News in 5: Williamsburg Regional Library ranked among top libraries in U.S

Plus: Two people from Williamsburg have been charged in a human trafficking case, Newport News is kicking off a Holiday Home Lights Tour and William & Mary’s historic football season came to an end.

Good morning!

We can expect chilly weather again today, with highs only in the 40s, according to Meteorologist Myles Henderson of WTKR News 3. Thursday will bring warmer temperatures – but also widespread rain and wind.

The weekend is expected to be dry and seasonably cool, but the breezy conditions will continue.

A quick note:As some of you may have heard, Bulletin – the platform this newsletter is currently published on – is going away in early January. As a result, The Triangle will soon be moving to a new publishing platform. You won’t need to do anything, though. All subscribers will continue receiving my emails automatically, and I’ll also be launching a new website in the next few weeks. More details to come soon.

Now to the news.

-Christin

1. Williamsburg Regional Library was nationally recognized as one of the top public libraries in the U.S.

  • Williamsburg Regional Library (WRL) has again been recognized as one of the top public libraries in the country by Library Journal, a prestigious national publication.
  • Out of 5,359 public libraries in the U.S qualified to be ranked in 2022, WRL is among just 4.8% of public libraries given a Star Library status by the magazine. The library has made this list 12 times since the Library Journal began this ranking system in 2007.
    • The Williamsburg Regional Library system consists of the Williamsburg Library on Scotland St. in Williamsburg, the James City County Library on Croaker Rd. in James City County, the Stryker Center on N. Boundary St. in Williamsburg and its Mobile Library Service vehicles. WRL’s service area includes the City of Williamsburg, James City County and York County.
  • The Library Journal‘s star ratings are assignedbased on several key metrics, including circulation of library materials per capita, number of visits to the library, program attendance and computer and WiFi use.

“We are honored to join only five other libraries in Virginia to receive a Star Library rating this year,” said Library Director Betsy Fowler. “Receiving recognition from Library Journal for so many years solidifies how WRL plays a vital role in inspiring the citizens of the Historic Triangle through innovative programming, materials, and services.”

Families spend time in the Kiwanis Kids Idea Studio in the James City County Library, funded by Friends of WRL. WRL was recently recognized as one of the top library systems in the nation by Library Journal, a prestigious national publication. (Photo courtesy of Williamsburg Regional Library).

2. Four people have been charged in a human trafficking case connected to a Williamsburg-based business.

  • Four people – including two from Williamsburg – have been charged in connection to a human trafficking case at a commercial laundry business, according to a Department of Justice news release.
    • Ana Patricia Landaverde, 47, and Jeffrey Dean Vaughan, 64, both of Williamsburg, were arrested by U.S Marshalls last week for engaging in conspiracy to harbor, transport and benefit from the employment of undocumented citizens at their commercial laundry business. George Williams Evan, 68, of Midlothian, was also charged in the case. The business involved in the indictment is known as Magnolia Cleaning Services, LLC.
    • Between 2018 and 2022, Magnolia employed 121 employees with invalid or mismatched social security members, according to the business’s wage records. Wage payments of more than $1.2 million were given to these employees, documents show.
  • According to the indictment, Landaverde, Vaughan and Evans allegedly participated in human trafficking of labor from Central America and benefitted from that forced labor. A fourth, previously unnamed defendant – now identified by numerous different aliases including “Rodrigo Sis Reyes” – is also said to have aided in the operation by acting as an illegal supplier of fraudulent ID documents for the immigrants, such as social security cards.

“One victim is alleged to have been brought to the United States when she was only 13 years old and forced to work nights while also attending school during the day,” the release states. “Allegations also include another victim being made to work under threats of deportation, physical violence, and other misuse of law and process.”

  • The 13-year-old victim alleges the suspects hit her with a belt for making friends with other students she met at school, according to court documents. Another victim says she and her infant son were forced to live in the commercial laundry facility and pay rent without having access to a kitchen, shower or bath. She also claims she was required to work extremely long hours and was unable to properly care for her baby as a result.
  • All four defendants appeared before a federal judge Tuesday at the U.S District Courthouse in Norfolk. Three of them – Vaughan, Landaverde and Evans – pleaded not guilty in the case, according to WTKR News 3. The next hearing date in the case is set for Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. All of the defendants have asked for a jury trial.

3. The City of Newport News is kicking off a holiday lights tour.

  • Residents, businesses, churches and other organizations in Newport News are invited to participate in the NlightN Holiday Home Lights Tour, which takes drivers from one end of the city to the other to enjoy festive light displays.

“Decorations can be tacky, majestic, elaborate, colorful and more – we want to see them all!” the City said in a news release.

  • Those who want to be added as a tour stop can visit the NlightN Holiday Tour website and enter the address of the location that’s decorated. All are invited to be part of the tour, and there’s no cost to participate.
    • Participants will be featured on the website and will be able to pick up a sign announcing that they’re part of the tour.
    • The NlightN Holiday Tour map was created by the city to spread holiday cheer by helping people easily find light displays in Newport News. The tour application and map website can be accessed here, and details about additional NlightN holiday event series programming can be found at nnparks.com/NlightN.
A home is illuminated with a festive light display for the holidays. The City of Newport News has kicked off the NlightN Holiday Home Lights Tour, which features a tour map designed to help people easily find holiday light displays in the city. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto).

4. A William & Mary student was found dead on campus, but officials say no foul play is suspected.

  • A William & Mary student was found dead in the woods on campus, the college announced Saturday.
  • The body of Troy A. Cullen of Warren, New Jersey, was discovered during the overnight hours between Friday and Saturday, according to Ginger Ambler, Vice President of Student Affairs.
    • Investigators say no foul play is suspected, and there is no danger to the public. Cullen’s family has been notified, Ambler said.
  • Cullen, a junior, was an outstanding student, according to the college. He authored a top-prize-winning essay, “The Legacy of the Soviet Union in Putin’s Foreign Policy,” which was published in the 2021-2022 issue of The Monitor, the college’s International Relations journal. Cullen was majoring in history and also studied Chinese. He was the president of the William & Mary fencing club and was planning to pursue a career in national security, the college said.

“I also hope that — however small my impact might be — the work I contribute to this project will help to make the country and the world just a little bit safer,” Cullen wrote in an application to William & Mary’s emerging technology fellows program.

  • The college reminded students to reach out to the Counseling Center and campus ministers for support. “Now more than ever, may we lean on one another and find solace in our relationships,” Ambler said.

5. William & Mary’s historic football season came to an end in Montana Friday.

  • One of the best seasons on record for William & Mary’s Tribe football team ended on a bitterly cold night in Bozeman, Montana on Friday.
  • Montana State, #4, won a spot in the FCS semifinals after defeating the Tribe 55-7. The Bobcats ultimately scored on eight consecutive drives with six touchdowns and two field goals. The temperature was just 17 degrees when the game kicked off at 8:15 pm MT, and parts of the field were frozen, creating challenges with footing.
  • W&M (#5) finished its astounding season with an 11-2 record, the second-best in the school’s history.

“To be in the FCS playoffs and play a caliber of team like this, this is the kind of rarified air we want to be in,” W&M coach Mike London said. “We want to be a team like Montana State that year in and year out is in the playoffs and competing for a championship.”

6. A fire broke out at a hotel in Williamsburg Friday, causing damage.

  • Police responded to a call for a structure fire at the Homewood Suites in Williamsburg around 10:45 am on Friday.
  • While no one was injured in the blaze, the hotel – located at 601 Bypass Road – sustained smoke and water damage, according to officials.
  • The Williamsburg and James City County fire departments responded to the scene, and several lanes on Bypass Road were closed as crews worked on the blaze. The flames were successfully extinguished by the hotel’s sprinkler system. An investigation into the incident remains ongoing.

Lowest Gas Prices Today

All prices listed are per GasBuddy. To check the latest prices based on zip code, click here.

Local Covid-19 Update

VDH reports that Covid-19 cases in Virginia are up by about 8% (+10,208) compared to last week, and according to WTVR 6, hospitalizations are up by 4% (+187). The CDC’s latest community transmission map shows that the number of localities in the state ranking as “high” doubled from five to ten in the past week. The number of localities in the “medium” category increased from twenty-seven to fifty-five. Most counties on the Peninsula remain in the “low” category, but Charles City, Surry County and New Kent are ranked as “medium.”

In the National News

  • Fed to Raise Interest Rate Again: The Federal Reserve is expected to announce a half-point rate hike Wednesday as part of its continued efforts to battle inflation, according to the AP. While this latest increase is smaller than previous hikes, the Fed is also expected to signal plans for more increases next year than it had previously projected.
  • American Freed from Russian-Controlled Territory: An American has been freed from Russian-controlled territory by a Ukrainian military intelligence team. The man, Suedi Murekezi, was being driven to Kyiv Wednesday morning, ABC News reports. Murekezi was arrested by Russian-controlled authorities amid accusations that he was a CIA member. He says he was held with other Americans in a basement for weeks, where he was beaten, subject to electric shocks and other forms of torture and given only minimal food and water.

Events This Week

Miss this week’s community calendar of upcoming events? You can find it here.

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