Here's a look at news and events from around southern Delaware this week.
Vigil held for victims of Georgetown shooting
Despite temperatures dropping into the mid-20s by the end of the evening, hundreds gathered at The Circle in Georgetown Thursday night to remember two local men killed in a shooting.
Armando Vicente Chilel-Lopez, 31, of Georgetown, and Honorio Velasquez, 28, of Bridgeville, were gunned down at El Nopalito Restaurant in Georgetown on Saturday evening, state police said.
Investigators said a group of men had been asked to leave the restaurant earlier because of their disorderly behavior and a dispute with other patrons. Two of them later came back in masks, and one of them took a necklace from Chilel-Lopez’s neck. Chilel-Lopez lunged at the man, and the man's companion drew a handgun and shot Chilel-Lopez. As the two men fled, the one with the handgun fired a second shot into the dining area, which hit Velasquez.
Velasquez was pronounced dead at the scene. Chilel-Lopez died at the hospital.
Kevin Andrade of radio station Maxima 95.3, Mayor Bill West, state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, state Rep. Ruth Briggs King, and a number of area pastors spoke, some in Spanish, some in English translated to Spanish.
A recurring theme was a call for unity.
"Once (the perpetrators) are found, we will push for justice, for justice to be served," Pettyjohn said. He quoted Psalm 34:18: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
"The only appropriate words that I can offer, like many in our community, is that I am deeply, deeply sorry for your loss," Briggs King said.
At the end of the vigil, a chant broke out: "Justice, justice" and later, "Queremos justicia."
Police had, in fact, made arrests in the case earlier that evening, although they didn't announce it until Friday morning. At about 5:30 p.m., an hour before the vigil started, Delaware State Police pulled over a vehicle in Milford and arrested Yony Morales-Garcia, 22, and Emner Morales-Garcia, 21, both of Georgetown.
The men were arrested on two counts of first degree murder, first degree robbery, possession of a firearm and wearing a disguise during the commission of a felony, carrying a concealed deadly weapon and conspiracy. They were held in Sussex Correctional Institution in default of $2.12 million cash bond, police said.
“Honorio was known for his outgoingness, laughter, and joy he spread to others,” a GoFundMe page raising money for funeral expenses said.
A GoFundMe page for Chilel-Lopez’s family reads, “We knew him for always smiling and being great with kids. He was always around when you needed him.”
There were rumors that a police chase Saturday starting in Seaford and ending in Easton, Maryland was related to this shooting. But the Easton Star Democrat reported it was a separate case and that police were actually after a Seaford woman accused of attempted murder in southern Maryland. After the pursuit to Easton, the woman shot herself and was flown to shock trauma.
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COVID numbers are dropping quickly in Delaware
Delaware officials are cautiously optimistic that we may be on the other side of the peak in the latest surge in COVID, similar to the trajectory of last winter’s surge.
As of Thursday, 521 people were hospitalized with COVID in Delaware, 52 of those critical. That’s a significant drop from the high of 759 on Jan. 12, and it’s even a drop from the numbers at the time of the governor’s press conference on Tuesday.
Even though numbers are plunging they’re still higher than last winter, when the peak hospitalization was 474.
“It’s great to see our numbers improving,” Dr. Karyl Rattay said, but she warned that there’s still a lot of COVID around.
Officials don’t seem ready yet to change the emergency stance toward COVID. Rattay said they are often asked when we'll be able to treat COVID like the flu. When comparing Delaware’s worst flu season ever, 36 deaths, with the death toll from COVID, Rattay said, “It’s clear we are not yet to a point where we can say this is endemic, like flu.”
Regarding the statistics, Delaware hospitals are not distinguishing between patients with COVID – that is, patients who show up for, say, knee surgery and test positive while they are there, and patients hospitalized for severe COVID symptoms. Gov. John Carney confirmed this, noting it gives a different context to the numbers, but said, “I’m not sure it makes a difference to how we react. The hospitals still have those patients and we are still put in a position to support them … the effect is the same.”
Del Tech mandates vaccines for students and visitors
COVID vaccines will now be mandatory for attendance at Del Tech, with college President Mark Brainerd outlining a new policy last Friday.
Because of record-high COVID numbers and hospitalizations, he said in the memo, effective March 30 all students enrolling in summer classes must provide proof they are up to date on COVID-19 vaccination. That includes students who are only enrolled in online classes.
Starting May 1, all visitors to college buildings including those at public or private events held indoors, will have to show proof of vaccination to get in.
Also included are children 5 and older who attend child development centers and summer camps.
“Students who have a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from receiving a vaccination can request a reasonable accommodation,” Brainerd wrote.
A group of Republican representatives and senators from southern Delaware released a statement condemning the move, calling it overbearing and an abuse of authority and saying the policy leverages “the desperation of people in critical need of job training and other educational opportunities.”
“We are rapidly approaching the two-year mark of COVID-19’s arrival in Delaware and there is evidence the situation is improving,” they said, citing the state’s statistics.
Gov. Carney, for his part, said it’s a decision everyone in charge of an enterprise has to weigh, and Brainerd understands the needs of his campuses better than others. “I applaud him for taking that action.”
Del Tech did not previously require health vaccinations for all students.
Snowstorm of the week
The snow hype is back, as the way-too-early forecasts have been circulating all week about a pending monster storm/flurry/cloudy day on Friday and Saturday. The forecast seemed to have settled on the snow side of the equation by Thursday, with the National Weather Service calling for real accumulation starting Friday night into Saturday, with a possibility of totals ranging from 6-13 inches in western Sussex and Kent, and a few more inches at the beaches.
This publication’s editorial stance is pro-snow, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
I was bemused when I tried to go to a business in Seaford after the dusting of snow last week and found it was closed because the roads “have not been plowed.” I’m not exactly sure what the road crews would have plowed had they ventured out. If we get 6 inches, I fear the business will close permanently.
And now for something completely different
We haven't run food features in this newsletter before, but there's no law that says we can't. The Independent will be partnering with Edgar Diaz, who runs an Instagram account devoted to culinary photography, to feature recipes and photos from time to time. Diaz works in the food industry and does photography, culinary arts, and recipe development as a hobby. You can find more of his beautiful work on his Instagram account @diptoe.
Red wine poached cherries
Dining in for Valentines this year? Impress your date and take your dessert course to the next level with red wine poached cherries. You can prep this a day in advance to make your life easier.
- 1 cup/250ml red wine
- 1/2 cup/100g sugar
- 1 strip/3g of orange or lemon peel, about 1" x 3"
- 1 lb/450g sweet cherries, pitted
- Combine wine, sugar, and citrus peel in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Add cherries, and bring back to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes, or until cherries are tender. Remove the cherries and set aside to cool. Throw away the citrus peel.
- Continue simmering the red wine mixture until the remaining liquid is reduced by about half and coats the back of a spoon. You will need to watch carefully at this stage. Once it is reduced, remove from heat and allow to cool. At this point you can serve immediately, or refrigerate until needed.
- To plate as shown here, dip a pastry brush into the red wine reduction and paint it vertically across the plate.
- Place your cake down as shown. Find a few cake crumbs (or break down a small piece of cake and create some) and sprinkle decoratively on the red wine stripe.
- Add a few of your poached cherries along the stripe. I happened to have raspberries on hand, so I added those as well.
- Scoop your ice cream last, right before serving, and place as shown. You can use a regular scoop, or use a hot spoon to make a quenelle as shown here. YouTube "how to make a quenelle" for more tips.
- Serve and enjoy!
- There are dozens of recipes online for cherry red wine sauce. This is a simplified version.
- You can use 1TB of your red wine plus 2tsp corn starch to create a slurry to thicken the sauce instead of reducing it.
- You can serve the cherries warm or cold. They are also good on their own, served over ice cream, with mascarpone, or with whipped cream.
- Before plating, I chilled the plate in the freezer for 10-15 minutes so the ice cream wouldn't melt as fast.
Candidates for Milford election can file now
Half the City Council seats in Milford and the office of mayor are up for election on Saturday, April 23, the city announced. Each of the city’s four wards have two council members, and one seat from each ward is up for a vote.
Those interested in running for office can pick up the paperwork at the clerk’s office at City Hall at 201 South Walnut Street. Candidates have to get at least 10 signatures from registered voters in the ward they are running in.
Candidates have to be a U.S. citizen, a resident of Milford, at least 18 years old, a qualified voter in the city and undergo a criminal background check.
The deadline to file to run is Tuesday, Feb. 22.
Voters in Milford have to be registered through the state of Delaware. The deadline to register is Thursday, March 24.
Little League registration dates are coming up. Here is information for some of the local ones:
- Harrington: In-person registration Jan. 29, Feb. 5, Feb. 19 (date changed from Feb. 15) at Harrington Moose Lodge, 9-11 a.m.
- Woodbridge: In-person registration at the Bridgeville library on Feb. 2 and 23 from 6:30-8 p.m. Online registration open now.
- Nanticoke: Online registration open now.
- Laurel: In-person registration at Laurel Fire Department Saturday, Jan. 29, Saturday, Feb. 12, Wednesday, Feb. 16, Saturday, Feb. 26 and Wednesday, March 3. Saturday times are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesdays are 6-8:30 p.m.
- Georgetown: In-person registration at 1st State Chevy Wednesdays, Feb. 2 and 16 and March 9, from 6-8 p.m.; Saturdays Feb. 19 and March 12 from 8 a.m. to noon.