Publication: The News and Advance
On March 27, 2017, a motorist called the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office to report that they had found a body on Roaring Run Road in Goode, Virginia around 9:30 p.m.
These are the stories that followed:
Divers search Big Otter River amid flurry of police activity in Bedford County, Lynchburg
By Alissa Smith and Rachel Mahoney
Bedford County Public Schools announced a lockdown Tuesday morning of five schools that lasted for several hours soon after a business owner near Forest Road said he saw a “standoff” on Cottontown Road.
The lockdown was part of a flurry of police activity in the Forest, Goode and Lynchburg areas that started Monday night with a 911 call about a dead body and extended into Tuesday evening as divers searched the Big Otter River.
Bedford County, Lynchburg and Virginia state law enforcement officials would not say if the events were connected.
The 911 call came in at about 9:30 p.m. Monday regarding a dead person on Roaring Run Road in Goode, according to a brief news release Tuesday from the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies could not find identification on the body, according to the release. The remains were sent to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke to determine an identity and cause of death.
The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office is heading the investigation into the body found on Roaring Run Road and is being assisted by U.S. Marshals, the Virginia State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In a Facebook post shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday, Bedford County Public Schools announced Forest Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Otter River Elementary, Forest Middle and Jefferson Forest High schools were on lockdown “while an investigation is taking place in the Forest zone.”
Greg Harrison, who owns Outtasight Window Tinting off Cottontown Road about five miles east of the high school, told The News & Advance he pulled into his business just before 8:30 a.m. Cars zipped past as he turned onto Cottontown Road from Forest Road, stopping near the bridge close to his business.
“When I got here, it looked like somebody was laying in the road, and that’s what got my attention,” he said, adding he thought it was a car crash.
“As I made it about to the guardrail, I realized it was a standoff,” then retreated to the parking lot, he said.
He said people had gathered in the area to watch the incident, and he urged them to keep away.
“Nobody’s been able to figure out what was going on all day long,” he said.
Bradley Kent, who works at Outtasight, said he was at the business taking out trash when he heard tires screeching on Cottontown Road.
“I see a white car parked and a black unmarked vehicle pull up behind them,” he said. “Three doors open up, guns start flying out, some dude hops out of the back with an AR-15 and they start screaming back and forth.”
He described seeing one man lay on the ground on his stomach about three to four minutes after the incident started.
The situation went on until about 9:15 a.m., Harrison said. He and Kent said they saw two men handcuffed and put into unmarked vehicles.
“I don’t know what’s going on. I would never expect to come to work here on Cottontown Road and see something like that,” Harrison said.
On Facebook, a school official wrote that as part of a perimeter lockdown, doors were locked and being guarded. Bedford County Sheriff’s Office vehicles and personnel could be seen outside those schools Tuesday morning.
Ryan Edwards, Bedford County Public Schools spokesman, said the schools took cues from law enforcement and enacted the lockdowns on that advice.
“I can say that there is an investigation that is going on in proximity to these schools that resulted in the lockdown,” he said.
The lockdown was lifted shortly after 11 a.m., according to another Facebook post from the division.
Several hours later, Lynchburg Police Department investigators entered a Lynchburg home that was cordoned off with police tape for around 12 hours.
Officers on the scene at 1052 Coronado Lane said a missing-persons call was made at about 4 a.m. Tuesday, and the perimeter was established at the residence shortly after.
No one was inside the residence Tuesday afternoon, one officer said. The entire property was taped off, including two vehicles.
Crime scene investigators with the Lynchburg Police Department were on scene at about 3:20 p.m. and started moving equipment inside the residence shortly after. Investigators began questioning neighbors door-to-door at about 3:40 p.m. One neighbor said they were asked about a teenaged male at the residence.
Officers would not comment on details of the investigation or if it was related to events in Bedford County.
A vehicle arrived at the residence before 5 p.m. A young male and a woman who left the vehicle spoke with officials outside the residence for about a half hour, while a third person, a man, entered the residence with investigators and re-emerged later.
All vehicles with officers and investigators left the scene by 5:30 p.m., and investigators declined to comment on proceedings at the residence before leaving the scene.
At the same time, law enforcement officials were monitoring the Big Otter River area along Roaring Run Road on Tuesday afternoon.
Officials with the Virginia State Police Search and Recovery team arrived at about 5:30 p.m. Two individuals exited the vehicle and were seen donning orange dry suits, gathering rope and later checking netting that had been in the river.
Two individuals wearing red shirts arrived in separate black sedans hours later. VSP officials and an undercover sheriff’s deputy spoke to them briefly before the two men piled back into their vehicles and left the scene.
As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, officials still were checking the area of Big Otter River. Multiple undercover deputies with the sheriff’s office monitored the search.
Officials would not say why the river bank was being searched or provide details about the case.
Frank Schermer, a supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal at the Department of Justice, said he has sent out representatives to assist with the investigation but didn’t know any details about the case as of Tuesday.
Two in custody amid investigation; detainment of Salvadorans comes as homicide probe continues
By Alissa Smith and Rachel Mahoney
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed Thursday two Salvadoran men have been transferred to its custody and are now held at a detainment facility in Farmville after they were picked up by the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.
“On March 28, ICE arrested 19-year-old Victor Arnoldo Rodas and 23-year-old Lisandro Posada-Vazquez, both citizens and nationals of El Salvador. They are currently detained at Farmville Detention Center in Farmville, Virginia,” Carissa Cutrell, Public Affairs Officer with ICE said in an email Thursday.
According to the Bedford County Circuit and General Court websites, neither face charges in Bedford; Maj. Ricky Gardner, of Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday night he knows of no charges pending against Rodas and Posada-Vazquez.
The detainment comes amid a string of notable law enforcement activity in Bedford and Lynchburg this week, leaving anxious residents seeking answers following the death of 17-year-old Raymond Wood.
On Tuesday, Jose Coreas-Ventura, 21, believed by Maryland law enforcement to be an MS-13 gang member, was arrested by Bedford County authorities, according to a warrant of arrest for extradition. According to the FBI, criminal gang MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, is mostly made up of Salvadoran nationals or first generation Salvadoran-Americans, as well other Central and South American immigrants.
The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office would not answer questions about Coreas-Ventura’s arrest, including if it is connected with Wood’s death. Online court information lists one fugitive charge for Coreas-Ventura in Bedford County courts.
Coreas-Ventura is wanted in connection to a June 17, 2016 homicide of an 18-year-old male named Cristian Antonio Villagran Morales in Montgomery, Maryland.
He is the fifth person arrested in the connection with the case.
According to a Montgomery County Police Department news release, detectives considered the homicide to be gang-related and believe that all five suspects were associated with MS-13.
The FBI website states the Southeast and Northeast are seeing the largest increase in MS-13 membership.
Stepped-up police activity in a neighborhood near Peaks View Park in Lynchburg Wednesday night has added to some residents’ concerns.
The Lynchburg Police Department assisted the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office in executing a search warrant on an apartment in the Woodbine Village area just before 8 p.m.
Sgt. Gary Fink, with the Lynchburg Police Department, said the warrant was for 1422 Tunbridge Road, Apartment 3.
Sarah Norman, who lives with roommates close to the searched residence across Tunbridge Road, said she heard loud sirens that kept blaring just before 8 p.m. She and her roommates went outside to watch, along with many other neighbors. She described seeing two tank-like vehicles, many uniformed men surrounding the residence, hearing police dogs constantly barking and seeing handlers needing to yank their leads.
“There was like 10 of the men, and they just sat there and smashed all [of] the door out and all the [window] out and then they all went inside really slowly,” she said.
Norman said the investigators were in the residence 30 minutes or more, followed by other men in suits. She said no residents left the apartment.
Some neighbors noted a lack of official information on the incident.
In search of answers, Norman said she looked online into the death of 17-year-old Raymond Wood, whose body was discovered in Bedford County late Monday in what officials have announced is a homicide investigation.
“There’s barely any information, like there’s none about the way that they found him or his death,” she said. “… I was really fearful when I found out all this stuff is happening, but we don’t need to be fearful, we don’t need to live in fear…because if we have that information, then I think people would be more apt to feel more safe and more comfortable.”
On Thursday, the Roanoke Medical Examiner said the autopsy of Wood’s remains to determine cause and manner of death was complete. The office of the Chief Medical Examiner referred questions to the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, which has released no information about the death.
Speculation on the circumstances of Wood’s death has angered his family.
Michael Wood, who claims on his Facebook page to be the brother of Raymond Wood, said he was tired of all the rumors flying around in a post Wednesday.
In a post Thursday, he told Heritage High School students to stop sharing “‘pictures’ of my brother holding ‘drug money’ or smoking marijuana.”
Timeline of law enforcement activity in Bedford County, Lynchburg this week
By Alissa Smith and Rachel Mahoney
There has been flurry of notable law enforcement activity in Bedford and Lynchburg this week.
Following the death of 17-year-old Raymond Wood, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office has declined to publicly acknowledge if any of the activity is connected to the death.
9:30 p.m. Monday: A driver reports a dead body on Roaring Run Road in Goode. In a news release, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office said “there was no identification located on the body,” which is taken to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke.
4 a.m. Tuesday: Lynchburg Police Department cordons off a Coronado Lane residence in response to a missing person’s call. Officials leave in the afternoon.
8:30 a.m. Tuesday: According to Outtasight Window Tinting owner Greg Harrison, multiple cars pull up close to his business on Cottontown Road. He describes a “standoff” and said he saw two men handcuffed.
9:04 a.m. Tuesday: Bedford County Public Schools posts on Facebook that five Forest-area schools are on lockdown, which spokesman Ryan Edwards said was prompted by “an investigation that is going on in proximity to these schools.” It’s lifted around 11 a.m.
Tuesday: ICE arrests 19-year-old Victor Arnoldo Rodas and 23-year-old Lisandro Posada-Vazquez after being alerted by Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.
Tuesday afternoon: The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke identifies the body found on Roaring Run Road as Raymond Wood, 17, of Lynchburg, according to a Bedford County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Tuesday afternoon: Virginia State Police vehicles and personnel search along Big Otter River in Bedford County with metal detectors. The search continues into Thursday.
11:09 a.m. Wednesday: The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office announces a homicide investigation into the death of Raymond Wood, stating “no arrests have been made at this time but it is not believed there is any danger to the community.” Sheriff Mike Brown states that the LPD abduction case is related to the homicide investigation.
1:31 p.m. Wednesday: Juan Coreas-Ventura is set for a hearing in Bedford in connection with being a fugitive wanted for first-degree murder in Montgomery, Maryland. The Montgomery County Police Department stated that he was arrested in Bedford on Tuesday. Coreas-Ventura waives extradition.
7:52 p.m. Wednesday: LPD assists the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office by serving a search warrant at an apartment on Tunbridge Road. Neighbors describe personnel and vehicles surrounding the apartment and police dogs barking.
11:18 a.m. Thursday: The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office states in a release that “No arrests have been made related to this [homicide] investigation.”