Inquiry continues in W.Va. girl's slaying

September 23, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A suspect has been arrested, but the investigation into the death of 7-year-old Jessica Lynn Newell may continue for weeks, according to West Virginia State Police.

Several of the FBI agents who came to the Martinsburg area in the aftermath of the girl's disappearance last Thursday were still in town Tuesday tying up the loose ends of the investigation, said Sgt. J.A. Humphrey.

"There's a lot of leads they still need to follow up on. Of course, we have units out there assisting, too," Humphrey said. He said agents and troopers continued to collect and tag evidence.


Monday afternoon state police arrested and charged Jessica's uncle, Michael Alan Newell, 39, of Martinsburg, with murder and kidnapping. He was being held without bail in Eastern Regional Jail.

Jessica Newell disappeared Thursday evening from Pikeside Bowl, where she had gone with her parents, Dave and Deborah Newell, of Baker Heights. Her body was found Saturday in a wooded area about 20 miles from the bowling alley.

According to the clerk's office at the Berkeley County Magistrate Court Building, Michael Newell has been scheduled for a preliminary hearing on the charges at 11 a.m. Friday before Magistrate Eugene Darlington.

Jessica Newell's funeral service also is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Brown Funeral Home in Martinsburg.

Michael Newell had requested a court-appointed attorney, but Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Tuesday that, to her knowledge, Judge Thomas Steptoe had not yet appointed a lawyer to defend him.

An autopsy in Morgantown, W.Va., determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head, but Sgt. Rob Blair said it had not been determined whether Jessica Newell had been sexually assaulted. The results of the tests could determine whether Newell faces any additional charges in Jessica's death.

"We'll be awaiting test results for some time," said Blair. He said that includes DNA tests that can take weeks to complete.

"Their collection teams are handling all the collection and forensics," Blair said of the FBI. He said the bureau's resources had been a great asset in the investigation.

On Monday, Agent Rick Mosquera said 75 to 100 agents had been in the area conducting about 700 interviews during the investigation, which began in earnest on Friday. Among them were two agents from the FBI's Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit.

Agent Charles Dorsey, a 15-year veteran of the bureau, said he has been with the unit since it was created in March 1995.

"We go into the prisons and talk to these types of individuals," Dorsey said Monday of one method the FBI uses to create profiles of those who kidnap and murder children.

"A crime scene and a crime are going to be a reflection of the criminal's personality," said Dorsey, who came to Martinsburg with another member of the unit, Agent Wayne Lord. In this case, the remote wooded North Mountain area where Jessica's body was found also yielded crucial physical evidence.

Authorities reportedly found a plastic bag containing one of the girl's shoes, a washcloth and a pack of cigarettes from which police got one of his fingerprints, court records alleged. The bag was found more than a mile from the body.

Dorsey said he also looks at "victim selection and the victim and offender risk levels." What kind of person a kidnapper or murderer selects can aid in constructing a profile, he said.

The daily activities of the victim are examined to determine what kinds of risks they faced. For the offender, Dorsey said he looks at the level of risk that person faces in terms of being caught.

Dorsey estimated his unit investigates 300 to 400 child abduction cases a year.

Interviewed prior to the announcement of Michael Newell's arrest, Dorsey would not reveal what kind of profile he had developed for a potential suspect.

Mosquera had worked in Virginia prior to his transfer to Pittsburgh. Among the cases he worked were the kidnappings and murders of three girls in Spotsylvania County, Va., over the past two years. Those cases remain unsolved, but Mosquera said Monday that "stranger abductions are very, very rare."

Tuesday morning at the state police barracks a man wearing a John Deere cap, blue jeans and a work shirt walked into the entrance.

"Can I help you?" the dispatcher asked.

"The little girl. Thank you all," was all he said before walking out the door.

The Herald-Mail Articles