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.
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.
Stafford, Va. –– The assault trail of an autistic man will continue in Stafford County today.
Reginald “Nelli” Latson was 19-year-old last May when sheriff’s deputies were called to investigate a suspicious person near North Stafford High School.
After they arrived, sheriff’s deputies identified Latson as the suspicious person and said he repeatedly refused to identify himself.
When a deputy confronted him, Latson attacked him, said a Stafford sheriff’s spokesman.
Latson was later caught and arrested, but the attack on the deputy ended 33-year law enforcement career, Fredericksburg.com reports.
The trial continues today at 10 a.m. Latson faces charges of assault and battery of a law enforcement officer.
Woodbridge, Va. –– With the cutting of a ribbon, Terry Quinn opened his newest jewelry store Wednesday to the applause of area business owners.
The new store, Quinns 2, sits in the Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge next to Wegmans.
It is the successor to Quinn’s Goldsmith, which opened more than 20 years ago in Occoquan.
“My goal is to have one shop to go back and do what I love to do, and that is jewelry work,” Quinn told the crowd of about 50 well wishers. “I had a store for 20 years, and with this new one, maybe someday we’ll have three. But I’m really overwhelmed with the two I have right now.”
In addition to drinks and snacks, there were politicians on hand to wish Quinn well.
“Terry is joining 65 new retailers that are coming here to Potomac Town Center, and these town centers are really the new look of Prince William,” said Prince William Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart.
Also there was the Mayor of the Occoquan – a small village in eastern Prince William where Quinn’s has become a household name.
“We wish you the best of luck in your new store, as long as you don’t close the one in Occoquan,” said Mayor Ernie Porta.
The new store is brighter and resembles that of a traditional jewelry store inside modern shopping centers.
Setting it apart from mall jewelry stores, however, is a new water fountain made in Florida from Italian marble. Quinn will donate it, and the coin that has been dropped inside of the fountain, to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The store also has on site jewelry repair, and Quinn says it’s his goal to invite customers to the shop for a social hour where they can choose a piece of jewelry they would like Quinn to make and then see him craft it.
During his grand opening week, Quinn will offer various jewelry pieces from his vendors and will give away a one-carat diamond from his own collection.
The grand opening festivities will continue on Saturday.
Stafford’s Board of Supervisors voted this week to rescind their approval given last month to accept $1 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to hire new 14 new career firefighters.
Supervisors last month knew about the strings attached to the grant, like a short deadline and being forced to take nothing less than 14 new firefighter positions as part of the grant stipulations, but Tuesday Board members had second thoughts.
As part of the four-year grant, Stafford County would gain 14 new firefighters to staff a new fire station near the intersection of Garrisonville and Shelton Shop roads in North Stasfford.
Federal money from the grant would be used pay the firefighter’s salaries during the first two years of the four-year grant.
County taxpayers would then pick up the tab during the final two years.
After they voted last month, some Supervisors contacted DHS and learned though they were told to act before February 16 in order to get the grant, and that they had to accept nothing less than 14 firefighters as part of the grant, that may have not been the case.
Stafford County Fire Chief Rob Brown Brown pitched the grant to county officials, initial details and deadlines in all.
On Tuesday, Supvervisors came to him for answers.
“I walked into this meeting convinced we had to take action that night, and that we had no flexibility about the number of firefighters that were part of the award,” said Supervisor Cord Sterling.
Officials worry about paying an additional 14 firefighters in tight budget times, especially as the county’s new budget proposes eliminating 25 positions in the county government.
Supervisors say they’ve now learned from DHS they can accept fewer than 14 firefighters, something they say they didn’t know last month.
Supervisors also learned they had more time to debate the issue and didn’t have to file so soon.
Brown defended himself, saying he was acting as instructed by DHS and out of the best of intentions.
“My job as fire chief is to try and do what I can to try and get this grant so you all can act on it. I did not want to do anything that would jeopardize your ability to act on the grant,” Brown told the Board.
Tuesday’s vote allows county officials to take additional time to review the grant in further detail so they can ultimately decide if the new firefighter positions will be pursued.
Charges for Bradley Manning
New charges have been filed against 22-year-old Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Manning, who’s being held at the brig in Quantico, is facing charges that he leaked classified information from the U.S. Military to enemies of the U.S., CNN reports.
Missing Mason student paid tuition
An Ashburn woman and mother paid her tuition to take classes at George Mason but never showed up. Now, investigators and friends are searching for the 21-year-old woman who’s 5 months pregnant, and is the mother of a 17-year-old son living in Richmond, Connect2Mason reports.
More UMW alumni serving the Peace Corps
The University of Mary Washington has been ranked first in the nation of small universities in the number of alumni serving the Peace Corps, reports The Bullet.
The crash happened about 11 a.m. in the area of I-395 and 7th Street behind L’Enfant Plaza.
Three other cars had earlier gotten into an accident, and as the drivers were exchanging information, the officer — on his bike — slammed into one of the vehicles thrusting the officer to the pavement, NBCWashington.com reports.
The officer was taken from the highway on a stretcher and a medical helicopter was called to the scene.
All eastbound lanes of I-395 in Washington are blocked for an investigation.
The northbound lanes of the I4th Street Bridge have also been blocked.
To access Washington, drivers from Virginia may use the Memorial Bridge.
North Stafford, Va. –– People eating stacks, and stacks of pancakes Tuesday equaled money for cancer research.
It was National Pancake Day at the International House of Pancakes, or as everyone else knows them: IHOP.
Doris Poole of Stafford came because she likes to use the old fashioned syrup on her hot cakes, one of four to choose from the table.
“I have done this for years, ever since they have been doing the pancake day donations,” said Poole.
She said she was going to dontate $5 to the cause, a bit more than the average customer’s donation of $2 to $3 because she also had eggs and bacon, she said.
This has been an annual event at the IHOP in North Stafford since they opened in 2001.
Triona Douglas came to IHOP because her grandmother and some friends have all become victims of cancer. She had French Toast, but still donated to the cause.
At 11 a.m. Tuesday, manager Penny Kirschbaum said the crowed seemed a bit light.
“Last year I had to stand here in front of the door on a chair and yell out people’s names to tell them their table was ready,” said Kirschbaum.
She was expecting a larger crowd once high school let out for the afternoon.
Free pancakes were served from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, and IHOP hoped to raise $2.3 million this year for cancer research.
They raised $2.1 million on last year’s National Pancake Day.
Gunston Hall, Va. –– What was billed as a public meeting to address the future of Gunston Hall’s education program became a gripe session to bemoan the loss of a terminated employee.
More than 100 people packed the visitors center outside the plantation home of colonial patriot George Mason on Tuesday night.
The majority came to vent about the termination of Denise McHugh, a 20 year-year employee who served as the estate’s education coordinator helping to receive tour groups and promoting Gunston Hall’s educational program.
“Denise McHugh was the heart and soul of our educational program at Gunston Hall. We need to have a return of the education position,” said Nancy Sage, who spoke during the town hall.
While estate officials said the job could be brought back as a volunteer position, there was no indication McHugh’s status would be restored.
“Our education program is going to continue very strongly. We have many, many docents eager and anxious to serve the public and give superb tours to many children from the commonwealth and beyond,” said Gunston Hall Estate Director David Resse.
Resse in recent weeks has come under fire for terminating McHugh, and has said $300,000 in budget cuts enforced by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell forced him to let her go.
While state documents outline what budget cuts the estate offered to make, like eliminating a historic animal program, raising the cost of admission and saving energy, doing away with McHugh’s position was not one of them.
Virginia Education Secretary Gerard Robinson was also at the public meeting on a fact finding mission, to review comments from the audience, he said.
With McHugh out, the estate now has five full-time positions.
Gusnton Hall’s budget this year from the state – $489,000 – is 33 percent less than it was at a recent high in 2007.
Joanna Halcomb, a Docent at nearby Woodlawn Plantation and former employee at Gunston Hall, says tour guides should accept the estate’s budget troubles and move on.
“Docents: You have shamed me. Your only job is to give tours to school children. If you think your job is to interfere with the business with the state you need to go home and thing about your job,” said Halcomb.
Reese has been the estate’s director for the past eight years, and during that time has seen the completion of newly added office space and visitor center.
Stafford aims at cutting 25 positions, Prince William tax rate higher
Stafford officials were presented a plan yesterday to cut taxes and eliminate 25 positions county government positions, while officials in Prince William decided to advertise a tax rate higher than they did last year, reports Fredericksburg.com and The Washington Post.
Stewart bids for reelection
Prince William County Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart announced yesterday he will seek another term as the top official in Prince William. There’s also talk he will run for Senate, and he told reporters he would make a decision on that run at a later date, reports The Washington Post.
Richmond-VRE service gets cut
Richmond’s transit service is discontinuing a bus service that took about 80 people each weekday from the capital city to and from the Virginia Railway Express station in Fredericksburg. The service is being discontinued because of lack of funding, reports The Washington Post.
Schools will choose teacher of the year
The Prince William Teacher of the Year finalists have been announced. The winner will be announced later this month, says Prince William County Public Schools.
Correction – An incorrect version of this story earlier reported the shooting stemmed from a domestic dispute. Authorities do say their investigation indicates the neighborhood is secure.
Update 3:30 p.m. Wednesday
Following a shooting in the Austin Ridge community Tuesday night, the home owners association office has received some phone calls.
“I’ve gotten a handful of calls asking if they have any suspects, if anyone has been arrested, and calls from people who just wanted an update about what was going on,” said HOA manager Kay Stevens.
The HOA will post any new information it receives from authorities onto their website, but that site is for residents only.
Update 10:50 a.m. Wednesday
Investigators are looking for two men witnesses said fled the scene of fatal shooting last night in Stafford’s Austin Ridge neighborhood.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to 35 Fife Street at 7:53 p.m. Tuesday after the homeowner there reported hearing gunshots, and then finding the body of 49-year-old Samih Mustafa Sowan.
Sowan died of an apparent gunshot wound, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy.
The victim had been renting the basement of the home.
Witnesses told detectives they saw two men running from the home following the shooting, fleeing the scene in a 4-door, light-colored small or mid-sized sedan.
The car was last seen on nearby Courthouse Road, said Kennedy.
Investigators have encouraged anyone who may information on the case to call Stafford County Crime Solvers.
We’ll have more on this as it develops.
Update 11:30 p.m.
Sheriff’s authorities cordoned off 35 Fife Street with crime scene tape Tuesday night after a man was found shot to death inside the home, Stafford sheriff’s authorities said.
Investigators said two men were inside their home about 7:45 p.m. when one of them whom was on the second floor heard what sounded like three gunshots.
The man went to the basement and found the second man, his roommate, shot to death, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy.
Investigators have not released the victim’s name or age.
Following the shooting, authorities blocked off a portion of Wheelwright Lane and Fife Street as detectives canvassed the neighborhood questioning possible witnesses.
One man who lives across from the victim’s home said the shooting unnerved him, and then went back inside his home after giving authorities a statement.
Sheriff’s authorities say they plan to release more information about the incident Wednesday.
North Stafford, Va. –– One man is dead of an apparent gunshot wound tonight in North Stafford.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to a home on Fife Street, off Austin Ridge Drive in the Austin Ridge neighborhood, about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.
According to the Stafford sheriff’s office, one man was on the second floor of the home and reported hearing gunshots.
When he went downstairs, he found his male roommate had been shot to death, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy.
Investigators have not released the age or name of the victim.
Kennedy said investigators are looking into whether the two men were the only ones home at the time of the shooting.
We’ll have more on this as this develops.
Initial reports indicated officers closed a portion of Minnieville Road and Cardinal Drive at the point where they intersect to investigate the reported crash.
Dale City, Va. — A pedestrian was struck at Minnieville Road at Estate Drive near Dale City.
Police have closed Cardinal Drive where it intersects with Minnieville Road and Estate Drive.
Two lanes of Minnieville Road are closed in the area, according to initial reports.
The pedestrian was reported struck just after 4 p.m.
We’ll have more on this story as it becomes available.
Woodbridge, Va. –– New commuter parking spaces will bring new bus stops for OmniRide commuters.
OmniRide commuter buses that serve Rossyln and Ballston will be rerouted as of Monday March 14 to serve those who park in the newly acquired 370 parking spaces at the First Baptist Church of Woodbirdge near Minnieville Road and Prince William Parkway.
Commuters will now be able to catch the bus at a stop across from the church on Minnieville Road.
Another stop will be added on Minnieville Road, just after Elm Farm Road, in the turn lane at the church, said Potomac and Rapphannock Transportation spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo.
But with new bus stops old ones have to go away.
OmniRide buses will no longer serve stops certain stops along Prince William Parkway, at Malta Street across from BJ’s Wholesale Club, before Sonora Street near BJ’s Wholesale, at Golansky Boulevard and at Telegraph Road.
PRTC says new printed schedules reflecting the change will be made later this spring.
The move comes following Potomac Mills mall’s massive reduction of commuter parking spaces on Valentine’s Day.
Prince William officials last week announced a $288,600 deal to rent 370 parking spaces from the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge for one year.
*This story has been corrected to reflect only buses that serve Rosslyn and Ballston have been rerouted.
Stafford County Parks and Recreation Employees will conduct smoke testing at Woodlands Pool at 2 Northampton Boulevard in North Stafford between now and Friday.
The tests will be done each night at 9 p.m. and involve blowing smoke into the air circulating system in the dome-covered pool to see how it reacts in varying conditions, county officials say.
The smoke is harmless, and may be seen coming from vents, doors, dome foundations or storm drains.
If you see smoke about that time at the pool, there is no need to dial 911 as public safety crews are aware of the testing, were told.
The smoke is a non-toxic substance that is not harmful to humans, pets, food or any materials, county officials state.
The charity is looking at two parcels in the Lake Arrowhead neighborhood, off Arrowhead Drive and Garrisonville Road (Va. 610), to build at least one home that will house a family that organization officials in a letter to the Stafford County Board of Supervisors stated “would like to stay in the county.”
In 2006, the County Board accepted two parcels of land in the neighborhood as a gift, according to county documents.
In January, Habitat for Humanity propositioned the board to consider donating the land for the construction of up to two homes, one a three-bedroom home and the other a four-bedroom home.
The Board is scheduled to take up the issue today during their weekly meeting.
The Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity is a Christian-based organization which builds homes for families in need in Stafford, Spotsylvania and King George counties and Fredericksburg.
The organization attracts volunteers from various walks of life, from school children, housewives and blue and white-collar workers, according to the agency’s website.
Dumfries, Va. –– Officials in Prince William today will take up the issue of an abandoned home in Dumfries.
The property at 17415 Mine Road has been empty for more than four years after being gutted by fire.
Its roof collapsed and deemed unsafe to occupy, the owner of the home obtained a permit to repair the roof in 2008 after being prompted.
But she never made the repairs, according to county documents.
Between July 2007 and July 2010, the owner was notified at least eight times by county building inspectors to fix the roof and bring the property back up to code.
The woman who owns the home has address in Maryland and a phone number that has been disconnected.
Officials are concerned loiterers could use the home, and that it remains a fire hazard and a prime target for arsonists.
County documents go on to state it has simply become an “attractive nuisance” in which children who live nearby could enter the structure and get hurt.
There are also health concerns, as there is evidence that vermin have been entering the home, according to county documents.
The owner has had an offer from nearby Prince William Forest Park to purchase the land, and if that happens, county officials say it will be the federal government’s responsibility to clean up the property.
A public hearing on what to do with the property could be expected.
Woodbridge, Va. –– A Prince William County Schools bus driver has been charged with driving under the influence.
Police say they stopped the woman in the 13300 block of Gordon Boulevard in Woodbridge at 1 a.m. Saturday.
The woman was not driving a bus or working at the time of the arrest, police say.
Vera Elizabeth Hull, 40, of Bayside Avenue in Woodbridge, is charged with DUI, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.
Her court date and bond information was not available Tuesday morning.
By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
Loosen up your tongue muscles and get ready for tongue twisters.
Wednesday is Read Across America Day, celebrated annually on Dr. Seuss’ Birthday.
Librarians across the region are preparing special programs ranging from story times to family crafts.
Lorton Library plans to celebrate the day with a “Seuss is Loose” program with childrens librarian Anne Heising, who will wear the traditional red and white “Cat in the Hat” headwear.
“We’ll be reading a few Seuss favorites like Hop on Pop, and we’ll have bubble wrap for the kids to pop after we read”, Heising said.
Chinn Park Library in Woodbridge, in addition to story times, has a “Super SEUSS” movie time planned at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Schools are also celebrating, as Antietam Elementary School in Lake Ridge plans to commemorate the Seuss’ birthday with a special “book character day” where children dress up as their favorite character from a book and bring the story to share with friends.
Tami Chaffee, a parent of two Antietam students noted that her children are both “really looking forward to dressing up on Read Across America Day and will be going as Darth Vader and Betsy Ross, since my daughter’s class just finished historical VIPs in history.”
More reading celebrations will take place this weekend, when local non-profit CRIBS will offer a free event: “The Cat in the Hat Presents: STEM, What is a Scientist?”
The event is for children between the ages of four and eight, and director Barbara Edwards –– a Kindergarten teacher by day –– founded CRIBS to help families encourage children to embrace reading and learning.
Edwards says careers of the future are in science and mathematics technology, and feels that this event will help tie literacy in with hands-on science and fun.
The event will be held from 2 to 4:30 p.m., at 12184 Chaucer Lane in Lake Ridge.
The National Education Association created Read Across America day in 1997 in hopes of motivating children to read throughout the year.
Kristina Schnack Kotlus covers style and events for PotomacLocal.com and lives with her family in Woodbridge.
Stewart will seek reelection
While it appears Prince William County Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart still hasn’t ruled out a bid for the U.S. Senate, he told Insidenova.com he will seek reelection for his current job.
Restaurant to hold benefit game for area charity
A Monopoly game that will be held Saturday at Glory Days Grill in Lorton will benefit Habitat For Humanity, WTOP reports.
Authorities in Fairfax and Prince William counties in a partnership with the FBI and other police agencies have posted sketches on digital billboards in states where the rapist is believed to have struck – in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia.
The most recent attack is believed to have happened Oct. 31, 2009 in Dale City, when three female teenagers were approached and two raped as they were walking home from a night of trick-or-treating.
The attack happened behind Glendale Plaza, as a man approached the victim’s –– two of the girls were age 16 and the other 17 –– from behind with a gun.
He led them into a clearing in a wooded ravine and raped the two 17-year-olds while the 16-year-old looked on, police say.
The 16-year-old was able to use her cell phone to text her mother for help, but as police closed in the man was able to get away, police said.
Following the attack, the two 17-year-old girls were treated at a local hospital and the 16-year-old was not injured.
In all, the serial rapist has been tied to 12 attacks that began in February 1997.
“These billboards give each local police department, and the FBI, an added edge to identifying, locating and apprehending the subject,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division, Ronald Hosko. “The public is the most important tool law enforcement has for solving crime.”
The billboard’s come after authorities launched a new website aimed at reaching out to the public to get more information about the serial rapist’s whereabouts.
His victims have been black, white or Hispanic females, and he generally approaches victims on foot and threatens them with a knife or handgun, asks for money to give the impression he is robbing the victim. The serial rapist has never been known to take anything from his victims, however.
In the earliest assaults, the man approached his victims on bicycles, authorities said.
He’s been known to wear a black mask or hooded sweatshirt to conceal his face.
The gate reopened at 3:35 p.m. after K-9 units were called to search a truck whose driver was attempting to get on base.
Four people inside the truck were searched, but nothing was found and the truck was cleared.
“As a safety precaution for our people and the surrounding communities, Tulley Gate was closed,” said Ft. Belvoir spokeswoman Jacqueline Leeker.
A portion of Pohick Road, between Gunston Road and U.S. 1 which had been closed, was also reopened following the search.
Original Post 3:30 p.m.
Ft. Belvoir, Va. –– Authorities were called to Ft. Belvoir’s Tully Gate this afternoon to search a suspicious car.
K-9 units were dispatched to search the vehicle – its contents still unclear.
No one was injured, but the search prompted the closure of the gate, as well as a portion of Pohick Road – from U.S. 1 to Gunston Road.
All incoming and outgoing traffic has been diverted to Pence Gate.
Drivers should expect delays in the area if the closure continues through the afternoon rush hour, said Ft. Belvoir spokeswoman Jacqueline Leeker.
More as we get it.