Rape, murder, kiddie porn and more

More 2007 year in Review

The year of the blueprint (not the bulldozer)
2007 development news in review

Nukes, Fines, C.A.R.S., Pigs and parks
2007 Government news in review

One new school, gobs of cash, but no A&S dean
2007 UVA news in review

Charlottesville and Albemarle saw three murders committed, one serial rapist caught and a whole host of men messing around sexually with minors (real or digital, as the case may be). County criminals got a new nemesis in the prosecutor’s office, while future city criminals should take note: If you do your dirty work on the Downtown Mall, the city police may be recording.

Nathan Antonio Washington pleaded guilty to four city charges of sexual assault after his DNA was matched to the serial rapist’s.

Locked up at last: Serial rapist case solved

The year 2006 ended frustratingly for area police when it came to nabbing the serial rapist, at large for almost 10 years. That December, Crimestoppers earmarked $20,000 for anyone who could help them find the identity of a man suspected of seven area sexual assaults.

Previous coverage:

Washington gets four life terms
Albemarle man pleads guilty in serial rapist cases

Serial rape suspect linked to a third attack
DNA match made to 1997 Waynesboro motel assault

Grand jury indicts Washington
City expects to request additional charges in other area attacks

Rapist suspect tried in the media
Washington linked to serial rapes in varying degrees of guilt

County man arrested in two sexual attacks
Local media offer conflicting reports, link arrest to serial rapist

In August, police got that help when a 2004 victim recognized her assailant. She was able to get his license plate number, which led area police to set up undercover surveillance on their suspect. On August 1, 2007, a member of the serial rapist task force followed the suspect into the Barracks Road Burger King, where she retrieved a cup he drank from out of the trash. The preliminary DNA that police obtained from the cup matched that of the serial rapist.

Twelve days later, police arrested Nathan Antonio Washington at his Albemarle County home. On August 16, police publicly confirmed that they had matched his DNA with two of the seven attacks. Four months later, Washington walked into Charlottesville Circuit Court in shackles and pleaded guilty to four sexual assaults in the City of Charlottesville and to a breaking and entering charge in Albemarle County. Under the plea agreement, Washington will be sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison, with an additional 20-year term for the charge in the county.

The plea effectively ended in a mere fortnight what had plagued the police for nearly a decade. "Final sentencing will be an end to the formal legal proceedings," said Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman, "but it’s not an end to the trauma that the victims have suffered in these cases."

Grisly business: arrests in two of three local murders

A 48-year-old man died at UVA Hospital on April 24, succumbing to injuries from a robbery and beating at the Wood Grill Buffet two weeks earlier. The untimely death of William Godsey of Schuyler marked the first county murder of 2007. Godsey was accompanying his wife, an employee of the Wood Grill Buffet off Route 29N, out of the building after closing around 1:30am when the pair were badly beaten by two men wearing ski masks. The suspects stole a bank deposit with a sum of cash and then escaped in a dark-colored sedan. Police have yet to make any arrests.

Meanwhile, a Charlottesville man faces the death penalty in Buckingham County for charges stemming from the March 9 shooting of Clarence Maurice Austin, whose body was dumped along a rural road off Route 20. Two other men face life in prison for abduction, robbery and murder charges. Theodore Calvin Timberlake of Charlottesville, and two accomplices were seen riding with Austin in a black Crown Victoria along Route 20 in Buckingham County, when the three got out and shot Austin, according to published police accounts.

In late July, Jason Scott Marshman was arrested in New York and extradited to Charlottesville in September for the fatal shooting of a 28-year-old city man in June. William Miller Herndon was found unresponsive with multiple gunshot wounds around the Westhaven housing project (neither man was a resident). He later died at UVA Hospital. Marshman was indicted for first degree murder in December, with a trial scheduled for March 2008.

William Douglas Gentry (left), 22, and his 18-year-old cousin, Michael Stuart Pritchett, have been arrested for the murder of Jayne Warren McGowan.

In November, one of two men arrested for the fall murder of 26-year-old Jayne Warren McGowan revealed his role in her death. According to a police search warrant affidavit, 18-year-old Michael Stuart Pritchett said that he and his 22-year-old cousin, William Douglas Gentry, planned to rob McGowan at her St. Clair Avenue home. After knocking on her door, McGowan answered, said, "No," and backed toward a couch, where Gentry shot her. While Pritchett was in another room, he said he heard more shots and then returned to the living room, also shooting her on the way out.

Bad education: When schools and sex shouldn’t meet

A recent Washington Post article reported that "Cybercrime, the majority of which involves child pornography, is now the FBI’s third-highest priority," right behind counterterrorism and counterintelligence. Charlottesville proved no exception, as the year both began and ended with the sentencing of high school personnel for child-related online crimes.

Former Albemarle High School JV girls’ soccer coach Raja Charles Jabbour was arrested in April 2006, when police discovered hundreds of files of child pornography on his computer and found chats in which he convinced a 12-year-old girl to commit sex acts and transmit them to him via webcam. A Lebanese national, Jabbour pleaded guilty in February. His agreement mandated that he will serve nine years in prison, then be deported from the country.

Former Western Albemarle High teacher Richard Neal Willetts (left) received 10 years for enticing a minor, while former Charlottesville High choir director Jonathan Spivey will serve 21 months for having sex with students.

In March, former Western Albemarle teacher Richard Neal Willetts was arrested for charges stemming from a series of graphic sexual e-mails written to a male student who was 15 at the time. While the teacher pleaded guilty to a federal charge of coercion and enticement of a minor and will serve 10 years, his September 17 plea allowed him to avoid a more serious charge of child exploitation, which carries a potential penalty of 15 to 30 years in prison. "The Federal criminal justice system has made inappropriate electronic communications with young people severely punishable, even if nothing happens," a letter from his attorney noted.

That month ended with the sentencing of a Charlottesville High chorus teacher who pleaded guilty in June to four charges of sexual misconduct with CHS students, committed the old-fashioned way. Jonathan Spivey was indicted by a grand jury the previous November on seven counts of custodial indecent liberties with a minor, stemming from a series of incidents with four former students, all male, spanning almost six years. In his agreement, Spivey pleaded guilty to one such incident and was sentenced to 21 months, the rest of his possible 20 years suspended.

While Spivey was CHS choir director for 15 years, he was also an ordained pastor and music director at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, where recently re-elected School Board member Edwards is pastor. Regardless of any seeming conflict, Edwards appeared in court on behalf of Spivey. "I’m his pastor," Edwards said to C-VILLE as a means of explanation.

Streets is watching (at least those Downtown)

In June of this year, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo turned in a proposal to have some 30 security cameras installed on the Downtown Mall for the sum of $300,000. "I think [cameras are] highly effective in areas that have heavily populated pedestrian foot traffic," the chief told C-VILLE, "where you have a large number of people who come to congregate to enjoy amenities." A former colonel with the Baltimore Police Department, Longo was on hand to witness that city’s 1996 adoption of what were initially only 16 cameras. Nine years later, Baltimore instituted a citywide network of full-color closed circuit (CCTV) cameras that pan, zoom, tilt and are actively monitored by police.

Previous coverage:

Mall Cameras move forward …barely
City approves revised CCTV plan despite Mayor

They see you, but can you see them?
Surveillance camera policy raises questions of access, oversight

Police use video in investigations
Seek O.K. from property owners to install cameras

Of cameras and cannabis
$300K for Mall surveillance goes to bid

Looking into Baltimore, London cameras
As city considers Mall cameras, data inconclusive on effectiveness

Longo discusses cameras on the Mall
Downtown Mall to become an even better spot to “see and be seen”

A town as left-leaning as Charlottesville was bound to feel unease at such a prospect, and even if city councilors’ initial reaction was one of caution, Downtown business owners embraced the idea, especially after a rash of assaults near the Mall by the so-called "white t-shirt gang." Even as the proposal moved forward, Longo confirmed that his department currently installs cameras on private businesses and residences that, depending on the circumstance, could be actively or retroactively monitored as a part of specific investigations. "We’ve always used video as part of investigations," Longo said.

While video evidence comes in handy after the fact, its role in crime prevention is disputed. That combined with general civil liberty concerns seemed to spell the end for video surveillance in Charlottesville until Councilor Kevin Lynch suggested a camera system that, unlike the original, would not feed into a centralized system. Instead, Council approved a plan for individual cameras that could be moved between different locations as their use dictated. "I’m just personally uneasy with public surveillance," said Mayor David Brown, the only councilor to vote against the revised plan. "It’s not something that makes me feel comfortable moving forward with."

Jim Camblos and the horrible, terrible, no good, very bad year

For Jim Camblos, 2007 started with a dream and ended with a nightmare. The four-term county Commonwealth’s Attorney had hopes to fill the seat of Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Paul M. Peatross, who retired at the end of January. The General Assembly passed him by, however, in favor of local attorney Cheryl Higgins, who became the first female judge on the Albemarle Circuit Court.

Jim Camblos wouldn’t say what he’ll be up to when Denise Lunsford takes over as county Commonwealth’s Attorney.

When local campaign season got underway, Camblos had another female attorney to contend with. Seasoned criminal defense lawyer Denise Lunsford challenged the bow-tie clad Camblos, who clung to his experience as Lunsford attacked just that, accusing him of being unprepared for his cases. If he was so bad, Camblos countered, why did three attorneys from the city Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office join his staff?

Lunsford surprised Camblos in November, winning with 53 percent of the vote. Lunsford recently announced that she would be retaining three of the four assistant prosecutors. "I’m actually really excited to get there, to start this work, finish the transition and get to where I need to be so that I can start doing some of the things I’ve planned on," Lunsford told C-VILLE. Camblos, on the other hand, declined to divulge his plans. "That’s personal," he said.

Findings 2007

Albemarle County sheriff candidate (and eventual elect) Chip Harding is one of the top U.S. police officers of the year, according to Parade magazine, for his DNA database work. Despite warning of growing local gang activity, and local media stoking the fires of fear, neither county nor city received any funds to fight gang activity, nor are they sure they could make use of them. Virginia gives harsher penalties for serving alcohol to minors (see: Elisa Kelly and George Robinson) than for sex with minors (see: Jonathan Spivey, above). The trial of kiddie-porn-accused, neo-Nazi Kevin Strom proved that masturbating in front of a computer isn’t against the law.

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