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Jurors in the Sherwood murder trial wanted to send a message

MANASSAS, Va. — Jurors in the John Sherwood murder trial had the chance to send a message to the victim’s family, and to the community that the murder of a 21-year-old wife and mother was a heinous crime. It took jurors 46 minutes to return a verdict finding Sherwood guilty of 1st-degree murder in the death of his wife, Erica. It was the second day of trial in which the killer took the stand seeking a reduced 2nd-degree murder conviction.

On December 13, jurors took 46 minutes to return a verdict finding Sherwood guilty of 1st-degree murder in the death of his wife, Erica. It was the second day of his trial, the day the killer took the stand seeking a reduced 2nd-degree murder conviction.

“We went through and tried to make sure we were doing the right things for Erica, and John, and for what he did, and we came back and we believe his crime was really heinous,” a juror who spoke with us on a condition of anonymity. “We thought [John Sherwood] had multiple chances to stop, and that he continued.”

Sherwood had been separated from his wife in the days leading up to New Year’s 2015. He went to see her at a friends house in Dale City on Dec. 31, 2014, where he got into an argument after he suspected her of cheating on him.

Prosecutors said Sherwood grabbed a knife and attacked his wife, jabbing the knife through a bedroom door and stabbing her in the process. With the knife bent, Sherwood grabbed another knife and stabbed his wife seven times, and cut her 44 times as she tried to defend herself.

Sherwood told the jury he blacked out when killed his wife. He also told them he grew up in a house where Sharia law was the rule, and a woman cheating on her husband was not to be tolerated.

“We thought, should we do life imprisonment? Or, a group of people wanted to do 151 years [in prison],” the juror told us.

The 1st-degree murder conviction comes with 100 years in prison. But jurors thought adding an additional 51 years would send a message to Sherwood, to Erica’s family, and to the community that this type of domestic violence is not okay.

“That would have sent a powerful message to him, and the community as well, and the parole board. We wanted to make sure that anyone reviewing his case 36 years from now — he would be eligible for parole at age 60 — we considered this heinous crime, and we felt that he needed to be punished for it,” said a second juror who spoke to us on a condition of anonymity.

On the third day of the trial, jurors returned a sentence of 100 years in prison. They thought a parole board reviewing the case might find that the additional 51 years tacked on the sentence to be unusual punishment and that it could lead to his early parole.

Jurors also considered issuing a $100,000 fine to Sherwood but decided not to when they learned the money would not go to the victim’s family, but instead to the state.

The jury was made up of men and women ranging in ages between 25 and 75, all from different ethnic backgrounds. The two jurors who spoke with us asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, specifically following comments Sherwood made about Sharia law.

There have been 23 22 murders in Prince William County in 2016. Many of them, to include a case where rookie police officer Ashley Guindon was killed on her first day at work in February – involved domestic violence.

“We live in white walls, and we never see this kind of thing. And when you start talking to people, you start to realize it’s happening more and more than you think,” one juror said.

“I was not aware that so many homicides had been committed [this year in Prince William C:ounty], and that so many of them have been contributed to domestic violence,” said the second juror.

Toy poodle Laci missing since December 7

Laci has been missing since December 7, 2016.  She is a toy poodle, silver/gray in color with some black highlights. Laci weighs approximately six pounds. 
I need Laci home with me where she belongs ~ I am devastated without her! 
There is a large reward for information leading to her SAFE RETURN.  Contact 703-407-9710

Police make arrest in shooting of 12-year-old boy

From Prince William police: 

Aggravated Malicious Wounding | Shooting Investigation *Arrest- On December 20 at 10:20PM, officers responded to the intersection of Kempair Dr and Kim Ct in [Dale City] to investigate the report of an unconscious subject in the roadway. When officers arrived on scene, they located the man and determined that he was intoxicated. The man, who was later identified as Bryan RAMOS, was also wanted in connection to a shooting, which occurred in the 4900 block of Kirwyn Ct in Woodbridge on April 17. RAMOS was arrested without incident. In total, five suspects have been identified in connection to the shooting investigation and all have been arrested.
Arrested on December 20: [No photo available]

Bryan RAMOS, 19, of the 13500 block of Kaslo Ct in Woodbridge

Charged with aggravated malicious wounding, shooting from an occupied vehicle, and use of a firearm in commission of a felony

Court Date: Pending | Bond: Held WITHOUT Bond


Osbourn High School appears on ‘It’s Academic’


The Academic Team at Osbourn High School (OHS) was accompanied by the Screaming Eagles Marching Band when they competed against other teams at the “It’s Academic” quiz show taping.

The OHS Academic team demonstrated their quick thinking while the Marching Band revved up the crowd with their musical talents.

In the crowd to support them were parents, Cathy Benner (OHS Principal), Suzanne Seaberg (Manassas City Schools Board member), and Tim Demeria (Manassas City Schools Board Chairman).

Thanks for sharing coffee, story tips

Lots of great story tips at coffee session 

My recent one-on-one with the publisher session at One Degree Captial was a success.

I enjoyed meeting with community members and business leaders in Occoquan, as well as representatives from the Prince William County Solid Waste Division, The Prince William County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and Associates in Gastroenterology. 

We drank French press coffee (because what else do members of the press drink?) and swapped some great stories about our community. I learned a lot, and I appreciate the news tips.

I look forward to meeting you soon at another one-on-one session in January. Time and date TBD. Bring your story ideas.

Excited for the New Year

Here’s a bit of breaking news: Santa arrives in less than six days. Then the hustle and bustle of the holiday season winds down.

At Potomac Local, we’re looking forward to spending time with family and friends over the holidays. And then we can’t wait to learn what new developments 2017 has in store. The news never stops. 

Seven fire posts in one day 

We published seven posts to the site Monday about house fires. That’s very unusual.

In the case of the fire on Cosgrove Way near Dumfries, a concerned neighbor and Potomac Local community member Jacqueline Palmer sent us a sidebar post detailing information about the family who lost everything in the fire. See her post, and how you can help.

Winter begins on Wednesday (even though Saturday’s ice storm was a sure sign that it has already arrived). Please be careful when it comes to heating your home and discarding cigarettes and smoking materials. 

We’re back on winter weather watch 

Speaking of winter, how about that ice storm on Saturday? From crashes to canceled events, Old Man Winter showed up for the first time this season.

We’ll be watching VDOT and holding them accountable when it comes to pre-treating our roads. We can’t forget the bungle that was the commute from hell in January, where many people became stranded on highways and had to sleep in their cars. ‘

Dumfries Christmas Parade 

On a lighter note, I had the pleasure of announcing the 42nd Annual Dumfries Christmas Parade. Unlike years past, the performers weren’t allowed to stop in front of the reviewing stand. And, the location of the stand isn’t ideal, but none of that took away from a great Christmas tradition in our region. We posted the winners of the parade.

VRE extension prospects bleak

As we’ve been reporting, it doesn’t look good for an extension of Virginia Railway Express to Gainesville and Haymarket. It appears the cost — as much as $660 million, about $40,000 per each new rider gained between today and 2040 — outweighs the benefits.

While Prince William County leaders decide what recommendation they want to make to the VRE Operations Board (which will approve or kill the extension project), we’ll be watching this one for you. 

Wreaths Across America

And it is always fun to watch wreaths being laid at Quantico National Cemetery as part of Wreaths Across America. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7916 in Occoquan sent us a story about their efforts to lay the wreaths, and we published it.

Thank you for your continued to support in our mission to inform our community by bringing you relevant, local news.

Bang. Bang. VDOT pile driving at new Marumsco Creek bridge

From VDOT: 

Pile driving will be taking place along Route 1 for construction of the new bridge over Marumsco Creek just north of Marys Way.

The pile driving is scheduled to occur between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily Tuesday, Dec. 27 through Friday, Dec. 30 and Tuesday, Jan. 3 through Friday, Jan. 6.

Crews will be monitoring noise levels associated with the pile driving in order to minimize disruption to nearby businesses and residences.

The work is part of the Route 1 widening project, which will add a third lane in each direction between Marys Way and Annapolis Way. The project is scheduled for completion in fall 2019.

2016 Dumfries Christmas Parade winners

From Dumfries Community Services Director Brittany Heine: 

1. Aquia Service Unit
2. Girl Scouts Nations Capital
3. Girl Scouts 80-04

1. US Army Drum & Fife
1. Quantico Marine Corps Band

Police/Fire/Rescue/Honor Guard
1. Dumfries Triangle Vol. Fire Dept
2. PWC Sheriff and Honor Guard
3. Prince William County Mounted Horse Unit

1. Freedom ROTC
2. Hylton AFJROTC
3. Stafford AFJROTC

1. Young Expressions
2. Graham Park Dance Team
3. All that and Jazz

1. Top Flight
2. Bates Trucking

1. Toys for Tots
2. Prince William Forest National Park

1. River of Grace
2. Triangle Baptist
3. Mt Zion Baptist

1. Veteran Park Swim Team
2. Nikkis Christian Daycare
2. Star of Bethlehem

Business Nonperforming
1. Waggy’s Towing
2. TD Bank
3. DJ’s Towing

Business Performing
1. Luv-n-Laffs Clown Alley
2. Ronald McDonald
3. United Martial Arts

1.Dumfries Animal Hospital

Sinistral Brewery to open in Downtown Manassas with help from city funds

MANASSAS, Va. — A new brewery will open in Downtown Manassas, and it will have a little help from the city’s Economic Development Authority. 


Sinistral Brewing Company is proud to announce its plans to bring a new brewery to Old Town Manassas. The 3,500 square foot brewery, located at 9423 Main Street, adjacent to the Philly Tavern, will consist of a seven-barrel brewhouse, taproom and beer garden.

Direct from owner and head brewer Blane Perry’s passion for the art and craft of brewing, Sinistral Brewing Company will offer a selection of flagship beers, rotating seasonal specialties and experimental beers using locally sourced ingredients. Flight tastings, pints and crowler fills will all be available.

The city’s EDA voted to award Sinistral a $10,000 grant to help launch the new brewery, which is slated to open in summer 2017.

The building is now occupied by Thousand Oaks Barrel Company, makers of barrels in which to store spirits. It will relocate its manufacturing operation to the old Arlington Iron Works building on Euclid Avenue, said Manassas Economic Development Director Patrick Small.

Thousand Oaks once operated a barrel museum and a retail store in their Downtown Manassas space. A $10,000 grant awarded to the company by the city’s EDA for the museum and store was paid back, added Small.

Police investigate newly reported sexual assaults

From Prince Wiliam police: 

Castro, BlasSexual Assault Investigation On November 9, detectives from the Special Victims Unit responded to investigate a sexual assault which allegedly occurred between 2006 and 2007 at a residence located in Manassas (20109). The investigation revealed that the victim, now a 24-year-old woman, was sexually assaulted on more than one occasion when she was 14-years-old by the accused, identified as a family member. The victim only recently disclosed the incident to a friend and contacted police. Following the investigation, the accused was arrested without incident in Reston on December 19.

Arrested on December 19:

Blas Alberto CASTRO, 46, of 8613 Weems Rd in Manassas

Charged with 1 count of rape, 2 counts of aggravated sexual battery and 1 count of indecent liberties

Court Date: Pending | Bond: Held WITHOUT Bond


Otero Ordonez, JoelSexual Assault Investigation- On October 19, detectives from the Special Victims Bureau responded to investigate a sexual assault which allegedly occurred sometime between 2008 and 2011 at an apartment located in Manassas (20109). The investigation revealed that the victim, now a 15-year-old juvenile female, was sexually assaulted by the accused, an acquaintance. The victim recently disclosed the incident to a family member who contacted police. Following the investigation, the accused was arrested without incident on December 15.

Arrested on December 15:

Joel OTERO ORDONEZ, 46, of 8170 Peakwood Ct, Apt 12, in Manassas

Charged with aggravated sexual battery

Court Date: Pending | Bond: Held WITHOUT Bond

$37.8 million Baldwin school opens in Manassas


MANASSAS, Va. — The new Baldwin Elementary and Intermediate schools were opened on Tuesday.

The three-floor, 140,000 square foot school building will hold 700 elementary school students in kindergarten through fourth grades. It will replace the existing Baldwin Elementary School built in 1961 by Prince William County before Manassas City formed and took control of its own schools.

The intermediate school will house 300 students. Fifth-grade students will attend the intermediate school beginning Fall 2017, and then sixth-grade students will come a year later.

Today marks the final day of classes before the Christmas and New Year’s break. Baldwin students will return to classes in “new” Baldwin on Jan. 3.

“We’re here!,” Baldwin Elementary School Principal Laura Goldzung said to hundreds of children, teachers, and elected officials assembled in the school’s gym to celebrate the school’s opening. “We made it together.”

Goldzung took a photo of the children all sitting in rows on the gym floor wearing matching yellow shirts. Teachers donned blue jackets, and black and red backpacks all with the Baldwin logo on them donated by U.S. Logoworks.

The school took 18 months to build. It sits in front of Osbourn High School, on the school’s old baseball fields. When old Baldwin is torn down, the school division will replace the fields with a new baseball facility that is “comparable in size” to the old fields.

Goldzung said weekly Friday tours of the new school building will be offered to the public, starting at 8:15 a.m. Jan. 13. School officials welcomed 400 parents and students who came to tour the new school the night before the ribbon cutting.

“Does that not show you community support,” asked Manassas Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Magouyrk. “On a cold night, in the middle of the holidays, and they stopped everything to be here with us at Baldwin.”

When speeches concluded, officials grabbed an oversized pair of scissors to slice through a red ribbon.

“Cut it! Cut it! Cut it!” the children shouted.

The $37.8 million school is about half the size of its neighbor Osbourn High School. The building is smaller than nearby Mayfield Intermediate and is larger than Dean Elementary, the city’s largest elementary school.

Elementary and intermediate students at Baldwin will share some spaces, including the gym and media center. Each school will have its respective dining spaces served by one cafeteria.

Demolition on the old Baldwin Elementary School is expected to begin Feb. 15. The process will take about a month, to include asbestos abatement.