Big pot bust, AccessUVA, Alexis Murphy: News briefs

Marijuana seized by authorities in Fluvanna. Photo: Virginia State Police Marijuana seized by authorities in Fluvanna. Photo: Virginia State Police

Check daily and pick up a copy of the paper Wednesdays for the latest Charlottesville and Albemarle news briefs and stories. Here’s a quick look at some of what we’ve had an eye on for the past week.

Gone to pot

Virginia State Police made a major dent in local pot production in a two-county bust that netted the arrest of two men, a million dollars of marijuana, more than 40 weapons, and $14,000 in cash. According to a police press release, the men, Floyd J. Suddarth, 65, of Fluvanna, and David C. Ragland Jr., 64, of Schuyler, were arrested in early October and have both been charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute. Suddarth is also charged with possessing a gun and marijuana.

The arrests came after state police received a tip that led them to discover 110 plants between 10′ and 12′ high growing off Kidds Dairy Road in Fluvanna. Police estimate the street value of those plants at $330,000. Additional searches of Ragland and Suddarth’s homes yielded another 172 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value of $602,000 (a per-ounce cost of nearly $220), along with the weapons and cash.

Both men are being held in the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange, and are scheduled for preliminary hearings on December 17 in Fluvanna County District Court.

Correction: David Camm Ragland Jr. does not have a previous conviction in Nelson County. That is a different David Camm Ragland.

AccessUVA gets chopped 

In an effort to reverse the ballooning costs of AccessUVA, the nine-year-old program that provides grants to low-income students, the UVA Board of Visitors has voted to replace $7,000 in grant aid with loans for new students starting in 2014, according to The Daily Progress. The cost of the program had nearly quadrupled from $11 million in 2004, its first year, to $40 million this year.

Critics of the cut include current AccessUVA students, who will not be affected by the change, but who believe reduced assistance will discourage poor students from attending UVA, which is already rated one of the least socioeconomically diverse public institutions in the nation by the New America Foundation.

UVA spokesperson McGregor McCance defended the move as necessary to prevent the program’s future costs from soaring, and President Teresa Sullivan expressed hope that additional cuts won’t be necessary. She hopes to start an endowment that will permanently support AccessUVA, she told the Progress, and she put her money where her mouth is by promptly donating her own 2 percent raise to AccessUVA.

Alexis Murphy search continues, another girl missing

Nearly four months after 17-year-old Nelson County teen Alexis Murphy vanished on August 3 after tweeting she was going to Lynchburg, her friends and family conducted a search on Sunday, December 1, scouring the stretch of Route 29 between the Liberty gas station in Lovingston, where Murphy was spotted on surveillance video the day she disappeared, and the property on which suspect Randy Taylor lived, according to The Daily Progress. Searchers, who included members of Murphy’s family, were briefly asked to leave the property by Louisa Turner, the mother of Taylor’s son. Turner’s mother owns the property, according to Nelson County property records, and after a tense encounter between Turner and searchers described by the Progess, Turner permitted the search to go on.

Two days before the search for Murphy, another 18-year-old woman vanished from Lynchburg, about 30 minutes south of Shipman, where Murphy lived. Jamisha Gilbert was last seen by friendson Friday morning, November 29, according to accounts in the Lynchburg News & Advance. Her car, a 2002 burgundy Honda Accord, was found wrecked several hours after she was last seen. Authorities suspect foul play and have set up a hotline for tips in Lynchburg at (434)455-4090.

New Northside Library design gets nod from county review board

The Northside Library is one step closer to getting a new home in a Rio Road warehouse.

In a Monday meeting, the Albemarle County Architectural Review Board granted conditional approval of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library’s plans to move the Northside Branch—the county’s busiest library—from its overcrowded storefront in Albemarle Square to a three-acre property on West Rio Road that used to house part of Phillips Building Supply. Officials originally sought approval of their plans for the $11.8 million project in September, but were sent back to the drawing board to make design changes.

Ohio-based architecture firm HBN’s updated design features a blue-and-yellow facade that drew criticism from some observers at the meeting, according to Charlottesville Tomorrow. But despite the criticism and some concern from the board’s chair about the affordability of the project, CT reported the ARB cleared the plans, pending further review of a proposed book drop-off.

Library officials hope to break ground in February and open the new library by next October.—C-VILLE writers