ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — A special grand jury has indicted a man who allegedly was responsible for the deaths of four people in the 2019 explosion at South River Market in Buena Vista.
The explosion took the lives of the owner of South River Market, Roger Lee Roberts, as well as two employees — Kevin Tate Roberts and Samantha Gail Lewis — and a patron, Paul Dewayne Ruley.
Phillip Ray Westmoreland faces charges including four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
At the request of the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Salem Field Office conducted the investigation into the cause and the origin on the explosion.
After dedicating substantial time, resources and personnel to the investigation, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations supplied its investigative files to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in Rockbridge County in December 2019.
During the review process and after consultation with the Bureau, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jared Moon petitioned the Rockbridge County Circuit Court to impanel a special grand jury to continue the investigation.
The special grand jury was initially ordered to convene in April 2020. However, with the declaration of the statewide judicial emergency as a result of the pandemic, the proceedings were postponed.
They were set to re-convene in December, but was delayed once more due to COVID-related reasons.
The special grand jury met for three straight days last week, behind closed doors as is required by law.
Westmoreland is currently being held in the Rockbridge Regional Jail without bond.