Top 16: Tornado Hits, Smithsonian Fraud, School Rankings, Dulles Tolls and Mark Wahlberg

Top news of the week from our Patches around Virginia and DC.


Patch has 31 community sites in Virginia and D.C. Here are some of the top stories from around the region over the past week. 

16. Mark Wahlberg Visits: Actor Mark Wahlberg visited T.C. Williams High School on Wednesday morning for an assembly presented by Get Schooled, a nonprofit that aims to engage high school students in an effort to improve graduation rates and empower more students to achieve in college. “I had to work really hard to get where I’m at,” Wahlberg said. “And I don’t mind working really hard to try and maintain it."

15. Runner Pledges 30 Races: Arlington resident Lauren Bailey is halfway through a personal challenge that has been daunting and exhilarating — running 30 races in one year, the year of her 30th birthday.

14. New Rowing Boathouses: The National Park Service envisions a range of uses and densities in the potential development of a non-motorized boathouse zone for the Georgetown waterfront that could include room for multiple rowing programs or leave the area relatively undeveloped. The most dense proposal would add about 117,000 gross square feet of new space for use by boating enthusiasts, local high schools, universities and others.

13. Dulles Toll Road Fees: Lower-than-expected bids for Phase 2 of Metro's Silver Line mean the savings may be passed to drivers of the Dulles Toll Road. Drivers have been concerned about predicted huge spikes over the next 10-20 years to help pay for the part of the rail that will run from Reston to Ashburn.

12. Teen Singer-Songwriter: George Marshall High School junior Sammy Hakim, 17, will be graduating early and chasing her dream: a career in music. Hakim writes pop songs. Her recent single, “Mark Me,” got her nominated for New Music Weekly’s “New Top 40 Artist” and “Breakthrough Artist” awards, and her tune “Fearless” is a finalist in the International Song Competition. An accomplished singer, Hakim also plays the guitar, piano, violin and drums. She’s currently learning to play the mandolin.

11. Arlington Food Trucks: Food trucks now are allowed to park in the same space, where allowed, for up to two hours. The Arlington County Board also loosened the language in the regulations that have confined food trucks to locate within 1,200 feet of a Metro station. Now, they are allowed to park in more general vending areas around Metro stops.

10. School RankingsFairfax County is home to the Top 5 public high schools in Virginia, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s 2013 Best High Schools rankings. U.S. News generated the rankings by looking at students’ performance on standardized tests and how successfully schools educated black, Hispanic and low-income students. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology was once again ranked the top school in Virginia. It was ranked No. 4 of all schools nationally, down from its No. 2 post in 2012.

9. Seasonal Allergies: In the Northern Virginia-Washington, D.C. area, maple, cedar/juniper, birch, alder and ash trees are in bloom and contributing most of the pollen flying around, according to Pollen.com. Allergist Dr. Talal Nsouli, a professor of Pediatrics and Allergy/Immunology at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and current White House allergy consultant, says there are three ways to battle seasonal allergies: avoid pollen and mold; take allergy medicine and, if that doesn’t work, opt for allergy shots.

8. Sexual Assault in Home: A man broke inside a Centreville woman's home April 21 and sexually assaulted her, Fairfax County Police said. Around 3 a.m., the 27-year-old woman was asleep inside her home on Winding Oak Circle. She woke up to find that a man had gotten into the home and was sexually assaulting her, police said. When she challenged him, he fled on foot. 

7. Woodson Student Dies: W.T. Woodson High School junior Ethan Griffith died unexpectedly Tuesday evening, officials said. Woodson High School principal Jeff Yost said in a statement Wednesday that Griffith was a good student and well-liked. "He will be greatly missed," Yost wrote. "Our thoughts are with the Griffith family during this extremely difficult time." His family invited the community to an event to celebrate his life and suggested donations to suicide prevention. 

6. Same-Gender Blessing: Christ Church, the parish home of George Washington, celebrated its first same-gender blessing April 21. “As an Episcopal faith community, we witnessed and asked God's blessings upon the lifelong commitment Melissa Capers and Brunilda Hernandez have made to one another," said the Rev. Ann Gillespie, Christ Church senior associate rector who officiated at the service. "As a congregation, we are taking a historic and faithful step closer to the inclusive, abundant, generous outpouring of God's kingdom.”

5. Mass Shooting Attempt: Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 45 years in prison for a Herndon man who attempted a mass shooting at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. last August. Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, entered the building just before 11 a.m. on Aug. 15, 2012, armed with a gun. Corkins allegedly pointed the gun at a security guard in the lobby, who then tackled him. Corkins shot the security guard in the arm during a struggle, but, though injured, the guard eventually managed to wrestle the gun away from Corkins and subdue him until the D.C. police arrived.

4. Murder-For-Hire: An Annapolis man accused of trying to hire a hitman from Virginia to kill his wife pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder this week. Wendell Brian Mansel pleaded guilty on Monday in Loudoun County Circuit Court in Virginia to multiple crimes, including three counts of conspiracy to commit murder, criminal solicitation to commit a felony and use of a firearm in commission of a felony, according to The Capital Gazette.

3. Toddler's Death Trial: A Manassas City father charged with first-degree murder in the drowning death of his young son is expected to face a grand jury this spring after a judge's ruling this week. Joaquin Shadow Rams, 40, of Landgreen Street in the City of Manassas, is , in October 2012. Court documents released in February show that Manassas City Police detectives accuse Rams of taking out a life insurance policy on the boy — and falsely claiming the tot's mother was dead.

2. $1.4 Million Parking Fraud: A parking lot manager at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly pleaded guilty last week to conspiring to steal $1.4 million skimmed from parking fees, according to a news release from the FBI Washington office. Abeselom Hailemariam, 33, of Alexandria was an employee of Parking Management Inc., or PMI, when he conspired to steal the money, from March 2009 to July 2012 with attendants he supervised. He will be sentenced July 19 and faces up to five years in prison.

1. Fredericksburg Tornado: (Photos.) An EF-1 tornado in Fredericksburg and intense straight-line winds in Spotsylvania damaged homes and left thousands without power April 19. The tornado touched down at 6:36 p.m. at the Westwood Shopping Plaza, with peak winds at 90 miles-per-hour, ripping off roofing materials and ventilation units, according to the National Weather Service. "It traveled northeast through a residential area, uprooting and topping trees and causing roofing damage," according to the report.


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