Rangers in W.Va. say public input is leading them to Thurmond vandals

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Public input leads toward IDing Thurmond vandals

Thanks to input from the public, rangers in southern West Virginia say they are confident they’ll find the suspects who vandalized a historic home in the New River Gorge in March.

Julena Campbell, chief of interpretation and cultural resources for the New River Gorge National River, confirmed today that community input has contributed greatly to the case, which involves a former boarding house featured in the 1987 film “Matewan.”

“Our rangers are still working on the Thurmond case. They got a number of great leads from the community and are still working those right now,” Campbell wrote in an email.

“They are confident that suspects will be identified based on the tips that the public sent in, so we appreciate everyone’s help on that.”

Sometime during the weekend of March 3-5, one or more vandals entered the building, known to many as “Fatty Lipcomb’s,” and damaged most of the historic items inside.

The vandals destroyed doors and windows, ripped railing off the second-story porch, threw doors and furniture from the second floor out onto the ground, and spray-painted walls with graffiti and profanity. Additionally, a road sign and two CSX Transportation train cars parked nearby were spray painted similarly.

Some of the specific spray-painted tags left behind at the scene include: Zone Boy’s 440, Zone Boyz, 304-440 Gang, Cassie, Brandon, Cassie+Brandon, Pookie, Pookie not Britt, N.M., C.K., J.L., JL ♥ CK, Pook+Roop, Justine, and #FreeBriscoenotTyler.

The house is one of many structures owned by the park service in the Thurmond Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Officially listed as the “John Bullock/Roger Armandtrout House,” but also known as “Fatty Lipcomb’s,” the structure was constructed around 1900 and was used historically as a boarding house. It was featured in the 1987 movie “Matewan.”

This house, and other park-owned historic buildings in Thurmond, underwent significant repair and stabilization work in the early 2000s. Although the interior of the houses are closed to the public, the stabilized structures allow park visitors to experience what Thurmond was like when it was bustling railroad town with many residences and businesses.

Vandalism is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and fines up to $5,000. Restitution for graffiti cases frequently includes a sentence of community service as well, she said. Due to the age of the house, felony charges could also be pursued for the deliberate destruction of the historic structure as a violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the park service at 304-465-6516 or Crime Stoppers of Raleigh County at 304-255-STOP. Its 24-hour tip line allows callers to remain anonymous. Cash rewards of up to $1,000 are available to anyone providing information that leads to an arrest. Information on this crime or other violations may also be reported online at www.crimestoppersofraleighcounty.org.