Man sentenced in Metro robberies

A District man was sentenced Tuesday to 14 years in prison in a pair of robberies of Metro passengers.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr. also ordered Alazajuan Gray, 20, to pay $1,800 in fines and $450 in restitution in the September robberies.

Prosecutors said that Gray, armed with a handgun, and Clifton Smith, 21, of Oxon Hill, approached several college students who were waiting for a train at the Fort Totten station at about 11:30 p.m. Sept. 21. Gray took one of the victim’s iPhones and money and threatened him not to “snitch” or risk being harmed. Later, the men encountered the same victim and assaulted him.

Gray and Smith also were convicted of robbing a Metro passenger at the Gallery Place/Chinatown station. Prosecutors said Gray snatched the female passenger’s iPhone as Smith blocked the victim from trying to chase after Gray.

In May, a jury found both men guilty of the robberies and carrying a dangerous weapon, among other charges. Smith is awaiting sentencing.

— Keith L. Alexander

Serial stabber
might enter plea

Twice, Antoinette C. Starks has been incarcerated for stabbing Maryland shoppers. Twice, she has been let out of custody and committed crimes again. Twice, it appears, she will be found not criminally responsible.

On Wednesday, a Prince George’s County judge will grapple with what to do next after a guilty plea by the diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic woman.

Sparks last stabbed a woman loading her van in the parking lot of a Target in Lanham in 2011. Before that, it was shoppers in a Nordstrom in 2005 — both times with knives, taped together.

Starks is scheduled to appear Wednesday morning before Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Larnzell Martin Jr. Prosecutors said that Starks will most likely enter a plea of not criminally responsible to a charge of attempted first-degree murder. If Martin accepts the plea, it is expected that Starks will remain in the custody of the state.

— Aaron C. Davis

Roanoke man is
Jackson's big donor

A wealthy Republican donor gave another $25,000 to GOP lieutenant gubernatorial nominee E.W. Jackson in June, according to the candidate’s amended campaign finance disclosure report.

The contribution brings the total donations from Peter L. Via of Roanoke to Jackson’s campaign to $75,000 — about 20 percent of Jackson’s fundraising total of about $364,000, and more than half of his June fundraising total of about $142,000.

Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake, was outraised in June by his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Ralph S. Northam of Norfolk, who reported more than $226,000 in donations for the month. The candidates are battling for control of the Senate and would serve as tie-breaker in the evenly divided chamber.

Via, a Roanoke financier, is Jackson’s single-largest individual contributor.

— Errin Whack

Plane crash probed as possible suicide

Suicide is being investigated as a possible reason for a plane crash that killed a 22-year-old Fredericksburg man Monday night, authorities said Tuesday.

Virginia State Police identified Edwin G. Hassel as the pilot of the small airplane that crashed near a runway at Spotsylvania County’s Shannon Airport. He was the only person in the plane.

The airport manager, Robert Stanley, who witnessed the incident, said Hassel circled the airfield several times at treetop level, flying “very erratically and dangerously” for about 10 minutes in the single-engine Cessna 172M. He said the plane then abruptly climbed at a 45-degree angle before rolling over and plunging down.

— Maggie Fazeli Fard

West Nile virus found in Pr. William

Mosquitoes in Prince William County have tested positive for the West Nile virus, the county’s first reported activity of the virus, health officials said Tuesday. The positive mosquitoes were collected from test areas at the Belmont Pump Station in Woodbridge.

Mosquito testing is used to determine risk of contracting West Nile virus, which is spread to birds, humans, horses and other mammals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Most people bitten by an infected mosquito don’t get sick. People who do get sick usually suffer a mild, flu-like illness. But those older than 50 are at greatest risk of serious illness, such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.)

Officials urged residents to use insect repellent and turn over outdoor containers where standing water may collect. There was a strong resurgence in West Nile virus outbreaks last year, and researchers say virus outbreaks are likely to flare up in coming years, spurred by warmer, longer mosquito seasons coupled with cuts in disease-control funding.

— Lena H. Sun