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VA- Owner of downtown Roanoke business dies; was being investigated by police

7-22-2008 Virginia:

The owner of a landmark Roanoke City Market business has died, just days after police seized his computer and found child pornography on it, according to court documents and the Roanoke Medical Examiner’s office.

Kent Agnew, 61, whose family has owned and operated Agnew Seed for decades, died of unknown causes sometime between Sunday night and this morning, according to assistant chief medical examiner Dr. Paul Benson. Benson said he is waiting on test results before making a determination on cause of death.

Asked about Agnew’s death, Roanoke police spokeswoman Aisha Johnson said officers were called at midnight to a building in the 300 block of Market Street to investigate a death. Johnson would not identify the person who died or the address but said the body was found inside a building.

Agnew Seed is at 301 Market St.

Johnson said the death did not appear to be suspicious and police did not suspect foul play.

According to search warrants filed today in Roanoke Circuit Court, detectives went to Agnew Seed on Friday morning and told Kent Agnew they had received information that his computer contained child pornography. Agnew allowed the police to view his computer and take his hard drive. According to the warrants, detectives examined the hard drive and found numerous images of child pornography, many “of an explicit nature.”

A search warrant that was executed later that evening showed that police also seized, from the same address, zip drives, thumb drives, a computer disc, five magazines and seven books.

Johnson would not comment on the investigation except to say that no arrest had been made. She would not say who supplied the tip to police or whether the images were downloaded off the Internet or sent via e-mail from another location.

According to the business’ Web site, Agnew Seed is the oldest seed house in the state and has been owned by the same extended family since 1897. Kent Agnew’s father, Frank, bought the store from in-laws in 1945 and operated it until his death in 1990. Kent Agnew began working there when he was 12 years old, the site says.

A handwritten sign dated Monday was posted on the store’s front door, apologizing that the business was closed for a family emergency.

Relatives who identified themselves as Agnew’s son and daughter-in-law said they did not wish to comment on the matter when reached by phone Monday.

Other market vendors, asked about Agnew, spoke highly of him but did not wish to be identified. ..News Source.. by Neil Harvey


Police continue porn inquiry
Roanoke police are pursing the investigation at Agnew Seed Store.

7-23-2008 Virginia:

Roanoke police are continuing to investigate how a well-known City Market merchant might have obtained child pornography at his store, even though the man is now dead.

Without commenting on the details of the case -- which came to light Monday after the death of Kent Agnew, the owner of Agnew Seed Store -- police spokeswoman Aisha Johnson said police are following up on an investigation that led them to the store Friday.

According to a search warrant, detectives went to the business at 301 Market St. and told Agnew they had received information that his computer contained child pornography. Agnew allowed police to examine the computer's hard drive, which according to the warrant contained numerous images of children, many of "an explicit nature."

Johnson said Tuesday that the investigation continues in an effort to find out if anyone else was involved and where Agnew might have obtained the images.

The medical examiner's office has said Agnew died of causes it has yet to determine. Police would not identify him Tuesday as the person they found dead in the 300 block of Market Street early Monday morning, or comment on the cause of death.

Johnson said the death did not appear suspicious, and that police do not suspect foul play.

Even before the investigation took an unexpected turn with Agnew's death, authorities were hoping to keep it out of the public eye.

Late Friday afternoon, police went to Circuit Court Judge Clifford Weckstein and asked that the search warrant used to raid the store be sealed, according to Commonwealth's Attorney Donald Caldwell.

"I guess they thought it would generate a lot of publicity if it came to light," Caldwell said.

Weckstein declined to seal the warrant at the informal hearing, which Caldwell said was attended by an assistant commonwealth's attorney.

It's "relatively unusual" for police to ask that a search warrant be sealed, Caldwell said. He estimated it happens once or twice a year.

Asked why police wanted to have the search warrant sealed, Johnson declined to comment.

In the days following the death of the 61-year-old owner of the landmark downtown business, most neighboring business owners have been reluctant to talk specifics about him.

Yet some members of that tight-knit community said Agnew was a reserved man who kept to himself at his corner store.

A former member of the U.S. Marines Corps, Agnew had suffered from a variety of health problems in recent years, according to his obituary. He was married for 40 years and had three children, one deceased, the obituary said.

Pauline Wood, who has owned the nearby boutique Shades of Colors since 1983, said Agnew played with her two youngest sons when they were growing up, and that he was very respectful.

"It's so amazing how something like this would happen to such a wonderful person," Wood said. ..News Source.. by Laurence Hammack

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