Dover's Legislative Hall fire ruled accidental

By DJ McAneny 2:14pm, October 8, 2015 - Updated 2:38pm, October 8, 2015
Thursday's scene at Legislative Hall following Wednesday's fire/(Joe Irizarry/WXDE)
The fire that caused "extensive damage" to Legislative Hall in Dover Wednesday has been ruled accidental by the Dover Fire Marshal's Office, officials announced Thursday.

According to City of Dover spokesperson Kay Sass, the October 7, 2015, structure fire at 411 Legislative Hall began at approximately 2:17 p.m. when combustibles in the attic were ignited by an exhaust pipe extending from an emergency backup generator in the basement, which was undergoing a full-load test.

A Capitol Police officer and Little Creek firefighter were injured during the incident. The officer was treated and released at Kent General Hospital, while the firefighter was treated on scene by medical staff and released, Sass updated.

The Delaware State Office of Management and Budget was working with contractors to determine the extent of damage sustained in the fire, while city and state officials continue to "establish occupancy for the building," she said.

New Castle County Police: 36 grams of marijuana found in Dover man's lunchbox

By DJ McAneny 3:05pm, October 8, 2015
Daniel Schonert/Courtesy New Castle County Police
A 27-year-old Dover man was arrested after police allegedly discovered 36 grams of marijuana in a lunchbox during a traffic stop, New Castle County Police announced Thursday.

According to authorities, Daniel Schonert was stopped in the area of Route 9 and Terminal Avenue on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, after committing a traffic violation.

Officers said they detected a "strong odor of marijuana," coming from the vehicle, and located the marijuana "in and around a lunchbox," in the vehicle, along with a scale and more than $260 in cash.

Schonert was charged with possession with intent to deliver, possession of paraphernalia, and numerous traffic violations. His cash was additionally seized, and he was released on a $3650 unsecured bond.

Punkin Chunkin canceled again

By Kelli Steele, Delaware 105.9 9:44am, October 8, 2015 - Updated 1:48pm, October 8, 2015
The 2015 Punkin Chunkin has been canceled.

The organizing committee announced the cancellation Thursday. It had been scheduled for November 6 to 8 at Dover Downs.

The board said, despite its best efforts, they have not been able to find a willing insurer to adequately protect the host venue, the organization, fans and spectators.

"Certainly, for the past several months, we've been working daily with a variety of insurers nationwide, down as far as in the Midwest and New England and down into Florida," said Punkin Chunkin Committee President Ricky Nietubicz.

Last year's event was also canceled. Organizers had hoped to bring it back this year.

The board thanked its volunteers and the patience of the teams, fans, prospective hosts at Dover International Speedway, vendors and sponsors through what it described as a difficult time.

"We were committed to it," Nietubicz said. "It was something that, unfortunately, we got to this point in the game, because we were very confident that we would be able to locate (coverage)."

Punkin Chunkin, in which contestants launch pumpkins with a variety of homemade contraptions, began in Sussex County in 1986. Organizers began looking for another site last year after a Sussex County farmer said he would no longer make his property available. That decision came after a lawsuit was filed by a Punkin Chunkin volunteer who was seriously injured in an ATV accident while working the 2011 event.

State Senator Brian Pettyjohn (R- Georgetown) was vocally disappointed in the organization not being able to find coverage, and said the good that resulted from the event typically offset would should have been easily remedied concerns.

"They put a lot of money back into the community. I think they did over $100,000 to charity, $50,000 in scholarships and--using numbers from the Delaware Economic Development Office--about $1 million into the economy from this event," Pettyjohn said. "And now, it's gone for a second year in a row."

Customers who purchased tickets to attend the event will see a 100-percent refund on their credit cards within 7 to 14 business days. Questions can be directed to 800-441-7223.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

2 Delaware businesses recognized for being 'warrior friendly'

By Amy Cherry 1:48pm, October 8, 2015 - Updated 2:00pm, October 8, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Amy Cherry talks with Brian Potts, owner of Phoenix Restoration, about his willingness to hire veterans.
Two Delaware-based businesses were recognized for their efforts to hire veterans.

Click here to listen

Many veterans returning from combat and tours of duty abroad have a difficult time readjusting to civilian life.

It's also often hard for veterans to find a job.

But two local businesses--one large and one small--were praised for their willingness to help the men and women who serve our country.

"To me, it's a no-brainer," said Brian Potts. "They're out there protecting our freedom--I never realized the need. And what we do, as far as Phoenix, it's a perfect fit--the mindset's there, the work ethic's there."

Potts founded Phoenix Restoration--a fire, water and smoke restoration company--in Newport in 2005. He's hired three veterans and plans to hire three more in interviews next week.

"It blew my mind...I never knew the challenges that they had," explained Potts. "I'm awestruck that nobody else is doing this."

Potts pointed to a veteran named Ben who's helping his company grow.

"He came off annual training...he basically worked for two weeks and was on-call. We got five emergency calls that week--never complained one time, never," said Potts.

Potts's company was awarded the first-ever Warrior Friendly Business Award from the the Joint Military Affairs Committee of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce.

Brian Potts, founder of Phoenix Restoration, poses with the Warrior Friendly Business Award he received from Governor Jack Markell.

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The groups came together for the creation of the annual award, which will be presented to one small business and one large business which has demonstrated outstanding leadership in hiring or offering job readiness initiatives for service members and veterans.

"We are fortunate, in Delaware, that so many employers have stepped up, and if you look at the national rankings...our unemployment rate for veterans has fallen (by about half) over the last few years," said Governor Jack Markell.

The Christiana Care Health System won the award as a large employer which has hired 60 veterans the past two years and is on pace to repeat that accomplishment for the upcoming year.

"I think our efforts were good, and it was the thing that we should be doing, but until I realized some of the challenge that our veterans and our military face, I really didn't understand the extra effort that we should be putting into this," said Audrey Van Luven, chief human resource officer for Christiana Care.

An excerpt from the student code of conduct detailing the violation and punishment.

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She said Christiana Care has continued to hire veterans because of their amazing values.

"The teamwork, the excellence, integrity, discipline, loyalty--what employer wouldn't be proud to have those individuals in their workforce?" she asked. "To me, this was a great opportunity to be able to marry talent with needs."

"We talked about the three-legged stool: our service members, their families, and employers--this is a key component. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart," said Adjutant General Frank Vavala of the Delaware National Guard.


Contact Amy Cherry at or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.

Wilmington Police, kids connect through training partnership

By Taggart Houck 1:06am, October 8, 2015 - Updated 8:56am, October 8, 2015
VIDEO: WDEL's Taggart Houck talks with Orrin White of the Delaware United Way and Capt. Faheem Akil of the Wilmington Police Department
For dozens of Wilmington children and teenagers, Wednesday was a time to connect with those protecting them.

The United Way of Delaware and the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware teamed up with Wilmington Police to talk about safety in their neighborhoods and build relationships with the law enforcement officials.

Orrin White, Assistant Director of Community Engagement at United Way of Delaware, said the training had two goals for kids: to understand the violence affecting their community and bridging the gap between young black males and local law enforcement.

"We understand everything we've been seeing from a national standpoint, but we don't want that to necessarily have an effect on the City of Wilmington, or on the State of Delaware," White said.

Wilmington Police Capt. Faheem Akil said building connections could make an impact for police on encounters with Wilmington kids.

"Even if there is a negative interaction...maybe there could be a point where I could give some type of coaching, some type of mentoring, rather than it goes to the arrest or formal charges," he said.

White said a big emphasis of the program is for kids to respect law enforcement officials, not fear them.

"We want them to be able to understand that they're humans," he said.

White held a training session October 5 for kids in Sussex, incorporating police officers from Sussex, Dover, and New Castle Counties.

He said he'd like to bring everyone who helped out with training this year, to next year's training as well.

"We want to continue to build that period of peer mentoring to ensure that this program lasts and that we're always at the front of these issues."

Akil said he had fun bonding with the kids he serves.

Part of his night included simulating law enforcement situations, teaming up with Wilmington kids, United Way officials and other police officers.

"Even if I didn't think I made a difference, I can at least try to believe that I made a difference in somebody's mind," he said.

Participants in the training sessions will receive a free suit through the United Way of Delaware and their partnership with Men's Warehouse to use for finding a job.

Newark man charged in connection to shooting of unoccupied vehicle

By DJ McAneny 2:47pm, October 8, 2015 - Updated 2:52pm, October 8, 2015
Michael G. Cyhan/Courtesy Newark Police
A 24-year-old Newark man has been charged in connection to a September incident in which shots were fired into an unoccupied vehicle.

According to Newark Police, Michael G. Cyhan, of Willow Creek Lane, was arrested on Wednesday, October 7, 2015, and charged with firing upon an unoccupied vehicle on Westfield Drive on September 15, 2015.

He was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, and criminal mischief less than $1,000. Cyhan was committed to the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in lieu of $15,250.

Newark Country Club takes legal action over proposed down-zoning of property

By Shana O'Malley 2:09pm, October 7, 2015 - Updated 4:15pm, October 7, 2015
The Newark County Club is taking legal action against the city as officials decide whether to move forward with a rezoning plan for the parcel of land.

Newark Country Club President Dennis Barba said they were not properly notified that the city was planning to down-zone the 120-acre parcel of land.

"We have filed with the attorney general's office, a Freedom of Information Act complaint. It's confusing to all of us as to why they keep on pushing us."

The city's proposal would reduce the number of homes that would be allowed to be built on the land from 270 down to approximately 114.

The club said it would lose millions in property value, should they ever decide to sell the land.

Although the country club doesn't currently have plans to sell the parcel, Barba said the speculation has put business at a standstill.

"Any open house we give is not even attended anymore, people are wondering if we're even going to be in existence," he said. "We've had other clubs try and attract some of our employees away from us."

While the Newark Planning Commission decided not to recommend the re-zoning proposal to council during a meeting Tuesday night, council members could still choose to move forward with the motion.

Democratic state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long forms Lt. Governor campaign comittee

By Tom Lehman 3:49pm, October 7, 2015 - Updated 1:50pm, October 8, 2015
State Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown).
State Sen. Bethany Hall-Long has formed a campaign committee for lieutenant governor, signaling her possible entry into a crowded field of candidates seeking the Democratic Party's nomination for the office in 2016.

The move will allow Hall-Long (D-Middletown) to begin fundraising, though she has not made any official announcement about her potential candidacy. She has represented Middletown and nearby areas for more then a decade in the both the Delaware Senate and House.

Hall-Long said on Thursday that she had amended her political action committee and was "exploring her options."

The Lieutenant Governor's office has been vacant since Matt Denn (D) left it after becoming Attorney General in January following the 2014 elections.

Should Hall-Long officially enter the race, she would join four other Democrats seeking the office. Announced candidates include Kent County Comissioner Brad Eaby, Rehoboth Beach Comissioner Councilwoman Kathy McGuiness, New Castle County Register of Wills Ciro Poppiti, and former Sussex County Register of Wills Greg Fuller.

Jessica Borcky, a campaign spokeswoman for Congressman John Carney (D), who is running for Governor in 2016, said no decisions have been made yet on a possible running mate in next year's election cycle.

"He knows many of the candidates well and has spoken with all of them," she said. "The election is over a year away and there will be plenty of time to consider this part of the campaign down the road."


You can contact Tom Lehman at Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

'Diamond State Base Ball Club' revives Delaware sports history for the present day

By Carl Suppa 11:08am, October 7, 2015 - Updated 11:19am, October 7, 2015
A Diamond State Base Ball Club player takes a swing/Courtesy the Diamond State Base Ball Club
It was 150 years ago this October that a group of prominent businessmen and lawyers met in the Wilmington office of attorney Levi C. Bird for the first business meeting of the Diamond State Base Ball Club.

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Just a few days later in Wilmington, the Diamond State club, along with St. Mary's College of Wilmington, would take part in what is thought to be the first ever baseball match between two formally organized Delaware baseball clubs.

Diamond State would go on to wallop the college club 69 to 28. Throughout the 1860's, and until it disbanded in the early 1870's, the Diamond State Club was considered a powerhouse in the state.

A shot of the entire Diamond State Base Ball Club team/Courtesy the Diamond State Base Ball Club

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In 2008, a modern-day version of the club was formed using the same name, wearing the same uniforms, and--for the most part--playing by the same 1864 rules used by the original Diamond State club. In fact, this Diamond State club is a founding member of the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League.

While there are many differences between vintage style base ball and modern day baseball--Fielder's do not wear gloves, the pitcher throws under hand, and a fielder can catch a fly ball on a bounce for an out--Diamond State Base Ball Club President Jeff "Swampy" Kabacinski said there are still some similarities, like "three outs per side, and three strikes to an out."

For Kabacinski, mixing his love of baseball and history--along with getting a little exercise--is a great way to have some fun. For more information on the Diamond State Base Ball Club, visit


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Listen for WDEL's Delaware Timeline by Carl Suppa on Saturday mornings at 7:13 a.m. on 1150 AM & 101.7 FM WDEL.

New Castle City Police ID woman found dead in Airport Plaza lot

By DJ McAneny 12:03pm, October 7, 2015
The scene where the woman's body was discovered/(Mike Phillips/WDEL)
A woman whose body was discovered in the Airport Plaza parking lot by an employee heading to work in the area was identified by New Castle City Police Wednesday.

Authorities said the woman found dead between the BJ's Gas and farmers market was Kimberly Quade, 23, of the Dover area.

Lt. Adam Brams said surveillance video from nearby businesses was being reviewed, and that police would be waiting for a medical examiner's autopsy before confirming a cause of death.

EdWatch: Reading intervention pilot program launches in Colonial School District

By Amy Cherry 10:49pm, October 6, 2015
Reading Assist team members and AmeriCorps tutors. (Photo/Reading Assist)
A pilot program for students with reading deficiencies launched in New Castle County's Colonial School District with the hopes of providing a service otherwise inaccessible to students who most need it.

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Students struggling to read in the Colonial School District will be matched with AmeriCorps tutors for one-on-one coaching sessions during the school day.

"They are working on identifying letters and sounds and putting them together as words--those are the foundational skills of reading," said Vickie Innes, executive director of the Reading Assist Institute (RAI).

RAI administered 50 hours of intensive training in RAI's Orton-Gillingham principles and the mechanics of reading to 15 AmeriCorps tutors, who then go on to instill those principles in students.

Innes said attaining grade-level reading proficiency is key to a child's future success. She called third grade the turning point for students.

"Up to third grade, you are learning to read, and then--after third grade--it really switches that you are reading to learn," said Innes.

The Colonial School District is handpicking students with the greatest need for reading intervention through the program, which rolled out last week.

"It's hard for schools to have the resources--the actual manpower, the hands to do that," said Innes. "We're supplying this outside resource so these children will have an opportunity for 45 minutes of one-on-one intervention everyday that they might not get otherwise."

The program is funded by a $192,000 grant from the Governor's Commission on Community and Volunteer Service and private donations.

Innes hopes the model can replicated in other school districts in the future.


Contact Amy Cherry at or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.

Delaware State Police investigating Elsmere-area armed robbery

By DJ McAneny 1:08pm, October 7, 2015
A man who held up an Elsmere-area market Tuesday night is being sought by Delaware State Police, authorities announced Wednesday.

According to police, a male suspect entered the First State Market at 2501 Kirkwood Highway at approximately 7:07 p.m. on October 7, 2015, and brandished the gun at an employee, demanding money from the register.

The clerk complied with the suspect's demands, police said, and the suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of cash in an unknown direction. The clerk was uninjured.

The suspect was described as a white male, 5'6" to 5'9", weighing approximately 150 lbs., wearing a black hoodie, blue jeans, black sneakers, a mask, and was armed.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact Delaware State Police at 302.365.8566 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.

Delaware Supreme Courts hears appeal in Wilmington barbershop killings

By Randall Chase/Associated Press 2:09pm, October 7, 2015
An attorney for a Delaware death-row inmate argued the prisoner received ineffective counsel while on trial for killing two--including a child--at a Wilmington barbershop.

Chauncy Starling was convicted of the 2001 killings of 5-year-old Damon Gist Jr. and Darnell Evans in Wilmington.

The defense attorney argued Wednesday at the Delaware Supreme Court that Starling's trial attorney didn't properly handle a statement his brother made to police. The defense said the statement was involuntary and wasn't properly challenged at trial.

The defense also raised concerns over a probation violation charge against a key witness that was dropped.

According to court records, Starling and two other men were searching for Evans. After spotting him, Starling shot Evans several times.

During the gunfire, a bullet struck the boy in the head.

Most crops in Delaware, Maryland survive nor-easter storm

By Associated Press 11:52am, October 7, 2015
Crops at a grocery store/WDEL file
Farmers in Delmarva said most crops in the area managed to survive last week's heavy rainfall.

The nor-easter storm that hit the area last week left some plants covered in pools of water and fields of feed corn bent below their tips, reported The Daily Times. Despite this, farmers said things could have been worse.

After the nor-easter hit, Hurricane Joaquin threatened to pour an additional 12" of rain, but the hurricane never made landfall.

The USDA said nearly half of Maryland's grain corn crop had been harvested before last week's rain. About 80 percent of the crop was listed in good condition.

In Delaware, farmers harvested 65 percent of the crop, of which about 71 percent was in good or better shape, according to the USDA.

4 Maryland casinos post revenue increases in September

By Associated Press 11:01am, October 7, 2015
Four of Maryland's five casinos posted revenue gains of at least 5 percent in September.

The figures, which were released Tuesday by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, revealed casino revenues totaled $87.4 million, an increase of $5 million over the same month last year.

The statistics also revealed that Maryland Live generated the most last month with $49.6 million, a 9 percent jump from a year ago.

The state's newest casino, Horseshoe, was Maryland's only casino not to record increases. It took in $22.1 million in September, a decrease of over 1 percent. Horseshoe opened in late August last year.

Hollywood Casino Perryville posted revenue increases of 5 percent, Casino at Ocean Downs grew by 15 percent and Rocky Gap Casino Resort's revenue increased by over 6 percent.

Netflix raising US price for most popular video plan by $1

By Associated Press 3:33pm, October 8, 2015
Netflix is raising the price of its Internet video service by $1 in the U.S. and several other countries to help cover its escalating costs for shows such as "House of Cards" and other original programming.

The new price of $10 per month for Netflix's standard plan won't affect most of the service's existing 42 million U.S. subscribers.

Subscribers who have been with Netflix since May 2014 will still pay $8 per month under a two-year rate freeze adopted when the company last raised its U.S. prices by $1. Customers who signed up since the last price increase will pay $9 per month until October 2016.

Netflix Inc. is charging new subscribers more in anticipation of its programming costs rising from $3 billion this year to $5 billion next year.

Blue sky and red ice at Pluto, NASA spacecraft discovers

By Associated Press 3:49pm, October 8, 2015
This image released by NASA on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, shows regions with exposed water ice highlighted in blue in this composite image taken with the New Horizons spacecraft's Ralph instrument. The image combines visible imagery from the Multispectral Vi
The sky over Pluto may not be sunny but it's undoubtedly blue.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft discovered Pluto's blue sky during the historic flyby of the icy dwarf planet in July. The images of Pluto's atmospheric haze were beamed down last week and released by NASA on Thursday.

Scientists said the particles in the atmospheric haze are actually red and gray. But the way the particles scatter blue light is what has everyone excited. Principal scientist Alan Stern calls the blue sky "gorgeous." The blue tint can help scientists understand the size and makeup of the haze particles surrounding Pluto, where twilight constantly reigns.

In another finding Thursday, scientists have uncovered numerous ice patches on Pluto's surface. The exposed water ice appears to be, mysteriously, red.

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