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A look back at a stormy 2018

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Stormy weather and stormier politics dominated the headlines in Fauquier County in 2018. Local residents endured the rainiest year since 1889 and coped with not one but two federal government shutdowns (the latest of which is at 10 days and counting as of press time). 

Voters went to the polls three times in 2018: for the May 1 town elections, the June 12 primaries and for the Nov. 6 general election that saw the Democrats take over the House of Representatives for the first time since 2011.  

Rep. Tom Garrett, R-5th, announced on Memorial Day he would not seek re-election to battle an addiction to alcohol. He’ll be replaced this month by Denver Riggleman, a Republican who owns a whiskey distillery outside Charlottesville. The Air Force veteran beat Democrat Leslie Cockburn, an investigative journalist, in the Nov. 6 election with 53 percent of the vote. 

In Warrenton, the May elections ushered in a new mayor and one new town councilman. 

In October, the new council released former Town Manager Brannon Godfrey from his contract early amid a controversy about the town police department, which saw one of its officers arrested for allegedly punching a woman at a local bar in September while off duty. 

Here’s a rundown of other stories that made the front page in 2018: 

In March, a fierce windstorm wreaked havoc across the region, leaving nine people dead along the East Coast. Locally, there were no injuries, but the storm closed schools, knocked out power and sparked 41 brush fires and six structure fires. 

Fauquier County’s first responders fielded 1,977 calls for service over the four-day period from March 1-4. 

Also in March, hundreds of Fauquier students participated in organized walkouts on the one-month anniversary of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 teachers and students dead. 

In April, Richard Turner MacDonald, 65, of Warrenton, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the February 2017 shooting death of his neighbor, Larry Alan Walker. MacDonald pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and use of firearm in commission of a felony in February 2018.  

In May, Warrenton voters picked a new mayor, Carter Nevill, who beat a long-shot challenge by 19-year-old Grace Rigby. In a surprise upset, veteran Town Councilwoman Linda “Sunny” Reynolds lost her at-large seat to newcomer Renard Carlos, while incumbent Councilman Sean Polster kept his at-large seat.  

Also in May, the Warrenton Town Council rejected a last-minute bid from a group wanting to return the former home of Confederate Col. John Singleton Mosby to a museum. The council voted instead to sell the Mosby House to Kirk and Robin Goolsby, who plan to convert it into a private residence for themselves and their three children.  

In August, a thunderstorm turned deadly Aug. 2 when a large tree fell on a home in Warrenton’s Cedar Run subdivision, killing 10-year-old Lydia Ghergis. She was remembered as a "beautiful and kind girl who was the embodiment of the phrase ‘full of life," according to a family friend. Lydia was a student at Gravely Elementary in Prince William County. 

In September, Angie A. Walls, 53, was killed Sept. 1 when her brother, Ashton Dunlap “Leon” Berry, drowned her in an inflatable swimming pool on the deck of their Fauquier County home. Berry suffers from a mental illness, according to an affidavit attached to a search warrant filed in the Fauquier County Circuit Court. 

Berry, 51, told police he held Walls’ head under water two times after the two got into an argument over Berry’s medication. Berry is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 16. 

Also in September, Old Town Warrenton unveiled its new LOVE sculpture in Depot Park near the Warrenton Branch Greenway. Designed by local artist Dorothy Smith, the sign served as the backdrop to the wedding of Mike King and Monica Anne Fernandi, who won a contest to exchange their vows during the festivities. 

In October, Old Town welcomed another piece of public art in the way of a new mural at the corner of 2nd and Main streets. “Greetings from OLD TOWN Warrenton, Virginia,” the mural says, postcard style. The mural is the work of artists Ross Trimmer and Michael Broth, of Sure Hand Signs, who were hired by Experience Old Town Warrenton.  

Also in October, Linda and Clark Johnson, of Warrenton Lakes, were found dead in their home Oct. 10 in what the sheriff’s office said was a murder-suicide. The Johnsons, both 75, struggled with health issues and financial woes, according to former neighbor and friend Sadia LaRose who said she was “devastated” by the news but understood that the couple likely “wanted to go together.” 

Based on evidence at the scene, the investigation determined Linda Johnson shot her husband with a handgun and then turned the gun on herself, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. 

Also in October, Bernard Duse Jr., the former Warrenton CVS employee found guilty in August 2017 in the fatal shooting of his boss, Rex Olsen, was sentenced to life in prison. Olsen, 64, was found dead near the dumpster outside the store.  

Also in October, the Fauquier County School Board voted unanimously to allow new civilian security guards to carry guns in schools. The school board and board of supervisors had been planning since the spring to hire three additional school resource officers and 12 new civilian school security officers to provide armed security at each of the county’s 20 schools.  

In November, 63.7 percent of Fauquier County’s 50,888 registered voters turned out to the polls for the Nov. 6 general election that re-elected Sen. Tim Kaine (D) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1st) while propelling Riggleman (R) into the 5th District congressional seat, his first elected office. 

Also in November, Duong Nguyen, 61, and his son, America Nguyen, 22, were found dead in their Bealeton home on Salisbury Lane on Friday, Nov. 9. The Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office has declared their deaths homicides but have yet to make an arrest. Anyone with knowledge about Duong Nguyen and/or America Nguyen is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 540-347-3300 or Fauquier County Crime Solvers at 540-349-1000.    

In December, a new synthetic ice-skating rink opened at Northern Fauquier Community Park in Marshall. The “all-weather” rink will be open through March 10. 

Also in December, Warrenton police officer Carl M. Ferguson, 47, of Woodbridge, was arraigned on a Class 1 misdemeanor assault charge in connection with a Sept. 19 incident at Fat Tuesday’s bar in Warrenton in which a young woman was punched in the face. Ferguson was arrested on the charge Dec. 4 following an investigation by the Virginia State Police. His trial is scheduled Feb. 7. 

Also in December, the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors agreed to fund a $12 million Central District Sports Complex on 74 acres near Meetze and Old Auburn roads. The complex will include 11 new sports fields, including six rectangular fields and five diamonds, along with parking, an entrance road and other infrastructure.  

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com 

 

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