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(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) A Woodbridge man has been arrested after allegedly shooting and killing a man in Lorton on New Year’s Eve.

Robert William Peters Jr., 23, turned himself in to Fairfax County police detectives on Monday night (Jan. 2), two days after 42-year-old Lorton resident Nahom Beyene was found suffering from gunshot wounds in the 9500 block of Unity Lane.

“Peters and Beyene were known to each other, and this was not a random act,” the Fairfax County Police Department said yesterday.

FCPD officers were called to the scene around 7:32 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 31) for a report of a shooting. They found Beyene “in the threshold of the doorway” to a home, but Fairfax County Fire and Rescue personnel ultimately declared him deceased.

Police say surveillance footage from residents in the neighborhood led them to identify “several individuals” who were seen in the area before and after the shooting.

Peters faces charges of second-degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, though no firearm has been recovered yet, according to police.

He is currently in custody at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bond.

The cause of Beyene’s death will be officially confirmed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner “in the coming days,” the FCPD said.

Police are still seeking more information about the shooting:

We are asking anyone with information regarding these incidents to call our Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 2. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), and by web – Click HERE. Download the ‘P3 Tips’ App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards. Please leave contact information if you wish for a detective to follow up with you.

Beyene’s death was the 15th gun-related homicide seen in Fairfax County in 2022, the FCPD says.

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A house fire in the 11300 block of River Road in Lorton (via FCFRD/Twitter)

Updated at 9:45 a.m. on 12/23/2022Five people were displaced by Tuesday’s Lorton house fire, which caused $244,162 in damages, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department said Wednesday (Dec. 21). The cause remains under investigation.

Earlier: A one-story house right by the Potomac River in Lorton was consumed by a massive fire early this morning.

Units from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department responded to the scene in the 11300 block of River Road in the Mason Neck area around 2:30 a.m., with Prince William County firefighters assisting.

“Arriving units reported significant fire coming from all sides of the home,” the department said in a tweet at 4:13 a.m., noting that by that time, the fire was under control.

Despite the size of the fire, all occupants were found, and no injuries to either occupants or firefighters were reported.

“Investigators have not determined an estimate for the damage as of yet,” an FCFRD spokesperson said.

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Bunnyman Brewing is hopping on over to Lorton’s Workhouse Arts Center next year.

The Fairfax-based brewery got an official go-ahead from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Dec. 6) to take over a nearly 4,700-square-foot space at the county-owned Workhouse Arts Campus in Lorton.

This will be the brewery’s second location and is expected to open by fall 2023, co-owner Sam Gray told FFXnow. The brewery will be in Building W-13, one of two buildings on the campus that are currently being refurbished.

“The addition of an on-site food and beverage retailer is expected to assist with placemaking and support the vibrant arts and cultural programming and education that [the Workhouse Arts Foundation] provides throughout the site,” the staff report says.

The county is still seeking a tenant for Building W-15, the other component of the $6.3 million renovation project.

The expansion marks Bunnyman Brewing’s return to the former Lorton Reformatory grounds where the story behind its legendary namesake began.

According to one version of the Bunnyman legend, in the early 20th century, a bus carrying patients from a nearby asylum in Clifton to Lorton crashed. The authorities re-apprehended every inmate, save one who was never found, leaving only a trail of gutted rabbits as clues.

One Halloween night years later, teens hanging out under the Colchester Overpass near Fairfax Station saw a flash of light. The next morning, police found the kids strung up and gutted, just like the bunnies left by the inmate.

While that version of the story is completely untrue, there was a man possibly dressed in a bunny suit who terrorized a few residents in the early 1970s.

Gray told FFXnow last month that the brewery’s name is an homage to his hometown.

“It’s the legend we grew up with that was purely Fairfax. Anyone that grew up in the area could relate,” he said. “We are proud of our area and it was the most relevant, fun historical symbol that made sense.”

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Gray made clear that his team did research before choosing its name, which isn’t intended as a celebration of morbid happenings.

“We are not celebrating a murderer, but the story is one we all grew up with. The name is a lot for us,” he said.

He also noted that, while working as a Fairfax County firefighter, he responded to a number of calls at the Lorton Prison, and it still leaves an impression on him.

“When I go into the Workhouse Arts Center, I still see it as a prison. It’s taken a little while to get the flutters out of my stomach,” he said. “I did respond to the prison quite a few times back in the day and it was a scary situation every single time. There was no getting used to it.”

The lease for Bunnyman Brewery received unanimous approval from supervisors and was “wholeheartedly” endorsed by the head of the nonprofit Workhouse Arts Foundation, which manages the arts center.

“The two Bunnyman co-owners…have already shown the Workhouse Arts Center, by participating in our annual haunt event, that they will be great partners as we collectively work together to ensure the full activation of the campus,” WAF President Leon Scioscia said.

The initial 10-year lease is expected to generate about $109,000 a year for the county, after “the initial 18-month rent abatement period has ended,” per the staff report. Gray says the abatement means the brewery will pay no rent for the first three months and only half its rent for the next 15 months.

The county is expected to hand over the property to Bunnyman Brewing in March. At that time, the brewery will make some of its own improvements with the hope of opening the space to the public about six months later — just in time for the spooky season.

“We hope to be able to host a couple soft openings by September 2023 and fully open the doors by Halloween 2023,” Gray said.

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Northbound Ox Road approaching Blu Steel Way (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 3 p.m.) A 76-year-old woman from Alexandria has died following a two-car crash on the Ox Road stretch of Route 123 in Lorton.

On Wednesday evening (Nov. 2), Rachelle Bernice Feth was turning left onto southbound Ox Road from Blu Steel Way when a 2008 Volkswagen Golf going north on Ox Road collided with her 2013 Toyota Camry, the Fairfax County Police Department said yesterday.

(Correction: Police initially identified the victim in the crash as Ruth Feth, but family members shared her correct name. The police news release has also been updated.)

Feth sustained critical injuries and was transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

“Rachelle was an amazing woman who was just trying to return home from church,” an anonymous tipster told FFXnow.

The FCPD says its Crash Reconstruction Unit detectives don’t believe alcohol was a factor, but an investigation into the crash, including whether speed was an issue, is still ongoing.

Blu Steel Way is a residential cul-de-sac that intersects with Ox Road next to New Hope Church, turning into a service road for Dominion Power on the south side of Route 123.

At that intersection, Ox Road has two travel lanes in each direction, along with two designated turn lanes on the northbound side, a left turn lane on the southbound side and a grass median. Blu Steel Way has a stop sign but no signal.

The speed limit on Ox Road is 55 mph, per the Virginia Department of Transportation.

According to state crash data, there have been 92 crashes on Ox Road this year, including one previous fatality in February and five that resulted in serious injuries. This week’s crash doesn’t appear to have been reported to the database yet.

Specifically at the Blu Steel Way intersection, one crash has been reported in each year from 2019 to 2021, though no fatalities or serious injuries are listed.

Feth is the 15th non-pedestrian to die in a vehicle crash on county roads this year, surpassing the 14 such fatalities recorded by this point in 2021.

The FCPD has reported 17 pedestrian fatalities this year, most recently from an Oct. 26 hit-and-run on Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads. In comparison, there were 11 fatal crashes involving pedestrians by late October 2021, 12 in 2020, and 14 in 2019, according to data provided by the police department.

Police said anyone with information about Wednesday’s crash can contact detectives at 703-280-0543. Tips can also be sent anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

“Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars,” the FCPD said. “Please leave contact information if you wish for a detective to follow up with you.”

Image via Google Maps

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Workhouse Arts Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Bunnyman Brewing is looking to return to the source of its legendary namesake by conjuring up a second location at Lorton’s Workhouse Arts Campus.

The Fairfax-based brewery is in the midst of negotiating a lease to move into 4,500 square-foot space at the county-owned Workhouse Arts Campus in Lorton, Bunnyman co-owner Sam Gray confirmed to FFXnow.

At yesterday’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors authorized a public hearing for Dec. 6 in regard to the county leasing property to the brewery.

If approved, this would be Bunnyman’s second location and Gray said the hope would be to open at 9514 Workhouse Way prior to Halloween 2023.

Over the summer, construction began on a $6.3 million renovation of two buildings at the Workhouse campus, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Board Chairman Jeff McKay noted at the time that the county hoped a restaurant or brewery would move into those buildings.

Bunnyman is now poised to take over one of the refurbished spaces, known as Building W-13 — a fitting turn of events, since the brewery is named after a local legend that involves the Workhouse Arts Center, which was once the Lorton Reformatory.

As one version of the story goes, Clifton had an asylum in the early 20th century, but the small town’s residents didn’t like the idea of having patients there. So, it was shut down, and all the patients were put on a bus destined for the Lorton prison. However, the bus crashed before reaching its destination.

The authorities were able to reapprehend every inmate — except for one who was never found, leaving only gutted, half-eaten bunnies as clues.

One Halloween night years later, a group of kids hanging out under the Colchester Overpass near Fairfax Station supposedly saw a flash of light. The next morning, police find the kids gutted and half-eaten, like the bunnies left by the inmate.

There is likely no more than a kernel of truth to the story, but Gray — a retired Fairfax County firefighter — grew up with it and thought there was no better name for his brewery.

“It’s the legend we grew up with that was purely Fairfax. Anyone that grew up in the area could relate,” he said. “We are proud of our area and it was the most relevant, fun historical symbol that made sense.”

The Building W-13 renovation is expected to wrap up soon, possibly letting Bunnyman’s ownership move into the space by February. If that happens, Gray says he could have the brewery open by next fall.

The plan is to brew drinks on-site, but on a smaller scale than its main location on Guinea Road in Fairfax. There will also be a “limited fun in-house food selection,” along with cider and possibly wine.

The lease with the county calls for an 18-month rent abatement and is expected to generate about $109,000 on a yearly basis for the public coffers, per a staff report.

As for the other renovated building on campus, dubbed Building W-15, the county continues “to seek a prospective tenant,” according to staff.

Gray is excited that his brewery has the opportunity to move into such a unique and historic space.

“We…believe the corridor and Laurel Hill/Lorton area is set for good future growth,” he said. “Part of the Bunnyman legend is the prison and we look forward to being part of that growth.”

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Lorton Station Blvd at Lee Masey Drive (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m. on 10/19/2022) A pedestrian died this morning (Wednesday) after a driver hit her while she was crossing Lorton Station Blvd yesterday (Thursday), police say.

Helen Bahta Oukubazghi, 52, of Lorton was hospitalized with injuries that were considered life-threatening from a crash near the Lorton Station intersection with Old Beech Court and Lee Masey Drive.

Fairfax County Police Department detectives have preliminarily determined that the driver of a black 2015 Chevrolet Equinox going south on Lorton Station struck Oukubazghi at 4:58 p.m. while she was crossing the road near Old Beech Court.

“The driver of the Chevrolet left the scene but returned a short while later, upon observing the damage to the vehicle,” police said.

Southbound Lorton Station was closed to traffic between Pohick and Lorton roads until about 9 p.m. yesterday while police investigated the scene.

“Detectives from our Crash Reconstruction Unit will present details of the investigation to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for possible charges,” the FCPD said. “Preliminarily, alcohol and speed do not appear to be factors in the crash.”

Located west of Richmond Highway, Lorton Station Blvd is four lanes across with a median and a left turn lane on the northbound side. Lee Masey and Old Beech both have brick paths as crosswalks, but there is no light or crosswalk across Lorton Station from either side.

Oukubazghi is the fifth pedestrian to die in a vehicle crash on Fairfax County roads this October. By FFXnow’s count, that brings the county’s pedestrian death toll up to 20 people, including two fatalities on the Dulles Toll Road and last week’s fatal crash on I-95.

Photo via Google Maps

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The new Lorton Community Center (via Fairfax County)

The doors of the $18 million Lorton Community Center are now open, ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for this coming weekend.

The 30,000-square-foot facility on Richmond Highway is combined with a renovated and expanded Lorton Library as well as the new 1.7-acre Lorton Park.

The community center features a gym, a fitness room, a kitchen, an art room, and a sensory room. The facility also includes space for the Lorton Senior Center and the Lorton Community Action Center, a nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance to those in need.

The 10,000-square-foot library has been expanded by 6,000 square feet for a larger children’s area, increased seating, and more meeting and study rooms. The new Lorton Park is located behind the parking lot and has open field space, picnic tables, playground, fitness area, and a trail loop.

The new Lorton Community Center site plan (via Fairfax County)

The facility also has sustainability features like a rain garden, underground stormwater facility, and infrastructure for solar panels.

The full project — the park, community center, and library — cost $27.23 million, with the community center accounting for essentially two thirds of the cost, according to a county spokesperson.

The entire facility opened to the public yesterday (Monday) with a ribbon cutting and “community celebration” scheduled for Saturday (Oct. 15) afternoon, rain or shine.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and other local officials are expected to attend. There will be tours of the new center and light refreshments.

The facility was initially scheduled to open late last month but was pushed several weeks to allow for “final facility work to be completed,” Storck said.

Read More

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Rendering of the new South County Police Station and Animal Shelter in Lorton (via Fairfax County)

When Fairfax County’s new animal shelter opens next year, some of its first residents will likely come from across jurisdictional lines.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the City of Fairfax to provide services and housing to animals under their care. The city cares for fewer than 100 animals a year. In 2021, it cared for 31 dogs, 20 cats, and 11 other small animals.

On track to open in the spring, the new South County Animal Shelter in Lorton is expected to provide plenty of space for these furry friends.

“[The Department of Animal Services] already has a long history of supporting the City with meeting their animal welfare needs,” a county staff report said. “With the opening of the second facility in Lorton in Spring 2023, DAS will have ample space and appropriate staffing to accommodate additional animals from the City.”

The 23,000-square-foot facility on Lorton Road will be the second county-operated shelter, joining the existing Michael R. Frey Animal Shelter on West Ox Road in Fairfax.

The South County Animal Shelter will likely begin operations in late spring when construction is completed, DAS Director Reasa Currier confirmed to FFXnow.

The board is expected to approve about $2 million to help provide services, staff and maintain the shelter as part of a fiscal year 2022 carryover package.

“This facility will allow us to substantially grow the geographic reach and impact of our work for the residents of Fairfax County,” Currier said by email. “Not only will we be able to create even more families through adoption, but the second shelter will provide a hub for essential services from behavior and training support, veterinary medical care, pet supplies, and other critical services that help keep pets together with their families.”

Currier says the Lorton shelter will be “similar in size and footprint” to the Fairfax one, with 88 dog kennels, 42 cat condos, 2 catios, and a “state-of-the-art” veterinary clinic. There will also be an 20,000-square-foot outdoor space for the animals.

Like other shelters nationwide, the county’s lone animal shelter has faced its share of capacity challenges. Even before recent influxes of rescued beagles as well as cats and rabbits, there was a clear need for more shelter space in the southern part of Fairfax County.

“For too long, the many services and resources provided by [DAS] have been inaccessible for the residents in South County,” Currier said. “We are very excited about the location and are looking forward to serving South County residents and their pets. We are already hearing from residents who live nearby the new shelter who are eager to begin volunteering and participating in our programs.”

The shelter will share a new $30 million building with the South County Police Station, which will be about 31,000 square feet and is expected to open at the same time.

The building will have a number of sustainability features, including electric vehicle charging stations and space for solar panels, and energy-efficient systems. Landscaping will be made up of native plants and be bird-friendly.

The facility is on Lorton Road between the intersections of Workhouse and Hooes roads. Called the “Triangle” by the county, the parcel was specifically acquired in 2001 for public safety use.

In 2015, voters approved a $151 million bond referendum that included money to fund the Lorton project, which broke ground last May.

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Solar Panels (via Flickr/Minoru Karamatsu)

After years of effort, solar panels are finally coming to the I-95 Landfill Complex in Lorton.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion on Sept. 13 to lease about 40 acres of the county-owned closed landfill within the complex to Sun Tribe Solar to install, operate, and maintain an array of ground-mounted solar panels.

Sun Tribe Solar, in turn, will let the county purchase renewable energy generated at the site with little upfront or operational costs, which staff say will help the county reduce its greenhouse emissions.

With the company quoting a rate of about 11 cents per kilowatt hour with no escalation over the life of the agreement, the county expects to save money immediately — about $51,000 in the first year of operation and over $1 million cumulatively by year eight.

Thought to be the first such project in the Commonwealth, the panels are expected to be installed and go online by the end of 2024, Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) Deputy Director Eric Forbes said at the meeting.

A map of where the solar panels will go at the I-95 Landfill Complex (via Fairfax County)

As a number of supervisors noted, though, it was a long time coming, with a number of challenges along the way.

Despite solid local support, the county needed approval from the Virginia General Assembly for solar panels to be installed on its land. The county was exploring the project at least as early as 2017, but every time it was taken to the state legislature, their request was denied.

The needed permission came at last from the 2020 Solar Freedom Act, which included a specific clause providing Fairfax County the go-ahead for the landfill project.

“I really wish this had happened a long time ago when I was chair of the environment committee because that’s when we first started having this discussion,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “[A closed landfill] is perfect for solar. If it had not been for that pesky Virginia General Assembly not allowing it unless there was a change in the legislation, we would have done this a long time ago and would have been way ahead of the game.”

Gross wasn’t the only one to express frustration at the state holding up a project that the county says will increase its use of renewable energy while also saving money. Read More

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The dual W&OD Trail in Falls Church (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Within the next decade, Fairfax County could see pedestrians and bicyclists split up along its stretch of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, among other potential changes at its regional parks.

In a new, five-year strategic plan released last Tuesday (Aug. 9), the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority (NOVA Parks) proposes expanding the “dual trail” design introduced last year in Falls Church to other segments of the 45-mile, cross-county park.

The agency is targeting more urban areas — specifically Vienna, Herndon and Reston, and Arlington — for the expansion, which would turn the one-track W&OD Trail into two separate paths for cyclists and users on foot.

“This kind of improvement expands the capacity of the trail so that cyclists and walkers can have a safer and more enjoyable experience,” NOVA Parks communications director Kelly Gilfillen said by email.

According to the 2023-2027 strategic plan, which lays out its near-future vision and priorities for the 12,000-plus acres of parkland it oversees, NOVA Parks will partner with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to design and implement the dual trails.

While the plan calls for developing plans for Arlington County Dual Trails by 2024, it sets a goal of 2027 for designing the Vienna and Reston/Herndon sections.

“Most of Vienna, Reston, and Herndon are urban, so most of that area would probably be considered,” Gilfillen said. “We do not yet have those details planned. That will be part of our work over the next few years.”

The Fairfax County area is also home to four out of the five parks that the plan highlights for “signature” projects:

  • W&OD Trail Visitor Center: likely in Loudoun County, per ARLnow
  • Gateway Wetlands Park
  • Pohick Bay expanded camping and associated amenities
  • Occoquan indoor/outdoor Adventure Center
  • Hemlock Facility Update

NOVA Parks hopes to work with Fairfax City to restore the wetlands at Gateway Regional Park, a 1-acre rest stop at the corner of Pickett and Old Pickett roads, by 2024.

“This would be like a very small version of Huntley Meadows Park,” Gilfillen said. “NOVA Parks would restore the wetlands that were once a part of this park, which is adjacent to Accotink Creek. A raised boardwalk would feature interpretive displays for environmental education.” Read More

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