Court News

Court News

Trial for Two Charged in Lewis County Baby’s Death Is Set for January

The Gilmer Free Press

A January trial is set for two people charged in the death of a 15-month-old boy in Lewis County.

Twenty-five-year-old Christopher Thomas Sheppard of Hepzibah in Harrison County is charged with child abuse resulting in death.

The child’s mother, 30-year-old Julia Mick, is charged with child neglect resulting in death.

Investigators say Sheppard was baby-sitting at a Jane Lew apartment and left Mick’s son, Rex Mick, unattended in a bath.

The boy fell out of the sink, landed on his head and later died.

Sheppard and Mick’s trial is set to begin January 21, 2014.

Randolph County prosecutor Michael Parker is serving as special prosecutor for the case.

Report: West Virginia Community Corrections Succeeding

The Gilmer Free Press

A new report says community corrections programs in West Virginia are succeeding at keeping nonviolent offenders out of prisons and jails.

Between July 01, 2012 and June, 30, 2013, 3,862 offenders were placed in the programs, which are offered in 49 of the state’s 55 counties, according to the Community Corrections Act Fiscal 2013 report.

More than 1,400 offenders successfully completed assigned counseling and training programs.

A total 3,364 offenders stopped participating in the programs in the 2013 fiscal year, the report said.

They may have been remanded to state prisons or regional jails for violations, or may have completed their sentences without finishing the programs.

The most common crimes for offenders placed in community corrections are drug-related charges, larceny, embezzlement, fraud or forgery, driving under the influence, domestic battery, and public intoxication, the report said.

The programs, enacted in 2001, allow judges to sentence nonviolent offenders to day reporting centers.

The centers provide counseling, adult education and/or job training. Offenders also participate in community service projects, including litter pickup, snow removal and work at nursing homes.

Judges, by and large, are very enthusiastic about community corrections, and about certain people going that way.

It is difficult to estimate the programs’ cost-savings, according to officials.
A Supreme Court Administrator said community corrections’ real value is the comparatively low repeat-offender rate for those who complete the programs.

“They learn how to control their impulses. They learn how to control their anger, and they learn to choose their friends a little better,“ said the Administrator, who is a longtime advocate of community corrections.

Community corrections programs received more than $1.5 million in grants and $5 million in budget appropriations in the fiscal 2013 year.

Gilmer County Family Court Report – 09.25.13

The Gilmer Free Press

On Wednesday, September 25, 2013 Family Court Judge Larry Whited was in Gilmer County.

•  One divorce was dismissed.

Two divorces were granted between:

•  Stacey Stull (24) of Linn, WV divorced Jasper Stull (25)of Sanford, NC.

•  Cynthia Barker (53) of Glenville, WV divorced Richard Dale Barker (59) of Troy, WV.

Gilmer County Circuit Court Report – 09.27.13

The Gilmer Free Press

On Wednesday, September 25, 2013, Judge Alsop took 3 pleas and reduced home confinement fees in a magistrate case.

•  Rebecca Johnson was before the Court asking that her home confinement daily fee be reduced, and after testimony was reduced.

Judge Alsop lowered it to $6.00 per day.

She was represented by Bryan Hinkle of Buckhannon.

•  State of West Virginia vs. Brandon Rose

He was before the court for entry of a plea.

He pled guilty to failure to register on a computer being a sex offender required to register for life.

Bryan Hinkle of Buckhannon represented him.

He will be sentenced Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM.

•  State of West Virginia vs. Michael Puffenbarger

He also pled to grand larceny.

He was represented by Christopher Pritt of Charleston

He is asking to be sentenced to Anthony Center for Youth Offenders.

His sentencing will be 10:10 AM on Tuesday, November 12, 2013.

•  State of West Virginia vs. Barry Hamner

He was represented by Garth Beck of Clarksburg

He pled to possession of precursors.

He will be sentenced Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 10:20 AM.

•  The civil matter set for 09.25.13 was cancelled and an agreed order will be submitted for signing.


On Friday, September 27, 2013, Judge Alsop heard 6 cases in Gilmer County, WV.

•  One juvenile was reset to Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 8:45 AM, because the DHHR was not prepared for the hearing.

•  State of West Virginia vs. Mark Taylor

He pled to delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (meth) within 1000 feet of a school.

He was represented by Daniel Armstrong in place of Daniel Grindo.

Count 2 of his indictment was dismissed as pan of the plea bargain agreement.

Sentencing will be at 1:00 PM, on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.

•  State of West Virginia vs. Larry Lilly

He was before the Court for motion to revoke bond.

However, Gerald B. Hough, the prosecutor was not ready to present evidence on that matter and the motion was denied.

Daniel Armstrong represented Lilly.

•  State of West Virginia vs. Stacy Bright

She pled guilty to one count of financial exploitation of an elderly person, protected person or incapacitated adult as charged in count 1 of the indictment.

She agreed to pay $6262.23 in restitution and will be sentenced on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 10:30 AM.

Daniel Armstrong was her attorney.

•  State of West Virginia vs. Darren Marbury

He was before the Court for a pre-trial and currently his trial is still set for Thursday, October 03, 2013.

He is represented by Lance Rollo.

•  Also before the court for pre-trial was Lucas Buckhannon who was represented by Jonathan Fittro.

His trial remains set for Friday, October 18, 2013.

G-otcha™: Webster County Triple Murderer Get Life Sentence

Imprisonment Status:  Pre-Trial Felon
Full Name: York,  Michael Steve
Height: 5’  10"
Weight: 170 lbs.
Birth Date: 12.25.1957
Gender: Male
Booking Date: 06.28.2012
Facility: Central Regional Jail
Imprisonment Status: Pre-Trial Felon

Offender Court Order Information

Court Info Number Issuing Agency Location
12F-93-96 WEBSTER COUNTY - Bail Amount: $0.00
This man has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison in what’s believed to be the first-ever triple murder in Webster County.

Michael York, of Hacker Valley, was sentenced after his September 20, 2013 conviction on two counts of first degree murder and one count of second degree murder.

York shot and killed Lamar Allen, Denise Coates and Dustin Brown in the summer of 2012.

Mercy was not recommended by the jury so a judge sentenced York to life in prison without the chance for parole.

The jury also found Michael York’s wife, Amanda York, guilty of three counts of voluntary manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to conceal a deceased body.

She will be sentenced November 04, 2013.

Prosecutor Vandevender said the shootings took place over a pair of appliances.

“They (the Yorks) alleged there had been an argument earlier in the day and the victims came to their house to repossess a washer and dryer they had given them,” the prosecutor said.

Amanda York initially called 911 and claimed she was the shooter but a young family member was overheard by a deputy saying it was Michael York that did the shooting.

Prosecutor Vandevender said that was a key part of the prosecution’s case.

A Braxton County jury convicted the couple after there was difficulty choosing a jury in Webster County

WV Supreme Court Administrative Office Gets Federal Grant for Adult Drug Courts

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia has received a $1.48 million, three-year federal grant to study adult drug practices and results as part of the plan to expand the programs statewide. The grant also will be used for specialized training.

The grant from United States Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs was awarded to the West Virginia Supreme Court’s Administrative Office. The grant from the 2013 Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program was made in response to an application prepared by the Court’s Division of Probation Services and the Division of Court Services, and the National Center for State Courts.

The award is one of twelve made nationwide, and it is the largest single award this year.

“Drug courts have proven to be a successful alternative to incarceration, making West Virginia communities safer, restoring families and helping graduates of the program live responsibly,” said Chief Justice Brent D. Benjamin. “Already this year we have well over 600 graduates, taxpayers have saved $17 million, and the rate of recidivism is down.”

West Virginia has twenty operational adult drug courts in West Virginia. There also are sixteen operational juvenile drug courts.

Adult and juvenile drug courts are intensive supervision probation programs. Juvenile drug court participants are usually in the program for six to eight months. Initially, a participant meets with the drug court judge weekly and a probation officer several times per week. Juvenile drug court is intended for youths who are at risk of becoming addicted, not those who are already addicted.

Adult drug courts include those who already are addicted. Participants complete a treatment program of no less than twelve months. They are required to attend group and individual counseling, to take drug tests multiple times per week, to perform community service work, to participate in education programs, and to work on individualized rehabilitation plans as directed. They meet with probation officers frequently and see the drug court judge at least weekly.

The average annual cost incurred by the state for one adult drug court participant is approximately $7,100 compared to $18,000 in jail or $25,000 in prison. About 10% of drug court graduates return to jail compared to 80% of drug offenders who have not gone through drug court programs.

Assistant WV Attorney General to Resign After Supreme Court Suspends License for 2 Years

The Gilmer Free Press

An assistant attorney general will lose her law license for two years for violating professional rules of conduct while serving as the public defender for a man appealing his double murder conviction.

After getting word of the state Supreme Court ruling Thursday, spokeswoman Beth Ryan said Wendy Elswick will resign her post Friday.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel had asked the court in February to suspend Wendy Elswick’s law license for three years, but Elswick contested the suspension.

On Thursday, the court ordered her license suspended for two years.

The opinion also requires that she submit to a mental health evaluation, undergo 12 hours of continuing education in legal ethics, and pay the costs of the court proceedings.

If Elswick is reinstated, she’ll be on probation for two years.

Gilmer County Family Court Report – 09.11.13

The Gilmer Free Press

On Wednesday, September 11, 2013 Family Court Judge Larry Whited was in Gilmer County.

•  He performed 2 marriages in Gilmer County

He heard several cases:

•  One domestic violence case was terminated.

•  Another domestic violence was reset for Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

•  One divorce was granted: Misha Dolpies (25) of Glenville, WV divorced Erik Wine (21) of Blackstone, Virginia.

•  Another divorce was continued.

•  One modification was dismissed.

•  Another modification was heard but no order was entered at this time.

Gilmer County Circuit Court Report – 09.23.13

The Gilmer Free Press

On Monday, September 23, 2013 Chief Judge Richard A. Facemire heard a 3 page motion day docket and left the county before Noon.

•  One fugitive from justice waived extradition back to the state of New Jersey and authorities from there have until 4:00 PM on Wednesday, October 02, 2013 to pick Lester H. Monts up or Central Regional Jail will release him.

Monts was represented by Shelly DeMarino of Glenville.

•  Judge Facemire began by hearing a juvenile case from Calhoun County and resetting it for further hearing in Calhoun County on Friday, October 11, 2013 at 9:30 AM.

•  Later he heard 4 condemnation hearings filed by Wyatt Hanna III on behalf of Sugar Creek PSD against James & Virginia Rogers, Angel Hart, Victor & Teresa Jordan & Belva Martin.

Martin had been served with the petition but did not appear.

Hart had contacted Hanna and agreed to sign an easement but no service on her appeared in the Court file.

Also Teresa Jordan had not been served yet, so Hanna was ordered to get service on these individuals or in the alternative to issue an order of publication to obtain service.

•  Nine juvenile matters were set for hearing and several were reset for further hearing on Monday, December 23, 2013:

Six at 9:00 AM and 2 for 9:10 AM for review.

One did not appear and the bench warrant was kept in effect for him.

Two sentencings were heard:

•  State of West Virginia vs. Carrie Sumpter

She was sentenced to 2 sentences of 1-4 in the penitentiary to serve consecutively.

Said sentences were suspended and she was given 5-years probation.

She must report every 30 days for 6 months in person to the probation officer.

She must pay $550.00 in restitution (Glenville Rite Aid) at a minimum of $50.00 per month and perform 200 hours of community service per year of probation.

She must maintain full time employment, speak to 3 high school classes about substance abuse, attend NA and AA classes, read a book and do a report on SHANE COMES HOME, recommended by Judge Facemire.

She was represented by Christina Flanigan of Buckhannon.

Sumpter’s probation was transferred to Buckhannon where she is now residing.

•  State of West Virginia vs. John Carder

He was also before the Court for sentencing represented by Flanigan.

After glowing testimonials by family, friends and employers Judge Facemire sentenced him to 12 months in Central Regional Jail for his plea to count 5 of the felony indictment and 90 days in Central Regional Jail for his plea to count 1 of the misdemeanor information filed against him.

They were to run consecutively, but he suspended all but 10 days to be served consecutive weekends beginning Friday, September 27, 2013 at 6:00 PM until Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 6:00 PM.

He will then be placed on home confinement for 6 months and then given 3-years probation.

He also must write a letter of apology to the victim but deliver it to the probation officer.

He was also fined $500.00 and court costs.

Although probation was recommended solely for Carder, Judge Facemire said his crime was heinous and there was no excuse for what he did when he handed down the sentence.

•  State of West Virginia vs. Amanda Smith

She was before the Court for another probation revocation hearing.

Her attorney made various motions on her behalf for alternative sentencing, etc., but Judge Facemire sentenced her to 1-5 in the penitentiary and immediately placed her in the custody of the Sheriff.

She must pay court costs within 18 months of her release.

•  One civil case was dismissed by order prior to hearing.

Judge Facemire will return to Gilmer County for more hearings on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 10:00 AM.

There was no Circuit Court on Tuesday, September 24, 2013.

However,  Judge Alsop will hold hearings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.

1999 Lewis County Murder: Two More Charged, Investigation Continues

Three men were charged last week with killing two Lewis County women almost 14 years ago.

The Gilmer Free Press    The Gilmer Free Press
Maxine Stalnaker                                                       Mary Friend

The two women, Maxine Stalnaker, age 69, and Mary Friend, age 45, were last seen on December 01, 1999.

Lewis County Sheriff Adam Gissy said good detective work led to breaks in the cold case and this week’s arrests.

“It’s been a four-and-a-half month investigation on our part, on top of the 14 years before us, and we compiled all the information, re-interviewed every party involved and then some, and then we were blessed to have been able to effect the arrests that we did,” Gissy said Thursday afternoon.

The Gilmer Free Press
Joseph Metz

Joseph Metz, age 39, was arraigned on two counts of murder, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of burglary in Lewis County Magistrate Court on Thursday and was being held in the Central Regional Jail on $250,000 bail.

He is Friend’s son and Stalnaker’s grandson.

The Gilmer Free Press
David Hughes

David Hughes, the former owner of Wilderness Plantation in Jane Lew, was being held at the Northwest Ohio Correction Center.

He has also been charged with two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery for the deaths of Friend and Stalnaker.

The Gilmer Free Press
Charles Steven Freeman

A third suspect, Steve Freeman, was picked up Thursday afternoon by sheriff’s deputies in Napoleon, Ohio.

He is charged with kidnapping and robbery.

According to the criminal complaint, Hughes ordered Metz and Freeman to kill Stalnaker and Friend because he believed they had a journal full of information about illegal criminal transactions involving the men and the Wilderness Plantation.

Hughes allegedly worried the women would turn over the information to law enforcement officers.

In the court filing, investigators said they believe the women were taken from their Fox Run home and moved to a home on Jesse’s Run Road, where their possessions, including a purse, were collected before they were killed.

Their abandoned car was found a few days later off U.S. Highway 19 in Harrison County.

The criminal complaint said Metz and Freeman met Hughes at the Wilderness Plantation, after the murders in December 1999, to turn over the journal.

Since 1999, there have been no signs of Stalnaker or Friend, except for a time in 2002 when a fisherman found one of their purses at Stonewall Jackson Lake.

“The term ‘cold case’ seems to simply mean ‘new challenge’ for these fine investigators,” said Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Smith. “I’ve been in this field for four decades. I’ve never seen a better investigation run. They are certainly to be commended.”

Officials said the investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information about the case can call local law enforcement offices or the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department at 304.269.8251.

Ex-Spencer Priest Convicted in Ohio fie Case That Was Dismissed in WV

The Gilmer Free Press

An Ohio priest faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing later this year following a Friday conviction on sex-related charges that happened in Spencer, West Virginia.

A federal jury seated in Cincinnati convicted Robert Poandl of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent of sexual activity.

The 10-year-old boy was sexually assaulted by Poandl during a visit to a church in Spencer back in 1991.

Throughout the trial, Poandl denied the allegations.

He claimed the boy did not even make the trip to West Virginia.

The victim originally made his accusations to Roane County authorities in 2009, but the charges were eventually dismissed.

Court NewsRoane County

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Webster County Couple Found Guilty in Triple Murder

Imprisonment Status:  Pre-Trial Felon
Full Name: York,  Amanda
Height: 5’  2"
Weight: 210 lbs.
Birth Date: 07.21.1984
Gender: Female
Booking Date: 06.28.2012
Facility: Central Regional Jail
Imprisonment Status: Pre-Trial Felon

Offender Court Order Information

Court Info Number Issuing Agency Location
12F-90,91,92 WEBSTER COUNTY - Bail Amount: $0.00
This Webster County couple accused of murdering three people last year were found guilty Friday.

A Webster County jury found Michael York guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Lamar Coates and guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Denise Coats and Dustin Brown.

Mercy was not recommended by the jury.

The jury also found Michael York (below) guilty of one count of prohibited person possessing firearm and one count of concealment of a deceased body.

Amanda York was found guilty of three counts of voluntary manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to conceal a deceased body.

Michael and Amanda York killed Brown, Allen and Coates in their front yard near Hacker Valley in 2012.

The murder trial began on Tuesday.


Imprisonment Status:  Pre-Trial Felon
Full Name: York,  Michael Steve
Height: 5’  10"
Weight: 170 lbs.
Birth Date: 12.25.1957
Gender: Male
Booking Date: 06.28.2012
Facility: Central Regional Jail
Imprisonment Status: Pre-Trial Felon

Offender Court Order Information

Court Info Number Issuing Agency Location
12F-93-96 WEBSTER COUNTY - Bail Amount: $0.00

G-otcha™: Webster County Triple Murder Trial

Imprisonment Status:  Pre-Trial Felon
Full Name: York,  Amanda
Height: 5’  2"
Weight: 210 lbs.
Birth Date: 07.21.1984
Gender: Female
Booking Date: 06.28.2012
Facility: Central Regional Jail
Imprisonment Status: Pre-Trial Felon

Offender Court Order Information

Court Info Number Issuing Agency Location
12F-90,91,92 WEBSTER COUNTY - Bail Amount: $0.00
Testimony is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, September 18, 2013 in Braxton County Circuit Court in the triple murder trial of a Webster County couple.

Michael and Amanda York allegedly killed Dustin Brown, Lamar Allen and Denise Coates in June 2012.

Two of the three bodies were found in the Yorks’ yard near Hacker Valley.

The trial began Tuesday morning in Sutton, WV with opening statements.

The case was moved to Braxton County because attempts to choose a jury in Webster County failed.

The 12-member panel traveled to the murder scene Tuesday afternoon.

The prosecution is scheduled to begin calling its first witnesses Wednesday morning.

Amanda York originally told police she was home alone when the three came to her residence and threatened her and she shot them in self-defense.

York later told police she and her husband had been in an argument with the other three at another house earlier in day.

She said the three then came to their home and the argument continued.

Previous reports said the Yorks’ five-year-old child told police Michael York fired the deadly shots.

Police arrested Michael York near the Amma exit on I-79.


Imprisonment Status:  Pre-Trial Felon
Full Name: York,  Michael Steve
Height: 5’  10"
Weight: 170 lbs.
Birth Date: 12.25.1957
Gender: Male
Booking Date: 06.28.2012
Facility: Central Regional Jail
Imprisonment Status: Pre-Trial Felon

Offender Court Order Information

Court Info Number Issuing Agency Location
12F-93-96 WEBSTER COUNTY - Bail Amount: $0.00

Former Clay County Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Wiretapping

The Gilmer Free Press

Former Clay County Sheriff Miles Slack pleaded guilty to a federal charge that he hacked his wife’s work computer.

Slack entered the plea to a wiretapping charge in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

He faces up to five years in prison.

Sentencing was set for December 19, 2013.

The government said Slack secretly installed a keystroke logger on a computer in the Clay County Magistrate Court office in April where his wife worked. They were married at the time but have since divorced.

Spyware devices can be purchased online and typically are 1-2 inches long and attached to the keyboard cable. Once installed, they can intercept anything typed on that keyboard.

Prosecutors said Slack admitted he intended to monitor her activity, including messages she sent through email and Internet chat rooms. He also wanted to capture her log-in information for various Internet services.

Slack admitted the device captured information about court business and the personal information of defendants in magistrate court. The device was in place for more than two weeks.

Computers in the offices of circuit judges and magistrates are owned and maintained by the state Supreme Court and are connected to a central computer network.

“It’s a shame that Clay County’s chief law enforcement officer chose to illegally tap a government computer,“ said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. “Our elected officials and law enforcement officers have to respect the law like everyone else. If they don’t, there are consequences.“

Slack ran unopposed for sheriff last November after defeating two other contenders in the Democratic primary in May 2012, winning the nomination with nearly 78% of the vote.

Slack resigned last week and the County Commission named Reva Schoonover to serve as temporary sheriff for no more than 30 days.

Commissioners are currently reviewing 16 applications for the permanent post.

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