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Prince William Property Assessments Top $41 Billion

Woodbridge, Va. –– Prince William County put the property tax appraisal in the mail.

County employees this week mailed out 134,200 property tax assessments to the owners of homes, apartment complexes and commercial buildings.

Officials say the assessed value of properties varies in different locations in the county, but that overall Prince William’s real estate tax base increased 6.3 percent over the last year.

The assessed value of the county’s real estate is now valued at $41.5 billion, up $2.4 billion the last year, according to county officials.

Of the 1,740 new homes built in Prince William in the past year, each on average assesses at $342,000.

The value of apartment complexes went up too, a total of 11.9 percent in the previous year. The construction of new apartment complexes added 3.9 percent to the county’s apartment tax base, officials said.

It’s much the same story for commercial buildings, as values there increased 3.2 percent 2011.

While 961,000 square feet of commercial space was built in 2011 and assessed, 700,000 square feet of commercial space, including schools, churches and fire stations, were exempted from the assessment.

After receiving their assessments in the mail, property owners have the right to appeal the assessment if they don’t believe it is within the fair market value.

Property owners have until July 1 to appeal to Prince William County’s Real Estate Assessments Office.

Around Town

A door inside Stafford High School is broken.

State wants rape lawsuit dropped
Virginia has asked that a $10 million lawsuit filed after student at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg be dropped. Fredericksburg.com reports the state says all preventable actions to protect the student were taken.

Popeye’s murderer gets life
The man who shot and killed a manager at a Popeye’s restaurant in Smoketown Plaza during a robbery there will spend the rest of his life in jail, Insidenova.com reports.

Activities to keep children busy this summer
Looking for something your child can do this summer? Fairfax County Public Schools has posted its list of summer activities.

Fairfax Connector Buses Delayed After Crash

Update 8:40 p.m.
Fairfax Connector buses are running behind schedule in the Mt. Vernon area tonight following a crash on U.S. 1.

The Richmond Highway route 171 bus is experiencing major delays – the route that carries riders between Lorton, Franconia-Springfield Metro and the Huntington Metro stations.

Also experiencing delays at this hour are Fairfax Connector routes 151, 152, 159, 161 and 162.

All of the delays are attributed to the crash earlier this afternoon, said Fairfax County transportation spokeswoman Ellen Kamilakis.

Fairfax County police this afternoon said those involved in the two car crash suffered injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening.

We’ll bring you more on this as it develops.

Original Post 4 p.m.
Mt. Vernon, Va. ––
All lanes of U.S. 1 in the Mt. Vernon area are back open following a crash.

Police were called to investigate a two-car accident that occurred about 3:30 p.m. in the 8800 block of Richmond Highway, near Old Mill Road.

No one was injured, but the investigation prompted the closure of one southbound lane, according to Fairfax County police.

The lane was reopened just before 4 p.m. and police called for a wrecker to removed at least one of the damaged vehicles.

Tip Leading to Alleged Rapist Arrest Came From Md.

Prince William County, Va. –– At least 12 rape cases have been linked to the man police call the East Coast Rapist.

One of those cases the suspect is linked to, believed to be the most recent case, happened in Dale City on Halloween night 2009.

Police say Aaron H. Thomas, now 39, approached three female teenagers while they were walking home from a night of trick-or-treating.

Thomas used a gun forced them into a wooded area and then raped two 17-year-old girls while a 16-year-old girl watched helplessly.

The 16-year-old used her phone to summon help, police said. By the time police arrived that night, the suspect had fled the area, said police.

Late last month, police put up billboards with sketches of the suspect and launched a website will details on each of the 17 cases the East Coast Rapist is suspected to have carried out.

Last Monday, a tip came into police from Prince Georges County, Md. – the place where police say Thomas took his first victim in 1997 – identifying Thomas as the suspect, police said.

Thomas, now in Connecticut, was followed by investigators and DNA from a cigarette later matched DNA collected in 12 of the reported rapes, police said.

Thomas was arrested at his home in New Haven, Conn. on Friday.

Police in Prince William County have charged him with two counts of Rape, three counts of abduction, and three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, police said Monday at a press conference in Manassas.

According to records, Thomas lived on Bonita Court in Dale City from 2000 to 2007.

DNA evidence has tied Thomas to the following cases, police say:
Feb. 19, 1997        Forestville, MD
Aug. 20, 1997        Suitland, MD
July 3, 1998        Temple Hills, MD
Jun.19, 1999        Alexandria, VA
Jan. 13, 2000        Alexandria, VA
Nov. 20, 2000        Alexandria, VA
May 24, 2001        Leesburg, VA
Aug. 16, 2001        Temple Hills, MD
Dec. 28, 2001        Alexandria, VA
Nov. 28, 2006        Cranston, RI
Jan. 10, 2007        New Haven, CT
Oct. 31, 2009        Woodbridge, VA

Railroad Work to Force Road Closure

Crews will replace railroad ties at the crossing at Mt. Hope Church Road this month. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Stafford County, Va. –– Railroad work will force the closure of a two-lane road this month.

CSX Corporation will replace railroad ties along its tracks at the Brooke Virginia Railway Express station in Aquia.

The work will force the closure of Hope Church Road starting Wednesday March 9, from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. The work will continue the following night during the same time frame.

The road will once again close on Wednesday March 16, from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., and again the following night during the same time frame, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.

While cars won’t be able to traverse the road during  those time frames emergency vehicles will be granted access to the road, said Hannon.

VDOT plans to place warning signs in the area to alert drivers of the closure.

The affected road sits less than mile from VRE’s Brooke station.

Arrests Made in Playground Fire

Lorton, Va. –– Fairfax investigators say they now know who burned a playground in Lorton to the ground.

Four juveniles have been charged in connection to the Feb. 19 fire set at the Levelle Dupelle Community Park in the 6800 block of Newington Road.

All four have been charged with destruction of property, and two teens face additional charges of vehicle tampering, police said.

Additionally, one of the juveniles was also charged with grand larceny.

Three of the juveniles live in the Hayfield area of Fairfax County and one was from Virginia Beach.

Gas Prices Rise Amid Overseas Worries

Stafford resident Jerome Thomas filled up his V8 Toyota Tundra at the WaWa station on Garrisonville Road, and said he was not happy about rising gas prices. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

The last time gas prices spiked like this was following Hurricane Katrina, AAA Mid Atlantic says.

Fuel prices in the region continued their upward climb over the weekend forcing drivers to pay more to get where they’re going.

Today, the price to fill up a 15-gallon gallon gas tank at stations in North Stafford will cost you $51.21 on average.

Most gas prices in North Stafford average $3.41 per gallon, but according to AAA Mid Atlantic’s Gas Price Finder, the most expensive gas in the Stafford area is at the Shell station on Courthouse Road (Va. 630).

In Woodbridge, the price goes up an average of $52.72 to fill a 15-gallon gas tank.

Fuel prices in the area are averaging $3.51 per gallon, but the most expensive gas in Woodbridge is at a BP station at 13400 Jefferson Davis Highway, at $3.55 per gallon, according to the Gas Price Finder.

In Lorton, the price rises again to $53.15 to fill up a 15-gallon gas tank.

The average price for fuel here is $3.54 per gallon, but the most expensive gas is at Southern Maryland Oil at 8225 Gunston Cove Road.

This time last year, the average price to fill a 15-gallon tank in the Potomac Communities cost residents $39.71.

The high prices at the pump come as the price of a barrel of oil broke the $100 mark last week, settling at $102.23 a barrel.

“The national average gas price jumped 18 cents this week and 31 cents over the past two weeks, driven by soaring crude oil prices in response to continued unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as speculation that such uprisings will spread to other oil heavyweights in the region. Prices at the pump are in a state of flux right now, surpassing the $3.50 a gallon benchmark this weekend and heading higher as crude oil prices continue to climb, said AAA Mid Atlantic spokesman John Townsend.”

And it’s not going to get any easier at the pump any time soon.

Gas prices are projected to rise above $3.75 per gallon by April, AAA predicts.

Around Town

Shiloh Baptist Church, Mason Neck, Va.

Feds cut funding to telework centers
The federal government announced it will no longer fund a telework center in Woodbridge and several others like it, stating with the advent of cell phones and mobile computers federal workers no longer need a room of computers to get work done, reports the Washington Post.

New restaurants coming to George Mason
The list of restaurant’s at George Mason’s Fairfax Campus continues to grow, and will soon include an Einstein Brothers Bagels, Red Mango and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, reports George Mason’s BroadSide.

Dog rescued from Potomac River
Fire crews were called last week to rescue a dog that was stuck on a ledge on the Potomac River off Marlborough Point in Stafford  County. While the owners of the dog said they don’t know how it got there, they are sure glad to have the dog home, reports Fredericksburg.com.

PRTC Says $1.9 million Would Lessen Fare Increase Impact

OmniLink riders transfer buses at the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Center in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. –– More money will offset the impact of proposed fare increases for OmniRide commuter buses, transit officials say.

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission has presented its proposed 2012 operating budget, which has the agency spending $36.2 million dollars to maintain service. No new services will be added as part of the proposed budget.

Of the annual subsidies PRTC receives, Prince William taxpayers will be responsible for $9.85 million of the transit agency’s operating cost in the coming year, according to proposed budget documents filed with the county.

In addition to the 2012 proposed budget, the transit agency also filed two six-year plans with the county. One budgets for a $1.9 million one-time supplement from the county’s general fund and the other doesn’t budget for the additional funding.

With the supplement, fares on PRTC buses are anticipated to go up by eight percent in 2013, 2015 and 2017, respectively, and most buses could be retired after 14 years in service, said PRTC Director Alfred H. Harf.

Without the supplement, fares would increase by 10 percent every other year between 2013 and 2017 and buses would have an average of 15 years in service.

Transit officials point to some recent accomplishments in recent years, like the completion of a park and ride lot outside PTRC’s Woodbridge headquarters, overhauling buses and purchasing 17 new ones, adding surveillance cameras on their entire bus fleet, and new roadside bus shelters.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amount of local subsidy PRTC receives from Prince William County.

Flood Restrictions Lifted After Slow VRE Commute

Update 7:30 a.m. Monday
Woodbirdge, Va. –– All flash flood restrictions on have been lifted on Virginia Railway Express lines.

But passengers this morning from Fredericksburg to Manassas had to deal with problems created by yesterday’s rain.

About 4:30 a.m., drivers headed to the Bull Run station at Manassas Regional Airport found out the access road to the station, Piper Lane, had been flooded out. The transit agency told drivers to find an alternate route to the station.

On the Fredericksburg line, flood restrictions would slow trains from Woodbridge to Washington.

Riders at the Woodbridge station would also have to contend with a non-working elevator at the station.

Special needs passengers who needed to find alternate means of transportation were asked to call a taxi to take them to work, to save the receipt, and then to give it to VRE for reimbursement.

The transit agency warned last night Sunday’s rains could create delays, as the rail lines run along creeks and stream beds.

Initially this morning VRE anticipated no delays, but as time wore on they issued more and more emails to riders detailing each new found situation and reason for delay.

Original Post 9:10 p.m. Sunday
Virginia Railway Express officials are watching weather conditions closely.

As of Sunday night, there was one active flood restriction, between the Alexandria and L’Enfant stations, that if left in place through the morning could slow trains.

Some of the delays on the system’s Fredericksburg line could be between 30 and 45 minutes and up to one hour on the Manassas line, according to VRE officials.

The transit system said they would “keep our fingers crossed” the rain would not cause significant delays for Monday morning’s commute.

A flood warning was issued for the region Sunday afternoon into the evening hours.

It was set to expire at 9:30 p.m.

For much of the day Sunday, a deluge of rain caused water to pond on portions of U.S. 1 in North Stafford, forcing the closure of the southbound right lane just south of Boswells Corner.

Flood Warning Extended

High water on Sunday forced the closure of one southbound lane of U.S. 1 in the Potomac Hills area of Stafford County. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Update 7 p.m.
The National Weather Service has extended the flood warning for the Potomac Communities until 9:30 p.m.

Update 5:30 p.m.
One lane of U.S. 1 south is closed in the Potomac Hills area in North Stafford.

A fire and rescue vehicle from the Potomac Hills Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department was sitting in the right southbound lane of U.S. 1, just south of Boswell’s Corner, preventing drivers from traveling through a large pool of water that formed on the highway.

In addition to the vehicle, officials also used bright orange cones to alert drivers to the lane closure.

Update 4 p.m.
A flood warning has been issued for the Potomac Communities this afternoon.

Heavy rain continues to fall across the region and will continue through the evening, according to forecasters.

The flood warning will expire at 6:30 p.m., however, the weather service says the heavy rains could last through 9 p.m.

Rain is falling right now at a quarter inch per hour, the weather service says.

Water has been reported covering roadways and flowing out of stream banks throughout the region, prompting the warning.

Drivers are encouraged not to drive through high water.

Original Post 9:50 a.m.
Rain and thunderstorms in the forecast have prompted a flood watch for the region today.

Rainfall could be heavy at times today, as three quarters of an inch could fall across the Potomac Communities, according to the National Weather Service.

The rain should continue through 9 p.m. with another quarter to a half inch of rain forecasted to fall.

Temperatures will remain warmer than average near the 60 degree mark.

On Monday, expect sunnier skies with temperatures in the more seasonable in the low 50s.

Body Found Along Train Tracks

Lorton, Va. –– A body has been found along the railroad tracks in Lorton.

Police were called about 10:40 a.m. after a railroad employee who spotted human remains near Pohick Road overpass and Interstate 95.

The victim has not been identified, but police say a train had recently struck the victim.

“Because we do not suspect foul play, we have our accident reconstruction team working on the investigation,” said Fairfax County police spokesman Bud Walker.

A commuter lot and a shopping center are located nearby where the victim’s remains were found.

Police say there is a lot of foot traffic in the area.

Lorton is home to Amtrak’s Auto Train, which transports passengers and their cars between Lorton and Sanford, Fla.

Sexual Assault Reported in Lorton

Lorton, Va. –– A woman about to enter her home screamed after being sexually assaulted, police say.

Police in Lorton were called to the 8500 block of Koulder Court, off Southrun Road, just before midnight Thursday after a 28-year-old said a strange man appeared out of nowhere and touched her inappropriately, police said.

Investigators said the man grabbed her from behind and then touched her, but ran off after she screamed for help.

The victim did not suffer injuries, said police.

The man is described as black with a light complexion, in his mid-20s to early 30s, with a medium build, brown eyes and a wide nose.

He was wearing a white t-shirt, jeans, white tennis shoes and a red bandanna on his head, police say.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Fairfax County Crime Solvers.

Accused Rapist Lived in Dale City

Update 10:30 a.m. Saturday
The man arrested and charged in the case of the East Coast Rapist used to live in Dale City.

Rental records show 49-year-old Aaron H. Thomas lived on Bonita Court, off Brooke Drive in the Birchdale section of Dale City from 2000 until 2007.

Records also show he attended school in Prince Georges County, and The Washington Post reported Friday Thomas still has family who live in the Berryville, Va. area.

Thomas was arrested Friday afternoon in Connecticut after an investigator observed him smoking a cigarette. Suspicious, police picked up that cigarette but and swabbed it for DNA, the Post reported.

That same DNA was later matched to DNA collected at some of the 17 rapes Thomas has been connected to.

Original Post 4:20 p.m.
TBD reports a suspect in the East Coast Rapist case has been arrested in Connecticut.

The suspect’s name has not been released, but he  was taken into custody about 3 p.m. Friday, TBD.com reports.

Word of the arrest come the same week as authorities launched a digital billboard campaign looking for clues into the case.

Investigators also launched a website detailing each attack the tied to the suspected rapist over the past 14 years.

The latest attack was reported on Halloween night 2009, when three teenage girls were walking home from a night of trick-or-treating when a man approached them with a gun, raped two of them while the other looked on.

Police have tied the rapist to 17 attacks on women along the east coast.

The attacks began in Maryland in 1997.

Police: Man Traded Sexual Messages with Girl

Olajide Kola Koyi, 23, is charged with taking indecent liberties with a child, police say.

Woodbridge, Va. –– A Maryland man has been charged with taking indecent liberties with a child.

Police say a 13-year-old girl in Woodbridge exchanged messages via computer and cell phone with an adult male from Greenbelt, Md.

Olajide Kola Koyi, 23, is charged with taking indecent liberties with a child, possessing child pornography and with using communication systems to facilitate offenses involving children, said Price William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

He was held without bond, his court date was not released.

3 Wanted in Fairfax

Fairfax County police are looking for three people they say did not appear on their scheduled court dates. Now they’re asking for the public’s help to find them.

Jose Arnoldo Guzman, 41, is wanted for failing to appear in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, and on three charges of violation of a protective order, police said.

He is described as 5 feet 4 inches tall, 200 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Marie Crystal Carter, 29, is wanted for failing to appear in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on February 16, police said. She is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, 130 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Authorities say Anderson was driving in the area of Braddock and Burke Lake roads on December 4 when she was charged.

She is described as 5 feet 1 inch tall, 135 pounds, with brown hair and green eyes.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of these individuals should contact Fairfax County Crime Solvers.

Around Town

Teacher pleads guilty to molesting student
A former Manassas high school teacher plead guilty yesterday to molesting a student and charges of possessing child pornography, ensuring he will spend time in prison, The Washington Post reports.

Plan to move students scaled back
Stafford school officials are changing their plans to move students out of four elementary schools, leaving parents to rest a bit easier, Fredericksburg.com reports.

Dr. Seuss Academy
Which school in the area really takes what would have been Dr. Seuss’ 107th Birthday seriously? Triangle Elementary School did, as students there paraded around wearing the Cat in the Hat’s signature hats, says Prince William County Public Schools.

2 Lanes on 95 Closed After Crash

Triangle, Va. –– Fire and rescue crews tonight were called to the scene of an overturned car at milepost 149 on Interstate 95.

The crash happened just north of the Stafford County line and forced the closure of at least two lanes, according to Virginia transportation officials.

There is no word on injuries.

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.

Brush Fire Breaks Out in Aquia Harbour

North Stafford, Va. –– Fire crews are working to douse a brush fire in Aquia Harbour.

The fire broke out about 4 p.m. and is in the area of Aquia and Dewey drives near a power line.

The fire is not threatening any homes right now and it’s not clear how it started, said Stafford fire and rescue spokesman Mark Doyle.

The fire encompasses about a 50-foot area, and crews were expected to have it under control soon, said Doyle.

HOV Shoulder to Close This Weekend

(File) Drivers travel past the Pohick Road overpass at Lorton on the new fourth lane that opened Friday on Interstate 95 in Fairfax County. (VDOT)

Occoquan, Va. –– Heads up drivers: The east shoulder of the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes will close at noon Friday for construction.

Drivers will note the construction between the Purple Heart Bridge over the Occoquan River to Gordon Boulevard (Va. 123).

The shoulder will reopen by 5 a.m. Monday, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Salmon.

The closure should not impact traffic, said Salmon.

The work is part of the Interstate 95 widening project that when complete will add a fourth lane to each span of the Purple Heart Bridge.

The first phases of the project have been completed, as a fourth lane has been added to both the north and southbound sides of the highway between the area north of the bridge and Fairfax County Parkway.

Prior to Shooting Death, Victim Beaten With Pipe


Stafford, Va. –– The man who was shot and killed inside a Stafford County home Tuesday was brutally beaten there last year.

Sheriff’s authorities today said 49-year-old Samih Mustafa Sowan was beaten with a metal pipe on May 27 at the basement apartment he rented at 35 Fife Street.

Sowan was found shot to death inside that same home and now investigators are looking for the shooter.

No charges were ever filed in last year’s beating incident, and so far investigators have released little information in the way of possible suspects in Sowan’s death.

Those who knew Sowan said he once worked at a Subway restaurant at Aquia Towne Center.

“Samih gave my son his very first job working at Subway in Aquia Harbour. He was like a mentor to my son, taking him under his wing and being a father figure in his life. He taught my son the core values of a good work ethic and expressed to him how hard work could produce a great reward. He had a way about him that the young people who worked for him grew to respect as a man and as a boss,” stated Jenny, who did not give her last name.

A manager at that same restaurant this morning said Sowan had few family members in the area, but added the victim’s immediate family has now come here to begin funeral arrangements.

Sowan was found dead about 7:53 p.m. Tuesday after his roommate heard gunshots inside house.

Sowan’s roommate, the homeowner, found the body and called 911, said the Stafford sheriff’s office.

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