'Inexplicable behavior' described in arson case

June 04, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Banner Cornell Catlett, who is charged with murder but is being tried this week on arson in an unrelated case, exhibited "inexplicable behavior" such as staying in the woods naked and talking about satellites he was trying to communicate with, his attorney said in court Tuesday.

Catlett, 21, was indicted on a charge of first-degree arson following a September 1995 fire at a house on Sawmill Road near Hedgesville where he was living, according to officials and court records.

Defense attorney Jerry Dambro told the jury there was no motive for the fire because Catlett "is a very sick young man, mentally ill."


Dambro said the jury could find that Catlett's illness prevented him from understanding that his acts were wrong.

Dambro said Catlett began using drugs and alcohol when he was 10. Catlett is currently being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, Dambro said.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said most criminals are not in their right mind, but that doesn't excuse them from responsibility.

"Don't leave your common sense at the courthouse steps," Games-Neely told the jurors.

On Feb. 4, Catlett was charged with murder in the shooting death of Andrew Mason, a Hedgesville Assembly of God volunteer who had tried to help Catlett cope with his personal problems, according to court records and friends of Mason's.

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