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Hancock motel standoff throws wrench in guests' plans

August 22, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ and ERIN JULIUS

HANCOCK -- Praveen and Haritha Jangiti of Edison, N.J., were on their way to Virginia Beach with their 15-month-old daughter, Anshi, and Praveen's parents.

Richard and Darlene Dinges of Baltimore were making trips to sell car parts as scrap metal.

Martin and Marlene Samargis of Baltimore had just agreed to rent a house near Warfordsburg, Pa., a first step toward moving to the area.

Their schedules went haywire on Wednesday night, when they and other guests were evacuated from the Americas Best Value Inn in Hancock.

A man reportedly had barricaded himself in a room with a woman who authorities said might be his pregnant girlfriend. The man allegedly threatened to kill the woman and police officers trying to arrest him on outstanding warrants.

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Half a day later, more than a dozen guests still couldn't get back to their rooms and possessions. A local church organization and the American Red Cross were helping them get meals and new lodging.

The Jangitis said their room at the Americas Best Value Inn was next to the one with the hostage scare, which made them nervous.

Motel guests left their rooms late Wednesday night and were led to a separate building on the property that serves as an office and lobby.

"We finally got a little sleep on the floor," said Martin Farrier, who lives near Blacksburg, Va.

Late Thursday morning, the evacuated guests were driven to St. Thomas' Episcopal Parish Church, where ambulance squad members checked their health.

One guest, Charles Wright of Baltimore, said he and his wife visit the area about six times a year because they own property in the Berkeley Springs, W.Va., area.

"We were going to leave this morning," he said Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday, the Samargises worked out a deal for a house to rent.

"We decided to stay one extra day and enjoy the peace and quiet," Martin Samargis said.

When a police officer told them to leave their room, they hurried out. "I grabbed my computer and pocketbook," Marlene Samargis said.

They drove away in their car. Other guests had to leave vehicles behind when authorities blocked off the property.

Darlene Dinges said she didn't have a chance to grab medicine from her room.

The Hancock Interfaith Service Coalition and the Red Cross paid for meals for the stranded guests and for new rooms at the Super 8 motel just across the bridge from the Americas Best Value Inn.

"We've often opened our doors for situations of need," said the Rev. Allan Weatherholt, the pastor at St. Thomas' Episcopal Parish Church.

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