Year in review: Most-read stories of 2016

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WYDaily has put together a list of the most-read and discussed stories of 2016. From a preview of Christmas Town at Busch Gardens to a planned expansion of the Williamsburg Pottery, from an interview with a new owner of the Green Leafe Cafe to real-life ghostbusters investigating the paranormal, they cover a range of issues and institutions. Some of the stories are about ongoing court cases and proceedings, meaning the accused have not been convicted at the time of this article. The stories are listed in order of popularity. -Ed.

Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town back and ‘bigger than ever’

No. 1 Story of 2016
(Courtesy Busch Gardens)

A week before Halloween, Busch Gardens unveiled plans for its 2016 Christmas Town, including a Sesame Street-themed “Forest of Fun,” where fans could meet their favorite Sesame Street characters, including Abby Cadabby, Elmo and Cookie Monster.

The lineup included two major roller coasters, Verbolten and Tempesto, slated to run during the Christmas season for the first time. Also on deck was the return of the popular ice skating show “‘Twas That Night,” featuring world champion skater Elvis Stojko.

“We have made Christmas Town bigger than ever, with more attractions and more time to enjoy them,” Busch Gardens President David Cromwell said in a release. “Christmas Town has grown in popularity each year, and we’re gratified that so many families have made this a must-do holiday tradition.”

Read the full story here.

Fatal Shooting at Norge Farm Fresh

Brian Hicks (Courtesy of Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
Brian Hicks (Courtesy of Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

Brian Alexander Hicks, 55, of Woodbridge, is accused of shooting 34-year-old Gabriel Ryan Maness, of Providence Forge, multiple times on April 17 at a Farm Fresh in Norge, according to police.

Maness was a customer shopping in the store, located at 115 Norge Lane. 

Investigators at the time said the motive for the shooting was unclear, and there was no indication the two men knew eachother nor that they engaged in an altercation prior to the shooting.

No one else was injured during the incident.

Hicks is facing felony charges of second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, police said.

He will face a bench trial in the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court Feb. 22.

Read the full story here.

Ghost hunters investigate legend of Crawford Road bridge

The Virginia Paranormal Investigations team. Jeff Santos stands in the center with Linda Cassada standing second from the right. (Courtesy VAPI.)
The Virginia Paranormal Investigations team. Jeff Santos stands in the center with Linda Cassada standing second from the right. (Courtesy VAPI.)

Jeff Santos and Linda Cassada from Virginia Paranormal Investigations, which is based out of Hampton Roads, set out to investigate a local urban legend: an unassuming, graffiti-marked bridge in the middle of the woods that has allegedly has been the site of hauntings for decades.

The legend goes that a runaway bride hung herself from the bridge where Tour Road crosses over Crawford Road near Yorktown Battlefield. To this day, there are those who claim that they have seen a ghostly figure clad in white either atop the bridge or dangling from it. Cassada even said that people have told her they heard a thud on the roof of their car as they drove under the bridge.

Santos and Cassada said that they parked near the bridge one night, hoping to see an apparition of the bride. Instead, they heard footsteps rapidly approaching the vehicle and sped off. They said they do not know if what they heard was paranormal or merely normal — but they had no desire to stick around with unknown sounds approaching through the dark.

“If it’s out in the woods and I don’t know what it is I’m less likely to stay,” laughed Santos.

Read the full story here.

New Green Leafe owner details plans for pub

Green Leafe Cafe is now owned by George Tsipas. (Ty Hodges/WYDaily)
Green Leafe Cafe is now owned by George Tsipas. (Ty Hodges/WYDaily)

George Tsipas, the restaurateur who owns Paul’s Deli and the College Delly, outlined his plans in July for his latest undertaking, Williamsburg’s Green Leafe Café.

Looking to create a pub atmosphere and restore the Green Leafe to its former glory, Tsipas said he planned to offer roughly 40 craft beers, as well as a bourbon bar and a seasonal variety of wines.

While Tsipas was overhauling the menu and beverage selection at Green Leafe Café, he said he was adamant about maintaining the feel of the previous Green Leafe, a Williamsburg icon for students and tourists since its opening in 1974.

“I’m looking forward to bringing this back to where it was,” Tsipas said. “Our reputation is at stake here, so we’ll make sure the place is clean with great service and great food.”

Read the full story here.

Police: Woman strangled, raped in parked car in Norge

A 30-year-old man is accused of strangling and raping a woman while parked on a dead-end road in Norge.

Christopher Rashad Johnson, of the 7000 block of Croaker Road, was charged with strangulation and rape on Aug. 18 after police say he attacked a woman around 11 p.m. the night before while they were parked on Cokes Lane, according to documents filed in Williamsburg-James City County General District Court.

The victim knew Johnson and agreed to meet up with him in Williamsburg on Aug. 17. They went to the laundromat, the Cook Out drive-thru and the Norge Farm Fresh where they bought alcohol and Black & Mild cigars, court records show.

Read the full story here.

Williamsburg Pottery plans major expansion with futuristic theme park

(Courtesy KingsLand USA.)
(Courtesy KingsLand USA.)

A biodome, indoor theme park and virtual reality center will be coming to the Williamsburg Pottery if the company’s Vice President Peter Kao achieves his dream.

The Williamsburg Pottery has been a staple of the community since 1938, but a website created in June has revealed that its management may be considering a new attraction for the 750-acre property on which it sits.

KingsLand USA is a proposed multi-purpose attraction that — if approved and constructed — would operate alongside the Williamsburg Pottery. The website lists concept designs for several potential attractions that could be constructed on the property, including an indoor theme park, water park, virtual reality center, international culture performance center, bio-dome, timeshares and hotels, as well as a senior assisted living community.

Read the full story here.

Missing 8-year-old boy found in crawl space under his home

Eight-year-old Zeb Gross, pictured in the arms of his mother, Erin, was found in a crawl space under his Skipwith Farms home. (Ty Hodges/WYDaily)
Eight-year-old Zen Gross, pictured in the arms of his mother, Erin, was found in a crawl space under his Skipwith Farms home. (Ty Hodges/WYDaily)

An 8-year-old boy was found in the crawl space under his Skipwith Farms home on Jan. 18 after a nearly seven-hour search.

A rescue worker spotted Zeb Gross, who was reported missing around 7:45 a.m. by his parents, in an area under the home that had been previously checked.

No further medical treatment was necessary, said Eric Stone, a spokesperson with Williamsburg Fire Department. He did not resist the rescue workers’ attempt to retrieve him from the space.

“We feel wonderful we were able to locate this young man and put him back with his family,” Stone said. “With the cold weather, we were getting concerned going into the night.”

Read the full story here.

New Everett restaurant opens

Blue Talon owner David Everett presents a check to Avalon’s executive director Teresa Christin (Submitted)
Chef and Blue Talon Bistro owner David Everett, seen here in 2014. (WYDaily file photo)

Every year since 2012, Chef David Everett has launched a new culinary venture in Williamsburg, and this year was no different.

His newest offering, Culture Café, is a noteworthy departure from the hearty portions and plates found at his Blue Talon Bistro and The Trellis Bar and Grill.

“It has the feel of a coffee house that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, all on small plates,” Everett said. “The idea is to make it affordable and interesting enough that you’ll order several things to try them.”

Read the full story here.

Missing JCC special-needs teen found safe

Nicholas Farley (Courtesy James City County)
Nicholas Farley (Courtesy James City County)

A 15-year-old boy with special needs was found safe in James City County on Dec. 17.

He had been reported missing.

Before he was located, Nicholas Farley was last seen between 6:30 and 8 a.m. at his residence on Ashington Way, James City County police said.

In a comment on their original Facebook post, a James City County page administrator said foul play was not suspected, but police were concerned due to his special needs.

Read the full story here.

Armed ex-con breaks into two Williamsburg homes

Joshua Samuel Ingros (Courtesy VPRJ)
Joshua Samuel Ingros (Courtesy VPRJ)

A Williamsburg man was in for a surprise Oct. 9 when he found an ex-convict standing in his kitchen.

According to Greg Riley of the Williamsburg Police Department, 28-year-old Joshua Samuel Ingros of James City County was arrested after breaking into several Williamsburg homes armed with a gun.

One victim said he was in his home when he heard a noise in the kitchen. When he went to investigate, the victim found a man wearing a black leather jacket, black shirt, black pants and a baseball cap standing in his kitchen.

The suspect asked the victim for a woman who did not live at the location, Riley said. The victim then picked up a knife and chased the suspect from his residence.

Ingros was later placed under arrest and transported to the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, where he is being held without bond. He has been charged with three felony offenses: Burglary, Firearm Possession by Convicted Felon, and Grand Larceny and two misdemeanors: Obstructing Communication and Brandishing a Firearm.

Read the full story here.