PARKERSBURG — The 2022 stories that drew the most views at NewsandSentinel.com included reports on crimes, politics and a couple of celebrity visits to the Mid-Ohio Valley.
The most viewed story on the site was a May 20 article about an arrest in the shooting death of Terrance Mills Jr., 26, of Parkersburg. Parkersburg Police found him bleeding in the 1400 block of Covert Street, and he succumbed to his wounds at WVU Medicine Camden Clark.
Dezaray Lynn Roberts, 22, of Vienna, was arrested the following day on a charge of first-degree murder, after police alleged she contacted Mills to set up a drug transaction where two men planned to rob him. She reportedly told police she heard shouting and gunshots, then fled the scene after the men got in her Jeep.
Those suspects — Justin Keel, 21, of Columbus, and Donovan Tyler McCune, 23, of Parkersburg — were charged under sealed grand jury indictment and arrested in November. Parkersburg Police said they had gotten their names the night of the shooting but spent the time in between then and the arrests corroborating the identifications and gathering evidence, including cell phone records.
Roberts pleaded guilty on Dec. 19 to a charge of first-degree robbery and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. She has agreed to testify against Keel and McCune when they go to trial in the spring.
Next was a September story reporting that 66.1% of respondents to a poll commissioned by Jackson County radio station WMOV had an unfavorable opinion of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the wake of his support for the Inflation Reduction Act. After opposing President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill over concerns about adding to inflation and the national debt, Manchin continued to negotiate with the White House and congressional Democratic leaders.
Part of the compromise was an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to advance legislation aimed at reforming the permitting process for natural gas wells and pipelines, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia. But as 2022 came to a close, that hadn’t materialized.
Manchin’s seat is on the ballot in 2024, and, if he decides to run for another term, potential Republican challengers include Rep. Alex Mooney and Gov. Jim Justice. The poll, conducted in August, showed Justice beating Manchin 49.5% to 36.2%.
A January interview with the daughter of beloved comedic actor and Morgantown native Don Knotts in advance of her show at the Smoot Theatre was the subject of the third most-viewed story.
Karen Knotts took the stage March 12, sharing behind-the-scenes stories about her father’s career and her life and sharing video clips and rare footage of Don Knotts.
“She really got a rise from the audience when she talked about her dad,” said Felice Jorgeson, head volunteer at the Smoot.. “It was good.”
A former general store in Cottageville being featured on a January episode of the History Channel’s popular “American Pickers” series was the subject of the fourth most viewed story. Brad and Bruce Hunt, grandsons of Hunt’s General Store founder Lawrence Otho “L.O.” Hunt, welcomed Mike and Robbie Wolfe from the show to search for antique treasures and discuss the history of the store, which opened in the 1930s.
A feature about a Mineral Wells couple living in a tiny house — 16 by 20 feet — drew the fifth-highest number of views. Andrew and Angie Florence discussed focusing on needs over wants, using space efficiently and efforts to live off the grid, with their electricity generated by solar cells and wood-fired heating
A fatal July 1 boating accident was the subject of the sixth most-viewed story. A boat was having engine trouble on the Ohio River between Washington, W.Va., and Little Hocking, and family members came out on another craft to help and tow the first boat back to shore. But a thunderstorm struck the area, limiting visibility, and a barge coming through the area struck one of the boats.
Multiple people reportedly jumped into the river, one of whom went missing and whose body was later recovered. The deceased was identified as 80-year-old Jackie Jones of Lancaster, Ohio.
The incident remains under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard, which was looking into the involvement of the commercial vessel. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources was the lead agency for the death, and a final report was not immediately available this week.
A report on 82 people being indicted in May by the Wood County Grand Jury was the seventh most-viewed story. The indictments included then-26-year-old Parkersburg resident Joseph Michael Wolfe, charged with seven counts of wanton endangerment involving a firearm. In August 2021, he allegedly fired multiple shots in a Seventh Street, Parkersburg, bar after getting into a fight there, although no one was struck.
In August of this year, Wolfe pleaded guilty to one of the counts, with the others dismissed as part of a plea agreement. He was sentenced Dec. 13 to five years in prison, with the sentence suspended for five years probation.
Also among those indicted were Marietta residents Megan Cheyenne Roach, 29 at the time, and Dylan Lee Riley, 35 at the time, who were the subject of the eighth most viewed story, about drug arrests in two separate incidents.
Roach and Riley were pulled over on Robert Byrd Highway near Interstate 77 for a light outage and found in possession of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia, according to court documents. They were indicted in May on three counts each of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy to commit possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and one count each of conspiracy to commit maintaining a vehicle for keeping controlled substances. Roach was also charged with maintaining a vehicle for keeping or selling controlled substances.
In August, Roach pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance, fentanyl, with intent to deliver, less than 5 grams (a lesser included offense) and one count of conspiracy. She was sentenced to 13 to 25 years in prison, suspended for four years of probation.
That same month, Riley pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, and conspiracy. His sentencing was continued in October while he participated in an inpatient substance abuse treatment program.
Also included in that story was the arrest of Kyle Roger Johnson, 35 at the time, of Mineral Wells, after about 15 grams of methamphetamine were found in his car following a Feb. 2 accident in Parkersburg. Wood County Magistrate Court records show he waived a preliminary hearing in September but he has not been indicted at this time.
The ninth most-viewed story focused on West Virginia receiving its second tranche of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, a $677 million allotment that brought the total to $1.35 billion. Funding has been allocated to broadband expansion efforts, the creation of a $250 million Economic Enhancement Fund to assist with infrastructure projects that have come in over budget due to rising costs (the Parkersburg Utility Board has sought assistance with wastewater treatment plant improvements through this), child care stabilization payments through the Department of Health and Human Resources and more.
Municipalities and counties have also received millions of dollars in ARPA funds, which can be use to support public health response to COVID-19; replace lost public sector revenue; fund water, sewer and broadband infrastructure; address negative economic impacts of the pandemic; and provide premium pay to essential workers. Money must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent no later than Dec. 31, 2026.
An August story about a police pursuit that started in Belpre and ended in Parkersburg rounded out the top 10.
Michael Westfall, 50, of Coolville, was arrested after the chase, in which Wood County Sheriff Rick Woodyard and Chief Deputy Mike Deem were in an accident with a vehicle not involved in the pursuit while assisting near West Virginia 95 and Gihon Road. A Belpre Police officer had attempted to pull Westfall over after an automated camera alerted the department as a car reported stolen out of Athens County entered the city from Parkersburg.
The pursuit eventually reached Camden Avenue, where it struck a guardrail and sustained two flat tires before stopping at the GoMart in the 1800 block, where Westfall was arrested. He was indicted on two counts of fleeing with reckless indifference resulting in injury and possession of a stolen vehicle in November and remains in custody at the Northern Regional Jail in Marshall County.
Evan Bevins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.