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2012 in review: A look back at the top stories

Just as in past years, 2012 was filled with its share of good news and bad news.

The county welcomed a host of new faces to the area throughout the year and said goodbye to many others through death, retirement and resignations.

Authorities continued their search for missing county residents.

A host of expansions and new construction got under way in the past 12 months, but also announced during that same time period were several closings.

More uranium studies were unveiled, and a variety of weather events dominated the news.

As The Gazette-Virginian prepares to report its 110th year of news in and around the Halifax County area, let’s take one last look at some of the front page headline grabbers by recapping a few of the highlights of 2012. 

Other highlights will be featured in the Jan. 2 edition.



Fatalities reached double digits in Halifax County during 2012 with 15 county residents or persons having ties to the county losing their lives in fatal wrecks, fires, hit and runs, drowning and shooting accidents.

Mandy Phillips’ untimely death in early January was the first fatality of the year.

The 66-year-old Randolph woman was discovered in a back room of the trailer she shared with her son, Michael Phillips, after it caught fire.

Her son had gone to the store and returned just before firefighters arrived on the scene.

The origin of the fire was undetermined.

A week later, Amotio Lamont Smith, 19, of Skipwith would become the second fatality of the year with county connections.

The former South Boston Dollar General employee succumbed to injuries he sustained when his 2001 Honda Accord ran off the left side of the road, overcorrected and overturned on Route 47, four-tenths of a mile south of State Route 660 in Mecklenburg County.

Two months later, the death of Daryl Lee Beadles made headlines in mid-March when he became the third fatality of the year. Beadles, 44, of Swallow Lane, Nathalie died following a deadly police chase that resulted in two wrecks and a deputy being hospitalized.

The two wrecks occurred on State Route 761, a half-mile west of Highway 501. Deputy T. H. Clarke, who was driving a police cruiser, was in pursuit of Beadles for an alleged traffic infraction. 

Beadles was fleeing from Clarke when the 1995 Dodge Intrepid he was driving slid off the road and struck a tree. Clarke followed shortly behind Beadles striking the same tree. 

A month later Pheaba Goode, 60, of Sutherlin would become the fourth fatality after she died at Duke University Medical Center following a fatal three-vehicle wreck that occurred in April.

Goode, who was not wearing her seat belt, was ejected from the 2001 Hyundai Accent she was driving after she failed to yield the right of way and pulled from State Route 658 onto Highway 58 into the path of a 2002 Dodge  Neon driven by 29-year-old Jesse R. Rodgers of Nathalie. 

In the same week, 17-year-old Jerry Lennon became the fifth fatality of 2012 after he was pronounced dead at the scene of a single-vehicle accident on State Route 603 in Nathalie.

Lennon was driving a 2001 Chevrolet sedan when he failed to negotiate a curve and ran off the left side of the road flipping the vehicle four times before striking a tree. Lennon was not wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected from the car. 

After conducting an on-scene investigation, speed was determined to have played a factor in the death. 

A juvenile passenger who was wearing his seatbelt walked away from the accident with minor injuries.

In May, 34-year-old Delvin Edmonds of Halifax became the sixth fatality of the year as a result of a hit and run motorcycle wreck. 

Edmonds and another motorcyclist were traveling east on Warrick Road in Richmond approaching Dorset Road when a 1995 Toyota Camry driven by Marcus A. Taylor was traveling west on Warrick Road and turned in front of them on Dorset. 

Both motorcyclists were ejected on impact with the Toyota and were taken to VCU Medical Center where Edmonds died later. Taylor was arrested as result of the wreck and was charged with driving on a suspended license.

That same month,  22-year-old Joshua Allan Williams of South Boston and 21-year-old Daniel Keith Anderson of Halifax were the seventh and eighth fatalities of 2012. 

On the morning of May 26, Williams died after being ejected from the 1995 Toyota Camry he was driving when he ran off the right side of the road, overcorrected and ran off the left side striking an embankment before overturning.

Williams was not wearing his seatbelt.

Later that evening, Anderson died after being ejected from the 1995 Nissan Pathfinder he was driving when he ran off the right side of the road, overcorrected and ran off the road to the left striking an embankment before overturning. 

Anderson was not wearing his seat belt.

Vernon Ferguson, 32, of Sutherlin died after drowning while fishing with friends in early July. He became the ninth fatality of the year.

Ferguson had been fishing with a group at Melrose in the Staunton River in Campbell County when he got into the water and went under. The Brookneal Fire Department recovered his body early the next morning near where he was last seen in the water. 

Campbell County Chief Deputy L. T. Guthrie said he was unsure why Ferguson went into the water, and his death was ruled an accident.

Two days later, a fatal motorcycle wreck involving a 61-year-old Nathalie man resulted in the 10th fatality of the year.

Randy Blake Anderson died in Roanoke Memorial Hospital after his 2010 Kawasaki motorcycle was struck in the rear by a 1997 Honda Civic driven by 21-year-old Anthony Beadles as he was making a right turn.

Anderson was thrown upon impact and landed in a grassy area alongside the road. 

In September, 21-year-old Justin Farrar became the 11th fatality following a three-vehicle wreck.

The accident occurred when 22-year-old Niesha Palmer of Halifax had stopped the 2008 Ford she was driving to make a left turn onto a private driveway. Farrar, who was driving a 2008 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, failed to stop, striking the Ford in the rear. The Silverado then overturned ejecting Farrar who was not wearing his seat belt and landed on top of him. 

In an attempt to avoid the accident a 2007 Hyundai Sonata driven by 61-year-old Marie Collins of Keeling ran off the right side of the road and struck an embankment. Farrar was airlifted to Duke Hospital where he died six hours later. 

A few days later, Lawrence Miller would become the 12th fatality this year after an apartment fire claimed his life.

The 34-year-old South Boston man was an occupant of Tangleywylde Drive Apartment 420-B. The origin of the fire was determined to have started in the kitchen of the downstairs apartment. Miller was found home alone in a bedroom at the time of the blaze.

Later in the same month, 64-year-old James Jennings would become the 13th fatality of the year after he was found dead when firefighters responded to a call of smoke in his Philpott Road home.

The South Boston resident was pronounced dead at the scene after his certified nursing assistant dropped by his home for a routine visit and saw smoke coming from the house. 

When firefighters arrived on the scene the fire was out, but smoke had filled the house. Jennings was alone in the house at the time of the fire and was found in a bedroom. The fire was believed to have started from a cigarette that was found in a bed. The cause of Jennings’ death was undetermined.

When a 9-year-old girl with ties to Halifax County died in an accidental shooting at her home in Accomack County, she became the 14th fatality of the year. It was unclear how the shooting occurred.

Authorities declined to reveal the identity of the juvenile who previously attended Scottsburg Elementary while living in Halifax County.

An 18-year-old Sutherlin teen was killed in a single-vehicle wreck on Christmas Eve.

Ryan Thomas Puryear of Philpott Road, a passenger in a 2002 Dodge Dakota, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 11:40 p.m. crash that occurred on Wolf Trap Road (State Route 716), approximately one-half mile east of State Route 727, according to an accident report filed by Virginia State Trooper A. D. Dishman.

Alfred L. Burkholder III, 18, of South Boston was driving the Dodge pickup when he ran off the left side of the road and overcorrected causing the vehicle to run off the right side of the road where it struck several trees before catching on fire.

Burkholder, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was injured and transported to the hospital by EMS.

Puryear, a back seat passenger who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. 

Another passenger, a 17-year-old male, was not wearing a seatbelt and was injured and transported to the hospital by EMS.


Distinguished citizens and leaders in the community passed away during 2012, and the sudden and unexpected death of a first grader touched the hearts of many county residents this year. 

In July long-time Halifax County Sheriff’s Office Major Roy Hampton Pruett of Paces passed away at the age of 81 following a lengthy illness.

His death was described as a great loss to the community by sheriff’s office staff who described him as a well-respected gentleman.

He was buried at First Crossroads Baptist Church cemetery.

The community mourned the loss of 6-year-old Korbin LaFluer in late July. LaFluer was found unresponsive by his mother, Kristy, following an outpatient tonsillectomy. He was a rising first grader at South Boston Elementary.

Sterling Edmunds, a lifelong Halifax County resident, businessman and community leader, died July 17 at the age of 81. 

Edmunds was remembered for his keen sense of humor, charitable disposition, love of nature and fondness for his hometown of Halifax where he could be seen walking the sidewalks with his faithful canine companion, Ned, a beloved Welsh Terrier. 

After a service at First Presbyterian Church in South Boston, Edmunds was buried at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Halifax.  

Retired Gazette-Virginian staff writer and columnist Sonny Riddle passed away Aug. 1 at Halifax Regional Hospital at the age of 62.

Riddle was widely known for his love of his alma mater, Virginia Tech. He was a school teacher for over 30 years and a radio personality at WHLF 95.3.

Following a service at Black Walnut Baptist Church, he was buried in the church cemetery.

In September, 17-year former veteran member of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors Fulton Carrington Conner of Nathalie passed away at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond. He was 89.

In addition to his work with the board of supervisors, Conner maintained a solid record of community service and worked as a member of Halifax Community Action, Inc. 

He served as a founding member and as first president of the Triangle Volunteer Fire Department and was active in Providence Presbyterian Church where he served as Sunday school superintendent for 28 years, an elder and a Sunday school teacher.

He was a Navy veteran of World War II, a member of Crystal Hill Kerns Memorial Masonic Lodge #143 and Mount Laurel Ruritan Club.

He also served as a fire commission member and a member of the Halifax Vocational Foundation.

Following a service at Providence Presbyterian Church, he was buried in the church cemetery.

In early October, Tucker Carrington Watkins IV of Randolph, one time chair of the 5th District Republican Party and GOP party faithful who worked on the campaigns of Virgil Goode and George Allen, died at Halifax Regional Hospital. He was 66. 

Watkins was active in community politics and visible at most GOP campaign events held in the county. 

Following a memorial service at First Presbyterian Church, Watkins was buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery with military rites.

Former Halifax County Treasurer Walter Claude “Cecil” Anderson Jr. passed away at Halifax Regional Hospital on Christmas Day. Anderson was 90 years old.

A resident of Halifax, Anderson was born in the county on May 13, 1922, the son of the late Walter Claude Anderson Sr. and the late Virginia Hudson Anderson. He was married to Kathryn Midkiff Anderson, who survives.

He was a WWII Army veteran with Company F, 82nd Airborne and was a member of First Baptist Church.

A funeral service was held at Powell Funeral Home Chapel with burial following in Oak Ridge Cemetery with military rites.


Longevity prevails in Halifax

Several residents reached the century mark this year on their birthday.

Sisters Caroline Oliver and Pearl Morgan, both over the age of 100, have lived through the 20s, the Great Depression, Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, the 70s, 80s, 90s and into the new millennium.

Oliver, 104, and Morgan, 101, grew up in the Bold Springs community. Morgan currently calls Berry Hill Health and Rehab Center her home, and Oliver lives with her daughter and grandson in the Bold Springs community.

They both credit their longevity to the Lord and “for keeping their mouth shut and tending to their own business.”

Katherine McCargo celebrated her 100th birthday in August. A current resident at The Woodview, McCargo said staff couldn’t believe her age when she told them.

She has spent a better part of her life helping raise children including her nieces, nephews, their children and others, even some elderly friends and family members. 

McCargo never married, and she didn’t have children, and she chose to take care of others her entire life. 

In September Harriet Walton Dunn celebrated her 100th birthday with friends and family at First Baptist Church with a birthday party and a timeline of her life. 

Dunn is able to get around and only takes five pills a day. She was a member of the Ninety-Nines; an organization formed for female pilots and even got to meet the famous Amelia Earhart when she stopped for a gas fill up at the Danville airport.

Dunn also wears the proud title of being the first woman pilot to solo a plane out of Danville airport.

She moved in with her daughter and son-in-law four years ago when she decided she wanted to learn how to use the computer and Internet.

In November two of the oldest voters in the county came out to vote in the presidential election. Odell Henry, 102, and Louis Stevenson, 99, went to their polling places and cast their votes which they do every year.

Lee O’Shell Vanison and Edith Holsinger, both county residents, also celebrated their 100th birthdays with family and friends in December.

Also in December, South Boston residents Keith and Mary Morris celebrated 70 years of marriage. Keith is 91, and Mary is 89.


Missing people in 2012

Three major cases of missing people made the headlines in 2012.


Hattie Brown

The search continued for Hattie Brown, a county native with brown eyes and black, shoulder-length hair, who was last seen wearing a sleeveless top and pants with side stripes at 2:33 a.m. on May 16, 2009 at the Sheetz gas station at the intersection of Route 501 and Route 58 just outside South Boston. 

She had reportedly left home without her purse or critical medication.

Her car was discovered July 2009 abandoned behind an old barn on property in the southeastern corner of Halifax County. The vehicle had been completely destroyed by fire.

Three years after her disappearance, the family still has found no closure and continues to ask questions. 

During the first part of 2012, Brown became the subject of a 30-minute documentary featured on TV One’s “Find Our Missing.”

In November 2011 Producer Chris Karnak a contractor for Towers Production traveled to South Boston to film interview segments of family members, media representatives and law enforcement officers who continued to be involved with the investigation of Brown’s disappearance that occurred almost three years ago.

In September, eight months after the documentary aired, Hattie Brown’s family and friends held a fundraiser at Constitution Square in downtown South Boston in hopes of raising funds to hire a private investigator to look into the case.  Approximately 400 people attended the fundraiser raising $10,000.

 Family and friends continue their efforts to find answers and gain closure from Brown’s disappearance.


Wendy Dawn Beadles Francis

Another missing person case that dominated the headlines this year was the case of Wendy Dawn Beadles Francis who was last seen in June by her father, Kenneth Beadles, at the home they shared on Brad Smith Trail in Nathalie.

 Francis was known to drift from time to time, and in the beginning authorities said they had no reason to believe foul play was involved in her disappearance.  

After almost four months and no strong leads, authorities said they had reason to believe that foul play may have been involved in her disappearance. 

Authorities also discovered that Francis was seen again in Brookneal shortly after leaving her father’s house.

Halifax County Sheriff Fred Clark said he believes Francis had friends in Brookneal and may have stayed there after she left home.

After linking Francis to the Brookneal area, Campbell County deputies also joined the investigation that is continuing.

Francis is a white female, five foot four inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. According to authorities when last seen she had brown hair and blue eyes, and a tattoo of scorpion can be found on the back of her neck.

Nov. 20 was Francis’ 36th birthday, and the sheriff’s office still continues to search for her but admit they have no concrete leads. Sheriffs at the Halifax and Campbell County Sheriff’s Office are hoping someone will come forward with the information they need to locate Francis.


Ruzie D. Suggs

The community was heartbroken after three hunters found the body of 90–year–old Burlington, N.C., resident Ruzie D. Suggs in Virgilina in early October. Standing guard over her body was her 9-year-old brown poodle, Pierre.

 Suggs, who was driving a white 2005 Cadillac had been missing for four weeks, and Burlington police had issued a silver alert for her. 

 Suggs was last seen dropping off a friend in Greensboro, N. C., near Highway 29. Suggs suffered from mild dementia, and authorities believed she became disoriented and ended up going down the farm road where she was found.

No foul play was involved, authorities said.