State Police Superintendent Calls Last Weekend “Challenging” For Troopers
West Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Jay Smithers says the Memorial Day Weekend was the “most challenging” for law enforcement in West Virginia than he can recall in his 38-year career.
State Troopers and officers from other law enforcement agencies investigated murders, deadly shootings and fatal traffic accidents.
Smithers says many first responders missed the opportunity over the long weekend to be with their families and reflect on the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“Therefore, I want to express my sincere appreciation, not only the men and women of the West Virginia State Police, but all first responders who willingly gave of themselves this holiday weekend and accomplished the daunting tasks set before them,“ Smithers said in a prepared release.
The fatal traffic accidents began with three separate crashes Friday afternoon and night.
William Fontaine of Columbus, Ohio died on U.S. Route 35 in Mason County when his truck slammed into a tractor-trailer head-on; Kristen Stiltner, 17, of Wayne was killed in a wreck on Camp Branch Road in Wayne County and Justus Ratliff, 16, of Parkersburg, died late Friday night when a vehicle he was in rolled over near Elizabeth in Wirt County.
State Police say a Maryland man was killed Saturday in an ATV accident in Tucker County. Troopers say Bernard Ritz III, 37, of Abingdon, Maryland, lost control of his four-wheeler on High Run Road and crashed into a rock embankment.
A weekend camping trip turned tragic for a Harrison County family. The family’s truck kicked out of gear Sunday morning at Five Points and rolled over a tent where two young boys were sleeping. Troopers say Jax Lattea, age 3, of Salem was killed. A six-year-old boy was treated and released.
The deadly weekend also included a shooting at the Elm Grove Pharmacy in Wheeling.
Troopers say Kevin Lee Walnoha, age 37, of Wellsburg came into the pharmacy. He jumped behind the counter, waved a gun and demanded pills from a worker. Another pharmacy worker came from a back office and shot and killed Walnoha. The investigation continues.
Troopers also assisted Charleston City Police in the recovery of a body from the Elk River. The man was murdered. And State Police is the lead investigative agency into a quadruple murder in Nicholas County.