W.Va. slaying suspect pleads to weapons charge

June 19, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Slaying suspect Clyde Lee Birdsall pleaded guilty to being a convicted felon in possession of firearms Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Police found three rifles in his home near Inwood, W.Va., when investigators went there on March 15 with a search warrant investigating the death of Erika Birdsall, 57, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent Jimmy A. Jones.

Erika Birdsall's nude body had been found on March 7 in a sleeper sofa behind the H-Mart convenience store in the Martinsburg Plaza. She had been stabbed to death.


No one has been charged in her death, but Clyde Birdsall, 53, has been named in court as a suspect in her slaying.

A spokesman for the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force said the case is still being investigated.

Clyde Birdsall entered the federal court room wearing a dingy, orange jail pants and shirt. His legs were shackled together and the chains jangled as he shifted his feet.

Standing at the defense table, Birdsall, who wears two hearing aids, was asked to move closer to the judge when he could not hear the judge's questions.

The judge went through a series of questions to make sure his plea was being entered voluntarily and that he understood he had the right to a trial.

Clyde Birdsall said he understood. He stood with his hands crossed in front of him, a series of tattoos up his arms.

As part of his plea agreement Wednesday, the prosecution dropped a charge that Birdsall made a false and fictitious written statement on Nov. 6 last year when he acquired a firearm.

The weapons charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Clyde Birdsall will be sentenced on the weapons offense on Sept. 25.

Jones testified at Wednesday's hearing that investigators found two .22-caliber rifles and one .30-caliber rifle in the home.

Police also seized 56 rounds of .30-06 ammunition and six rounds of .22 caliber ammunition, Jones said.

Clyde Birdsall had been convicted of a third offense of driving under the influence in 1992 in Pennsylvania, and sentenced to at least one year in prison, Jones said.

Jones, the only witness called, said that the sentence made it illegal for Clyde Birdsall to possess a firearm since his rights to possess one had not been restored.

The Birdsalls lived in a house on Vivian Drive in the Camelot subdivision, located off Three Run Road near Inwood.

Two arson fires have occurred at the house, the first on May 31 and the second less than 17 hours later on June 1.

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