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Manchin's brother loses beloved Corvette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rock Manchin's father gave him a blue metallic Corvette in late 1974 when he turned old enough to drive.

"My father's goal was to get everyone of us kids a car when we got old enough to drive," Manchin said. "But we were expected to take good care of it."

And Manchin, the youngest brother of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, kept the promise for a remarkable 36 years.

Until earlier this month.

When cruel fate intervened.

And the car wound up stolen.

And smashed into ruin.

Just days after Manchin had the beauty repainted.

Ugh.

Although he's disappointed by the carelessness that ruined his beloved Corvette, Manchin, a 52-year-old Farmington resident, is also philosophical.

"I was sad to see what happened to my car, but it's just a vehicle," said Manchin, who is one of the owners of WCO Flooring America in Farmington. 

The vintage car was stolen on a Friday evening, Feb. 4, from a garage next to Manchin's house. He had been remodeling that house and was using its garage to store his car.

"I was in the hot tub at about 9:30, and all of a sudden the garage door in the house next to me goes up," he said.

Manchin wasn't too concerned at first. He often loans the vehicle to some of his nephews. But as the Corvette began pulling out of the driveway, Manchin's wife came out of the house and asked him who was taking the car.

At that point, it dawned on them that the car was being stolen. Manchin's wife began chasing the Corvette down the driveway.

Police soon took over the chase as the suspect fled south on U.S. 250 into Fairmont.

The pursuit ended abruptly when the car crashed into a tow truck in Fairmont. Both the Corvette and the tow truck were badly damaged.

"I'm just glad no one was killed," Manchin said. 

Police arrested Ronnie Lee Long, 38, of Morgantown and charged him with grand larceny, according to the criminal complaint filed with the Marion County Magistrate Office. He is being held in the North Central Regional Jail on $250,000 bond.

After the crash, Long was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital for treatment. He escaped by pulling out his IV and fleeing the building. The U.S. Marshal's office became involved in the manhunt, and Long was apprehended Saturday on Brookhaven Road in Morgantown.  

When he wound up in Manchin's neighborhood that Friday evening, he apparently was already up to no good.

Earlier that evening, Long had fled on foot from a gas station after being accused of shoplifting, Manchin said. The gas station, located on U.S. 250, is near Manchin's home.

Manchin believes Long was attempting to hide from the police in his garage, noticed the keys were in the Corvette and started the engine.

Now the crumpled Corvette probably won't see the road again.

"I doubt I'll fix this car because it's just going to cost too much," Manchin said.

However, he does hope to salvage part of the automobile to keep its memory alive. He said he might cut off the rear end of the Corvette and put it on his back patio.

"That way it can be a conversation piece," he said.

He is also going to search the inside of the vehicle for a dashboard emblem given to him by his father to commemorate his son's first car.

His father bought the car in December 1974. The gift was a surprise - mostly because of the make and model. 

"I had already picked out a Monte Carlo," Manchin said.

Manchin went to the car lot with his father and his brother Joe to pick up the car. When he arrived, the owner of the dealership told the trio he had just received a new shipment of cars.

"One of them was this metallic blue Corvette," Manchin said. "It was really dirty, and when one of the guys that worked at the car lot sprayed it off, my eyes lit up."

"It was just a beautiful car," he said.

So Manchin's father decided to purchase the car for his youngest child. Manchin believes it cost about $9,000.

The vehicle had only about 60,000 miles on it when it was crashed because it was used mainly for some day trips and parades, he said.

"We have a lot of memories of that car over the last 36 years," he said. "But we'll try to preserve a little of it and move on."

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.


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