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Week in Loudoun

Searching for Bank Robber

<bt>The search continues for an unknown suspect involved in an attempted bank robbery Monday morning near Great Falls.

Investigators have released still photos of the suspect taken from the bank surveillance camera in hopes someone will be able to identify him. The man walked into the BB&T bank in the Great Falls Plaza shopping center shortly after 11 a.m. and handed a teller a note. The teller was apparently unable to decipher the note and the suspect walked over to another bank employee. The suspect showed a firearm under his jacket and apparently became frustrated when he was unable to get his message across, leaving the bank empty-handed. He is believed to have fled the area on foot. The suspect is described as being dark skinned, possibly of Middle Eastern decent. He was wearing a baseball hat, a jacket with stripes down the arms, and glasses at the time of the incident. Anyone who has information about this case is asked to contact Investigator Koontz of the Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division at 703-777-0475. To remain anonymous, contact Loudoun County Crime Solvers at 703-777-01919 or 1-877-777-1931. Information leading to an arrest and indictment could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

<sh>Bait Car Nabs First Suspect

<bt>A Leesburg man is the first suspect to be caught in a Sheriff's Office bait car after he allegedly stole the specially equipped vehicle Monday morning. Joseph Holbrook, 30, was arrested by members of the Metropolitan Police Department and has been charged locally with grand larceny. The Loudoun County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received a signal around 12:30 a.m. that a bait car had been entered and was running. ECC personnel notified officers in the area of the alarm and Sheriff's deputies with the assistance of the Leesburg Police Department searched the southwest quadrant of Leesburg where the car had been positioned.

The suspect was tracked through Arlington County and into Washington, D.C. where he was located on P Street and Canal Road and police arrested him. The Bait Vehicle Program is the latest strategy in the Auto Theft Unit's fight against car thieves. The bait car system is installed in commonly stolen vehicles parked in areas that suffer from a large number of auto thefts. The Bait Car systems were paid for through asset forfeitures, which is money or property seized by the Vice/Narcotics Unit, and the program comes at no cost to the taxpayer.

<sh>Accident Sends Three to Hospitals

<bt>A Purcellville man on a motorcycle was injured last week on Wednesday morning after a three-vehicle accident on Evergreen Mills Road near Shreve Mill Road. Robert Curtis, Jr. 39, of Georgia was driving a 1999 GMC Sierra southbound on Evergreen Mills Road when for unknown reasons his vehicle crossed over into the northbound lanes striking the cab area of a 2001 GMC Sonoma. The impact sent the Sonoma into the southbound lane towards an oncoming 2002 Harley Davidson Motorcycle. The rider of the motorcycle, Eduardo Mendez, 41, realizing he was not going to be able to stop laid down his motorcycle and ended up near the shoulder of the roadway. Fire and rescue units from Leesburg, Loudoun Rescue, Arcola and Loudoun County were dispatched to the scene shortly before 9 a.m. Upon their arrival, units discovered one of the vehicles involved in the accident on fire. Mendez was airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital where he was treated for minor injuries and was to be released. Curtis and the driver of the driver of the Sonoma were taken by ambulance to the Loudoun Hospital Cornwall Campus with non-life threatening injuries. Curtis has been charged with reckless driving and driving on a suspended license.

<sh>Ashburn Park Closed

<bt>Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services (PRCS) has announced the temporary closure of Ashburn Park located at 43645 Partlow Road in Ashburn. The property is closed for safety servicing and renovations including the replacement of two aging playground units. It is anticipated that the park will reopen to the public by late May, pending weather conditions during the renovations. The public is asked to refrain from all use of the playground areas during this closure in order to ensure their own safety. For more information, contact the Facilities Maintenance Division of PRCS at 703-771-5608.

<sh>Countywide Litter Problem

<bt>Loudoun County officials say a special cleanup of Route 621 that yielded more than 1,200 pounds of litter is dramatic evidence of a countywide problem. Over a two-day period last week, workers on a five-and-a-half-mile section of Route 621 picked up 1,280 pounds of litter, including soda bottles, beer cans, food wrappers, construction materials, cardboard boxes and tires, equaling one pound of litter for every 23 feet of roadway. As the operator of the Loudoun County Landfill on Rt. 621, the Office of Solid Waste Management has sponsored these special cleanups in partnership with area residents, who often pick up roadside litter, and the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, which can cite vehicles operating with unsecured loads. Drivers are reminded to prevent litter by keeping a litter bag or container in their vehicle and to secure their loads as they travel to the Solid Waste Management Facility to prevent blowing materials from their vehicles. For more information on litter prevention opportunities in Loudoun County, visit the Loudoun County website at www.loudoun.gov/oswm/litter.htm.

<sh>Gang Meeting Scheduled

<bt>Attorney General Jerry Kilgore will host a community awareness program on gang activity on Tuesday, March 23 at Ida Lee Recreational Center, 60 Ida Lee Drive, N.W., in Leesburg, beginning at 7 p.m. Members of the Attorney General's Anti-Gang Task Force will be on hand and the Attorney General's staff will make a presentation on gang activity following remarks by Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. The event is open to the public.

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<sh>Man Indicted in 1995 Homicide Case

<bt> A 25-year-old Manassas man who once entered a guilty plea in a plea bargain that reduced a 1995 murder charge of his

grandmother to voluntary manslaughter was indicted in Loudoun County Circuit Court Monday on the charge of murder. In August of 1995, James Harris, who was 16 at the time, was arrested and charged with the murder of Edith Wanzer, his 60-year-old grandmother. Harris was initially indicted on first-degree murder charges in February of 1996 but would later plead guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years. The entire sentence was suspended except for 6 months in jail. Harris would subsequently be released in January of 2001 based upon a motion brought forth by his attorneys to vacate and dismiss the conviction citing a now overturned Virginia Supreme Court ruling called the Baker decision. The Virginia Supreme Court had then ruled that both parents of a juvenile needed to be served with written notice of juvenile court proceedings against their child, and failure to do so constituted a lack of jurisdiction.

According to Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney James P. Fisher the ruling affected Virginia criminal justice system when many juveniles, tried as adults who had been long since convicted, began researching the procedural technicality of how notice to their parents was handled by the juvenile court. A Loudoun court relied upon the now overturned ruling and found that only Harris' mother was notified of the court proceedings.

Thus the case against Harris was vacated and dismissed setting Harris free altogether. The Baker decision would be modified and overturned in the subsequent case of Nelson v. Warden, which allowed prosecutors throughout the state to again prosecute individuals who had their cases dismissed on the technicality. The Commonwealth Attorney's Office decided to indict Harris after reviewing the case file with Sheriff's Investigators. Harris now stands indicted for murder, which was the original charge before the 1996 plea bargain that reduced the charge to manslaughter. Harris is being held without bond. At the time of the murder Harris lived with his grandmother when she disappeared from their North Sterling Boulevard home. She was reported missing by her husband on June 20, 1995. Harris is alleged to have murdered his grandmother after an altercation at the residence. Wanzer's body was discovered in a field near Park View High School on July 9 of that year by cadaver dogs.

<sh>Missing Woman Found

<bt>A Sterling woman who had been missing since March 5 was determined by Sheriff's Investigators to be safe and sound in Pennsylvania. Jennifer Schall, 30, left the area on her own accord and is no longer considered to be missing. Schall had been reported missing by family members after she did not return home.

<sh>Ashburn Teen Tried, Convicted

<bt>An Ashburn teenager was tried and convicted by a jury March 8 on three charges stemming from an accidental shooting in Sterling last summer. Justin Ashby, 19, was in the downstairs living room of a home in the 20800 block of Quay Lane on Aug. 17, when he accidentally discharged a firearm into the ceiling. The projectile traveled through the ceiling, the flooring and the bed before striking a 20-year-old Sterling man who was sleeping in his upstairs bedroom. Ashby assisted the victim into a vehicle and attempted to take him to the hospital. As they were traveling down Lansdowne Boulevard the vehicle, driven by Ashby, ran off of the roadway and rolled over near the emergency entrance of Loudoun Hospital. The victim then walked to the emergency room. Officials from Loudoun Hospital alerted Sheriff's Deputies of the incident after the victim arrived at the Lansdowne Campus shortly after 3:30 a.m. suffering from a single gunshot wound. The victim was later taken to and treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Ashby has been convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, reckless handling of a firearm, and discharge a firearm in an occupied dwelling. He is currently being held at the Loudoun Adult Detention Center without bond.

<sh>Three Face Charges in Bomb Threats

<bt>Three female high school students are facing charges for their involvement in several bomb threats that were called in to Stone Bridge High School last week. The students, two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old all attend Stone Bridge, and were identified after the school received several more threats on Tuesday morning.

Sheriff's deputies are continuing to investigate the threats and the possibility remains of other subjects being charged in the incident. The Sheriff's Office is currently reviewing the case with the Commonwealth Attorney's Office and charges are pending.