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Special Report: Chesapeake couple left high and dry after paying contractor $180,000 of taxpayer money

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CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – A Chesapeake couple contacted 10 On Your Side because they said their frustrations are at an all-time high. The couple explained that they paid a Virginia Beach contractor federal money to raise their home from flooding, but the work stopped shortly after it started and months later nothing has been done. 

“This is our paradise,” said Joann Thomas.When Joann and Bobby Thomas moved to Chesapeake 32 years ago, they wanted a place right on the water.

“We had very good times here,” Thomas added.

They chose a home on the Elizabeth River on a street fittingly named Deepwater Drive.

“I used to come home from work and enjoy coming out here,” Thomas said.

Those enjoyable days ended in 1996.  That’s when the flooding started and it has only progressively gotten worse.

“Twice it happened to us when it came through the whole house,” Thomas said.  “$60,000 to repair the house was nothing.”

The Thomas’ have suffered from 15 floods.  Two of them were catastrophic from Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and the nor’easter known as Nor’Ida in 2009.  They were sick of swimming in damage.

“We decided it would be great to be able to get a grant, because we heard FEMA was giving grants,” Thomas said.

Years later, the Thomas’ were awarded almost $200,000 from FEMA as part of its Flood Mitigation Assistance program.  The federal government provided the taxpayer money to the city of Chesapeake and then to the Thomas family.

“That was amazing,” Thomas added.  “We were total amazed, because we finally got one.”

The house would be lifted eight feet higher, with a new foundation built underneath. 

“We were raising the house out of the flood zone so that we would never get flooded again,” said Bobby Thomas.

It was now up to the couple to find a contractor to take the job. 

The Thomases said Glen Sweitzer, Jr. and his company Regal Renovations stepped up.  Sweitzer’s price tag was a bit more than the grant, so the Thomases agreed to throw in another $30,000 of their own money.

“We told him right away that was it,” Bobby added.  “We couldn’t do anymore than that.”

The work began in December.  

“It was a relief knowing that we would not flood again,” said Bobby. 

The house was quickly lifted off its foundation. Subcontractors were making progress on the 6-month job, but just three months in, the subcontractors walked off the site.  They told the Thomases they weren’t going to work without getting paid.

Chesapeake released the money to the Thomases.  They in turn gave $180,000 to Sweitzer, who they say was supposed to be paying subcontractors to do the work.

Ian Morse was one of those subcontractors.

“The total invoice for the job was $71,400,” Morse said.

Morse came from Gloucester to help anchor the new foundation into the ground.  He spent $40,000 out of his own pocket for materials.  It was money he figured he would get back.

“We haven’t seen one cent and not any effort to make any kind of payment or even minimal,” Morse added.  “We filed a mechanics lean with the city of Chesapeake and we hired an attorney.”

Bobby Thomas wants to know what Sweitzer did with all the money. “He didn’t do $180,000 worth of work there.”

Very little has changed since March.  The house is suspended in the air and some of the walls are cracking.  The foundation is yet to be built. 

“It’s miserable,” Bobby added.  “I just wish they never started.”

Bobby is living out his garage and using power from a neighbor.  Joann is staying a mile away at her daughter’s house.

“We don’t even live together anymore and it is tough to be here alone,” Bobby added.  “I end up talking to myself in there.”

10 On Your Side reached out to both FEMA and Chesapeake officials.  FEMA says it is aware of the situation.  Chesapeake officials sent a letter to Sweitzer requesting to audit his books.  The assistant city attorney wrote that if work isn’t started again soon Sweitzer must pay back the money.  Chesapeake is also looking at legal options.

“The bottom line is my heart is for the Thomases to have this project completed,” Sweitzer said.

Glen Sweitzer agreed to sit down with 10 On Your Side.  He explained that after the project started, he encountered cost overruns and he needed more money to keep going.

“There are some things that the city has asked of us, there are some things that their counsel has asked of us and I’m working with my counsel to see what that solution could look like,” Sweitzer added.

The contractor said he is disappointed the project hasn’t gone as planned.

“I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this if we are being honest and it’s not just because of how I feel,” Sweitzer said.  “It’s because of how I would feel if I were in their shoes.”

10 On Your Side asked where the money went, but he said his attorney advised he couldn’t answer that question. 

The Thomases have hired an attorney and are exploring legal options against Sweitzer, Jr. and Regal Renovations. 

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SpaceX Starship rocket explodes in fireball just after landing in dramatic footage

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It is the third SpaceX Starship to blow up after landing – but billionaire founder Elon Musk didn’t let it faze him – tweeting ‘RIP SN10’ as his work went up in a fireball

Elon Musk’s latest SpaceX Starship rocket experiment has once again ended up in flames.
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The Earth’s deepest secret was just revealed by scientists

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The research into what lies deep, deep beneath our feet has yielded precious few details over the past few decades. We all grew up learning that we live on the Earth’s crust, which is just a thin layer above the mantle. Beneath that, the outer core surrounds the inner core, and… well, that’s it, or so we thought. Now, scientists have offered us an update to this model, and they believe the discovery may be concrete enough to warrant the rewriting of textbooks.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, a small team of scientists says that the most widely accepted model of the interior of the Earth doesn’t necessarily jive with the data that is available. In its place, the researchers propose a new model that includes a new layer within the inner core, and they say that, based on the data, it may be evidence of a “traumatic event” somewhere in Earth’s history.

The new layer the researchers are said to have confirmed is distinct from the inner core and would represent a new “central inner core,” for lack of a better term. To do this, the team collected a massive amount of data from seismic events over decades, then tested them against models of the Earth’s interior. What they found was that the notion of a new core layer was the best way to match the data with a model.

“Traditionally we’ve been taught the Earth has four main layers: the crust, the mantle, the outer core and the inner core,” Joanne Stephenson, lead author of the work, said in a statement. “The idea of another distinct layer was proposed a couple of decades ago, but the data has been very unclear. We got around this by using a very clever search algorithm to trawl through thousands of the models of the inner core.”

How exactly this newly-identified layer formed is anyone’s guess, but it may point to a more complex story of early Earth formation than was previously accepted.

“We found evidence that may indicate a change in the structure of iron, which suggests perhaps two separate cooling events in Earth’s history. The details of this big event are still a bit of a mystery, but we’ve added another piece of the puzzle when it comes to our knowledge of the Earths’ inner core.”

The discovery of a new core layer may not change much when it comes to our daily lives, but it’s a big step toward better understanding how our planets and others like it form. If we hope to have a solid understanding of the nature of planets, figuring out what is hiding deep within them is a prerequisite and a pretty big one.

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Bodies of 11 Infants Found in Ceiling of Funeral Home May Have Been Hidden Because Parents Couldn’t Pay

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On Friday, Michigan state investigators received an “anonymous letter” directing them to a Detroit funeral home that closed in April for “deplorable, unsanitary conditions.”

According to the Detroit Free Press, investigators entered the Cantrell Funeral Home with permission from the new owner, who was in the process of converting it to a community center, Detroit Police Lt. Brian Bowser said.

There, they located the bodies of 11 infants and “stillborns” hidden inside a “drop-down ceiling” between the first and second floor of the building.

Nine of the bodies were located hidden inside a box, and two were found inside a garbage bag in a small casket, Bowser confirmed at a press conference.

Police have not confirmed the identities of the infants or why they were hidden in the ceiling. The bodies were badly decomposed; some were “mummified,” and others were “embalmed.”

In April, the funeral home was shut down over unsanitary conditions after inspectors found bodies that had been left to mold and decay.

Owner Raymond Cantrell II admitted he kept bodies when the families couldn’t pay. At the time, he told WJBK:

“Those who have asked me to hold their loved ones will know I was doing them a favor to accommodate them. For those that weren’t, like the many of the cremated they are trying to take from here or that they are taking from here. Those individuals we called we’ve tried to notify and they haven’t been picked up.”

Police have not confirmed that’s why the infants were kept. But Pastor William C. Curtis, who owns three Detroit funeral homes, said that could be the case.

He told the Detroit News:

“A lot of times the family don’t pay and you have to take them to court. There is no recourse, but holding a body isn’t justifiable. It’s not like repossessing a car, you can’t give the body back.”

Cantrell took over the funeral home from his father in 2017. Curtis said they “used to get a lot of business.”

The medical examiner’s office is currently working to identify all the infants and reunite them with their families, it said in a statement.

Cantrell is not facing charges in relation to the discovery at this time.

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