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Catlett waives extradition back to W.Va.

October 20, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Hedgesville, W.Va., man who escaped from a mental hospital prior to his Sept. 23 murder trial has waived extradition back to West Virginia, according to Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely.

Games-Neely said Monday she was informed Friday that Banner Cornell Catlett, 21, had waived extradition from California. He had been arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department's Fugitive Warrant Section on Sept. 29 in the suburban Los Angeles apartment of a relative.

The prosecutor said that when Catlett is returned to the state, he won't be going back to the William R. Sharpe Hospital in Weston, W.Va. She said the county has a bench warrant for him for failing to appear at his murder trial and he will be held in the Eastern Regional Jail near Martinsburg.

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"We'll be able to hold him there," Games-Neely said. The decision will actually be up to a judge, but she noted that Catlett's flight from the hospital will make it unlikely a judge will send him there while he awaits trial.

Catlett had been held in the Los Angeles County Jail awaiting an Oct. 14 court appearance on a misdemeanor drug possession charge. Games-Neely said she did not know the outcome of that case.

Games-Neely said Monday that the date of Catlett's return would be up to Transcorp, a nationwide company that transports fugitives and inmates. A new date for his murder trial has not be scheduled, she said.

On Sept. 6, Catlett was issued a grounds pass at the Sharpe Hospital, but failed to return. A Berkeley County sheriff's deputy developed the tip locally that led to his arrest in California.

He is charged in the Feb. 4 death of Andrew Mason, who was found shot twice in the head at his home near Hedgesville. Catlett allegedly kicked in the door of Mason's home and shot him with a .22-caliber rifle.

Catlett was awaiting trial at the hospital, where he had been committed after being found not guilty of arson by reason of insanity in a June jury trial in Berkeley County Circuit Court. He had been charged with setting fire in September 1995 to the home he lived in, causing about $50,000 in damage.

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