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• The Wythe County Board of Supervisors re-elected Tim Reeves to serve as chairman and Joe Hale to serve as co-chairman. The board elected Steven Willis as chairman pro-tem to act as chairman if Reeves and Hale were absent. After his election, Reeves outlined the biggest issues facing supervisors this year: construction of the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center, school capital improvements and an anticipated drop in state funding.

• Hundreds of hunters converged in Wytheville for the 2017 Eastern U.S. Predator Calling Championship. The hunt was be for coyotes, foxes and bobcats, and helped control the growing predator population in the area and surrounding states that plagues farmer, pet owners and hunters, the event organizer said.

• A Christiansburg couple announced plans to open a doughnut shop in downtown Wytheville. The doughnuts are made on site each day, throughout the day, and include favorites like glazed, maple bacon, chocolate, raspberry-filled, lemon-filled and cream-filled doughnuts, said Danny Shouse, who owns the store with his wife, Janell. Shouse said he came up with the store name after a lot of research. Olykoek (pronounced o-lee-coke) is Dutch for doughnut.

• Virginia legislators struck down bills that would allow counties to tax cigarette sales and add hundreds of thousands of extra dollars to their revenue stream. Wythe County officials lobbied hard for the bill, which was sponsored by Delegate Jeff Campbell. Although legislators in both the House of Delegates and Senate tabled the bills, local officials said they had not given up.

• News broke that a burglary suspect shot in 2016 by police officers sued the officers and Wytheville’s mayor. Arguing that the Wytheville Police Department officers – John Lackey and Brian Bard – violated his Constitutional rights, Danny Lee Osborn personally filed the $20 million federal lawsuit in August 2016 and filed an amended complaint in November.

In the amended hand-written document, which also names Wytheville Mayor Trenton Crews (sic) as a defendant, Osborn claims the three men “violated plaintiffs (sic) Constitutional rights to life and liberty equal protection of law and the whole essence of the U.S. Constitutional amendments.”

Osborn was shot twice on May 11, 2016, when WPD officers responded to a possible residential burglary on West Main Street and encountered Osborn coming out from behind a door inside the house. Police said that Osborn was armed with a .38-caliber pistol belonging to the woman renting the house. Police said he also had gold jewelry belonging to the woman in his pants.

• After receiving a reprieve from the town of Wytheville two-and-a-half years earlier, several Main Street trees were cut down after a branch from one of the trees fell and struck a pedestrian walking on the sidewalk underneath. The branch fell Jan. 25 out of a tree at 525 W. Main Street in front of the Trinkle Mansion. The woman reported the incident to the town, which notified its insurance company, VML Insurance Programs, about the incident.

Town Manager Wayne Sutherland said since the trees were located on the town right-of-way and the town is aware that a branch fell from a damaged tree, the town would be negligent if it did not take down the trees.

Trinkle Mansion owner Patti Pizinger fought hard more than two years ago to save the trees, which she estimated are about 103 years old. A 1914 photo on the mansion website shows the London Plane trees as seedlings. William Trinkle built the house in 1912.

• Jeffrey Earnhardt, whose racing career began on the dirt tracks at Wythe Raceway, made his Daytona 500 debut. He is the son of Rural Retreat native Rene Cline Earnhardt and the grandson of racing icon Dale Earnhardt. The fourth-generation driver was behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet sponsored by Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group.

• Former Wytheville resident Jeff Bourne was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates to represent the 71st District (Richmond/Henrico). The 40-year-old attorney won by a landslide in the special election to fill the Richmond-area district seat vacated earlier in the year by now-state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan.

• Police were on the hunt for three Hispanic males they say robbed a Max Meadows gas station at gunpoint. Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan said the three men entered the I-81 Travel Plaza around midnight on March 2, purchased a bottle of soda and left. They entered a second time, purchased a bag of chips and left again. A third visit would find the clerk emptying more than $500 from the register and handing it over to the trio.

• A Carroll County man was accused of driving his vehicle through several yards, hitting a Barren Springs man with a metal pipe and leading deputies on a two-county chase that forced a lockdown at Jackson Memorial Middle School. Eric Donald Edwards, 39, was eventually arrested at his home in Woodlawn and charged with multiple offenses in Wythe and Carroll counties.

• Rural Retreat native Doris Crouse-Mays was named one of eight 2017 Virginia Women in History honorees. The Library of Virginia program recognizes the achievements of women, past and present, who have contributed to the state’s history. In 2006, Crouse-Mays became the first woman to hold executive office in the Virginia AFL-CIO (American Federal of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) when she was elected to a four-year term as its secretary-treasurer. Four years later, she was the first woman elected president of the organization; she was re-elected to another four-year term in 2014. In her role, Crouse-Mays has emphasized the importance of labor unions working with businesses to achieve fair wages, health care, job safety, and retirement security for Virginia’s workforce. The AFL-CIO is umbrella federation for U.S. unions, with 55 unions representing 12.5 workers.

• The town of Wytheville formed a Beautification Task Force to enhance the town’s appearance for both residents and tourists. The group’s goal is to not only spruce up the town, but to get residents involved in the effort as well.

• The Wytheville Lions Club was sitting pretty thanks to a special service project. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lions Club International, club members sought a legacy project that could stand the test of time and be enjoyed by many. Club members decided to install a park bench at Withers Park. The royal blue metal bench has “Wytheville Lions Club” cut into the back and is decorated with a Lions Club International 100th anniversary emblem.

• Max Meadows Elementary School teacher Rhonda Amick was hailed a heroine after she saved the life of a 5-year-old student choking on a lemon drop.

• Members of the American Association of University Women learned about the growing business of sex trafficking during a district meeting. Kathleen Chester, developer of Street Ransom, a nonprofit organization in Roanoke that aims to help young people avoid sexual exploitation and provide a shelter for those who have been rescued from sex trafficking, was the meeting’s keynote speaker. Also on the agenda were representatives from Fort Chiswell High School’s Help Save the Next Girl Club, which educates young women and girls about predatory dangers.

• Wytheville Curves coach and manager Sheila Eversole was named one of six winners of the Curves Strong Women Challenge. Eversole battled through family illnesses and the death of her father to lose more than 80 pounds and live a healthier lifestyle.

• A group of 4-H students from Wythe and Bland counties helped the Wytheville Department of Museums with its latest exhibit, which explores Wythe County’s rich mining history. For two hours each week, the home-schooled students were at the Heritage Preservation Center pouring over papers and photos and compiling information that will go into the exhibit. The Wytheville Department of Museums partnered with the Smithsonian Institution and the Wilderness Road Museum and Ratcliff Museum in Pulaski for the project.

• A former actor with the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre pedaled through Wytheville for a good cause. Tyler Indyck and his friend, Brendan Macera, biked across the country to raise awareness that the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and its lasting effects are not over. Averaging a little more than 60 miles a day, the two cycled from Los Angeles to New York City in two months to raise money for the Foundation for Flint. They planned to arrive in New York by the end of April.

• A Wytheville man who shoplifted merchandise from local stores and sold it on eBay will spend time behind bars and has to pay the businesses back for their losses. Aaron Brandon Wright, 31, pleaded guilty to eight felony counts of possessing stolen property with the intent to sell it in a scheme that involved him pilfering goods from Walmart, Petco and Burkes Outlet and reselling them through an eBay account under his father’s name. The items ranged from shoes to speakers, and investigators said that Wright, who shopped with a small child in tow, had concealed some merchandise in a diaper bag. Police seized hundreds of items including infant formula, game cameras, iPhone cases, a pet trimmer, headphones, jewelry, dog leashes and DVDs from Wright’s residence. Facing 160 years in prison, Wright was ordered to serve 11 months in jail as part of a plea agreement. The prosecution dropped 11 additional charges before Wright’s guilty pleas.

• For years, the Wythe Supervisors and School Board members have taken pride in their positive and cordial relationship; however, the decision on whether to renovate Wytheville schools or build new ones strained the relationship this year.

During a work session in April, School Superintendent Jeff Perry reported that supervisors were not interested in the school board’s plan to move Scott Memorial Middle School to the George Wythe High School campus at a cost of anywhere from $8 to $12.5 million. Instead, supervisors offered $10 million (plus architecture and engineering costs) to renovate the high school.

• After less than two years on the job, Wythe County schools Superintendent Jeff Perry was named the Region 7 School Superintendent of the Year. Region 7 encompasses 19 school divisions in Southwest Virginia, beginning in Bristol and running to the city of Radford.

• The Wythe County Sheriff’s Office covered one of its vehicles with decals that urge readers to stop domestic violence and report it when they see it. “We just want to raise awareness of domestic violence in the community,” said Maj. Anthony Cline of the sheriff’s office. “We hope people will recognize it and be more aware of domestic violence. It does exist and we want people, when they do see domestic violence, to dial 911.” The Wytheville Moose Lodge paid for the decals. Copperhead Graphics in Cana designed them and put them on the Chevy Trailblazer driven by Sgt. Harry Street, the sheriff office’s victim/witness/domestic violence coordinator. One the hood, a decal reads, “Stop Domestic Violence.” Along the driver’s side, one says “Recognize It, Report It, Prevent It.” Another decal says, “End Domestic Violence.”

• Wythe County mourned the loss of longtime Wythe County School Board member Walter Clinton White, 88, who died May 9. White was the county’s longest-serving school board member, having served 33 years on the board, 14 of them as board chairman.

• Rural Retreat Elementary School third-grade teacher Meredith Fiscus was recognized as Wythe County’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year. The award is given by the Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce. Fiscus teaches third grade at Rural Retreat Elementary School.

• Five Max Meadows residents who skimmed more than $1 million in cash from a The Old Fort Western Store and then failed to pay taxes on that money, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges. Harold Hart, 80; Larry Dean Ball, 68; Mary Carroll Ball, 67; Katrina Rose Freeman, 42; and Gary Daniel Musick, 45, all of Max Meadows, waived their rights to be indicted and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to impair, impede or obstruct the lawful function of the Internal Revenue Service and to commit wire fraud.

During sentencing in September, Hart was fined $55,000 in addition to restitution and special assessment fees. Hart was also sentenced to two years supervised probation. Freeman was given two years supervised probation, 200 hours of community service and a $5,500 fine, in addition to her restitution and special assessment fees. Mary Ball was sentenced her to two years supervised probation, with a $5,500 fine. Larry Ball was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and Musick was given an 18-month term; both were also fined $5,500 in addition to their restitution and special assessment fees.

• Several Wytheville businesses, including two longtime favorites, and a newcomer, closed their doors. Long John Silver’s closed and Wytheville’s Guynn Furniture advertised a “Store Closing Sale.” Downtown, the Luv Berry smoothie shop closed after being open for about a year; Cedar Bay Café announced it would set up shop in the old Luv Berry location.

• More than 800 people were expected to flood into Mountain Empire Airport to take advantage of the Remote Area Medical clinic on the Smyth and Wythe border. The clinic offers care to adults and children who are uninsured, under-insured or who cannot afford to pay for dental work or eyeglasses. Those attending are encouraged to have their blood sugar and blood pressure tested to check for any hidden troubles. The RAM event partnered with free clinics in Smyth and Wythe counties, allowing patients who take part in the event to get follow-up care. Some of the tests offered at the RAM clinic include mammogram, PAP smear, bone density, chest X-ray, cancer screening, glaucoma and vision exams.

• State Farm Insurance Agent and Wytheville Town Council member Tommy Hundley was recognized as one of his company’s top performers by being named to the State Farm Chairman’s Circle.The award recognizes Hundley’s sales ability. Only a few of State Farm’s 18,000 agents receive this honor annually as there are strict qualifying criteria and sales goals that must be met.

• An end-of-the-year field trip to the North Carolina Zoo turned into a different kind of adventure when sixth-graders from Scott Memorial Middle School nearly crossed paths with a tornado the day before school let out. The group rode out the storm in a Wal-Mart near King, North Carolina. As the students, teachers and parents gathered in the store’s break room, a 125-mph tornado unleashed its fury nearby. The one-half-mile wide twister plowed a path of destruction more than 15 miles long, including through parts of King.

• The Wytheville Town Council approved hazardous duty supplement pay for police officers and firefighters. The benefit of about $1,100 a month is for officers and firefighters who are at least 50 years old with 25 years of service and who decide to retire early. The payments will help them transition from retirement until their Social Security payments kick in.

• Two recent George Wythe High School graduates earned the Virginia Seal of Biliteracy, which certifies proficiency in one or more language other than English. It is the highest foreign language related honor for high school graduates in the commonwealth. Savannah Shaver and Cesar Torres were the first GWHS students to receive the award. They were honored for their skills in Spanish.

• A small piece of the Smithsonian Museum came to the Rural Retreat Depot, which hosted “Journey Stories,” an exhibition that traces how America’s evolving mobility changed the nation, from stage coaches and planes to trails, rails and highways. Photographs in the Journeys exhibit featured moments throughout American history that involve transportation. Examples include images of Pilgrims, pioneers who settled the West, girls waving goodbye to soldiers on a train during World War II, immigrants exiting ferries at Ellis Island, a family parked at a campsite in 1969 New Mexico, and people boarding an American Airlines plane in the late 1950s.

• Wytheville’s first Downtown Spirit Tour kicked off with a bang as local residents learned about happenings – including a murderous spurned suitor – in pre-Civil War Wytheville. The weekend event featured re-enactments of Wytheville residents who lived in town from 1820 to 1855 – people like Thomas Boyd, known as the father of Wytheville. Jim Spraker portrayed Boyd, leading spectators around downtown, introducing them to other prominent townsfolk from the 19th century. Spraker and his fellow actors were dressed in period clothing, which included vests, ties, coats and ruffled sleeves for the gentlemen and hoop skirts for the ladies. During the hour tour, participants ran into spirits like the town’s first doctor, John Haller, portrayed by G.W. Catron, and town gossip Evelina Nunn, portrayed by Debbie Moody. Along the way they learned about the devastating fire of 1839, which is believed to have been started by a slave named Henry. Legend has it that Henry, who was portrayed by local historian John Johnson, set the blaze to help out a friend. He’d been promised a new suit. The tour concluded at the town municipal building with a re-enactment of a notorious Wytheville crime, the 1855 shooting of Connelly Trigg and murder of William Spiller by James Austin Graham. Graham gunned down the two men in cold blood, nursing a grudge about the unsuccessful courtship of Spiller’s daughter Catherine.

• Drive out to Country Roots Farm introduced Goat Yoga to Wythe County. During the class, people bend and stretch on a grassy field as goats meander, nibble and nudge. The idea for Get Down Goat Yoga came – like all ideas that would combine goat grazing and yoga – from California. Kym Dunford, who runs the Wytheville farm, started the goat yoga class after watching online videos of goat yoga out on the west coast. Throughout the summer, local teachers traveled to her farm on Thursdays to teach classes of eight to 20 people. And while attendees worked on their downward dogs and lotus positions, nearly a dozen goats wandered about the barnyard where the class is taught. Every class is different, Dunford said, because goats, with their distinct personalities, can be unpredictable.

• Wytheville police officers responded to a report of a bear on the campus at Wytheville Community College. A black bear was seen near a dumpster in the lower parking lot, near the back entrance of Grayson Hall. By the time police officers arrived, the bear was heading toward the interstate.

• The Wytheville Town Council adopted its budget for fiscal year 2017-2018. The $27.5 million budget did not include tax or fee increases. In fact, thanks to a recent reassessment, real estate taxes dropped by half a penny.

After much back-and-forth, the Wythe County Board of Supervisors raised personal property taxes by a nickel and adopted a $86.4 million budget. The budget included $10.6 million to renovate George Wythe High School.

• Wythe County paid a $12,285 fine to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for violations at the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center site, but planned to recoup the money from the grading contractor. At issue are several violations concerning storm water management.

• Dustin Seaver Hazlewood, the 28-year-old former captain of the Wythe County Rescue Squad, pleaded guilty to two felony charges, but a judge didn’t find him guilty – opting for an alternative plan that will require Hazlewood to complete community service and regularly appear in court for reviews of his progress. Indicted last year, Hazlewood, of Galax, was charged with 32 counts of obtaining prescription drugs – fentanyl and morphine — by fraud. During a hearing, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jerry Mabe dropped all but two of the charges. According to the prosecutor and police, Hazlewood was stealing the drugs when he worked at the squad. A paramedic, he was named captain in December 2014. Police began investigating him after another squad member found Hazlewood in the squad’s bathroom in an apparent “altered state of mind.” Hazlewood, who started a substance abuse ministry called “You’re Worth More,” told the judge that he’d been sober for 18 months.

• Police investigated a July 7 bank robbery inside the Wytheville Wal-Mart. A man walked up to the Woodforest National Bank counter inside the Wal-Mart on Commonwealth Drive and handed the teller a note demanding money. Police did not disclose the amount of money taken. An hour before the Wytheville robbery, a Galax bank was held up. The two robberies shared similarities and officials worked to determine if the banks were robbed by the same man.

• About a dozen people asked county supervisors to reconsider accepting the resignation of Wythe County’s longtime youth sports coordinator. Scotty Vaught resigned after complaints surfaced regarding the handling of issues with a softball team and a baseball team from Max Meadows.

• George Wythe High School rising senior Dawson Little received a gold medal at the 2017 Genius Olympiad for his science fair project that explored the effect of pure vegetable oil on the quality of biodiesel fuel.

• Wytheville reported its third bear sighing in less than a month. The third incident was in the area of Dollar General on North 12th Street. “We are having more bears coming into town for as long as I can remember,” said Police Chief Rick Arnold. The bear wandered near West Lee highway and up into the woods at Pine Ridge, where officers lost sight of him. In late June, police received reports of a bear at Wytheville Community College. A second bear was reported near North 10th St.

•Joey Major, owner of Rural Retreat’s popular Joey’s Country Kitchen announced her retirement. When she stepped inside the business 30 years earlier, she had only cooked for her family and fellow church members.

• Rural King purchased the former Kmart building in Wytheville and announced plans to open a store there in the spring. According to a property deed filed in Wythe County Circuit Court on Thursday, the purchase price was $1.6 million. The store will open in mid-February.

• Wythe’s Community Food Kitchen celebrated its five-year anniversary. The food kitchen is a twice-weekly endeavor that offers free meals and fellowship to anyone who shows up in the Wytheville Baptist Church basement. “It’s a group effort, and you’ve touched lots of lives,” said Wytheville’s Mayor Trent Crewe, who read a proclamation recognizing the milestone. Started in 2012 by local churches, the kitchen relies on donations and approximately 50 volunteers to feed those looking for a good, hot meal.

• Freedom Lane, the Wytheville Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s project to provide homes for veterans, officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 24 new apartments off Peppers Ferry welcomed 12 veterans and their families. A road lined with one- and two-bedroom homes, most handicapped accessible, terminates near a clubhouse on the four-acre tract. The ribbon-cutting came a little over a year from when ground was broken for the affordable housing development.

• Wythe County Circuit Court Judge Josiah Showalter Jr. dismissed the case against former Wythe County Administrator David Allen Lamberson, citing insufficient evidence to issue a ruling in the attempted abduction case. Showalter’s decision came after an eventful day in the courtroom that included a four-hour jury selection and a mistrial, thanks to an error on the part of Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney David Saliba. Lamberson’s Richmond attorneys pounced on the opportunity to ask for a bench trial, which continued for three more hours until Showalter announced his decision. After the trial, Lamberson’s attorneys, Elliott Bender and David Reinhardt, said their client should have never been charged. “A man’s reputation has been tainted based on numerous inconsistencies of an individual who made allegations we believe are unfounded and the court agreed,” Bender said. Lamberson can now get his life back on track, Bender said, adding that there was no evidence of a crime in the case. The 47-year-old now lives in Indiana.

• Wythe County School Superintendent Jeff Perry said he was proud of the county’s scores on Standards of Learning tests. The county’s pass rates place Wythe in the top 10 academic school systems in the state. “We have seen unprecedented academic growth in this school division over the last two years,” he said. “Our administrators, teachers, and support staff have done in two years what many other school divisions have been unable to accomplish in a decade.”

• Wythe County’s longest tenured employee retired after 45 years on the job. Not only did Debbie Repass work for the county the entire time, she worked in same department, the treasurer’s office, for all 45 years. “I don’t know what to say about it,” she said. “I’ve been here forever. That’s all I can tell you.” Repass began working in the treasurer’s office part time after she graduated from George Wythe High School in 1969.

• A decision by Wythe County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Perry to remove a prayer plaque from Spiller Elementary School met with backlash from some local parents and religious leaders. Perry removed the plaque from the school’s cafeteria last month after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation called it unconstitutional. The plaque, which is now in storage, reads “Our Father: We thank thee for this food. Bless it to the nourishment of our bodies and our lives to thy service. Amen.”

• The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum unveiled the Edith Bolling Wilson orchid, named after Wytheville native and First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson.

• Two celebrity impersonators from Florida fled from Hurricane Irma’s wrath to weather the storm in Wythe County. Johnny D. Miller has portrayed KFC’s Col. Sanders since 2009. He was accompanied by Trevor “Mathers” Copenhaver, who looks – and raps – a lot like Marshall Mathers, a best-selling musical artist known as Eminem.

• A Saturday morning house in Max Meadows fire claimed the life of Shelley Rose Stowers, 36. The fire destroyed a white frame, two-story home on the 5300 block of Peppers Ferry Road, between Hoke and Cleveland streets.

• A study commissioned by Downtown Wytheville Inc. regarding the feasibility of reviving the Millwald Theatre suggested the formation of a nonprofit organization to buy the historic theater, restore it and operate the facility. Downtown Wytheville Inc. President Mark Bloomfield said the Main Street theater could become the heartbeat of the community’s culture, entertainment and development. If the group is successful in negotiating a purchase price from the Lester family, which has owned the building for 90 years, it will form a nonprofit group to buy the building and begin plans for renovation, Bloomfield said. The renovation cost, not including the acquisition price, is estimated at nearly $2.7 million.

• After decades of decay, the Rural Retreat Depot was back better than ever. Shiny white with green trim on the outside, the depot is rustic, yet modern on the inside. After six long years of planning and cajoling and fundraising and grant writing and building and painting, the cornerstone of Rural Retreat’s downtown revitalization effort officially opened.

• Saying that county officials orchestrated events that led to an arrest and trial that damaged his reputation beyond repair, slandered him, libeled him and cost him the ability to earn a living, former Wythe County Administrator Allen Lamberson filed a $25 million lawsuit against the county, the town of Wytheville, the Wytheville Police Department and 24 others. In July 2016, Lamberson was charged with attempted abduction of a George Wythe High School football player. In August, nearly two years after the initial 911 call in the case, Wythe County Circuit Court Judge Josiah Showalter Jr. dismissed the criminal case against Lamberson, citing insufficient evidence of an attempted abduction.

• Wythe County students stepped back in time to learn about America’s involvement in two world wars and how Virginia contributed to the war effort when the Virginia World War I and World War II Profiles of Honor Mobile Tour stopped in Wytheville. The interactive exhibit included video footage, photos, graphics and artifacts like a WWI gas mask, flight goggles and a replica of an M5A1 Stuart tank. In addition, photos and documents from the two wars, procured from veterans and their families, continuously streamed across a screen inside the 36-foot trailer.

• The Virginia Lottery announced that Max Meadows resident Lequana Sayers won $250,000 with a Double Play ticket.

• Grace Lutheran Church in Rural Retreat found a new way to reach out to the community – a white pantry stocked with free food and toiletries items for anyone who needs them. “Katie’s Pantry” is located in the church parking lot and is named after the wife of Martin Luther, father of the Protestant Reformation. On the shelves behind the pantry doors sits everything from cereal and fruit pies to laundry detergent and diapers. Below the pantry is a sign that says, “Take what you need. Give what you can. God bless you.”

• The Wythe County Board of Supervisors voted to move $2.5 million from the county’s reserve funds to help pay for the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center, and awarded a nearly $6 million building contract to RGM Erectors of Max Meadows to build the facility.

• Voters elected new members to the Wythe County Board of Supervisors and the local school board. Two newcomers, Brian “Cheese” Vaught and Ryan Lawson will take seats on the board of supervisors. Vaught and Lawson were elected along with incumbent Coy McRoberts. On the school board, newcomers Peggy Wagy and Ann Manley were voted in, along with incumbent and current board chairman Steve Sage.

• A Wytheville man was beaten and his horse shot dead at Thomas Cherokee Farm and Equine Rescue on Slate Spring Branch Road in the Cripple Creek area of Wythe County. James Thomas, who owns the 100-acre farm with his wife, Kris, said he had just gotten out of the shower about 9 p.m. when he heard a shot outside his home. He ran to the barn to find his Tennessee Walking Horse, Cherokee Master Copy, dead from a gunshot wound. As he ran to his house to call 911, two young men wearing masks jumped him and beat him, he said.

• County officials broke ground for the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center. The APEX Center will be a 90,000-square-foot facility capable of seating roughly 4,000 people for concerts and will host events ranging from agriculture and motorsports to conferences and trade shows.

• Wytheville’s Thanks By Giving free holiday meal program turned 25 this year with a new sponsor. Sunny Hills Church organized the event, which was previously operated by Integrity World Outreach Church. More than 800 meals were delivered.

• The Wythe County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to issue a $10 million bond to pay for renovations at George Wythe High School. Board Chairman Tim Reeves said that $10 million is the most the county can borrow this year, and if necessary, the county can borrow more money next year to pay for improvements.

• A double homicide rocked Wythe County. Three men are facing charges in the killings of 17-year-old Aidan Dawson and 24-year-old Ray Rodiguez, whose bodies were found behind an outbuilding on Reed Creek Drive on Dec. 5. Dawson had been missing since Nov. 30. Law enforcement officials said they believe the two men were killed that day or the next day, Dec. 1. An 18-year-old Max Meadows man, Dylan Alexander McGlothlin, is facing two capital murder charges, two use of a firearm in the commission of murder charges and two disposal of a body charges. Jared Stephens, 19, of Austinville, was charged with two counts of being an accessory after the fact to capital murder. Hunter Armbrister, 18, of Max Meadows, was charged with two counts of being an accessory after the fact to capital murder, one count of attempted disposal or altering of a dead body and one count of attempted disposal of a dead body.

• Wythe County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Perry, under whose leadership academic performance at schools has soared, resigned to accept a position as the school director in Hamblen County, Tennessee. Perry’s last day in Wythe County will be Jan. 12, 2018.

• As part of the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office “Shop with a Cop” program, 51 local children received a shopping spree at Wal-Mart, where they also visited with Santa Claus.

• Mary Williams of Rural Retreat introduced the community to her gigantic holly tree, planted in her side yard more than 50 years ago. Today, the holly tree stands about 60 feet tall with a 40-foot diameter, towering above the house. Every holiday season, people and florists come calling, asking for the green and red foliage to use in Christmas arrangements. For years, her grandchildren sold holly, making hundreds of dollars each season.

• Wytheville celebrated the holidays with a tree lighting ceremony in Withers Park, free carriage rides around town, visits with Santa Claus and a parade. In addition, town officials gathered on Main Street at the Heritage Walk to celebrate the completion of the new downtown streetscape project, which includes new brick sidewalks, light posts and traffic lights.

• Employees at the local Pilot Flying J travel centers celebrated the holidays with students from the Max Meadows Head Start program. For months, employees collected money from customers, who plopped dollar bills and coins into jars sitting on store counters. In all, they raised nearly $7,000 to spend on 55 children, who received toys, gloves, blankets and more.

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