of what has and hasn’t worked well to this point, and there’s been no bigger strength of the Mountaineers than their ability to defend the three-point shot.

West Virginia has the second-best three-point field goal percentage defense in the country at 17.8 percent, with opponents having made a mere 16-of-90 triples to this point. Only four Division I teams have allowed fewer than 16 threes, and of those four, three have played fewer games than WVU.

“It’s probably not sustainable at the rate we’re playing at right now,” Kellogg said. “It’s something you want to do. The analytics say don’t give up layups at the rim and don’t give up open threes. We don’t want to do those two things. We may give up certain other areas from time to time, but those are things we’re OK with. It’s to the kids’ credit. There’s a scouting report, attention to detail to that and knowing who can shoot and who can’t, and shots that we want to give up. So far, we’re giving up the ones we want to give up to the right kids.”

Over three games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Mountaineers limited George Washington, Charlotte and Southern Illinois to a combined six threes on 35 attempts. Charlotte, which made 3 of 10 from long range, was the most successful and efficient of West Virginia’s opponents from the perimeter.

The 49ers are the only of West Virginia’s six opponents to shoot at least 30 percent from behind the arc this season. Youngstown State, which the Mountaineers handled 94-40 on November 19, has the most threes of any WVU opponent with six, though that came on 28 attempts — 13 more than the next closest opponent has tried.

West Virginia’s ability to defend the perimeter is made more impressive in that the Mountaineers consistently pressure opponents the length of the court and mix defenses, whether it be dropping back into zone or playing man-to-man.

“Have conviction to what you do is what I’ve always said as a basketball coach,” Kellogg said. “If you want to play zone, play zone. People that play man, when they give up threes, they don’t get out of their man defense. But people that play man and then play a possession of zone and give up a three, they go right back to man defense. Just be convicted in what you do. 

“We have a system and structure. If we defend right, we should be able to take away the three, regardless if we’re playing man or zone. If you make a mistake in either one of your defenses, you may give up a three. We’re making a few mistakes, but luckily, people haven’t been able to convert. We still have some work to do, but for the most part, we’re doing a pretty good job of if we give one up that we want to give up and who we want to give them up to. It’s probably more scout specific and types of shots we’re looking to give up.”

West Virginia’s disruptiveness has certainly aided its ability to force misses from the perimeter. Constant ball pressure has taken a toll on opponents and the Mountaineers have forced 144 turnovers for an average of 24 per game.

The effort is spearheaded by a trio of guards that have combined for 52 of the team’s 85 steals in Lauren Fields, JJ Quinerly and Jordan Harrison. Each is averaging at least 2.5 steals to this point and Fields recorded a career-high eight in a 28-point win over Charlotte on November 24.

Fields says much of the team’s success defending the perimeter can be attributed to its pressure, which often forces opposing teams to play at a pace they don’t prefer.

“We turn people over a lot, so there’s not as many possessions. That’s one of the first things,” Fields said. ”The second thing is we make people play faster, so if they’re playing at a faster speed, they’re not able to get set, take their time and get off catch and shoot three-point shots. That plays a big role in it.”

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Morgantown area leaders look for answers, alternatives following Tuesday snow event

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morgantown area leaders are reacting in the aftermath of a brief snowstorm that paralyzed the area Tuesday.

Tom Bloom

Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said the lack of response by the state Division of Highways is very concerning and unsafe for the community.

“It was actually 44 car accidents, 16 motorist assists, 13 roads closed, not including I-79 and I-68 at times, over 75 cars in ditches, and one-quarter inch of snow,” Bloom said at Wednesday’s Monongalia County Commission meeting.

The commission met with the DOH about eight weeks ago to express concerns about staffing levels and the approaching winter weather, increasing their frustration. Bloom said local agencies will meet to develop a local response plan that will include the DOH in the future.

“We cannot have this one-quarter inch; we cannot have schools not running; we cannot have cities not being able to operate; and businesses not being able to run,” Bloom said.

DOH District 4 Engineer Mike Daly confirmed Wednesday the DOH is more than 80 workers short in the district and the lack of drivers is an issue.

Mike Oliverio

State Senator Mike Oliverio, R-Monongalia, said if the legislature won’t pass locality pay, new compensation has to be developed to serve places like Monongalia County that are not comparable to other areas of the state.

“We need some type of additional incentive or something or we need to privatize some functions of the (DOH),” Oliverio said during an appearance on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.”

Oliverio said it’s time to take their concerns to the governor’s office. He has told the governor the situation has to be addressed, or possibly a local state of emergency could be declared.

“The governor’s chief of staff assured me this morning they are monitoring the situation and are looking for new innovative solutions,” Oliverio said. “I think our voice has been heard, and now we’ll stay after them to try to come up with some resolution.”

Oliverio questioned state Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston last month about staffing levels, maintenance in right-of-way areas, and general cleanup. Oliverio noted DOH District 4 is down to 22 employees from 55 when he left the legislature in 2011 and proposed a public-private partnership that could address the problems in exchange for the budget amount the DOH had to do the work.

Wriston told Oliverio that the DOH is now a more efficient “data-driven organization that has a plan and works it, but if a lawmaker calls with a problem, if we can work it in, we’re going to run to the fire every time.”

Jimmy Wriston

“I challenge that premise. With 22 today, I can do the work of 55 from 10 years ago; there’s no question about that,” Wriston said. “If you don’t see the efficiencies in this organization, you’re just not paying attention.”

“These statements they’re giving me just don’t add up—we can’t get the roads maintained,” Oliverio said. “I’ve stressed to them that we can’t even get the medians maintained; we have weeds growing out of the medians in June, July, and August.”


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Arrest made after threats made on elder care facility in Harrison County

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — A Fairmont resident has been charged with threats of terrorist acts following two phone calls to a Bridgeport nursing facility on Monday.

Police said Matthew Reynolds, 38, initially called the Bridgeport Healthcare Center twice early Monday morning. During the first call, Reynolds told the employee he was going to come to the facility and shoot the workers. During the second call, Reynolds said,” This is Matthew Reynolds; do you want to see your family again today?”

When the threats were reported, police placed the building on lockdown, and the administrators were called.

Reynolds is being held at the North Central Regional Jail.

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Top seeds meet in Class AA final as North Marion faces Fairmont Senior

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Deep postseason runs have become late-fall traditions for the crew from 12th Street. Fairmont Senior has posted a 25-5 playoff record since 2015 with three state titles and two more trips to Wheeling. After a quarterfinal exit a year ago, the Polar Bears are back in familiar territory at the Super Six.

“I think after last season and not making it, it fueled a lot of motivation for our senior class,” said Fairmont Senior head coach Nick Bartic. “These guys are now making it three out of four years.”

In his second season as the starting quarterback of the Polar Bears, Brody Whitehair has passed for 2,728 yards and 36 touchdowns. The numbers only tell half of Brody’s story.

“The maturity and taking on the burden, the leadership burden in the offseason, learning football and expanding on football IQ, his is extremely high.”

Senior Dylan Ours can affect a game from almost every possible angle. Ours is the team’s leading rusher with 874 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is also the Bears’ second-leading receiver with 37 catches and eight touchdowns. He is the team’s third leading tackler and he has three special teams touchdowns.

“He punts the ball too. All three phases — on the defensive side of the ball he has played at all three levels at some point in the season. He’s a versatile player and you feel like he could play any position on the football field.”

Over the last five seasons, North Marion has been on a steady climb in the Class AA picture. North qualified for the playoffs in 2019, played in the quarterfinals the next two seasons, and were in the semifinals last year before breaking through to this year’s Super Six.

“If there’s one thing I think I can be really proud of with our program, we have done things the right way,” said North Marion head coach Daran Hays. “That’s brick-by-brick and step-by-step. Our kids have really bought into that, having a blue collar mentality and doing the right things when nobody is looking.”

The Huskies have utilized a balanced and dynamic offense under the direction of coordinator Mark Yoho. Quarterback Casey Minor has passed for 26 touchdowns and run for 17 more scores. Aaron Hoffman has rushed for 1,579 yards and 13 scores. Wide receivers Brock Martin and Landon Frey have combined for 20 touchdowns.

“[Yoho] has done a great job, I think, of adjusting to personnel,” Hays said. “We didn’t know exactly what kind of quarterback Casey would be. At times it felt like we were just going to have an athlete catching snaps. He has really developed into a true quarterback. We are asking him to do things that are really in his wheelhouse. That’s a credit to Mark of getting our personnel in there.”

Despite being the No. 1 seed this year, the Huskies have not necessarily viewed themselves as favorites.

“I kind of always feel like we are an underdog. I always have,” Hays said. “I think it helps to prepare a little bit and helps you stay on stop of things. Once you get there, everyone’s number is the same.”

Hays is the third head coach in program history. Roy Michael and Gerry White, both state championship coaches, passed away earlier this year.

“It has been a tough year. Obviously, I was really blessed because I wrestled for Coach Michael as well. It has been a tough year on the whole Husky family between Coach Michael, Mr. [Nelson] Elliott was also a football coach throughout the course of the years, and then Coach White here recently.”

Two decades have passed since North Marion defeated Fairmont Senior. The coaches agree that history matters little when they meet Friday night.

“They have gotten better as the season has gone on,” Bartic said. “I feel like they are playing their best ball. But also, I feel like we are. It is going to set up a big-time matchup, the way it is supposed to be.”

“It is awesome for Marion County,” Hays said. “That’s who is the winner in the day, the Marion County school system. It is an awesome opportunity to showcase a lot of great student-athletes.”

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