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Slayings put town on edge

Some Hedgesville residents say two slayings in a little more than a month indicate how the area is changing

Some Hedgesville residents say two slayings in a little more than a month indicate how the area is changing

July 17, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

In a town that hardly knew murder before this summer, there is shock and disbelief in Hedgesville after two slayings occurred within a little more than a month's time.

But on a larger scale, some local citizens interviewed Tuesday see the slayings as indicative of how the Eastern Panhandle is changing.

More people are coming, different types of people are arriving, and with that comes a dangerous element at times, residents say.

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"It's hard to believe what people will do and how they will react," said Cindy Jenkins as she prepared a lunch menu at her restaurant, The Side Porch Cafe, in Hedgesville Tuesday afternoon.

"Maybe we're just behind the times. People have just lost their minds," Jenkins said.

Jenkins' business is on South Mary Street, just down the road from where a 79-year-old woman was found beaten to death in her home early Sunday.

Geneva M. Wood suffered multiple blows to the head with an iron skillet, officials said. Police charged Wood's 37-year-old grandson, Timothy Dale Wood, with murder after they found him walking in the rain along W.Va. 9 early Sunday.

Police said Timothy Wood admitted to killing his grandmother after a state police trooper noticed blood on one of his hands.

On June 4, Cathy Crissy, 43, of Hedgesville, was stabbed to death inside the Hedgesville Post Office, which is located along W.Va. 9 west of town. No arrests have been made in the Crissy slaying and there is an ongoing investigation into her death, West Virginia State Police Sgt. M.A. Carte said Tuesday.

Two murders within seven weeks may not be a big deal in some cities, but it is to a sleepy town of 240 people where residents cannot remember a slaying occurring here before this year.

"We don't have any kind of murders," said Bob Murphy as he headed into the Food Lion along W.Va. 9 near Hedgesville.

Angie Ettinger said she remembers when the entire area felt like a small community, when people knew each other by name. But that familiarity is fading, Ettinger said as she prepared to do some advertising work in Food Lion.

"It's good for jobs, bad for relationships," Ettinger said of the area's growing population.

Chris Cochran said he has watched the area change, too.

Cochran, of Inwood, W.Va., grew up in the area. He said convenience stores used to be the the biggest things dotting the countryside.

Now there are big motels and big restaurants being built, and new races of people moving here, said Cochran, 21.

"It's just odd to see that," said Cochran as he took a work break at Eagle Plaza just east of Hedgesville.

Susan Laing said she was surprised when Sunday's slaying occurred.

"Where's the little town of Hedgesville? All of a sudden we're not under the best of circumstances," Laing said.

Laing said she is probably going to start being a little more careful when she leaves her business, Trophies Plus in the Eagle Plaza, at night.

Before the two slayings, Hedgesville was known for its history and for being the hometown of former West Virginia University basketball coach Gale Catlett, said Jenkins.

Hedgesville is older than the state of West Virginia because it was incorporated under the laws of Virginia in 1854.

The town served as a trading village on the gap of North Mountain for settlers moving west.

"Now we're being known for two murders in one month," said Jenkins.

Although Hedgesville resident Gerry Truitt still feels safe in town, the area's growing population creates a higher chance of "that element coming in."

Another merchant in town who did not want to be identified said she doesn't pay attention to such things.

"I came up from (Washington) D.C. 12 years ago so this is nothing," she said.

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